Engaging the Unconnected in Your Church

Discipleship is both a command and a privilege.  Before Jesus left this earth, he commanded his disciples to go and make other disciples.  It is one of the clearest commands of Scripture.  Discipleship is also a privilege.  By being part of a church, we get the opportunity to connect our lives to others.  We get to pray with and for each other.  We get to help each other bear burdens.  We rejoice together.  We mourn together.  We celebrate birthdays, weddings, and births of babies.  We lament when a brother or sister is struggling with sin, and do everything in our power to help them out of that struggle.  That's what it means to be part of a  local church, a local body.  Every church should strive to build community that makes all of these things possible for every member, and many churches do this within the context of small groups.

Too often though, many of our churches struggle with community building.  We find that while many in our churches are connected to groups, many are still not involved in our groups ministries.  There could be various reasons as to why your church has people who are not connected to groups.  It could be because they are new to the church and haven't made the decision to join a group yet.  It could be because they once were part of a group in your church, but because of conflict, either personally or within the group, they distanced themselves from small groups and haven't gone back.  It could just simply be that they are content with not being part of a group.  They have no desire to join one and see no value in it, and therefore just come to worship as often as possible and that is it.

The truth is that groups matter, and that's why churches should work hard to get people plugged into groups.  Research done for the book Transformational Groups by Ed Stetzer and Eric Geiger has proven that when people are part of groups they give more, read their Bible more, confess sin more, share the gospel more, and serve more. There are ways you as a group leader can help connect the unconnected in your church.

1. Make yourself available

In their book, Stetzer and Geiger refer to what they call the 3 minute rule.  They say that you have approximately 3 minutes after the close of Sunday morning service to catch a visitor before they slip out.  This is an important time because during this time they can be greeted and a lot of information about the church can be shared with them.  As a group or class leader, you should make it a priority to use this time to look around you and see if you see a new face.  If so, introduce yourself to that person and invite them to be a part of your group, or another if yours isn't a fit.  The point is to make yourself as available as possible before and after services to greet new people.  It makes them feel welcome and helps grow your Sunday school or groups ministry.

2. Be knowledgeable about all the groups in your church, not just your own.

I've been a Sunday school teacher.  I know how easy it is to get so wrapped up with your responsibilities to your own class that you fail to pay attention to other classes or groups meeting around you.  But I believe you should make yourself knowledgeable about every group that meets in your church, to the best of your ability.  You might come across someone who isn't part of a class or group and if they don't fit what you are doing, you can be able to recommend a group to them.  Know who leads other groups, where they meet, and what they are studying.  Don't just be an advocate for your class, but advocate for the groups or Sunday school ministry as a whole at your church.  And encourage the people in your group to do the same.

3. Encourage your church to have a central and visible area where folks can be welcomed and informed about groups.

If there is not a visible area in your church where guests can go and find out more information about classes or groups, encourage the staff at your church to establish one.  Guests need a place they can go to talk to people who are knowledgeable about the Sunday school ministry of your church and get connected to a group. This is a simple step that many churches neglect.

4. Be diligent in following up with visitors

When visitors do come to our churches, we must have a plan in place by which they are followed up with.  It's important that visitors receive some type of contact within 24 hours of visiting your church, and it is just as important that they receive an email or, preferably, a phone call from someone who is part of a group inviting them to their group.  So within the first week of visiting a church, a visitor should be contacted at least twice if not 3 times, and at least one of those times should be a invitation from someone to visit a Sunday school class or group.

5. Support the launch of new groups

Sometimes as hard as you may try to get people to go to a group or class that's already established, they just won't go.  Many groups that have been together for a long time are intimidating to an outsider.  Starting new groups has proven to be an effective way of connecting the unconnected to a group.  This might be the most effective way to connect someone who has been coming to your church for a long time, but has never connected to a group.  Guests and new members might also feel more comfortable going to a newly established group.  So try to both support and encourage the launch of new groups even if it means you lose a few folks from your group or you lose a teacher who has helped you teach in your class, so they can help start a new one.


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