In the previous post, I laid out the potential a church has when it leverages the pastor’s unique position to start new groups as a way to involve church members who are attending worship, but not Sunday School. The previous post also laid out 3 important barriers that prevent church members from participating in Sunday School; 1) Closed social circles; 2) Do not know the leader; 3) Long-term commitment.
The pastor is the ideal person to break through these barriers by offering some type of “Pastor Connection Group”. In this post, I want to share the mechanics of getting a short-term group like this going; and the basic game plan of what should take place.
Begin announcing the new “Pastor’s Connection Group” (or whatever you want to call it) about 3 weeks before it actually begins. Announce it in every worship service. Include bulletin inserts that people can fill out and place in the offering plate or turn in to the church office. Since most people do not attend church every week, allowing three weeks to promote the group will reach most people. Also, a letter about the group should be sent to church members that are not enrolled in a Sunday School group or who have been inactive for over 6 months.
I’ll discuss more about the curriculum later, but suffice it to say, select a topic that has broad appeal. This is not the time for a 6 week study on supralapsarianism! I would avoid prophecy and revelation as well because these topics tend to draw people who are passionate about them. After the 6 weeks is concluded, they typically fall back into their old pattern. As I will explain later, I prefer the use of DVD curriculum.
If there is any way possible, do NOT have this group meet in the worship center/auditorium. We want the participants to build relationships, and sitting in rows in a room that is 90% empty does not encourage the building of relationships. If possible, have the group meet at round tables. For the first meeting, enlist another Sunday School group to provide a small brunch. Provide coffee and water. Eating is a great relationship activity. Also, informality is important, so limit as much “official” stuff as possible. (above is a pic of an actual “Pastor Connection Group” I began)
We are using a short-term group with the intention of rolling it into an ongoing group, so relationships are vital. Be sure that people have time at every meeting to talk and meet one another. Name tags are a MUST.
Plan to continue the group immediately after the end of the pastor’s 6-8 week commitment. Attendees have just formed a new habit, but it is not strong yet. Any break between the last group meeting with the pastor and the beginning of the ongoing group will be close to fatal.
The new group leader should (read “must”) come from within the group. Remember that a barrier to Sunday School attendance is that they do not know the leader. Bringing in someone from the outside triggers that barrier.
Just for the pastor
- It is critical for the success of this group to become an ongoing group that you NOT preach the Bible study/lesson. Your teaching must be reproducible, which is why I prefer DVD curriculum or very simple Bible study with 5-7 well done questions for curriculum. Also, provide a personal study guide for every participant. Any material that you must produce after you leave the group will cause problems down the road.
- Remind the group at every meeting that you (the pastor) will lead the group for six weeks. Begin asking them at the third meeting if they would like to continue meeting even though the pastor will not be there.
- Model what you want the group to do when you are gone.
- Be looking for two or three people who could become the new group leader when you leave. My experience is that about 75% of the group will continue to meet IF they know the new group leader. The pastor’s primary objective once the group begins is to enlist a new leader. Reproduce yourself.
- Announce who the new group leader will be no later than week five!
- Look at this as not only a way to connect people into Bible study and start a new group. This plan is an excellent leadership-discipleship opportunity. You (the pastor) will be discipling a new Sunday School leader. For a leader, being discipled by the pastor is as good as it gets. Ask any teacher and they will affirm, they would love to have more direction and help from their pastor.
Try to use this strategy to start a new group at least once a year, and if possible two to three times a year.