Last Wednesday night we started a new Story of Redemption small group study in Melissa, TX. I used to do most of these studies with just the seeker and their Christian friend who introduced them to us. And the conversion rate from this has been about 90%. It is still a good way to share faith.
However, I have discovered the multiplying power of sharing the Story of Redemption
in an evangelistic small group. There is a stronger experience of community in a small group, and people seem more likely to invite other seeker friends. Plus, within this group, there is a greater chance that the seeker will find someone else to connect with.
- There should be a mix of seekers with little to no church background/Bible knowledge and more knowledgeable Christians. I recommend at a minimum 1/3 of the group be seekers so that they do not feel outnumbered. I would say that ideally, the group is at least 1/2 seekers, up to 2/3.
- The study should be for a fixed number of lessons - say, 4, 6, or 8. The Story of Redemption is 8 lessons for a reason. People are reluctant to sign up for a never ending commitment, but they can conceive of attending a more manageable 8 lessons.
- The group should include people that seekers can identify with. For instance, single moms should find a single mom, a Latino should find a Latino, a young married couple should find a young married couple, etc. Similar life experiences, backgrounds, and current situations help draw people together.
- The study should assume no Bible knowledge. This is true of the Story of Redemption.
- The topic chosen should be of interest to those that are seeking. The Story of Redemption does this, as it asks the deep purpose, identity, and meaning questions that people are asking about God and themselves.
- The official study itself should be limited to 50 minutes to an hour. Beyond this, people may enjoy the discussion, but if it is too long, they may not come back because people are so busy. Plus, the more intimate sharing and friendship often comes in the mingling time after the study.
The evangelistic small group pictured above attempts to follow these principles.
- On front right are Lindsey and Jason. Lindsey is a single mom without a lot of church background. She came to our Intro to High Pointe class, where she heard about this study. She expressed her interest, and we invited her to come to the study. She showed up--with Jason! Jason is also a single parent who lives in Dallas. See, seekers know seekers!
- The next couple towards the back right are Matt and Ruth. Matt is a hospital chaplain, who obviously has a lot of church experience. Matt and Ruth live out in nearby Anna and have not yet connected with a group.
- In the very back is a guy with a goatee. This is Sandy. He and his wife Cindy recently move to Melissa. They are a wonderful, experienced Christian couple. They are hosting the study, and have even invited their neighborhood. Cindy is not pictured here. She is in one of the rooms watching the kids. God bless her!
- The next person is Cindy. Cindy and her husband Armando (he is not pictured) have a nominal Catholic background, but have started questioning this. Armando is from Mexico originally, and Cindy is from Honolulu (but she is Cuban). They lived in California before moving to the Dallas area. They also came to our Intro to High Pointe class. They were struck by how nice everyone was, and when told about the Story of Redemption study, they very much wanted to attend. In the first study, when discussing the brokenness of humanity, Cindy remarked how she is genuinely surprised when she comes across nice people. Wow. Hopefully she and Armando will continue to experience the blessings of (a nice) Christian community in this group.
- The next couple is Ryan and Claudia (Ryan is sticking his head out). Ryan served as a missionary in Chile, where he met his wife Claudia. Ryan and Claudia live in Melissa. Because they speak Spanish and are similar in age, they may connect well with Cindy and Armando.
- At the very top of the picture is my wife Becki! She is a spark of sunshine, and great at connecting with new people.
A few other tips. Some type of meal or dessert each week is very much needed in these studies. This group is meeting on Wednesday nights at 6:45 PM, so we are eating dessert as we study. This is simple, and yet food helps draw people together. Each lesson should start with a prayer, and then prayer requests taken at the end and pray for the group. Many people have never had people lay hands on them and pray, and this physical type of prayer expression is a good thing to do about mid-way through the study.
Finally, encourage members to bring a non-churched friend each week. Seekers know other unchurched people.
What other thoughts do you have about evangelistic small groups? What studies have you used? What questions do you have?