Friday’s Hot Links – March 24, 2017

FBC O’ Fallon, IL. group leaders at Thursday’s appreciation banquet

Happy Friday everyone! I had the privilege of speaking to a wonderful group of adult LIFE Group leaders at FBC O’ Fallon, IL., last night. Tom Dawson and his crew did a tremendous job hosting this annual appreciation event for the church’s adult group leaders. If your church doesn’t already have a plan for honoring its Bible study leaders, may I encourage you to take action to make that happen? You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Praise is like oxygen to a worker’s soul.” That is surely the case when teachers get together and are honored by their church’s leadership team. Great job, Tom!

Tom Dawson thanking his LIFE Group leaders at Thursday’s appreciation banquet

Fridays on the blog are always reserved for “hot links,” links to some current articles and podcasts related to group ministry and/or general leadership principles that you’ll want to know. I hope you enjoy this week’s picks!

Shoulder to shoulder,

Ken Braddy

Blog Posts You May Like:

Podcasts You May Like:

 

4 ways to use nametags in your Bible study group

I’ve previously written a blog post on the value of using those inexpensive stick-on nametags in your Bible study group. I’ve had my group members wear them since day one (my wife and I launched a new group in October 2012). Every Sunday morning I arrive early and place nametags on the chairs in my meeting place. Here are 4 reasons you ought to do the same:

  1. They are inexpensive – you’re not going to break the bank by using these helpful little devices.
  2. They are accessible – you can buy them at your neighborhood drug store, local Wal-Mart, or office supply store. Chances are a store within a mile of your house has them in stock.
  3. They signal that your group is an “open group” – open groups expect new people every week (or every time your group meets…maybe that’s every other week?). New group members need help jumpstarting relationships with your current group members, and nametags will do the trick.
  4. You can use nametags to create active learning experiences – I love this one! Think about how many ways you can divide up your group into smaller groups so they can work on an assignment, discuss a question in more depth, etc., using stick-on nametags. Here are several ways to make that happen:  (a) Divide the group by the first letter of people’s first names – A-K are in one group, L-Z in another (b) Use different colored nametags (blue, red, green, black, etc) and randomly place them on chairs…then divide the group according to the color they are wearing (c) Use a few colored markers to place a small “dot” in the corner of each nametag…then divide the group up based on their colored dot (d) Provide different colored permanent markers for your group members to write their names on the nametags, then divide them up based on the color of their name.

You get the idea! Nametags are great tools for not only helping people learn each other’s names, but they can be used to create interaction during your Bible study. Give it a try the next time you teach!

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3 mistakes churches make in Sunday School

Mistakes can be costly. Think about the last time you were in charge of a repair job around the house, cut corners, and had to go back and fix your mistake – costly, right? Thank goodness that most mistakes are not fatal – they are just mistakes – but they come with a price tag. Churches make mistakes in Sunday School all the time. While not fatal in most cases, there is a cost: lower levels of attendance, discouraged group leaders, frustrated guests. Here in no particular order are three mistakes that churches would be wise to avoid in their Sunday School ministries:

  1. Lack of training – The role of the Minister of Education is in decline. I recently called almost 100 churches, and less than 5 had a full-time staff member with that title, or something similar. I mention this because it’s related to the issue of the lack of training taking place in churches. Few churches are investing time and resources in the ongoing training of workers, and we wonder why Sunday Schools are in decline! The chart to the right shows the results of a survey of over 2500 churches in Georgia. There is a strong correlation between growth in Sunday School and the regularity of teacher training. If I were in local church ministry today, I’d make sure to have quarterly training, at least. Churches that did in the survey grew over 13% during a four-year period.
  2. Lack of adequate budgeting – I recently took a look at a church’s budget for curriculum, and the amount in the approved budget was $0. Sunday Schools not only need budgets for curriculum, but they also need budgets for new equipment, training, fellowship, and more. The education ministry budget of most churches is woefully small. Churches would be better off eliminating other line items and transferring those dollars to a Sunday School line item.
  3. Lack of emphasis – What is important to the pastor becomes important to the church. If Sunday School isn’t talked about from the pulpit, people will wrongly assume it’s not that big a deal. Savvy pastors take every opportunity they can to promote Sunday School and encourage families to attend. A friend of mine, Dr. Tod Tanner, just recently became pastor of a church in the Nashville area. I visited the church and heard Tod tell his members and guests that they needed to commit to attending a Sunday School class – that the church was not going to be built around him, the pastor, but around the small-group Bible teaching ministry called Sunday School. I love that! If pastor Tod keeps up that messaging, his people will come to own it and Sunday School will once again become important to the church.

Tuesday Teaching Tip: One Word

As you begin to guide your Bible study group through your next session, tell your group members that at the end of the Bible study you’ll ask them to think of one word that summarizes the main idea presented during the Bible study. Allow group members to explain the reason they chose the one word they did.

This kind of exercise will create active listening on the part of your group members as they listen carefully for the main points, then boil them down to a single word that best represents the lesson they just experienced.

Release Your Group Members!

Welcome aboard to about 90 new subscribers to this blog this past week! You may have been a part of some recent training seminar I led, or perhaps you found the blog by accident. But I’m glad you’re now starting to get these daily Monday-Friday posts! As an FYI, here is the schedule on the blog:

Monday – Book excerpt…I introduce you to a book, quote a paragraph or two, and then apply it

Tuesday – Teaching tip…something you can use in your group next time you teach

Wednesday – Original post on anything related to group ministry

Thursday – Original post on anything related to group ministry

Friday – Hot Links to others articles and podcasts from trusted friends and resources

Today’s Monday, so you know what that means, it’s book excerpt day! Today’s post is taken from the book 3 Roles For Guiding Groups that David Francis and I co-authored a couple of years ago. Let me start out with a question before I quote from the book.

How many people belong to your Bible study group? Oh wait – I misspoke – it’s not really your group, is it? The group is a part of Jesus’ church, His body. I’m a group leader at my church just like many of you, but “my” group isn’t really my group – it belongs to the Lord. It contains His people. I’m just a temporary teacher-shepherd, trusted by Him to feed His lambs. So when it comes to letting people leave the group to start another one, or releasing them to serve in the church’s kid, student, or adult ministries, why are so many group leaders overprotective of “their” people? It’s not uncommon to hear a teacher tell a staff person, “Don’t take those people out of my group – we worked hard to get them – you’ll ruin our group!” There are staff leaders who actually avoid recruiting people from certain adult groups because the staff person knows he’ll have a fight on his hands with the group’s leader! That’s terrible.

In 3 Roles For Guiding Groups, David and I say the following in a section on the importance of releasing people (p.35).

The second key result for those who excel in the leader role is the number of people the group has serving with kids and students. Track it. Celebrate it. Put posters and photos of the group’s ‘missionaries to kids’ on the wall. Talk it up. Invite them to all the parties. Assign them to the best Care Group leader…treat them like celebrities…but be willing to release them. Your group should be a clearing house, not a storehouse! The ‘win’ is not how big you can grow your group, but how many people you can send out to serve.

Hold onto your people with a loose grip – they really aren’t your people after all! Please don’t be “that guy” or “that gal” who aggressively protects his or her group members. Instead, be known as the supportive, people-releasing, loose-grip holding teacher/shepherd/leader who sees the bigger picture and loves to support the church by encouraging group members to leave and serve in other places.

Bonus thought: If you look at Acts 13:1-3, you’ll see the church at Antioch. It had lots of great leaders. Paul/Saul and Barnabas were among them. The Holy Spirit told members of that church to set aside Paul and Barnabas for missionary work – the church was to release two of their very best leaders. And so they did. Guess what? The church at Antioch didn’t collapse. It didn’t cave in when two good people left the group – the church kept right on going. And so will you and your Bible study group as you release people! I promise, the walls won’t fall in and your group will be just fine. Hold onto “your” people with a loose, loose grip.

Friday Hot Links – 3/17/17

It’s been another great week on the blog – lots of new people signed up (welcome aboard!) and there were some record days when posts had big social media reaches. I’m thankful to all of you who like, favorite, and pass the posts along in your own social media circles.

This Saturday I’ll train group leaders at the On Track event in Nashville, TN (Hendersonville, actually!) and I’ll train group leaders at Fair Haven Baptist Church on Sunday afternoon (their first training event in a very long time); I’m glad to help that great church and the new senior pastor, Dr. Tod Tanner, get things centered around the church’s Sunday School ministry again.

Hot links are below. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the posts and/or listening to a podcast or two!

Shoulder to shoulder,

Ken Braddy

Blog Posts You Might Like

Podcasts You Might Like

See your group’s Bible study through the eyes of a guest

Back in 2010 my family and I moved to Nashville so that I could take a new ministry position. We placed our home for sale in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex, and it took almost 10 months before we got our first offer. Our house was on a cul-de-sac, close to the high school, and in a nice neighborhood.

Our realtor surprised us with his assessment of our home: it was too cluttered! He urged us to put some furniture in storage and declutter the house. Declutter?! My wife was none to happy with him for calling her house “cluttered.” It was really off-putting.

But when we really got honest with ourselves, we agreed the house needed to be de-cluttered. We’d grown so used to seeing the house full of “stuff,” it just didn’t register to us any more. We’d grown blind to the true condition of our house.

The same can be true of Sunday School rooms on a church campus. We overlook the coffee stain in the carpet. Our rooms have mismatched chairs. Things are stacked over in the corner of the room. The paint on the door post is chipped. The room needs a new coat of paint. And then there is that crushed velvet picture of Jesus and the Last Supper that someone donated years ago. Rest assured that your first-time guests see all of these things. You’ve grown accustomed to them, but they stick out like a sore thumb to potential group members.

The next time you are on your church campus, take note of the following:

  1. Is there a sign on your classroom door that clearly tells guests what group meets in your classroom?
  2. Do all the chairs in your room match?
  3. Does your marker board need a good, thorough cleaning?
  4. Are there any stains in your carpet? How about runs in the carpet?
  5. Are all of your light fixtures working?

Try and see your meeting space through the eyes of a guest – and then take action. What do you need to address quickly? What are your guests seeing when they come to your classroom?