Ken Braddy

Guiding, encouraging, and equipping Sunday School teachers and small group leaders

The secret sauce for growing your Bible study organization

One burger restaurant chain has what they’ve labeled a “secret sauce.” It’s a blending of several other secret-sauceingredients into one original sauce. Other burger joints followed suit, and now almost every place you eat has what they call a “secret sauce.” Even movies like Good Burger poke fun at the idea of a secret sauce that has unknown ingredients. Truth be told, if you blend mayo, ketchup, and Thousand Island dressing, you’ll probably come up with a “secret sauce” very close to the kind you get in most restaurants. The secret’s out.

Flake’s Formula

Arthur Flake was an employee of the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention “back in the day.” He developed a formula for growing Sunday School that is still used today. It’s a “secret sauce” that’s not so secret anymore. It works. It’s not hard to understand. It’s not hard to implement. His five-step formula has been used by thousands of churches to grow their Bible study organizations.

K-E-E-P-GO!

There’s the formula – do you know what those little letters stand for? They are a simple acrostic to help us remember the key ideas in this Sunday School “secret sauce” formula for growth:

Know your possibilities

Enlarge the organization

Enlist and train the leaders

Provide space and resources

GO after the people!

 

The Secret Sauce Explained

Know your possibilities – Imagine what could be. Who are you not reaching? What new groups could be started? Where could those groups be started? This is the stage where you dream about the future, seeing underserved or under-reached people groups.

Enlarge the organization – Once you know your possibilities, declare which groups you’ll be starting or expanding in order to reach people. Do this before you have group leaders enlisted. Act in faith. Trust God to provide the necessary leaders.

Enlist and train the leaders – Properly enlist the new leaders you will need to fill the openings in your newly designed organization. Once you’ve asked them to commit to provide leadership, it’s your turn to provide the training they’ll need to be successful.

Provide space and resources – Bible study groups need places to meet. Determine the best locations (those may be on or off-campus) and provide Bible study resources for them to use in their groups.

GO after the people – Start new groups with trained leaders at predetermined locations. These groups will not wait around for people to show up, but will be proactive in finding new people to belong to their groups.

For more information about Arthur Flake and his “secret sauce” formula for growing Sunday School, 5-step-formulapick up a free digital copy of the book The 5 Step Formula for Sunday School Growth.

Friday’s Hot Links: Sept. 23, 2016

I trust you’ve had a great week. I can’t say thanks enough for the way you’ve been supportive of this Hot links 3Sunday School / groups blog. I appreciate the way you are helping others find it through the reposting of blog articles, sharing it on Twitter, and liking it on Facebook!

Here are some blog posts from around the web that I’ve collected for you. Happy reading this weekend!

Shoulder to shoulder,

Ken

Blog Posts You Might Like:

Podcasts You Might Want to Listen To:

Recruit people to a vision, not to a job description

Here’s a tip for all of you who recruit others to help you in your leadership role. You may be a group job descriptionleader looking to recruit group members to certain positions of leadership. You may be a staff leader who is responsible for your church’s overall groups ministry. In either case, as you recruit people to serve along side you, be sure to recruit them to a vision, and not to a job description alone.

The Job Description

Everyone’s seen a job description. It’s a list of the essential tasks you are required to accomplish. If I, as a group leader, needed to recruit someone to check the role in my group, I would need a short job description for that position. It would read something like this:

  • Pick up the group’s role book in the church office
  • Mark people present and absent
  • Provide a list of the present/absent group members to the teacher and care group leaders
  • Turn in the role book to the church office before leaving the church

And there you have it. A short job description for my group’s “secretary.”

Recruit to a Vision

If I wanted to recruit you to be my new class secretary, I’d certainly show you the job description. But I wouldn’t stop there. Next, I’d say something like this:

“As you help us identify people who are present and absent, we can reach out to them as a group that cares for them. No one wants to feel like they are disposable or insignificant, so you’ll help us know who to contact each week. Falling through the cracks of our class wouldn’t feel good to anyone, so by keeping accurate records for us, you’ll be part of the process of making sure people are feel valued and important. And by the way, as we keep adults connected to our group, it will also help the church keep their kids connected to their groups, too.”

Do you see the difference in recruiting to a vision versus recruiting to just a job description? You need the job description, but don’t stop there!

 

Don’t break this rule if you want to grow your group!

  • Don’t walk on the grassman-on-grass
  • Don’t smoke in the airplane lavatory
  • Don’t talk
  • No swimming
  • No diving
  • Do not block the driveway
  • Do not cross the white line

These are just a few of the rules we love to break. In fact, it just feels like some rules were made to be broken. Here’s one rule, though, as a Bible study leader, that you’d better not break if you want your group to grow.

The 80% Rule

This little rule simply says that your room is going to be full when it gets to 80% of its capacity. At 80% capacity, your group will stagnate and stop growing. Oh, it might keep growing temporarily as you break the 80% rule, but in time attendance will level out and many times it drops below the 80% level.

When a room is over 80% full, it looks full visually. Sure there are empty seats, but when a person walks into the room, it seems as though there isn’t a place for them. Many times the only places Overcrowded Classroomsleft are right up front and in the center of the row.

Do the Math

Let’s take the place where my Bible study group meets. We are in a classroom on our church campus. It’s a nice sized room with 20 chairs. 80% of 20 is 16, and that’s about what we average each week in attendance. I might set up a few more chairs to help us grow. Let’s say I do that and we cram 24 chairs into our classroom. At 80%, the room is going to feel full when 19 people are present. I simply don’t have enough space to continue growing my Bible study group.

The Solution

There are two main solutions to the 80% rule when attendance gets close to that percentage:

  1. Find a bigger room
  2. Start a new group

The second option is much better than the first for any number of reasons. Sadly, many groups won’t stand for the second option, so haggard church staff leaders place groups in larger and larger spaces. Growth isn’t a bad thing…it’s a very good thing. But there’s “good growth” and there’s “bad growth.” Larger rooms and bigger groups lead to what I’ll call “bad growth.”

If you are a group leader, the better solution is to constantly be preparing your group to be excited about the opportunity it will one day have to “franchise” itself and start another group.

The 80% rule is alive and well. It cannot be overcome. As a group leader, be aware of its effect on your group’s ability to grow, and be proactive.

Tuesday Teaching Tip: Don’t Tell Them Anything…

In a video series featuring the late Dr. Howard Hendricks, he said, “Never tell a stshhhh-feature-featureudent anything he can discover for himself.” That’s a phrase that was instantly burned into my brain as a teacher. Such great advice and wisdom is found in that philosophy of teaching.

As a Bible study leader, try to guard against “information transfer” – dumping all you know into the minds of your group members during each Bible study session. Instead, take time to allow group members to self-discover the important truths you want them to know. If they do the work and the digging to mine scriptural truths and principles, they’ll remember them and use them more frequently than if you simply tell them what they are.

The 4 major implications of this teaching approach are:

  1. You’ll talk less as the group leader.
  2. Group members will talk more.
  3. Group members will need more time to complete activities and research in class (so cut back on what you plan to say as the teacher of the group!). Give them time to look up Scripture verses, perform cross-references, and consider how “Scripture interprets Scripture.”
  4. You’ll serve as a guide rather than as a person delivering a monologue.

 

 

Conversation > Presentation

If you remember anything from your math days, you’ll recognize what the title of this post is intended to Teacher - CCCcommunicate! Today’s post is an excerpt from the book Teacher: Creating Conversational Community. In this particular section of the book, the authors discuss the importance of allowing conversation to trump presentation.

Conversation trumps presentation almost every time as a vehicle for spiritual transformation. Community that accelerates transformation is best done in circles. We believe that groups pursuing and practicing conversational community are the best environment for people to be in a posture to experience the Transformational Sweet Spot (TSS)…When a person is allowed to sit and soak, they are far more likely to have a posture of hardness to truth. But when those people move out of the comfortable silence and solitude of rows and into circles, suddenly there is an expectation of participation. A group in which people participate is much more likely to be a group receptive to the convicting and transforming power of the Holy Spirit…In environments like this, the Holy Spirit uses not only the leader but also individual group members to speak to each other. Through sharing their experiences, their struggles, and their stories of God’s faithfulness, they spur one another on to good deeds and godliness.

How does this compare to the way you conduct your Bible study group? Do you ask people to “sit and soak” as you pour information into their minds, or do you allow them to share stories and struggle with the truth as they openly discuss their thoughts and feelings about the biblical text?

If your group meets in rows, consider reshaping that configuration and arrange the room in a circle, or several half-circles. Big groups can be broken down into smaller 4-6 person buzz groups to talk about their responses to an interesting discussion question asked by the group leader. It is in these kinds of smaller, talkative groups that we see transformation begin to take place as people teach one another, guided by Holy Spirit-inspired conversations.

Hot Links – Friday September 16, 2016

Here are some links to articles and podcasts you may want to take a look at this weekend. Each of them Hot links 3is from a trusted source or friend in ministry with good things to contribute to your ministry as a leader of a groups ministry, or as the leader of a Bible study group.

Thanks again for subscribing to this blog. I launched it about 4 years ago as a way to help group leaders, pastors, and others be more successful in their Bible study ministries. You’ve been great to share posts in social media, recommend the blog to others, and you’ve asked some great questions along the way. Your partnership is appreciated!

Have a great weekend,

Ken

 

Blog posts you might like:

Podcasts you might like:

Guests, gaps, and groups – Mind the Gaps

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Mind the gap

Your Bible study group is designed to reach a certain kind of person. I teach a group especially designed to reach empty nest adults. My target audience is somewhere between 45-59 years of age. The people have older, grown children. My target audience is not single adults, nor young adults, nor senior adults. If someone visits our church in this age range and demographic, they are brought to my group. If I see a visitor in our worship service who appears to be in my target audience, I strike up a conversation and invite them to my group. In fact, I can enroll anyone, anywhere, who fits the demographic of my Bible study group.

Mind the Gap

As a leader in your church’s groups ministry, be sure you have a place for every person to attend Bible study – a place that fits their age and life stage. This means you must pay careful attention to the “gaps” in your Bible study groups. Ask yourself, “If a young college student wanted to attend Bible study, would we have a good option for him?” In a similar way, you must be sure that all kinds of people have options in your Sunday School ministry. Where are the gaps in yours? Do you have groups for:

  • Single moms
  • Men
  • Women
  • Younger married adults with no kids
  • College students
  • Single adults (younger)
  • Single adults (older)
  • Parents of preschoolers
  • Parents of grade school children
  • Parents of students (how about parents of junior high or high school students?)

You get the idea. Make sure that you have all the bases covered so that when a guest tries to plug into a Bible study group, you have a great option for them.

 

 

Two Kinds of Attendance to Track

Bible study leaders can be encouraged and take heart – your work is not in vain, although you might get depressed pretty quickly when you consider the attendance patterns of your group members. The average church-going person today is attending about twice a month. These are some of our most committed members, too. George Barna predicted this back in the early 90’s. He declared something very similar at that time. He said that within a few short years we’d redefine “regular attendance.” He said that loyal, committed church members who attend 50% of the time would be some of our most dependable and steadfast people. Looks like he nailed it.

Two Kinds of Attendance

What's your group's average attendance? Active attendance?

What’s your group’s average attendance? Active attendance?

If you are a group leader, or the leader of your church’s groups ministry, you might want to think about tracking two kinds of attendance these days:

  1. Average attendance – This is exactly what it sounds like. Take the total attendance for the month, divide it by the number of weeks, and wha-la, you have an average attendance number for each week of a particular month.
  2. Active attendance – This number will be larger than the first one (average attendance). It recognizes the fact that although you may have 20 people in your group as an average attendance, you actually have taught perhaps as many as 35 people over the course of the month. Why? Because the 20 people who are the average attenders are not the same attenders each week! Some will be the same, but there’s a group of people who come and go each week. The impact of your groups ministry is much larger than average attendance would tell you it is. A church with an average Sunday School attendance of 200 may actually be reaching and teaching 300 people over the course of a month – and that’s exciting to think about.

I would not look at one of the above measures of attendance to the detriment of the other one. Look at them both, know what they tell you about your group and/or your church, and be encouraged that your ministry is probably larger than you think it is.

Tuesday Teaching Tip: Know the 3 Types of Learners & What They Prefer

There are 3 kinds of learners in each of our Bible study groups. These three types of learners include (1) learning-modalitiesauditory learners (2) kinesthetic learners (3) visual learners. Every group will have a mixture of all three kinds of people. As teachers, you and I must know the differences each one of these has from the others. We must also be careful not to let our own learning preference (I’m a visual learner) overpower the other two kinds in the way we guide people in the Bible study. As a visual learner, I must make sure that I don’t primarily use methods that appeal to visual learners. If I do, I am ignoring the other two kinds of learners in my group. Think “balance, always.”

  1. Auditory learners – These learners pay careful attention to the sound of your voice. Their motto might be, “Tell me something.” Auditory learners will actively participate in group discussions, and they enjoy responding to discussion questions. They enjoy interesting lectures, plus they are great at remembering instructions.
  2. Kinesthetic learners – These learners like to touch things – that’s how they learn best. Their motto might be, “Let me do something.” Kinesthetic learners enjoy holding objects and they enjoy creating things with their hands. These guys are active learners – they want to do something.
  3. Visual learners – These learners learn best when they can see what you’re talking about. Their motto is “Show me something.” Visual learners like charts, maps, posters, PowerPoint slide decks, and object lessons. They also appreciate being able to clearly see the marker board, and they love having a handout. They will often sit towards the front of your meeting place so they can have an unobstructed view of the focal wall, including things like the marker board and any posters and maps you use.

Like it or not, all three kinds of learners are in your group. The only question is, “How will you engage each learning preference through the course of your Bible study?”

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