The importance of open enrollment

Mondays on the blog are always book excerpts – a few paragraphs from a book that is focused on leader-cccSunday School and small group ministry. Today’s post is taken from a book I had the privilege of co-writing with friends David Francis and Allan Taylor. The book is focused entirely on the subject of evangelism – sharing Christ through our groups and group ministries. It’s called Leader: Creating Commissioned Community and is the third in a series of books we’ve written on the 3 roles of group leaders. You can pick up a copy by clicking here.

Evangelistic, outward-focused groups have adopted numerous practices. Here from our book is a short excerpt on Practice #4: Evangelistic, outward-focused groups practice open enrollment.

I (Ken) was recently reminded by a friend and colleague of ours, Dwayne McCrary, of the importance of enrolling people in groups. He reminded me that enrolling people in Bible study is an essential action that many groups have abandoned. I began thinking about the group I teach, a group of empty nest adults, and wondered if our process for enrolling people could be strengthened. The wrong question to ask a guest is, “Would you fill out this information card?” The right question to ask a guest is, “May I enroll you in our Bible study group? You are not joining the church. You are simply giving us permission to pray for you, and keep you informed about fellowship and ministry opportunities of the group.”

Groups that practice what is known as “open enrollment” enroll people in the group any time and any place – not just when the person visits the group Bible study time. Groups that practice open enrollment ask for a commitment the first time the guest visits the group or before they ever attend.

Because enrollment and attendance are tied together (attendance is almost always 45-50% of enrollment), it is crucial that group leaders get into the habit of intentionally enrolling new people in their groups.

I love the way the conversation changes! Like it was said in the quote above, don’t ask a guest to fill out an information card when they visit the group’s Bible study; ask them if you can enroll them in the group! They can become an instant member, and the group will have a higher level of accountability to serve the new person(s) once their names are on a ministry role.


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