Most Bible study groups don’t relish the thought of “splitting” and starting a new group. Over the years people have tried to put a positive spin on it by encouraging group leaders and members to “start a new unit, begin a daughter class,” or even “franchise your group.” Call it what you will, people who are in the group don’t always like the idea of change. Starting new groups is one of the hardest things a church will ever do.
If you want your church to reach new people as it makes disciples, new groups are a must. If you lead a Bible study group, lead it well and help your people embrace the idea of birthing a new group. Starting a new group can be painful, but here are some ways to birth one without using drugs:
- Establish this as an expectation when the group forms. When a Bible study group first comes together, make certain that you and your group members understand that a goal for the group is to start another one. If you do this, there are no surprises when the conversations begin about birthing a new group. If your church utilizes a leader covenant, consider writing this into it. New leaders should only come on board if they agree to use their influence to start a new group by some designated time in the future.
- Make sure the group has an apprentice leader (or leaders). One of the indicators that a group is going to start another one is the presence of an apprentice leader who regularly leads the Bible study. If there is just one regular teacher/leader, this will send a subtle signal that the group is supposed to relate to him as their leader. Having a teaching team allows people to experience different teaching styles, and people begin to gravitate to one of the multiple leaders. When that person leaves the group to start another one, he will naturally pull people with him to help launch the new group.
- Let proximity help reduce anxiety. If your church’s facility allows for it, let a “parent” class be in close proximity to its “daughter” class. When people are able to still see one another and visit before and after the two group’s Bible studies, anxiety is often reduced because they still see one another. People may feel out of sorts because they feel the loss of relationships that are dear to them, so keeping them in close proximity can really help.
- Talk about it often. To birth a new group, you the leader must make it a priority. Talk about the importance of your group starting a new one in order to reach new people for Christ. Pray as a group for people to step up. Pray for groups that have birthed new ones – pray for God to send them new people to replace the ones who stepped out in faith to start the new group. The main thing is to keep this at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
- Call out group members who can lead the new group. New groups must have at least one catalyst. Look around your group and release your best persons to go and birth the new group. Meet with them and encourage them to lead the way to birthing a new Bible study group. Challenge them. Call them to step up. Ask for a decision.
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