There are several indicators that a Bible study group wants to grow:
- An apprentice teacher is being groomed to branch off and start a new group
- The group has extra chairs for guests
- There are plenty of extra personal study guides for guests to use and then take home
- The group has a prospect file
Let’s focus on that last one – the group has a prospect file.
A prospect file, whether it is a literal physical file, or something virtual (a list on a computer), is beneficial to all Bible study groups. Why? It’s important for the following three reasons:
- Unless a group intentionally seeks out new members, it will dwindle over time. Churn, the number of people who leave a group each year, must be covered or else a group will decrease in size. Most churches lose 10-20% of members each year (people die, move, get mad, etc). Groups lose people, and unless the church (and groups) have a steady stream of guests, groups are going to suffer from attrition.
- A prospect file keeps a group’s attention focused outward. “The natural inertia of any group is to turn inward.” That statement was made by friend David Francis in one of his annual Sunday School training books. A prospect file communicates something important to the group’s members – namely that the group doesn’t just exist for their benefit, but to reach new people. If a group has been together longer than 18 months, it tends to turn inward unless the group leader provides very strong leadership.
- Potential new members won’t assimilate themselves. This is a fact of group life. Potential group members wait for us to invite them in. A prospect list reminds us that we have people who fit the makeup of our group, and it’s our responsibility to reach out to them in friendship. It’s good to be described as a friendly church or a friendly group, but that’s not enough! People expect us to be friendly – we don’t win any points for that. Instead, potential new members are wondering, “Can I make some new friends in this group?” If we invite them to our Bible studies, if we invite them to our group’s fun social events, and if we invite them to join us in service projects, they can become a member of our group before they officially become a member of our group.