This past Saturday I had the privilege of meeting with the pastor (Dr. Jamie McElrath), staff, and group leaders from Olivet Baptist Church located in Honolulu, Hawaii. Dr. Craig Webb, Assistant Executive Director of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention brokered the training meeting. I wish it had been in person, but Zoom allowed us to conduct training and a fair amount of Q&A related to group ministry. Dr. McElrath’s wife Lizzy was in the meeting, and she mentioned a phrase I had not heard before, but it is a concept I’ve written about in other posts. I thought her use of the phrase “F-O-M-O” during a portion of our training was spot-on, and with her permission, I’m going to tell you what we talked about that caused her to mention this phrase.
I mentioned the importance of adult groups releasing some of their members to serve in other ministries in the church, especially the teaching ministries to kids and students. Lizzy reminded us that F-O-M-O, which is short for “fear of missing out,” keeps churches from staffing their teaching ministries to kids and students. It’s something that adult groups can definitely play a big part in overcoming.
F-O-M-O happens when a group member is approached by someone on church staff or other leadership role with an invitation to join a teaching team in the church’s preschool, kids, or student ministries. Their fist thought might be, “I’d love to serve, but if I have a fear of missing out if I leave my adult group.” Adults who leave their groups don’t want to be forgotten – they need ongoing adult fellowship and relationships.
Too many adults have left their Bible study groups to serve, only to be forgotten. These servant leaders were promised that if they left their adult groups, their teacher and fellow classmates would remember to keep them connected to the group’s fun fellowship events throughout the year. When that doesn’t happen, F-O-M-O becomes a reality that the remaining adults in the church must overcome in order to say yes to teaching opportunities outside their adult group. Potential new leaders come to believe that serving as a preschool, kid, or student group teacher becomes a death sentence relationally.
F-O-M-O can be overcome when adult group leaders and group members work hard to keep people connected to the group. Servant leaders who step out of adult groups to serve younger members of your congregation deserve to be treated well. F-O-M-O can be overcome as adult groups do the following:
- Keep them on the group’s social media lists. When a person or couple leave an adult group to serve, they must remain on the group’s social media lists. Text messages and emails to the group should end up in their inboxes, too.
- Invite them to every fellowship event. No adult group should ever plan a fellowship event without inviting their “missionaries to kids and students” to attend. It hurts the hearts of those servant leaders when they hear that their former group had a fun outing, but forgot to include them. If this happens consistently, these servant adults will feel lonely and out of touch.
- Put their photo on a “hero board” where the group meets. As people leave adult groups, their photos can be placed on a bulletin board or some other display so that they are not forgotten. Group leaders can use the photos to remind the group that the group is serving the church by sending out its people. Asking, “Who’s next?” can keep the importance of releasing people to serve at the forefront of people’s minds.
- Pray for them regularly. When the Bible study group prays, it should remember to do 2 things. First, pray for any people who have left the group to serve to experience God’s blessings, and for them to be a blessing to those they teach. Second, the serving person/couple can be approached by the teacher or a designated member of the group to discover if they have any prayer needs the group can lift up to God.
- Substitute for them. A great way for a Bible study group to serve those who’ve left to teach kids or students is to give them regular breaks so they can participate in the group’s Bible study, allowing them to stay connected and refreshed. The side benefit of this approach is that other people in the group discover the joy of serving, and they often overcome the fear of the unknown so that when future requests are made for new group leaders, they feel confident and experienced enough to leave the group, too, and teach others.