7 Onramps to Group Bible Studies

A freeway onramp is designed to do one thing: help cars merge into the flow of traffic. An onramp allows cars to get up to speed so they become part of the fast-moving freeway with relative ease.

Your church is in one sense a “fast moving freeway.” It has many programs and activities, one of which is Bible study groups. To help potential group members merge into group life, they’ll need an onramp.

Lifeway Research recently compiled a book titled Together: The Power of Groups. If you click here, you can download a free PDF of that booklet. Here is what the research team recommended as onramps to Bible study groups:

  • A group fair to meet leaders and learn about different groups. Held on a Sunday morning, the fair connects potential group members to information about their options. It also connects them to group leaders so that relationships can begin. Normally, people connect people – programs don’t!
  • Announcements can be made from the pulpit that encourage church members and guests who aren’t connected to a group to try one out. “Test Drive Sunday” or some other creative title can help groups reach people who have not regularly attended a group.
  • Emphasis in sermons. “If it is important to the pastor, it becomes important to the church.” When a pastor encourages people to get connected to a Bible study group, that’s a highly influential strategy. When a pastor says, “In my Bible study group…,” that’s even better. If people know he is committed to doing what he’s asking them to do, they take notice. Every pastor should promote group attendance in sermons from time to time.
  • Social media shouldn’t be overlooked as a means of getting the word out about your church’s Bible study options. I met a young lady just this week who is a new hire on her church’s staff team. Her job? Social media coordinator! Her church knows the power of social media in reaching people. If your church cannot afford a person in this role, I will guarantee you that you’ve got some 20-somethings in your church that are experts in social media, and they can help you as volunteer leaders.
  • One-on-one encouragement to try a specific group. This is the absolute best and most effective way to move people into groups! The research demonstrated that 47% of people who attend a group do so because of the invitation from either the group leader or members of the group. Every other means of onboarding people into groups paled in comparison. Don’t overlook this! There is power in the personal invitation.
  • Invite those outside groups to join groups in serving and helping others. Sometimes people become part of the group before they become part of the group. Let me say that in a different way – people who are not necessarily interested in your Bible study group may be interested in helping the poor in your community, or serving with your group on a Saturday morning sorting food at the local food pantry. As they are invited to make a difference in your community by their friends who are members of your group, they get to know you outside of Bible study. As they make connections with your group relationally, it is quite organic to see them take next steps that find them attending your official Bible study meeting.
  • A special Bible study series is another way to help people merge into group life. Hosting a six-week study on marriage, parenting, finances, or other timely topic with the intention of using it to kick-start an ongoing group comprised of the attendees is a smart play for helping people merge into an adult Bible study group.

The authors of Together: The Power of Groups recommended we all overemphasize three groups with onramps:

  • Young adults – see the chart and its data about the attendance patterns of three different generations. Younger adults are showing signs of valuing church attendance at greater rates than the Baby Boomers.
  • People new to your church. People should hear encouragement to connect with Bible study groups as they join your congregation. Every pastor I’ve served with has said to members and guests, “If you’re only going to come to worship or a Bible study group, choose to attend a Bible study group.” Pastors know the power of connecting people relationally.
  • People who attend less often (less engaged). The frequency of attending a Bible study group is down. In a post-COVID world, we’re going to need to go after our former group members who have drifted away because of the pandemic.

Remember that people won’t assimilate themselves! That’s our job – and it’s one we can do with some intentionality. Research has also demonstrated that 75% of the people who will come to your church are open to the idea of being in a group (open to the idea, or actively seeking to be connected to a group). That’s good news to those of us in church or group leadership.

Which one of the ideas above will you implement this week? Let’s give people an onramp to group life in our churches.

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