“The natural inertia of any group is to turn inward.” That statement was made by my friend and Lifeway’s former Director of Sunday School, David Francis. I’ve repeated it numerous times while leading training – with attribution, of course!
As a group leader, I can attest that it is difficult to keep a group’s attention focused outwardly – on people who are spiritually lost, or those who are disconnected from group life. Groups turn inward because they’ve done good things – right things – together: they have prayed together, studied together, served together, and had fun together. It’s natural for a group to turn inward. David was right.
But just because David was right, it doesn’t mean that we can’t do something about it. To keep your group’s attention focused outward where it belongs, consider incorporating these 4 elements into the life of your group:
- Wear nametags. I’ve said this before, and I will now say it again! Asking group members to wear nametags each week (the “Hello, My Name Is _______ nametags are just fine). I have explained to groups that we don’t wear them for ourselves (although they do help group members know one another). We wear them because we never know when a group member will bring a guest, or when someone in the church’s greeter ministry will bring a guest to our group. At that point, we want to call the guest(s) by name, and we want them to be able to call group members by name, too. Nametags keep the group’s focus on people “not yet here.”
- Pray for the lost. How wonderful would it be to dedicate the prayer time in one of your group’s upcoming Bible studies to praying for people who are spiritually lost?! I can’t think of a better way to keep a group’s focus outward – on people who are far from God. Some of the people you pray for will be spouses of some of your group members; others will be friends, neighbors, and co-workers. But they all need God, so we should pray for them regularly.
- Have a testimony time. From time to time I recommend asking a member of your group to share their spiritual story – their testimony – with the group. They only need to incorporate 3 elements into their story: their life before coming to Christ, how they accepted Him as Savior, and what life has been life since then. They can jot down key words or phrases to help them remember key elements, or they can write it out completely and then read it to the group. When people share their testimony in a Bible study group, it will help them have confidence to do that again when the opportunity arises outside the group.
- Enlist greeters. Look for people in your group with the spiritual gift of hospitality. These people make great greeters, whose role it is to watch for guests, make them feel welcome, and introduce them to fellow group members. Greeters will absolutely keep your group’s attention focused outwardly!
If you don’t do the hard work to keep your group’s focus on potential new group members, their attention will turn inward. When groups have been together longer than 18 to 24 months, that’s the time they tend to lose sight of the lost or the unconnected. Let’s make sure we all take responsibility for looking outward, not just inward.