The 3 times to delete a person from your group’s ministry list

As you lead your Bible study group, you’ll face what others have in the past: increasing numbers of people on your group’s role (ministry list). You may even consider deleting inactive people from your ministry list to boost the percent of attendance of those in your group. Please don’t.

You might ask, “Is it ever OK to delete a person from my group’s ministry list?” The answer is yes. There are three times when you should delete a person from your group’s list:

  1. Delete a person when they die. It’s safe to say they won’t be coming back to your group meeting. When a person dies, remove them from your role. They’re on a new role now.
  2. Delete a person when they ask you to. On occasion, people make a decision to leave a Bible study group and they want no further contact from the group leader or group members. If someone requests they be removed from your ministry list, do it. You can let them know how sorry you are they are leaving, but don’t keep them on the role when they’ve asked to be removed.
  3. Delete a person when they become a member of another church. When one of your group members becomes a member of another church, it’s time to delete them from your ministry list. Your mission is accomplished! You became their shepherd-teacher at some point in the past, and now they have a new church and a new group to belong to. They are now another group leader’s responsibility.

Never delete a person from your group’s ministry list because of their low attendance. Over the years, well-meaning group leaders asked me to delete people from their roles because of inactivity. My response: never! Instead of deleting people because they aren’t coming, we should see that as a reason to reach out to them, check on them, and invite them back into the group.

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3 reasons your group needs to party more

 

Parties are powerful when used the right way. They are opportunities to help group members and guests make connections with each other. Parties often serve as the social glue that holds groups together. As I watched Bible study groups in the two churches where I had responsibility for the total groups ministry, the most popular and the fastest-growing groups were the ones that had regular parties and social gatherings. Let’s face it: people like to have fun!

If your group doesn’t have a regular fellowship each month or each quarter, here are some things to think about as you consider ramping up the frequency of your parties.

3 Reasons Why Your Group Needs to Party More

  1. Parties allow you to “connect the unconnected.” Bible study groups often forget about using parties as a tool to connect new people to the group. Savvy groups invite non-members to their get-togethers, and people actually become part of the group before they officially become part of the group. People begin to connect emotionally and relationally to a Bible study group before they ever attend a single Bible study. Make it a habit to invite prospects to every party, fellowship, and gathering. Parties aren’t just for the regular attenders…they are for the “not yet members,” too.
  2. Parties allow you to reach out to chronic absentees.  You know that awkward feeling you get when your are about to send an email or call a chronic absentee, right? You ask yourself, “Will they respond negatively because I haven’t reached out to them sooner? Why didn’t I call them when they were absent the first time or two?” It’s a lot less awkward to reach out to a chronic absentee with an invitation to the group’s next fellowship. “Hey, John, just wanted you to know we’d love to have you and Jennifer come to our cookout this Saturday afternoon,” or “Just wanted to know if we can save you a spot at our bowling night?” Those phrases are much easier to say than, “Hey, we’ve noticed you’ve been absent from the group for a month…are you guys getting a divorce? Is everything OK?” Use a party as a reason to contact your chronic absentees.
  3. Parties help your group members connect on new and different levels.  When your group gets together for a party, you get to know people in ways you just can’t in a classroom or a living room. People tend to “let their hair down,” and you see a side of people you never see during your group’s Bible study. That person you had pegged as a stoic might actually turn out to be a live wire outside the group’s Bible study. You can learn a lot about people outside the group’s normal meeting time.

If your group isn’t in the habit of having regular parties, get some on the calendar! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Go bowling
  • Attend a play
  • See a movie
  • Have a picnic in the park
  • Take a short road trip
  • Visit a museum
  • Have a cookout
  • Start a supper club that meets weekly or monthly
  • Have a progressive dinner in homes of group members
  • Take a short road trip or a day trip
  • Visit a museum
  • Go to a ballgame
  • Visit a local festival (I’ve actually been to the Moon Pie Festival, a Banana Pudding Festival, and a Fainting Goat Festival)…and they were all fun and gave us excuses to share part of our Saturday

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5 reasons to use name tags in your Bible study group

I love name tags. I taught an adult Bible study group at my church in middle Tennessee for six years, and every Sunday my wife and I laid name tags on each chair. Guests wore them. Group members wore them. I wore them. Here are four reasons you should use name tags in your Bible study group:

  1. Name tags are inexpensive. There is no barrier to entry! Any group can afford to “get tagged.” Buy a package at your local Wal-Mart or office supply store. They are just a couple of dollars.
  2. Name tags build a culture of expectancy. The chief reason your group members should fill out name tags when they meet is out of an expectancy that a guest (or guests) may take part in the Bible study, and they won’t know people’s names. Name tags remind the group members that the group exists to reach others. Too many groups have forgotten this and mistakenly believe that the group exists to serve them and meet their needs. Name tags silently remind group members “We may have guests today – and should have guests.”
  3. Name tags can be used during the teaching time. It’s easy to take a few colored markers and place a dot in one corner of each name tag. During the study, the group leader can ask people to group up by colored dot in order to answer questions or work on a quick assignment. Or you could divide the group into two groups – one with the people who wrote their names in cursive, the other with people who printed their name. Or you could divide the group based on the color of the marker they use to fill out their name.
  4. Name tags are great equalizers. Guests feel awkward enough as it is when they visit your Bible study group. Wearing a name tag means they can call people by name, and vice-versa.
  5. Name tags create conversational community. Have you noticed that if people don’t know one another’s names, they say things like, “Hello brother!” and “What’s up, guy?” Or worse yet, they don’t say anything at all because they don’t know what to call the other person. But if people are wearing name tags, they feel less awkward about starting a conversation since they can call the other person by name.

Do yourself and your group a favor – buy a package or two of name tags and start wearing them every time you come together for Bible study. You’ll be really glad you did. And so will they.

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One Great Reason to Clear the Clutter

Mondays on the blog are about sending you an excerpt from a book on Sunday School, groups, or general leadership principles. Today I’ve chosen to go to a book titled Great Expectations to share with you a paragraph from the author. In it he talks about how expensive clutter is. Hopefully, you’ll never see it again in the same way you may have in the past. Churches tend to accumulate pianos, couches, tables, and other things that the church has either purchased or members have donated. Just how expensive are those items to the church? Getting something for free doesn’t necessarily make it free. Consider this:

“Perhaps nothing squeezes against the psychology of invitation like clutter. Clutter is expensive! Wayne Poling, a Sunday School Specialist at LifeWay and the compiler of The Sunday School How-To Manual, tells about using a tile square to demonstrate how expensive clutter can be. Let’s say new construction is priced at one hundred dollars per square foot. Take the square foot of the tile and carry it around the building with you. How much is the space under the broken pool table costing you? The space under the inefficient old sofas in the youth lounge: The space under the inoperable computers that people have donated to the church?”

So let’s do some quick calculations based on the warning from the author about the real cost of clutter. Every table in a classroom costs something; let’s say that a table measures 3 ft. X 6 ft., or 18 square feet. Every table in a classroom is sitting on top of education space that is valued at $1800 (18 sq. ft X $100 per square foot of construction costs). Now imagine if a classroom has 4 tables for adults to use…that’s almost $6000 of floor space!!

A donated couch in the student ministry area is approximately 4 ft. X 6 ft., or 24 square feet. That old run-down couch is sitting on top of $2400 worth of education space! Clutter is expensive – it’s better to rid your rooms of clutter and use the space to place people in Bible study.

How expensive is the clutter at your church? You might be surprised how expensive it is for your classrooms to hold junk that could be thrown away in order to place chairs (and people) into Bible study groups.

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Tuesday Teaching Tip: Don’t use this kind of illustration!

Let’s be honest. Illustrations help people understand biblical truth. Stories can help people connect God’s Word to their lives today. Maybe.

If you use illustrations as you teach, there’s one kind of illustration that you don’t want to use. Curious? Here it is: Don’t use illustrations from antiquity. Very few people care about Baron Von So-and-So. No one’s heart skips a beat when you mention how a poor farmer from eastern Europe made a discovery one day while plowing his field.

If you are going to use illustrations when you teach, make sure you use current illustrations. If I were teaching a Bible study this coming weekend, you could bet your bottom dollar that I’d find an illustration from this week’s Olympic events. I’d do one of the following:

  • Show a picture of an athlete or athletes.
  • Read an article from a newspaper about the Olympics.
  • Use an object lesson that relates to the Olympics.

What are other sources of illustrations from current culture?

  1. Television shows
  2. Newscasts
  3. Newspapers
  4. Magazines
  5. FaceBook
  6. The web
  7. Movies
  8. Current books
  9. Your life/family
  10. Sports

So when you are tempted to share a story about that 7th century monk, don’t. Instead, keep your illustrations more current. Your group members will thank you.

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3 Kinds of Questions that Kill Discussion

Today’s post is taken from a book authored by a friend of mine, Sam O’ Neal. Sam wrote the book Field Guide for Small Group Leaders, and I have found it to be a very helpful resource.

Sam helps us understand how some questions we might ask in our groups actually kill discussion. Here is what Sam has to say about questions we should avoid if we want to boost discussion:

There are several different types of questions that can kill almost any discussion in any small group. I’ve listed some of the most common below.

Idiot Questions. These are questions that have extremely obvious answers – so obvious that only an idiot could get them wrong. Unfortunately, many small group leaders are fond of these types of questions…Here are a couple of examples: What do we put in the mouths of horses to make them obey us? Is it true that no human can tame the tongue?

Unreasonable Questions: These are questions that no one in the group will be able to answer unless they speak  Hebrew or have access to a Bible commentary. Unreasonable questions often make their way into a small group discussion when group leaders spend a lot of time in preparation and get a little overzealous about what they’ve learned. For example, “How would a first-century interpretation of the word tongue impact our understanding of this passage?”

Leading the Witness Questions:  Some discussion questions are phrased in such a way that it is obvious the group leader is seeking a specific answer, or that the group leader wants to steer the discussion in a certain direction. This is a bad idea…group leaders who ask these kinds of questions behave like sheep dogs attempting to herd other people toward their way of thinking.

There are other kinds of questions that kill discussion, and Sam addresses those in his book. I encourage you to pick up a copy and put it in your personal library.

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Answering tricky questions in your Bible study group, Part 2

In yesterday’s post, I showed how to answer tricky questions that are innocent, the first of two categories of questions we are asked in a Bible study setting.

Today, let’s answer the question, “How do I handle the other category of question: the malevolent question?”

If you’ve ever been put on the spot intentionally by someone during a Bible study, don’t despair! This happened to Jesus at various times. In Luke 20 a group of men came to him to trick him, and he turned the tables on them. He wouldn’t respond to their question before they responded to a question he decided to throw at them. The result? They dared not ask him any more questions! I think there is some humor in the Bible, and that’s one of the spots – I’d have loved to have been there to see Jesus expertly handle a group of people with a malevolent question!

But back to our groups today. Just like in yesterday’s post, here are four ways to respond when you’re asked a question that does have a bite – you sense that it has been asked to derail the study or to challenge you. Take a deep breath, compose  yourself, and choose one or more of the following ways to deal with that malevolent question:

  • DEFLECT – Deal with that potential barbed question by deflecting it. Say, “If I have time before the Bible study is over, I’ll get to that question. If not, I’ll visit with you after class. Let’s continue our study…” I never get to the person’s question (imagine that!). If I sense that the question was asked to do me or the group some level of harm, I always want to isolate the person and not give him or her a platform in front of the group. I always meet with the person afterwards.
  • DEFEND – On occasion, when I really do want to bring correction or rebuke to the person asking the snarky question, I choose to respond. Jesus did this in Matthew 24 when he was asked an intentionally tricky question about which was the greatest command in the law. Sometimes the best course of action is to confront the person and give your response. Defend your position. Use Scripture. Stand your ground.
  • DIVIDE – This is a great response that normally puts the person in their place, and causes them not to ask challenging questions any more. When asked one of those malevolent questions, say: “John has posed a hard question. Let’s divide into groups of 3 or 4 and work quickly to respond based on Scripture. Elect a spokesperson for you group. You have 5 minutes. Go!” What always happens is that the groups of people end up “policing” the person with the malevolent question. They put him in his place using Scripture, and you don’t have to say a word. It also give you, the teacher, time to think about a response while the groups are doing their work. I love this solution!
  • DIG – Normally when you are asked a malevolent question, there is “a question behind the question.” Do a little digging and find out what’s the real issue. Say, “Wow – I didn’t anticipate that kind of question in our study today. Why do you ask that?” Continue probing with an even more pointed question, “Why is it important to you that we answer that right now?” or “Help me see how that question connects to our study.” Just keep digging and ultimately the person will either back off, or he’ll reveal the true reason he’s putting you on the spot.

I hope that between yesterday’s post and today’s post you feel more equipped to deal with the two categories of questions that we’re all going to be asked from time to time: innocent questions and malevolent questions.

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