Friday Hot Links – May 26, 2017

I hope you enjoy your Memorial weekend, and that you have time to reflect on the freedoms we have because of the sacrifices made by the men and women who have served, and continue to serve, as members of our military. I’m grateful like I know you are, for their hard work and the sacrifices made by their families.

I’ve put together some links to posts from trusted sources around the Internet. I hope you’ll enjoy reading them over the holiday weekend. Thanks for following this blog, and please be safe as you travel the highways and byways of our country this Memorial Day weekend!

Shoulder to shoulder,

Ken Braddy

 

Blog Posts You Might Like:

Podcasts You Might Like:

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The one thing you must do if you use PowerPoint in your Bible study

From time to time I like to use PowerPoint in the classroom. I have asked conference attendees, “What is the worst teaching method you can use?” and I always hear, “It’s lecture.” But that’s not the right answer! The worst method you can use is the one you use all the time, so I don’t rely on PowerPoint all the time…just occasionally. When I use it, though, I always pay attention to the “1x6x6” Rule.

The 1x6x6 Rule simply says that you should create slides with one main point and no more than six lines or bullets, with no more than 6 words per line. That’s it. Pretty simple, right? Look at the example below…which line is easier to read and remember?

  1. Cross-cultural surveys indicate that 58% of people are unaware of the faith traditions of their neighbors, co-workers, and others.

    This is one of the best PowerPoint slides I’ve ever seen
  2. 58% not aware of faith traditions.

#2 above is a much better way to communicate your point, and in just 6 words. So clean up those PowerPoint slides and help your group members grasp the important points you want to make! Use the 1x6x6 Rule the next time you create a PowerPoint slide deck to help guide your Bible study. Remember, less really is more.

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3 reasons to organize your Bible study group

Who doesn’t love The Container Store? I could spend hours perusing the shelves because of all the neat gadgets they have to help organize your garage, kitchen, storage rooms, and more. My father used to say, “Everything should have a place, and everything should be in its place” (not that he followed his own mantra!). It’s a noble thought, a great idea, and something to strive for. Organization is especially important in your Bible study group. I’m speaking first-hand as a group leader myself. I’ve recently begun to organize my group and to give away certain leadership functions. The more organized we get, the better we’ll be able to accomplish our goals as a Bible study group. Here are three reasons you should consider organizing your Bible study group:

  1. It’s biblical. If you read Acts 6:1-7 and Exodus 18:13-26 (Moses and Jethro’s encounter), you’ll find two examples of groups that needed to get organized. In both instances, the work was divided among many people, and needs were met much more efficiently. Leaders in both stories were able to focus on their primary jobs.
  2. There is a transfer of ownership. As you recruit people into leadership roles, the work of the group is transferred from you, the group leader, to the people in the group. One group leader I used to know made sure each person in his group had a job to do – and he had a big group! He told me that unless people feel needed and important, they drift and fail to attend regularly. As a group leader myself, I’ve seen that in play in my own group. I’m giving away as many jobs as I can to the people in my group these days. If they do the work, it’s their group, not Ken’s group they simply attend. Do you think this might be why so many groups struggle to have regular attenders? Perhaps we haven’t organized our groups and given away the ministry to our people often enough.
  3. The needs of people will be met. In the Acts 6 and Exodus 18 stories, people’s needs were met. In Acts 6, widows began receiving a portion of the daily food allotment. In Exodus 18, Moses recruited leaders and appointed them over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and groups of ten. In the end, the people went away satisfied their legal cases had been heard, and a side benefit is that Moses’ longevity in his leadership role would occur because he had others helping him – he wouldn’t get worn out by trying to do all the work himself.

How might you organize your Bible study group to share ministry with you? Here are a few roles you might want to consider asking your people to fill:

  • Prayer leader
  • Fellowship/fun leader
  • Outreach leader
  • Apprentice teacher(s)
  • Ministry leader

 

 

5 principles for welcoming and following up with first-time guests

My family and I spent the better part of a year searching for a new church home after moving to the Nashville area.  I was dismayed by the lack of follow-up when we visited churches and Bible study groups.  Only a few churches bothered to contact us – and even fewer Bible study groups did.  We filled out visitor cards in every worship service and group we attended, but follow-up with our family was almost non-existent. I’ve spoken to others who have experienced the same thing in their search for a church home and a Bible study group.

Here are a few principles for following up on first-time guests. I do my best to practice these with every guest who comes to the Bible study group I lead:

Principle #1 – You can be too aggressive in your follow-up

  • Guests are on a “blind date” with your church and your group – they don’t know what to expect and are often very anxious (if you’ve ever been on a blind date, you know what I’m talking about).
  • Don’t ask them to “marry” your group too fast – that will ruin the “courtship”

Principle #2 – Contact by group members is better than contact by church staff

  • A survey indicates that the impact of a home visit is reduced by approximately 50% when made by a church staff member rather than people from a Bible study group!
  • Guests will assume that contact from staff is a part of their job description, but they really appreciate a call, e-mail, or home visit by one of their peers who is excited about their Bible study group (5 Handles for Getting A Grip on Your Sunday School, p. 10)

Principle #3 – The faster you contact a guest, the more likely it is for them to connect with your group

  • A survey in the book 5 Handles for Getting a Grip on your Sunday School  demonstrated that:
    • If visited in the home within 36 hours, first-time guests return 85% of the time
    • If visited in the home within 72 hours, first-time guests return 60% of the time
    • If visited in the home 7 days after the initial visit, only 15% of first-time guests return the next week
  • Making a home visit may seem like a lot of trouble, a time-waster, and something from a by-gone era, but it can still be an effective way to reach people for Sunday School and church membership.
  • The principle remains, though – faster follow-up leads to a higher percentage of people returning to your group as guests.

Principle #4 – Follow-up is more like a marathon than a sprint.

  • The average family is now visiting a church (or churches) for 18 months before committing to join (Membership Matters, p.95)
  • Patience and follow-up are the keys to moving people from being guests to becoming members.  Pace yourself, and the efforts of your group to reach out to guests.

Principle #5 – Consecutive visits means a higher possibility of reaching guests*

  • 10% of all first-time guests will become members
  • 25% of all second-time guests will become members
  • 45% of all third-time guests will become members

You get the idea…a guest who returns to your church and Bible study group on consecutive Sundays begins to develop a routine, relationships, and a familiarity with your church’s schedule, layout, and ministries.  It makes it more difficult to leave and go to another place where they have to start all over from scratch.

*This applies if the visits are on consecutive Sunday mornings.  This was reported to participants at the Outreach Marketing Road Show in Dallas, TX.

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Does Sunday School Still Work? 6 ways to make sure it does

“Does Sunday School still work?” That’s a question I was recently asked at a multi-day meeting of pastors who came together to talk about how to disciple their congregations. Sunday School groups, small groups, D-groups….there are lots of options today, and many churches are experimenting with hybrid combinations of groups. But the question still remains, “Does Sunday School still work?”

I believe that Sunday School can be the most vibrant ministry your church offers, but it may require you to make a few changes to it. If you are willing to make those necessary changes, then yes, Sunday School will still work! If you are not willing, then you should call in hospice care – one day you’re going to show up and find that it’s died.

Change or Die

I can’t imagine why these kids don’t enjoy Sunday School…

If you want to breathe life into your church’s Sunday School ministry (and into your group if you’re a Sunday School teacher), then here are some suggestions that will help make Sunday School your best, most effective ministry:

  1. Clarify goals – In order for Sunday School to be vibrant and on-target, its leaders must know what the goal is. If you’re a pastor or staff leader, how have you communicated what you want your group leaders to do? Do they know what’s expected of them? Sometimes Sunday Schools languish because of a lack of focus and clarity over its basic functions. Tell your group leaders exactly what you want them to accomplish as teacher/leaders. Keep it simple – four or five key things is all you need to define. Show your group leaders the target. Clarify your expectations.

    Now that’s better!
  2. Fund it – I can tell if a ministry is important to the church if it sets aside significant amounts of money for it in the annual budget. “Just follow the money trail” is a way to know if a church values something. How much money have you set aside for curriculum materials? For training? For new classroom equipment and other upgrades? Do you have an annual appreciation dinner for your group leaders? How do you say “thank you” in a tangible way to your leaders? It all takes money. Fund Sunday School in your budget!
  3. Talk about it – If you are the senior pastor, people will value what they believe you value. Talk about the importance of Sunday School from the pulpit. Work it into your sermons. Show the congregation new families who are joining the church because of your Sunday School ministry. Connect its ministry to baptisms, and how people are coming to know the Lord through Sunday School. Lift it up. Put it front and center.
  4. Attend it – If you’re a pastor or staff member, set the example by belonging to a Sunday School class yourself, and mention that from time to time as you preach or have the microphone! It’s hard to expect people to belong to Sunday School when you don’t. So join a group and set a good example.
  5. Organize it – Adult group leaders must be led to organize their groups to get group members involved in leading the class. Adult groups need multiple leaders to take on work and become outreach leaders, care group leaders, fellowship leaders, prayer leaders, and more. Moses tried to do it all (see Exodus 18) and learned a valuable lesson from his father-in-law who told him “What you’re doing is not good.” Jethro’s advice? Train others who could  help carry the workload – and let them do it! It works the same way today. If you’re a group leader, you’ll wear yourself out trying to do all the work of the class. You’re not supposed to! Ask others to take on leadership roles.
  6. Promote it – People need to know the next steps to take when they join your church, or when they visit it as guests. Are you clearly telling people that you want them to attend and join a Bible study group? Or are you counting on them figuring that out on their own? Tell them! Advertise your expectation in your worship bulletin. Say it during announcements. Have a greeter center that has people who are well-trained to know your Sunday School’s options so they can connect guests to groups. Don’t assume people know what to do next. They don’t. So tell them to attend a group and show them their options.

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The Value of Personal Study Guides

Today’s blog post is an excerpt taken from the book One Hundred by David Francis and Michael Kelley. It’s a book that is intended to help the smaller church move past the 100 barrier and reach new people.

In this brief excerpt, Francis and Kelley help us understand the value of providing printed curriculum for group members. An unfortunate trend today is that churches are decreasing or eliminating this valuable tool from their teacher’s toolboxes. I wish it wasn’t so, and not just because I work for a company that produces Personal Study Guides! I’m a group leader like many of you, and I’ve seen the value of Personal Study Guides in my adult Bible study group. We use them weekly to guide our study time. Here is what the two authors have to say:

It’s a good and right thing to expect members to come prepared for the class session. That’s one advantage of providing inexpensive printed curriculum materials…Along with your invitation (for guests to come back)  you can provide a copy of the study material you are using. If you are using what we call “ongoing” material at LifeWay, you can say something like, “Here’s a booklet with the topics and Scriptures we’re studying in our class right now. Before you come, you might want to take a few minutes to find the study for that weekend in the book, and read ahead. …By that simple act, you’ve removed the number one barrier for adults: thinking they know too little about the Bible to participate. (pp.24-25)

Personal Study Guides cost about $2.50 each, which boils down to a whopping $.19 a week (they contain 13 Bible studies). For less than a quarter a week, you can put God’s Word into the hands of members and guests, and you will have a more robust Bible study when everyone has had the chance to read ahead and study on their own.

Another advantage to using ongoing curriculum is that you don’t have to stress out about what your group is going to study every 4 to 8 weeks! The scope and sequence is predetermined by teams of experts who carefully craft the materials and choose topics and passages to be studied. It relieves me of that responsibility as a group leader, and it frees up my time to focus on meeting the needs of my group members as a teacher-shepherd.

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4 things not to say to a grieving group member

Sooner or later, death will come to someone in your Bible study group. I teach a group of empty nest adults, and most of us are dealing with aging parents who are dying. This past year alone, 5 of my group members lost a parent to death.

But death comes to younger adults as well. Grandparents die. A baby is stillborn. An accident happens unexpectedly. What are you to say to your grieving group members to help them while they are suffering? Here are four things that you shouldn’t say – just strike these from your mind and your vocabulary:

  1. “He/she is in a better place.” This may pr may not be true, but don’t presume to know the spiritual condition of the person who has died. Instead, say “I’m really sorry you are hurting right now.”
  2. “I understand exactly how you feel.” You may or may not know exactly what the grieving group member is feeling and experiencing. Most grieving adults are going to quickly discount this and will not believe that you have walked a mile in their shoes. Resist the urge to empathize so closely with the grieving member that you lose your credibility with them.
  3. “How can I help?” This sounds innocent enough, but it’s hard for a grieving person to answer. Their mind is numb and they most likely feel overwhelmed. They can’t articulate how you can help them. It’s better to simply go into action – take food to them, show up and cut the grass, or do some other tangible ministry that meets a need they have in a practical way.
  4. Nothing. Many people are uncomfortable around death. They never reach out to the surviving partner because they are uncomfortable and would prefer not to address the topic of death at all. Saying nothing may wrongly communicate that you do not care. Share a good memory of the deceased with your surviving group member – take a walk down memory lane.