Happy Thanksgiving!

To all of you who have subscribed to my Sunday School/groups blog, thank you! I appreciate the way you share the posts and make it a place for group leaders and church leaders to find encouragement.

I hope you have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving Day. I’m taking a two-day break from posting over the holidays, so I’ll see you again next Monday.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Ken Braddy

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Tuesday Teaching Tip: Break the Ice with a Personal Scavenger Hunt

Icebreaker activities can help group members of any size group (1) move around physically (2) meet new people (3) have fun!

There are numerous ways to lead people through an ice-breaking scavenger hunt, so today I’m going to focus on one that requires very little prep on the group leader’s part.

Before you begin, ask group members to number off 1 – 4. Now move them into groups – all the 1’s in a group, 2s in a group, etc.

Ask the men to pull out their wallets. Ask the women to hold their purses. Now the personal scavenger hunt begins! Call for group members to look inside their wallets and purses for the following objects:

  • A restaurant receipt
  • A movie ticket stub
  • A dollar bill printed in the 70s
  • Anything with their photo on it
  • Something that represents a hobby or interest they have
  • A business card (their’s or someone else’s)
  • Nail clippers
  • Etc, etc. etc.

From time to time as you lead the group through this exercise, stop and have them do some deeper-level sharing. For instance, when you ask them to find a movie ticket stub, follow up by asking the groups to stop and share something about the movie: how it made them feel, their favorite scene, a memorable quote, etc. Then continue on to the next object you’ll want them to find.

This is an easy, inexpensive, and spontaneous ice-breaker you can do in any setting at any time.

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A Lesson for Group Leaders from Amos

Monday’s blog posts are specifically crafted as excerpts from books on Sunday School, small groups, and general leadership. Today’s post is from a book that I co-wrote which will be available in early December. Here is a sneak peek at a part of chapter 2 where I made comments on a verse from the book of Amos. Amos was a shepherd, and the book, Shepherd: Creating Caring Community, was written to group leaders to encourage them to think of themselves as the shepherds of their flocks. Here is what I said in this part of chapter 2:

A few years ago I came across an often ignored verse of prophecy in Amos 3 that gives us a glimpse into the life of a shepherd:

“The Lord says, ‘As the shepherd snatches two legs or a piece of an ear from the lion’s mouth, so the Israelites who live in Samaria will be rescued…” (Amos 3:12).

What is interesting about this verse is that the Lord inspired Amos to write these words (Amos was a shepherd by trade). The Lord used a shepherd to describe a shepherding situation that sometimes took place to speak to Israel about the way it would be rescued.

As I read the verse I wondered, “Why would a shepherd bother to rescue pieces of an animal that had obviously become lunch for a predator?” As I pondered the verse, I couldn’t reconcile why a shepherd would risk his life to wrestle pieces of a dead animal away from a predator like a lion, bear, or wolf. I wouldn’t. Let the predator have its lunch! Move away so that you don’t become lunch.

But as I kept thinking about this, it became clear why a shepherd would risk life and limb: He was the shepherd. He wasn’t the owner. He was a temporary custodian of his master’s sheep….As teaching shepherds, you and I are temporary stewards of God’s people, His sheep. When He trusts us to shepherd ten, He wants us to know we are accountable for those ten. When our group grows and He sends us twenty, we are responsible for those twenty. Shepherds cannot risk viewing the people in our groups as “ours.” They are the Lord’s sheep. You and I are temporary stewards who, like shepherds of old, are responsible to our master. That’s a sobering thought.

It’s one thing to teach a Bible study. It’s another thing to shepherd a Bible study group. See the difference? If I’m a teacher, I can simply teach a lesson, move on, and teach another one the next week. If I’m a shepherd-teacher, I not only guide my people through a Bible study, but I have a sense of stewardship – I believe those people in my group are mine for a season. I’m their shepherd. They were given to me by God. And I am responsible to the Lord for them, because they are ultimately His, not mine.

I hope you’ll visit lifeway.com in early December and pick up a copy of the new book Shepherd: Creating Caring Community. There are free PowerPoint slides and conference plans so that you can use the book to train your group leaders.

If you like, I can travel to your church and provide the training first-hand. It would be an honor to encourage your group leaders to become even better teacher-shepherds!

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3 responses to the criticism that “Sunday School isn’t deep enough”

One of the most frustrating things I hear from time to time is, “Sunday School isn’t deep enough.” Maybe someone has said that to you as a group leader. Maybe you’ve said that as a group member. Perhaps you’re a pastor or you lead your church’s education ministry and people have said something similar to you. Here are three things to remind people when they make the statement, “Sunday School isn’t deep enough.”

  1. Sunday School isn’t designed to be “deep.” Sunday School is an outreach ministry. Sunday School is an evangelism strategy. It is designed for anyone and everyone to attend. At any time. On any day. As such, I may have people who are long-time believers sitting next to “Joe Unconnected” who doesn’t own a Bible and knows very little about the Scripture. The real problem is this: too many of our groups have turned inward and we’ve forgotten about reaching out to the lost. We believe Sunday School is about “going deeper” and such. It isn’t. It is about studying, don’t get me wrong. It is about learning to obey all that Jesus commanded us (Mt. 28:18ff). But when we reduce Sunday School to being that one place where we get our weekly fill of the Bible, we ask it to do something it was not intended to do! Sunday School must strike a delicate balance between content and caring; it must strike a balance between the lost and the learned. It is meant to be foundational discipleship. “Going deep” is for other venues – things like closed-group discipleship courses or D-groups (accountability groups).
  2. Sunday School can be used to create D-Groups. To make sure that Sunday School remains open to new people attending weekly, it is imperative that the curriculum chosen is designed on a solid open-group philosophy. That means lessons stand alone and create a satisfying Bible study experience for each group member. It means that lessons are crafted with the assumption that d grouppeople of all spiritual maturity will be present. But to answer the need of some more mature group members for more depth of study, Sunday School group leaders should seriously consider starting a D-Group through their class. What’s a D-Group, you ask? D-Groups are same-sex groups of 3 to 4 people who meet during the week for more in-depth study and accountability. By sponsoring D-Groups, Sunday School classes can remain open to prospective new members being in attendance, deliver satisfying Bible study lessons, but save the “depth” for another time with those group members who really desire that and are ready for it.
  3. We are all educated beyond our level of obedience. It makes no sense to ask for depth when we aren’t obeying what we already know to be the revealed will of God. There is actually depth in simplicity. Bible studies that help us focus on simple truths from God’s Word that we should be living out, but are not,  challenge us to live out the Word in front of our family, friends, neighbors, and peers. What I don’t need are never-ending factoids about a Bible character. What I don’t need is another list of things that happened on a particular plot of ground in the Bible. What I do need is to love my neighbor and to love God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. What I need is to be a Christian father, husband, son, employee, and friend. I need to be salt and light. I need to be an ambassador. Teach me something simple, but profound, and give me some practical ways to live it out. There’s depth! I don’t need another history lesson. I need a road map for living life in a way that pleases God. The depth will come.

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When it comes to group Bible study, could smaller be better?

Monday’s posts are always excerpts taken from great books on group ministry. Today’s excerpt comes from a classic book called The Growth Spiral by Andy Anderson. I’ve chosen a section of his book that reminds us of the reason why smaller groups are better groups. Here is what Anderson has to say about why your group and my group should be smaller:

The Sunday School is not merely a teaching organization. It is also a ministering organization. How can we minister to the people enrolled in our Sunday School and reach all of the prospects if this is not done through the small teaching unit? Obviously, we have no other organization or method to do this. Small Sunday School classes give us an opportunity to minister…In that small unit, they ministered to one another. They prayed for one another. She was able to share her hurt with her classmates, and their encouragement carried her through. Ministry is the key to Sunday School. We need to concentrate on the small teaching unit concept.

I’ve taught a group of adults weekly for the past five years. I can attest that smaller groups are places where a deeper level of ministry can take place. I love Anderson’s emphasis on smaller. If churches would grasp this concept, along with the concept of Newer (starting new groups), many would see their Sunday Schools turn around and grow again. Newer and Smaller are two concepts we’ve overlooked in our quest to be seeker-sensitive, culturally relevant, and all things to all people. Perhaps the solution has been in front of us all along: smaller groups that teach God’s Word and minister to the group members as they in turn minister to people in the community. Hmmmm.

If your Bible study group is a large one, would you prayerfully consider leading your big group to become one or two more smaller groups so that you can more effectively minister to people?

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Friday’s Hot Links – November 10, 2017

Over the past week, WordPress reported to me that another 100 blog followers have signed up to receive daily posts from this blog. Welcome aboard to all of you who are new to the site! I’m glad to have you as a part of this online family of group leaders. My goal is to encourage and inform you about group leadership in the local church.

Here are some links to trusted content from friends and colleagues. I hope you’ll enjoy reading some of these over the weekend.

May the Lord continue to bless you and  your church, and especially your Bible teaching ministry and all those who lead and belong to a group.

Serving you,

Ken Braddy

Blog Posts You Might Like:

  1. How your church should be ready for an active shooter
  2. 4 painful results of insecure leadership
  3. 10 common factors in fast-growing Sunday School churches
  4. What’s the deal with Personal Study Guides?
  5. A “This’ll Do” attitude won’t do

Teachers: God’s Shepherds for Groups

Last year I had the honor of co-authoring a fourth book with LifeWay Sunday School Director, David Francis. The book is about to become available, and is titled Shepherd: Creating Caring Community. It’s a part of the 3 Roles For Guiding Groups series published by LifeWay.

In the first book, David and I emphasized three key roles for all group leaders: Teacher, Shepherd, and Leader. Because of the success of that first book, people asked if we could drill down and say even more about those three roles.

So over the last 3 years, we’ve taken a deeper dive into the roles of Teacher, Shepherd, and Leader. Now we’re at the end of that journey, and the “Shepherd” book is about to be released to the public. It’s the last one in the series, and it focuses on the role of shepherd, a key role for all group leaders.

In chapter 2, I introduce the idea that shepherds show care before, during, and after a group Bible study. I share some practical ways group leaders can more deeply show their care before the Bible study, during it, and even afterwards:

To get the full effect, consider picking up a copy of the book later this month! Mark the following landing page and check back every few days until you see this new book posted:  lifeway.com/davidfrancis.

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