Small groups are critical to a healthy church. Most small groups turn inwardly at some point, though, and lose their evangelistic fervor.
Listed here are some steps to avoid this inward turn.
1. Evaluate the numbers at least twice a year. At least biannually, evaluate at least these numbers: how many nonbelievers are participating in the group? How many new believers attend? What percentage of members shares their faith regularly?
2. Expect small group facilitators to be faithful evangelists. To have a facilitator who does not faithfully evangelize is almost to guarantee the group will not be evangelistic. Frankly, I would require potential facilitators to give evidence of an evangelistic DNA before giving them the position.
3. Hold members accountable for sharing their faith. At least monthly—if not weekly—ask members to report the nonbelievers for whom they're praying, the relationships with nonbelievers they're developing and the times they've recently shared the gospel message.
4. Plan for different group members to share their testimony once a month. Group members are not likely to share their story with nonbelievers if they've never done so among believers. Let your small group be a safe place for evangelism practice.
5. Pray for non-believers at each group gathering. Don't let a meeting pass without focusing the group's attention on nonbelievers. Pray for people you know aren't following the Lord.
6. Assume nothing about the group's Bible knowledge. Guide the group in locating texts within the Scriptures. Explain terms and church jargon. If the group believes their nonbelieving friends will not be intimidated when attending, they'll more likely invite them to hear the gospel.
7. Include one evangelism training series annually. Newer believers will need the equipping, and longer-term group members will need the reminder. Guide your groups to expect and look forward to evangelism training.
8. Plan quarterly events that emphasize outreach. Do prayer surveys in the community. Carry out servant evangelism projects. Plan group events (for example, a baseball game, hiking trip, movie night), with the goal of each member bringing a nonbelieving friend.
9. Celebrate conversions. Throw a Luke 15 party when someone involved in your small group becomes a follower of Jesus. Give gifts to help the new believer get started in his Christian walk. Invite his own non-believing family and friends to join the party. If we learn to rejoice when God works a saving miracle, we'll do more evangelism.
10. Have a discipleship strategy in place for new believers. Young believers can be great evangelists—if their passion for Christ continues. Discipleship is one means by which we help them keep their fire burning.
11. Continue to offer Zoom options for participating in a small group, at least until we move beyond COVID. Some nonbelievers who won't yet come to church might be open to joining a group via Zoom.
If you want to read about particular types of small groups that are evangelistic, check out this post. What other strategies would you add to this list?
For the original article, visit chucklawless.com.
Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is team leader for theological education strategists for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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