Author Archive for Mark Miller

Greeting and Meeting Guests


“Every week may be somebody’s first week. If it’s not a good week, they may not ever come back for a second week…” wrote David Francis in Great Expectations: Planting Seeds for Sunday School Growth. I can testify from my personal experience in looking for a church when we moved to Spring Hill, Tennessee that David is correct. We visited five churches and three of them we never went back for a second visit.

Every group needs to be prepared to make a great first impression. If you expect new people every week, what are some things you will do BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER they visit?

Before they visit, consider who’s saying “Hello” when they come? When my wife and I were looking for a church, we attended two classes at a well-known church. In both instances, only the teacher said hello.  Let me encourage you to have someone besides the teacher say hello.  One old idea is to have hidden greeters that will have this assignment.  A hidden greeter introduces themself and then introduces the guest to other members, and invites the guest to sit with them during the service.

During the visit, smile and show your teeth! Welcome everyone! Register the guest! Ask guests and members to wear a nametag! Inform the guest of Group Activities! Expect them to say YES and ask them if they want to enroll (belong to your group).

The real test of a friendly class comes after the benediction. Train your people to speak to each other and express care about each other. The guests are watching.  Offer to take guests to the Worship Service or to help them find where the preschool and children’s buildings are. Shake hands while exiting.

After the visit, follow UP! Send a text, an email, write a letter, make a phone call, meet them for coffee or dinner, and even go visit!

BTW, my wife and I ended up joining the one church that showed they really wanted us.

Mark Miller is the Group Specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.

Short-Term Evangelism Emphases for Small Groups

Dr. Thom Rainer once shared with me the following statement: “Evangelism seldom gets done unless it is intentional.” Some synonyms for the word “intentional” are deliberate, calculated, conscious, intended, planned, premeditated, preplanned, and preconceived.  If you want to see lost people getting off the road to Hell and on the road to Heaven, then leaders should intentionally plan and encourage their members and groups to get involved in Short-term Evangelism Emphases.

One mid-size church in Upper East Tennessee canceled their evening service during July and encouraged their groups to meet in different houses and invite their neighbors and friends to a cook out at members’ homes. They called these Touch Nights. At the end of July, almost 1000 people who weren’t members were touched.

My church in Spring Hill, TN has designated September 3 as Serve Sunday. Instead of worship and Bible Study that day, groups and members will receive assignments and go serve in the community. Last year, members did landscaping at the schools, painted and cleaned houses, etc.  This church is intentional about getting their groups outside the walls of the classroom.

A small church in Dickson, Tennessee just conducted their annual Back to School Bash. Over 100 families from the community came for recreation, games, food, and heard the Gospel.

Churches of all sizes have utilized the Connect>1 Evangelism Campaign to challenge their members to pray for lost people, learn a Gospel presentation, invite unchurched people to their group, and to share the Gospel.

Every church can do something. Every group can do something.  Every member can do something.

Mark Miller is the Group Specialist at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.

3 Ways to Lead Your Group to Pray for Each Member

prayerWHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? Paul wrote in Colossians 1:9: “For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you.”  Every group needs a prayer strategy that encourages members to contact one another and to share special prayer concerns.

WHAT DO I DO? Here are three ways:

  1. Develop a Prayer Strategy. Three possible strategies:
    • A prayer chain. A member would contact the prayer coordinator.  The prayer coordinator would contact the first person in the chain and then the second person would contact the next person, and so on.
    • A prayer pyramid. A prayer pyramid is similar to a prayer chain. The prayer coordinator contacts the first two persons and they contact the two persons each, etc.
    • A prayer circle. The prayer coordinator enlists and maintains contact with prayer captains, who in turn enlist and maintain contact with other group members. Be sure that all group members are assigned to a prayer group.
  2. Use a Prayer Concerns Sheet. Pass it around at each group meeting. List specific concerns such as prayer for spiritual concerns, physical healing, family and friends, persons who are grieving.  Special needs and circumstances, unspoken prayer requests, other.  Email the list to each member following class.
  3. Text. Many groups use text messages to remind people to pray and to send updates on prayer requests.

A verse to remember: 1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.”

Measure and Reward What You Want to Accomplish

measuringWHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? What you believe about Sunday School (primary purpose; why it exists) determines how you see Sunday School (what it is or does). How you see Sunday School determines how you lead Sunday School (focus or emphasis) and how you measure it’s success.

WHAT DO I DO?  Which of these purposes is most descriptive of your group?

  1. If the primary purpose of Sunday School is teaching, then you will see Sunday School primarily as a group with members primarily as students. You will emphasize attending the study event.  The key measures of success will be how many show up and did we get through the lesson.
  2. If the primary purpose of Sunday School is friendship and fellowship, then your focus will be on community. You will lead your Sunday School to establish and build relationships.  The key measure of success will be having a good group experience.
  3. If the primary purpose of Sunday School is care and support, then you will focus on service and helping with your members as ministers. You will emphasize praying for each other and supporting each other.  The key measure of success will be meeting needs of group members.
  4. If the primary purpose of Sunday School is outreach and missions, then you will be a team of people on mission with God and your members will be missionaries. You will lead in equipping members to live on a mission field and be engaged in missions and outreach events.  The key measure of success will be lives being saved, reached, and changed.

A church can do Sunday School for many reasons. Make a decision to frefocus on the primary purpose of Sunday School:  life change. Teaching the Bible, building relationships, and caring for people are not the primary goal of Sunday School—these are done in order to bring people into a personal encounter with Jesus. He is the one who can change their lives here and for eternity and grow them to serve Him in their daily lives and relationships. Measure and reward what our Lord wants your group to accomplish!

Emphasize Reaching People with Your Group

reachingWHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? The first book that I ever read about Sunday School was Basic Sunday School Work.  The author wrote about the Six Tasks of Sunday School.  Task number one was to reach people for Bible study.  That’s right: Reaching People for Bible Study was the first task.  Teach People the Bible was the second task. Many churches are plateaued and declining because the classes and groups are ignoring the first task of Sunday School.  We must get outreach and evangelism back into Sunday School.

WHAT DO I DO? Here are three practical ideas to emphasize reaching people with your group:

Challenge your members to…

  1. Pray for three lost People
  2. Learn a Gospel Presentation
  3. Invite five unchurched People to the group
  4. Share the Gospel at least one time each month

Challenge your group to…

  1. Enroll three New Members this year
  2. Conduct regular fellowships (invite every member and every prospect)
  3. Plan two Missions Activities in the Community
  4. Sponsor an Evangelistic Bible Study in the Community where lost people live and work
  5. Adopt a People Group
  6. Adopt a Harvest Field in your community, such as a school, subdivision, factory.

Conduct an Evangelistic Activity every time the group meets, such as:

  1. Have a member share their story
  2. Pray for lost people (have an evangelistic prayer list)
  3. Plan an outreach event
  4. Teach the Gospel
  5. Practice a Gospel presentation
  6. Memorize an evangelistic verse
  7. Model sharing the Gospel

Just in case you are curious.  The other tasks were witness to persons about Christ and lead them into church membership, minister to persons in need, lead members to worship, and interpret and undergird the work of the church and the denomination.