Archive for 31 Day Countdown


bibleI really do not like Garmin.  We had purchased the GPS device while on a trip back home from visiting our daughter and son-in-law in South Carolina. At first, I became mesmerized with the woman’s voice, how she knew every turn in advance, specific conveniences were listed on the device’s screen. Wow! Then, it began, “Recalculating.” I missed a turn – actually because I was watching the shiny, new GPS screen and didn’t turn where I was told.

The more we drove, the more she interrupted, “Recalculating.” A little annoying now. Toward the end of our trip, her voice growing hoarse at my every misdirection, I thought I heard her say, “Oh, have it your way. I give up.” The lesson for me? The teacher (in this case, Garmin) is only as successful as the willingness of the student (me) to be taught.

Proverbs 16:9 has continually spoken inspiration to me at several turns in life, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” I need that kind of wisdom taught to me. Often. With clarity. Even at times when I ignore it. It is essential for me in attempting to stay on the right path along my journey.

It is essential because the Bible – every word, every verse, every chapter, every book – is the only trustworthy essential guide for my life. For all our lives. Collectively, for all believers in community.

We may choose, as Christian educators or individual believers, to meander through our study of God’s Word. Or, some would take a menu approach, selecting portions that give us the most direction in lives at various stages – from preschoolers to children to students to adults.  Ultimately, the long-term success comes with having a map. A trusted source that we can depend on for perfect direction. Individually? Yes. Collectively? Definitely.

I cannot remember the first person I heard say, “The textbook of Sunday School is the Bible!” But, I know it is something I say often to leaders in practically every local church with whom I work. I say it not because I love to hear the sound of my voice. It is my consistent directive to listen for that “still small voice” of God which can come to us any time we are diligent in seeking His guidance through His Word.


Phil Miller is the Director of Discipleship for the Baptist General Convention of Texas

Two Words that Will Determine Your Group’s Destiny

groupsI believe that your Sunday School class or small group will grow proportionally to the degree you embrace, advance, and insist that your class/group always remain SMALL and NEW!

There are some jumping for joy because their class/group has been small for fifty-seven years and they think that’s good.  Well its not good.  Every group, every class and even all churches should be reaching new people.  If your class, group and church are not adding new people then something is wrong.  Don’t use the excuse of staying small for the reason of failing at evangelism.

The most effective size of a group is 8 to 12 in weekly attendance.  If your class/group is larger than 12 then it is difficult to really connect.  Your class/group must be small in order for real disciple making to occur.  Jesus preached to the crowds but he spent more time with a small group of disciples.

Your class/group needs to be small enough for people to open up and share what’s going on in their lives.  It needs to be small enough for people to be engaged in discussion during the Bible study.  The members should know each other and also be willing to encourage as well as receive encouragement from others.  If your group is larger than 12 it will be nothing more than a class and based on my experience that’s all you will ever have, a class that meets on Sunday.

The way you keep your group small and stay faithful to the mission of reaching others with the Gospel is by starting new groups.  If your class is stuck and you’ve not added a new person in the last three years, then it’s time for you to start a new group.  If your class has been growing and the average attendance is over 12 then it’s time for y’all to start a new group.  If it’s been five years since a new class was started in your church then it’s time to start a new class.

Churches, classes and groups that start new classes/groups are reaching more people than those that refuse to multiply.  They are seeing more people saved and baptized.  Not only are they growing numerically but the churches, classes and groups that focus on the SMALL and NEW are growing spiritually as well.

The first step toward NEW and SMALL is you as the leader/teacher enlisting an apprentice.  Pray.  Ask God to give the name of the person, then go to them personally and share what God is doing.  Begin leading your group as a team.  Train the apprentice modeling for them and then allowing them to lead.  Start the new group.  You take one and your apprentice takes the other.  Repeat the process.

Every year your church must have NEW and SMALL.  Every year your class/group needs to start a NEW SMALL group.


Dr. Smith serves as a state missionary with the Georgia Baptist Convention and is the Sunday School/Small Groups Specialist.  Visit their website at for more information and other resources to aid your Sunday School or small group ministry.  You can also connect with Dr. Smith at, or

What Is Your Group’s Primary Purpose, Really?

PrimaryA group leader recently shared with me his understanding of Sunday School. His overarching terms were worship, community, and evangelism. With his spiritual gifts of teaching and leadership, he felt most effective in teaching and fellowship. As we talked more, he shared natural, organic efforts by his group at outreach. His groups tended to grow during the course of the year.

Groups are composed of and led by people who have differing personalities, experiences, abilities, passions, and gifts. Sometimes group members shape the focus or primary purpose of their group. Often leaders do so. I often hear teaching mentioned as the primary purpose. Occasionally I hear fellowship and ministry mentioned. Rarely I hear outreach and evangelism mentioned.

There is nothing wrong with admitting a preference for one purpose and doing it well. But group growth can settle for nothing less than work done on three purposes: reaching, teaching, and caring (or mission, formation, and connection as shared by David Francis and Rick Howerton in Countdown.)

Without reaching, there will be no group to teach. Without care (ministry, fellowship, connection), the group will leak out, and there will be no group left to teach. Without good teaching, our outreach and care will not keep them coming back. Which can we neglect without suffering the consequences? None!

In a tiny group (2 or 3 people), one person may need to lead in all three purposes. But as a group grows beyond tiny, there will usually be members whose gifts, personalities, and passions equip them to be able to serve to lead one of these three purposes for the class. But someone must prayerfully enlist them!

When a teacher has someone leading the group in outreach and member care, he or she is like Moses leading Israel to fight Amelek in Exodus 17. When Aaron and Hur held up his arms, they were able to win the battle. The teacher can focus on his/her primary purpose of teaching, while the outreach leader focuses on his/her primary purpose of outreach and the member care leader focuses on his/her primary purpose of member care. With three champions, all three purposes can be carried out well.

It is difficult (or impossible) alone to do everything. But with balance and teamwork, growth is natural. Make sure the purposes are given to someone who can make them their focus. Then ask them to help you lead the class to accomplish them all!

Stage 5: Deploy

7968765254_133dddc4b3_zEvery football season begins the same way for just about every team at every level. Each team has high hopes of a championship; develops a playbook; positions its players at their areas of strength; and has weeks of training and practice. Imagine how foolish it would look however if at the season opener, the offense went out on the field, huddled up, called the play… but never left the huddle.

As ridiculous as the above scenario may be, unfortunately it is a visual image of what happens in many churches all over the nation. Teachers have been trained and Bible study lessons have been prepared. Rooms have been furnished or homes have been cleaned and made ready for company. But the play that our Lord and Savior has given us is to be fishers of men; to share the Gospel; to make disciples! Can I share a three words of encouragement with you if this scenario describes your church and small group.

Run the Play!

The fifth ingredient of Flake’s Formula is “Go after the people.” Rick Howerton and David Francis define it using one word – deploy. Jesus said “Go make disciples…” It is an imperative direction. It requires action. Groups that choose to always remain in the huddle are not going to engage people with the Gospel. Many churches use a passive approach of engagement and outreach. Announcements about Bible study groups are made from the pulpit. But announcements are passive.

Here are three suggestions to help deploy your church’s groups (or your group):

Weekly outreach
Weekly outreach fell out of favor years ago. There are all kinds of reasons given as to why churches no longer have weekly outreach, such as; families do not like people knocking on their door; participation by church members is low; events at the church facility have replaced outreach; and… well it just isn’t cool anymore.

I was the interim education minister at a church recently. This church had not done ANY outreach at all for over a decade. They had adopted a “if they need us they know where to find us” approach. Now that is the ultimate “passive outreach” strategy! Instead of beginning an ongoing, 52 weeks of of outreach plan, we began with an 8 week outreach burst. We met on Sunday evenings and went visiting! After eight weeks, our outreach teams had visited in the homes of over 350 people! Our teams led people to the Lord. We saw people baptized as a direct result of our action-oriented strategy. Every week we heard comments like this; “We have visited several churches the past couple of months, but your church is the first church that ever came to visit us.” Guess whose church these people joined! (This church continues to effectively use this strategy of short, 6-8 week outreach bursts 3-4 times a year.)

Connection Day
You may remember it as Friend Day or High Attendance Day, but set aside a couple of days a year that encourages and organizes church members to invite friends to come to church with them. In other words, “run the play”. If only 10% of your people respond, your church will have a lot of new faces present and it will engage a lot of people that need Christ and community.

Special Events
If your church’s process for engaging people with the Gospel is to ultimately to get them into a small group or Sunday School, shouldn’t the church’s events help pave the way for that to happen? Every event hosted by the church should point participants toward small groups. Register every person present (you can not follow up on people if you have no contact information). Enlist a person or two to share their story at the event of how their small group has ministered and helped them during a difficult time. Always have a table or booth set up with information about your groups and a person or two to help answer questions or provide needed information.

Deploying group members is vital to making disciples. As group leaders it is important for us to create opportunities in addition to our Bible studies to help deploy our group members.

It is one thing to call the play…. but it is another thing to actually run the play.

Run the Play!!


Bob Mayfield is the Sunday School/Small Group specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO). Bob also has his own blog at The BGCO also has an online training site with over 200 videos available at

Follow Bob on Twitter – @bobmayfield, or on Facebook – theBobMayfield

Stage 4: Determine

UNbuildingThe fourth ingredient of Flake’s Formula is to provide space. In their book Countdown, David Francis and Rick Howerton state this piece of the formula as determining a plan for providing space and resources. Any organization recognizes the need for space and resources. The issue is to determine a plan and then follow the plan. Space for group meetings rarely appears from nowhere.

Many people have a preference when it comes to space. Some people prefer the cozy comfort of a home. Others prefer their small group space in a church building with childcare and worship space close at hand. Some prefer a coffee shop, restaurant, or diner. Many churches leverage their space by offering two, three, and even four hours for small groups. The fact of the matter is that community can happen anywhere at any time. Yes, everyone has preferences. But preferences should never take priority over principles.

Notice Flake’s Formula says to provide the space. Not necessarily build it, just provide it.

As a young education minister, I served a church that was growing… rapidly! We were always on the lookout for additional space. We had groups meeting off campus; we had groups meeting on campus. At one time our church was holding Sunday School at 11 different locations at the same time. It was almost like finding Waldo! Two of those Sunday School locations were located over one mile from our church campus and another location was over five miles from the campus. We chartered city busses to help move our folks from the church campus where most of our children’s groups met to our off campus student and adult facilities. Our four kindergarten departments met off campus in a nearby weekday childcare facility.  I was apologizing about our facilities to a new member who was attending a Sunday School group that met in an empty pad we were “borrowing” at a nearby shopping center. It had no electricity, heat, air, or plumbing and the only light came through the front glass wall. His words were priceless: “Bob, I would rather attend Sunday School in an unfinished store front with concrete floors and metal folding chairs and be where the Spirit is moving than go to a plush, air conditioned room that has all the amenities but no Spirit.”

Community can happen anywhere because the Spirit is everywhere.


Bob Mayfield is the Sunday School/Small Group specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO). Bob also has his own blog at The BGCO also has an online training site with over 200 videos available at

Follow Bob on Twitter – @bobmayfield, or on Facebook – theBobMayfield