Archive for 5 Weeks of Flake

How to Effectively Group People in Sunday School/Small Groups

There are several primary considerations for effectively organizing groups for Sunday School/Small Groups. Before developing your structure, account for the total active church membership. Second, determine whether the groups will be offered on-campus, off-campus, or both. Finally, evaluate community and church demographics. Once the primary considerations are determined, you can begin grouping people for effective community.

Grouping people effectively requires intentionality. Whether using on-campus or off-campus groups, focus should be given to creating genuine community. This is accomplished by modeling the biblical principles of Acts 2:42; “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers.” (HCSB). When a group focuses on studying God’s Word, praying for one another, spending quality time getting to know one another, and meeting together consistently, an environment is cultivated for community. Once community is created, there is a natural attraction for persons to connect with the group. The genuine community which exists is a warm, inviting atmosphere.

Simple group dynamics state persons connect with others persons of affinity. Effective grouping, therefore, works best through these considerations. There are several options to group persons.


This category groups persons who are at the same age. Smaller churches typically have larger age-spans in these groups which creates part of the challenge in dynamics to grow a particular group. Twenties typically do not have much in common with forties, yet the smaller the congregation, a young adult class may span the ages of 20-49 year old. Whereas critical mass is important, a healthier balance may need to be considered with emphasis given to the group-size:age-graded ratio., (ratio is philosophical, most off-campus groups will be below 15, on-campus groups will vary in size based on leadership abilities).


This category groups persons who are at a similar life-stage. This may be determined by age of the children, grandchildren, retirement, the fact of being a boomer, etc. An example is a group may be for parents of elementary age children. The effectiveness of this model is most persons are going through similar experiences whether professionally in the marketplace or personally in home life.

Note:  when using the age of the children to group parents, you may have older 40s in the class as persons who married and had children later in life compared to couples in their 20s or early thirties with the same age children. Using the age of children may disregard couples without children which are an ever-increasing portion of the population.


This category groups persons around interest. Categories may include men only, women only, sportsmen, outdoors men, marketplace women, etc. The effectiveness of this model is inherent in the “interest” itself. The challenge of this model is using the “interest” group to connect while keeping the study focused on God’s Word.


There are two options in using off-campus groups. You may choose a similar structure as the on-campus for creating community groups centered around age, life-stages, and/or interest. The other option is proximity groups. If your demographics draw from all over the community, an off-campus group may be organized with persons who live in the same neighborhood or proximity. This option may bring together varied generations into community groups. This multi-generational approach creates inherent mentor-mentee relationship opportunities. A challenge to this approach is the participants do not have a common-bond of going through similar “life-stage” milestones together. A positive is an older person in the group has “been there, done that” and can share from his/her life experiences.

Effectiveness for either group, on-campus or off-campus, weighs on intentionality of the leadership team. Leadership development is core to either option succeeding. Leaders must be prepared and equipped to reproduce themselves as the group connects and grows. Effective groups have an outward focus. As group leaders insure all persons are connecting, caring environments are created and ministry occurs.

More information regarding this topic can be found in Missionary Sunday School by David Francis.

What Harvest?

Why we are experiencing such poor evangelistic results when today’s church has more resources, tools, and technological toys than at any time in history. Our lack of harvest stands out in bold relief when placed against the context of Jesus’ promise that “the harvest is plentiful” (Matt. 9:37a). While this promise was directed to the first century disciples, I believe it still rings true today. The second half of the verse points to the essential problem we are facing concerning the harvest—“but the workers are few” (9:37b).

So here is the critical question—what needs to be done to mobilize believers to share the good news? This question takes precedence over other questions such as strategies or methods of evangelism for the twenty-first century. The issue is not a failure of programs but a lack of passion. We have grown indifferent or uncertain about the condition of the lost. We no longer have the concern that once drove believers onto their knees and into the streets.

I work from one simple truth that defines all I do and write—“nothing changes anyone’s heart and mind but the Word of God applied by the Spirit of God. Let me make four simple declarations.

  1. Prayer is the foundation for all evangelistic activity.
  2. Evangelism must be the climatic of the church before a strategy will be embraced by the people.
  3. A biblical foundation for reaching the lost is essential to creating an evangelistic climate.
  4. Each church must establish an intentional and personalized strategy based on its unique context.

If we go back to Matthew 9 we will find that Jesus not only gave the reason for such a lean harvest, He gave the solution—“Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (38). Evangelistic praying must focus on both the laborers and the potential harvest field. Develop a strategy to pray regularly that God will give people a passion for the lost. Create lists of persons who need Christ and pray for them by name in every small group setting.

Since God’s Word changes a person’s heart and mind, we must develop a sound theological foundation for evangelism. Here are a few doctrinal non-negotiables.

  1. The lost person will be eternally separated from God in hell.
  2. Christ provides the only access to the Father.
  3. The fields are ripe for the harvest.
  4. The Great Commission is a mandate.
  5. Witness is who we are before it is what we do.
  6. The Holy Spirit empowers us to witness.
  7. God produces the results through us.

Each church must have a personalized and intentional strategy that includes building relationships with lost people, equipping everyone to present the gospel, taking the Good News to the streets, inviting people to accept Christ, and assimilating and nurturing new believers.

Here are a couple of new resources from Auxano Press you may find helpful—Splash and V.E.L.C.R.O. Church.

Go After the People

In the previous weeks here at Sunday School Leader, we have focused on the first four principles of Flake’s Formula:

  • Know your possibilities;
  • Enlist and equip new leaders;
  • Enlarge the organization;
  • Provide space.

The final ingredient of the formula developed by Arthur Flake comes straight out of the Great Commission… “Go”.  Go after the people.

Many Sunday School classes and small groups are filled with wonderful people. In your group, you probably have stay at home moms, businessmen and businesswomen, clerks, managers, and more. But one person that is missing in the typical Sunday School class… a lost person who does not know Christ as Savior.

Almost any research you study will reveal the same basic truth:  lost people generally are not flocking to our churches. In order to reach them, somebody is going to have to go get them.

Unfortunately, the “somebody” in most of our churches that is going into the community to reach and bring the lost to Christ is actually “nobody”. Far too many of our people think that “somebody” means somebody else. From their behavior, somebody means anybody but them.

As we wrap up our final week of Five Weeks of Flake, we are going to turn our focus to the people who are outside the church walls and are not attending our group. Sunday School used to be called the “evangelistic arm of the church” for a reason – it was! It is time for Sunday School to earn that label again!

You may look around your church as a group leader and realize that very few, if any of your church’s small groups are intentionally focused on bringing the lost to Christ. If I may offer a small suggestion… Do not worry about the other groups. Focus on your group! What can you do, as the leader or teacher of your Sunday School class, to lead your people to be an evangelistic group that brings eternal life to your lost friends and neighbors?

Now… go reach them!


Bob Mayfield is the Sunday School/Small Groups specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. He also has his own blog at

Basic Home Group Space Principles

My family has relocated several times over the past fifteen years.  While numerous tasks accompany this experience, one of the most important is finding a new home.  Factors such as location, cost, proximity to school, work, and church, neighborhood, must all be considered.  Deciding on the best home is the result of careful evaluation, establishing priorities, and wise management of resources.

What about finding a home for your small group family?  For many churches, accelerated growth and limited space may require new groups to meet away from the church building.  When churches seek to find off-campus locations for groups, many factors must also be considered.

The Purpose of the Group

For this post, assume the home group is an extension of the Sunday School and is designed to function as an open group.   Assist the group members in identifying their target people group whether it is families in the neighborhood or already identified acquaintances from the social circles of group members.  Some groups may not choose to meet in a home at all but rather a more neutral location such as a coffee shop in order to engage those who are completely unreached.  Home groups should be able to clearly identify their people group.

The Environment of the Home

The host home should be warm and welcoming.  While every host wants to be ready for guests, the message should be that real people still live in the house.  No one wants to have a small group meeting in a museum.  Furnishings, décor, and overall atmosphere should invite group participants to feel at home and in the company of others to whom they can relate.  Space should be sufficient for a seating arrangement that allows group members to view each other’s faces.  Other considerations such as ease of locating, access, and parking should also be kept in mind.

Participants in the Group

Who will attend the group meeting?  Ten single people will arrive in a different number of vehicles than five married couples.  If children will be present at the meeting, teenagers will require different space than preschoolers.  If the group has children of all ages, the variety of space needs increases again.    Access for disabled group members may also need to be considered.

Proximity to the Church

In some cases, groups may meet in a home while their children participate in a program at church.  This solution may work, but travel time between the host home and church must be factored into the overall time allotted.  Also, consider the strategy you will use to eventually connect small group members to worship and service in and through your church.

Elements of the Meeting

If a meal is a part of the meeting, preparation and serving space should be considered.  If the Bible study content is video driven, quality picture and sound is a must.  Should the group desire to break off into smaller groups for prayer/accountability, this also may need to be thought through.

Be thorough when selecting a home for your small group family.

Basic Classroom Space Principles

The kind and quality of space for a class or department has a significant impact on overall success of the class. At a minimum space should be clean, attractive and large enough for the current attendance plus a few guests. Age-appropriate furniture and equipment should be in the room depending on the classes or departments using the space. The following chart provides some basic guidelines for the amount of space needed per person by groups:

Access to space is another important concern. Parents with preschoolers and older adult need the space to be convenient to parking, with ground level access.

Adult and student rooms are best painted in soft, neutral colors with a color accent wall or trim. Carpet is the preferred floor covering. The room needs a focal wall with a whiteboard or chalkboard, as well as, chairs for participants and table(s) if there is adequate space. The focal wall needs open space for posters. There should be a cabinet or open shelf for basic supplies. It is a good idea to have a few extra Bibles in the room.

Preschool and children’s rooms are best painted in soft, neutral colors with a color accent wall or trim. The furniture should be age-appropriate. There should be a focal wall or bulletin board for displays with the exception of younger preschoolers. Preschool rooms are set up by activity areas with the exception of babies and 1’s. Preschool rooms need a water source and restroom in the room or nearby. The preferred floor covering is carpet with the exception of vinyl floors for babies-1’s.

Caring for preschoolers includes providing a clean environment where the child can explore, create, learn and play. That means toys, teaching materials, equipment, walls and floors need to be clean and ready for the child. It is important to be aware of cleaning procedures and hygiene practices to ensure a safe and clean environment for the child. For recommended hygiene practices visit

In conclusion, I want to share some common shortfalls I find when consulting with churches. Entrances and doors are not clearly marked. Today, it is highly important to have a visible registration/check-in process for preschoolers. Preschool rooms often have too many and inappropriate toys (they can produce

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a safety hazard or might be unrelated to teaching). It is common to find outdated displays and posters on walls and bulletin boards. I find furniture with sharp edges or broken tables and chairs still in use. Often, I find rooms filled with lots of equipment and other items unrelated to its use(s). Learn to think like a guest; look around your room to see if anything would catch a guest’s attention. When we are expecting guests at home we clean house. Why don’t we do that at church? Maybe we are not expecting guests?
Tom Belew has served as Small Groups and Childhood Specialist for the California Southern Baptist Convention since 2002. He previously served as Minister of Education in churches in Arizona and California.