I wonder sometimes if anyone does outreach anymore. Many Sunday Schools, Small groups, and churches do not seem to place much priority on visitation, contacts, follow-up, and outreach in general. Research continues to reveal that most churches (and their SS, SG) are plateaued or declining in their enrollment, attendance, and baptisms. Could it be, at least partially, because churches have stopped doing outreach?
I visit a lot of churches and always enjoy picking up a copy of and reading through their Sunday bulletin or worship guide. It seems I rarely see any calendared event or announcement of a church wide evangelistic visitation. Some trends I’ve seen that may contribute to this dilemma:
- Adult Sunday School and Small Groups have become primarily a Bible study and fellowship. Now I’m not against either, but if we stop inviting prospects and unchurched people to our classes and groups then the focus becomes inward.
- Also, if adult SS and SG begin to focus inwardly, then there is no need to start new classes and groups; nor is there a need to encourage members to leave and teach in other age-groups. To do so would disrupt one’s Bible study and fellowship.
- Follow-up of prospects and inactive members is not a priority. Events like, Vacation Bible School, Harvest Parties, Easter Egg Hunts, often provide names of children and parents who are not involved in a church. Worship service guests are often asked for contact information in the form of guests cards. Unfortunately, little is done with these names to connect and assimilate them into the ministries of the church.
- There seems to be a mindset today that visitation no longer works. The argument goes that people are busy and don’t want to be contacted and bothered.
I believe some of the most influential persons in the church are the adult Sunday School
or Small Group teachers. They have tremendous influence over the adults entrusted to their care, as well as the purpose and direction of their class or group. How can an adult SS/SG teacher influence the above challenges facing the church today?
- Lead your class/group to be outwardly focused. Do mission projects through your class/group.
- Strongly encourage individuals in your class/group to serve in other areas and to start new classes and groups. Lead your class to fulfill the Great Commission through making disciples!
- Reconnect with inactive members. Follow-up with prospects until they are followers of Christ, assimilated into the church, and learning to serve others.
- Times have changed and will continue to change dramatically. However, the personal touch is still a human need in our high-tech, impersonal world. People still want and need friends.
35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” –Matthew 9 (NKJV)
Jeff Ingram – Jeff is the adult ministry strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention