Archive for small groups

Inviting Lost People to Your Group

A pastor correctly said, “Lost people matter to God. They should also matter to us.” In Luke 19:10, Jesus states, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost.” Inviting lost people to our group is a natural progression in our relationship with Christ. The closer we relate and imitate Jesus, the more compassion we will have for people who do not yet know Him as their Savior and Lord.

Inviting a lost friend or acquaintance to our small group can sometimes be an unsettling experience. All sorts of questions come to mind:

  • What if my friend doesn’t like my group?
  • Or even worse – what if my group doesn’t like my friend!
  • What if our group leader says something that might hurt my friend’s feelings?

I want to encourage you not to worry about the “what ifs” of inviting someone to your group. The chances are your friend already knows that you belong to a small group. In fact, they may be wondering why you haven’t invited them to come with you to your group!

Here are a few simple suggestions that may help…

  • Be intentional. Sorry, but inviting someone to your small group is not going to accidentally slip into the conversation. I enjoy fishing and hunting, but inviting someone to go hunting with me has never happened by accident. It is always intentional.
  • Be cordial. “Hey Larry, you know I have been intending to do this but sometimes it slips my mind. I would love for you to be my guest at our small group this Sunday if you don’t already have something planned.”
  • Be prepared. Your group should be ready for guests. Get in the habit of wearing nametags. Sit in a circle. Have extra Bibles available for guests. Never call on a guest to read, pray, or answer a question.

The simplest things can go a long way to easing any discomfort you might have about inviting a friend to your group. But one thing is certain…

They will not come if we do not ask.


Bob Mayfield is the Sunday School/Discipleship specialist at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Bob also has his own blog at
Follow Bob on Twitter at @bobmayfield and on Facebook at

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.

Space for Our Groups to Operate

TinyClassroomDo you love or hate the space in which your group meets? The best space is nearly invisible. It fits. There are no distractions like noise, glare, smell, etc. The temperature is just right. The encounter with God in His Word is fresh, fun, and life-changing with never a thought about the room.

But space is also a function of group size. A small group in a large space can feel depressed. A large group in a small space can feel excited while at the same time feeling crowded, dangerous, and uncomfortable.

Going a bit farther, space and group size impacts social dynamics within the teaching and learning environment. Let me share about the three most relevant group sizes from Joseph Myers’ The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups. Think about them this way:

  • INTIMATE. You tend to know a lot about these people. How you teach one or two persons is a lot different. You share more honestly. This might include subgroups during group time or even prayer partners. Teaching and learning is more conversational.
  • PERSONAL. These groups might include a dozen. You tend to know names and stories. As group size increases past six, watch the teaching-learning expectation shift toward the teacher talking more. Home groups and smaller classes, especially in smaller churches, often have groups this size.
  • SOCIAL. You know many names and some stories. There is not time for everyone to talk. Lecture is common. Involvement demands subgrouping, which is facilitated best in open space. These are often larger classes, often in larger churches.

Make the most of your space and group size. In order to make disciples (as Jesus commanded in the Great Commission), don’t allow your room size (space) to dictate your methods. Personal and social size groups can change up teaching-learning dynamics simply by breaking the group into subgroups for part of group time. Spend time with individuals away from group time. Your investment in these ways can change you, them, and the group.

Also, expect your group to grow maturationally and numerically. But with growth comes change in group dynamics. Lead the way with care and sensitivity. Make the most of your space!


Darryl Wilson serves as Sunday School & Discipleship Consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention. He served as Minister of Education in five churches in Kentucky and South Carolina and is the author of The Sunday School Revolutionary!, a blog about life-changing Sunday School and small groups.

What’s the BIG Deal About Small?


You’ve probably heard it said, “get 2 Baptist together and you have 5 opinions.”  The same is true concerning the name used for a church’s small group Bible study strategy.  Fifty years ago every church called their Sunday morning small group Bible study “Sunday School”, but that’s not true today.  For me, it really doesn’t matter what you call it because I’m more concerned with what you are trying to accomplish.

Every church has some type of small groups strategy and again I’m not so much concerned with what you call it as I am with what you are trying to do through your group.  For me a “group” is any small gathering that meets at any time and at any location for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus.  Every group should be focused on reaching non-Christians and maturing Christians.

Most church members are surprised when they discover that well over half of the churches in America have less than 75 in attendance every week.  In America we have a tendency to think that if it’s BIG its better but that’s not necessarily true of a church or a small group.  So what’s the ideal size of a small group?  The generally accepted size of a small group is 8 to 16 in attendance and a class is no more than 20.

Through the smallness of your group or class it is possible to really know other and at the same time to be really known by others.  In the small group its possible to more effectively care for the entire church and to be cared for by the church.  In the small group/class we have the opportunity to discuss scripture and to be personally challenged.

Did you know that even non-Christian groups use the term Sunday School to describe their small group gatherings on Sunday?  Just having “Sunday School” is not enough; we’ve got to be about the mission of making disciples of Jesus.  In my experience about 75% of the Sunday School classes in the typical church are “small” but still they may not be accomplishing the goal of making disciples.

I’ve heard people say, “its impossible to develop relational biblical community and/or authentic Christian fellowship in one hour on Sunday morning.”  They use this a criticism of Sunday School and they are right!  If all a class does is meet for one-hour on Sunday morning then I can pretty much guarantee that they are not making disciples of Jesus.  Do you think that Peter, James, John, Andrew, Phillip, Thomas, Matthew, and the others would have done all they did to spread the Gospel after spending one-hour a week with Jesus?

In many churches they use the term D-groups to describe their small groups.  The “D” is a nod toward the goal of discipleship.  The goals of these D-groups are …

  • Devote yourself to being a disciple.
  • Declare your identity in Christ.
  • Develop spiritual disciplines.
  • Display Christ-like character.
  • Defend your faith and share it with others.
  • Disciple others beginning with your own household.
  • Deploy your gifts in missional ministry.
  • Depend desperately upon the Holy Spirit.

I agree but any group that is not seeking to achieve these goals is missing the biblical mission given to all by Jesus in Great Commission.

Is your class too big to be making disciples of Jesus?  Are you content just to have your class meeting for one-hour on Sunday?


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


31 Day Countdown to Leading & Launching Groups

CountdownSSDAAugust is always an exciting time for Sunday School leaders. It is an opportunity for a fresh start. For starting new groups. For training new leaders. For trying new tactics. For remembering tried and true ones.

Again this August, the men and women who lead the work of Sunday School, discipleship, and small groups in Baptist state conventions will contribute a new article every day of August to help you get fired up about a new year of discipling people through groups. This year, they will be writing on topics related to the new book Countdown: Launching and Leading Transformational Groups. LifeWay’s Small Groups Specialist Rick Howerton and I worked really hard to pack a lot of stuff into a 64-page book that will provide any reader a condensed but comprehensive overview of everything groups. You can download the book free at or to your iOS device at iTunes (just search my name). Whether you read along or not, the articles the next 30 days will benefit you. Don’t miss any!

The countdown will go like this:

10 Terms. You’ll learn the basic “language” of groups that will equip you to have a conversation with any leader in any church. You’ll learn to distinguish terms like group and class, open and closed, ongoing and short-term, and others. Starting tomorrow!

9 Research-validated Reasons. Making disciples through groups is not just an idea. It’s an idea backed up by research. People in groups grow more, serve more, give more, share more, and stick more than those not it groups.

8 Big Choices. Designing group ministries—like Sunday School—require leaders to make trade-off decisions. Big choices. We’ll explore 8 big ones that will help you understand—or influence—why your church’s system of groups operate as they do.

7 Elements. We will explore the 7 elements discovered in the research reported in Transformational Church and how they apply to making disciples through groups.

6 Challenges. You’ll have to read the Countdown book for these. These “outside the box” challenges to conventional thinking about groups from Rick Howerton are too unique to comment on. Get the book!

5 Stages. We will revisit the famous Flake’s formula’s five steps using five fresh words: dream, declare, develop, determine, and deploy.

4 Starting Points. Another place you’ll have to read the book, which explains the “starting points” that drive the development of LifeWay’s 4 major Bible study curriculum brands: topic, text, theology, and your church. You can also see how this works at

3 Purposes. Sunday School classes or small groups can’t do everything. They can probably do three. One should be primary.

2 Key Words. The destiny of your church’s Sunday School or groups ministry will be determined by how much you increasingly embrace and support groups that are small and new.

1 Essential Book. Want to guess what book? Here’s a hint: If it’s not Bible study, it’s not Sunday School!  What a great reminder on August 31.

I look forward to reading how the friends who are designated “State Sunday School Director” in their Baptist state convention. Most of us have other responsibilities, too. But our “first love” is Sunday School. I hope you share our passion. Or will at the end of August!


David Francis is the Director of Sunday School at LifeWay Christian Resources. On a typical Sunday morning, you can find David and wife Vickie at First Baptist Church Hendersonville, Tennessee. They arrive about 8:00 to set up their pre-K room, attend the 8:30 worship service, teach their class of 4-5 year old kids at 9:45, and participate in an adult Bible study group at 11:00.

Follow David on Twitter at @1davidfrancis

Rick Howerton is the co-author of Countdown. Rick is the Discipleship & Small Groups Specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources. If you entered Rick’s house on most any Tuesday night around 6:30, you’d find Rick and his wife Julie welcoming some of their closest friends: their small group made up of believers longing to live in authentic Christian community. Rick attends the church he planted, The Bridge Church, in Spring Hill, Tennessee and serves in the role of founding pastor.

Follow Rick on Twitter at @RickHowerton