Open groups are crucial in missional Sunday Schools. Why do you need open groups? How do you maintain open groups?
Why You Need Open Groups
New people need a place to connect. They want to build relationships and make new friends. Open groups provide places to connect; places for relationships to be built.
- Relational Evangelism – Effective evangelism often flows along relational lines. Classes who are open to non-Christians will have success building relationships with them and leading many of them to faith in Jesus.
- Relational Outreach – Believers who are new to your community or to your church are looking for new friends. Classes that are open to new persons will reach them for their church.
- Relational Assimilation – One of the keys to keeping new people (including new Christians) is friendship. If new people make friends, they stay. If not, they drop out (see Win & Charles Arn, The Master’s Plan for Making Disciples, 152-153). If new people get involved in Sunday School they stay. If not, they drop out (see Thom Rainer, High Expectations, 45). That’s why Sunday School is a great second step in a simple process for making disciples. When you help persons move from only attending worship to involvement in Sunday School, you help them find a place to make friends and experience foundational discipleship.
How You Maintain Open Groups
“AN OPEN GROUP EXPECTS NEW PEOPLE EVERY WEEK” (David Francis, Transformational Class, 18). How would your class be different if you expected new people every week? Answer that question and you know what it takes to be an open group. However, groups naturally tend to become closed over time. You have to be intentional to maintain an open group. Consider the following:
- Curriculum (what you study) – If you expect new people every week, your Bible study will be self-contained each week. Guests won’t feel unwelcome because this week’s study depends on what you’ve studied in previous weeks. The study won’t require extensive advance preparation by members in order to be meaningful.
- Readiness (prepared for guests) – If you expect new people every week, you’ll be ready for them. You’ll be there early to greet them. You’ll have enough room and resources for them. You’ll use name tags to help them learn one another’s names. Stop and think about when you’ve been a guest in another class. What made you feel welcome? What made you feel unwelcome? Treat guests like you would like to be treated.
- Relationships (openness to new people) – If you already have all the friends you need and want, where do new people fit in? In fact, most groups are relationally closed; the members of the group don’t have room in their lives for anyone else. Are you willing to make room in your life for new people? Will you make new friends in order to reach them for Jesus and for your church?
What do you think? Why do you need open groups? How can you maintain open groups?
Bob Wood serves the Baptist State Convention of Michigan, assisting churches is becoming stronger and developing leaders.