It’s a new year and a great time to invite new people to join you in your Bible Study group. The new year is one of the best times to help people begin afresh. Truthfully, most people are starting new after the holiday and break. Many are also making spiritual “resolutions” this time of year along with their organizational and health goals. It is a perfect time to go after new people, but one of the perennial problems is “where do I find them?”
Here are few ideas to find, engage, and connect with new people this January.
FIND THE PEOPLE
There are people readily available to invite. We simply aren’t adept at seeing all of them or we think “they probably won’t come anyway.” There are four simple categories that will help us be aware of the people we can invite. Oscar Thompson in his classic evangelism work, Concentric Circles of Concern, included these four categories of people to reach. These four: church, family, neighbors, and community are all places everyone already connects and where there are prospects for your group .
Church: The truth is that there are people who sit around us every week in the corporate worship time that are not connected with a small group. Start by asking the people you see sitting near you which group they go to. If they aren’t currently going, invite them to join you.
Family: Many of those in our groups have family members who live nearby whom they know are not regularly going to church and are not part of a group. They could even be the spouse of a current group member or someone else who lives in their home. We often overlook these people as potential group members and think they’ll never go. Sometimes, they just need to be asked. Even if you’ve asked before, ask them again.
Neighbors: Culture has changed significantly and neighbors don’t know one another like we did in the past. But the truth is, most all of your group members live within walking distance of a few other homes. Some can practically reach out their windows and touch their neighbor’s house. If we will make the effort to meet these people, they can become potential people for our groups.
Community – The members of your group are already around people the other 6 days of the week. Whether at work, social groups, or kid’s sports teams, they are around people. One of the biggest reasons people will go and do anything is because their friends invite them. Group members asking their friends to go with them to group and church is the leading reason anyone new joins. Encourage your group members to use their existing friendships and relationships to invite others to connect with Christ.
ENGAGE THE PEOPLE
Simply saying to your group, “Hey, invite your friends to join us,” probably isn’t enough motivation or reminder for your people to invite others. For your group members to start inviting others, you as a group leader are probably going to have to model it first. When was the last time you, as a leader, invited someone to your group? If you aren’t excited enough about the group to invite others to it, why would anyone else be?
Second, create opportunities for easy invites. It is much easier for people to invite others to a fish-fry or a ballgame tailgate party than it is a Bible study. Schedule those types of “fellowship” events with then intention of them becoming bridges for new-comers to join you for regular group meetings.
Finally, you could do a “Friend Day” or “Pack-a-Pew” day for your group. Churches once did these emphasis days to encourage the entire church to invite their friends. There is no reason this old-fashioned approach couldn’t work in your group.
Whatever you do, however, it won’t happen on its own. It requires you as the leader to initiate it and promote it. You will be the one to determine if others are engaged in inviting others.
CONNECT THE PEOPLE
Once you get people to attend your small group, the work isn’t finished. Now it’s time to connect with them. When they come to group, make sure you personally greet them and welcome them to the group. Introduce them to others and mention who invited them – this serves to celebrate a behavior you hope others will emulate. Make sure you also involve them in conversation without singling them out in group discussions. Don’t forget to get contact information for them, too.
After the group meeting, now is the time to use the contact information you received. Send a card or text within the next couple of days thanking them for coming and inviting them to return. In a week or so, consider a follow-up phone call or note. It is these types of touches that help people feel genuinely welcome and want to return.
While you are contacting the guest, make sure you also touch base with the group member who invited them. Thank them for caring about their friends enough to invite them to connect with Christ. By inviting their friend to group, they are also indicating that they trust the group enough to share other parts of their life there. Consider this a complement and honor them for the value they place on the small group. At this point you can encourage them to contact their friend as well to thank them and invite them to return with them.
These ideas aren’t fail-proof. They won’t guarantee people will come, but what I can guarantee is this – If we don’t make the effort to invite people, very few, if any, will come.