Late summer is a great time to connect or reconnect people to your Sunday School classes and Bible study groups. Right after vacation season as school is starting you'll likely have three groups of people to pursue: 1. people who have slipped away from your groups during the busy summer months, 2. new people who visited your church during the summer, and 3. people who show up right after the start of the school year who are recommitting to be involved in the church. But the prospect of connecting (or even re-connecting) to a group creates anxiety in many people.
Here are three practical ideas for reducing people's fears and helping them get connected to a group:
1. Introduce Your Group Leaders.
This step actually helps build familiarity and removes some of the anxiety of the unknown for new people. It humanizes your groups and when done well makes them more approachable. You can accomplish this in different ways depending on the size of your church, including: introduce a few group leaders each week at an appropriate place in the worship service, provide a list of group leaders in a bulletin insert along with photos and a few personal details, post them on your website, feature them in email and social media communication, just to name a few.
2. Give Them a Copy of What Your Groups are Studying.
Doing this reduces anxiety around what will be talked about when they actually visit the group. They can read ahead, feel prepared and know what the group is going to be studying. Plus, putting a book in their hands affirms that your groups have purpose, you are headed somewhere, you want them to join in, and that now is a good time for them to start.
You can do this in multiple ways: hand-deliver the study to homes with a personal invite, hand out study guides at your greeting stations, have group leaders send study guides with a note to group members who haven't attended in a while to let them know they've been missed. If your groups don't follow a study plan, it's easy to get started. Lifeway offers three different types of ongoing Bible studies for groups. And also offers many short-term options suited for small groups and community Bible studies.
3. Use Sermons to Emphasize the Importance of Belonging to a Group.
Sadly, research shows that many pastors believe that groups are important to their church but they don't communicate this well to their members. Consistently preaching the importance of groups in your sermons is an excellent way to help people understand the purpose of biblical community in their life. Help people see what biblical community should look like, how Christ himself modeled community in his life and ministry, and understand the Scriptural command for us "not to forsake our gatherings."
Getting people connected (or reconnected) to a group is a critical step in discipleship. The process is intimidating for many people, but through a simple gesture you can make it a more natural transition.