"Listen, a sower went out to sow . . ." (Mark 4:3)
Simple, Easy, Safe Ideas Start a new adult class each year, plan with excellence * Teach DISCIPLE Bible Study * Offer a weekly “Brown Bag” lunch time Bible study near where members work * Encourage personal daily Bible and devotional reading, and offer resources * Prepare an overnight Advent or Lenten retreat for women at a retreat center, hotel, or home. Invite friends * Sponsor members to attend Emmaus Walks, youth to attend Chrysalis * Offer quality, highly visible vacation Bible school with excellent music aiming for four to six time as many children as usually attend Sunday school * Have a book review section on your website, encourage quality resources for Christian living, prayer, and service * Make prayer an essential element of every meeting, team, choir, committee, and service. Offer resources to help * Develop a prayer ministry – prayer team, prayer vigils for special events, prayer lists, prayer partners, or prayer books * Hold appreciation dinners to thank all class and study leaders * Send teachers to learning workshops, or invite guest speakers to teach them * Feed the spirit of your children and youth volunteers * Start a divorce care, single moms, or grief recovery group * Provide and announce excellent childcare for meeting times * Start at least one in-home Bible study in a neighborhood where you have several member households * Find older couples willing to mentor young parents or young couples for practical issues and emotional support * Start a book club or reading group for women who work at home during the day * Ask DISCIPLE Bible Study or other study members to speak in worship about what group study has added to their lives * Try again to start a singles or college small group or Sunday school, listen to their ideas for times, places, and topics * Offer a DISCIPLE Bible Study class at another church that has limited resources.
Riskier, More Challenging Ideas Make participation in at least one faith learning event or group each year an expectation of membership * Add more short-term studies (4-6 weeks), focused on books or topics of special interest * Always offer special six-week Lenten studies * Encourage house groups and home studies, suggest resources, train leaders, and let them go * Sponsor children to attend church camps, paying their way * Encourage study groups and classes to actively recruit members in August, provide excellent communications about small-group ministries * Visit another church who does small-group ministries extremely well * Develop on-line communities of support, prayer, and conversation * Have at least one congregation-wide, every-household period of common prayer and reading each year using high-quality resources * Challenge each small group and Sunday school class to invite and welcome two new members next month * Is there a military base nearby? A college campus? A retirement center? A prison? Can your church offer Bible studies in these settings? * Explore short-term, high-quality studies addressing relevant needs, such as debt, financial planning, parenting, alcoholism, Alzheimer’s, divorce recovery, singles, and invite the whole community, advertising in three new ways * Hold some Bible studies or classes outside the church facility * Have lay leaders and pastors talk about their prayer life in worship and other settings, and about how they see God at work in their daily lives * Ask young adults how they like to learn * Find three new leaders to start groups.
Big, Bold, Audacious, Scary Ideas Evaluate the year’s plan for offering Christian learning opportunities for every possible age and stage of faith category. Prepare to fill the gaps with excellence * Support high-quality learning experiences for leadership teams in their area of ministry – music, worship, youth work, missions – that include personal spiritual formation * Develop or adopt a daily devotional booklet for Lent or Advent, inviting members to write and share * Balance conversations in Bible studies and Sunday school classes to include personal faith-sharing * Offer a new summertime, high-commitment learning activity for children or youth, such as summer music camp, youth work projects, summer mission tour * Explore offering a Kairos retreat at an area prison * Pool funds, work with other churches, and invite a well-known, high-quality Christian speaker or writer for a workshop or educational event. Publicize beyond your church.