Enjoy this replay of a Facebook Live discussion with three church leaders on the next season of small groups.
Enjoy this replay of a Facebook Live discussion with three church leaders on the next season of small groups.
This free Facebook Live event will present how three churches in three different parts of the country are preparing for a new season. Hosted by Chris Surratt, discussion points will include:
COVID-19. Until a few months ago, I hadn’t heard this name. Now I’d like to forget it! But COVID-19 hasn’t been all bad for our churches. In fact, I’m asking the question, “Could COVID-19 usher in an era of church growth”? It has the potential to do that, and based on another terrible pandemic our nation faced in 1918, it may do just that. I am praying that history repeats itself. Let me explain.
In 1918-1919, Americans faced the Spanish Flu pandemic. Over 50 million people died worldwide. The death toll was very high here in America. Spanish Flu ravaged our country and many other nations. Here is what the CDC reports about this pandemic:
The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919. In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918. It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-h1n1.html).
The SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) Connection
My denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, held an annual meeting in 1919 just like it does today every year. The Book of Reports from that
convention can be found online in digital format. It is fascinating to read what the Convention reported in regards to the affect of the Spanish Flu on the SBC and its Sunday Schools. My colleague, Dwayne McCrary, had the forethought to go and see what was reported, and I took a look at the 1919 report, too. Here is what Dr. I.J. Van Ness told the SBC delegates who met in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1919:
“At the very time of greatest stress came the epidemic of influenza, and this was perhaps the most far-reaching hindrance to Sunday-school work which has been known in a generation…The influence of the epidemic stayed with us through December, but the bright sun-shiny months of the opening year gave reassurance. Our Sunday schools rallied, business became more normal, conditions improved, and the working force of the Board resumed its normal operations. We had anticipated that it would take many months for the Sunday schools to rally, but they came back in March. There flowed in a steady stream of orders, which indicated that the Sunday-school hosts were well organized, full of purpose, and had rallied themselves. As a result, the year, which had been so trying for many months, ended full of hope and promise.” (pp.449-450)
This is an encouraging report about the country’s resilience and fortitude. America came through a terrible two-year period in which many citizens died. Many more survived. And as Dr. Van Ness reported, things began to return to normal, churches rebounded, and Sunday Schools began thriving in the wake of a terrible pandemic. The country was hopeful and it was healing in 1919. And then there came 1920 and the man, Arthur Flake.
The Arthur Flake Connection
In 1919 America was recovering from the Spanish Flu and almost 700,000 deaths. As things began to return to normal, Arthur Flake was hired by the Sunday School Board in 1920, right on the heels of the Spanish Flu. It would be a new day for the Southern Baptist Convention.
Arthur Flake is known to many of us as “the Father of the Sunday School movement.” He was hired by the Sunday School Board (now called LifeWay Christian Resources) to train church leaders and provide leadership to the brand new Sunday School department. He became a prolific writer whose books set the standards for Sunday Schools in the Southern Baptist Convention. He led that department until 1936, and ushered in an era of growth that fueled the SBC for decades.
As the Spanish Flu ravaged the country, people returned to church. They returned to Bible study groups. Churches needed trained workers because of the renewed interest in spiritual matters on the part of untold Americans. Arthur Flake helped churches prepare to assimilate millions of new people into their congregations. His method for doing that? Sunday School. Bible study groups. Smaller gatherings of people within the church. Call it what you will, it was these smaller Bible study groups with trained workers that help spread the gospel, teach the Bible, and assimilate spiritually hungry people into the church.
Might history repeat? I hope it does. It already looks like it may. I hope the trend we see today during COVID-19 with more people participating in online worship, and in online Bible study groups, continues. As a people, we tend to turn to God during times of upheaval. When we feel unsure and not in control, God uses that to draw people to Himself. People return. New people discover the Lord. May history repeat!
COVID-19 is bad, but it’s not all bad.
Now that social distancing restrictions are starting to be slowly lifted around the country, churches are planning how they will operate safely in this new world. Weekend gatherings will be limited because of ongoing restrictions on capacity and people’s proximity to each other. This will alter the number of worship services, how children’s ministry is offered, the ingress and egress of people in the building, on-campus classes, and many other ministries, but what about small groups?
Small groups in homes seem like a logical place to start since they are decentralized and mostly come under the gathering restriction numbers, but before you flip the switch back on for your in-person small group, you need to think through the same types of questions every church, restaurant, and retail business is pondering right now.
There is a trust that has to be rebuilt between host and attendee in every environment. We have been conditioned to keep at least six feet between us and the next human being, and that surfaces outside of our home are not to be trusted. Wearing masks in public to protect those around us is also encouraged, and in some localities, enforced.
With that in mind, here are a few questions to think about before you throw the doors open to the small group in your home.
Some of these changes may be temporary and some may be permanent. I would encourage thinking through every detail and having a plan before reopening our homes so group members can come back confidently and safely.
We are all trying to figure out what life will look on the other side of the Covid-19 crisis. Will our groups and church return to “normal,” or is there some kind of new normal that we should start preparing for?
We will have this conversation on Facebook Live this Wednesday, April 22 at 2:00pm CDT. It will be hosted by the Group Answers Podcast hosts, Chris Surratt and Brian Daniel. Come join us and bring your thoughts and questions!
|Watch here at 2 p.m. on April 22|
by Tyler Quillet
Years ago, I was asked to lead a discipleship group with 5 men who had recently given their lives to the Lord. I was excited! I’d discipled many in my short time as a pastor, but over those few first few years, it was mostly teens and those closer to my age. This would be with a number of men who were old enough to be my dad. So, I went in with the assumption that due to their years on this earth, they had to know something about life in Jesus. Certainly there was a foundation there to build off of. I was young and naive and I was wrong.
I began to talk about big theological terms like, justification, sanctification, and repentance. It didn’t take long (their blank stares told the story) for me to realize that they had no understanding of these things. Not only did they not understand that, they didn’t really know anything. They’d rarely, if ever, opened a Bible. They’d not attended church growing up. They knew nothing. That’s not a shot at them, it’s just the reality of our situation, and it was awesome because they had such a deep desire to learn and grow!
Here we had 5 guys who were hungry for God’s word, but they couldn’t take it in big chunks. So, we went slowly and simply through scripture. We took on the book of John at their pace. Some weeks, we’d auger into a singular verse and that’s as far as we got. Sometimes, they were so confused that we had to go backwards to chew on some truths again to make sure they got it. It was hard work, sometimes frustrating, but always rewarding! Five years into our time together, it oftentimes felt like we were still building a foundation, working on that ground level of their faith. But, that’s where they were and we weren’t going to begin overwhelming them and leaving them to feel like maybe this life in Jesus wasn’t for them because they didn’t get it all.
Not every person you disciple is going to be in this place. Some will have grown up in the church, know scripture front ways and back, and are turning their life over to Jesus. Some will have grown up in the church and have been away for a considerable amount of time. Some never experienced time in the church or in God’s word and this is all new to them. No matter their past, here are four things we can all keep in mind as we disciple a new Christian.
It’s easy to throw together a scope and sequence of your Bible study and say, “here’s everything we’re going to cover and here’s our timeline to cover it in.” That’s going to overwhelm them right out of the gate. Let them choose the pace. You may sit on a single topic or text for multiple meetings. That’s ok. Sometimes, as the leader, it’s good for you to press on, but be sure that whatever pace you are going, the person being discipled isn’t feeling overwhelmed.
Be sure to ask the person you are discipling a lot of questions. Make sure they are grasping the content being covered and ask how it is changing their heart. One of the most dangerous questions a discipler or teacher can ask after reading scripture is, “What do you think about this?” By asking their opinion, you are validating what they think…and what they think may not be truth. Be sure to speak truth and ask questions like:
Be sure that everything you say and teach is grounded in God’s word. Statements that begin with, “I think….” are dangerous, because you are training your disciple to follow/trust in you. Ground everything in scripture. If they have a question about something, instead of saying, “I think”, say, “Let’s see what scripture tells us.” Always be reminded that Jesus is their savior, not you. A day is coming where you will not be available to them. Where are they going to turn? Will they be reminded to turn to God’s word when they are in need, or will be feel hopeless because they no longer have you? At every opportunity you get, point them to Jesus!
The words you use, the way you respond to difficulty, the spoken thoughts you have of others, they are all training the person you are discipling. If you speak negatively of others or of the church, you are training them to feel/say/do the same. How you respond to difficulty is training them to do as you do. Remember, the majority of new Christians are a sponge. They’re going to soak up everything they can and if you are pouring into them, they’re going to respect and look up to you in a way that they will seek to model how you do life in Jesus. That’s why the point above is so important. Point them to Jesus. Point them to Jesus with your words, your actions, your thoughts, your body language, everything you have. They’re following your lead like a child does a parent. Model holiness!
This all feels like a lot of pressure, I know. Be reminded that it’s the Spirit working in and through you that is doing the heart change. You be faithful with what you’ve been called to and He will be faithful to give you what you need to point them back to Him. Cling to Jesus’ words here from Matthew 28:19-20….
19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
For a free resource on how to disciple new christians, check out the free PDF guide of the study My New Life. To be entered into a drawing for a free physical copy of this study, head over to our Instagram page for details!
Tyler Quillet is the Discipleship Strategist for the Custom Church Resources team at LifeWay Christian Resources. He lives in the Nashville, TN area with his incredible wife, Cathie, and two boys, Cylas and Bowen. Tyler also speaks, writes, and coaches alongside Cathie as they pour into and love on those battling infertility through Cathie’s “The Quillet Institute”. Tyler previously spent 15 years as a pastor and is passionate about serving churches and pouring into church leaders in a variety of ways.
Please enjoy this replay of our webinar: How to Lead Your Groups in a Time of Social Distancing.
With most churches now not meeting physically, and most gatherings in general discouraged, how can churches effectively lead groups through this time of social distancing and isolation?
Steve Gladen has been Executive Pastor of Small Groups at Saddleback Church since 1998 and serves as an elder of the church. He oversees the strategic launch and spiritual development of more than 9,000 adult small groups on multiple campuses. He is the author of Small Groups with Purpose, which has been translated into eleven languages, and Planning Small Groups with Purpose.
Jared Steven Musgrove serves as Groups Pastor and elder at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from The University of Oklahoma, a Master of Divinity in preaching from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate of Ministry in leadership from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with more than twenty years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Teams at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN., and Seacoast Church in Charleston, S.C., prior to becoming the Discipleship and Small Groups Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources. He is the author of Small Groups for the Rest of Us, and Leading Small Groups.
In this season of social distancing, we must be able to distance ourselves from one another while still advancing the gospel and creating disciples. As if creating disciples was not a tough enough job already! The buzzword in the small groups world used to be “community.” We wanted everyone in our church to be in community together for great reasons. They were less likely to leave the church. They were more likely to serve in the church. They were being cared for by more than just the pastoral staff.
Now the word I hear often is “discipleship.” We have done a pretty good job of gathering people into community; now how do we turn that into making disciples? Great question. Here are five potential barriers to discipleship.
1. It’s really hard.
Helping someone become a fully devoted follower of Christ is not for the faint of heart. There will be times of elated joy and times of extreme frustration. People’s lives are messy, and walking this journey with them gives you a backstage pass to the ugliness.
2. It takes a long time.
Most of us are not very patient—especially when it comes to other people. We want to see immediate results, or we’re on to the next thing. Becoming a disciple of Jesus is a long road that takes time and patience. There is a lot to cultivate and refine. We didn’t get this messed up overnight.
3. It requires relationship.
If Jesus was our example, then we are not meant to take this journey on our own. Disciples are not created in a classroom or on a pew. Iron sharpens iron. The only way to help someone become more like Christ is to be a part of his or her life. All of the good and all of the bad.
4. There’s not a finish line.
By nature, we want to see the job finished. My favorite part of mowing my lawn is when it’s finally done. I can spend a couple of minutes admiring my mowing skills and then move on to the next conquest. That’s not the way it works with spiritual growth. We’re never finished until we’re standing in front of Jesus.
5. It causes growth.
What you may not realize is that when you decide to disciple someone else, you are going to grow as well. Growth is difficult. Growth means change. Every time we take another spiritual step, it requires more from us. It would be much easier to stay right where we are, but the fact is that living things grow.
While the task of discipling another person is daunting, the result of making a disciple who will make disciples is absolutely worth it. And Matthew 28:19 doesn’t actually give us a choice. Jesus left us one job to do—disciple all of the nations. Now let’s go do it.
Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with over 22 years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Team at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, and was on staff at Seacoast Church in Charleston, SC, for 15 years. He also manages SmallGroup.com for LifeWay Christian Resources. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, was just released by Thomas Nelson. You can follow his blog at chrissurratt.com or follow him on Twitter @chrissurrat
If you teach a Bible study group long enough, someone is going to ask you a tricky question. It’s just bound to happen. It’s one of the most uncomfortable things that happen to group leaders. I’ve seen two categories of tricky questions in the groups I’ve taught. “Category 1 questions” are what I’m going to call “innocent” tricky questions. They are asked with pure motives, but can be hard for a group leader to answer. The second category of tricky questions is what I’m going to call “malevolent questions.” These tricky questions are not asked with pure motives. In fact, these are asked by group members when they are intentionally trying to stir up something in the group. Here are four ways to deal with each category of questions.
Four ways to deal with tricky, but innocent, questions:
Four ways to deal with malevolent questions:
If you’ve ever been put on the spot intentionally by someone during a Bible study, don’t despair! This happened to Jesus at various times. In Luke 20 a group of men came to Him to trick Him, and He turned the tables on them. He wouldn’t respond to their question before they responded to a question He decided to throw at them. The result? They dared not ask Him any more questions! I think there is some humor in the Bible, and that’s one of the spots—I would have loved to have been there to see Jesus expertly handle a group of people with a malevolent question!
When you sense that a question has been asked to derail the study or to challenge you, take a deep breath, compose yourself, and choose one or more of the following ways to deal with that malevolent question:
Ken manages the Ongoing Adult Bible Studies and Church Trainers at LifeWay. He has been a group leader for 6 years, and has over 20 years of church education ministry experience. He blogs daily about groups at kenbraddy.com.