Church Small Groups Reimagined: Leaders That Make Leaders Through Bible Stories

Monday, I proposed evangelistic Bible storying as a way to start new small groups at your church through conversion. Bible storying provides the benefit of worldview development as the study progresses from week to week. This, of course, is an exceptional advantage when working with people who are unchurched. In fact, this approach may resonate better with people who are not used to a church Sunday school class but do want to discuss the Scriptures. It also has the advantage of being both discipleship and outreach. Not only would small groups grow by reaching lost people, but those leading these groups would grow significantly through the process of storying people through the Bible.

It is one thing, however, to throw out a theory. It is another thing to lay out steps, and that is the goal of today’s post. The following are some practical considerations for churches interested in Bible storying as a means of small group ministry.

Evangelistic small groups hinge on leadership development.

All small group models depend on healthy leadership, but this is even more apparent in a group where the leader may be one of the only Christians in the group. Remember, these groups will be started through gospel seed-sowing and gathering unchurched people together for stories that walk through the Biblical narrative. It is imperative that the right kinds of leaders are chosen to facilitate this process. Leaders of a Bible storying group would need to be both Biblically literate (having a solid understanding of the Scriptures and how the stories fit together into a whole), and be comfortable sharing their faith.

Before I scare people off by mentioning that leaders will need to share their faith, note that this will look different than is often imagined when evangelism comes up in conversation. This will be far from a canned presentation, or a confrontational pitch given in a moment. Instead, it is raising spiritual questions with friends and neighbors and inviting them into a conversation of discovery about what the Bible actually teaches. Then, the stories begin to build the grand narrative, and as it takes shape, the gospel is clearly presented. Of course, questions will be asked. Leaders will need to be comfortable answering questions, even if the answer is, “I’m not sure, but we can find out.”

An equipping process for new leadership is essential.

While church leaders need to identify people with the right character, gifts, and talents to facilitate Bible storying groups, that does not replace the need for actual equipping. A church that wants to do this kind of ministry will need to equip participants for the work of the ministry. This includes choosing a specific storying approach. In advance, the church should identify group facilitators and help them choose stories and develop overall teaching objectives. Luckily, much of this work is done for a church, as dozens of Bible story sets exist. Many of them were developed to be used in international missions, but they are equally helpful when working with unchurched people in the US. Perhaps your church could choose a specific story set to use as a lesson guide for facilitators. After this, work with facilitators so that they are comfortable telling the stories and facilitating discussion. Encourage facilitators to have group members come prepared to tell stories themselves. This causes group participants to internalize the Biblical material.

Another benefit of Bible storying groups is their inherent multiplicative structure. In other words, these groups can (and should) be set up in a way that multiplies group facilitators. Thing about it this way: if you came to faith through hearing these stories and discussing how they fit together to unfold the gospel, then you are naturally equipped to facilitate one of these groups yourself. Once the initial group of facilitators is equipped, this kind of ministry can replicate more groups.

Groups grow when leaders are taught to analyze their social circles.

Finally, Bible storying group leaders must be taught to find participants. Again, unlike most small group models, the participants are not currently attending your church. Instead, they will be gathered from outside the church as leaders have conversations with people and invite them to the group for continued discussion. Of course, finding people for gospel engagement is often one of the hurdles that many churches have when it comes to evangelism and outreach. If you step back and think about that, though, you realize it may be indicative of bigger problems. If no one in your church knows unchurched people, then you may be too internally focused.

Instead, help leaders think through their different social circles. I am convinced most people claim they do not know unchurched people because they have not thought through the natural relationships they already have.  All people belong to various circles in which they interact with others. These circles include family, your neighborhood, your coworkers, the parents of children on your son’s football team, etc. These relationships are an excellent place to start when trying to develop a Bible storying group. In order to equip these group facilitators, teach them how to analyze their existing networks for relationships they already have. Have them write out each of their different circles like the people at their gym or their neighbors in the apartment complex. This gives them a clear picture of their existing networks and allows them to list all of the people in those circles. This kind of inventory is rather revealing and sometimes convicting, if people realize they have no circles that include unchurched folk.

These three considerations are really the beginning of a small group focused on reaching the lost through Bible storying. Simply put, this kind of ministry will rise and fall on those who facilitate it, so a church needs to choose well and then equip well for that work. However, the ministry itself can be natural and inherently multiplicative once it starts.

Friday, I will address one final question concerning leadership for Bible storying groups, namely how to find these people in your church. Some churches already have an existing small group structure, while others have no such thing. While the qualities of these leaders will be the same regardless of congregation, the manner in which you locate them may be different. Hang in there for Friday, and we will take a stab at it!

 

Photo by SMBcollege with Creative Commons License.

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