By Ken Braddy
VBS may well be a high point of the summer in your church’s mission to reach children for Christ and introduce them to the gospel. My church (and I’m pretty sure your church, too) dramatically transforms normal rooms for one week out of the year, transporting young learners to far-away places, all to create a climate for learning and engagement.
Why do VBS volunteers go to so much trouble to create this kind of climate? Because climate counts! Climate draws children into a life-changing week of Bible study. When it comes to new groups, climate is just as important. Leaders must pay special attention to several things that create the right climate in which to successfully start a new group.
Any new group needs a climate in which members understand and value each other’s unique relational styles. Dr. Les Parrott, creator of SmallGroupInsights.com, has identified four categories of people in any group: Talkers, Doers, Thinkers, and Listeners. As Dr. Parrott has stated, “One style is not better than the others. They each add unique value to the group process … and knowing what group ‘style’ we each have can go a long way when it comes to cultivating community.”
When your group multiplies, consider having each person use the online tool found at www.smallgroupinsights.com to assess their personal group style. It’s quick, easy, and provides a 10-page report for the leader to share with the group to create a climate where everyone’s unique style is understood and valued.
Another way a leader can create a climate for starting new groups is to train an apprentice leader. The role this person fills is more than “just a sub,” and is really a leader-in-training who will one day become the primary leader of a new group. An apprentice leader who regularly leads the group will gain valuable experience in guiding a group through Bible study. The group members’ responsibility to the apprentice leader is to pray for him, provide feedback, and one day step out in faith and go with him to begin a new group that reaches out to people who are not connected to a Bible study group.
Finally, there must be a climate of prayer. Leaders must regularly pray about starting a new group that takes the Gospel to people who don’t have a small group to belong to, and to see those people reached for baptism and church membership. Churches are full of “missionaries to the culture,” and we must all accept our responsibility to start new groups. If you and I don’t, who will?
Remember that climate counts. What kind of a climate are you and your leaders creating when it comes to the important mission of starting new groups? It’s not too late to change the climate of your group and become more missional as you seek to take the gospel to people who are unreached for Christ.
Ken Braddy is managing director of Leadership & Adult Publishing at LifeWay Christian Resources, Nashville, Tennessee. He has served as minister of education at two Texas churches and is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.