By Bob Smietana
LifeWay Christian Resources is challenging churches to start 100,000 new Bible study groups by the end of this year.
The new groups initiative is a partnership between churches, state conventions and LifeWay.
It's designed to help longtime churchgoers jumpstart their faith and to help new believers grow spiritually, Bruce Raley, director of church education ministry for LifeWay, said.
Whether they meet on Sunday mornings or during the week, small groups are the best way to learn the habits of faith, such as prayer, Bible study and serving others, Raley said.
"Discipleship takes place best in the context of a relationship," he said. "And relationships are most likely to develop in a small group."
So far, about 17,000 new groups have been registered at GroupsMatter.com, which includes guides for starting new groups, resources for new leaders, and promotional materials.
Raley and other organizers say the new groups can be started at any point in the year. But they suggest the first Sunday in September as one of the best options. That way, he said, churches can spend the summer months getting ready.
"We believe thousands of new groups will kick off on that day," he said.