We almost always involve unbelievers in our small groups. And we give them opportunities to lead the discussion. One of my most memorable small group experiences was the night John led. The first night we were together as a group, John announced that the only reason he was attending was to make his wife happy. Week two, he raised his hand as we were getting started and said something along the lines of, “Last week as we were finishing up, somebody prayed. Don’t expect me to ever do that.” We assured him that prayer would always be voluntary. But as the weeks progressed, God started softening John’s heart. In week eight I handed John the leader’s guide for the curriculum we were studying and asked him if he would lead the discussion the following week. He looked at me like I was crazy. Then he smiled and said, “Sure, I’ll lead” as if he was calling my bluff. But I was serious.
The following week John showed up thoroughly prepared. But the moment that made the entire night unforgettable was when he said, “Alright, the leader’s guide says we are supposed to open with prayer, and it says we are supposed to get on our knees. So let’s get on our knees and I’ll say the prayer.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. There was not a dry eye in the group as John prayed his first out loud prayer. Whew. It was simple. Heartfelt. Unforgettable. And John would be the first to tell you that he was not a Christian that night. That came later. But he was not about to let any of us out-lead him. And the process of preparing to lead our discussion that night was a faith-expanding experience for John. Heck, hearing him pray was a faith-expanding experience for our entire group! Was it risky handing an unbeliever the leader’s guide and asking him to lead our Bible study? Maybe. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
Ministry makes people’s faith bigger. If you want to increase someone’s confidence in God, put him in a ministry position before he feels fully equipped. With all that as a backdrop, here are a few things to consider before we look at the final two faith catalysts.
• How easy is it for new people and nonmembers to get involved in ministry in your model?
• Does your approach to equipping and training keep people out of ministry environments longer than necessary?
• Are there steps you could shorten or eliminate altogether?
• Are there areas where nonbelievers could be encouraged to serve?
Stanley, A. (2012). Deep and wide: creating churches unchurched people love to attend. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.