Through the thousands of Spiritual Health Assessments we have done, one of the things we have learned is that both groups and individuals score low on evangelism. Here are some practical suggestions divided into crawl, walk, and run steps.
Redefine evangelism as a group approach. Very often we think of evangelism as something an individual does—you invite your friend to come to the church or you share your personal faith with your friends. But in group life, we have the opportunity to think about evangelism in a team sense. Help your group members look at it as a group project. It’s not just about each of us reaching a friend or neighbor; it’s about the entire group reaching out to all of our friends and neighbors through social activities such as parties. It’s about getting the entire group to pray for a collective list of seekers. And it can be even easier for the group to remember to pray for them if the individual members share a few details about the seekers they are praying for because it gives those names on your prayer list an identity.
Pray about whom you should reach. Pass out paper and pens to everyone in your group. Ask group members to close their eyes and spend a few moments in prayer, asking God for the names of seekers he would like them to reach. Encourage them to write the names down as soon as they are prompted by the Holy Spirit. When finished, ask someone to compile all the names and bring back copies of the list for every group member. Instruct them to bring the lists to your group meeting every week and spend some time praying for the names and providing any updates in progress.
Church lingo. Give one group member a piece of paper and a pen. Ask the entire group to brainstorm and come up with words that are churchy and may seem odd to seekers (such as salvation, fellowship, blood of the Lamb). After you have made a list, ask members to come up with alternative words that may be more seeker friendly. Have a discussion about how we can all be more sensitive about using words that may confuse a person who does not go to church.
Who invited you? Most people attend church because someone invited them. Most people are also in a small group because someone invited them. Spend a meeting asking group members who invited them into the church or small group. How did that person go about inviting them? How did they feel when they were invited? And finally, ask group members who they are inviting to join them in attending church or small group. If the answer is no one, ask group members to commit to inviting someone during the next week and then report back to the group with the results.
Feed the hungry. As a group, commit to bring canned foods to your local shelter once a month. Bring your canned goods to a group meeting and then give all of the cans to one group member who can drop them off at the shelter. You may even want to contact some other small groups and challenge them to do the same. Or perhaps contact your small group pastor and ask him or her to challenge all of the small groups to do this simple act of generosity. Eventually, you may be donating an entire trunkful of canned goods to your local shelter every month.
In a sentence. If someone in your group was asked, “Why are you a Christian?” could he or she answer in a single sentence? Could you? Spend a group meeting talking about the importance of having an answer. Challenge all members to come up with their own sentence and share it with the group. You may even want to do some role-playing and have group members come up with other questions that a seeker may ask, such as: Why do you go to church? Aren’t churches just about getting your money? Why do you believe in God?
Invite a neighbor over for dinner. That’s it. Have dinner, get to know each other. Don’t sell them Jesus or your church; just let them get to know you.
Steve Gladen and John Ortberg, Leading Small Groups with Purpose: Everything You Need to Lead a Healthy Group (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012).