Create a new group. If your group has been subgrouping for quite a while, it may be time to release group members and create a new group. If evangelism is a high priority in your group, this can be a wonderful way for your original group to become two groups that can include seekers.
Touchdown. Football can be a great excuse to get together with other men in your neighborhood. The men of your small group can meet together regularly to enjoy the games and invite neighbors who do not attend church. This can build relationships so that after the season is over, they can invite those neighbors to continue with a small group study for men.
On the road again. For many of us, travel is part of our jobs. Many of us also travel for vacations. With a little planning, you can use your road trip as a ministry opportunity. Challenge traveling members of your group to brainstorm on ways they can reach out to others while they travel, asking God to open their eyes for opportunities to show his love along the way. One simple act is to pack a copy of The Purpose Driven Life or another classic Christian book. Remember, this must be a book that would be easy for seekers to understand. Then as you go about your business activities or vacation fun, ask God to show you who you should give the book to as a gift. Encourage group members to share their stories with the small group upon returning from their trip.
Plan social events that include seekers. You may remember the story in Luke when Matthew came to Christ. One of the very first things Matthew did was host a gathering with some of his tax collector friends, Jesus, and some of Jesus’s disciples. What he didn’t do was invite them to the synagogue to hear Jesus teach. He had a party at his house. Follow his example and host a neighborhood picnic or barbecue. Plan to go to a lake or park and have everybody in your group invite a friend. Or have a Super Bowl party. Relax and have fun. The sole purpose of this social event is for your small group to get together with seekers and build relationships. But don’t expect lost people to act like anything but lost people. That’s one of the huge mistakes we make. We start with this sort of judgment and condemnation rather than just saying, “Man, we’re so glad you’re here. Come on in.” Just remember that they need Jesus. This is your chance to show them the love of Christ. Just accept them.
Be strategic in choosing your small group studies. Choosing a particular small group curriculum can also have an impact on whether your neighbors will feel comfortable attending your small group. Let’s face it, a study on fasting or judgment may not appeal to those who don’t have any faith. But a study on a particular topic such as the purpose of life may catch a neighbor’s interest. A couple of small group studies that have been great successes in reaching out to the community are 40 Days of Purpose and 40 Days of Community.
Bring a friend to Jesus. During your next group meeting, read the story in Mark 2:1–5 about the men who lowered their friend through the roof in order to get him to Jesus. Discuss the significance of this act of friendship, and ask each group member to identify a seeker friend he or she could bring to Jesus. Challenge your group members to be as committed as those men who cut a hole through a roof to drop their friend into the arms of Jesus.
Plan a mission trip together. A great way for your group to reach out to others is through a group mission trip. This can be a trip in our country or an international trip. The idea is to show the love of Christ in a practical manner.
Learn a new language. If you are going on a mission trip to another country, for the months leading up to the trip, attend classes or get together to study the language. You may not be experts by the time you leave on your trip, but the experience will be a great time of bonding and will give you the opportunity to learn some key words and phrases for reaching nationals.
Have a group garage sale. To raise money for your group mission trip or another good cause in the community, have a group garage sale. Be sure to advertise your sale as a multifamily sale to raise interest. Hold it in a large neighborhood and have plenty of group members on hand to greet the customers. You may want to post a simple sign in the garage stating where your proceeds are going. For instance, “Proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity in our area,” or “Proceeds go to our group trip to build a school in Mexico.” This is a great way to meet new people and give them a glimpse of your heart.
Use a hobby or sport to reach seekers. What are the interests of your group members? What do they like to do in their spare time? These activities can be used to reach seekers. Start a basketball league, begin a scrapbooking club, form a book club, play baseball together on Saturday mornings. Challenge group members to think of ways to be more intentional in their leisure activities. This is a fun way to meet new people and build relationships with those who do not know Christ.
Neighborhood Easter egg hunt. Invite friends and neighbors to an Easter egg hunt at a group member’s home. Serve light snacks and hide plenty of eggs for the kids. You may want to have a special area with eggs that are highly visible for the toddlers in the group. This is a great way to get to know your neighbors and provide a fun activity for the kids.
Sponsor a child. Your group can show the love of Christ to a child in an impoverished area of our country or far away in a developing country. Your monthly support will provide the child with food, clothing, and education. As a group, take time to pray for and write letters to the child as well. Send age-appropriate toys or clothing. If your child lives in another country, you may want to include gifts or toys that are uniquely American.
Have family reunions. If your group has multiplied into one or more groups, at least once a year have a family reunion. This can be a social activity or a great opportunity to serve together once again as a group.
Memory book—scrapbook. Chances are that someone in your group loves scrapbooking. And chances are that someone in your group loves photography. Put them both to work and designate them as the official memory keepers. Ask them to take lots of photos of group activities and social events and gather them together in an attractive scrapbook. Then group members can take turns keeping the scrapbook in their home. Some will want to display it on a living room table or kitchen counter where it will get plenty of notice. This is a great way to show seekers who visit your home that Christians have fun.
Invite unbelievers to special Christmas or Easter events at your church. Unbelievers are more receptive to an invitation at Christmas and Easter than any other time of the year. Challenge each member to extend at least one invitation during those holidays.
Instead of your regular Thanksgiving meal with family, celebrate Thanksgiving by inviting strangers into your home. Contact your homeless shelter, ask a college for the names of some international students who can’t go home for Thanksgiving, or just invite some single people who do not have family nearby. Use this season to open your home and heart to others. Not only will it be a blessing to them, but it also will serve as a great model for your children.
Every family has their own Christmas traditions. This year, ask group members to commit to a new family tradition. Perhaps all of you, with your families, could serve Christmas dinner at the local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Or perhaps you could all make a visit to a local nursing home. This is a great way to not only serve your community but also bring the families of your small group together.
Steve Gladen and John Ortberg, Leading Small Groups with Purpose: Everything You Need to Lead a Healthy Group (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012).