Here are five keys to successfully launching a small group Bible study:
1. Defer to your friends when setting the schedule and location:
- If possible, host the event in your living room or at your workplace. If your living room won’t work, ask a friend or neighbor to host it in their living room. If you think your office might work, it’s best to ask your boss for permission.
- Choose a time that will fit the schedule of your friends. If your friends have children in school, think about concerns like childcare and bedtimes.
- Choose a friend you hope will attend and ask them what time slot would best fit their schedule.
2. Invite a shocking number of people.
- Invite at least thirty people. It sounds like a lot, but of those thirty, about ten to fifteen will want to attend. Of those who want to attend, about a third will actually be able to attend at the scheduled time. So inviting 30 will set you up to have about five people in attendance.
- Tell people what they’re coming to. No bait and switch invitations! Say something like, “I’m inviting you and a few friends to come to my house to study the Bible. The topic is work. Want to come?”
- Invite face-to-face. Facebook, bulletin boards or emails might help a little, but nothing is better than asking face to face. It shows you care about them and genuinely want them to be there.
- Ask for a yes or no response. Don’t twist their arm, but do get a clear answer from them one way or another. Ending your invitation with, “Do you want to come?” will increase the likelihood that people will end up coming.
- Pray for each person you invite.
3. Prepare for the first meeting.
- Host a pre-launch meeting one week before the official start date of your group.
- Clean up the meeting space so everyone can concentrate and know that you value their attendance.
- Prepare some light snacks or ask someone in your group to prepare some.
- Text each of your group members to remind them of the meeting and ask if they’re coming.
- Test the videos. If you’re using a DVD or online videos for your study, always test the setup beforehand.
- Depend on the discussion questions to spark some great conversations as you read the Bible passage together.
4. Provide just enough structure.
- Chat for the first few minutes. Snacks will help people feel more comfortable talking.
- Pass an attendance sheet. Ask new visitors to list their email and cell phone number next to their name.
- End on time. 60 minutes from the official start time, you need to be finished. People will not come on a regular basis if they can’t have confidence when the meeting will end. If you feel like a conversation needs to continue, dismiss the group and invite the people involved to discuss it over coffee sometime during the next week.
5. Follow up after each meeting.
- Text any new visitors and thank them for coming. Let them know that you will meet next week at the same time.
- Pray for the people who came and the people who did not come.
- Keep inviting!