There really are only four ways a person becomes aware of a Bible study group: the leader invites them, a group member invites them, someone outside the group invites them, or they find the group themselves.
The question is which means is most effective and why. Here is how I would rank these and why.
- A group member invites them. The leader is expected to invite people to his group. A group member invites people only if he or she believes their group can be of value to the person they are inviting. The invited person understands that the group member has a stake in the group but not the same as the leader. In effect, the inviting group member is a satisfied customer of the group. Their satisfaction carries the greatest weight.
- The leader invites them. A leader ought to think his Bible study group is meeting the needs of others and is worth at least a look by folks not involved in his group. The leader’s invitation carries some weight because the invited person feels a connection to the leader. They may know that the leader has a vested interest (he wants to build his group), but that is outweighed by the sense of knowing the leader at least wanted them in his group.
- Someone outside the group invites them. A friend may direct a person to a group he or she believes will best suit the needs of the person they are inviting. This approach is most commonly used by a person responsible for several Bible study groups like a pastor or other church leader. Handouts, email, and websites could all be used to invite a person to a small Bible study group. The problem is there is no immediate relationship with someone in the group. The outside person has to take one more step; introducing the invited person to a person in the group who can take over from there.
- They find the group themselves. People searching for a group will most likely start by searching church websites. The reason this one is ranked last is I just don’t think many people fit this category. This category is dominated by transplants who were active in a small Bible study group in their previous city and are looking for a replacement in their new hometown. Most unchruched people simple are not looking for a Bible study group.
Do you agree with these rankings? Is there something I missed? How can you leverage each kind of invitation to your advantage?
G. Dwayne McCrary is the team leader for the Adult and Young Adult Explore the Bible teams, leads a weekly Bible study group for his church, an adjunct professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and carries 20-plus years of church staff experience.