10 Ways to Make Your Small Group More Evangelistic

Small groups are critical to a healthy church. There we experience teaching, fellowship, prayer, and pastoral care. In that context, life on life occurs.

Small groups can also be central to a church’s evangelism efforts. Most small groups turn inwardly at some point, though, and lose their evangelistic fervor. Listed here are some steps to avoid this inward turn.

  1. Evaluate the numbers at least twice a year. I realize people are much more than numbers, but numbers help us evaluate a small group’s direction. At least biannually, evaluate at least these numbers: how many non-believers are participating in the group? How many new believers attend? What percentage of members shares their faith regularly?
  2. Expect small group facilitators to be faithful evangelists. Facilitators have other roles, of course, like teaching the Word and guiding discussion. To have a facilitator who does not faithfully evangelize, though, is almost to guarantee that the group will not be evangelistic. Frankly, I would require potential facilitators to give evidence of an evangelistic DNA before giving them the position.
  3. Hold members accountable for sharing their faith. This step may not be popular, but it’s important if you believe evangelism matters. At least monthly – if not weekly – ask members to report the number of non-believers for whom they’re praying, the number of relationships with non-believers they are developing, and the number of times they have shared the gospel message. If the group is uncomfortable with the approach, start with only a few members.
  4. Plan for different group members to share their testimony once a month. Group members are not likely to share their story with non-believers if they have never done so among believers. Let your small group be a safe place for evangelism practice.
  5. Pray for non-believers at each group gathering. Don’t let a meeting pass without focusing the group’s attention on non-believers. Some small groups always leave an open chair to remind the group visually that others remain to be reached; if your group does that, be sure to pray by name for persons who should be in that chair.
  6. Assume nothing about the group’s Bible knowledge. Guide the group in locating texts within the Scriptures. Explain theological terms and church jargon. Show how a text fits within the overall story of the gospel. If the group believes their non-believing friends will not be intimidated when attending, they’ll more likely invite them to hear the gospel.
  7. Include one evangelism training series annually. Regularly include training like “How to Share Your Testimony,” “How to Pray for Non-believers,” “How to Initiate a Gospel Conversation,” or “How to Evangelize Family Members” in your group curriculum. Newer believers will need the equipping, and longer-term group members will need the reminder. Guide your groups to expect and look forward to evangelism training.
  8. Plan quarterly events that emphasize outreach. Outreach by itself is not necessarily evangelism, but groups usually must turn outward first before doing evangelism. Do prayer surveys in the community. Carry out servant evangelism projects. Plan group events (e.g., baseball game, hiking trip, movie night), with the goal of each member bringing a nonbelieving friend.
  9. Celebrate conversions. Throw a Luke 15 party when someone involved in your small group becomes a follower of Jesus. Give gifts to help the new believer get started in his Christian walk. Invite his own non-believing family and friends to join the party – and encourage the new believer to share his story. If we learn to rejoice when God works a saving miracle, we’ll do more evangelism.
  10. Have a discipleship strategy in place for new believers. Young believers are usually on fire for Christ, and they have recent connections with non-believers who need to hear the gospel story. Thus, they can be great evangelists – if their passion for Christ continues. Discipleship is one means by which we help them keep their fire burning. Strongly evangelistic small groups have their “discipleship nursery” ready to feed baby Christians God places under their care.

What other strategies would you add to this list?

12 Comments

  • Chris says:

    I believe it is healthy to look at numbers. They give us a clear picture of the direction of the small group, but how often would you suggest looking at these numbers? Weekly, monthly quarterly?

  • Mark says:

    1. Try to keep the small group from becoming a clique. You may run off any new people.

    2. Please be accepting of other opinions on Bible topics.

    3. Please do not make the whole point of the small group to convert people. Heavy pressure on someone to convert does not always work.

  • Bruce says:

    Good list. Some promote dividing small groups once in a while while others simply talk about dividing a group when it gets too big. Looking at numbers also should include of dividing groups in some way.

    On another note. I have been looking at disciplining strategies and programs. Do you have any recommendations and ways to evaluate?

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Appreciate your thoughts, Bruce (though I always use the word “multiply” groups rather than “divide” groups . . .). Some resources that might be helpful in looking at discipleship programs: DISCIPLESHIFT (Putman); TRANSFORMATIONAL DISCIPLESHIP (Geiger); GROWING UP (Gallaty).

  • As a pastor overseeing the small groups of our church, I greatly appreciate this post.

    However, I pastor a smaller church in a northern Canadian community. People have bought into small groups, but the evangelical component is lacking.

    If I started all your points above this month, it would be perceived as “everything we’ve done before is wrong,” leaving them feel deflated and offended.

    I’d love to see a post (and maybe you’ve already wrote it) on a “10 Step Strategy to Bringing Your Current Small Groups Into Evangelical Focus”.

    More like a game plan with tangible, trainable steps…I’m sure other pastors of smaller churches would also benefit.

    Thanks for your work brother!

    Peace,
    Jeremy

    • jonathon says:

      >it would be percieved as everything we’ve done is wrong.

      What outcome did the congregation desire, when the Small Groups were originally setup?

      If the idea was _numerical_ growth of the congregation, then the numbers tell that story.
      If the idea was accelerating the spiritual maturity, then what is the evidence that that objective is being reached?
      If the idea was simply to have an informal group socialize, is that happening?

      This is a delicate line.
      Shutting down a group, or changing the group’s orientation, that focuses on spiritual growth, and whose members are growing spiritually, because it lacks numerical growth, is a really bad idea.
      If the members aren’t growing spiritually, then changing the focus might be a good idea.

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