Sunday School/Small Groups: Four Lessons I Learned from Pokemon Go

22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (I Corinthians 9:22-23 NIV)

Pokemon Go has become the latest craze. Instead of fighting it, allow it to lead people to your church and the Gospel. I downloaded it, because my son loved Pokemon as a child, and I heard churches could use it as a way of reaching new people. I even discovered our BGAV sign at our building is a Pokemon stop (More to that later)!

 

Here are four lessons I have learned from Pokemon Go:

It is a tool to reach new people for Bible study. Many of my churches are Pokemon stops (more to come). I am encouraging them to advertise for all children, youth and young adult events that they are. You may have Pokemon enthusiasts willing to come to an event. Build relationships with them at this event. Get registration information, invite them to other social events and follow up to invite them to Bible study.

Are you as passionate about truths from God’s Word as Pokemon fans are for Pokemon Go? This should be a wakeup call. Are you providing a lesson in such a way that people want to study the scripture, and its application for life after the lesson is over? We have the most powerful word to share. How well are you bringing them into the presence of Christ? The lesson isn’t about what we teach, or how we teach. It is about the “why” as we lead people to a deeper relationship with Christ.

Pokemon Stops remind us to seek Sabbath. In Pokemon Go, you run out of Poke balls pretty quickly as you try to capture Pokemon. The only way to replenish is to go to a Poke Stop. (Again many churches are.) We need to remind our students that they are human beings, not human doings. We focus way too much on what we do. Sabbath reminds us of who we are to replenish our purpose. God has claimed us through Christ to be in relationship (John 15), not try to outperform others. Bible study is a constant reminder of our purpose.

What to do when your bag is full? I discovered at Pokemon Stops that I was picking up more than Poke Balls. I was picking up candy, potions and more. I was surprised when I tried to get Poke balls (I had none), and got the message, “Your bag is full.” To get Poke balls, I needed to get rid of the potions and candy. Why is that important in spiritual maturity? We are bombarded daily by media and information. We have busy lives with work, family and community events. We need to remind our folks of the need each day to spend time in Bible study and prayer. Jesus used Scripture to combat evil powers, and so should we. We need to let go, and prioritize time with God. “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
— Martin Luther (https://loveandbelief.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/to-busy-not-to-pray/)

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5 Ways to Help Newcomers Feel Welcomed for Sunday School Revisited

“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2 NIV)

As we think about visitors (Newcomers if you are from the south), I want to encourage you in several ways. First of all, it is important to make them feel wanted and welcome from the time they drive in the parking lot! Visitors will decide within the first five minutes whether they are welcome or not. Here are a few ways to help them feel welcomed:

  • Make sure they know where to park and where to go in the church. Do you have someone in the parking lot to direct parking or adequate parking spaces designated for visitors? (There should be some designated handicap and visitor parking spaces. If you want to really impress, have designated parking for expectant mothers!) If you do not have a member in charge of helping in the parking lot, do you have signage that denotes a “Welcome Center at one of the doors near the parking lot?” Inside the door designated for welcoming people should be a greeter who helps them find their class and can register them as well. Have designated signage for all classes and sanctuary to make it easy for persons to find their way.

I have found that a person in the parking lot can be beneficial at times. Not only can this person help with parking, but they can provide an umbrella when it rains or a helping hand for those who need it! One single mother and her three children had such a warm reception on a rainy day from the greeter in the parking lot, that years after she was a member, she remembered that experience as being influential in her decision to become a part of that family of faith!

 

  • When the visitor makes it to a class, do you have someone designated to welcome them? In the past we may have assigned a greeter or the outreach leader may be the greeter. I want to suggest that the person you want is more of a connector than just a greeter. Have someone who wants to know the visitor at a deeper level than just name, workplace and family. You want someone who will find out their hobbies and passions as well, and connect them to another person in the class or the church with those hobbies/passions.

For instance, if I had a visitor who loved to fish, I would want them to know two or three more people in the class/congregation who love to fish. I want to build multiple relationships with persons in my church. The more connected they feel the greater chance they will come back.

If possible I would want to sit with them in worship as well. I have found this to be especially helpful if the visitor did not grow up in a faith tradition like ours. I could explain what we do and why to help them feel more comfortable.

 

  • Have a Visitor Contact Committee to follow up as well outside the class. In my past church experience, we had such a committee to send cards, call and perhaps even visit with a homemade loaf of bread. One person would call first of the week to see how they felt about the visit. One person would send a card besides the Pastor, and one would stop by just to drop off a homemade baked item with more information about the church. (Please note that the person would not enter the house, but simply drop off the items unless the visitor was insistent.)

 

  • Have a training session to train your people to minister to your visitors with the same passion and warmth as you would want to be treated. You want to find people who naturally gravitate towards people to be trained in showing the ministry of hospitality. Relational learners are the best for this position. E-mail me if you want to know about learning approaches at tony.brooks@bgav.org)

 

  • Have the nursery close to the sanctuary. Parents want to get to their children close to the sanctuary. They want be close in case of an emergency during worship as well.

If we want to reach new people, especially young adults, we need to be prepared for them. They will decide within the first five minutes whether they are coming back.  

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Five Ways to Encourage Spiritual Growth for your Teachers

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (II Peter 3:18 NIV) We all need to grow. Teachers are no exception. We learn bes…

Source: Five Ways to Encourage Spiritual Growth for your Teachers

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Five ways to Increase the Power of Prayer Through Sunday School/Small Groups

Of all the Spiritual Disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father…Real prayer is life creating and life changing. (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline.)

Sunday School/Bible study cannot be as life-changing or as transformative without the sincere discipline of prayer. Though I could spend hours on the subject of prayer, I want to share some practical ways prayer can make a dramatic difference through the ministry of Sunday School/Bible study. I would suggest a study on prayer would be beneficial as well for your class, but the discipline of prayer is most important. Here are some ideas:

Teachers and care group leaders should pray daily for their class members. Pray specifically for each one by name. Call them each week to ask about specific prayer requests. I believe it was Neil Jackson (at LifeWay years ago) who suggested a Saturday evening call to every member about prayer requests. You may see an increase in attendance as well as they see your care for them.

Begin each class with prayer requests and specific prayer. Let your class see you model the importance of prayer each class. Consider God-sized prayers that you cannot do on your own.

Set up prayer partners in your class. This will lead to greater depth in relationships, follow-up from SS lessons and someone to function as an accountability partner for each person. Most of us have moments God speaks to us about an area of our lives each week, but we don’t have someone to pray with us and ask us how we are doing. Prayer partners give us that opportunity.

Allow prayer to be a part of your outreach. Ask class members to pray for a prospect/friend/co-worker for a couple of months before they invite them to an event. Prayer causes us to care deeper about the persons we are praying for, and to be more sensitive to their needs.

As you go into the community, use prayer as a way to get closer to the unchurched. At a restaurant, tell the waiter/waitress: “I usually pray before you eat. Is there anything you would want me to pray with you about?” The same could be done for the cashier at the grocery store, bank attendant and others. (It is important to remember what you are praying about when you see them again. Ask them about it.)

Take a walk or drive in your neighborhood and pray. What is God showing you about possible needs or places for new Bible studies to start?

Set up prayer warriors for your class and the pastor/staff. I discovered years ago that most homebound members want to do something for their church. I would write or type out specific prayer concerns (separate from the church prayer list.) The homebound felt closer to the church and God while providing a very important ministry for the church. Why not call out two or three homebound members to specifically pray for your class, pastor/staff and church prospects?

Practice the discipline of prayer as see what God will do!

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2 NIV)

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Three Ways to Improve Sunday School/Small Group Promotion for the New Year

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)

The Holy Spirit is always breathing new life, and challenging us to new things! As you consider the New Year for Sunday School & small groups, here are some ideas:

Develop a theme to help all of your classes. As a new year begins, having a theme helps them stay focused.

 

  1. Is the purpose this year to reach new people? Have a theme of Each One Reach One. Encourage every person to reach one new person for Bible study.
  2. Is the purpose to start new classes? Ask members to consider being missionaries and helping start a new class. Each teacher (as we think of the Great Commission should be mentoring someone to take their class/group or preparing to start a new class/group.
  3. Perhaps it is making sure every person is cared for. (Contact me about an organizational way to do this at: brooks@bgav.org.)

 

Have a social the week before the class starts for new persons to get to know each other. Every class should have a social at least once a quarter. Have one just before new people will enter your class. This gives opportunities for new people to meet persons who are already there. They feel more comfortable.

Encourage children as they move up. There are several ways to encourage them. First Graders should receive a Bible during promotional periods during a worship service the week before. You should consider a Bible verse to claim for them as well. (This would require all preschool workers to know the children and claim a verse for them. Have them bookmarked for their Bible.) I have seen children many years later claiming their Bible verse as it was still in their bibles!

Getting new people to Bible study is difficult. The ways I have mentioned will help you!

 

 

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Three Ways to Improve Sunday School/Small Group Promotion for the New Year

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)

 

The Holy Spirit is always breathing new life, and challenging us to new things! As you consider the New Year for Sunday School & small groups, here are some ideas:

 

  1. Develop a theme to help all of your classes. As a new year begins, having a theme helps them stay focused.
  1. Is the purpose this year to reach new people? Have a theme of Each One Reach One. Encourage every person to reach one new person for Bible study.
  2. Is the purpose to start new classes? Ask members to consider being missionaries and helping start a new class. Each teacher (as we think of the Great Commission should be mentoring someone to take their class/group or preparing to start a new class/group.
  3. Perhaps it is making sure every person is cared for. (Contact me about an organizational way to do this at: brooks@bgav.org.)

 

  1. Have a social the week before the class starts for new persons to get to know each other. Every class should have a social at least once a quarter. Have one just before new people will enter your class. This gives opportunities for new people to meet persons who are already there. They feel more comfortable.

 

  1. Encourage children as they move up. There are several ways to encourage them. First Graders should receive a Bible during promotional periods during a worship service the week before. You should consider a Bible verse to claim for them as well. (This would require all preschool workers to know the children and claim a verse for them. Have them bookmarked for their Bible.) I have seen children many years later claiming their Bible verse as it was still in their bibles!

 

Getting new people to Bible study is difficult. The ways I have mentioned will help you!

 

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Politics, Small Groups and Sunday School

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NIV)

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him. (Mark 12:17 NIV)

But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. (Acts 5:29 NIV)

This is not an easy one for me. I have been private about political views and will continue to be. As a religious leader (and teachers are in my category), I can talk about issues based on Scripture, but not any further. It is complicated based on Scripture, which is my compass! There are many ways as Christians we could look at government and politics. I didn’t even bring up Romans 13 that has a lot to say. (I would recommend you read it as well.) Here is my main point as I talk about Small Groups and Sunday School in relation to politics…don’t do it! Let me share some reasons why:

  1. Encourage everyone to vote in your class. We are in the world, but not of it as Romans 12 reminds us. Vote your conscience. Allow God’s word to permeate our present condition, do your homework on all candidates and vote. That is our right and privilege.
  1. Do not recommend candidates and spend time in class talking about this. When we do so, we risk three issues: First, you take the time away from Bible study, and how to apply God’s Word to our lives. (That is what small groups and Sunday school is about!) Second, we risk alienating class members into an “us versus them” mentality, which will destroy your class. Third, you jeopardize our Baptist principle Separation of Church & State. We do not want the government dictating how we believe and do church. We should not dictate to them in our multi-faith country. We can talk about issues as they apply to Scripture, but not candidates!
  2. Be careful of your witness on Facebook. When we disagree with other’s opinions, do so with respect and not anger. I have seen too many Christians spew anger at other’s opinions about the political parties. When we do, all unchurched persons see it from their friend’s posts and our post. We have sent them further away from God!
  3. God is in control. God can handle our world. The question is: can we set the example for our world? I truly believe that our next President cannot solve all of our problems. It will take every Christian living out of the Great Commandment and Great Commission. (With God all things are possible!) When we share God’s love for every person with respect (All are created in the image of God), and seek to empower every person to become their best, we begin the journey to see that all things are possible with God.

Jesus lived in a pluralistic age. He loved all of humanity as he was willing to take on a cross. Don’t allow yourself to be caught up in this election, and forfeit an opportunity to do Kingdom work!

May we embody Micah 6: 8: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Amen! May it be so!

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