the 21st Century
Reaching the Unchurched
Interest Based Small
| Even the most progressive
Baptist churches sometimes find themselves a little behind the times in
regard to their outreach methodologies.
However, those pastors and
churches which continue to keep both eyes wide open in regard to understanding
which venues are most effective in reaching the current generation will
continue to be effective in their evangelistic outreach. Even the
apostle Paul who, upon meeting a group of Gentiles who were worshipping
at an altar dedicated "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD" (lest they miss one), used it
as an opportunity to tell them about Jesus (Acts 17:23). Therefore,
it is not necessarily the straight forward presentation of the plan of
salvation that first gets the attention of lost souls. In fact, the
Baptists have learned that bridges have to be built first to get the attention
of those without Christ before they are ready to hear the Gospel message.
New methodologies are adapted
due to the changes in generational mindsets. This page seeks
to explore one of those methods which is now coming into it's own.
Interest based small groups
is a concept that is succeeding with those churches who remain on the cutting
edge of contemporary evangelistic methodology.
In short, this approach reaches
the lost and stimulates Christian fellowship by bringing together those
who share a similar interest and does so outside the framework of the typical
Sunday morning Bible class.
There are two factors that
contribute to this method being so well geared to the opening of the twenty-first
First of all, people no longer
define their social life by their neighborhood. It is now defined
by locating those who share mutual interests. Not too long ago, everyone
knew everyone else in a local neighborhood. The children played together.
There was a strong sense of community as neighbors knew each other a block
or two in every direction. That day is all but gone. Most people
know their immediate neighbors enough to say hello over the fence but share
very little, if any, social interaction with them. Instead, thanks
to the automobile and our extensive highway systems, we now get into the
car and drive past several neighborhoods to go meet with those who share
the same interests as ourselves. Furthermore, since the advent of
the Internet, we can easily find others who share those interests who live
within driving distance from our homes.
Musicians meet with other
musicians. Hobbiests meet with other hobbiests. Animal lovers,
car enthusiasts, mortorcyclists, history buffs, artists, computer gamers,
etc., find each other with ease. Why waste one's free time trying
to get to know people in the neighborhood who do not share our interests
when we can drive a few miles to find people who are passionate about the
same things as ourselves?
Secondly, the depersonalization
of our modern day world has resulted in a new generation which hungers
for acceptance, appreciation, and recognition. Along with the need
for fulfillment in large group worship settings, there is equally a need
to be more intimate in a small group setting. Although worshipping
or attending a music concert or being part of a statewide or nationwide
gathering is still enjoyable, the real need for socialization still goes
back to being a part of a small group of people who know each other and
function well together. It is in these groups that people find friendship,
fellowship, and connection.
Thus, a new movement employing
interest based small groups is beginning to take hold in Baptist churches.
The concept is to identify
those committed members of the church who have viable interests.
For example, one of the deacons might be a crack mechanic but not a great
Sunday school teacher. The challenge would be for him to gather together
a few of the other guys in the church who love to work on cars. By
organizing a weekly get-together, they can start pulling in unchurched
men who share the same interest by including a time of Bible study, prayer,
and evangelism during each meeting. One fellow managed to get another
church member to contribute a car with a burned out engine. He got
a few men to partner with him in the venture and began inviting other guys
to help rebuild the car. In a matter of months, the group grew into
a viable ministry of the church that was well attended and effective in
winning souls and discipling believers. They also got the car running
again and gave it to a needy family in the church and have gone on to rebuild
other cars as well.
Who in your church would
enjoy being part of a drama group, collects baseball cards, loves football,
or collects antiques? Who in your congregation would enjoy becoming
involved with a group of men or women who work out together? Which
church members would enjoy organizing a special interest group around cooking,
gardening, reading, woodworking, etc.? Does your church facility
have rooms that it could make available during the week for the groups?
Conversely, this is a great opportunity to employ the homes of members
where these groups could meet on a weekly basis.
Furthermore, how much more
interesting would your church become if it were to feature the various
interest groups from time to time including demonstrations, foyer displays,
church brochures, etc.? A dozen groups would enable the church to
feature one each month. The variations are limitless.
Pray and seek the Lord's
guidence in regard to initiating interest based small groups in your church.
Such a ministry could very well stimulate both spiritual and numerical
growth along with a new excitement for evangelism.