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Leading a Small Group Bible Study: Build a List of People to Invite and Call Them

Back in my single days, I taught a Sunday morning single adult Bible study group for about three years. The number of people that attended each Sunday varied – one Sunday I sat knee-to-knee with one attendee, but during the last year I taught the class I had Sundays with close to 20 people (which is too big for a small group, by the way). My responsibilities included building up attendance to the class, as well as preparing lessons and teaching to the best of my ability no matter how many people attended.

While it is true that you should put just as much heart into leading an itty bitty group as you would a large group, your responsibility to grow your group is often easier said than done.

The first thing you’ll need is a list of prospective group members, along with their phone numbers. People to put on your List include:

  • Your friends and acquaintances. These may include life-long friends, playgroup buddies, neighbors, co-workers, people you met at church, that nice lady that a friend introduced you to. Include both believers in Christ and those that don’t yet know Jesus. You never know what work God is doing in a person’s heart.
  • A list of church members and past visitors. If your small group is part of a ministry within your church (like the Women’s Ministry), this shouldn’t be a problem. Try to get as narrow a list as possible. For example, if your study is for single women, try to get a list with only single women. Just don’t let your single guy friends get a hold of it. 😉
  • Referrals from friends and acquaintances. Ask everyone you talk to if they know of anyone that may be interested in joining your group, or at least visiting. If they say yes, get the name and phone number of the person being referred. But ask your friend/acquaintance to get permission for you to call them, and be sure to follow-up. The person being referred will be more likely to come if you get permission to call them yourself and extend an invitation.

Now you have your List. You may be tempted to send out an email blast or to use online social networking tools (like Facebook, Twitter, Meetup, etc.) to extend invitations, but nothing beats true social interaction. Call the people on your List and extend a personal invitation to join your group.

Before calling, be sure to have the following information on hand:

  • The location of your next meeting and simple directions.
  • Child care information, if child care is provided.

Now you’re ready to start making calls!

  1. Pick a time to call the people on your List.  I usually made calls during my lunch hour, but it may be helpful to know a few things:
    • Many seniors are home during the day and would welcome a phone call and conversation.
    • Single professionals will most likely be at work during the day, so the best time to reach them may be in the evening.
    • Mothers with small children may be home during the day, but not have much time to talk. Keep it short and sweet because trying to have a lengthy phone conversation while your kids are screaming in your ear is no fun.
  2. When you’re ready to dial, smile!  The smile will come across in your voice.
  3. Follow a “script” for how you’ll begin the call.  Nothing too salesman-like, but nothing over-familiar either.  Here’s a possible script:  “Hi, my name is Jane Doe and I’m with the XYZ Bible study group.  So-and-so told me that you might be interested in joining us, so I thought I’d call to tell you about our next meeting.  Do you have a minute?”
  4. After introducing yourself and stating the reason for your call, you may get one of the following reactions:
    • Irritation and a hangup.  (Yes, I have had a hangup.) This shouldn’t happen if you received permission to call, but you never know.
    • A polite “No, thank you.”
    • An expression of interest.
  5. Don’t get your feelings hurt if someone hangs up on you or if they’re not interested.  You fulfilled your responsibility by reaching out to them.
  6. If they do express interest, give them details about your group and ask them if they would like to come to the next meeting. And don’t forget to ask them if they know if anyone else that might be interested.
  7. Offer to answer any questions they may have.  If you don’t know the answer, tell them that you’ll get the answer for them.  And then follow-up.
  8. If you feel comfortable in doing so, give them your contact information so that they can call back or email with additional questions.
  9. Keep the tone conversational and friendly. Try not to sound bored, even if it’s the 758th call you’ve made that day.

If the prospective group member agrees to visit your group, great!  But be aware that they may still not come.  Again, don’t get your feelings hurt.  That’s just how it goes sometimes.  For those that do come – be ready to make a new friend!

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