By Aaron Earls
The summer season is upon us, and this grants churches an opportunity to try something new and offer different types of small group gatherings.
While most churches will want to continue their Bible study options during primary small group times, some may seek to take advantage of increased flexibility to offer something else during other times.
Perhaps on Sunday or Wednesday night, traditional times for congregations to meet, churches can offer non-traditional classes and groups that may draw in more people or at the very least provide more options for those who want to grow spiritually during the summer months.
1. Book study
This can be as simple as picking a book and discussing it with others. But it does provide churches with an option to expose members to quality Christian thinkers who may minister in another part of the world or who have long since died.
Choose books that will challenge people to think more deeply about their faith, but that will be accessible to readers in your congregation. Push people to go deeper, but don’t drown them in words and phrases they’ve never seen.
Church leaders often assume people in the pews know more theology than they actually do. They have theological ideas, but they may need help understanding what your church believes and how it all fits together.
Have someone teach through your church’s or denomination’s statement of beliefs. Educate churchgoers on what you believe and why you believe it.
3. Acts of service
What if a group of people come together every Wednesday evening and went out to serve people in your community? What kind of impact would that make on your neighbors?
Contact all the homes around your church and ask them if they have any immediate needs like lawncare, small home repairs, etc. Work with those families to set up times for your teams to go out and serve.
One way your church can demonstrate a commitment to marriage is by offering a class that helps couples recognize their relationship as a reflection of Christ and the church.
Recruit a respected couple to lead a discussion on what they’ve learned through their marriage, have them work through a book like Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage, or provide them with a video course to help generate conversation.
Similar to the marriage option, a class on parenting can leverage resources provided by others—such as Christ-Centered Parenting: Gospel Conversations on Complex Cultural Issues—or experienced parents within your own congregation.
Use this class a means to educate, encourage, and empower the parents in your church.
Instead of having everyone stay within the walls of the church, why not send some out?
A visitation group could spend time with church members who are shut-ins, follow up with recent Sunday morning visitors, or invite those in the community to church services or upcoming events like VBS.
Maybe before you send a team out to visit you want to train them and others in the church on how to share their faith.
Lifeway Research found more than half of churchgoers say they haven’t shared the gospel with anyone in the past six months. Often times they say that is because they aren’t sure how. Help train and encourage them with a class on evangelism.
Consider using a resource like Turning Everyday Conversations Into Gospel Conversations.
8. Worldview training
Could it help churchgoers to know the basics of what Islam teaches or the differences between Mormonism and historic Christianity? Would they benefit from being able to recognize tenets of secularism?
Look around your congregation and community. What’s on the hearts and minds of the people? What issue is dominating water cooler conversations at work? Offer a one-time presentation or ongoing class focused on that topic.
Maybe people in your neighborhood are worried about safety. More than 6 in 10 unchurched people said they would attend an activity sponsored by a local church that focused on helping make the area safe.
Virtually every Christian struggles with doubts at various stages of their life. Provide a class that helps them find answers to their questions and equips them to answer the questions of their non-Christian friends.
Many churches have traditionally had Wednesday prayer services. These can still have value today, but some in your congregation may benefit from a different approach.
Have someone spend half the class teaching about a prayer-related subject then use the other half praying about it. Use the class to pray over needs submitted to the church. Your church can never have too much prayer.
12. Guest lectures
Maybe your church is in an area or context where you could bring in quality guest lecturers on relevant and interesting topics.
Your church can benefit from hearing outside voices speaking to important issues related to their faith.
Use the opportunity to help your congregation learn more about missions, missionaries, and the ways your church is supporting taking the gospel to the nations.
If you know any retired missionaries or those who are back in the U.S. momentarily, invite them to come share about their work and how God is moving globally.
14. Mentor meetings
One of the most difficult things for one-on-one discipleship can be finding the time to meet. Leverage times when people may be coming to church already for mentorship opportunities.
You could even use this to facilitate mentorships for people who are looking to be mentored or to mentor others. Pair up people and provide them the time to encourage each other in Christ.
What other type of non-traditional classes or groups have you found helpful in your church?
Aaron Earls is senior writer/editor of LifewayResearch.com.