If you want your small group to be healthy, contribute to God’s mission in the world, and inspire your group members grow closer to Jesus and help others to do the same – then voice the need to reach others with the Gospel! Get your small group thinking about others and sharing their faith. If you don’t take the lead in cultivating an outward-orientation to your group life then it is unlikely somebody else in the group will.
Let people know at the beginning of your small group that evangelism is an important part of group life that will ensure everyone’s experience in the group is healthy and life-changing. Explain how the community of your small group can be instrumental in helping each one fulfill their calling to be an evangelist and bring biblical truths to life (Acts 2:42-47; 1 Pet 2:9-10; 2 Tim 4:5). Don’t just give permission for your group members to invite friends… tell them you want them to invite their friends. This 3-step plan will help you be a catalyst for small group outreach so that your group can fulfill God’s evangelistic purpose for it gathering together.
- Don’t wait – Start right when your small group starts. Much of a group’s operative DNA is created toward the front-end of its life together so it’s a mistake to wait. Building a bond happens best by reaching out, not huddling up. A small group that chooses to be intentionally-evangelistic will experience the life-giving community and impact God intends for it. Evangelism is self-perpetuating, even addictive. Once group members get a taste of it, they tend to want more of it.
- Pray beyond your small group – Oftentimes, small group prayer consists of praying for the needs of group members and their families. This is important You, as the small group leader, can also leverage your group’s prayer time as an opportunity to direct people’s hearts outward by praying for the unreached, your neighborhood and larger community. Prayer for God’s future family goes a long way in cultivating a compassionate love for the lost. Additionally, when you’ve had opportunities to share the Gospel with others, tell your small group about them. Don’t be shy – be open and honest about your experience. This will encourage others to look for ways to let Jesus’ light shine through them.
- Share your heart – Tell your small group how much lost people matter to God and share your heart for reaching them (Luke 15). Don’t just give them permission to invite friends to your group, tell them how much you want them to include others. It’s never too early or too late to share a vision for small group outreach, set goals together, and applaud people exuberantly when they take even the tiniest of steps to share the love of Christ with people who have yet to know Him.
Once you sense your small group is ready to show God’s love practically to others, encourage them to step out in some of these ways so they can become even more effective as Christ’s ambassador in the world:
- Make new friends at church and invite them to your small group. Strike up conversations with people you haven’t met yet at weekend services and events. Find out about them and look for natural connections (community, kids, school, etc.). Let them know you’d love for them to check out your small group!
- Take the lead with inviting and share about attempts you’ve made. You’re not being prideful. This actually encourages people in your group to take steps toward inviting their friends. They don’t have to fear being rejected (Mt 10:40; Jn 12:47-50). Tell your group members that all they’re doing is sharing an opportunity for a friend to join them in doing something if their schedule allows, which helps the person being invited to not feel awkward if they can’t participate for any reason.
- Affirm people in their efforts. Whether or not a guest decides to come and stay with your small group, encourage the person who did the inviting to help their friend connect into your church’s community life in a different way. Follow-up helps bring closure so the person who did the inviting isn’t left ‘hanging’ and it shows the person invited they are sincerely cared for.
- Learn about the neighborhood / community where you meet. Research the immediate area of your host’s home and get a general ideas as to who lives there based on demographics (age, gender, ethnicity), interests (shared affinities that big clusters of people hold), and lifestyle (such as married or single, community-oriented or separate camps, active or quiet, etc.) Reserve a meeting to talk about your discoveries and insights. Talk about ways your group members can build relationships with neighbors and allow your surrounding community to literally see your small group in action through “servant evangelism.”
- Adopt a people group or sponsor a child. At some point, your group might become interested in adopting a child through Compassion or an entire unreached people group (www.peoplegroups.org or www.joshuaproject.net). Your group can pray for them, offer financial support, or partner with indigenous Christians and actually go to them (www.thepeaceplan.org). Concentrate on praying for this people group or child. Write to them and build a relationship.
Your small group is a powerful catalyst for personal evangelism. You’ll see your group members share their faith in ways they would not have otherwise done without the encouraging voices of those who are part of your ever-growing community of friends. So don’t wait, pray beyond your small group, and share your heart! As a result, the faith of your group members will be built up so they can step outside their comfort zones and share their faith in ways that will allow more people to hear the Gospel and believe in Jesus Christ (Rom 10:14-15).