As we are moving through the first quarter of 2024, a new year provides a strategic opportunity to focus on starting new groups or classes for Sunday School and small group ministry. For many churches, new classes or groups begin with the new school year in August, but the work to do this effectively takes time and should start now.

Beginning new groups may seem like a daunting task, especially for those with smaller communities or congregations. However, thriving churches of all sizes make new groups a year-round aspect of their discipleship culture. Many leaders across the state ask me for ways to revive their Sunday School or group ministries, and I always point them to this same approach. Even if a church creates just one new group a year, that will make all the difference.

Consider this aspect of group dynamics taught by Lifeway’s groups ministry leader, Ken Braddy. For the first 18-24 months, a new group will have a welcoming environment where the new members form community with one another. Those first few months are easy for those not in the group to join. After that time passes, however, the group begins to be relationally “close,” making it difficult for anyone new to feel a part of it. This closed group also becomes self-sustainable, which leads to less focus on training or administration from pastors and leaders.

Being intentional about starting new groups will open new doors for people to walk through and connect with the church. New people in the church means new potential for salvations, baptisms, missions, serving and giving. It all starts with the work of investing in those who can help get new groups going.

Starting to work on new groups in the new year reminds me of Nehemiah 8 when Ezra read the book of the law to the returned exiles in Jerusalem. Before he gathered everyone together, he prepared some of the Levites to work with the people and help them understand the meaning of the text clearly. As Ezra read the words of the law, the Levites divided the crowd into small groups, helping them teach in a powerful way.

Ezra knew the power of God’s Word and prepared his leaders for the new work God was getting ready to do in His people. May God ignite our hearts for the new work He is ready to do in us.


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