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R e v i t a l i s e t h e c h u r c h
Suggestions for the assimilation of newcomers into the church...
By Andrew Mackinnon
Last updated: 17th November, 2014
The primary means by which newcomers will attend church is being invited by existing members of the church. A member who invites a newcomer or newcomers to church will take responsibility for making him or her or them feel at ease by sitting with him or her or them during the first congregational part of the church service on Sunday and then by inviting him or her or them to participate in the Bible study group that the church member attends in the second half of the church service on Sunday. While the maximum ideal size of each Bible study group is fourteen members sitting in a circle of fourteen seats, an extra one or two seats can be added to the circle to accommodate this newcomer or newcomers without taking up too much space.
By placing the newcomer or newcomers in a situation where there are several other church members in the Bible study group, such as fourteen other church members, so that there is no pressure on the newcomer or newcomers to speak in the group, and where the newcomer or newcomers are being accompanied and put at ease by the church member who invited him or her or them, the newcomer or newcomers are given the relaxed opportunity to gain an understanding of what attending a church service on Sunday means and whether it is something that appeals to them so that they want to keep attending.
It is anticipated that Bible study groups in the second half of the three church services on Sunday would run for about 48 weeks of the entire year, starting in the middle of January after Christmas and ending in the middle of December before Christmas, however itís possible that they could run on a continuous basis for every single week of the year, given how integral they are to the life of the church.
Running concurrently with the Bible study groups in the second half of each church service should be one or more Bible study groups, depending on the demand, geared specifically towards teaching newcomers to the church the fundamentals of faith in Jesus Christ so as to assimilate them into faith in Jesus Christ and into the life of the church. These Bible study groups can operate on a continuous basis so that if the teaching that newcomers need lasts for seven consecutive weeks, involving their attendance of the Bible study group in the second half of the church service for seven consecutive weeks, it would be possible to repeat this seven-week course of teaching seven times during the year over a total of 49 weeks.
The leader and facilitator of each of these Bible study groups geared specifically towards newcomers would most likely be the male Senior Minister in the church, a male Assistant Minister in the church or another male pastoral staff member in the church. There would need to be a female co-leader of the Bible study group since many newcomers will likely be married couples who have been invited to attend church by members who are themselves married couples.
(While the 9:00am and 3:15pm Sunday church services will predominantly attract married couples with children to the church as newcomers invited by existing church members, the 1:30pm Sunday church service will attract both married couples without children and single male and female adults aged 18 plus years to the church as newcomers invited by existing church members. Therefore, while the 9:00am and 3:15pm Sunday church services can hold one or more Bible study groups geared only towards newcomers who are predominantly married couples with children, the 1:30pm Sunday church service will need to hold one or more Bible study groups geared towards newcomers who are married couples without children and one or more Bible study groups geared towards newcomers who are single male and female adults aged 18 plus years.)
Once a newcomer or newcomers feels comfortable attending the Bible study group with the church member who invited them, they could be asked if they would like to attend this course of seven weeks of teaching in a Bible study group specifically geared towards newcomers when it next begins again. If they would like to attend it, they can put their name down to attend it so that the Senior Minister, Assistant Minister or other pastoral staff member running the group knows how many people he can expect in the group when it next commences.
If the newcomer or newcomers feel apprehensive about attending the group by themselves, the church member who invited him or her or them to church could offer to attend the group with them. There are actually certain advantages to this. The church member has already displayed an aptitude for building the church by inviting the newcomer or newcomers to church. By participating with them in the group geared towards newcomers, he or she could increase his or her capacity to teach newcomers and assimilate them into faith in Jesus Christ and into life in the church. Of course, this would draw the church member away from his or her existing Bible study group for the duration of the group geared towards newcomers. However, since this group geared towards newcomers should always be held on-site at the church and since the Bible study group that the church member attends will likely be held off-site if that church member is an adult aged 18 plus years, it is appropriate that the church member accompanies the invited newcomer or newcomers to the group geared towards them, rather than leaving them alone on-site at the church while they go off-site to attend their existing Bible study group. Ultimately, it is up to the church member and the newcomer or newcomers invited to church by them to decide whether or not to attend the group geared towards newcomers together.
At the conclusion of the group geared towards newcomers, the newcomer or newcomers and the church member who invited them could rejoin the existing Bible study group of the church member who invited them or they could start a new Bible study group. The basis of the new Bible study group could be all of the church members and newcomers who just attended the group geared specifically towards newcomers. If rejoining the existing Bible study group of the church member who invited the newcomer or newcomers means that the existing Bible study group would swell to more than sixteen (16) members in size, then itís best that a new Bible study group be formed, because a group with more than sixteen (16) members starts to become quite unwieldy. Forming a new Bible study group means that the church is growing.
Church members of any age in the church can obviously invite their friends to attend church with them. Bible study groups in the church commence for children in Sunday school aged 9 to 11 years at the start of the calendar year. Since this is possibly too young an age by which to expect children to have developed an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, there possibly isnít a need to conduct Bible study groups geared specifically towards newcomers invited by their friends attending Sunday school. Those newcomers can simply join the existing Bible study groups that their friends who invited them to Sunday school attend. If joining those existing Bible study groups means that they would swell in size to more than sixteen (16) people, then those newcomers and their friends who invited them should form new Bible study groups. Forming new Bible study groups means that the church is growing.
Once these children attending Sunday school grow into teenagers attending Youth Group aged 12 to 17 years at the start of the calendar year, it is expected that after having attended Bible study groups in Sunday school for three years from the age of 9 to 11 years inclusive, they would have developed an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, when they invite their friends to attend Youth Group with them and to attend the Bible study groups they attend within Youth Group, after having attended Youth Group for a few weeks and shown an interest in continuing attendance, those friends should be invited to attend a Bible study group geared specifically towards newcomers lasting something like seven weeks as described already above. There would be at least one Bible study group geared towards newcomers aged 12 to 14 years at the start of the calendar year and at least one Bible study group geared towards newcomers aged 15 to 17 years at the start of the calendar year.
Because all Bible study groups at Youth Group, segmented into groups for 12 to 14 year olds and groups for 15 to 17 year olds, are held on-site, it may not be necessary for the Youth Group member who invited the newcomer to attend the group geared towards newcomers with them. However, it would certainly be a nice gesture to prevent the newcomer from feeling alienated by being thrust into a group geared towards newcomers in which he or she doesnít know anybody else. I am sure that it would make him or her much more comfortable to be attending this group geared towards newcomers with the Youth Group member who invited him or her to attend Youth Group.
Of course, there are always those dear, brave souls who turn up to church without being invited. They can be identified if they respond to the invitation of the pastoral staff member leading the church service to meet with them at the conclusion of the church service. Everybody knows that the pastoral staff members absolutely love these dear, brave souls who turn up to church without being invited. Theyíll go out of their way to team them up with one or more church members in an existing Bible study group or they can take them under their own wing in a Bible study group geared towards newcomers that they themselves lead.
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