This small group-based curriculum is designed for teaching new believers and seekers (pre-believers) the fundamental elements of what it means to be a Christian. Click on the links below to go to each of the nine lessons:
Each lesson has these sections:
- Material to help the small group leader or class teacher give a short presentation on the topic of that lesson.
- A verse of Scripture for group members to memorize. This will help them begin learning and using Scripture.
- A passage of Scripture for group Bible study and questions to stimulate discussion.
- Suggestions for how the prayer time in the meeting might be directed. This teaches members to pray with and for others, and to look for answers over the next few weeks.
Setting up groups
- Decide on what sort of group to form: a study group, an inquiry group. Determine how many groups you will need.
- Prayerfully recruit the group leaders. Train them in how to use whatever course material has been chosen, how to lead a small group meeting, how to care for the group pastorally, and how to lead someone to faith. Find out from the leaders what times of day they are available and where the group will be held.
- Publicize the meetings at church and online.
- Ensure that the leaders have met together before the first meeting, both to get to know each other and to plan ahead. If leaders can act as counselors at the end of the event, this gives them a chance to meet prospective group members.
- Make sure the groups start as soon as possible after the evangelistic event. Keep in contact with the leaders, and help with the integration of members into ongoing Bible study groups at the end of the group.
Notes for group leaders
This is a short-term group, lasting for eight or nine weeks, which provides intensive support to help new Christians (and those who are not yet Christians) get rooted in the faith. The aim of the group is to begin the process of “presenting everyone mature in Christ.” It is not a lecture or a debate, but a time of informal learning together in someone’s home. It will vary in membership, in that some will have newly come to faith, others will have re-dedicated themselves, others will be thinking seriously, and others will not be sure why they are there!
The course can be for individual as well as group use. The material seeks to cover major aspects of Christian doctrine and practice. It should be adapted to whatever order would best suit the group.
Groups can meet at any time of day. The length of each meeting will vary. In order to allow members of the group to get to know one another and have time for questions, allow between 2 and 2½ hours.
The setting should be informal and relaxed. A room in someone’s house is best. Church halls are not ideal locations! Somewhere is needed to enable people to relax, feel unthreatened, and able to raise questions on any issue. One room is sufficient to meet in for the first half of the meeting, but if there is another room (e.g., a kitchen or a study), then the group can split in half for the Bible study time if the group is large.
Size of the group
This will depend on the number of leaders available and the demand for the group. Two leaders for a group of six; three or four leaders for a group of ten to 12.
These are not essential, but it does help people to relax on arrival when offered, for example, a cup of coffee or decaf. As the attendees get to know one another, the leaders could prepare a simple meal or arrange a potluck supper.
Bibles are needed, especially at the first meeting. Make sure you have enough of the same version for each person expected (perhaps they could be borrowed from the church). Members should be encouraged to buy a Bible, but it is best not to assume they own one. (Even if they have one, it may be a translation that is difficult to read.) Bible reading notes should also be available, either as a gift from the church or for sale. Have some books available for sale or create a lending library by getting the group leaders to pool their own books. Have short books that answer questions that non-Christians in the group might be asking.
These can be given out each week, preferably at the end of the meeting. These may be helpful to group members if they want to go back to a particular issue on their own.
It is important for the leaders to be able to relate to how a new believer (or an almost-new believer) is thinking, to understand what the problems are, and to be able to be a sympathetic listener and supporter. Leaders do not need to know the answer to every question; one may be more gifted in the teaching role, while another may be better at personal conversation. They need to be themselves (using their different gifts accordingly), to be unshockable, and to be able to encourage group members. People may not have had the experience of running a group for new believers before, but if they have had experience in leading small home groups and therefore know something of the dynamics of encouraging group participation, they can often easily fit into this role.
A group like this takes time — time for meeting and planning with the leaders, time preparing for each meeting, time for the group itself, as well as time with the individuals. Those currently involved in a Bible study group may need to be released from that for the duration of the group. Leaders need to have basic training on how to lead someone to Christ, how to run a small group and how to use the course material.
Each group will have one leader and two or three co-leaders so that each leader can be pastorally responsible for two or three members of the group. Before the group starts:
- Arrange to meet to pray and get to know one another.
- Plan the first evening by sharing the leadership. One will be responsible for hosting (books, coffee), one for teaching, one for Bible study and prayer time.
- Pray for individual group members, for yourselves, and for the group.
- Coordinate with the person setting up the group to get the list of those expected and to work out who will be inviting them.
- Meet weekly during the course to pray and plan.
Distribute the members of the group among the leaders (after the first meeting), and seek to have at least two unhurried times with each one before the course is over. The first meeting time will be to ensure that they understand the way of salvation, to help them with any difficulties, and to help them begin a regular pattern of Bible reading, prayer and church attendance. The second session will be to see where they are going to be incorporated into the life of the church when the group is ended. It needs to enable them to look ahead to some area of ministry and practical service they may become involved in and also to help with any problems.
No leader should have more than three people to look after; it can be very demanding. Friendships can build up within the group, and even when the group is over, members will often come back to their leaders for advice and encouragement.
It is best not to attempt to cover all the aspects of the subject each week, as topics are large. The teaching session should be short —15 minutes maximum — leaving people wanting to know more and allowing time for questions. The goal is to introduce the topics, not to cover them thoroughly.
Try to facilitate a varied meeting each week. It may include worship songs (perhaps recorded music). Allow people to share experiences and talk about difficulties. Have a shared meal or go to a concert or some event once in the course of the group’s life. Be friends.
The course notes are given as suggestions. Change the material according to the needs of the group (e.g., use different Bible passages, or change the order).
To facilitate good discussion in a group, ask questions that require more than a yes/no answer (e.g., What do we mean by this? How does this relate to our lives today? Has anyone experienced this?).
After a discussion, summarize; either have one of the leaders list the main ideas so that all can remember them, or ask one of the group to do so.
The first meeting
This is important. The leaders may know who is expected, but the visitors don’t know what to expect. Aim to make people feel at ease. Have the room ready (drinks or snacks ready, chairs set in circle, books available). Allow ten minutes for informal chatting.
Who is there?
The leaders need to begin to get to know the group. It is a good idea for leaders to introduce themselves, briefly explaining what brought them to Christ, and then asking the others present to say what brings them to the group and what they hope to gain from it. This may take a long time, but it gives valuable information to the leaders. They discover where in their spiritual pilgrimage the people think they are.
This proves helpful in dividing the group up into subgroups for the Bible study part of the evening, where it helps to have a mix of those who are already committed and those who are not yet sure. This needs to be a relaxed time of sharing, and the leader needs to welcome each contribution so that from the outset people get the feeling that anything they want to say is okay. This section may well take up most of the first evening.
This sharing time will probably be followed by a short talk on laying the foundations, or on assurance. Remember not to assume any knowledge of the Bible and try not to use “jargon” phrases that are unfamiliar to the guests.
Some groups will be silent, others not. Questions can form an important part of the meeting, since they can help the leaders see where people are on their spiritual journey. Questions also allow a chance for problems to be aired.
This can occur before the Bible study.
Bible study and prayer time
See that the Bible study groups are small enough to enable everyone to take a full part. This may require subdivision into two groups for this part of the meeting, each under one of the leaders. If necessary, have questions about the Bible passage copied onto separate sheets for the convenience of the group members.
Prayer time is usually best in the smaller groups at first in order to encourage people to pray out loud and for one another.
End of meeting
This is a good time to hand out course notes and Bible reading material. Mention the book table and invite everyone to meet at the “same place, same time” next week.
When the meeting has finished, the leaders will want to debrief, plan next week, and sort out who is pastoring whom.
Visit those who did not attend the first meeting, giving them the notes of the meeting and a warm invitation to the next. Or put a note in the mail, or give them a phone call. In some cultures, a visit is best.
These will be slightly different in that there is no need to have that extended time of sharing at the beginning. Allow a few minutes for catching up on news over the past week, sharing answers to prayer, and having fun together. You may want to go out to a theater, a sports event, or a picnic together later in the week.
At the end of the course
Leaders need to be in touch with the person who set up the group so that the handover to a regular home fellowship group in the church can be smooth. They need to:
- Encourage group members to attend worship services regularly.
- Inform a pastor of their church.
- Encourage members to do some form of service in the church, using the gifts God has given them.
- Keep in contact with members who will need continued love and support even though the group has ended. Write a brief assessment of each person to give to the leader of the small group they are joining, and to the pastor. Although this written assessment should not be shared with the person, do not write anything that you’d be embarrassed to say in front of them. Confidential matters are best communicated verbally, not in writing.
- The biggest danger of “fall out” is between the time the group ends and before the person gets settled in a new set of Christian friendships. Help the person make new friends in the church.
Note: This curriculum has been adapted from Evangelism Through the Local Church by Michael Green.