[I invested a few minutes this afternoon to peruse the topics I've blogged about recently to insure I didn't bore you, dear reader, with a a rehash of anything I might have shared previously. By doing this, it hit me like a ton of bricks... I've not shared my recent "aha!" moments about relational evangelism strategies! Wahoo! OK, it's not quite exciting enough for a "wahoo" but it did make me happy to know I had something new and enlightening to share with you today.]
For many years, I have encouraged my small groups to create and use a "blessing list." This is simply a large piece of paper taped to a wall in the room where we meet, on which is written our initials and the first name of an unchurched friend or relative who lives within an easy driving distance of our group meetings and member's homes.
[Note: I never call them "God's hit list" or "God's top ten most wanted" because words are powerful. We use "blessing list" because when one of the people on the list shows up to group meetings and sees a list with or without their name on it, I want them to know we are asking God to bless the people on the list, not label them in any way or make them feel like a target needing an arrow or bullet through it.]
Our blessing lists have been productive in keeping the names of our friends in our face each week so we can pray for them. However, it's ended there for the most part because the churches I've been involved in are not truly evangelistic nor relational, so asking members to be relationally evangelistic is exponentially more difficult.
This spring, we put up a new, clean blessing list on the wall and I decided to do it totally differently. Here's what we're doing now that's far more effective than anything we've done in the past...
Step One: Put the list on the wall and leave it blank for a couple of weeks. I asked the group members to break up into pairs of 2-3 and pray for God's name for the list, not the person we might put on the list from the top of our heads.
Step Two: I asked the group to break up into 2's and pray for themselves, asking God to give them his eyes and heart for whomever should be put on the list.
Step Three: Everyone put one name on the list, and as they wrote the name, they were to tell the group one very cool thing about their friend's character. I cautioned the group members NOT to tell the group why they needed Jesus so badly... ie, they are a wife beater, like to drink heavily, cuss like a sailor, or have a bad temper... these things are gossip and do nothing to make other members of the group want to get to know them.
Step Four: I asked the group members to share an interest, hobby, or area of expertise that the person on the list possesses. Then, we took time to discuss how we could "overlap" our lives with that person based on one or more of these things.
Step Five: We planned a picnic and invited everyone on the list. Two showed up, and that's a good start in my book. We'll do a lot more fun stuff to connect with folks on the list as a big group through the summer months.
Step Six: As the "outward captain" of my group, I am now visiting with each member to help them plan an activity or meeting with their friend from the list and someone from the group to cross-pollinate relationships between unchurched friends or relatives and group members.
Dave Earley, a wonderful author and pastor, wrote this in 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders:
"First, win them as a friend. Then, win them to your group members as friends. And finally, you will win them to Christ."
Relational evangelism is something that Americans simply do not do naturally. One must take a small group of believers by the hand and walk them into it as a group and as individuals to prove to them that they have a personal mission in life and can and will be powerfully used by God to influence others to Christ.
What relational evangelism strategies are you using that move small group members into missional living? I'd love to hear about them to add to my arsenal :)