You’ve got everything laid out: snacks, Bibles, pens, and a welcome sign. You even turn on an inspirational playlist for mood music. Despite these eager preparations, only a few people trickle through the door. The emails, posters, and social media posts didn’t draw a crowd like you’d hoped. I’m guessing you can relate to the sinking feeling of low turnout. But people everywhere are starving for Christian community, and changing your outreach methods can help you connect with them.
I became very familiar with this experience when I started the women’s Bible study on Concordia University Chicago’s campus. Many mornings, I would be stacking up unused chairs and asking myself the same question: Why do people seem so interested but then don’t show up? After a couple of years of experience and growth, I can offer four insights to help you increase and keep involvement in your church community group.
1. Gather Intrigue
Our campus already had a men’s group called “Men ‘N Mugs,” which a friend of mine started. True to its name, this Bible study provides coffee and encourages men to bring mugs and Bibles to the morning gatherings. I modeled my group after the alliteration and allure of breakfast food, titling it “Women & Waffles.” (And yes, we do eat waffles every week!) If your goal is to bring new people into your community of faith, something simple like the mention of coffee can gather interest. Whether it’s waffles at Bible study or movies in the church basement, a lighthearted invitation can spark interest in newcomers.
2. Ask for Advice
Brimming with excitement and what I thought were great ideas, I jumped into this new ministry. Other women seemed excited about the Bible study too, but only a few committed to showing up. Instead of pushing through frustration, I realized I had an untapped resource: Caleb, the leader of “Men N’ Mugs.” For a moment, I thought he wouldn’t want to help, but he was more than willing to talk me through every step. I had already tried sending out a detailed availability survey and asking open-ended questions about the subject of the study. I thought that if I found the right time or the right topic, I could get more people to join the group.
Neither of those things were true.
Caleb told me that he set a time (8:00 a.m.), picked a subject (the Three-Year Lectionary), and stuck to it. Week by week, he let new people know when it would be and reminded members so they would keep coming back. That’s the dynamic of our community. Asking someone in your circle can help you understand your unique community as well.
3. Establish Relationships
Although the waffles are fun, women return to the group because they feel valued. They come back each week for quality time in the Word and quality time with other women. I learned to seek out individuals outside the hour of the Bible study for conversation or a friendly smile. All people of rooted, growing, or new faith still need Christ and your kindness. In any ministry to your community, it’s important to stay grounded with the people who live and work beside you. When you show sincere care for your group, members are more comfortable in your space. God works through these comfortable spaces and warm smiles to share the Gospel. Witnessing and encouragement in faith is not a one-off event but a continual effort.
4. Trust in God
Despite our best efforts, we’re not the ones who bring people to faith or into our faith community. We can only build relationships and continue reaching out. Then we must trust that the Holy Spirit will work in the hearts of those around us.
In 1 Corinthians 3:6–7, Paul writes,
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
Coffee and waffles certainly do not produce saving faith, but God uses us and our faithful efforts through them to bring the Gospel to His people. God works in us through the Means of Grace, growing faith, wrapping us in forgiveness, and drawing us closer to Him.
If you want to strengthen outreach to your community, Connected to Christ: Overcoming Isolation through Community offers a Christ-centered and practical approach. In the book, Pastor Brian Davies establishes that God created us to be in community with one another through Him. As you read, you’ll find stories and advice to help you connect with those around you the way God designed. Find encouragement for your faithful efforts and continue reaching out to your community with the Gospel.
Read Connected to Christ: Overcoming Isolation through Community to learn how to connect with your community.