Is your church group losing its focus on reaching the lost? Here are seven suggestions from professor Chuck Lawless to help turn your group in an outward direction.

The longer a church small group is in existence, the more likely it is the group will have turned inwardly. They don’t move in that direction on purpose, but it happens. The fellowship is great. The ministry needs among the faithful attenders are many. The group feels comfortable—and seldom do they think intentionally about being outwardly focused. If that’s where your small group is, here are some ways you might turn the group outwardly:

  1. As leaders, set the example. In more than 25 years of studying churches in North America, I’ve never seen a strongly evangelistic, outwardly-focused small group without a leader (or leaders) whose heart beats in that direction. Groups simply follow their leaders in an inward direction. 
  2. Pray Ephesians 6:18-20 and Colossians 4:2-4 for each other. These texts show the apostle Paul’s request that others pray for him to speak the gospel boldly and clearly as God gave opportunity. If Paul needed that kind of prayer support, you and I do, too – and getting your group members to pray intentionally for each other this way can make a difference.
  3. Tell your gospel stories to each other. I’m continually amazed by how many people we worship with and attend small group with but do not know how God saved them. We hang out with them, study the Word with them, sit with them in church, but we’ve never heard their testimony. I’m convinced we will tell our testimony to more non-believers if we first share our stories with one another – so build a brief testimony time into your gatherings. 
  4. Pray for at least one unreached person by name each time your group gathers. Think not only about the people who are present, but give prayerful attention to someone who isn’t there, likely because they don’t know Jesus. If you pray for a different person each time you gather, your group will begin to think beyond themselves. 
  5. Plan at least two annual activities designed particularly to invite non-believers to hang out with your group. Plan the event with that goal in mind. Challenge your group members to identify people they intend to invite. When non-believers hang out with believers in a time of fellowship and fun, outwardly-focused relationships begin to develop – and opportunities to share the gospel may arise.
  6. Have two maps available each time you meet – one of your city, and one of the world – and pray specifically for a part of your city and one nation of the world. The maps themselves say, “The world around us is bigger than we are” and “There are a lot of people to reach.” Help group members think beyond themselves by this outwardly-focused, map-centered praying. 
  7. Be amazed by Jesus. This one may be the most important step to take. Read the Gospels, and here’s what you’ll find: People who are amazed by Jesus talk about Him. Wonder leads to proclamation. On the other hand, we won’t be outwardly focused if we’ve lost our astonishment over Jesus. If you’re leading a small group but Jesus has become so routine to you that you don’t talk about Him to non-believers, I challenge you to confess your heart. Ask God to fill you with wonder again – and then go talk about Him as you lead others in your group to do the same. 

What other steps would you add?

EDITOR’S NOTE — This article first appeared at ChuckLawless.com.