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Posted on October 7, 2019 8:00 AM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making
if a first-time church guest asked you what Sunday School is all about, what do you think you would say?  Some might say it is about teaching the Bible.  That would only be partially correct.  If it is about Bible teaching alone, then why do we worry about keeping the groups smaller?  Why do we organize the groups by age/grade?  Why do we encourage discussion and participation?  Why worry about caring for one another’s needs in the class?  If it is just about Bible teaching, then why don’t we have one big class with the most qualified teacher teaching it?  Sunday School is a ministry that involves teaching the Bible and reaching new people and caring for the needs of people, but without relationships, the functions of the Sunday School could easily be done in another way.
 
Sunday School allows relationships to grow by spending time with people.  As we spend time with people in the classroom setting, we can learn about the Bible from one another, but in the process,  we learn about each other as well.  If a Sunday School class is deliberate about it, relationships may also grow outside the classroom setting.  By visiting over coffee, at an event or even in someone’s home, we move from casual acquaintances to close friendship just by spending time together.  Sunday School gives us that opportunity.
 
Relationships grow in a place of safety.  In a good Sunday School class, people feel they can express their hurts without out fear that someone will gossip about them.  People can share their struggles without fear of being judged and condemned.  If criticism about the church staff or a church decision flows freely in a classroom, people feel they are in the middle of a conflict and are unlikely to return.  Even emotional political discussions can make people feel they are not in a safe environment.  When we see that Sunday School is built on relationships, we can take the needed steps to create an environment that feels more open and safe.
 
Relationships grow through listening.  God gave us two ears and two eyes and only one mouth.  Perhaps there is a message there for us.  We can listen better when we notice body language with our eyes and listen to what is being said and how it is being communicated.  By focused listening, we can perhaps feel the emotion behind what is being said and be less preoccupied by what we are about to say.  By asking questions about the person’s comments and repeating a paraphrase of what they have shared, we make deeper connections by being better listeners.
 
Relationships grow through motives of love and acts of kindness.  Simply remembering a person’s birthday or anniversary can communicate love.  Knowing a person’s favorite color or empathizing with what they experience in their workplace can communicate love.  Praying for or with someone is an act of love.  Love is meaningless unless it is communicated, so words and acts of kindness are vital for growing deeper in relationships.
 
Relationships can take you in the right direction or the wrong direction.  Teens get caught up in gangs and toxic peer groups because of wrong relationships.  With social media and interactive video games, predators can take advantage of kids longing for a meaningful relationship.  Even adults can be pulled into destructive and unhealthy activities in their quest for stronger relationships.  In the church, we have a powerful relationship tool called the Sunday School.  Like any tool, it can only do its job in the hands of a willing worker. 
Posted on August 5, 2019 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Disciple-making
The Supremes’ lead singer, Diana Ross, pleaded with her man not to leave her and go to another woman.
 
The lyrics of that 1965 hit cried, “Stop! In the name of love before you break my heart. Baby baby, I’m aware of where you go / Each time you leave my door / I watch you walk down the street / Knowing your other love you’ll meet.”
 
That’s how a lot of small group leaders feel when some of their participants begin to miss, look around for something else, and leave. They want to do anything it seems to keep everyone showing up.

But there’s something a bit more insidious lurking in some groups. An associate pastor of a church experimenting with Bible Storying said, “My group won’t do anything. Nothing!”

What’s a small group leader to do? Look carefully at those in your group. What if they stay and never bear fruit for the kingdom, continue living in disobedience to what Scripture commands, and even distract others from joining the group?

I once shut my small group down. After 18 months of no growth, lots of socializing, growing conflicts with the home group schedule, and prayer, my wife and I canceled our group. We simply encouraged them to go to other classes in the church. One couple continues and is very active. A single lady is now engaged to another young man she met in another small group. Another couple bounces from church to church.

It bothered me for months. No spiritual fruit and we were often regressing! We were doing so many things right. But fruit-bearing was getting irritating.

On March 22, 2015, USA Today ran an unusual-for-them article asking “Has the Sun Set on Sunday School?” The article used statistics from research by the Barna Group noting consistent decline in attendance across America. The expectations set for spiritual training in Sunday School were countered by other options ranging from racial divides in an increasingly diverse culture, other fun options, to increasingly sparse family time.

Actually getting someone to attend a small group is amazing in our culture. So, the idea of stopping a small group seems downright drastic. At least it takes thought.

But stop the small group we did and the kingdom of God has been better for it. I’ve invested in the lives of one couple that not only started a new young adult class using orality methods, but the teacher is also starting a Bible Storying group at the jail. And then my wife and I mentored a small group for three months. They are sold-out to start a new work in a Missouri community with no evangelical churches.

Jesus exhibited tough love. Luke 9:57-62 notes that some with good intentions also had their own conditions that prevented them from following Jesus as they should. Jesus would not relent on the conditions to follow Him. Neither should we. Getting buy-in on the front-end seems to be vital. It sets the DNA for the group.

Why was your small group started? What’s its current vision? What progress for making disciple-makers is being made by the participants?

A church planter in Illinois reported to the work group that I was in that he had to stop his small group. They had met for six months with no change, growth, or even sharing their faith. They were a Bible-centric social group that was content to just meet and “do life together.” They were hanging out around the status quo pole. Ouch. Life together with Jesus requires a different set of standards.

Perhaps instead of singing Motown’s lovelorn plea, we need to raise the bar on disciple-making and adopt the title from this country song by Bobby Harden, “All I Want from You (Is Away.)” Let’s keep striving to make disciples that make disciples to the glory of the Lord – and not just cower at the thought of losing someone.

It just might be the right thing to do in the name of Love.
 
--Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association
Posted on May 31, 2019 7:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Disciple-making
To know where a person is on their journey, just ask!
 
Use appropriate discussion questions that help those in the small group you lead.
 
And listen! They could surface some serious issues. Don’t be afraid to raise issues that can lead to meaningful discussion that “goes deep.”
 
DOCTRINE: Through inductive Bible studies that I lead, I use a specific Bible story that conveys the doctrinal truth. I ask specific questions about a belief (salvation by grace) or a practice (baptism). It often helps to revisit the truth later to reinforce it.
 
BELIEFS: Include a time at the beginning of a teaching session when you ask for reports. What happens when they witness or tell Bible stories to others including agnostics, atheists, and the combative? Be sensitive to those who had tough questions asked of them. Ask the group how they would have responded. Ask the person who was facing doubts how they would have answered if asked that question next time. Coach them by offering to go with them to meet their friend who may or may not have gotten an answer, but is still expecting one.
 
SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION: Change is tough for anyone. Reaching a point of vulnerability is important for every witness or class member to share freely about their feelings and even failures at being Christ-like. Being genuine counts.
 
Life has so many distractions. Do you seize them as kingdom opportunities. I recently saw a poster that said, "Keep Calm and Disciple On." How true in today's situations. And, by making disciples, we continue to live out our relationship with Jesus in obedience and love.
 
--Mark Snowden serves as the director of missional leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
Posted on February 7, 2019 9:00 AM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making
Posted on January 15, 2019 8:00 AM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making
A friend of mine once asked a group of pastors, “Other than leading people to Christ and preaching, what is one other thing in ministry that truly excites you?”  When it came my turn to respond, my answer was easy.  For me, one of the most exciting things in ministry is to see normal, average, garden-variety Christians (like me and you) being used of God to do great things for His glory.  As a pastor, it thrills my heart to see God using our people to impact His kingdom, and I can think of no better avenue for doing that than the Sunday School ministry of our church.  In the context of the Sunday School class, teachers and leaders can see lives transformed, marriages restored, relationships reconciled, addictions overcome, leaders sent out, attendance increase and God glorified.  That sounds a whole lot like the book of Acts to me.  It makes my socks want to roll up and down while my heart leaps out of my chest as an ahooga-horn sounds come out of my ears!
 
One of the things that disturb me about many modern church growth philosophies is the subtle message that says, “Leave the real ministry to the professionals.”  Though it is never stated, it is communicated.  When a pastor or church planter presents his plan for reaching people and growing the church it often focuses on the church members inviting all their friends and relatives to come hear him preach and teach.  That smacks of a big ego and does not remotely match up with the idea of “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry” found in Ephesians 4:12.
 
God’s body building plan has a different kind of focus.  He intends for pastor’s and staff members to build up the congregation of believers and to equip them to do ministry so all of us can enjoy the privilege of being used of God in significant ways.  Sunday School ministry is a very practical outlet for God’s people to get involved in real ministry that involves more than licking envelopes and changing rolls of toilet tissue.  You see, we each have a Great Commission responsibility.  Reaching people and discipling people does not require a seminary degree and I think it is wrong to imply such a thing. 
 
Before I answered God’s call into ministry, my first opportunity for service came through my Sunday School class.  I was appointed the task of being the Outreach Leader for our young couples class.  I received a small metal box with a stack of 4 x 6 cards for enrollees and prospects for our class.  God used that experience to shape my life.  I can still remember setting aside a day each week to fast and pray during my lunch break for the growth of our little class of six people.  I would make phone calls each week and encourage people on their birthdays and anniversaries.  We planned a few fellowship times at different homes.  Little by little we saw our group grow and God add people to His kingdom as He blessed the work we did.  Our attendance doubled in a year and it was about ready to triple when Terri and I began to follow God’s calling on our life and moved to Texas.  Our class bought us a new set of tires— maybe it was love or maybe they were making sure we made it out of town, but either way it sure was a blessing!
 
That ministry to that small group of young adults prepared me for greater avenues of ministry and the things I learned then still go with me today.  I was leading a conference not too long ago when a lady came up to share that she was a member of that class.  Of course, I remembered her, but what I didn’t know was how God used a simple birthday card to encourage her in a time of desperation.  As she told me the story, I became all the more convinced of the great value of Sunday School ministry.  Ahooga!  There go those socks, again.
Posted on January 14, 2019 9:00 AM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making
Arthur Flake was one of Sunday School’s great pioneers.  Mr. Flake was a committed lay-leader who had such success in his local church as a Sunday School Director, that he was eventually asked to be a field worker for the Baptist Sunday School Board.  In the early 1900’s, he was asked to move to Nashville to become the head of the Sunday School department there.  Since then, Flake’s Five-Step Formula has been used over 100 years now to inspire churches to use the Sunday School to reach and disciple people for Jesus.  “What are the five steps?”  I'm glad you asked.
 
Flake’s first principle of Sunday School growth is “Know Your Possibilities.”  That is, know who you’re trying to reach so you can go after the people and build your Sunday School.  Every Sunday School class has great, yet sometimes unreached potential.  Some class leaders may think, “We do not have any prospects, or even suspects!”  The truth is you likely have prospects you haven't even considered.
 
Many Sunday School Directors provide a list of prospects to go after.  You will likely also have many people attending church services that are not involved in a Sunday School class.  These can also become key prospects.  You also need to be on the lookout for visitors who might be prospects for your class.  With these names and addresses in your Sunday School records, you will be able to make phone calls, send letters and make visits to these prospects.  View these people as your regular prospects and keep in touch with them and invite them to Sunday School.
 
Flake’s second principle is “Enlarge the Organization.”  Basically, this principle deals with adding new classes on a regular basis.  Sometimes this means starting a new class as a “mission class” formed out of an existing class.  Maybe five or six people feel led to start the class in order to double the potential.  Sometimes a new class can be started after a surge in growth as a part of a new members’ class.  Whatever the method, starting new groups is one key to church growth.
 
The third principle is “Provide Space and Equipment.”  You cannot get 13 eggs in a carton designed for a dozen.  The principle holds for Sunday School classrooms as well.  Before building expensive space, however, churches should consider other options such as providing two Sunday School times or holding classes in the evening or off campus in homes.
 
The fourth principle is “Enlist and Train Workers.”  Most people do not volunteer to teach or work in Sunday School unless they are asked and challenged to do so.  A quick tour of a Sunday School Teacher’s Quarterly is not adequate training, that’s why churches offer annual training events and regular in-service training opportunities throughout the year.  Even McDonald’s requires the grill cooks to go through “Hamburger University” training.  It only makes sense to have training for teaching God’s Book and doing God’s work.
 
The fifth principle is “Go After the People.”  Even in our day of technology, there is nothing like a face to face encounter to let people know you are interested in them.  Every business knows this to be true.  It is why they spend a great deal of money sending sales reps out to meet clients all over the world.  We are involved in the Father’s business of reaching and discipling people.  This too requires some face to face interaction with lost, unreached church members and unchurched people.  Flake’s formula is “old school,” but it still works when churches (and classes) work it.
Posted on December 27, 2018 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Disciple-making
A few years ago, I conducted research in 15 small groups using Bible Storying as their method of disciple-making. When looking through transcripts with leaders and experiencing their work, four themes emerged. These elements became four keys to success among those who were doing it best.
 
The small groups that were growing spiritually and numerically were relational, supportive, transparent, and accountable.
 
Accountability is what needs the most attention. It had to be in the DNA of the group.
 
Obedience and accountability are two major bonding elements in discipleship. How much time and effort does your present small group or Bible study class take to make specific applications and ensure that members put them into practice individually and as a group?
 
What No Place Left teaches in Discovery Bible Studies (and I do in TruthSticks Bible studies) and in my orality workshops leads people to obey the commands and examples in the stories. Obedience is simple to talk about, but not so easy to do. But with orality being so reproducible, those telling Bible truths over and over can't help but witness more and grow more, too.
 
If we know these four keys, why don't we do them? Margie Blanchard, wife of author Ken Blanchard (One Minute Manager, Lead Like Jesus), says, “The gap between knowing and doing is significantly greater than the gap between ignorance and knowledge.”
 
We, as NPL practitioners, need to hold people accountable to what we volunteer to do. We'll never get to church unless discipline is in our discipling.
 
-- Mark Snowden is the Director for Missional Leadership, Cincinnati Area Baptist Association. 
This blog was originally posted in No Place Left Ohio's Facebook page.
Posted on November 1, 2018 10:00 AM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making
Recently we introduced a new mentoring/discipleship plan we developed for our church. This plan uses materials developed by my wife Terri and me over three decades of ministry together. The material is designed as a “launching pad” for mentoring/discipleship relationships.
 
The mentors will have six meetings with a mentee, using the material to guide a discipling relationship that can be adapted to the needs of the participants. I want our Association to be aware of the materials, in case a pastor or church leader would like to begin their own mentoring relationship with a friend, associate or family member or use it in their local church.
 
The plan follows these five basic guidelines:
 
FIVE Inductive Bible studies are used each week that the mentee can do in about 20 minutes as part of his daily Quiet Time with God—these are reviewed in the weekly meeting with the mentor FOUR Basic objectives are involved—to grow closer to God, grow closer to others, be used of God to build and strengthen His kingdom, and help mentees become discipleship-makers 
 
THREE Principles to keep in mind—this is about a process. It involves a transparent mentor/mentee relationship and it requires a flexible, open-ended approach, resulting in mutual growth.
 
TWO Bible verses are committed to memory each week ONE weekly meeting with your discipleship mentee covering the assigned material.
 
If anyone has interest in this, I would like to offer the materials free of charge in a Word document, with the    understanding that it will never be sold.  Email me at pastor@gotofbc.com if you are interested.  If you would like me and a couple of our men to provide a three-hour introduction to this discipling/mentoring plan in your church, please call me at 513-315-7575 and we will work something out.
 
David Frasure is CABA's Disciple-making Ministry Catalyst and he pastors First Baptist, South Lebanon.
Posted on October 15, 2018 10:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Disciple-making
     How people learn is important. How they progress toward belief and action is more important. 

     A white-haired man was introduced to me after preaching. He was starting a church in the next town over, but his comment startled me. “Mark, I appreciated what you said about new believers knowing more lost people. In all my years of ministry, I never thought about training up a new believer to share their faith. And I wanted you to know I’ll be going out with them to share Jesus with their family and friends. I’m headed out right now to start that in my ministry.” You could see the determination in his eyes. It wasn’t too late for him to learn and act.

     There’s a social phenomenon that God instilled in each of us. We respond to innovations that bring change at different rates. When I was studying marketing, I was fascinated by the work of Everett M. Rogers, an Iowa farmer’s kid-turned-scholar. His father was reluctant to use a hybrid corn until a drought proved its worth.

     Rogers identified segments of society that would adopt new ideas and tools. Innovators (2.5%), Early Adopters (13.5%), Early Majority (34%), Late Majority (34%), and Laggards (16%). If you plot this on a graph, it makes a nice bell curve. Those in authority tend to be Laggards while those with the most education and income tend to be Innovators. But Innovators can be fickle although they’ll try practically anything new.

     James F. Engel picked up on this and while teaching at Wheaton College and proposed a numerical scale from -8 (lost) to 0 (conversion) to +3 (discipleship). The Engel Scale provides a way of tracking evangelism-discipleship spiritual progress.

    Jesus was way ahead of Rogers and Engel when He taught in the parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20) that people are like different soils. Each of us interacts with the seeds of the gospel in different ways. The same is true with evangelistic disciple-making. In that parable, Jesus stressed the importance of being like the good soil, receiving the Word, and bearing fruit for the kingdom.

     Southwestern Ohio is saturated in a sensual world that is 3D. It moves and engages them. It provides community experiences, even if it’s avatars interacting online. Most churches in CABA provide evangelism and discipleship that relies totally on “sit and get” methodology. Come to the class. Come hear the preacher. Watch this performance. Are we relegating believers to be spectators? Kyle Idleman was spot-on with his book, Not a Fan. The book is a call to get out of the stands and onto the playing field.

     Different people take more or less time to believe in Christ and eventually act to make a decision. When we share Christ and our faith with those who are lost, they may be closer to a decision than we may expect. Bill Fey who developed Share Jesus Without Fear likes to say that it takes about seven exposures to the gospel message before a person will surrender their heart to Jesus.

     And the same goes for us who are believers. Are we growing in our faith? Are we willing to make significant changes to the glory of God? It’s easy to say, “I’m sticking with what got me here. If I change it’ll destroy my credibility. Those in my church will think I was wrong all this time and I’ll lose my job.”

     Living out the faith is important for others who are watching our lives and how it benefits them. It can’t be done inside church walls and cocooning in our homes. Bringing the lost into our lives requires lifelong learning leading to a verbalization of our faith. As we interact, we watch them grow in their faith until Jesus is Lord. And then seamlessly, we walk with them into newness of life, encouraging them to bear spiritual fruit to the glory of God.

     One of the key aspects of the No Place Left training is smoothly moving from evangelism to studying the Bible. I'd love to see you Nov. 2-3 at the NPL event at New Hope, Loveland, Ohio. It's free for everyone in your church. Here's more details and info on how to register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/no-place-left-cincinnati-touch-3-tickets-49916692170

--Mark Snowden is CABA's director of missional leadership.

Posted on September 20, 2018 10:00 PM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making
   In a conference I attended in the early 80’s, a leader stated, “The world will never hear our concerns about abortion unless they see that we love children the way Jesus loved children.” God really challenged me with that thought. I went home and began to pray, “Lord let me learn to love children the way Jesus loved children.” In the years that followed, God led my wife and me to have four more children in addition to our two. I guess we need to be careful how we pray!
     In all seriousness, I wonder how praying such a prayer would impact pastors and teachers and churches today. Clearly, the Bible is filled with an emphasis on passing our faith along to the next generation. In Deuteronomy 6:6, we are told to teach the truth diligently to our children. Paul’s great prayer for the church in Ephesians 3:20-21 emphasizes God’s desire to see His glory in the church impact generation after generation. 
    Back when Sunday School was first used in churches, the emphasis was on reaching children. How to teach adults was an afterthought. I fear that many churches reverse that thinking today. Some even see
children’s ministry as unnecessary or optional. The absence of young families in many churches attests to the fact that children’s ministry has become an afterthought rather than a priority.
   The true test of our success in discipleship is the ability to carry it on to a new generation. Consider Paul’s challenge to Timothy to pass Bible teaching to “faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
    If the faith is not passed on to a new generation, the church becomes an endangered species! May God burden us and guide us in reaching and discipling a new generation for Christ. The good news is that they are more teachable now than they will ever be!
 
--David Frasure serves as CABA's Disciple-making Catalyst and pastors First Baptist, South Lebanon, Oh.
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