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Home Bible Study Success

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By Tim Massengale

The doorbell rang.  Pastor Mark North glanced outside and saw Vernon Baker’s car parked in front.  Brother Baker had called several hours earlier to see if he could borrow a Search for Truth II chart.

Opening the door, Mark greeted his long time friend.  “Come in, Elder!  Hope you can stay for dinner.  My wife is making her famous Jalapeño Chicken Enchiladas.  She’s got refried beans, guacamole and tortilla chips to go with it.”

Brother Baker sadly shook his head.  “Sounds tempting, but I have to get this Bible study chart back to Brother McMillen.  He has a new study starting tonight and he has asked me to review the lesson with him first.”

Mark nodded.  “I understand.  But I hate for you to rush off.  Can you at least stay for glass of ice tea?”

Brother Baker glanced at his watch.  “Well, I can stay for a bit.  Your wife’s sweet tea does sound good.”

Open Your Home to a HBS

Mark led the way to the kitchen and poured them both a glass and then set the tortilla chips and a fresh bowl of guacamole on the kitchen table.

“I have a question for you about your home Bible study ministry, Elder.”

The elderly gentleman took a long drink.  “Sure!  Glad to help if I can.”

How many home Bible studies (HBS) would you guess you have going right now?”

“No guessing to it.  Brother Carter, my HBS director, gives me a report each month.  At last count we had 43 Bible studies being taught.”

Mark sat back.  “Wow! I’m impressed!”

Elder Baker reached for the bowl of dip.  “Don’t be.  That’s down from our normal number.  Usually we have about sixty going.  So I’m getting ready to launch a HBS promotion to encourage involvement.”

“What would that be?”

“It’s something we do almost every year.  It’s called ‘Open Your Home to a Home Bible Study.’  We divide the church into two teams and appoint a captain over each.  The captains encourage each team member to allow a neighborhood Bible study to be taught in their home.  A group will meet at a team member’s home on a Saturday morning and canvas the neighborhood with flyers.  The flyer invites folks to an evening neighborhood Bible study event with lots of food and fellowship.  The concept is simple:  The team member provides the home and we provide the trained HBS teacher to teach it.  We also encourage the team member to invite all their friends and relatives to come as well.  Sometimes we end up with as many as ten or more in the study.  They will eat and have a few short ice-breakers to start.  Then our trained HBS teacher will get up and show everyone the ‘Search For Truth II’ HBS chart, explaining that with one lesson a week, we will be covering the entire Bible in about twelve weeks.  He encourages all to come faithfully and that a framed graduation certificate will be presented at the conclusion.  However, the lesson that night will be an introductory lesson entitled A Place Prepared For You.  He hands everyone a copy of this powerful one-lesson study.  The study is taught with Power Point slides and it takes about thirty minutes to teach.  It covers the plan of salvation and God’s plan for man.  We encourage the teacher to teach it simply and clearly, pausing often to answer questions.  At the conclusion, all present gather in a circle and pray for one another.  We have had some amazing results – folks getting the Holy Ghost, baptized; plus we start lots of group Bible studies this way.”

“Cool!  But why do you divide into teams?

“We have found that by setting up teams and adding in a friendly competition element, more people agree to open their home to a study.  The team earns five points for each HBS lesson taught and a point for each visitor (age 16 and older) that attends.  The contest lasts for eight weeks with a banquet at the end.  The winning team is honored at the banquet.”

“That’s a great idea!  I’m going to have to try it,” Mark said.  “But my problem is a little different.  I need help encouraging my saints to get involved in the HBS ministry.  Right now we have only six people trained to teach, plus myself.  I think we have three studies going right now.  To be honest, the ministry is struggling.”

HBS Success

Elder Baker nodded.  “It is a challenge to get a good HBS ministry started.  But there are several things you can do that’ll help.  You have appointed a HBS director, right?

“Yes.  If you remember, Dean Foster is my HBS director.

“Tall, skinny guy with glasses?  Yes, I remember him. You will remember from his job description that there are three keys to HBS success in a local church:  promoting, training, and obtaining.”

Mark sighed.  “Hold on, Elder.  Let me get my notepad and pen.  I should have known better.”

Elder Baker chuckled as Mark got up to retrieve his notes, and then continued:  “First is promotion.  You must promote the HBS ministry often.  You have to keep the ministry visible!  This will be one of Bro. Foster’s primary responsibilities.  I give my HBS director about twenty minutes on Sunday night once a month.  We get together and plan what he will be doing.  I don’t want him just getting up and preaching for twenty minutes.  He sometimes has testimonies by students or teachers.  He gives out HBS completion certificates.  He’s done skits.  After every HBS training seminar he has a commissioning service for all the teachers that completed the training.  He uses various promotional methods like “Five-Souls-I’m-Believing-To-Get-A-Home-Bible-Study-With.” Sometimes he does a demonstration HBS lesson for the whole church.  I could go on and on.  Buttons, posters, flyers, bulletin inserts, an awards dinner, a newsletter – we are constantly looking for ways to promote and keep the HBS ministry before the people.  If you like, I can give you a list of all the HBS promotional ideas he has used over the past several years.”

“That would be great!  And you are right, we don’t promote it enough.” Mark said.

“Mark, the best studies are those your saints get with people they know, their family, friends and co-workers.  You have to constantly remind them that HBS is one of the best ways to see people saved.  So the promotion I am talking about is to the church – encouraging them to get involved in HBS and to talk to the people they regularly see and meet.”

“Okay, got it.  Promote it more,” Mark said with a nod.

HBS Training

“Next is training.  If you want your saints to feel comfortable teaching you have to teach them to teach effectively.  We fear what we don’t understand.  And I’m sure you know that public speaking is one of the greatest fears that people have.  Although a Bible study is more a time of sharing and fellowship, until someone has taught one, they see it as public speaking.  You have to teach them how easy it is to teach a HBS and how to be effective in their efforts.”

Mark nodded.  “We’ve done that.  I taught a HBS training seminar last year right after we launched this church growth plan.”

Elder Keller reached for more chips.  “Good, but it’s not good enough.  Mark, since last year you have had, what – fifteen new converts come in? These converts can be your best HBS teachers. Every new convert that comes into my church is taught a HBS by their appointed Care Partner.  As soon as that study is done we ask the convert ‘who do you know that might like a home Bible study?’  We encourage them to ask them, set it up and we provide the teacher. But the new convert assists in this study as it’s taught.  After they have gone through the HBS twice like this, and been taught a Saturday HBS training seminar, they are more than ready to start teaching on their own.  Often my best HBS teachers are my new converts.  They have the zeal and contacts to really win souls.”

“Wow!  I never thought of it like that.  All our new converts are encouraged to complete a HBS, but to then use them to get more studies and to then encourage them to take the HBS training – that’s a great idea!

“Exactly. That’s why we teach a HBS training seminar at least two, sometimes three times a year.  We have new converts coming in all year long.  They should not have to wait a year before knowing how to teach a HBS.  We always encourage our experienced teachers to attend each seminar to encourage and support the new teachers.  It’s a great time of fellowship.  Plus they always have some great stories to share during the sessions.  Then too, we always are encouraging our seasoned saints to get involved in the ministry.  I think at last count we have well over a hundred trained HBS teachers in my church.

“Amazing!  What type of training seminar do you teach?” Mark queried.

“We use the Search for Truth book Explosive Church Growth through Home Bible Study.  It is also in pace format from their ABC curriculum – pace #28. Then we add some material of our own.  We teach about four hours on a Saturday. We start at 10 AM and go to about 2:00 PM and serve lunch between.  And note: We don’t teach the HBS to them lesson by lesson.  We teach them how to teach.  There’s a difference.”

Mark nodded.  “I can see how that would work best.  We taught each lesson on a Monday night over a twelve week period.  We started out with about fifteen students and ended up with five – not very successful.”

Elder Baker agreed.  “The information taught in a HBS is pretty basic. Sort of like a Sunday school lesson.  When you teach Sunday school teachers you don’t teach them the story of Noah.  You teach them how to be effective teachers.  We do the same with HBS.  And we cover it all in a single session.  So if we start with ten students, we end up with ten students.  Then the next Sunday night we call them up, pray for them and commission them to go forth and win souls.  It’s very effective.”

Obtaining HBS

“Okay,” Mark said as he continued to write, “you have covered promoting and training.  Now talk to me about obtaining.”

“Always remember, Mark, your best HBS’s will be those that your teachers get from those they know and meet.  They are based upon relationships.  However, you can also have good success with stranger-teaching-stranger. But they have to work hard to build a relationship during the course of a study.  Never forget, you must win a friend to win a soul.”

“But how can we get more studies for our trained teachers to teach?”

“We use five methods.  First, we get a good number of studies from our visitor follow-up ministry.  Every visitor that comes to my church receives a visit to their home within a week.  While standing on that doorstep, we invite them back to church and ask if them, ‘Have you heard about our home Bible study program?  No?  Let me tell you about it!’  They then explain it briefly – they carry a mini-chart with them to show them how great it is – and ask for a study.  Over ninety percent decline.  But that doesn’t bother us, because we go back to visit them every three to four months.  Each time we ask them if they have thought any more about the HBS we told them about.  What we find is that ‘no’ does not mean ‘no.’ It just means ‘not now.’ Now they may not be interested. But six months from now they may be in a major personal crisis and here we come knocking at their door.  They need God.  We offer a study.  They accept.  Most of our studies we get from visitor follow-up come the third or fourth time we ask them.  It’s almost as if the Lord says, ‘If I know you are going back to see them again, I’ll get them to the place where they need Me and My Word.  You do your part, I’ll do My part!’  We get lots of studies from visitor follow-up.

“The second method we use is the Quest Survey.  This is a door-to-door survey that asks a series of ten questions.  At the end, it asks if they would be interested in a Bible survey course that is totally free and taught in their own home.  So every few months we contact all our trained teachers who are not currently teaching and ask them to meet us on Saturday at the church.  We take them out door knocking with the Quest Survey.  Almost every one of them will come back with a study.  It almost never fails.

“The third method is called ‘Five-Souls-I’m-Believing-To-Get-A-Home-Bible-Study-With.’  It’s a simple method that encourages our people to ask five people they know for a HBS.  Those that get one, we supply the teacher if they feel they can’t teach it themselves.  We just ask that they assist with the study.

“The fourth method is booths at various community events: County fair, art festivals you name it.  If there is a place that people will be gathering and they rent out booth space, we try to be there.  We give away a free family Bible each day.  On the registration form it asks if they would be interested in a HBS.  Each day someone’s name is drawn for the Bible.  But everyone wins the second prize, and guess what that prize is?”

“A free Bible survey course taught right in your own home!” Mark almost shouted.

“Right!  We get studies every time we do this.  The fifth method is our Bus ministry.  Every few months we ask the parents of our bus kids for a study.  We build a friendship with the parents.  Then it’s ‘Joe, when are you going to let me teach you that home Bible study I’ve been telling you about?’  Eventually that bus parent goes though a personal crisis and needs God – and that’s when they say ‘yes.’

Mark sighed and leaned back in his chair.  “I can see why you have so many studies going, Elder, and we have so few.  I’ve got some work do to get my HBS ministry where it needs to be.”

Most Important Element

“Perhaps,” Brother Baker said. “But I’ve neglected perhaps the most important element of home Bible study success.”

“And that is?”

“You.  How many home Bible studies have you taught this year, Mark?”

“Uhhh … well, I taught one earlier this year.  But right now I don’t have one.  It’s something that I’ve been meaning to work on.”

“I understand.  But son, know this truth well: You will never be able to lead people where you have not been willing to go yourself.  The greatest HBS motivator in the church will always be you.  They need to see the people you have won through HBS.  They need to hear you talk about the studies you are teaching.  They need you to be as committed to this ministry as you want them to be.”

Mark stared down at this notes, slowly taping the pen on table.  “You are right, Elder,” He said softly.  “I have not been the example I need to be.”

After a long moment of uncomfortable silence Mark looked up with a hint of a tear in his eye.  “But that’s going to change!  You watch, Elder!  I’m going to become the best home Bible study teacher in my church.  With God’s help, I’m going to become a soul wining machine!”

Elder Baker laughed.  “There you go.  Now, why don’t you go with me back to the church and together we will help Brother McMillen review his first lesson.  And you tell your wife to hold off on those enchiladas until we get back.  If they are half as good as her lasagna, I will have to be extra careful not get any on my forehead.  That would be certain suicide.”

“What?  Why?” Mark looked puzzled.

“Because, if I got some on my forehead, my tongue would beat my brains out trying to get to it!”

Laughing, Mark got up to let his wife know their plans.

From:  The Three Legged Stool by Tim Massengale  2009

 

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