Ken Braddy loves golf, but he has often been disappointed in his scorecard. But by watching the Golf Channel and reading “Golf Digest,” he learned that other measurements are important, too.
“I discovered that ‘fairways in regulation,’ ‘greens in regulation’ and ‘number of putts’ are significant, and tell us about improvement in our game,” said Braddy, director of Sunday School for LifeWay Christian Resources.
“In the same way, we’ve traditionally measured Bible study group success by attendance,” he noted. “This is important because people are important. But my thesis is there’s more to success than attendance.”
Braddy directed a webinar on June 23 entitled “Breakthrough — Creating A New Scorecard for Group Ministry,” also the title of his newest book scheduled for release in mid-August.
In the waning days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Braddy said, LifeWay heard churches report 60–65 percent of their members had returned.
“Now we’re hearing as many at 90 percent,” he said. “This is encouraging, and we need to look at other measures of health as we regroup and go forward.”
Braddy used the acrostic LIFE to explain the four measures of success other than numbers.
“L” represents learn and obey God’s word.
“We believe in all the Bible for all of life, and obedience, according to James, is as important as hearing the word of God,” he said.
The verb “walk” is often used in Scripture to describe a life of obedience, Braddy said. He mentioned eight “signposts” of the Christian walk according to LifeWay Research, including daily engagement with Scripture, seeking God in prayer and worship, denying oneself, sharing Christ and serving God and others.
“Our Bible studies must be well-prepared and engaging,” he noted. “Last-minute preparation does not lead to excellence. I have a post on my website [kenbraddy.com] that explains how 30 minutes a day can fully prepare a teacher for a helpful lesson on Sunday without the scramble of Saturday night!”
Braddy quoted Christian educator Robert Pazmino who said, “Preparation can be viewed as an act of love and as a form of worship that seeks to give glory to God.”
Groups also need apprentices who learn the trade of teaching and prepare to lead groups themselves, Braddy said.
“I call it ‘the churn,’” he said. “This means we lose 10 percent of our people every year through death, relocations [and other issues], so we must constantly look to start new groups. It’s also true that we have what I call the ‘LEGO’ factor. New people find no open relationship connection parts in established groups. New groups are the key since they are welcoming and bring excitement and growth.”
“I” represents invite people to become disciples.
“One measure of discipleship is the focus of our prayers,” Braddy said. “The three kinds of prayers include class and community prayers in which we pray for our group and people we know, but commission prayers mean we pray for the lost.”
Discipleship means following Jesus who ate with “sinners and tax collectors,” Braddy said.
“Disciples make friends and share their faith,” he said. “They initiate gospel conversations.”
LifeWay reported that 71 percent of respondents are open to hear the life story of others, and 69 percent are open to this if it includes faith experiences, Braddy noted.
“F” represents form deeper relationships.
“Jim Putnam in ‘Disciple Shift’ noted that [Jesus’] ‘primary method was life-on-life,’” Braddy said. “We are His disciples when we engage with others in relationships and share the gospel.”
Braddy said connection and content must be balanced in Bible study groups.
“I think we’re probably better with content, but people can find content in many places today,” he said. “The church specializes in connection. We must be organized to care for people and practice biblical hospitality which means treating strangers like friends.”
Braddy said he’s seen “micro-groups” play an important role in successful Bible study, too.
“Two or three same-sex class members form smaller groups for accountability and growth, and this strengthens the larger group,” he noted.
“E” represents engage in acts of service.
“Successful groups encourage members to serve in their churches,” he said. “The Sunday School ministry is the primary pool for volunteers for other ministries. I’ve often suggested that groups aren’t a storehouse but a clearinghouse. Members can share in leadership in the small groups, and they must be encouraged to serve in other ministries, too.”
Braddy said one significant ministry is praying for and supporting the pastor and staff.
“These folk have been ‘beat up’ these past two years,” he said. “They got beat up over COVID-19 masks or no masks and beat up in the last [divisive] election cycle. They need the support of church members to help them as we press forward.”
Braddy has planned 10 webinars for teachers and other workers in the “Training Thru’ 22” series. The seventh webinar will be July 14 and is titled “Six Benefits of Using Ongoing Studies in Your Group.”
Registration is at lifeway.com/training22. The website also has recordings of the previous six webinars.