Here are the highlights of the last 2019 Explorer’s Bible Study National Conference held at First Baptist Church in Batesville MS.
by Cynthia Harding
It is a pleasure to be with you all today. I feel so blessed to be a part of the EBS family and what a joy it has been to travel around the country with Mike to visit classes and meet many of you. If we haven’t met yet, I look forward to meeting you and Lord willing visiting your class in the coming years.
You know one thing that was very surprising to Mike and I as we traveled around the country was to see the diverse variety of our classes. We visited over 30 studies this past year and do you know what we have learned? That there are over 30 different ways to conduct EBS! Even though we have a set pattern to follow each class was different and we began to realize that the difference was the teacher and the leadership of the class. The class took on their personality of their leaders and what they thought was important to emphasize. And so Mike ask me to go over some things today that we noticed make for a wonderful class or what we called for today “Best Practices”
You know our goal in Explorers is to help get people in the Word of God on a consistent basis. We can only meet our goal of helping them if people want to return once they visited a class and so we want to do everything possible for them to feel comfortable and loved. When people feel comfortable and loved, they want to participate and they want to return. So, our goal should be a class that is welcoming and loving.
So how do we do that? How do we get our class to feel welcoming and loving to every person who walks in? Well it starts from the top down, and you as the leadership are the top, you have to be the ones who set the example of being welcoming and loving for your class so that your whole class can become welcoming and loving.
So teachers, as the top leaders, let’s start with you. We have noticed that the best teachers are not those who are necessarily the best speakers. The best teachers are those who are authentic and accessible. They know their class and their class knows them and because of that relationship of love they want to hear what their teacher has to say. These teachers are living out Christ in a way that exude love for their class and the joy of the Lord. And that is attractive to everyone. Everyone wants more of that.
So To have that in your class we have some suggestions.
#1 Have a Leaders Discussion Group meeting – I know that it may sound shocking to some but some classes we visited did not have a leader’s discussion group meeting! At all! And one who had it, the teacher did not attend. We can’t emphasis enough the importance of this time. First of all THIS is where the teacher gets to interact in love for their leadership, getting to know them personally, hearing their prayer requests, and building a relationship with your team. I know you probably have a wonderful team but people need continued encouragement and time together for love to grow.
-So a few other things about leader’s group meeting.
A. First you should have one, the teacher should be there, and .
B. You should go over the questions. Discussion group leaders are not meant to have all the answers, none of us do. And so, this is a time for leadership to go over the questions. Helping one another with anything that may be hard or confusing. When we hear what the Holy Spirit has taught other group leaders we can learn so much. Also, when you don’t have this time your discussion groups suffer. We have noticed that when discussion group leaders don’t have a chance in leaders group to share their answers, then they do so too much in their discussion groups and they end up teaching. Everyone needs a chance to share what God has taught them and that time for sharing for the discussion group leader is in leaders group so that when they disperse and go to their different discussion groups they don’t feel the need to talk, they can facilitate as they should and pull their group into discussing their answers that they have.
So, in leader’s group Everyone should get the chance to answers questions, it should be just like a regular discussion group, not going around the circle and making people answer the next question, but the teacher or assistant teacher asking the questions and seeing who is led by the spirit to answer each one. You get much better answers this way, as well as no one is going around the room counting to see what question they are going to have to answer. They can share the ones they are excited about!
C. A big no-no that we saw was in the use of the answer key. Please, please, please do not use the answer key even in your leader’s group. Let the Holy Spirit teach you from God’s word. You might get something totally different, yet Spirit lead from the text. If you use the answer key people want to know what the author had for their answer and will quit interacting and pondering the text. So please, it is best if no one even realizes there is an answer key. Until Mike came on staff at EBS I had no idea there was an answer key, and we had been involved with Explorer’s for about 10 year and that is how we want people to be.
During leaders meeting, you should have a prayer time. You need a system that is quick so that you can have time to go over your questions but we also want to know what is going on in the lives of our leadership. There were many different ways of doing this in the different classes we visited, but remember the prayer requests are to be about what is personally affecting your group members and their families. One way I really liked is that the leaders came in with two index cards. One had their name on it and the word personal and it was for just their personal request for the week, the other had their name and the word group and it had one or two prayer requests from their group. so each leader had two cards when they came in. They were placed in a basket and each person at prayer time picked two cards and they prayed for those two things. It was quick, there wasn’t a need to go over anything, yet everyone heard what was going on in each other’s lives and in the lives of their groups. So find a way that works for you. We want to love our leaders through praying for them but not have it eat up all of our leader group time.
Teachers as you model love for your leaders in leader’s group, giving them a chance to share what is on their hearts, what they have learned in their questions and what their prayer requests are then they can go forth and do the same for their discussion groups.
#2 Class format – You might think what does class format have to do with being loving and welcoming. Well it has a lot to do with it. EBS format is
- Have your leaders meeting
- You have greeters at the door to welcome people as they arrive
- As everyone arrives they go into the large group area wherever that is for you. This is the time for a beginning prayer, announcements, a song if you have one and a short devotion. This time is to get everyone’s hearts ready and also so that everyone is on time for the discussion groups. We don’t want people walking in and out of discussion groups, because it disrupts.
- Next we have our discussion groups and finally
- We end with our lecture.
You might say what’s the big deal if we don’t do that in order? What if we have the lecture first? The problem with that is if the teacher says something in her lecture that a participant had a different answer to, they are not going to share their answer and maybe the Lord wanted them to. So, we don’t want to stunt discussion in that way. The lecture is not the most important things about EBS; it is the frosting on the cake. The most important thing is people in the word of God daily interacting with it, so we don’t want to interfere with that in any way.
Also, we had a few classes where the teacher did the lecture first and then left. We were very discouraged by this and want to strongly discourage this. The teacher is not a cult personality to just shoot their pearls of wisdom and leave. In God’s kingdom the one in charge should be the chief servant. It you leave after the lecture you are saying I am the most important and what you are doing is not. So, the teacher should be there from beginning to end, the teacher should be approachable and there in case their leadership needs them. And if possible, the teacher should visit each discussion group from time to time, to encourage the discussion group leader and to let those in your study get to know you as a person. If you are stand offish or quickly leave you aren’t projecting love. So, each guideline that EBS has is for a reason and is time tested.
Last thing I would like to share is
#3 Business practices-that show love, and welcome people
-Name tags-As Mike and I traveled around the country it was like we were new people at each class and it was very difficult for us when people didn’t wear their name tags. We noticed that groups who have been together a long time did not wear their name tags. This is like saying “We don’t expect anyone new to show up” and is so sad. We need to be continually trying to get new people to come and when they do show up everyone should be prepared. Name tags should be on every person and if you sitting at tables we also recommend names on cards in front of the person. Because when you sit at a table and your names are on lanyards, they slip down under the table and you can’t see them. So, wear your name tags all the time. This is important because name tags say I care about you, I want you in our group and I want you to know me, I want you to know us and that starts with our names.
The next business practice is also about New people and that is
–Your Facility. Does your facility make new people feel comfortable or uncomfortable? Is it attractive or scary is some way? The environment you are in makes an impact. So, try to look at it with new eyes. What does a new person see, when they walk in, when they are sitting there for the first time? Think about your community, what is it like? Could you impact more people if you were not in a church building? If a church building is holding you back, maybe you should pray about and consider a non-church facility.
The next business practice is
-inviting new people- The most loving thing we can do for anyone is share Christ with them and then help them get into the word, so encourage your people to invite continually and be innovative about it. Maybe you can have an open-house as a class and give a prize to the person who brings the most guests. And they can use that when they invite people, they can say, Oh, we are having an open house, just come this one time and check it out, if I bring the most people I can get a prize. We are confident if people try it, they will love it. Or You can use Facebook to invite people, Christian radio, the newspaper or we have invitation cards. Another idea is to say why don’t you come and I’ll buy your book So try to think of different ways to encourage people to come. Encourage your people to invite, Remind them that for every 10 people they ask they will most likely get one, so they need to keep on asking. Tell them to share their story about EBS, tell people what Explorer’s has meant in their life. Personal stories are very powerful.
The fourth business plan is- Plan for the future as a leadership group-Think about young people. How can you get them involved now? Once they are a part of EBS think about how you can get them more involved, how can you be moving them into leadership. We not only need to grow our classes but we need to see that they care on once we are not on this earth.
-And the Last one is- always be building up your leadership team. We have a group that goes on a yearly leadership retreat just to have fun together. You may or not be able to do something so elaborate. That is okay, but think of ways to build your team. Maybe you can do leadership lunches or parties or get togethers in the summer or Maybe you can read a Christian leadership book together and discuss it in leaders meeting. Think about how you as a team can encourage and build one another up so you can go forth and build up others in your study. This will look different for every EBS group and should be Spirit led.
Thank you so much for your time today. Mike and I look forward to our times together and to getting to know you more.