I’m frustrated with our follow up strategies. It worked just fine a few years ago but not so well anymore. I’ll tell you what we do then what the problem is.
We use “A Fresh Start: Following Through on Your Commitment to Christ,” a 30 day devotional by Scott Larson that answers many of the more basic questions of the Christian faith. Each new Christian is connected with a Fresh Start Mentor (an older student) or a Fresh Start Buddy (a friend the same age). They each read Fresh Start’s daily readings and meet together once a week for four weeks. These meetings are for sharing thoughts and insights and questions that came up as they read the devotional. The mentor doesn’t see himself as a teacher, only another student who’s willing to initiate conversation. A buddy is simply someone to share the experience with. I’ve also recorded four short videos on our website, teaching on some basic principles of what it means to be a Christian. They’re not the best recordings. They’re really not even the best moments of teaching. But…you know…it works. It’s all outline here in “Fresh Start.”
At first I would make the individual connections because I knew who the students were that responded to the gospel. There were only about 40-50 kids in the room and I knew who them by name. I would personally connect the new christian with the fresh start mentor. I would personally help make the arrangements through the parents. I would personally coordinate the meeting times and help the students navigate the initial awkwardness of the first encounter. But that was when we were significantly smaller than we are now.
Because of our growth, I no longer know the names of all the kids responding. I can no longer identify who they are when they come forward. We have to rely on students filling out a Salvation Card when they respond … but they don’t always fill out the cards. In fact, out of our most recent response of 13 kids, not a single one filled out a response card. When they do, I have to rely on other people (volunteers, interns, students, etc.) to help make the connections. And, unfortunately, they don’t share the same passion and sense of urgency that I have. They’re not as vigilant or socially creative about making the connections with a mentor or buddy. I’ve even trained students (the fresh start mentors) to be the ones to take the initiative with the new Christians but they will often bail when they are met with awkwardness or resistance.
Our most recent discussion concluded that perhaps we need to change our response strategies again. Next time, I’ll make sure to have all of our small group leaders intently watching for students from their groups or with their students’ friends who respond. Then they’ll approach those students while they are up front or after they’ve raised their hands. We will not wait for students to approach the leader, or fill out a card. But that’s just more training I have to do with the leaders (a training I’m happy and excited to do…but still, one more thing among many to do).
I don’t know…we’ll see.
I have an intern who is taking a 2 credit special topics independent study at college. He’s devoting his work for this course to the topic of a follow-up strategy that fits our current context. I’m pretty excited to work with him on this project and can’t wait to see what we come up with. I’ll be sure to post our findings here this spring.
If I may, I’d like to encourage whoever is reading this blog to do the best they can to share the gospel every chance they get and to really work hard at providing the best possible follow up you can. Your strategies and methods will probably have to change as your group changes but … I’m convinced…that it’s totally worth it.