20 Ways for Church Ministries to Support Bible Teaching
The most important thing that occurs when churches gather for corporate worship is Bible teaching. Other elements lead up to this time, and our understanding of and obedience to the Word is the result of the cycle of revelation and response of corporate worship.
Communications and other secondary church ministries can creatively support the Sunday morning teaching time in a number of ways. This effort can enhance the effectiveness of the teaching, retention of key themes and principles, and further develop the learner’s knowledge of and obedience to Christ.
1. Suggested reading list online. Some churches have onsite bookstores. Why not create a simple “bookstore” on your website, with links Amazon.com for purchase of books related to the current Bible teaching series? Ask your pastor for suggestions and give people the opportunity to dig deeper into a particular topic. I’ve found a “pastor’s reading list” to be very popular and encourages people to dig into the Word and additional study references.
2. Video interview illustration. Is there a person in your congregation that could illustrate the sermon? Ask the pastor for key points ahead of time, then work to interview a person whose life typifies the principles being taught. For instance, if the sermon is on perseverance, interview someone who went through a bout with a disease, or prayed for years to reach a loved one for Christ. Experience as an illustration is a powerful tool for teaching.
3. Downloadable discussion guide. Take the sermon outline and create a simple discussion guide for small groups. Post it online over the weekend so groups meeting after the morning service can use it to dive deeper into the Word for more study. Be sure to include some application points that individuals can begin to implement in their own lives.
4. Cross-promote related service opportunities. Service is a great way to begin living out what the Word is teaching. Look for specific opportunities within your church that marry well with the sermon material and be sure to promote those in your bulletin or video screen on Sunday. It’s creates a simple first-step for people looking for how to apply what they’ve just heard.
5. Translate teaching into other languages. For nearly 10% of U.S. residents, English is their second language. Work with bilingual members or other volunteers to translate messages into other languages for distribution online or via audio files. I have done this and seen it done, and you cannot imagine the added impact teaching will have locally and globally by taking time to cross the language barrier.
6. Create a take-away printed piece. I’ve done this a few times with great response. If the message is on serving others, for instance, include a business-card sized paper in the bulletin with a blank on it to write in the name of someone the worshiper can commit to serve this week. If there is a key scripture, include a simple bookmark with the scripture on it and encourage worshipers to memorize the verse or use the bookmark in their Bible as a reminder. Simple tools like this help carry the message beyond the worship center.
7. Blog and log. Have a place on your church website where members can respond to a message during the week by posting a note or sending an email. Follow up with these members and capture their testimony on video or in print. Imagine the impact the next week if worshipers can see on the screen or read in the bulletin about someone who applied what they learned the previous week.
8. Lobby kiosks. Set up a booth or table in your lobby for a ministry that relates well to the teaching of the day. If the teaching were on sharing the gospel in your own family, for instance, you might set up a booth about children’s opportunities in your church. This would encourage involvement and interaction with parents and children as a ministry opportunity–a natural extension of that particular message.
9. Free Bibles all the time. Instead of printing all the Bible versus on the sermon outline, provide free Bibles in the lobby at all times. You can get these for less than $2 each. This encourages worshipers to open the Word during the teaching time and become more familiar with its layout, format and language. Encourage guests to keep their Bibles, and encourage everyone to take notes in their Bibles, underline verses, etc.
10. Opportunity links online. Encourage members to get out into their communities and serve in Christ’s name. Listen to the Sunday sermon and think of ways it could be lived out in the community. Then, post links to organizations and opportunities within the surrounding area that members can plug into on your website. Remember, not all opportunities for ministry happen on and around the church campus.
11. Preschool, Children and Student Tie-Ins. Think of ways the next generation can apply the message. It could be a simple memory verse card sent home with children, or a preschool craft that illustrates a principle from the Word contained in the sermon, or a youth activity that gives students and chance to apply the message. These tie-ins help families apply the same teaching across the board at their various levels of learning and application.
12. Create an email follow-up. Send an email to your member email list (you do have one, don’t you?) with application suggestions or service opportunities as a sermon follow up in the middle of the week. This could even be worded from your pastor as a “what next?” themed email that helps people begin living out what they are learning. People generally like to hear from their pastor other than in the pulpit on occasion as well.
13. Suggested music list online. You’ve given book suggestions (#1). You could also suggest worship music that ties in well with the message as online links at your website. This is especially easy with iTunes links, as you can target specific songs instead of albums. If your teaching is on the Holy Spirit, look for songs about the Spirit, for instance.
14. Companion devotional guide. Many people enjoy a book or guide as a help for the daily time in the Word. Produce a daily devotional guide to compliment to sermon teaching series. Many series are 4-6 weeks, which makes a 30-40 day guide perfect. Most churches have individuals who are willing to write this kind of material as a creative ministry–and you could distribute it either as a printed/copied booklet or online as a download or posted pages.
15. Banners, graphics and bulletin shells. This is pretty standard fare for supporting a message series, and I almost didn’t include it in this list. But I have found it can be especially effective if you produce graphics that contain referenced scriptures, or application principles, versus just the title or theme. Sometimes I have positioned graphics on campus to be viewed by people exiting the building as a last reminder of how to apply the days’ teaching. The trick with on-campus graphics is to realize that there’s no need to promote or reinforce the series itself–people are already there to hear it. Instead, focus on how those graphics could add to the take-away.
16. Spritual gifts analysis online. There was a trend back in the late 1980s and early 1990s toward specialization of ministry opportunities–match specific talents to specific needs. The reality turned out to be that this process was only marginally helpful. Still, these online analyses are still great for new believers or the uninvolved as an entry point. Link to a good one from your site, then follow up on those who take the free test, giving them a few opportunities to plug into. This may or may not tag along with your sermon series, but it remains a good medium for connecting individuals to service throughout the year.
17. Small group teaching aids. If you provide small group discussion guides or curriculum integrated with your sermons, consider providing teaching aids as well. This could be a longer-format testimony video, graphics like maps or timelines, scripture reference or memorization cards, or objects for illustration. Don’t think that all communication must be churchwide to be useful. Helping small groups dive deeper into the word by providing communication tools is highly valuable.
18. A scripture foundation for all activities. God’s Word provides clarity and focus. Consider every ministry, activity, teaching series, service project–anything that the church as an organization does, be founded on a particular scripture. Let the scripture and the activity or ministry always be seen together, so that people continually connect the goings-on of the church in the context of God’s Word. Warning: don’t try to “make a scripture fit”. An activity is either in keeping with the Word, or it isn’t.
19. Scripture memory and Bible reading plans. Publish scripture memory versus in print and online that go with weekly teaching/sermons. Always have a Bible reading plan available in print and online that encourages people to systematically study the Word on their own. Don’t let scripture memory be the domain of young children and occasional “sword drills”. Remember, we “hide God’s Word in our hearts” for one reason–so we may speak it to others (Psalm 40:10).
20. Be in the Word. Finally, make sure your personal time in the Word is ample and often. Take time to follow along with where your pastor or teacher is headed if you can. Ideas to support the ministry of the Word often come from our own study of the Bible. Most often I find when I don’t have any ideas for how to support Sunday teaching it is because I have gone a without concentrated time in the Word. There is no substitute for personal time in Bible study and prayer.
Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.