The Bible study leader’s greatest fear: empty seats. Nothing is quite as intimidating as cold folding chairs and uneaten cookies.
Now, maybe you’ve done some half-hearted promotion. “I put a blurb in the bulletin and I hung up a poster on the church bulletin board, so I’ve basically done all I can!”
Let’s be real here for a minute—that kind of promotion doesn’t work so well. I can speak from experience when I say that this passive advertising rarely results in new attendees. Even current members of your study group will gloss over the announcements section in the bulletin and rely on a personal reminder from you, the leader.
Social media adds a whole new twist to your promotional efforts, especially if your group is younger. There’s a temptation to create a Facebook group or event, share it, and think, “My work is done! I’ll just sit back and wait for people to say they’re coming!”
Once again, let’s get real—that kind of promotion doesn’t work so well. An isolated Facebook post is the digital equivalent of the bulletin announcement. People might see it, but they’ll quickly forget about it (if they see it at all).
So what’s the underlying problem with both of these passive forms of promotion? They’re impersonal.
Put yourself in the shoes of a new church member who doesn’t know anyone in your congregation. One Sunday, after she’s been regularly attending for a month or so, she sees an announcement in the bulletin for a new women’s Bible study. It has all the information she needs to attend—location, time, date, and study topic—but she doesn’t attend.
From the outside looking in, you might say, “Well, I gave her all the information she needed! What else do you expect me to do?”
But think about it: she doesn’t know anyone at the study. She probably doesn’t know where room 208 is in your church. Yes, she technically has all the information she needs, but I wouldn’t say the ball is in her court (whoa—did I really just make a sports analogy?). She’s waiting on you.
“Well gee, thanks, Hannah,” you’re probably thinking. “You just gave me 400 words of how not to promote a Bible study. Very helpful. Thank you.” Cue exaggerated eye roll and dramatic sigh.
Did you really think I was going to leave you hanging? Here’s the best piece of advice I can give:
Actually talk to people. (And don’t think that just because you’re not a Millennial you’re not guilty of avoiding this.) Sure, you should remind your longtime friends that Bible study is starting, but don’t forget to invite people who have never attended your Bible study.
This doesn’t have to be some grand, sweeping gesture, like how kids ask each other to the homecoming dance nowadays. A friendly “Hey, I’m Hannah! We’re starting a new Bible study next week, and I’d love if you could come! There’s more information in the bulletin, but here’s my phone number if you have any questions.” goes a long way.
Giving them a personal invitation to contact you makes them more willing to reach out—but you should also follow up. Sending them a reminder text or phone call or Facebook message makes your invitation genuine.
Yes, it’s uncomfortable to approach someone you don’t yet know at church. It requires a fair amount of small talk, maybe an awkward handshake-slash-hug, and a lot of willingness to get over yourself and see the bigger picture.
And the bigger picture is this—that Bible study is not about the numbers. Your goal for Bible study should not be to have every seat filled but rather to have every heart filled. The Holy Spirit will be at work no matter how many people attend, so don’t get bogged down in the numbers.
How do you promote your Bible study? What’s worked? What hasn’t?