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This might be your most important event in ministry

I often hear people talk about large group events and meetings, but few discuss how their small group Evangelistic Bible Studies (EBS) are going. Yet EBSs may be the most important events in campus ministry. Large group events may be exciting and can often be very helpful for your ministry, but they cannot provide the personalized opportunity you have in an EBS. Building and sustaining a personal ministry boils down to establishing an EBS.

EBS Essentials

An Evangelistic Bible Study is a weekly small group meeting for those who do not know Christ or are very new to Christ. In an EBS, you deliver a clear Gospel message and establish relationships. Unlike a large event where most attendees remain faceless, this setting provides a small, intimate and safe place for people to open up, think aloud, ask questions and find one-on-one guidance.

Before we get into the details, here are four essentials to establishing a successful EBS.

  1. Recruiting is 95% of the EBS — If you’re serious about building a successful EBS, prepare to spend most of your time recruiting. I know recruitment can be uncomfortable (at least it is to me), but it’s essential to building and sustaining effective Evangelistic Bible Studies. We may have excellent content, delicious brownies, and the perfect location. But without recruitment, no one will show up so none of those things matter. If we want successful EBSs, we have to get the people there. Use text reminders, face-to-face invites, knock on doors, and more!
  2. EBSs must be fun — For some reason, we think EBSs need to be formal. Suit, tie, tie tack, cuff links… Ok, not really, but many people think Bible studies have to be serious. But college students love FUN! Make your EBS fun. I take a 1:1 ration of fun to more serious discussion, so my EBS will most likely be about 15 minutes of fun and conversation followed by 15 minutes of discussion of a passage from the Bible.
  3. Keep it simple and focused on the Gospel — Plan your discussion so that it is simple enough for everyone to understand and focused on the Gospel. These are Evangelistic Bible Studies, not leadership studies. Feel free to use one of the studies in our EBS library.
  4. Prepare for follow up — EBSs are an opportunity to introduce Jesus to others, but it’s also an initial step in establishing personal relationships. Immediately after the discussion is concluded, set up a time to meet for lunch or coffee with each of the people attending. Capitalize on what God is doing.

The Who, Where and When of establishing EBSs can have a significant impact. Here are some considerations when setting up the most effective Bible studies.

Who are EBSs for?

An Evangelistic Bible Study is for evangelism, so invite non-Christian students rather than students from your ministry. And find a specific group to target. If you make a Bible study for everyone, it often ends up being for no one. Before beginning your EBS you must determine which area of the campus you want to focus on. Develop relationships with your target and pray God forms you into a family.

Where is the best place to hold EBSs?

Hold EBSs in a non-threatening, centrally located place that is free from distractions. A church can be intimidating, your place is probably too far away, and Buffalo Wild Wings will always be too loud. Consider on-campus locations like study rooms, out-of-the-way lobbies, and dorm facilities. Try to have the Bible study in the dorm room of the person you most want to have there!

When should I schedule ESBs?

One of the benefits of picking a target group is they will likely have similar schedules. Pick a day and time during the week that has the least conflict. But don’t wait for the perfect moment if you’re having trouble. Just get started. After 9 pm is usually open for college students.

If you make a Bible study for everyone, it often ends up being for no one.

Suggestions for Leading EBSs

If you’ve taken care of the basic logistics, the EBS can take care of itself with little more planning. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it better. Here are more suggestions for optimizing EBSs to bring in more people and to bring more people to Christ:

  • Keep it short and manageable — An EBS doesn’t need to last much longer than 30 minutes — 15 minutes of fun, 15 minutes of discussion. You want your group to leave wanting more, not wishing it was over.
  • Create a distinctive name — The words Bible and study are both intimidating and often unattractive words to a college student. The Bible will be there, but it isn’t as dry and long as their previous experiences may have been. It is a study, but it isn’t for a test…well, not really. Find a name that sounds like something college students like doing.
  • Begin EBSs early in the year — When you begin EBS immediately after school starts, you can catch students before they get heavily involved in other activities.
  • Prepare your content — Relationships are the most important part of EBSs, but the content must be carefully planned. Again, these are evangelistic, so make certain the Gospel is spotlighted and challenging to your group. You don’t want to come at them too aggressively, but you don’t want to water it down either.
  • Include everyone — Sometimes Christians can be overzealous and want to answer all of your questions, robbing people of the opportunity to think about the answers.Try to get everyone there engaged in the discussion. Ask questions, make eye contact, call on people for questions with easy answers.
  • Allow wrong answers — Carefully address incorrect information, but remember this is a growing process. Many times it doesn’t matter if someone is wrong, as long as they are seeking.
  • Have fun — College students come to things they enjoy. Make this enjoyable, but don’t be the cheesy youth group either. I’ve seen Bible studies with wood-chopping contests, skinning rabbits, home run derbies and other crazy, fun activities.
  • Bring food — Fun and food may seem shallow. They are. But so are the people we are targeting. Food and fun build relationships. The soil in which conversations about Jesus begin to make sense, is relationships.

Recruitment Strategies

Now that you’re set up, it’s time to go out and bring the people in. Keep in mind, flyers and handbills only do so much. Recruitment isn’t just about getting the information out, it’s about bringing people in. Remember:

  • Relationships are Key — Don’t only view recruits as EBS attendees. This is one of your first contacts with many of the people you are inviting. Have a genuine friendship with them. Even if they don’t come to the first one, it’s more likely they’ll come to a later one.
  • Time Conveys Love — The key to EBS attendance is the amount of time you spend with them outside of the EBS. If you recruit only to have high attendance numbers, they will think of themselves as a faceless number.
  • Personally Invite People — A face-to-face invitation is powerful. First contact should be face-to-face, but make sure you follow up and remind them as the EBS approaches.
  • Communicate Clearly — Let them know what to expect, so there is no unsureness as to what they’re getting themselves into. Tell them the place you will meet, others who will be there and the time it starts and ends. Especially if you’ve limited the ESB to about 30 minutes, students are much more likely to come if they know what to expect.

If we want to have healthy, thriving, multiplying movements on our campuses, we need to major in EBSs! With the personal, relational focus EBSs provide, conversions and follow up are much more likely. Pray God will work in the lives of your friends! Boldly pray for two people from EBS to come to Christ before the end of the semester. With EBSs, and the truth and relationships in them, it can happen!