Tips for Outreach and Evangelism
What This Page Is About
The information provided here is to help those that want to do outreach (like giving Bible studies or knocking on doors) but don't know how to do it or are afraid of sharing with others.
This was originally put together for my church website, so it is focused on Seventh-Day Adventists, but can be helpful and beneficial for anyone that wants to share Jesus with others.
All of the information and tips on this page are just guidelines to be helpful and is not written in stone (everything provided here is from personal experience and study and from certified training). The focus here is more on the lay Bible Worker and not on how to hand out Glow tracks in the Walmart parking lot (although there is nothing wrong with that as a method to share - in fact we should probably be doing more of that as a church). There are many types of evangelism, but the focus here is on house-to-house work, since that is what Ellen White stresses (more on that later).
Everything must be taken in context based on the type of outreach that is being conducted. As Pastor Doug Batchelor says, "Eat the watermelon and spit out the seeds." So take what works for you and for your situation and ignore the rest.
A lot of this information is focused on Bible Workers, but the majority of us are not trained or working in that formal capacity for the church, but we can all do our part in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ as lay Bible Workers! If this information is overwhelming or doesn't apply to your situation, then just go share your testimony!
Total Member Involvement! Everyone can do something to help the church's evangelism efforts (not everyone can be a lay Bible Worker), such as praying for the Bible Workers or those doing some form of outreach. Some people can help financially by directing their offerings to go to evangelism. Others can help with setting up events that are tied to evangelism, such as cooking classes, stop smoking classes, etc. Those events are tied to evangelism and they always require volunteers to set up, execute and clean up afterwards. You can volunteer to hand out flyers for different church events. You can volunteer to be on the different boards that do evangelism like the health fair committee. You can help with keeping the church looking beautiful so that when the Bible Workers invite people to church we can make a good first impression. Speaking of good first impressions, you can volunteer to be a cheerful greeter at church and introduce yourself to the visitors and guests and take care of them. There are many ways to get involved in the church, find something and do it!
Who Am I?
I'm Tom and I retired from the military after 24 years of service with multiple deployments all around the world, but now I work in the audio/visual booth at my church. I also completed a Bible Worker certification program.
The information on this page is from my personal experience going door-to-door, from personal training (books, videos), and from my certification training at Southern Adventist University through the SALT program (SALT stands for Soul-winning And Leadership Training).
I am by no means an expert and I definitely don't know everything, but I just wanted to share some of what I have learned to help others in the church. I tried to highlight all the personal stories in this color if you want to just skip ahead and read the stories.
Also, this is really only the basics (most of it is just common sense stuff) and I will try to avoid adding topics like upkeeping and managing contact databases, maintaining the church calendar tied to the evangelism cycle and other official Bible Worker details out of this page.
Ellen White Counsel
Here are some Ellen G White quotes to get you fired up about doing evangelism and sharing your testimony with others.
"Money lent or given will not accomplish it. Sermons will not do it. By visiting the people, talking, praying, sympathizing with them, you will win hearts. This is the highest missionary work that you can do. To do it, you will need resolute, persevering faith, unwearying patience, and a deep love for souls." 9T 41.2
Who Should Do Evangelism?
"All heaven is looking with intense interest upon the church, to see what her individual members are doing to enlighten those who are in darkness." Christian Service, p. 89.
"Wherever a church is established, all the members should engage actively in missionary work. They should visit every family in the neighborhood, and know their spiritual condition." Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 296.
"Every member should be a channel through which God can communicate to the world the treasures of His grace, the unsearchable riches of Christ." The Acts of the Apostles, p. 600.
"There is not one inactive in heaven, and no one will enter the mansions of bliss who has failed to show love for Christ, who has not put forth no efforts for the salvation of others." TM 207.2
"The living church of God will be waiting, watching, and working. None are to stand in a neutral position. All are to represent Christ in active, earnest effort to save perishing souls." TM 163
Can Anyone Do Evangelism?
"The Lord imparts a fitness for the work to every man and woman who will co-operate with divine power. All the requisite talent, courage, perseverance, faith, and tact will come as they put the armor on." Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 333.
"The enemy of truth and righteousness ever stands ready to hinder the worker for God, and one of his principal weapons is the excuse, 'I am not qualified.' Just so long as he can bind the child of God by the cords of procrastination or excuse, his purpose to thwart God's plans will be met." Christian Service, p. 9.
"God will not permit this precious work for Him to go unrewarded. He will crown with success every humble effort made in His name." Gospel Workers, p. 192.
What Type of Evangelism Should The Church Focus On?
"How can the great work of the third angel's message be accomplished? It must be largely accomplished by persevering, individual effort, by visiting the people in their homes." Historical Sketches, p. 150.
"It is not preaching that is the most important; it is house-to-house work, reasoning from the Word, explaining the Word. It is those workers who follow the methods that Christ followed who will win souls for their hire." GW 468.1
"This house-to-house labor, searching for souls, hunting for the lost sheep, is the most essential work that can be done." Letter 137, 1898.
Why Do Training?
"In every church the members should be so trained that they will devote time to the winning of souls to Christ. How can it be said of the church, 'Ye are the light of the world,' unless the members of the church are actually imparting light? Let those who have charge of the flock of Christ awake to their duty and set many souls to work." 6T 436.2
"We must not enter into the Lord's work haphazard and expect success...Jesus calls for co-workers, not blunderers..." Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 67.
"The lay Bible instructor should therefore study continuously, and be able to give a convincing Bible answer, with meekness and fear." TLB
3 Principles of Bible Studies
1. Present Jesus - It's all about Jesus (God's love for us). Remember that knowledge does not equate to salvation! Someone with a PhD in Theology can still be in a lost condition.
"...there is to be one central theme, and that theme is Christ and Him crucified as the foundation of the gospel." Gospel Workers, p. 158.
"Uplift Jesus as the center of all hope." Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 62.
"Christ is the center of all true doctrine." Counsels to Teachers, p. 453.
2. Reveal truth gradually. Don't overwhelm the student.
Proverbs 4:18, "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Truth is revealed like a dimmer switch (gradually). God did not share all truth with Ellen White at the beginning of her ministry. Truths were revealed to her gradually and she shared those as they became known to her (an example would be the health message).
3. Make appeals for a decision. Each study should end with an appeal for a decision because each study in a series (like the Amazing Facts study guides or the It Is Written study guides) builds upon the previous study. Start with small decisions which will build to the larger decisions later on in the process. It is important to get the student comfortable making those small decisions before getting to the big decisions like the Sabbath.
Types of Bible Studies
There are many different ways to give Bible studies, here are a few.
1. In Home Study Guide Review Method. This is where you drop off the study guide, give them a week to study on their own, and then you return to review the main points with them and answer any questions they might have. This type is usually conducted inside the home or on the porch, but can also be in a neutral location.
The Bible Worker usually focuses on three main points (only one point is from the guide and at least one of the three points must focus on Jesus). This is only a review and lasts no longer than an hour, including the greeting and prayer (more on that later).
2. Full Study Method. This is where you give an overview similar to the In Home Study Guide Review Method, but the student does not receive the study guide until after the study is completed. The student is then encouraged to continue their own research and study on the topic until the next study session.
3. Study Guide Method. This is only done if they request this method. This is where the Bible Worker and student go through the guide at the same time taking turns reading (if possible) and looking up Bible verses. This method can be used if the student has problems reading (can't read or bad eyesight). This method can also be used for the student that didn't complete the guide on their own (if it was dropped off earlier) and the Bible Worker can show them how to go through the guide and look up verses. Sometimes the student is so unfamiliar with the Bible that they don't know how to look up verses to answer the questions in the guide.
4. Topical/Situational Method. These can be 'on the fly' or ad hoc type Bible studies where the student has a serious question (which does not correspond with the topic that was going to be shared) or the student has a family or personal crisis and giving a Bible study wouldn't be appropriate.
For example, my Bible Worker partner and I knocked on a door of a person that had requested Bible studies through It Is Written (and IIW sent us to give those Bible studies). When the prospective student opened the door (a woman in her 50s), she was crying and informed us that her son was in the hospital and that she was leaving to see him. Of course we didn't give a Bible study, but we prayed with her and let her go on her way. We returned a few days later to find out her son had passed away in the hospital and she was obviously distraught and crying when we arrived. Again, it wasn't the right time to give the first Bible study on Daniel chapter 2 (the Nebuchadnezzar dream), because it would have been inappropriate and awkward and she was obviously not in the mood to concentrate on a study. So we prayed with her and gave her some Bible verses in an attempt to comfort her. We also found out she was very sickly and on a lot of medications. She became a regular student of ours, but we never gave her an actual Bible study using a study guide. We did ad hoc, topical studies (very short) because there was a short window we could show up and speak to her before she took her cocktail of drugs and was "out of it". Instead of a formal Bible study student, she became a part of our friendship evangelism efforts and we visited her at least weekly. We ended up buying her a wheelchair, fixed her walker, mowed her lawn and of course invited her to church. Long story short, she ended up going to church every Sabbath. We told her that God sent us at the right moment to comfort her in her time of need and she ended up calling us her sons and that she loved us and she kept a picture of the two of us on top of her TV.
Anyways, sometimes the scheduled Bible study topic just won't fit or be the right time. All lay Bible Workers must be flexible and patient. Adjust to the circumstances and don't be too rigid.
There was another time that we stopped by to visit the lady whose son had passed away, and she had fallen and was laying on the floor when we arrived. We helped her up and took her to her bedroom to put her in bed. We walked in and found dog poop on the corner of the bed! As she was getting in the bed, she flipped the corner of the comforter to cover the poop. I tried finding something to clean it up for her but there wasn't anything in the small apartment to use (she was extremely poor and we ended up buying her groceries and house cleaning supplies in the future). The apartment was filthy. The carpet was so filthy and had so many bugs crawling on it that it looked like the carpet was moving (sort of like ripples in water)! There were roaches everywhere, on the floor, on the walls, and on everything in the apartment. The apartment also smelled like an ashtray and whenever we left her place our clothes would smell like cigarettes. We always tried to visit her last in the day, so our other students wouldn't smell the smoke residue on us. Previously we had bought her a Bible with large lettering because she only had one eye (her left eye was a glass eye). My partner helped her into bed and then grabbed her Bible to give her a few Bible verses as a quick topical/situational Bible study. We wanted to at least give her something spiritual to think about before we left. As he opened the Bible, roaches were crawling all over the Bible and started to crawl on his hand and a short way up his arm. He didn't freak out, but just continued to read Bible verses to her and to speak to her in a calm and loving voice. That is another reason to have a partner because I don't know if I could have done that myself (I hate bugs - especially roaches!). We always had to be flexible with her and her situation (her living conditions, her health and her finances). As mentioned above, we never were able to give her an actual Bible study, but we had long conversations with her about God and His love and she did start going to church every Sabbath. About a year and a half later she passed away from all of her health issues.
5. Drop Off Method. This method is used for those prospective students that are uncomfortable having Bible Workers in their home, or work odd hours and are hardly ever at home. The Bible Worker will drop off the study guide and then return the next week to answer any questions they might have (if they're even there) and then drop off the next study guide.
In this method, the Bible Worker doesn't actually give any Bible studies! So for those that say they can't give Bible studies, this is the method for you. This method does work.
My Bible Worker partner and I had one drop off student that ended up attending the church's evangelism series and other church events at two different SDA churches. This was only through dropping off the guides and answering questions. He actually hardly ever had any questions so we just stood at his door (when he was there) and talked about life and religious topics. This is a good example of friendship evangelism as well. When we first started dropping off the guides he would barely open the door, but a few weeks later he would come out onto the apartment staircase landing and spend sometimes up to an hour just talking with us. Once we became friends it was easy inviting him to one of our church events and he accepted.
6. Bible Study Quiz Method. I heard of this method from the conference evangelist that visited our church recently. This method can only be used with study guides that have quizzes in the back, such as the Amazing Facts study guides (the It Is Written study guides do not have quizzes). In this method you review the questions at the back of the study guide with the student, assuming you dropped off the guide the week before and that they actually went through the guide by themselves. The last quiz question is usually the appeal. If the last question is not, then make sure you end with an appeal of some sort.
We need to prepare ourselves before going out to do door-to-door evangelism, but don't use this as an excuse not to go! Whether you know a little or a lot, you can share what you got.
1. Personal revival - Prayer. It's much more difficult to share Jesus if you don't have a personal relationship with Jesus yourself. So make sure you're spending time studying the Word of God and praying on a daily basis. Always pray before going to give a Bible study, because sometimes you may be walking onto Satan's ground, so prepare yourself and ask God for protection.
2. Know your Bible - Study. At a minimum you can always share your testimony (how you came to know Christ as your Savior). Share what you were like before Christ, what happened when you found Christ and how Jesus has affected your life since. Even new Christians that may not know much about the Bible can share their personal testimony. Here is an easy way to remember the format for a personal testimony.
A. BC = Before Christ (shortest portion)
B. FC = Found Christ
C. SC = Since Christ (longest portion)
D Text = Bible Verse (important)
With that said, if you're not a "baby" Christian, then you should know the basics (this list is specifically for Seventh-Day Adventists).
A. The 28 fundamental beliefs (major doctrines) of the church.
B. You should be able to explain the major time prophecies (490, 1260 and 2300).
C. The Three Angel's Messages of Revelation 14. Our church is to proclaim these messages, so what does that mean?
D. You should know the timeline of end time events.
E. The differences between the true and false gospels. For instance, the nature of Christ, sin as nature or choice, righteousness by faith, and biblical perfection. Elder Dennis Priebe is a good source for this type of training. He has a YouTube channel and a website, www.dennispriebe.com. His book, 'Face to Face with the Real Gospel' is a great book and in my opinion it should be required reading for all Adventists. The good thing is that it's only $5.
3. Be familiar with other denominations and their popular beliefs (not in depth - just an overview), so you can counter those arguments/false beliefs. Our time is valuable - focus on those seeking truth (those strongly committed to another religious organization are not our best prospects). For example, with Catholics, it is best to kneel while praying and refer to the apostles as "Saint Peter, Saint John", etc., and refer to the Bible as the Holy Scriptures. Knowing a little about other denominations can be helpful in avoiding roadblocks. A great resource for this is a small book by Pastor Mark Finley called, 'Studying Together, A Ready-reference Bible Handbook'. This small book has over 200 short Bible studies with verses on a variety of topics and there is a large section at the back of the book that deals with understanding other denominations.
4. Study the topic you're going to teach! "If you take upon you the sacred responsibility of teaching others, you take upon you the duty of going to the bottom of every subject you seek to teach." Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 31. This statement is made about preparing to teach Sabbath School but it applies to teaching in general. We must be prepared.
5. Know Answers to Common Questions. As an Adventist, you should know the answers to the most common questions for each topic you're going to teach. For instance, if you're teaching on the subject of the Sabbath, then you should know the answer to 'How do we know Saturday is the Sabbath?'. Or if you're teaching on the subject of death and they ask, 'What about the thief on the cross, didn't he go straight to heaven that day?'. A great resource for this is a book by Joe Crews called, 'Answers to Difficult Bible Texts' and it is full of the answers to common questions. I suggest going through the entire book and annotating your Bible with the answers and Bible text references, so you don't have to pull out the book during the study. The answers are already in your Bible! That's a good tip by the way, every time I hear an answer to a common Bible question, I make sure to annotate that in my Bible.
Prepare Your Gear
In addition to preparing yourself, you should gather the necessary tools and equipment needed to be an effective Bible Worker.
1. Take your Bible! If possible, carry an extra Bible for those that might not have one. You can pick up very cheap Bibles in those dollar stores and keep them in your car for when needed. Some people that want Bible studies don't own a Bible, so it's always good to have an extra one with you. Or you may have an unexpected participant (a family member or friend stops by) that needs a Bible. Of course, now days you also have the option of having the student download the Bible app.
2. Phone. This is not only for emergencies, for checking time, but can also be used to look up answers. The Bible app is very useful for looking up verses with just a key word.
3. Water. Bring your own water and for safety reasons, don't drink or eat anything that is offered (within reason).
4. Notebook and something to write with. You may need to take a note during the study, but this is really for after the study when you need to write down everything you learned about your student. For instance, are they struggling with an illness, do they have a close family member that is sick, what is the name of their children and pets? You need to review this notebook before each Bible study and include elements in your opening or closing prayer. This will show the student that you listen and that you care about them. Note: Always wait until you're out of sight of the student before writing all your notes about them. Official Bible Workers will also take these notes back to the church, fill out a contact form and give it to the church's lead Bible Worker to be inputted into the evangelism database.
5. Study guides. You should have a lot of the first study guide if your going door-to-door (cold knocking), because you'll be handing a lot of those out. If you're going to specifically give a Bible study, then you should take three or four copies. One for you (already filled out with the correct answers), one for your partner (because we go in pairs - more on that later), one for the student (if they don't already have one) and maybe an extra one for an unexpected participant. You should also have one or two of the next study guide as well, to hand out before you leave.
6. Map. The map is to keep track of your assigned area (if you have one) and to track where you've been and when you were there last. If a church has many lay Bible Workers going out each week, then the lead Bible Worker should assign areas to all of the pairs to avoid overlapping. Nothing is more frustrating to a home owner than having two different pairs show up saying the exact same thing and they've already turned down the first pair.
7. Backpack or other type of bag. You'll need to carry your Bible, water, notebook, etc. Try not to dress like other denominations when doing outreach, white shirt with a tie, wearing a backpack and riding a bicycle. Dress casual, but appropriately. Also, use the smallest bag possible, try not to look like you're going on a weeklong camping trip! If you have your car with you, then take only what you need to the door and leave everything else in the car.
8. Optional items. Believe it or not, a lawn chair in the car came in handy many times. There are a lot of people that want Bible studies, but they don't necessarily want people to go inside their homes for whatever reason (don't want to show dirty home), so offering to do them on the porch or patio is always a good option. If they don't have enough chairs, no problem, you have a small lawn chair in your car! This is also a good option because the distractions will remain inside (TV, radio, other people living in the house, pets, kids). Another optional item are breath mints, we don't want to kill the student with our breath.
9. Current church member. It might be a good idea to take a current church member who was a member of the denomination of your student. For example, you meet someone that wants Bible studies and find out they're Catholic. The next time you show up bring a church member that used to be a Catholic. This church member will understand the roadblocks the student may have in accepting the truths that are being given.
10. A mini-projector. This is very optional and is only for special circumstances. It may be a good option if it turns out your student invited all of their friends and family members to attend the study and the house is full of people. When you have a large group it is harder to connect on an individual and personal manner, so maybe a projector in this scenario would be a good way to get a lot of information out in a short amount of time to as many eyes as possible.
Knocking On Doors
Here are some general rules for knocking on doors or cold knocking (where you are just going street to street and knocking on doors where the occupants were not expecting you).
1. Stand where they can see both of you through the peep hole or side window and when they first open the door. Stand where they can see you as soon as the door opens, don't make them stick their head way out and look around the door.
2. The Bible Worker partner should stand slightly to the rear and to the side of the one knocking on the door, so both of them remain visible to the person opening the door.
3. Smile (look friendly). In the certification program we were not allowed to have any facial hair to obscure our smile and to not look mean or gruff in any way. Basically, try to avoid the appearance of evil, so don't wear clothes that might imply that you're a criminal or "bad" person, such as biker gear, or have a hoodie pulled up over your head and turned away from the door so they can't see your face, etc. We weren't even allowed to wear shorts or jeans, we had to wear khakis or other types of pants and we had to wear a shirt with a collar (no t-shirts).
4. Obey signs. If there is a no trespassing sign or some similar type of sign, then don't knock or enter their property.
5. Knock loudly if there isn't a door bell available, but don't sound like the police! Don't bang on the door!
6. Don't trust anyone! Everyone is a potential Bible study student, but don't drop your guard, especially in today's world of crime and evil. Be friendly and courteous, but don't lose sight of safety. As we used to say in the military, Mission First, Safety Always!
What Do I Say?
So a common question or fear about knocking on doors is 'what do I say?'. The most common method used is the community survey. A community survey is a great pretense for knocking on someone's door because you're there to get answers to a survey to find out what the community wants or needs. Once the church collects all of the surveys and analyzes all of the responses, then the church can decide what to do next (if there isn't already an event scheduled). For instance, if the overwhelming majority in the community say they want cooking classes, then that should be placed on the church calendar and planning can begin to hold that event.
Here is a typical door approach canvass:
Hi, my name is __________ and this is my friend __________. We're from the Baytown-LaPorte church on North Pruett street and we're doing a short community survey here in the area. It's only a few questions. You have a moment to take the survey?
<Hopefully they respond that they do want to take the survey>
<Go through the survey and collect their contact information if they respond positively to any of the suggested classes on the survey. The last question deals with studying the Bible>
<If YES to studying the Bible>
For those who are interested in studying the Bible, we have this one here <put the study guide in their hand>. This study guide goes over many commonly asked questions about the Bible. Such as is God truly in control? What does the future hold and can we face it with confidence? And how can I know for certain that the promises found in the Bible are true and for me? It's very simple to follow. The questions show the chapter and verse from the Bible where the answer is found. Would you like to try out this first Bible study guide?
Great! We're leaving the Bible study with you today. Once you have finished the study guide on your own, we'll come back to answer any questions you may have, do a quick review, and give you the next study guide. When is a good time for us to come back?
<If NO to studying the Bible, respond with an upcoming church event. The example below is for Dinner With The Doctor, but it can be a stop smoking class or a cooking class or whatever the church is doing next>
There is a free health seminar that is coming up called Dinner With The Doctor. You will enjoy a free delicious meal while the doctor presents practical tips for healthy living. Would you like to be notified when this event takes place?
Here is a typical survey (I have about 10 in my personal files):
1. Does someone you know (friends, family) suffer from diabetes, cancer, or heart disease?
<If Yes> Would you be interested in a free seminar with information on how to stop, reverse, or prevent it?
2. Does someone you know struggle with Depression?
<If Yes> Would you be interested in a drug-free Depression Recovery class that could give you tools on how to reverse and stop it permanently?
3. Would you be interested in a free or low cost healthy cooking class?
4. With the recent downturn in the economy, do you think that a free seminar on finance (how to make a budget/save money/shop wisely) would benefit the community?
It has been discovered scientifically that physical, mental, and spiritual health are strongly related to each other. The final few questions deal with this.
5. With the rise in war, crime, natural disasters and other problems, many people believe that the final prophecies in the book of Revelation are taking place now. Do you think this could be true? (or what do you think?)
6. Have you ever wondered if the Bible has relevant information for you today?
7. If you had the opportunity, would you consider studying the prophecies of the Bible?
<Collect their contact information, Name, Address, phone number and if possible their email address. Tell them this is to notify them of the upcoming events that they were interested in. You can also ask them what classes they would like to see in the community (not mentioned above).>
Just memorize the canvass and read the survey! Try to memorize the canvass exactly as it is written (because there are some methods in the canvass to gain yes answers), but don't fret if you don't get it out exactly as written. You should try to memorize it as best you can before going out so you don't sound like a robot spewing out a memorized paragraph. This should only take about a day and a half, so don't use this as an excuse to not go knocking on doors.
1. Prepare for lots of rejection (it's part of the job). I've knocked on many, many doors and the majority do not want Bible studies, but that's ok. We are fishers of men (and women) and sometimes the fish aren't biting! Just keep fishing and eventually your day will come.
2. Not a lot of anger. My Bible Worker partner and I never met anyone that was truly angry or yelled at us. We would occasionally meet someone that seemed annoyed and were short with us but they were never angry or a threat to us. That situation is very rare, especially if you are familiar with your neighborhood, aware of your surroundings and obeying no trespassing or no soliciting signs. We received a lot of negative responses, but never confrontational responses.
We actually met someone that told us he was an atheist and we ended up having a very long and pleasant conversation with him. Of course, he turned down the Bible study offer, but agreed to the survey and was interested in some of the church events.
3. Refuse to open. Many people will just refuse to open their doors when you knock or ring the doorbell. I've even heard people inside and seen them look through their curtains and still not open the door.
This actually happens more often on the second visit. A lot of people will agree to Bible studies just to be polite or they don't want to say no to your face. Then, when you show up the second time, they are home but refuse to open the door. We've had people look through the window (we saw them push the curtains or blinds to the side to look out), see us and then not answer the door. We knew they were home because all the cars were in the driveway!
4. Stay positive, but don't get overly happy. Many people will be courteous and accept Bible studies, but the majority of them are just being polite. Out of maybe 100 doors you'll have around 20 interested in Bible studies and out of those maybe only one will actually turn out to be a Bible study student that follows through.
We had one fellow use his kids to speak to us (through the closed door) and tell us the dad was in the shower. We could hear the dad telling the kids what to say! We went back to that house three times and all three times the same thing happened. We finally shook the dust off our feet and moved on to other people. We gave him three chances because he seemed very interested when we first met him and we had a great conversation and he agreed to Bible studies.
5. Although you're getting a lot of rejection or negative answers to Bible studies, you're still planting seeds by giving them a tract or flyer for an upcoming church event, or a magazine or something else. They may turn down the Bible study, but read, listen or watch the item that you gave them. Or they may actually show up to the church event, like a class on losing weight or a cooking class or a stop smoking class and they enjoy the church and its members and then decide to attend on Sabbath morning. So stay positive.
Also, maybe the person you were speaking to wasn't the real target that God had in mind. We knocked on a door and a young lady (maybe in her mid to late 20s) answered the door in a bikini! She asked us to go around to the back of the house where the pool was located to talk to her because her little boy was there playing. We walked around to the the back and she climbed into the above ground pool and put her arms on the side to talk to us. We gave her the canvass and she was very interested in Bible studies and she even became emotional and excited about the prospect of studying the Bible. She told us that the house was her boyfriends, so she asked if we could do the study at her aunt's house instead. Of course, we agreed. We got all of her information (including her aunt's address) and left. That was the last time we ever saw or heard from her. We tried her phone number over and over but she never answered. We left messages with our contact information but she never contacted us. We even sent her an email but she didn't reply. We ended up going to her aunt's house to try to find her and ended up giving Bible studies to her aunt and the aunt's friend. They ended up going to the church's evangelistic series and agreed to be baptized. We later found out that the young lady was homeless, possibly had a drug addiction and was living in a shelter with her kid and wasn't actually related to the "aunt". She had grown up knowing her and just called her "aunt". Maybe God did send us to that door to give the young lady another opportunity to know Him, but she turned it down and God used that incident to bring two others into the church. By the way, the two ladies were way outside of our area of responsibility and it was quite a drive to get to their home so we would never have met them otherwise.
Structure of A Bible Study
This is an outline of a typical Bible study and it applies to all of the Bible study methods for the most part. All times are approximate and vary depending on the situation.
10 minutes - develop friendship/social time.
30-40 minutes - always starts with a short prayer. Give the study, answer questions.
5 minutes - appeal. Give an appeal for a decision, no matter how big or small (they all build on one another).
5 minutes - say goodbye, confirm next meeting, give the next study guide, pray and the LEAVE. Don't hang out afterwards.
Total: 60 minutes or less - be in demand, not demanding!
Ask about their week, their hopes, dreams, sorrows, etc. Don't be too pushy or invasive at the beginning until a friendship has been developed. End the social time with a short prayer to transition to the Bible study time.
Remember eye contact, appropriate touch (if required), and focused attention.
Use FORD, FORT or LOVE, which ever one works best for you to remember.
FORD stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams.
FORT stands for Family, Occupation, Religion, Testimony.
LOVE stands for Location, Occupation, Vacation, Experience (with God).
Giving The Study
1. Use Bible verses and not Ellen White or other sources. About ten to eighteen texts, well chosen and right to the point, are usually sufficient (TLB). You may not use all the texts, but you'll have them ready.
2. Ask questions - let them answer. Three to four questions for a "review". Listening is one of the most important Bible study skills. A Bible study is not a lecture or a monologue. Use few words, and don't be afraid of silence.
3. Be aware of the student's reactions. Is the student interested, troubled, confused or concerned.
4. Lead to a decision. Review the main points, maybe add a story or verse to lead into the appeal and ask for the decision.
5. End by confirming the next meeting, and pray then LEAVE. Don't engage in small talk, leave them thinking about the study and about God. Allow the Holy Spirit to work on them. Don't fill their minds with worldly small talk at the end.
6. The one-soul audience is to be preferred in Bible study, especially when the Bible instructor is inexperienced (TLB). When possible stick to one student, they are more likely to ask questions and it is more personal. If the student asks to invite friends, the privilege should always be granted. The immediate family group should be considered as a unit.
7. Prayers should be short and to the point, especially the opening prayer (the ending prayer can be a bit longer, but still relatively short). For the ending prayer, don't drag it on, let the study and the Bible remain in their minds when you leave.
8. Use the same posture. If your student is sitting then you should sit, if your student is standing on the porch, then you should be standing. Be at the same level.
9. Proper pronunciation. The proper pronunciation of Bible names and locations is important. If you have problems with this, then listen to the Bible on bible.is. It is a wonderful website and app that reads the Bible to you and it has proper pronunciation of all the Bible words. It is always best to pre-read the lesson before giving it, to refresh your memory and to be very familiar with the topic. If you don't have time to listen to bible.is, then use your phone to search for proper pronunciation of words in the Bible.
10. Repeat the verse. When having the student look up the chapter and verse, be sure to repeat it two to three times to give them the opportunity to look up the verse. Many students will be unfamiliar with the Bible, so have patience with them.
Seeking A Decision
You can use different techniques to gain a decision. Here is an example of one proven technique.
- Is it clear...
- Do you believe that...
- Remember (insert a verse)...
- Do you want to choose with me today to...
The appeal does not necessarily have to be at the end of the study (although it usually is at the end), just let the Holy Spirit guide you in determining when to ask for a decision. You can vary the questions at the end as well, so you don't sound like a robot at the end of each Bible study. After the third or fourth study, they'll know the appeal is coming.
If The Student Can't Make a Decision
If the student can't make a decision, try using one or a combination of the methods/statements below to help in gaining the decision. Remember, don't immediately try to rehash the whole Bible study and get into an argument.
1. Use feel, felt, found. For instance, I feel the same way sometimes, many people have felt that way, but I found that... Or maybe something like this, You're not the only one that feels that way, many people have felt the same way, but I've found that...
2. "I think the most important test for any teaching is, is this what the Bible really teaches?"
3. "Is there any way I can help by clarifying?"
4. "I understand that this subject may be new and different to you. May I leave these texts with you to consider?"
5. Leave them some homework on the topic. Give them a website on the topic or a book or magazine or give them a video link on the subject.
6. Tell them to pray and think about the topic.
No More Than An Hour!
"...the time for actual Bible study should not exceed thirty to forty minutes, the half hour being preferable." TLB
If you continually take more than an hour - they may get tired of you coming over (remember this especially if the studies are scheduled for the afternoon when everyone returns from work and the kids are home from school and it's close to dinner time).
People will only remember about 30% of what you say. So the longer you stay and the more you talk, the more it will probably be a waste of time. Their minds will wander to what they have to eat for dinner, taking care of the kids, problems at work, etc.
Leave them wanting more. Get them excited for your next visit and hopefully excited enough to do their own study and research.
Your time is valuable. If you have more than one student, that's an hour with each, not counting drive time to get to each location. If you spent a couple hours at each student's house, you'll burn yourself out. It's a marathon process, not a sprint.
We want to plant as many seeds as possible - keep moving! Keep knocking on doors. In the Bible Worker arena there is the funnel principle, which is used to maximize results. The more doors we knock on, the more of an opportunity to gain actual Bible study students. As mentioned earlier, the majority of your students who agree to Bible studies will turn out to be dead ends, because they were just being polite and didn't want to turn you down in person. But when you return, they'll have all kinds of excuses to not do the Bible study, like the kids are sleeping, my husband just got home and I'm preparing dinner, or I have to leave to go somewhere, or friends just dropped by, etc.
"Usually appointments are made for one study a week. This has proved to be the wisest plan." TLB
"Usually thirty to forty minutes is ample time. However, much depends upon the subject, the teacher, and his method of explanation. The ability of the student to find the texts and follow the thought must also be taken into consideration. The study must never be forced or hurried; neither should it be drawn out until it becomes tiresome. Wisdom and tact will be required on the part of the instructor." TLB
If You Can't Answer A Question
Here are some techniques to address this situation, where a student asks a question and you can't answer immediately. Don't be afraid to just say, "I don't know..." It's ok to say you don't know as long as you seek out the answer for the student and for yourself. But remember that although we're not Bible experts, on the whole, the general public does not have sufficient knowledge of the Bible to ask questions that will be difficult for the lay Bible Worker to answer.
1. "I don't know, but I'll get you an answer."
2. "That's a very good question, I'll get you an answer."
3. "I'm not sure what the Bible says on that, what have you heard?"
4. Use your partner, he or she can either take over the study or look up the answer.
5. "Let me think about that..."
6. "Why don't we both research it and talk about it next week?"
7. "That may be one of those we'll have to wait till heaven to get an answer."
Reasons For Two by Two
There are many reasons to go in pairs when working as a Bible Worker, but the main one is that it is biblical. Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs to do evangelism. Here are some other reasons.
1. The most experienced or most comfortable with the topic gives the study while the other one prays and supports as needed.
2. Safety. It is always safer to travel with somebody instead of being alone, especially when going into other people's homes.
3. The partner can look up answers to questions while the one giving the study can continue with the lesson.
4. The partner can be the time keeper to make sure they don't go over an hour. The partner can give subtle clues or signals when it's time to end the study.
5. The partner can take notes and pay attention and remember details that can be written down later or inputted into the Bible Worker database.
6. Watch the student for signals if they look attentive, distracted, frustrated, quizzical, impatient, head nodding, etc.
7. The partner can take care of distractions like handling children and animals. The partner can bring a coloring book for the children and help them to color in the book. Or depending on the age of the children they can be involved by reading Bible verses during the study. It is always best to schedule study times when the kids are in school, in bed, or taking a nap. Satan will attack at the most inopportune moment (like during the decision point).
8. Know each other's strengths and weaknesses. Ones a talker, or one is good at topical studies, or one is good at doctrinal issues, or one is good at prophecies. If your partner is really good a praying, there's no problem with having the partner do the prayers.
9. Remember that at least one of the original Bible Workers should attend the next meeting. Don't have two complete strangers show up to give the Bible study.
10. The partner can cover for you if you lose your train of thought or are confused which might cause a long awkward silent moment.
This happened many times with my partner and I. We would jump in and help each other out all the time (it probably happened more often that he was helping me!). On one occasion, we knocked on a door and a gentleman answered the door and came out onto the porch to talk to us. It was my turn to talk (we would alternate as the main speaker from door to door), so I went part way through the canvass as best that I could and was interrupted by casual conversation. That's when we found out that he was a leader in the Baptist church and was giving Bible studies to all of the young adults in his church every Wednesday at his home. I was at the point in the canvass where I was supposed to ask him if he wanted Bible studies with us! I froze and didn't really know what to say (I was thinking, why would this church leader who's giving studies to his own congregation want to study with us?). I just stood there sweating and trying to think of something to say. It just felt awkward to me to ask if he wanted Bible studies with us and I made it worse by just standing there looking at him like a deer caught in headlights! Luckily my partner jumped in and finished the canvass and of course the church leader turned us down, but we ended up having a great discussion. I learned to be bold and to just ask the question anyways. The worse they can do is say no thank you, but you might be surprised and they might say yes.
1. Bring souls to Christ. At the end of the day, we want everyone to accept Jesus as their Saviour, whether they come to our church or not.
2. Baptism. This is also a goal, to have them officially join our church through baptism. The baptismal class is usually given by the pastor to ensure the student understands the 28 fundamental beliefs of the church before joining.
3. Members of the church. Whether they have finished all the studies or have not yet been baptized, we want all students to attend our church if possible. "A very important means of helping persons to take a firm stand for truth is by bringing them to the church services, where they become accustomed to the spiritual atmosphere of the church." TLB
4. Bible Workers plant, water or reap. Sometimes the efforts and hard work of the Bible Worker are not visibly apparent until we get to heaven and find out what really happened. Sometimes we are called to plant a seed and someone else is called to water and someone else will get to reap the harvest. That's why all through this page I've mentioned that the Bible Worker's time is precious and he or she is expected to plant as many seeds as possible.
1 Corinthians 3:3-9, these verses talk about planting and watering.
John 4:35-38, these verses talk about sowers and reapers. Different roles for different people.
If You're Offered Something To Eat/Drink Or A Gift
Here are some ways to handle this situation.
1. "Thank you, but I just finished a meal." You can say this if you've actually finished eating a short while ago (please don't lie - use the statements that apply to you). Sometimes I would eat a granola or vegan protein bar before going out.
2. "I would feel badly if you felt you had to prepare something for me each week."
3. "I try to be regular in my eating habits." Many Adventists try not to eat in between meals or only eat twice a day, so this statement would apply. If the student asks why, you can tell them that there is a study on the topic later (the health message).
4. "I'd love a bottle of water." Try not to drink any water in a cup, especially if you didn't see it poured out (also, even if you see it poured out of a bottle, there may be residue in the cup that you're not aware of).
5. Don't accept or expect gifts. It is a privilege to open and share the Word of God. All gratitude and appreciation belongs to God. Tact and good judgment must prevail - it might be better to accept gracefully than to offend by refusal.
When Students Aren't Completing Lessons
Give them two chances, no more than three, then move on. Bible Worker time is valuable, so don't waste it with someone that isn't showing interest. There are a lot of people out there searching and wanting answers. As the Bible says, shake the dust off your feet and move on.
Offer to do the lessons together (study guide method). Then you can see if they are actually interested or paying attention. Or you might find out they can't read or have eyesight issues.
Ask, "Are you finding these studies interesting and helpful?" After two chances to do the study guide and they haven't, it is time to be direct. Just ask them if they want anymore study guides.
"I surely don't want you to feel that you have to continue them.", and then offer to start a drop off method if they weren't doing that already.
It is up to you as the Bible Worker to decide whether you want to continue dropping off study guides to someone who you feel is not doing them. Is it worth your time and the money of dropping off a study guide every week, knowing that they aren't reading them? Do you continue to drop them off hoping that someone else in the household will read them? Maybe they aren't reading them now, but they'll read them a year or two from now? You have to let the Holy Spirit lead you in whether to move on or not.
People Types (Avoid Them)
Always keep this in mind, do they want YOU or the studies? Also think about how you will move on or stop visiting them once you figure out what type of person they are. Do you just not show up anymore?
1. Knowledge seekers. Some people just want knowledge and not a true heart conversion (not seeking Jesus).
We had a student for a brief time that agreed to do Bible studies because it was a hobby of his to do studies from all the different denominations. We didn't really find that out until later. He would never accept the truths in the Bible that we showed him through the Bible and the Bible studies and even when he did, it didn't change his choice of what church to attend. It was just a hobby for him to collect knowledge about the Bible and he liked to talk about it to different people. It was all head knowledge and no heart change.
2. Talkers. Some people don't want the study, they just want to talk. These type of people will change the topic away from the study (talking about kids, grandkids, hobbies, news, politics, etc.). Also closely tied to this is the neighborhood gossip. They just want someone to tell all of the gossip from the neighborhood.
3. Hookups. Watch out for this type of person, usually the opposite sex (but not always!). It seems like women have to worry about this more than the men (usually). Some people don't care about the study, they just want to spend time with the pretty young lady that shows up at their door to give a Bible study.
4. Argumentative people. These people ask questions to ridicule or to scorn your beliefs and church. Be careful of your own feelings of combativeness or defensiveness. Remember that Jesus never entered into an argument, "The Saviour knew that no argument, however logical, would melt hard hearts or break through the crust of worldliness and selfishness." AA, p. 31. Or they may not be argumentative, but they love to debate others. They are not really interested in what you have to say, they just want to debate your beliefs.
5. Lonely people. This is similar to talkers, but these people are lonely and just want company. Most of the time they do not care about the study, they are just happy to have someone visit. This may not be a good Bible study student, but it may be someone that you can invite to church to meet the church family. Who knows, maybe this lonely person will find a friend in church and take the information and Bible truths more seriously in the future.
6. The converter. This person is trying to convert you to their religion or denomination! Again, the Bible Worker time is valuable, don't argue or go back and forth with someone that is committed to another religious organization. This normally leads nowhere.
7. Politeness. These people aren't interested in Bible studies but they accept out of politeness and then lead you on for several studies (if you don't pick up on the clues right away). This ends up wasting your time as a Bible Worker, but at least you planted some seeds. Don't waste more time than necessary, just dust off your shoes and move on (Matthew 10:14).
My Bible Worker partner and I met a nice old lady on her porch (actually the friend of one of our instructors). She was very spiritual and talked about her church and her church family and she was obviously very involved in her church and she told us that she sat on her porch every day praying for everyone (she was a prayer warrior). She agreed to Bible studies and we returned the next week. We found out several things during the Bible study, one, although she was very spiritual and involved in her church, she didn't know her Bible at all. She couldn't even look up a simple text from one of the New Testament books because she couldn't find the book in her Bible. The second thing we found out was that she wasn't interested in the study at all, she just wanted to talk and liked having visitors at her house. Her grandkid showed up and she spent the whole study playing with the kid and barely, if at all, listening to the study. Fortunately, her son also arrived and sat in on the study and listened intently and answered questions. My partner who was giving the study, was able to figure all this out quickly and stopped even addressing the lady and focused all his attention on the son who was soaking in all the information. I was doing my part in trying to keep the lady and her grandkid from interrupting the study that was going on.
If you encounter someone that isn't really a talker but asks questions on unrelated but biblical questions, then you can use some of these techniques to handle the situation. Some people, either intentionally or unintentionally, just like to change the subject in the middle of a Bible study.
1. "That's a very good question. I'll try to get an answer to that for next time."
2. "Why don't we finish our lesson and I'll be happy to answer your question at the end."
3. "We are going to have a whole lesson on that subject later on."
4. Help them to search for their own answer in the Bible or give them an online resource that they can look at later.
5. What if the contact asks for a different study?
- Offer to give that study the next visit.
- Go through the guide together if you have it with you.
- Tell them the study guides build on each other and should be done in order.
6. If you do answer, answer quickly in a sentence or two and move on to the current subject.
7. Don't cause the distraction yourself! "There is danger of becoming sidetracked to a disastrous degree in giving a Bible study. (TLB)" For instance, using Ellen White information in a Bible study that Gabriel took Lucifer's place as a covering cherub. That information cannot be proved using Bible texts, so don't mention Ellen White comments. Another example is using a Bible text at the wrong time, like Revelation 20:10 in a Antichrist study, but you haven't discussed hell and the phrase forever. Or using the text Revelation 20:4 during a millennium study and you haven't talked about the truth about death yet. That verse might give someone the impression that people's souls go to heaven immediately upon death and that souls live on after death, which is not biblically correct.
Things to Avoid (That Haven't Been Mentioned Yet)
1. Avoid trying to over prove your subject or try to teach too much. "Thorough preparation is the secret of self-confidence...To teach to the very edge of one's knowledge is to court the embarrassment of an exposure of ignorance, and the danger of lost confidence. (TLB)" Leave them wanting more - don't show all your cards at once. This will give you room to answer questions - Your confidence "provides the ample foundation, which, though unseen is consciously or unconsciously felt by the hearers." TLB
2. Avoid allowing your studies to become merely social visits (using the excuse of friendship evangelism). At some point, you must invite them to church or a church event or complete an actual Bible study.
3. Avoid presenting controversial subjects early in the studies (unless it is absolutely necessary).
My Bible Worker partner and I met two ladies that wanted to start with a Bible study on the truth about hell. They were both Catholics and one of them had worked for an Adventist doctor (who had planted the seeds). This is part of a longer story, but to keep it short we started with the hell study and they both ended up attending an evangelistic series and the last I heard one of them was baptized into the church and the other was considering joining the church officially.
4. Avoid being overzealous or pushy. This is tied to the first thing to avoid.
5. Avoid improper handling of the Bible. Remember reverence for the Word of God.
6. If "a person is well informed on a point of truth, it is not wise to spend further study on that point to the detriment of other topics." TLB
7. Avoid speaking disparagingly of other churches/denominations.
8. Don't ask personal questions.
9. Avoid praying that the student will "accept the truth" while praying with them.
10. Avoid being careless with your personal appearance. Cleanliness is essential in body and clothing. Clothing should be modest, neat and appropriate. I shouldn't have to mention that to Adventists but you'd be surprised what I've seen in other Bible Workers.
11. Avoid asking the student to read the Bible texts until you know how familiar they are with the Bible and whether they can read. You don't want to embarrass them during the first Bible study.
12. Avoid denominational terms (Adventist terms) like the testimonies, Spirit of Prophecy (until that study is reached) or the third angel's messages (until that study is reached).
TLB = A book called, Training Light Bearers. Not being published anymore but can still be found on Amazon.
Materials from the SALT course at Southern Adventist University. SALT stands for Soul-winning And Leadership Training and is a Bible Worker certification course by a joint venture between SAU and It Is Written Ministry.