This is part two in a series on the benefits of enrollment. Part one can be found here: Enrollment = Growth.
Arthur Flake was a proponent of open enrollment for Bible study groups. Open enrollment is allowing a person to join a Bible study group prior to ever attending the group. People can certainly enroll during or after attending a BIble study group, but they are not required to attend. In fact, they can enroll anywhere at any time.
Some people scoff at open enrollment, seeing it as minimizing standards or compromising deeper Bible study. Behind most objections are some misunderstanding of what open enrollment means. Here are the three most common misunderstandings I encounter.
Misunderstanding 1: You are allowing lost people to join the church. Nothing could be further from the truth, unless you hold to the idea that only regenerate church members are allowed to attend an ongoing Bible study group. Church membership and Sunday School enrollment are related, but they are not the same thing. Church membership is about making a commitment to Christ. What you are asking a potential enrollee to do is to agree to be held accountable by a group to study the Bible. Studying the Bible and following Christ are two very different things.
Misunderstanding 2: The new enrollee will automatically attend. My wife and I have more rewards cards than we can track. We have multiple rewards cards from some stores (long story). Just because I have a reward card doesn’t mean I will shop in that store for all my needs. The same is true with a person who enrolls in a Bible study group. They will not automatically attend. Enrollment is just a first step.
Misunderstanding 3: The new enrollee understands what to do next. Most people have no idea what happens in a Bible study group. Over the years, I’ve been asked about regular tests required to stay in a group, about fees and dues required, and if they are allowed to miss a Sunday and still be in a group. We can not assume that they know what to do after they enroll.
Just as some have misunderstandings of open enrollment, others tend to forget three very important realities.
Reality 1: Someone is interested in Bible study. You have the name of someone who has told you or someone from your church that they want to be a member of a Bible study group. If that doesn’t communicate interest, I don’t know what does. We can’t ignore someone who has expressed an interest in our Bible study group.
Reality 2: You have work to do. As I said earlier, just because a person enrolls doesn’t mean he or she will attend. The appropriate Bible study group needs to contact them personally. Bible study helps need to be delivered and explained. Extra chairs may need to be added. More leaders may need to be enlisted and trained. Every new enrollee represents work to be done (which is one reason some leaders choose to practice closed enrollment).
Reality 3: It will take time. You are asking a person or family not only to make a commitment to a Bible study group but also to change their weekly routine. Change takes time, and you need to give them time to adjust. Don’t give up, be persistent, and in time you will see the results.
What misunderstandings and realities would you add to this list?
Next we’ll look at part three: two portraits demonstrating how open enrollment works.
G. Dwayne McCrary is a project team leader for ongoing adult Bible study resources at Lifeway. He also teaches an adult group and preschool group every Sunday in the church he attends.