Thursday, May 03, 2012

How to Get Apologetics in Your Church 2: How I Got Apologetics Started in My Church

How I Got Apologetics Started In My Church
by William Coe

I heard Greg Koukl once say, “bloom where you're planted.” What good advice that is. Getting apologetics into your church is all about getting started. It's not about jumping on the band wagon of some larger ministry, but about doing what you can, right where you are now.

This short essay is about how I got started in getting apologetics into my church. I had been interested in apologetics for many years but didn’t find many opportunities to learn more about it in the local church so, I started listening to podcasts and reading books. I listened to the Apologetics 315 series, “How to Get Apologetics In Your Church” and got some great ideas.

[MP3 | RSS | iTunes]

I first took action after I heard about the “Truth Project.” I was intrigued and decided to take my wife on a weekend get away at a “Truth Project” training weekend. It was a good time for us to do something valuable together and to get a weekend away from home. When we returned we had a chance to lead the “Truth Project” at our small group. We did this a couple times and had mixed results; some people liked it, other didn’t. It wasn’t the subject matter but more a lack of interest and the material was a little over the heads of some in our small group. About that time I decided to get involved with the high school youth group as an adult leader. Soon I developed a relationship with the youth pastor and led a youth team to a Mexico missions trip. This relationship would be critical in getting apologetics into our youth group.

It is well known that many young people are leaving the faith when they go off to university. The question was asked: what we could do about that proble?. In came TrueU. We decided to do this study in the fall with the high school group as a elective small group. It was pretty successful, we got anywhere from 9-26 kids each week. We continue to do TrueU each semester, alternating between “Does God Exist?” and “Is the Bible Reliable?” and we look forward to the new series when it is released. We are also considering doing the RZIM series “ASK.”

The newest project we have developed is the F.A.Q. monthly small group. Many parents were very happy we were doing TrueU but wondered about a group for adults. We have developed a monthly meeting open to all ages that we are calling F.A.Q. (frequently asked questions). This is a follow-up to a series our lead pastor did in the fall of 2011 that covered basic apologetic issues. We meet for two hours once a month. We do a lecture/video format, with open and guided discussion at the end. Topics covered ranged from “Archeology and the Bible” to the question of “Origins.”

What Has Worked For Me
Here are a few things I would say have helped us get this apologetics ministry going at our church:

1. Don’t do this alone. The first thing I would recommend is not doing this alone. If we try to bring a ministry into the church like this without the help and support of others it will have less impact and is less likely to be successful. The first person to involve is your spouse and/or family. If they understand your passion and get excited to support your calling, they will support your efforts in ways you can’t imagine.

I would also advise looking for people in your church or elsewhere that share your passion and enlist their help and support. One of the other youth leaders in our church is a High School science teacher. He was very interested in the fact that we were doing the TrueU series “Does God Exist?” I invited him to help lead the TrueU small group. He is now helping to teach and lead the FAQ group as well.

2. Use well known materials first. It doesn’t work well to reinvent the wheel. There is so much excellent apologetic content out there right now that you don’t have to come up with the training materials yourself. When you are just starting out, use materials that comes from ministries people know and trust. (Focus on the Family, RZIM, Ligonier, Reasonable Faith, RTB, STR, etc...)

3. If your're just starting this process, commit to a defined time frame. A six week study works very well and is manageable. People find it easier to commit to something new if it's for a shorter period of time. We do TrueU for ten weeks in the fall and spring. F.A.Q. is once a month.

How To Get the Word Out
How do you get the word out? Find an advocate on staff! The fact that I had been involved with the youth group for some time allowed me to built up some credibility with the pastoral staff. When the idea of doing TrueU came up, they encouraged me to do it. Our youth pastor is our advocate in the youth ministry. He is fully supportive of what we are doing with TrueU and makes announcements at youth group encouraging participation.

We wanted to see if there was much interest in an apologetics group for a wider audience. We came up with F.A.Q. Initially, I only had a chance to get word out about it in our church’s small group menu. Eventually we got it into the announcements as well. The initial response was small—eight people showed up. Most of those heard about it through women’s prayer group where my wife mentioned it.

Eventually the missions/outreach pastor became the advocate for our F.A.Q group. He has helped get the word out through the men’s group newsletter, the church website and calendar, and pastoral staff meetings. That helped, as we had 14 in our last session.

To summarize...
  • Get an advocate!
  • Have your spouse get the word out to other spouses
  • Get the Men's and Women’s group leader’s to support and advertise
  • Church Bulletins
  • Church Announcements
  • Church Email Lists
  • Word of mouth
How to Get People Involved
It's important to get people involved in this effort, as I said earlier. But it's crucial that your Head Pastor gets behind it. Two issues about this: one is the staff of any church are extremely over worked, adding another program to their plate will be hard to do. Speaking of you, have you earned any credibility with your churches leadership? What are you already involved with? Where do you already serve. Its critical that you have some credibility. Have you led any bible studies before, have you gone with them on missions trips? You must remember that pastors are very protective of their flocks, they are responsible for them. They need a reason to trust you.

The first step you could take might be taking one of your pastors to lunch or coffee and talk about your vision, and tell them your plan. Afterwards, let them pray about and discuss it with the staff. Don’t be frustrated if the staff doesn’t share your passion for apologetics right away. Apologetics has had a poor reputation in many churches. Many believe we who are interested in apologetics are simply out to win arguments and don’t care for souls. Work to change this perception.

Good Topics
There is an endless list of potential topics you can cover. Some of the topics we have covered are: What is Christianity?, What is the Gospel?, The Problem of Evil, Archeology and the Bible, Intelligent Design, Origins, Jesus among other gods, and Relativism. A good resource for topics is the topic section at Apologetics315. Look on the left side of the page and browse...

Easy Ways to Start an Apologetics Ministry in Your Church
Here are some ideas of apologetics ministries you can start simply and easily at your church. Speak at Men’s/ Women’s breakfasts. Be a guest speaker for your friend's small group one evening. Start a small group series doing TrueU, Truth Project, Ask, On Guard, etc. Start an apologetic book club. Speak at the youth group meeting. Incorporate it into Men’s Ministry.

You don’t have to start a local Reasonable Faith Chapter or go to Biola, to get involved in apologetics. Start SMALL, but start! Recruit a team, don’t do this alone. Get the support of your spouse and pastor. Say yes to any opportunity you can to speak or lead. Find out what questions people are really asking—not what you think they are—then answer those. Pray and read your Bible devotionally every day. Lastly, bloom where you're planted.


reasonsibelieve said...

Apologetics became a passion for me starting in 1999. A few years ago I started to feel it was more of a calling than a passion. So I created my own teaching program, complete with a power point presentation. I presented it to our small group pastor, who liked it enough to commit to implementing it into the 2012 fall program.

I also gave the presentation to a group of Christian athletes at a local high school just a few days ago. A pastor from another church heard about it the same day and has invited me to present it to a group of 200 people. I am convinced that if any one has a strong passion for bringing apologetics into their local church and community, then follow the advice mentioned in the article above, step out in faith, even small steps to begin with, and watch how God will open doors.

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