GTK has become an essential tool in my pastoral toolbox. While at first my congregation thought GTK stood for ‘Gary the Koo’, it’s actually ‘Get to Know’, a course designed to welcome newcomers into your church.
I’ve run it three times now and it’s been excellent. The material has delivered on what it promised to do, which is essentially four things:
1. Help newcomers get to know God better through studying the Bible
Over the four weeks of GTK you look at:
- Who God is and how we should relate to him
- The problem of sin
- Jesus’ death on the cross
- The resurrection of Jesus and what that means for us now.
The studies are simple and well structured, and they also serve as a way of teasing out where people are at when it comes to their faith (which is very helpful with new people). For example, during the third study one lady asked, “Why did Jesus have to die on the cross? Couldn’t God have dealt with our sins in some other way?” And this led to a worthwhile conversation in the group.
The material also serves as a basic theological foundation for why we do the things that we do as a church, and what newcomers should expect if they become partners in our ministry.
2. Help newcomers get to know other people as they meet during the course
The way we’ve structured our course is that we start with 30-45 minutes of afternoon tea on a Sunday afternoon, before sitting down to look at the material. This gives people a chance to chat, get to know each other and hear each other’s stories. Perhaps not surprisingly, the afternoon tea time gets longer week by week.
There’s also a chance to get to know each other better when it comes to the material, with a variety of introductory questions that have led to some very interesting stories. One of the most effective was the rather strange question: “How did you heat your home when you were growing up?” This led to a fascinating variety of responses and insight into where people have come from.
3. Help newcomers get to know your church as your talk through what you believe and what you do
Every church is different, and you want to able to tell newcomers what your particular congregation is like. While the Bible study is at the centre of the material, there are also useful opportunities to bounce off the study material into talking about your church.
- In the first study, I started off by telling my group a bit about the history of our church, its different congregations and how things are organized.
- In the second study, I was able to say that because we’re all sinners then you can’t expect our church to be perfect.
- In the third study, I was able to speak about the way the cross of Jesus shapes the things our church does and how we encourage people to live.
- In the final study, I was able to spend some time talking about what it means to join us and be a partner in ministry in terms of growth, service, mission and financial support.
4. Help newcomers get to know you better as you lead the course
Since I became the senior minister at our church this year, I’ve found that my attention has been divided across a whole host of areas (is it just me?). One of my worries is that I will get drawn away from the coalface and become detached from my people. The other thing that worries me is that new people might come to the congregation, and think that I’m too busy to be interested in them.
While I realize that there are limits to what I can do in my new role, I’ve found GTK to be a real blessing to me personally—not only because it’s an efficient way of spending time with a number of newcomers. It’s been a great blessing just in terms of being able to do the thing that I wanted to do when I first entered ministry—loving people by getting to know them, sharing my life with them and teaching them about Jesus through God’s word in the Bible.
I know the research that says that integrating newcomers is a critical factor when it comes to growing a church. But even if it wasn’t, the opportunity to meet new people, hear their stories and show them the difference the gospel makes—well I think, that’s reason enough to add GTK to your toolbox as well.
[GTK: Get to Know is a digital-only resource available exclusively to GoThereFor.com subscribers.]