Starting A Neighborhood Bible Study: How Can I Start a Gospel Garden? :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

Starting A Neighborhood Bible Study: How Can I Start a Gospel Garden?

Tim Richmond
3:36 read

Gardening can appear to be complex. But once you understand the process, it’s not difficult. It’s all about investing the time and effort. The same is true with a Gospel Garden. It may seem to be complex, but once you see the process, you’ll agree it’s not that complicated. It’s up to you to put the work in. So let me explain the process.

I realize all cities and communities are different, so the process may look different in your neck of the woods or your corner of the field. But I pray you will try. Here are some tips:

Step 1: Begin your preparation with a season of prayer.

Tell your church what you’re doing and ask them to pray. Pray months ahead of time. God waits to work in prayer. Many things are not accomplished on earth because we did not pray (Matthew 17:21). God’s Spirit works in answer to prayer. I’m encouraging you to pray through this article because He wants to hear you pray and answer that prayer in bringing people to Himself in your community. It is His sovereign joy. It’s a joy for me to write knowing that He wants to do this.

Step 2: Engage the community.

Ask people from the church to join you at a plot of gospel ground each week. Especially ask those who are evangelistically bent to join you. Join in as well. It takes time. Do the work of the evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5). We started for a month, asking our people to meet Thursday nights at 5:30 to have our children play in the park. We also set up a literature table where we eventually had scheduled the study. 

Step 3: Invite the community.

Once you have been in your garden location for several weeks, design a little flier or invitation to distribute. 

  • Make sure the message is neighborhood specific. Include an image or item your whole community considers positively and make that a central part of the invitation. 
  • Don’t hide the fact that you are gathering for a Bible study. You might be surprised at how many people would be interested in that—these are people God is drawing by His Spirit. 
  • Let me encourage you to have someone in your church design the brochure. Even if you are good with design, so are others and this is all about growing the garden together. It allows those who have that type of gift to be involved.
  • Invite everyone. Yes, everyone! Everyone needs to know this is happening. Don’t be ashamed of the Gospel. You know everyone needs to hear it, so be sure to invite everyone. That’s more challenging in our community because we have tens of thousands of people living here, but even in our area it is possible.
  • While we include the information that the Bible study is sponsored by our church, that is far from prominent on the invitation. We want people to come who would never come to our church. Church is for Christians. Evangelistic Bible studies are for non-Christians.
  • Include your information on the web through social marketing sites like Facebook or Meetup.

Step 4: Start meeting regularly in public.

The more public, the better. We bring chairs, set them in a circle, and invite people to come as they walk by. Some pass by for weeks before they join; others join right away. Leave the results to God. We are responsible for connecting and sharing. It’s helpful to have three or four friends who are Christians join you. It’s best if they are all from your church so you are part of it together. I delight to have our church handle most of the organizational work for these as a team! It’s my prayer that in the summers to come we will have Gospel Garden teams that are able to handle five of these meetings concurrently in the neighborhoods surrounding our church. These are baby church plants in the womb.

Step 5: Sow the Gospel.

Make the study itself to be interactive. This is not a lecture. Our current church study is at session number 48, going through the Gospel of John. Each week we cover the next 15–30 verses. The person who leads the study passes out sheets of paper with the Scripture text and 10–20 questions that will walk everyone through the text. For example: “1. What does verse 22 tell us about the fact that Jesus is God? Why is this important?” This process makes everyone read the text and think about the answer themselves. The seed is getting into the soil at that point.

The text must be primary. That super-natural, Spirit-inspired message will be the tool that brings a person to salvation. God uses preachers. But those preachers must present the Word. Only the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). If you want more help, Evangelism for the Fainthearted by Floyd Schneider is a good book that expands this idea of reading the Bible together with friends. I can also forward you many of the sessions our church has prepared on the Gospel of John.

Step 6: Keep praying; keep sowing.

We couldn’t meet publicly through the winter, so our faithful group went through about six months of study with just ourselves in a public coffee shop. That was enjoyable for believers, and we had gospel opportunities there, but we needed to be back out in public at the park. 

We’ve begun meeting again this summer, and the Lord continues to connect us to those He is drawing. At our first meeting this year, I came across a young couple in the park and asked them to attend. They said “yes” and came; about 100-200 others refused the invitation that night. The young man had come to the US from China two months previously. The lady works and lives in the neighborhood. As the last three weeks have passed, they have become regular attendees, and although the language barrier is difficult, they are extremely interested in the Gospel. She is asking for a sign before she commits her life to Christ. He is still studying, reading deeply, and asking questions. Pray that their eyes will be opened by the glorious gospel message. They now bring the chairs each week to the study, help set up, and are my friends. 

“Oh, Lord, may their names be found in your book, along with many others in my community whom you are drawing through your Gospel Seed!”