Reclaimed wood is popular these days—it mainly comes from timbers and decking rescued from old furniture, houses, and other wood products. Simply put, reclaimed wood is wood that has been rescued and repurposed, rather than scrapped and destroyed. Reclaimed wood can be cut up, reshaped, and used in new ways. Perhaps you have some reclaimed wood in your home? If you watch HGTV long enough, you’ll see many “fixer upper” shows using reclaimed wood in their home renovation projects. When the reclamation is done right, the wood—once discarded—becomes the focal point of a home. When people see reclaimed wood put back in service, they say things like, “I can’t believe the wood that made that beautiful table was almost lost forever!”
Reclaimed wood and reclaimed group members are the same. They are people who often were in Bible study groups but have slipped through the cracks of ministry or have not returned after the pandemic. These members need to be reclaimed. Once active in their groups, these people became inactive for a variety of reasons. Perhaps a need went unmet. Maybe they felt under appreciated. Perhaps they were ignored. Maybe they no longer felt the need to meet face-to-face because of the offerings of Zoom Bible studies due to sheltering at home. Finally, it could be that the group’s other members tacitly communicated that those who left were not important to the Bible study group when weeks and months went by before someone finally noticed they were gone.
Reclaiming wood and reclaiming people have some commonalities. Here are three things that reclaimed wood and reclaimed group members have in common:
1. Reclaimed wood doesn’t reclaim itself.
And neither do “scrapped” group members. Once a person drops out of a Bible study, the group leader and his or her group members will need to go to work to reclaim former group members. I’ve never seen people who’ve dropped out of a group suddenly show up again and get plugged back into the life of the group. It takes a “reclaimer”—the leader or a group member—to initiate the process of reclamation. People may feel awkward for having dropped out. They may be embarrassed because of the reason they slipped away. Jesus told a parable about the importance of leaving ninety-nine sheep in order to reclaim the one lost sheep—and that’s a good reminder to us to go out and reclaim those lost group members—no matter why they wandered away.
2. The process can take time.
If you are committed to reclaiming group members, go in with your eyes wide open and accept the reality it will take some time to reclaim former group members. It would not be unusual for the process to take months—or longer. Be persistent, be prayerful, and be persuaded that you are doing the right thing. Stick with it. But be in it for the long haul. Wood that is reclaimed must be gathered, evaluated, and prepared—and this is not a quick process!
3. The end results are worth it!
I led a Bible teaching ministry at a growing church in Texas some years ago. On a particular Monday morning, I received a phone call from a well intentioned group member who belonged to one of my Bible study groups. She was acting as the group’s “secretary,” and was in charge of marking people’s attendance each week. She’d asked the church office to drop several couples from the roll because of their inactivity. I asked her to reach out to them and make contact, explaining how difficult it is for people to re-engage once they quit attending a group. She was skeptical but agreed to try. True story: the very next Sunday, two of the couples showed up for class, and thanked her and the group for not dropping them! Reclamation works, and the results of reconnecting people to the body of Christ are certainly worth any discomfort on our part. Go and reclaim a lost group member this week!