Archives For Steve Gladen

When you or your people are presented with an opportunity to grow, a certain degree of risk is always involved. It may be a risk of time or money or a risk of stepping out of a comfort zone. At that moment, they have two options: step out in faith or be paralyzed by fear and refuse to move at all. The key to preventing paralysis is lowering the bar of risk and providing your people with opportunities to become involved at a crawl level. Once they have been successful at the crawl level, which builds their faith, then you can ask for a walk commitment and later a run commitment. Unfortunately, very often churches place the entry bar too high and ask immediately for a run. Doing so almost ensures your people will be paralyzed by fear and refuse your request. The risk level is just too high. If you lower the bar and ask for a crawl commitment, you have reduced the risk and increased the likelihood of getting a positive response.

Risk and Opportunity

In 1 Samuel 17 we see a wonderful example of the opportunity-risk or fear-faith cycle played out in the life of David. His first opportunity…

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HuddleThere are two questions inherent in every small group ministry: How do you get people connected into new groups, and how do you sustain existing groups?”  There are two crucial areas you need to consider in sustaining your Small Group Ministry.  One is how you do infrastructure; not sexy, but needed if you have over ten groups in your church.  This topic will be discussed in next month’s issue. The second area, and the topic of this article, is Sustaining Gatherings.

What in the world is a Gathering? Why are Gatherings important and why should your church do a Gathering?  How do you do a Gathering?  Are Gatherings just for large Small Group Ministries?  Each of these questions needs to be answered in order for you to sustain the small groups you start.

What is a Gathering?  MLM’s (Multi-Level Marketing) or companies doing a “pyramid” strategy have known the value of bringing together their people for a rally for some time.  At these gatherings, the companies cast vision, share values, and get their people excited about the future. This is a valuable lesson we can learn from.  The church, however, reaches far beyond…

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Right now at Saddleback Church we are in the thick of it! We are finishing up our “Live Your Calling” Campaign; a Campaign that launched over 3,000 new small groups. Yup, you are reading the correct! Praise God and oh my Lord we need your help!!! This is been the most successful Campaign at Saddleback in the 15 years I have been their Small Groups Pastor. Right now at the height of the Campaign we have 7,018 adult small groups! If you don’t know what a Campaign is, click HERE.

So what has helped Saddleback Churches small groups sustain over these past 15 years to increase from 260 adult small groups to 4,587 adult small groups (this number is prior to the Campaign)? Some of it is learning in the moment and some is trail and error, but most of it is by God’s grace! As a small group pastor for over 25 years now, (hurts to even say that!) what I have learned is that it is easier to start groups than sustain them. Every year we face the same situation, how do we hold onto all that God creates? (this is a…

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Ah…freedom.

As I write article I am sitting in a Starbuck’s at 7 a.m., which in itself doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary. Factor in now that I am not a morning person, it is my day off, I was up late, and being here is not my choice…I am a prisoner!

To what?

My daughter’s schedule. As an incoming freshman she tried out for “cheer” at her High School. She made the squad! We were so happy…but reality was just beginning to set in. Like so many parents who have High Schoolers involved in team sports and school activities, you become a prisoner to the schedule they need to keep. My freedom to choose has been taken away.

Taken for granted

When we talk about freedom, what do you think? To be honest, for so many of us we probably never think about it too much because freedom is always around us. To most of us, unless we are in prison or in an addictive behavior that imprisons us, freedom rarely comes to mind. Being a “prisoner” probably comes more to our minds (if at all)…

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Valentine's DayThe day after Christmas I saw this display. In more than one way it made me sick, although in another way it got me thinking.

What is it that has marketing people so aggressive?

Love sells! They know the power of love. The question is do we?

Love is all around the stores, so it must be February. Everyone’s pushing hearts, candy, flowers, and candy flowers—all in the name of love. In any relationship you want to take deeper, you need to understand how the other person receives “love”.

What is it in that person’s make up that helps them receive your actions and see/feel them as “love”? I am not just talking about love in the intimate way, but also a love that bonds people together in a brotherhood or sisterhood. If you are broadcasting love in one way that isn’t received in that way, the person is going to see your action, but not connect with your soul. Love won’t be received.

God’s Love Language

I love the passage in John 21 where Jesus is restoring Peter’s ministry. Once at the low point of denying Jesus three times at his trial, we see Jesus giving…

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StrategyHaving lived through 9 campaigns (running point on 5) in my 12 years as Small-Group Pastor here at Saddleback, I have discovered that a strategy is only as good as the foundation and follow-through that surrounds it. As they say, the devil is in the details. That’s why our Saddleback Church Campaigns come with full instructions on how to run the campaign from start to finish. The instructions explain what types of teams you need to develop in addition to providing a calendar timeline and training DVDs.

Here’s another thing I’ve learned: a church-wide campaign will be an exponential experience for any church. It can be exponentially positive or negative, depending on how you approach it. So, based on my experiences (and a few battle scars), here are 12 tips to ensure a positive outcome for your church.

1. What’s the Compelling Question?

When you run a campaign, you need to know which question the campaign will answer. To give you an example, for our 40 Days of Purpose Campaign the question was, “What on earth am I here for?”

The compelling question gives your people a reason to join a small group and attend…

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On Christmas Day, one of our traditions is to read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and before presents are opened, we discuss what we want to give Jesus this coming year. Now before you think higher of my family than you should, this is not a lengthy theological discussion, and not always met with the greatest excitement. However this year we actually had some great discussion and lead to many rabbit trails conversations, some good and some…well, really?

A rabbit trail conversation that turned interesting, was one of my kids wanted to ask Siri what she got for Christmas. The iPhone reply was perfect. She said, “I have learned to be content in what I have”. Now as a parent, this was a great springboard to drive home the value of being “content” and not wanting materialism to creep in. What it also brought up was the idea: do we ever NOT want to be content? Interesting, huh?

When you think of the New Year, for many of us it is about change. For many, it’s about being content. Culture calls these “New Year…

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If you are like so many people across the world, you are thinking through what is it is you can give the people you love and care for at Christmas? Partly it is because of tradition, but what the Christmas season does in so many of us is make us think about how we want to show we appreciate them.

I heard an 8 year old say to her mom, “I would rather be ‘poor’ and live in a small house so that I could just have more time with you this Christmas!” Wow, what a powerful statement! (Actually it caused me to think, “What would my kids say?” But then I woke up and realized that my kids still want the gifts! (just kidding)) In a zone when we let a budget drive the type of “gifts” we give, maybe we should recalibrate our thinking to those we appreciate around us and re-think the term “gift” this season.

Jesus discipled and valued the twelve disciples relationally. So it comes as no surprise the number one way to appreciate your leaders just might be relationally.

The big…

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1. Know where you are headed

When you consider a believer, a follower of Christ in your church, what is it you want them to look like and act like? What is it you want them to “be”? Too many churches start up a small-groups ministry because it’s “the thing to do.” But it may not be the thing to do. Once you know what you want, then you can back up and decide what will get you there.

At Saddleback Church, we want followers of Christ to balance the Great Commission and Great Commandment in their hearts. We want to see them belonging to Christ and His church, growing deeper in Him, serving God where they are gifted, sharing Christ and surrendering every aspect of their life to God. That is spiritual health for us. Check out our Spiritual Health Assessment.

What do you want? Once we knew our “end in mind,” we asked the question: What will get us there? Our answer came from Acts 5:42, and it involved a combination of weekend services and small groups.

2. Find the lay of the land in your church.

Small Group

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Once your church has decided how to define a healthy follower of Christ (for Saddleback it is someone balancing the Great Commission and Great Commandment in their heart—fellowship, discipleship, service, evangelism and worship), then there are some practical steps you can take to help your Sunday school class maximize health. Here are some suggestions:

1. Strategically set up your room. Use round tables with participants facing one another instead of the traditional classroom setting with everyone facing the teacher.  Using round tables accomplishes two things. First, it will facilitate stronger discussion through since people will be face to face. Second, it will help you indentify a table leader if you don’t already have table leaders identified. If your church can’t afford round tables, just set your chairs up in circles or horseshoes (open end of the horseshoe to the front of the classroom).

2. Understand ratios. If your class size is over ten people, then you will need to start thinking about who can help you build health into class members. If one of your goals is to know the spiritual…

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