Archives For Small Groups

circlesAt Canyon Ridge we want to provide next steps for every Ridger and first steps for their friends.  The essence of the idea is that when you think about the various kinds of people who attend your church, each of the various kinds of people would require their own next step.

The simplest way to think about the various kinds of people would be to think about the differences between the never-miss-a-week type and the Christmas and Easter type.  Can you see that difference?  It’s probably very distinct.

Saddleback’s concentric circles illustrate the various kinds of people in an easy to understand way.  I’ve provided my own definitions and descriptions of their five categories in another post.  Again, the key is in understanding that each of the various category would require their own next step.  See also, Clue #2 When Designing Your Small Group System.

Here’s my prescription for designing next steps for everyone:

First, begin to assemble a set of characteristics for each of the kinds of people who attend your church.  For example, the congregation are “people that attend more regularly.  They may come 2 or 3 times a month. …

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Blind SpotI think we all know what a blind spot is…when it’s in our car.  It’s that spot that you can’t really see when you’re changing lanes or backing up.  If you’ve seen the movie Blind Side you know what it means in football (and you know the role of the left tackle).

What you may not realize is there are a few natural blind spots that affect small group ministries everywhere.

Think you might have a blind spot or two?  Here are 5 of the most common blind spots for small group ministries.

5 Blind Spots that affect small group ministries everywhere:

  1. Unnecessarily high entry standards for leaders.  Listen…we all want leaders who are truly capable of shepherding the members of their groups.  All of us dream of group leaders who will do to and for their members the things that will produce life-change.  All of us want that.  At the same time, entry levels that exclude the very people Jesus chose (Peter, Matthew and James), are Exhibit A of the blind spots that affect small group ministries everywhere.  See also, Leader Qualification: Raising the Bar, Lowering…

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Bible StudyWrestling with questions like, “Are we really making disciples?”  Or maybe, “Where are the mature disciples?”  I want to suggest that while those are valid questions, they might not be the most helpful questions.  In addition, asking the right questions is essential if you want to discover discover the best solutions.

W. Edwards Deming said, “If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.”   Albert Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

The questions you ask determine whether you arrive at the discovery you seek.  The questions you ask determine whether you arrive at the best solution.

6 essential questions about making disciples and small group ministry

  1. What is a disciple?  This is a foundational question.  The answer to this question will inform what your next questions should be.  I find two Dallas Willard quotes helpful on this.  First, “As a disciple I am learning from Jesus to live my life as he would live my life if he were I.”   Not a bad definition.  And second,…

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Bubbles

Churches must grow larger and smaller at the same time. The larger a church gets, the more intentional it has to be about being smaller, and small groups are the ideal way to create micro-communities within the larger church family. Every congregation is a fellowship of fellowships, a combination of associations, interest groups, and constituencies.

Last week, I shared with you the first five of ten building blocks for biblical community. In this second part, I’m sharing the other five.

6. Humility

This is key because next to fear, pride destroys relationships more quickly than anything else. That’s why 1 Peter 5:5 is so important for us as believers. “…clothe yourself with humility towards one another…” Humility means being honest about my weaknesses because I have them. Humility is being willing to admit it when I’ve made a mistake because we all do. Humility enables us to say the four most difficult words, “I need your help.” The three most difficult words, “I was wrong.” The two most difficult words, “Forgive me.”

7. Honesty

Most people don’t have anyone in their lives who loves them enough to be honest with them, to be frank with them, to tell them…

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StuckWe are just stuck!  We’ve been at this level for over 2 years (or 5 years).  We can’t seem to break out of this rut.  We add 10 new groups and lose 12.  We finally recruit enough coaches to care for new leaders only to have them drop out after one semester.  Our small group ministry is just stuck!

“Our small group ministry is stuck” is one of the most common concerns I hear from small group pastors and senior pastors about small group ministry.  “How can we get unstuck?” is definitely one of the most common questions.

There are a number of moves you can make that will help get your small group ministry get unstuck.  None of these moves are painless or easy, but all of them will pay off.  The movement they bring will be worth the pain.

5 moves that will help your small group ministry get unstuck: 

  1. Evaluate the suitability of your current system or strategy.  Although it is true that there are no problem-free solutions (systems, models or strategies), underestimating the problems that come with the system you’ve chosen is often the root of the issue.  See also,

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GroupsI’ve written about the powerful benefits of a thriving small group ministry and the five easily overlooked secrets to building a thriving small group ministry.  But it turns out I’ve never written a how to guide.

  1. Thoughtfully (and honestly) diagnose the current state of your church.  Ask yourself the questions I ask when evaluating a small group ministry.  Determine your percentage connected and the complexity of your next step menu.  Without an accurate sense of where you are, you should not expect to make correct choices about how to get where you want to go.
  2. Determine what you hope to see happen in the lives of group members.  This, it turns out, is one of the most important questions you can answer.  The answer to this question tells you what you need to do to and for your leaders (the kinds of experiences you need to give them) and that should inform your understanding of the importance of coaching.
  3. Choose an appropriate small group system, model or strategy.  This is a critical decision.  An honest diagnosis of the current state of your church, coupled…

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Blocks

What the public generally knows about Saddleback Church is that we have a large weekend attendance, but what the outside world doesn’t realize is that the strength of Saddleback is really in our small groups. The press reports what happens on Sunday, but they can’t see what happens all week long. The fact is, more people are involved in small groups at Saddleback than attend the weekend services.

Small groups are extremely important at Saddleback because we believe so strongly in the power of community. Community is a bit of a buzz word in today’s church culture, and I think that’s a good thing. We need to understand it. It’s really a modern term for an ancient word – fellowship. The Greek word for fellowship in the Bible is the word koinonia. And koinonia means being as committed to each other as we are to Jesus Christ.

At Saddleback, we talk a lot about the building blocks of biblical community, and there are at least ten of them. Here are the first five…

1. Frequency

In fellowship we meet together often. It’s not an every once in a while. It’s quite frequent. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:25…

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BombedFall is a prime season to launch groups in churches across the country. In my consulting work with Lifetogether Ministries, I am working with churches from Florida to Washington and Southern California to New York City. Among churches of various sizes and denominations, we are seeing some tremendous results. But, not every church hits a home run with their group launch. Here are some reasons why.

  1. You picked the wrong topic.

Small groups are a great vehicle for people to grow spiritually. But, in order for people to grow in a group, they need to actually be in a group. If a church’s goal is to connect their congregation into groups, then a felt needs topic is very attractive. If you give people something they want to study, they will jump right in. If you offer something they “should” study, it may not go so well.

Let me go on the record: Healthy, balanced small groups cannot live by felt needs topics alone. But, kicking off groups usually doesn’t go well with series on evangelism, stewardship, fasting, or other self-sacrificial studies. You need to establish your goal. If you want to increase the…

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ThrivingFailure to thrive is a term used primarily in pediatric medicine “to indicate insufficient weight gain or inappropriate weight loss.”

Because I write so often about building a thriving small group ministry, failure to thrive seemed like a good term for a small group ministry that struggles or where growth is stunted or blocked.  There is a short list of primary causes for a small group ministry that has a failure to thrive.

Here are the 5 main causes I’ve identified for failure to thrive:

  1. An inadequate model: This underlying cause of failure to thrive is rarely diagnosed.  If one of the marks of a thriving small group ministry is an increasing percentage connected, certain small group ministry models struggle with the catch a moving train syndrome and simply cannot keep up with demand.  One of the main symptoms of an inadequate model is a constant inability to find enough leaders.  Another symptom is an inability to develop leaders who are more than hosts.  See also,How to Choose the Right Small Group System or Strategy and You Know You Have the Right Small Group…

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DesignIf it’s true that “your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing (Andy Stanley),” the corollary is that if you don’t like the results you are currently experiencing, you need to acknowledge that you have a bad design and change it.  After all, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (Albert Einstein).”

Let me say that again.  If you don’t like the results you are currently experiencing, you need to acknowledge that you have a bad design and change it.

Here are 7 signs you have a bad design for small group ministry:

  1. Your percentage connected is flatlined.  Whether your weekend attendance is increasing or not, a flatlined percentage connected (the percentage of your adults who are connected in a group) indicates that your small group system is inadequately designed.  See also, Breaking the Mythical 150% Participation Barrier and The Catch a Moving Train Scenario.
  2. You have trouble finding enough leaders.  This is a common symptom of designs that depend on selecting new leaders from the usual suspects.  Once your congregation is larger than about 250…

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IngredientsIf you believe that unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again…you have all the motivation you need to invest in building a pervasive sense of community in your church.  See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting Unconnected People? and This Is Why We Need Community.

There are 5 essential ingredients that build a pervasive sense of community in your church:

  1. A thriving small group ministry.  If you want to build community in your church, you must understand that not only does life-change happen best in circles (not rows), so does community.  A thriving small group ministry is an essential ingredient that builds community in your church because unless your church is flatlined, you will always need a growing number of new groups to connect a growing number of unconnected people.  See also, 10 Powerful Benefits of a Thriving Small Group Ministry.
  2. Build steps into community that are easy, obvious, and strategic.  Building a thriving small group ministry is an essential ingredient.  Still, putting energy and resources into small group infrastructure without making the hard choices that create first steps and next steps won’t build community.  To build pervasive…

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If you haven’t heard, we lost our youngest son last Thursday when he was killed in a motorcycle accident. Eric was 19. He was full of life. He was known for his amazing smile and the relentless way he included people. Our last conversation with Eric centered on his excitement about next week’s meeting of his small group for 7th grade boys. It makes me smile thinking about his enthusiasm.

And then he left with a new friend to have dinner. And then he was gone.

These last few days we’ve been surrounded by our community; our friends. They’ve shown up at our door. They’ve called relentlessly and sent text messages and posted on Facebook. We’ve heard from friends across the country and around the world. We’ve heard from Eric’s friends and their parents about how much he meant to them and how much they loved him.

Our hearts are truly broken. We miss our son deeply. We mourn his loss. And at the same time we know for sure we will see him again. And he will still be smiling.

In the meantime, we are surrounded on…

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