Archives For Small Groups


Momentum. Few of us have it. All of us want it.

How do you generate momentum? And how do you build and sustain momentum once you have it?

I believe there are some secrets to building momentum. I also believe that none of these secrets are easy to do. If they were, everyone would have momentum.

And yet…these secrets are not impossible to master. They are a challenge. But not because they are difficult. They are a challenge because they require keener insight and greater courage and discipline than most of us ordinarily have.

With insight, courage and discipline mastering these secrets is quite obvious and imminently doable.

Here are 5 secrets of building ministry momentum

  1. Identify one experience that everyone needs. This is where keen insight is required. I often say that you’ve chosen the right church-wide campaign when you can legitimately say, “We’ll still be talking about what happened in the fall of 2015 ten years from now.” If you can’t say that about the campaign you’re considering…you’ve probably not identified the one experience that everyone needs. Another line I often use is that “you don’t want to get to…

    Continue Reading

I frequently hear from small group pastors that their senior pastors or congregational leaders are uncomfortable with newer strategies for identifying and recruiting leaders.

They’ll tell me things like, “I love hearing about the 75 new leaders that were chosen by group members at your life group connections or the 300+ people who said they had a couple friends they’d like to do the Transformed study with, but my senior pastor would never go for that.”

“I love hearing about the 75 new leaders that were chosen at a life group connection or the 300+ people who said they had a couple friends they’d like to do the Transformed study with, but my senior pastor would never go for that.”

And I get it. In my experience, some senior pastors are keenly aware that traditional methods of leader recruiting haven’t produced new leaders fast enough to keep up with the demand (in order to connect unconnected people in their congregations). Still, their cautions and concerns prevent them from signing off on new strategies that are reportedly are working elsewhere. Genuinely concerned for the safety of their flock, they’ve determined there must be a…

Continue Reading

An important aspect of my ministry strategy is that there needs to be next steps for every Ridger and first steps for their friends. This informs an analysis of the menu of available programs, events, classes and studies for every church (noticeable gaps will need to be filled). Another important aspect is my conviction that whatever you want to happen at the member level, will have to happen to the leader first.

In an effort to cast this vision, I handed out a version of the following at a recent leader development session:

What’s Your Next Step Now?

In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul wrote these words:

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians…

Continue Reading

Can I let you in on a little corner of reality? Small group leaders are no different than the rest of us. A few of them (maybe 5 to 10%) are self-starters and have the internal wiring to take the right steps to grow on their own. The other 90-95% of all small group leaders need someone to develop and disciple them.

This is a very important concept to understand because whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your small groups must happen in the lives of your leaders first. No life-change in the leader, no life-change in the member.

Bottom line? If your leaders aren’t being developed and discipled, you cannot expect much to happen in the lives of the members of their groups.

Ready for another dose of reality? If you have coaches in place, this is what you need them to do. If you don’t have coaches in place…developing and discipling your small group leaders is your job.

I’ve been saying for quite a while now that the primary role of a small group coach is to do to and for (and with)…

Continue Reading

When you look back in life you realize that there are some moments that literally changed your trajectory. The birth of a child; your wedding; Steve Bartman interrupting the 2003 Cubs playoff game, etc.

One of those moments for me was a text I received inviting me and Denise to join Rick Warren and their team on a journey to Rwanda. It was short notice and not great timing, but it felt like a God idea.


I’ve written about the journey and the incredible experience of being in Rwanda. (Rwanderful and Where Did $500 Billion Go?)

We have worked in Kenya for many years and been there several times. So we thought we had an idea of what to expect in Africa. Especially in a country only 20 years removed from a national genocide that eliminated 10% of the population.

What we found was a country that was unified, beautiful, orderly, and only a few months away from being the first orphanage-free country in the world. A country where the top members of every major denomination and church organization not only worked together…

Continue Reading

21st century cityscape

When we woke up this morning, we woke up to a very different world than our parents lived in. Truth be told, we actually woke up to a rapidly changing culture. As we step deeper into the 21st Century there are some things you need to know about how cultural changes impact small group ministry. Wise leaders will be paying attention as culture changes.

  1. Biblical literacy is a distant memory in almost every setting. This reality must be anticipated in leader training, in the design or selection of curriculum, and in the development of the group experience. Continuing to operate as if everyone knows even the people, places and events of the Bible (let alone its meaning) is already the trademark of hopelessly out of touch ministries.
  2. The expectation that the Church provides something essential is rapidly decreasing. This is an important understanding. All of the research points to the changing belief about the Church. Worse than disagreement with beliefs or practices is the sense that the Church is irrelevant.
  3. “I am a spiritual person” is growing; “I am a Christian” is declining. A correlation noted in…

    Continue Reading

x's and o'sWhen the HOST strategy was introduced by Saddleback in 2002 during the launch of 40 Days of Purpose it truly was a game-changing innovation. The idea that the senior pastor could challenge members of the congregation who had a heart for unconnected people to open up their home for 6 weeks, serve a simple snack, and turn on their VCR–and the results would be nothing short of miraculous–well, it was an amazing idea.

13 years later it is still a powerfully effective strategy. It’s also a strategy that is often misunderstood (and poorly implemented) by many.

And I’d hate for you to be one that misunderstands or poorly implements this powerful strategy.

Here are 7 things you should know about the HOST strategy:

  1. The HOST strategy connects the friends, neighbors, co-workers and family of the people who say yes to hosting a group. Because the host is gathering their own group (and you’re not assigning members to the new groups), there is usually less concern about the qualifications of the host.
  2. The HOST strategy is not an effective way to connect large numbers of unconnected people in your congregation (and crowd) who do not…

    Continue Reading

“Some men arrived carrying a paraplegic on a stretcher. They were looking for a way to get into the house and set him before Jesus. When they couldn’t find a way in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof, removed some tiles, and let him down in the middle of everyone, right in front of Jesus. Impressed by their bold belief, he said, ‘Friend, I forgive your sins.’”(Luke 5:18-20, Msg)

Do you remember the story of the paralytic in Luke 5 – where four men broke through the roof of a synagogue to lower their friend to Jesus? Sometimes it takes something that radical to lead someone to Jesus!

And sometimes it just takes the caring, consistent love of a small group of Christians. How can the small groups in your church become the effective evangelism tools that God wants them to become?

Your church’s small groups must care about people who don’t know Jesus
The reason God used the four friends in Luke 5 is because they cared for the paralytic. Just like those four, the evangelistic mission of your small groups need to start with love. The number one reason Christians…

Continue Reading

I’ve noticed that there is a short list of small group ministry moves that can be toxic. They often seem harmless. They don’t look dangerous. But they can cause great damage.

Here are a 5 toxic small group ministry moves:

  1. Switching to a different small group model, system or strategy…again. There are several main models or systems and versions of each. Whether you call it Idea fatigue or shiny object syndrome, switching models can be toxic. You may have just read a very good book or attended a conference that made a different model sound better, but when you choose a system you need to commit to it for 3 years. And by that, I mean you need to pursue it head long for 3 years.
  2. Assigning coaches to experienced group leaders…again. Retroactively assigning coaches to experienced leaders almost never works. It often permanently sours the coach and almost always is rejected by the small group leader like a bad organ transplant. Fortunately, it is possible to provide care for experienced leaders with a little finesse and wisdom.
  3. Springing required curriculum on groups. Whether it happens as a result of a last minute inspiration on the part of your senior pastor…

    Continue Reading


We’ve all been to church conferences or seminars where great speakers dispense great information. But we have noticed that most of the practical learnings and best practices are shared “in the lobby” with other Small Group Ministry leaders like you. The Small Group Network is gathering the sharpest, brightest, and most innovative 20s/30s small group practitioners from around the world for the purpose of exchanging ministry strategies, learnings, and best practices in a peer-to-peer environment.

Learn More or Register Now!

Continue Reading

“… Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind … Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Luke 10:27 (NCV)

Cultivating community requires commitment
If you’re tired of fake fellowship and you would like to cultivate real fellowship and a loving community in your small group, Sunday school class, and church, you’ll need to make some tough choices and take some risks.

Cultivating community takes honesty
Real fellowship depends on frankness. In fact, the tunnel of conflict is the passageway to intimacy in any relationship. Until you care enough to confront and resolve the underlying barriers, you will never grow close to each other.

Cultivating community takes humility
Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. Humility is thinking more of others. Humble people are so focused on serving others, they don’t think of themselves.

Cultivating community takes courtesy
The truth is, we all have quirks and annoying traits. But community has nothing to do with compatibility. The basis for our fellowship is our relationship to God: we are family.

Cultivating community takes confidentiality.
Only in the safe environment of warm acceptance and trusted confidentiality…

Continue Reading

quitThere are a number of reasons that small group leaders quit. While some quit for good reasons, most quit for reasons that are completely avoidable.

Here are what I believe are the top 5 reasons:

  1. They aren’t being developed and discipled by a coach. This is probably the most common reason small group leaders quit. If someone (a coach or mentor) isn’t investing in them, it is unreasonable to think that the average leader will continue for long. While there will always be exceptional leaders who are essentially self-motivated, they are by definition the exceptions to the rule. Intentional investment in your leaders will overcome this very common reason for quitting. See also, Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciples Leaders.
  2. No one in their group is sharing the load. Some small group leaders don’t know any better and have never been coached to share the load with the members of their group. Others come naturally by misplaced pride that “since they do everything better than everyone else”…they can’t really let go of anything. Both patterns ultimately lead to burnout; both patterns lead to pent up frustrations that they…

    Continue Reading