Archives For Small Groups

In the western hemisphere, the leaves are beginning to turn red and gold as the fall season quickly arrives. Simultaneously, many churches across the globe are finalizing their preparations to launch a dynamic small group ministry this month that will, in turn, mobilize their local congregations to enjoy biblical community! So to all of you small group point people I ask … Are Your Small Groups F.A.L.L. Ready?

F – food

“They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.” Acts 2:46

Being that food is a staple of successful small groups going all the way back to the early church in Acts, as well as the Gospels where Jesus was breaking bread with his small group of 12 disciples, make sure that food is a centerpiece of your small groups!

“Give your fellow small group family refrigerator rights!” – Andrew Mason 

A – atmosphere

Small groups should be joy-filled settings where people can laugh during an ice breaker, eat good food and enjoy fellowship with the family of God! After all, we have the greatest treasure to celebrate and share – Jesus!…

This post was originally published on The Small Group Network's blog, where you can find many more resources for Purpose Driven small group ministry.

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Figuring out why small group ministries fail is not complicated. There is a short list of simple mistakes that sink small group ministries.

5 Simple Mistakes that Sink Small Group Ministries

  1. Allowing the senior pastor to delegate the role of small group champion. It may seem logical to delegate the role of small group champion to the small group pastor. After all, why have a small group pastor if not to be the champion? This simple mistake may seem logical, but when this is allowed to happen you announce to everyone that being involved in a small group is an add-on activity. You also fail to take advantage of the most influential voice in the church.
  2. Adding members to existing groups instead of starting new groups. It seems like the right thing to do, doesn’t it? After all, don’t you have a commitment to help small group leaders succeed? Why shouldn’t you provide a steady stream of new members to existing groups? There are at least two very good reasons. First, prioritizing launching new groups is a key to building a thriving small group ministry. Second, it is actually counter productive…

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Launch

Some launches go better than others. Over the last 10+ years of group launches both in the churches I’ve served as well as churches I’ve coached, we have seen some significant progress and we’ve seen some incremental growth. Whether your launch feels exponential or expected really comes down to your grasp of four keys.

1. Is Your Senior Pastor All In?

Having been an associate pastor for over 20 years, I know that if I invite people to lead groups, I will get 30 percent the result as compared to what my senior pastor would get. How do I know this? Well, after reaching the seventh year of my five year plan, I only had 30 percent of our adults in groups. The first time my senior pastor makes the invitation, we doubled our groups in a day, and within six months, we had 125 percent of our average adult attendance in groups. Now, that’s not funny pastor math. Not everyone attends every Sunday, but they will go to their group. And, we had a good number of people who had never darkened the door of our church join groups as well.

Let’s face it, if people…

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We all want healthy small groups. But without a central focus on God and growing in our faith, we are simply a gathering of people who meet for coffee when it’s convenient. Coffee is great but healthy groups practice spiritual habits that form hearts and lives into being disciples of Jesus.

How do we recognize a healthy group when we see one?

Healthy small groups are an intentional gathering of people who agree to share life together, meeting on a regular basis for the purpose of fulfilling God’s mission for the church and for making disciples of Christ. While every church has its own culture, God gave to us some specific guidelines in the Bible to help us grow healthy groups.

 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.  And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to…

This post was originally published on The Small Group Network's blog, where you can find many more resources for Purpose Driven small group ministry.

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Personal Retreat Day

In my last blog post, I mentioned the need to make sure we care for ourselves, and gave some ideas on how you and I might go about doing that, one of which was taking a personal retreat day. Today, I want to offer some tips on how to go about doing one.

What is a retreat? John Coe, a professor of mine from Talbot Seminary, defined a retreat as follows: “The setting aside of an extraordinary amount of time to do something for the sake of your soul at an intensity and duration that your ordinary lifestyle does not permit.” At its core, a retreat is when we set aside time to minister to our souls through spending time in conversation with our living God.

First, a word of caution: in taking a personal retreat, whether it is for a day or a few days, you and I will face the temptation to manufacture an experience to make God do something we want. For instance, many times, we take a retreat because we are facing a big decision, or we want God to show us what’s next. But God…

This post was originally published on The Small Group Network's blog, where you can find many more resources for Purpose Driven small group ministry.

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Over a month ago we launched our summer term of small groups and have seen many un-connected people get connected into community. We’ve seen new friendships being made, families growing deeper in faith and lots of fun being had. We’ve seen many new leaders rise up to use their God-given gifts in leading and facilitating these groups. Praise God!

Summer doesn’t have to be a time to hit cruise and watch your small group ministry fade. By using the 3 keys below, your summer small groups can soar!

#1 Think Outside the Box

In the fall and winter terms, all of our groups gather in homes, but in the summer we do a hybrid of both home groups and interest based groups that gather outside. Yes, many people are traveling during the summer, however I’ve found most are not all out-of-town at the same time. Therefore, think outside the box of ways to gather people into community. Hint: Outdoors, fitness, BBQ’s, etc.

“A church must grow larger and smaller at the same time. Larger through worship and smaller through small groups.” – Rick Warren

#2 Recruit Leaders Who are Hiding in the Shadows

Due to travel, several of our key hosts were…

This post was originally published on The Small Group Network's blog, where you can find many more resources for Purpose Driven small group ministry.

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The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, right? I’ve discovered that, for long-range goals, circles actually work better. For example I get to work with Jay Kranda and Efraim Meulenberg on our online ministry at Saddleback Church. Jay and Efraim do an amazing job of attracting an audience that watches Saddleback services, and turning it into a community of small groups. Three years ago we envisioned some lofty goals for this ministry. We dreamed of our small groups growing into congregation-sized micro-sites that could effectively minister to their communities. Today we are thankful and amazed to see those dreams becoming reality. However, the journey toward reaching those goals has been anything but a straight line. The diagram below shows the pathway we have followed.

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We started with a vision of the destination we wanted to reach. In the beginning our vision was not nearly as clear as it is today. A year from now we expect it to be even clearer. We have found that the closer we…

This post was originally published on The Small Group Network's blog, where you can find many more resources for Purpose Driven small group ministry.

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Summer

Summer is a challenging time as a group life point person. Many small groups take breaks or alter how often they meet to accommodate changing family schedules. I used to see this as a threat to group life ministry. However, where the world presents a threat, God often presents an opportunity.

Summer is a great time to do things that feel “out of the ordinary” and special. As group life pastors we should lean into this and not away from it. It’s a great time to do things that are out of the ordinary for our small group leaders and members. Summer is a great time to connect, inspire, and plan ahead.

Cluster coaching is a great way to do that. Cluster coaching refers to a method of meeting with groups of leaders for one-time sessions to connect and exchange information. While a cohort would continue to meet and stay connected, a cluster of leaders would focus on the single meeting; something out of the ordinary!

Send a personal invitation directly from you to your leaders. Ask them to opt in (this is not a venue to force people into). Serve a meal for free and…

This post was originally published on The Small Group Network's blog, where you can find many more resources for Purpose Driven small group ministry.

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“Accelerate!” is a small group strategic planning workshop for small group ministry point people and their leadership team. These powerful sessions will be taught by Saddleback Pastor Steve Gladen and other Saddleback small group pastors July 11 – July 14 at the Rancho Capistrano Retreat Center in San Juan Capistrano, California.

You and your team will take a 360-degree view of your small group ministry as you develop a comprehensive strategic action plan for 2016 – 2017. This workshop not only gives you stimulating ideas, you’ll leave with a plan that you can begin to implement immediately.

Dinner on Monday will begin at 5:00pm with the Opening Session beginning promptly at 6:30pm. The Final Session will end at 5:00pm on Wednesday. We invite you to spend your final night at the Retreat Center so you can relax and reflect on everything you’ve learned at Accelerate! You can enjoy breakfast Thursday morning with check-out no later than noon on Thursday.

Attendance is limited to give you more interaction with instructors and with teams from other churches.

Registration includes your lodging and all meals, plus two essential books on small group ministry. These books will be sent to you…

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You can’t wait until the end of the summer to prepare for the fall ministry season. Have you figured this out yet? Most likely you’re on to this fact of life… but even if you are, you might need an idea or two about how to prepare and what to focus on.

Here are 5 things I believe must be done in June:

  1. Meet with your senior pastor to clarify involvement and fine-tune where necessary.  It really doesn’t matter what strategy you’re using this fall to launch new groups, you need your pastor in the game.  Integrating the HOST ask into their sermon is essential.  Leveraging their influence at a HOST gathering is a huge opportunity.  Casting the vision for everyone to be involved in a group is something that only your pastor can do.  June is the time to confirm and clarify involvement (before vacations and/or study breaks).
  2. Make sure your existing small group leaders are aware of the fall plans.  ”Why are we just hearing about this now!”  ”We’re three weeks into a 12 week study and won’t be able to participate in the church-wide campaign.”  All of us have heard these…

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Have you ever sat down and listed the biggest lessons you’ve learned?

Here are 10 big lessons I’ve learned about small group ministry:

  1. The interests of insiders are different than the interests of outsiders. Insiders can sometimes be guilted into caring about things senior pastors care about (theology, missions, capital campaigns, etc.). Unconnected people respond almost exclusively to topics that interest them.
  2. Belonging precedes becoming in the hierarchy of needs. This is why I say you must focus on making disciples as you connect unconnected people. Don’t lose sight of the fact that unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again. Jesus knew what Abraham Maslow would propose 2000 years later and invited his earliest followers to come and see first, then to come and die.
  3. The best leader candidates are often not currently in a small group. Yes, it is true that some leader candidates are in existing groups and could be tapped as apprentices or leaders of new groups. However, in all but the smallest churches and churches with already very high percentage connected numbers, the best leader candidates are most likely not already connected (and in most cases are…

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father son in worship 420x_38c0fd08dae84f30bbbe4fd59505ee26-fea651ee573cb4c66e76b2c27b9948ad48328aa3Worrying about the future is big business and a big burden. We ask our kids what they want to be when they grow up. Tiger moms and dads pressure their kids to perform at a high level at very tender ages in order to get little Johnny and Jenny out in front of the future. In the process, we are creating kids who are paralyzed by the prospect of not meeting expectations. Case in point, I asked a high-school senior the other day what her college plans were and she walked away from the whole group. In her mind it was easier to excuse and embarrass herself than to take on her future.  This obsession with controlling the future is getting out of hand and adults are no better.  We are constantly peering into the crystal ball, planning ahead, forecasting, imagining what may be, dreaming of new realities, and how to avoid potential pitfalls.  But what happens when my future fails to meet my own, someone else’s, or culture’s expectations?

ANSWER: It becomes a burden.

Not meeting forecasts, getting behind on “the plan”, missing goals, dates and…

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