Archives For Small Groups

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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space launch

“We’ve launched 25 new groups!  How can we help them continue to meet?”

With the development of strategies like the small group connection strategy and the HOST strategy it is not hard to launch a wave of new small groups. In fact, it is very easy to do. But like I always say, “There’s an upside and a downside to everything.”  What’s the upside? They’re easy to start. The downside is that they come with a life expectancy of about six weeks.

Six weeks? That’s all? Isn’t there anything that can be done? I’m glad you asked!  And the answer is “Yes!”

The step before the first step:

I think there are five steps to sustaining new groups, but there is a very important step that happens before your new groups even begin.  What is it?

Choose the right launching study.

Choose the right launching study. This is an important key because if you don’t choose the right launching study, the groups that do launch will struggle immediately. How can you choose the right launching study? It will be on the right topic and easy to use. This should be self-evident, but sometimes a little explanation is helpful. The…

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You’ve worked hard to build your small group ministry. It’s humming along; firing on all cylinders. And at just about any moment there are a few things that can blow up most of what you’ve worked hard to accomplish.

What are they?

Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Changing your small group model. Regardless of your motivation for changing your small group model, when you tinker with the familiar you run the risk of upsetting the apple cart. Doesn’t mean you can’t switch from a semester model to an ongoing model or from sermon-based to free-market. It does mean that every change ought to be wisely evaluated and made with adequate care. It also means that model changes require what may feel like over communication and extravagant advance notice.
  2. Retroactively assigning coaches to all of your experienced group leaders. This may be the most common way small group ministries get blown up. Providing every small group leader a coach may seem like the wise thing to do but retroactively assigning coaches to experienced leaders is almost always rejected like a bad organ transplant. Your intentions may be good. You may simply want to provide adequate care to…

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practices thinking

The small group ministry point person comes in many shapes and sizes. Some are solely small group pastors or directors (it’s all they do). Others wear many hats and the role of small group ministry point person is just one of the things they do. Some are on the paid staff while others volunteer their time. Some are seasoned veterans and others truly are in their first rodeo.

I’ve been all of the above. You may have been too.

Regardless of shape or size of your role, there are several practices that should be part of what you do as the small group ministry point person. And it’s important to clarify, there are a set of things that are not part of the role of a small group ministry point person. For example, the effective small group ministry point person will never be the small group champion. That will always be the senior pastor. Also, an effective small group ministry point person will almost never be the one providing primary care for small group leaders. That will be the role of the coaches within the system.

So what then are the practices of…

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Want to connect more people in 2016? There are a few things you can do now to exponentially increase the number you connect.

Here are 5 things to do:

  1. Plan a connecting event in late January. If you run the event on January 31st, you’ll have several weeks to promote it. Use a strategy like a small group connection in order to launch the maximum number of new groups. Small group fairs or other events that add members to existing groups are better than nothing, but don’t come anywhere near connecting the largest number of people for the year.
  2. Think strategically about the placement of your 101 class. If your 101 class is designed to offer a short list of next steps and you’ve slotted your connection event to follow a week or two later, you have an easy and effective one-two step that leads to more people connected.  At Canyon Ridge we have a 60 minute experience called NEXT that is offered about every 6 weeks. The three next steps that are promoted during NEXT are baptism, an upcoming small group connection (1 or 2 weeks after), and signing up for a back-stage tour designed…

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If you have managed to connect 30 percent of your adults in small groups, then congratulations are in order! You are among the top one half of one percent of all churches in America! Go ahead and pat yourself on the back! You deserve it!

Now that you’ve been congratulated, let’s get to work. Quite a few things could contribute to your state of stuckness. Here the biggest factors in small groups getting stuck.

Stop Handpicking Leaders

If you are still personally recruiting every leader, you have completely maxed out this method of starting groups. When our groups got stuck at New Life in northern California, we had 30 percent in groups. I had handpicked each leader over the course of seven years. I had asked the same question for seven years: “Would you like to become a small group leader?” And, for seven years, many people turned me down.

Now, if I had 100 years to catch up with the connection needs of our growing congregation, then I would have been in good shape. The problem is that well before we reached the 100 year mark I would be dead along with most of…

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