Archives For Small Groups

Group

It is a pleasant fiction to think that a small group ministry can soar in a church by delegating all of the responsibility to an associate pastor. A similar line of reasoning would contend that the lead pastor doesn’t need to worship because they have hired a worship leader to do that. Of course, nobody would make a statement like that about worship, but often we send a similar message about discipleship when lead pastors don’t position themselves as the small group champions.

If a culture of disciple-making groups is going to take root in a church, it’s critical for the lead pastor to champion the cause.

There are many factors to support this paradigm, but I’d briefly like to share three realities for lead pastors and discipleship . . .

1. Jesus was the Groups Champion of the New Testament Church

Jesus was the greatest small group leader ever. He took 12 people and launched the fastest-growing, most…

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As an associate pastor who has oversight of small groups at my church, I see a large part of my responsibility as assisting the lead pastor to be at the center of our discipleship strategy. This is more of an art than a science, because the lead pastor has many demands on their schedule that no other staff or leader has.

In order to position the lead pastor properly, you must find ways to get beneath the surface of systems, memos, and bullet points. You have to be creative at keeping the small group vision connected to your lead pastor’s life in a real way while they’re navigating board meetings, budgets, conflict resolution, local community relations, and more.

Here are three ideas to engage your lead pastor as the small group champion:

1. Develop a Church-Wide Alignment Series

Chances are, your lead pastor loves to communicate. They typically have a topic brewing inside of them that they desire to deliver to everyone’s heart. Tap into their passion by helping them to create a corporate immersion into their message.

In the last two years, I’ve worked with my lead pastor to create two of these experiences with his own…

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Here in America the recent election has caused disruption between and within communities. It reminded us that differences in opinions can grow into disruptions of community. Small Group Network’s international membership is likely not experiencing this in the same way. But we are all familiar with the lurking questions that create dissonance.

The dynamic of divisiveness is universal. New Testament writers frequently address disagreeing groups and coach them to right relationship. Rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, groups that disagree on specific teachings teachings — they are all encouraged and equipped to handle these situations.

Differences of opinion, especially heated or hostile differences, cause divide. It might be temporary, but there is always a risk that it intensifies. Sometimes it grows deep and wide enough that it cuts off relationship and communication. Divides can break up friendships and marriages. They can also lead to a Christian community’s splintering.

What causes a difference of opinion to grow into a disruption of community?

Several factors that lead opposing points of view to disrupt relationship. Help your leaders monitor these influences whenever possible.

It’s personal.

Disagreeing about a theoretical idea is easier than a personal concern. Imagine a small group of…

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christmas

The Christmas season that starts with Thanksgiving and goes through New Year’s Day is pretty intense for most of us. (Or does the season start at Halloween now?) Office parties, family gatherings, school functions, church services, shopping, shopping, shopping, cooking, cooking, cooking – boy, the list goes on. With all of this activity going on, should your group take a break? Well, a lot depends on your group. Here are a few things to think about:

1. Ask your group. While some people feel that they can barely come up for air during the holidays, others might experience a great deal of loneliness. Even though it’s a busy time, most people are still working and going about their daily routine. Before you decide to cancel, see what your group wants to do. If three or four people would like to meet, then you might consider meeting. Please note, however, that if your schedule has gone berserk, then it might be good to take a break for your own sake. But make sure that your group is taken care of. Will someone spend Thanksgiving alone? Maybe a group member could include them in…

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High Pressure PreachingPreaching to people who aren’t accustomed to church isn’t like preaching to a well-churched community. Too many preachers say they want to reach people who are far from God, but they don’t adjust their preaching style to impact the spiritually lost.

One change in your preaching style to consider is how you ask for a commitment. I believe it’s essential that every Gospel preacher ask his listeners to make a commitment. Jesus did it. Paul did it. Faithful preachers throughout the ages have done it.

But an effective invitation to make a commitment to Christ isn’t a high-pressure pitch. I’ve found that pressure is actually counter-productive. It becomes a battle of the wills. It often simply hardens the heart of the listener. That’s the last thing you want!

If the fruit is ripe, you don’t have to yank it. People who listen to God’s Word on a regular basis will commit to him and his ways. It’s just a matter of time until the Holy Spirit draws the person to the Lord. Evangelism is usually a process of repeated exposures to the Good News.

In fact, we tell people at Saddleback to take…

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Every month, small group ministry leaders are meeting around the world, finding fellowship and wisdom with other ministry leaders in their community. What they’re actually discovering in Small Group Network huddles is that we are better together.

Here are three quick ideas from worldwide small group huddles that your small group ministry can take advantage of today:

1. Be open to other ideas.

Some churches and some ministry leaders adopt the NIH (Not Invented Here) principle. NIH is when we fail to adopt or adapt ideas from other places because we think we should come up with all the good ideas. There’s another word for this – pride. During one mission trip to a third world country there was a knock on the door late one evening as I was visited by the leader of a local church. He told me that our teaching made sense, but they wouldn’t be able to use any of these ideas because their church was not a follower church, their philosophy was to lead. I hesitated to mention to this well-meaning leader that Jesus taught the importance of being “a follower.” Instead, I simply responded that many churches had grown…

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Have you ever heard these questions?

“How can I share small group ministry vision and ongoing training when I struggle to even get the leaders to gather together! What do you do to gather your leaders? What works well in your context? What creative ideas have you implemented?”

Every time my Small Group Network Huddle meets, questions such as this surface in one form or another. So if these questions ring true for you in your role as a small group ministry leader, let me assure you you are not alone!

While physically gathering small group leaders together has an important and valuable role in our ministry, sometimes it just proves too tricky to pull off on a regular basis. So thinking creatively beyond a physical gathering is an important step. Social media can be a very simple and effective vehicle to connect with our team, to encourage, inspire, set direction and share information.

When most people use the term “social media,” they are referring to social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. If you are anything like me (a bit of a novice), it can all seem a little overwhelming. So I want to encourage you…

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My church has recently launched a series on community called Better Together. In conjunction with the sermon series, I, in collaboration with my senior pastor, wrote a small-group curriculum to complement the series. I love community, which is why I love small groups. Like many of you, I work hard on our small group system at my church to equip leaders and to help many in my church experience the fullness of community – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

However, as I continue to reflect on community and work toward helping others experience community, I constantly find myself drawn back to and challenged by the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his classic work, Life Together. In it, he writes:

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly…. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser…

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There’s no shortage of “answers” on the Internet. If you’re looking for opinions on any topic they are only a click away. However, after we wade through these so-called answers we often find ourselves scratching our heads and wondering, “Okay, so now what do I do?”

Colin Wright once said, “Ignorance is a temporary affliction, remedied only by asking the right questions.” Sometimes answering a question yourself will take you much further than listening to someone else’s answer.

Group life ministry is one of the most contextualized ministries of the church. An offering that focuses primarily on relationship will shift from church to church. Perhaps it’s time we stopped looking for answers and started asking the right questions.

Why do you do small groups?

Have you and your leadership team ever stopped the fast pace of ministry to ask, “Why is it that we do small groups at all?” You might be surprised by some of the answers you hear. Is the answer immediately biblical? Are small groups the answer to a pressing problem? Have you just always done small groups and you were hired into the role? Whatever the response is, it will impact how…

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When it comes to fellowship, size matters: Smaller is better. You can worship with a crowd, but you can’t fellowship with one. Once a group becomes larger than about 10 people, one or two will dominate the group, and someone – usually the quietest person – will stop participating altogether.

Unfortunately, creating small groups within your church does not guarantee your people will experience real community. Many Sunday school classes and small groups are stuck at a superficial level and have no clue as to what it’s like to experience genuine fellowship. They may share a meal together, but they don’t share their lives.

As a pastor, you can build small groups that matter – groups that provide a place for members to fully experience biblical fellowship – by focusing on four essential elements: authenticity, mutuality, sympathy, and mercy.

Authenticity

Authentic fellowship is not superficial, surface-level chit-chat. It is genuine, heart-to-heart, sometimes gut-level, sharing. It happens when people get honest about who they are and what is happening in their lives – when they share their hurts, reveal their feelings, confess their failures, disclose their doubts, admit their fears, acknowledge their weaknesses, and ask for help and…

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Community“It was my first time attending the group meeting, but I have to admit, it felt more like a job interview. I was thinking, ‘Do these people like me? Do I like them? What if they really knew me? Would they invite me back? Would I trust my secrets to them — and would they be authentic and tell me their stories?’ It was awkward and I felt judged. I want to be accepted, not analyzed; loved, not labeled.” Not cool.

This time of year affords many opportunities to welcome them home. Jean Vanier in Community and Growth reminds us, “A loving community is attractive, and a community which is attractive is by definition welcoming. Life brings new life.”

But will unconnected members and inquisitive seekers find a home in a little community? Will they feel like Roger in my group, who said, “I am here because even though I do not believe what you all believe, you make me feel like I belong”?

Some group environments communicate “Come in, kick off your shoes, and let’s hang out for awhile” while others warn, “If you meet the conditions and prove yourself to be worthy,…

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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!…

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