Archives For Small Groups

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…

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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…

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“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…

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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…

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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!

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“… 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…

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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…

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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 of my senior pastor. 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 make 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 aren’t connected to each…

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everything libraryThere are many things you need to know about small group models, systems and strategies. Too many to include in a single article!

Here are three very important things to know (and links to other key posts on this topic):

First, every small group model, system or strategy comes with a unique set of advantages and disadvantages. I like to say, “there are no problem-free small group models, systems or strategies.” That said, be prepared to acknowledge that there is an upside and a downside to every model.

If you like the semester model, don’t overlook the challenge of confirming which leaders will commit for the next semester and what they will study…early enough to assemble your catalog of available groups. If you like the cell group model, don’t turn a blind eye to the reality that groups don’t always birth new groups fast enough to absorb the number of unconnected people in your congregation. If you like the campaign-driven strategy, be prepared for messy. See also, Breaking: No Problem-Free Small Group System, Model or Strategy.

Second, the model you choose should be predetermined by what you hope to accomplish. Before…

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ideasYou might be thinking, “We don’t have time for anything complicated, but we really need to help a new wave of people get connected!” If that’s you…here’s some help!

5 Quick Ideas that Will Connect More People This Fall

  1. Plan a small group connection. Pick an appealing small group study. Pick a convenient day and time. Promote the connection 3 weekends in a row. It’s just about that simple. The study you choose determines who will attend. The process itself is designed to identify leaders at every table. You’ll find plenty of detail in How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection.
  2. Plan a 6 week on-campus study that leads to an off-campus group. Choose a study that will grab the attention of a select group of people (i.e., Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage). If you have more than one group you’d like to target, choose the perfect study for each target (i.e., couples, men, women, etc.). Choose a convenient night and time when you have available on-campus space. Arrange child-care. Promote the study 3 weeks in a row. You’ll find additional details in Take Advantage…

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bullseyeIf your church is like mine, your mission or vision or purpose probably includes some aspect of the Great Commission. Many of us have even gone a step further and proclaimed that we are in the business of making disciples and we’ll know we are succeeding when we make some amount of more and better disciples.

So…if we’re all trying to hit the same target, why are so many of our discipleship strategies missing the mark?

Any theories? I have a few and before you think I believe I have it all together, I’m actually guilty of a few of these myself!

Here are 6 reasons our discipleship strategies miss the mark:

  1. We don’t actually have a strategy. We really have more of a theology of wishful thinking. We spend time planning everything from our weekend services and special events to staff retreats and the updated vacation policy, but we don’t get around to developing a discipleship strategy. In the place of a strategy we are hopeful. I love this line from Winston Churchill. “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”  If you don’t like your results, change the strategy….

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smoky carMost of us quickly recognize the signs that there is something wrong with the way our car’s engine sounds or feels. When our car dies at the stop light or backfires as we drop off our teenage daughter at school…we get it. There’s something wrong with the engine. We may not know what it is but we know it’s time for a tune up.

But do you know the signs your small group ministry is due for a tune up?

5 signs your small group ministry is due for a tune up:

  1. You never need to start new groups because there’s always room in your existing groups. This is a serious sign that your small group ministry needs a tune up. It’s a problem for two reasons. First, the hardest place for a new member to connect is in an existing group where relationships are already established. The easiest place for a new member to connect is in a group where everyone is new. Second, small group leaders (and members) of existing groups need to learn to “fish” for new members. See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups…

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