Archives For Small Groups

It seems like small groups are everywhere.  And churches that have a recognized small group ministry are becoming more the standard than the exception.  Why is that?  What’s going on?

As director of, I had a lot of contact with churches that were neck deep in the small group movement.  My job revolved around helping pastors and small group leaders keep their small groups active and healthy.  So I got a lot of feedback about what’s driving the rise of small group ministry.

There are definitely many dynamics involved in the small group movement, but I’ve noticed a common thread.  And that is the strong desire people have to experience genuine community.  People are seeing the need for a kind of community that’s really missing in our information age culture.  There are a lot of broken lives and a lot of dysfunction in traditional relationships and the family so the whole idea of bringing the New Testament community back into the church is something people see and feel they need.

I witnessed this phenomenon first hand in my own church.  As the church grew to a point where it was impossible to…

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Small group ministry is all about people.

Day in and day out at Saddleback Church I could spend the majority of my time dealing with people and mess. After all, that is why we went to Seminary—to deal with people. People aren’t an interruption, they are why we exist! So, here is the question, in a ministry filled with people,

When and can we say “no” to the people God set before us?

I know for me it is a constant struggle.

I was looking through the book of Luke the other day and saw a cool leadership point that Jesus so delicately walked—one that every small group point person and pastor must walk each day. In Luke 4:42-44 we see a part of scripture where Jesus was ministering to people. He was a huge success, so huge that we see Jesus withdrawing from the people. Scripture even says “they tried to keep him from leaving.” Jesus’ response was in essence, “No. I must keep moving.”

Now imagine the people to whom he told this. They wanted their agenda fulfilled. They probably used everything within their power to persuade Jesus to…

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SexualityTook a look this weekend at Birds and Bees: A Conversation about God, Sex and Sexuality, a new study from Threads (LifeWay’s young adult line of curriculum).  The study was written by Gregg Matte, senior pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church and founder of Breakaway Ministries at Texas A&M University, one of the largest weekly college Bible studies in the nation.

Based on 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, Birds and Bees unpacks this important passage and develops a biblical perspective on sex and sexuality.  While the cover proclaims, “Whether your single, in a serious relationship, or married, this study was written for you,” I think that the key to making this study a great choice for many groups will be a commitment to follow what the study refers to as “non-negotiable ground rules” (explained in the first video) and basic sensitivity.

The study covers a fairly extensive set of topics in its six sessions.

  • God’s will and purpose for sex and sexuality
  • Understanding God’s intended design for sex and sexuality
  • How sexual desire turns into lust–and what to do about it
  • Exploring the complications  and effects of homosexuality and same-sex attractions
  • Overcoming sexual wounds
  • Practical…

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Can Virtual Community be Biblical?

Let’s start this conversation by clearly stating Saddleback does not have this figured out. I would also like to state that Saddleback isn’t afraid of messiness or trying to figure out how to build this plane while we are flying it! Yes, many times we discover we don’t have all the parts, but sometimes we figure it out and a cool God thing gets opened up for us and hopefully other churches. So let me catch you up on our latest strategy.

We know God knows everything, but the Scriptures seem very quiet about specifically mentioning virtual community.  Maybe, you say, because the internet wasn’t around? Although scripture is silent, history and biblical context gives us some perspective. History shows us that whenever technological advancement happens, when it was used rightly, the Gospel spreads (i.e. the printing press, telephone, television, smart phone, etc). However, none of those technological advancements stretched our thinking of redefining community like the internet.

Biblical community is clearly done in the first century “face to face”. The “one another’s” throughout scripture clearly need “another”. Are virtual small groups a STEP in the process for biblical community or can they BE biblical community? It…

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While it might seem more than a little outside my usual content area, I found a lot to really love in Dreaming of More for the Next Generation: Lifetime Faith Ignited by Family Ministry.  New from Michelle Anthony, RockHarbor Church’s Family Ministry Architect, Dreaming of More grabbed my attention from the first few pages.

One of the aspects of Dreaming of More that grabbed my attention away is that this is a book written by a practitioner, a seasoned veteran of children’s ministry, who arrived at the 12 year mark and at the moment when many would begin doing workshops and conferences on how to do it…dreamed of more.

I loved this account because Anthony saw the fruit of 12 years and instead of settling for the status quo, went back to the drawing board on a quest to discover a better solution.  What developed was a family ministry concept that I think you’re going to find compelling no matter what strategy or system you’re currently using.

Chapter two establishes the foundational ideas of family ministry; what Anthony refers to as the seven pillars of…

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By Brett Eastman

The Bible says “Pray to the Lord of the Harvest”.  We are all called to be shepherds and to impact the lives of others.  I don’t do this as often as I should, but this a challenge for all Christians.  There are many simple ways for people to grow as a shepherd.  The number one thing you can do as a leader is modeling.  The fact that you show up is the number one training instrument in the church in America.  Do you realize that?  Just the fact that you show up and don’t act like the Bible answer person, that you’re genuine and authentic and reflect God’s love.  Each week you show up, and if they don’t show up, you call them.  You’re modeling the functional role of a shepherd.

Another way in a small group to shepherd another is to rotate leadership.  This is one of the most strategic things you can do to help develop shepherds in a circle that you’re in, and help to take a load of responsibility off of you.  It’ll be a heck of a lot more fun too, rotating the leadership.  One…

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Ever wonder what’s next in grouplife?  Have any ideas?

In 1996 I heard about an experiment at Willow Creek called a Taste of Community.  Knowing only a little bit about it, I held a connecting event and sorted attendees out by the style of music they listened to.  Seriously.  It actually worked.

I remember first hearing about something at Saddleback called a small group connection.  You should’ve seen the look on my boss’s face at Fellowship of The Woodlands when I wanted to try it.

“Let me get this straight.  You get a bunch of people to come to an event.  You group them by affinity…around tables…and they have a conversation…and at the end of the event they choose their own leader by pointing on the count of three?  Right….”

Over the next 15 months we connected over 1500 people into 120 new groups using the connection.  Amazing, huh?

I remember arguing with Brett Eastman about the host strategy.  ”How could it possibly be better than the small group connection?”  Of course, when we launched over 250 new small groups in the fall of 2002 with…

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What could you pull off with just three weeks notice? Could you plan and pull off a block party?

Think about your block. What would you have to do tomorrow to make it happen? Get a couple other neighbors to say “yes”? Make a flyer? What about the next day? Circulate the flyer?

Think you could do it? How many block parties do you think you could make happen? What if five or 10 people from your church each had a block party on Labor Day weekend?

What if you could have 20 block parties? And what if all 20 were organized by someone who in six weeks was going to be hosting a small group?

What if at the block party everyone was asked to bring their favorite dish to share and you let everyone vote on their favorite dish and gave away a small trophy? What if you collected the winning recipes and included them in a cookbook? And what if you sold the cookbooks and gave all the proceeds to a local homeless shelter?

Sound interesting? Sound like something you could pull off?

Saddleback’s Example

In the fall of 2007,…

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By: Brett Eastman

A Spiritual Gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.

1 Corinthians 12:7 NLT

A spiritual gift is a special ability, given by the Holy Spirit to every believer at their conversion.  Although spiritual gifts are given when the Holy Spirit enters new believers, their use and purpose need to be understood and developed as we grow spiritually.  A spiritual gift is much like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.

A Few Truths about Spiritual Gifts

  1. Only believers have spiritual gifts.  1 Corinthians 2:14
  2. You can’t earn or work for a spiritual gift.  Ephesians 4:7
  3. The Holy Spirit decides what gifts I get. 1 Corinthians 12:11
  4. I am to develop the gifts God gives me.  Romans 11:29; 2 Timothy 1:6
  5. It’s a sin to waste the gifts God gave me.  1 Corinthians 4:1-2; Matthew 25: 14-30
  6. Using my gifts honors God and expands me.  John 15:8

Gifts Inventory

God wants us to know what Spiritual gift(s) he has given us.  One person can have many gifts.  The goal is to find the areas in which the Holy Spirit seems to have supernaturally empowered our service to others.  These…

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Small GroupPublic Service Announcement: If you want to connect unconnected people you’re going to have to create connecting steps that are easy, obvious, and strategic.

Ever notice how often we begin with a crystal clear understanding of a genuine need (for example, lots of unconnected people in our congregation) and end up with a strategy that is sludge-like muddy at best?

Full disclosure…this happens to me, too!  I’ve begun developing connecting strategies with clarity many times and by the time the strategy is through all of the hoops…it requires a miraculous Old Testament kind of outcome.

Feel me?

Is there a solution?  Yes.  Is it a no-brainer?  No.  If you want to connect unconnected people you’re going to have to create connecting steps that are easy, obvious, and strategic.

Here’s an example:

If you’re setting up a host ask (recruiting hosts for a church-wide campaign) the most productive formula is:

  1. Senior pastor makes the ask in the message (see How to Make the HOST Ask: the 2012 Version)
  2. The ask includes pulling out a sign-up form from the bulletin, holding it up, and saying “fill this form out and drop it in the offering…

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If you’re looking for discipleship resources that will give direction to your approach, then Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow by Eric Geiger, Michael Kelley and Philip Nation ought to be on your reading list.

A research driven project, the book is based on the discoveries of an extensive research project launched by Lifeway in 2010 “to survey believers about their spiritual lives and level of maturity.” Specifically, the research was designed “to uncover what kind of discipleship is truly transformational.”  Building on the Transformational Church survey and the research behind Brad Waggoner’s book, The Shape of Faith to Come, the research focused on “major areas of life where spiritual maturity takes place.”

The combined research identified eight attributes of discipleship that point to spiritual health; biblical factors that consistently show up in the life of a maturing believer.  The eight attributes are:

  1. Bible Engagement
  2. Obeying God and Denying Self
  3. Serving God and Others
  4. Sharing Christ
  5. Exercising Faith
  6. Seeking God
  7. Building Relationships
  8. Unashamed

In addition to the eight attributes, a key discovery of the research is referred to as the Transformational Sweet Spot.  Using the metaphor of the sweet spot on a tennis racket or a baseball bat, the transformational…

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By Brett Eastman

Years ago, John Kim began leading a men’s Bible study with just ten guys. The momentum of the group exploded, and before any of us knew it he had 60 men weekly meeting in his house. John helped orchestrate a church-wide campaign, which resulted in 35 more men’s groups. Soon, almost 200 men’s groups came under his care.

John’s life was spiritually multiplied. There are solid principles, that follow the acrostic MULTIPLY, that have helped men like John and others to multiply exponentially the ministry under their care.

Motivate them until it hurts. People are motivated by vision that is constantly and consistently placed before them by their leaders.

Throughout my years in the ministry I have seen ministries grow in ways I never thought possible. For example, a church I worked with had 7,000 adults at their weekend services, but only a couple hundred in groups. In a matter of eight weeks they were able to multiply the number of groups in their church to 350. New hosts were raised up and hundreds where assimilated into groups.

Why? We cast a vision, and God provided exceedingly and abundantly beyond what we asked or…

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