Archives For Small Groups

Honor Your Leaders!

By Brett Eastman

Honor Your LeadersHow publicly affirming your group leaders sets blessings in motion.

As a leadership coach, you have a crucial role in sustaining the small group structure of your church. Without this layer of your leadership, small groups stand on shaky ground for the simple reason that their leaders feel unsupported and therefore unwilling to take ownership of the group and its mission.

To keep this from happening, you need to let your group leaders know that they are most valued people in the life-change process of your church. You do this by honoring them and building them up—in front of the senior leadership of your church.

Rick Warren attended a conference at Saddleback Church with over a thousand small group leaders. He broke down in front of them all, telling them how much they all meant to him. He said, “I can see every one of you taking care of a group of ten kids or five guys in a coffee shop or a Celebrate Recovery 12-step group or whatever it is you do.”

By saying these words, Rick brought value and honor to each of them. Those leaders left that conference ready to…

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DNA GroupsHere are what I believe to be the top 10 DNA markers of churches with thriving small group cultures:

  1. The senior pastor walks the talk.  I am unaware of a single instance of a church with a thriving small group culture where the senior pastor isn’t personally engaged in a group.  See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.
  2. Staff and congregational leadership engagement in a group is far more than a written expectation.  Group engagement extends deeply into the leadership structure.  The most influential congregational leaders are clearly invested.
  3. Weekend services consistently refer to groups as an ordinary component in the life of a Christ follower.  Thriving small group cultures are in evidence 52 weeks a year.  Even an infrequent attendee understands that “this small group thing” is pretty important and not just something for high achievers.  See also, Top 10 Reasons Saddleback Has Connected Over 130% in Groups.
  4. Small groups are an essential component of the ministry to children and students.  Knowing their leader knows them and cares about them is vital to children and students.  The powerful need to belong cannot be met…

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Five ways to help task-oriented groups thrive bubbles

Setting up task groups is a great way to develop a growing number of faithful volunteers in almost any area of ministry. A task group is distinct in that it isn’t just a traditional fellowship-building group or a team of people simply fulfilling a task. By definition, task groups attempt to accomplish both fellowship and ministry at the same time.

The principle mission of a task group is to set aside a 30-45-minute group time to develop the spiritual and relational life of each team member. People tend to join a group because of the task they want to work on, but ultimately they will stay because of the mutual caring among the group members. Being intentional about developing the sense of community through a designated group time strengthens and improves the overall health of the ministry.

Most of the principles used to develop effective traditional small groups can be transferred to working with task-oriented groups. However, several features will especially enhance the development of task groups:

  1. Encourage groups to meet before or after their serving time. No matter how frequent the serving opportunity (whether once per week…

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Take this assessment to see how your health measures up butterfly

If you want to have a healthy small group, it goes without saying that its members need to be healthy. So a good way to move yourself and your group toward well-being is by assessing each individual’s level of health. Once this is established, you can help one another set goals for growth and can encourage one another in the problem areas.

The following questions are geared toward helping you and your each member of a group go through this process. Each member should answer individually. Then the results can be discussed with the group.

1) How are you connecting with God’s family?

  1. What is the frequency of your interactions with other members in your group?
  2. How vulnerable are you in regards to sharing your real needs?
  3. What are some steps you can take to deepen these relationships?

2) How are you growing to be like Christ?

  1. When do you spend time studying the Bible and in prayer?
  2. Who do you talk to about what God is teaching you or ask questions about spiritual growth?
  3. What are a couple of things you can do to increase consistency in this area?

3) Where…

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Chain LinkWhen you set up your connection strategy, did you stop to think about the folks you were hoping to connect?  You need to.  And don’t make the mistake of expecting the newest or least connected people in your congregation to have your sensibilities or priorities.  When you design your connection strategy you need to keep the priorities and interests of unconnected people in mind.

Here are four keys to connection that will help you evaluate your strategy:

It’s easier to connect in a new group than in an existing group.  The longer a group has been together, the more difficult it becomes for a new member to connect.  Groups that have been meeting longer than about 12 meetings have begun forming an almost impenetrable membrane around their nucleus and only the most extroverted (and sometimes brazen) can break through to connect.

Can you offer a new group 52 weeks a year?  No, but you can build in opportunities year round that make it easy to join a new group.  See also, 5 Keys to Launching Small Groups Year-Round.

It’s easier to connect in a familiar setting than a stranger’s living room.  Long-time church members and…

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As your group is in the midst of summer months it will be helpful to have a plan for connecting.  You’ve worked hard to get to know eachsunset other!  You’ve gotten to a point where you are beginning to form some great relationships that really will help you grow spiritually…as long as you stay connected!

The summer is always a challenging time for small groups.  With vacations and time away, camps for the kids, swimming parties and barbeques on the weekends, family reunions, and so many other great things to do, it is sometimes hard to fit your small group into the calendar!  In fact, is it even possible?  The answer is usually, “YES, AS LONG AS YOU PLAN AHEAD!”

So the question is, how can you keep your group growing together over the summer?  Here are some tips that many groups have found helpful:

 Top 10 Ideas for a Great Summer

1.   Make your plans now, before you get into the heat of the summer.

a. Pull out a calendar and compare vacation plans!  You may find several good meeting dates right in front of you!

b. Don’t be afraid to meet on a…

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Here’s a practical way to get your group to open up candles

The best thing you can do to encourage honesty in your group is to be honest yourself. This doesn’t mean spilling your guts about your darkest secrets. It means asking for prayer in an area of your life where you’re genuinely struggling; it means letting go of the myth that the leader needs to appear perfect; it means being genuine in your responses to the questions.

One way to develop group honesty is to have each member share four people, circumstances, events, or places that have left lasting impressions on them and made them the people they are today.

Ideally, give people ten minutes to figure out what they want to talk about and then five minutes apiece to share with the group.

If you have eight people in your group, that adds up to fifty minutes. Maybe you want to ask people to share just one person or event that has left a lasting impression on their lives. The goal is to develop honesty in your group and to help people open up about themselves.

If crunched by time, another option is to have people share…

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If you’ve been along for any of this conversation, you know that I believe unconnected people are always one tough thing away from not being around.  Always.  An illness.  A difficult marriage or divorce.  The loss of a job.  A child making bad decisions.  One tough thing.  One.  I know that and you do too.  Unconnected people don’t call the church when tough things happen.  They stop coming.  They abruptly disappear.

If that is true, shouldn’t connecting unconnected people be one of our highest priorities?

And if that is one of our highest priorities, what’s the best way to connect unconnected people?

New groups are the very best way to connect unconnected people…by a landslide.  Compared to the effectiveness of adding new members to existing groups, there is no comparison!  See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs. Start New Groups

Here are the top 5 keys to starting new groups…as many as possible:

Make starting new groups a high priority.  If starting new groups is not already one of your highest priorities, it’s time to rearrange priorities.  If new groups is not on your dashboard, it’s time to take another look at the dashboard.

Remove every unnecessary barrier…

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Don’t we all long to be a part of something fun, exciting, and life-giving? girls

The sitcom Friends captured this desire. Every week, 50 million people watched six actors pretend to have relationships with one another. Its popularity was fueled by the deep longing we all have to be connected in community.

The advertising world has caught on to this yearning as well. MCI promises to connect us with “friends and family.” The felt need is clear. But the real need is found in the biblical word, koinonia, which means “fellowship.”  God’s plan from the beginning was that each one of us would belong to a spiritual community, where we all would be known and we would know others.

How can we create a community like this? How can we connect with one another?

Here are seven principles to help you CONNECT with the people in your group and to help them connect with one another:

1. Create a “one-another” community. In the New Testament there are more than 50 different references to “one another”: love one another, bear one another’s burdens, pray for one another, serve one another. This can’t happen only on Sunday mornings; it needs to happen in other…

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WallIf you’re like many, you’ve wrestled with the question, “Why can’t we break through this barrier?”

Here are what I believe are five of the most common artificial barriers that limit small group ministry:

  1. The impression that the weekend service meets the minimum weekly requirement.  Is it crystal clear in your church that being part of a small group plays an essential role in spiritual growth?  If being part of a small group isn’t consistently referenced as essential in both the weekend and everyday communication, you can be sure that your congregation has the impression that attending the weekend service meets the minimum weekly requirement.  See also, Life-Change at the Member Level.
  2. Too many selections on the next step menu.  It may surprise you to learn that too many options is actually demotivating.  In a fascinating study by Sheena S. Iyengar and Mark R. Lepper (Choice is Demotivating) it was learned that more is rarely better.  Their study examined customer responses to two jam sampling opportunities on two consecutive weekends at a high-end grocery store in Menlo Park, CA.  The first weekend featured a stand with 24 selections (extensive choice).  The second weekend featured…

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Why your groups must step out of their boatsboat

You’ve seen them walk by. The “cooler than thou” group. The group that everyone in the church wants to be a part of and everyone outside of the church blames as the reason why they don’t come.

Most of us became aware of cliques in high school: the preps, the jocks, the high-achievers, and the rockers, to name a few. Ancient cliques included groups like the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Hellenists, who condemned everyone and only enjoyed the company of each other.

We know how cruel kids can be, but we forget that church members and leaders can be just as cold-hearted and narrow-minded.

When our mindset is not one of multiplying people who disciple others and mentors, then we miss out on one of the most fundamental assets of the church: an individual’s capacity to minister to another individual. We know that not everyone is called to be a teacher or a leader, but every member is called to minister.

We’re reminded of this in 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that…

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When was the last time you watched a movie at home with your family and a few friends? Did you call the church office to decide whose house you would go to? Did you ask your pastor who to invite?

couch

Probably not!

If you are like most people, you just drove over to your local video store, checked out a movie, and called a friend or two. If that’s the case for most Christians, then why do we go to so much trouble signing people up to get into small groups and matching them with a small group leader?

Do we not trust them to invite the “right” people? To turn on a DVD or VCR? Or do our church attendees and members not have any friends, family, neighbors or co-workers they would like to hang out with for a few weeks studying a DVD-driven Bible study?

I realize this may be a new idea, but ironically it better follows Jesus’ model for forming his own small group community with the 12 disciples. First he spent time with a number of “Christ followers” getting to know them and discerning whether they would be the ones he “asked”…

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