Archives For Small Groups

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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The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”  Matthew 9:37 (NIV)harvest

“I didn’t think I could do it.
But I found out I could.
It’s not as hard as you think.
You just have to have a willing heart.” – Anonymous

For those living fast-paced, high-pressured, demand-filled lives, the Church stands as an oasis. The church allows us to connect to God and to each other, and at the heart of this connection is the small group community — a circle of friends that help you live your life on purpose..

Small groups enable a large church to be personal, to be able to touch the lives of individuals through relationships. Key to the success of a small group is a host/leader. But how on earth do you ever get enough of them?

While I served as the small group champion on the Saddleback staff we witnessed an incredible outpouring of God’s Spirit on our church family. In just a matter of months we saw literally thousands of people get connected under the care of a small group leader. And yet 50 percent of church families were still not connected under the care of a…

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What you need to know to lead leaders            selfcoach

Without a guy named John I wouldn’t be where I am today.

He was my coach of the first small group I led. When my confidence was waning or I was tired of leading, he came alongside me and said, “I believe you can do it.” That meant the world to me.  Everybody loves hearing that they can make it.

He also repeatedly said, “I’ll help you.  I’ll walk alongside of you, and you can come to me when you have questions and concerns or need prayer and support.”

But when I left college, I no longer had John to coach me. Nobody came alongside of me.  It was kind of lonely.  Sometimes I got discouraged, lost focus, and wondered what it would be like to have someone champion me.

There’s a lot of resources for leaders.  And there’s a lot of helpful content for members.  But there is not much out there for leaders of leaders, who are left thinking, Who’s leading me to lead? and How do I lead? The acrostic COACH highlights the essentials for coaching leaders.

1. Cultivate spiritual…

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Ninja MovesSummer is almost here.  And right on its heels comes the fall.  Ready?  Recruited the small group leaders you’ll need to connect all the unconnected people in your congregation?

It really is an annual dilemma, isn’t it?

Can I tell you something?  It’s only a dilemma for the churches that haven’t figured out how to recruit an unlimited number of small group leaders.  When I tripped across these ideas a few years ago, I thought someone was pulling my leg.  Turns out…they worked!  Even better…they worked better than anything I’d ever tried before.

Here are the three best ways I know to recruit small group leaders:

  1. The very best way to recruit small group leaders is to do a church-wide campaign on a great topic and ask your senior pastor to recruit people to host a group.  I’ve written extensively on this topic.  It is not hard, but it does require the cooperation of your senior pastor.  Trust me.  If you select the right campaign, it becomes easy to recruit hosts.  See How to Make the HOST Ask: The 2012 Version and 10 Simple Steps to a Great Church-Wide Campaign.
  2. Another great way to…

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Most church leaders want their churches to grow, and for the right reasons. They want new people to encounter God, grow in their faith, and join God on His mission of serving others. But there is often a wide gap between a church leader desiring to grow and the church possessing a mentality of multiplication.

During my church consulting days, I could quickly assess a church’s multiplication mentality by asking just one question: How often do you start new groups (or classes)? I would ask the question because I’d seen over and over again a close relationship between the churches that were growing and those who constantly launched new groups. The churches working hard to launch new small groups and Sunday School classes on a regular basis were continually connecting new people and building believers who were passionate about what the Lord was doing through His Church. Thus, they were growing.

The principle is obvious: If you want to connect new people in church, you must launch new groups.

Of course, that raises another question: What’s stopping churches from regularly starting new classes and groups? While a plethora of reasons may exist, here are the three that stand out in my mind:

  1. A lack of vision. It’s easy for church…

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