Archives For Small Groups

Son of God Study KitWhat would happen if you applied the lessons from events in Jesus’ life—temptation, suffering, death, resurrection—to your own? Would you come to know Him more intimately and with a greater understanding of your purpose? Would you embody more completely the mission, love, and mind of Jesus? This DVD small group study, based on producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s major theatrical release, Son of God, features New York Times bestselling author Pastor Rick Warren as he explains how you can find your purpose in studying the life of Jesus.

Whether you’re exploring the life of Jesus for the first time, or ready to take your faith to a deeper level, this study gives you practical steps to overcome temptation, suffering, and persecution and leverage these challenges to discover and fulfill God’s plan for your life.

This kit includes one study guide and one DVD with clips from the movie and follow-up by Rick Warren including exercises, prayers, discussion questions, and more. The study includes 6 sessions:

  • Jesus’ Baptism and Your Baptism
  • Jesus’ Temptation and Your Temptation
  • Jesus’ Suffering and Your Suffering
  • Jesus’ Death and Your Death
  • Jesus’…

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Small Group Misalignment

Does your strategic dashboard light up with flashing warning signals and even alarm bells when you run certain diagnostics?  Or do you find yourself reporting that “everything is fine” even when you find yourself uneasy about what’s really happening?

I’ve written about the top 1o signs your small group ministry needs a reboot and a 5 step plan for rebooting your small group ministry, but it occurred to me that you might not necessarily recognize several key misalignment signals.

What am I calling a misalignment signal?  Why am using that term?  Pretty simple really.  It is very common to find myself mid-conversation with a pastor and suddenly discover that they’ve chosen a strategy that just isn’t the right one given their results.  They may hope things will work out, but the signals their system is giving off clearly indicate that something is very wrong.  See also, 5 GroupLife Dots You May Not Be Connecting.

Here are 5 serious misalignment signals:

  1. Your senior pastor is ineffective at making the HOST ask and the response is always less than you hope.  It has been my observation that a well-executed HOST ask should generate a response from…

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Saddleback Church

I had a great phone call with Steve Gladen (Saddleback’s Pastor of the Small Group Community) last week, thinking that I’d glean enough to turn around and create an overview of the host rally event.  I was right…I got a ton of great ideas…but there was so much good stuff that I decided to post an edited transcript and a link to my recording of the phone call.

Spoiler Alert: Waaay longer post than normal.  My suggestion, read along while you listen to my recording of the phone call.  Here’s the audio: Steve Gladen on the HOST Gathering.

MH: At Saddleback, you always seem to be working to improve the way you do what you do and the church-wide campaign seems to be no exception.  One aspect that I’m really curious about is the post-campaign host rallyWhy hold a rally?

SG: First off I want to say a couple things.  Our language is more of a “host gathering.”  And we really do two different gatherings.

  • First, we do a gathering prior to the launch and we’ll do this with both our existing hosts, to get them familiar with what we’re trying to do and why…

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You know how sometimes there really is an elephant in the room and no one wants to talk about it?  Or if certain people are in the room a kind of code is used to disguise the real topic?  Depending on who’s in the room, the subject of starting new groups can be like that.

Don’t believe me?  Try having conversations (or even casting vision) about the need for new groups:

  • In front of the leaders of groups that aren’t full.
  • In front of certain members of groups that everyone knows ought to be leading a group.
  • When space is at a premium and the new groups will need to be off-campus.
  • When two or three unconnected generations have already voted with their feet…but the leaders of the status quo want equal time when it comes to promotion.
  • Etc.

Sound familiar?  What is a leader to do?  You might need to begin to lead by acknowledging the truth about the need to start new groups.

5 blatantly obvious truths:

  1. There is a very good reason you need to start new groups.  After all, ”Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing (Andy Stanley).”  If you’ve not already connected 100% of your…

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High Ground

How can you tell if your small group ministry is gaining ground?  What are the signs?  Can it be measured quantitatively?  Or do you have to know how to measure qualitatively?

Obviously, you can measure many things quantitatively.  Quantitative measurements like how many groups you have, how many leaders and apprentices you have, and how many people you have in groups all tell you something.  The reality though, is quantitative measurements don’t tell you the whole story.

Recently, I shared 5 keys to taking new ground in 2014.  In this post I want to highlight 10 ways to know if your small group ministry is gaining ground.

10 Ways to Know If Your Small Group Ministry is Gaining Ground:

  1. Life-change stories begin to be more common (and have a small group angle).  Clearly a qualitative measure, but if it’s true that the optimum environment for life-change is a small group, doesn’t it make sense that as your small group ministry grows…there should be more life-change stories?
  2. “One another” stories begin to be more common than complaints.  Since most of the one-anothers cannot happen in rows, doesn’t it make sense that as your small group ministry grows you’d…

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Want to take new ground in 2014?  Don’t we all?  You’re probably not spending a lot of time figuring out how to avoid or slow down the rate of losing ground (although this Dilbert cartoon has a very funny take on the idea).  No, if you wake up in the middle of the night it’s probably to think about what you need to do to take new ground.

Here are five keys to taking new ground in 2014:

  • Sharpen clarity on your preferred future.  One of the most productive things all of us can do is to develop razor sharp clarity on where we want to go as an organization.  If “path, not intent, determines destination” (Andy Stanley), then clarity on destination makes the best path obvious.  See also, Start with the End in Mind and Choosing What Not to Do.  In addition, two excellent resources on this subject are The 7 Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley and Church Unique by Will Mancini.
  • Be about finding solutions.  There are people on almost every team that seem pre-wired to focus on problem identification.  If you want to take new ground, you must build a team that is about…

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Small Group Pastor

I’ve been asked many times for a small group pastor job description, and that is certainly one way to look at the situation.  If I was a senior pastor though, I’d look at it from another angle.  I’d try to figure out the habits and patterns that make for the ideal candidate.

Here are the 5 habits I’d be looking for:

  • A long-term pattern of doing life in authentic community.  Remember, we can only expect the members of our groups to experience what their leaders have already experienced.  Doesn’t it follow that it’s crazy to expect members to experience things that aren’t modeled by the small group pastor?  When you find the right candidate they’ll have stories about previous groups, deep friendships in every port, and a desperate need for connection.  See also, 3 Prerequisite Convictions for Senior Pastors Who Experience Authentic Community.
  • A habit of identifying, recruiting and developing high capacity leaders of leaders.  Don’t miss this one!  Building a thriving small group ministry absolutely depends on the implementation and cultivation of a reasonable “span of care” and it’s ludicrous to expect to build a significant ministry without high…

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Old Sunday School

When a church begins new small groups or Sunday School classes, eternity is impacted. New hands are put to the task. Easy entry points are established. Members are more likely to invite lost friends. Peripheral members become involved. And Christians joyfully rediscover the outreach purpose of the church.

Imagine what would happen if your church began lots of new classes this year. Need some fresh ideas?

  • Life changes offer opportunities for new classes. Provide a small group for expectant parents or engaged couples. (They will evolve into new parents and newlyweds classes.)  How about a class for recent retirees or college students? If your youngest adult class has aged a bit, add a new class for younger adults.
  • Your church ministries may provide opportunities for new small groups. Example: a church with weekday childcare could invite those parents for a new class.
  • Consider establishing a new small group for each decade of adults. Fresh new classes attract newcomers and others who do not currently attend. Provide a list of new members who aren’t active in a small group, as well as recent guests and uninvolved church members. Advertise the new class in your…

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You know the painfully frustrating experience when your computer is just stuck and you can’t get it to do what it’s supposed to do?  You sit there helplessly and watch the little twirly thing spin.  Can’t get any work done.  Can’t even shut down correctly.

Know the feeling?  Sometimes the best solution is to reboot the computer.

Sometimes a small group ministry is like that.

Sometimes you just need a reboot, a fresh start, a “do over.”

Here are the top 10 signs your small group ministry needs a reboot:

  1. Your senior pastor is hesitant to promote your connecting events.
  2. You’ve had the same 8 small group leaders for the last three years.
  3. You can’t find any new qualified leaders.
  4. The most obvious product of your small groups is dissension and gossip.
  5. You have more than enough groups but can’t persuade your unconnected members and attendees to join.
  6. Your church has the impression that real discipleship happens in rows, not circles.
  7. Small groups are seen as an extracurricular activity for the highly committed.
  8. Your church has more rogue groups than on-board groups.
  9. You never hear life-change stories from your group leaders.
  10. Groups being joined by a neighbor or co-worker never happens.


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Everyone knows that before you take your car on a road trip…you really should do more than fill up the gas tank.  You might check the tire pressure and take it in for an oil change.  You might decide it’s time for new windshield wipers or even a new set of tires.

Getting ready for the next leg in your small group ministry adventure?  Maybe it’s time you took your ministry through my signature 10 point checklist!

  1. Review your small group ministry’s present state.  There are a number of ways you can think about the way things are right now.  An accurate understanding of where you are right now is essential no matter where you want to go.  See also, Diagnosing a Small Group Ministry and The Four Helpful Lists by Tom Paterson.
  2. Review (or create) your end in mind for your ideal small group.  What kinds of groups do you want for every member of a group?  Are there certain activities and habits?  Are there certain experiences?  What do you want it to feel like to be part of a small group in your system?  See also, 

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If I told you I look forward every year to the next campaign from Saddleback…you’d know I was telling you the truth, right?  Listen, Transformed: How God Changes Us is brand new, hot off the presses, and might be just what the doctor ordered for your church.

If the early part of the year is made for turning over a new leaf and a new beginning, Transformed is really well conceived.  Anchored in the apostle Paul’s profound truth in Romans 12:2, this campaign will guide and grow your church by exploring what the Bible has to say about every essential area of our lives: Spiritual, Physical, Mental, Emotional, Relational, Financial, and Vocational.

DVD-driven, Transformed is a 7 session study that accompanies a 7 week message series.  The national launch of the campaign is March 2nd, 2014 (this is actually when it begins at Saddleback).  Like all of Saddleback’s campaigns, this one is the complete package and is a true church-wide campaign with material for the whole family.

The DVD segments are classic Rick Warren.  It’s Rick 2.0, slimmer and the Hawaiian shirt has been replaced by a…

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From the mundane and everyday to the extraordinary and once-in-a-lifetime, all of us have puzzles we are trying to solve.  Sometimes a single new perspective is all that’s needed to solve a difficult puzzle.  I love Alan Kay’s wisdom that “perspective is worth 80 IQ points.”

The thing is, I don’t know what your puzzle is.  No clue.  Well…to tell you the truth…I can kind of guess what some of them might be.  And here’s the best part.  I think one or more of these 5 powerful ideas could help you solve the puzzle!  They’ve helped me over and over.  Bet if you try them on for size, it’ll be like adding 80 IQ points!

5 Powerful Ideas

  1. There is no problem-free.  This simple idea when inserted into a discussion about the best way to do anything is an extremely powerful idea.  The truth is there are no problem-free ways of doing anything.  Every strategy, every solution, comes with its own set of of problems.  Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  See also, The Pursuit of Problem-Free.
  2. Next steps for everyone and…

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