Archives For Small Groups

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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When you or your people are presented with an opportunity to grow, a certain degree of risk is always involved. It may be a risk of time or money or a risk of stepping out of a comfort zone. At that moment, they have two options: step out in faith or be paralyzed by fear and refuse to move at all. The key to preventing paralysis is lowering the bar of risk and providing your people with opportunities to become involved at a crawl level. Once they have been successful at the crawl level, which builds their faith, then you can ask for a walk commitment and later a run commitment. Unfortunately, very often churches place the entry bar too high and ask immediately for a run. Doing so almost ensures your people will be paralyzed by fear and refuse your request. The risk level is just too high. If you lower the bar and ask for a crawl commitment, you have reduced the risk and increased the likelihood of getting a positive response.

Risk and Opportunity

In 1 Samuel 17 we see a wonderful example of the opportunity-risk or fear-faith cycle played out in the life of David. His first opportunity…

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1. Minister to the needs of your membersbusiness_main

Okay, so that may seem obvious, but one of the critical roles of a small group leader is to shepherd the people in your group. Does the word “shepherd” scare you? It shouldn’t. God has provided you with the gifts and abilities to care for those in your small group.

In a healthy small group, the members, as well as the leaders, must be “healthy.” In fact, I would say that the success of your small group depends on its health. A healthy small group integrates all 5 biblical purposes into its life, but it’s the leader’s job to establish the biblical purpose of “fellowship” within the first few weeks of your group’s existence.

As the small group leader, you need to pray for and “love on” each member of the group. That means making sure people feel connected with other members in the group, being attentive to what people say in the group – perhaps, for example, you may sense after the first several meetings that one couple in the group is struggling in their marriage. Your job as a leader is to pray…

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FogYesterday I added a simple exercise you can use to identify next steps.  It occurred to me as I wrote yesterday’s post that even completing that simple exercise is very tough for many organizations, because they don’t know the answers to a set of essential questions (what I often refer to as the Drucker Questions).

I’ve been working my way through The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni’s latest, for the last several months.  Unlike Lencioni’s previous fablesThe Advantage calls for a careful read.  Packed with insights and practices, it includes a set of 6 critical questions that create organizational clarity.

Honestly, I don’t know how anyone can build ministries without this kind of clarity.

Here are Lencioni’s 6 Questions:

  1. Why do we exist?  This is the why question.  ”An organization’s core purpose–why it exists–has to be completely idealistic.”  ”How do we contribute to a better world?”  Don’t settle for the first answer.  Ask “Why?”  See Start with Why for more.
  2. How do we behave?  This is about values.  Core, Aspirational, Accidental, Permission-to-play.  Core values have been identified correctly when it will “allow itself to be punished for living those values and when it accepts the fact that employees will sometimes take…

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Small Group Bible StudyI am a natural born analyst.  Not a day goes by that I’m not analyzing what I’m reading, what I’m hearing, what I’m seeing.

As I analyze any small group system or aspect of a strategy, I always add a few important understandings and questions.  First, I am sure there are no problem-free solutions.  Second, I’m quick to add the great Roger Martin question, “What would have to be true for that approach to work?  Third, I asks the four questions that evaluate small group model effectiveness.  Finally, I do everything I can to cultivate an openness to new ideas.  See also, Supercharge Your Ministry with These 5 Questions and An Openness to New Ideas.

The result of most of my small group ministry analysis is the conclusion that lots of what is being touted as the best system, the most biblical strategy, the answer to all of our problems…is really good thinking mixed with neatly packaged sets of false dichotomies, overstatements, and sometimes includes a twist of smoke and mirrors.

Here are 5 of my honest conclusions right now:

  1. Pinning hopes of reaching unchurched people on…

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Looking for a wonderful means of worshipping as a group? Why not lead your group in sharing the Lord’s Supper? If you’ve never done this before, the idea certainly seems daunting, but here is a simple form by which your small group can share this sacrament. Of course, churches vary in their treatment of Communion so you may need to adapt these suggestions to your church’s beliefs.Communion

Steps in Serving Communion

1. Out of the context of your own experience, say something brief about God’s love, forgiveness, grace, mercy, commitment, tenderheartedness or faithfulness. Connect your words with the personal stories of the group. For example, “These past few weeks I’ve experienced God’s mercy in the way he untangled the situation with my son. And I’ve seen God show mercy to others of us here too, especially to Jean and Roger.” If you prefer, you can write down ahead of time what you want to say.

2. Read 1 Corinithians 11:23-26*:
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of…

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There are few other tasks in the family of God that surpass shepherding Jesus’ flock—which is what you as a leader are doing. As w0Jc266bXfZ-1YWGNf8C0lAXVFiAHLF_F8OPO_O6rWgyou prepare to lead—whether it is one session or an entire series—keep in mind that you are not alone. God knows everything about you, and he knew that you would be asked to lead your group.

It is common for all good leaders to feel unready to lead. Moses, Solomon, Jeremiah and Timothy were all reluctant to lead. But as he did for them, God promises to us, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Remember, you don’t have to try to do this alone. Pray right now for God to help you build a healthy leadership team. If you can enlist a co-leader, your experience will be much richer.

This is your chance to involve as many people as you can in building a healthy group. All you have to do is call and ask people to help—you’ll be surprised at the response.


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If you lead a small group study, you have a servant’s heart. As a group leader, your desire is to develop this same heart in the kxrC-HuwaxCN4t4Xei3l84Lr-5Oaj-OLV8u32_Wbc3cmembers of your group.

How do you build a muscle? You build it by using it. Similarly, you need to build the servant’s heart by working it.

One way to do this is by rotating leadership. Think about the gifts and abilities of your group members. At the end of your meeting, ask him or her if they’d be willing to facilitate your next meeting. Point them to all the leader helps and reassure them that it’s just for one meeting.

Another thing you can do to develop a servant’s heart in each group member is to take on a group service project. Your pastor is probably up to his eyeballs in responsibilities. Your group can exercise a servant heart by volunteering to do something to help out the church. Just phone the church office and find out if there’s something you can do for him for a couple of hours on a Saturday. You’ll have a great time, it will draw your group together, and your heart…

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ConnectionThere are a few things I know about connecting unconnected people.  And let me tell you something.  While there are definitely exceptions to just about every rule…if you can think of examples counter to these five you are thinking of exceptions.  Build your ministry off the rule and not the exception.

I’ve said many times that unconnected people are one tough thing away from not being at your church. Loss of a job.  Divorce or separation.  A devastating diagnosis.  A child in trouble.

Here are 5 more things you need to know about connecting unconnected people:

  1. Unconnected people have different appetites and rarely respond to menu items that appeal to the core and committed.  If you’re finding it hard to connect beyond the usual suspects, you might need to take a careful look at the topics of studies you’re offering.  See also, How to Choose Curriculum That Launches Groups and Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer.
  2. Unconnected people are wary of long commitments.  When you promote a short-term study that’s 13 weeks (Financial Peace, Experiencing God, some Beth Moore studies), you need to know that unconnected people hear “lifetime commitment.”  What’s the right length?  I’ve…

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KookaburrasThe question has been asked, “Won’t small groups create cliques that will divide our Church?” Great question.

In Mark 3:13-19, Jesus is followed by a large crowd of people all vying for his attention. The Bible says that He healed many, before eventually pushing away from the crowd. (That’s right, even Jesus got away to rest occasionally).

While heading up the mountain to get away, Jesus does something interesting:

And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Here is the point in Christ’s ministry where He separated the twelve from…

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