Archives For Small Groups

Communication MistakesThe single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  George Bernard Shaw

I have a love/hate relationship with Shaw’s line.  I love the simple truth in it.  And…I hate the simple truth in it.

One of the greatest inhibitors of effective ministry is poor (or less than great) communication.

Here are six very common mistakes:

  1. We assume that everyone already knows.  As infrequent attendance becomes more and more common, our assumption needs to be that everyone doesn’t already know.  This is why I’ve suggested that we need to make the host ask several weeks in a row.
  2. We try to explain detailed information in the wrong settings.  Some things need a more thorough explanation.  Detail can be provided in a well written FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) document.  Here’s an example of a Host FAQ.
  3. We try to automate too much communication.  Some things need a personal touch.  I hand out a lot of business cards and say, “Call me.  Let’s talk about it.”  No matter the size of your ministry, personalizing some communication is just good practice.  I’ve pointed out this little detail before.  See also, The Teeny Tiny…

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Launching CommunityThree Steps to Making Your Small Group Dream Come True For Your Church

So many of us have been there—you wake up in the middle of the night feeling pulled toward starting a small group ministry at your church. But by morning you still have no clue how to go about it.

I’ll tell you this: If you’re a pastor wondering how to go about launching a small group ministry, start by asking yourself, “Is a small group ministry something I truly value and can excite others with?” This is crucial because values manifest themselves not in your belief system but in your behavior. If your hands and feet are not sitting somewhere where you are sharing, it will be difficult for you to have conviction about the ministry from the pulpit, in your Sunday school class or in your own small group.

Then you should ask yourself, “Do I really believe in doing life together?” Here’s what I mean by this: Pastors and teachers often have trouble understanding and appreciating the value of small group ministry because they are used to telling people what to do versus talking about what they should…

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Small Groups Big ImpactWhen you think about your small group , was it assembled by design?  With some kind of intentionality?  Or did it just sort’ve randomly come together?

The same questions could be asked about the small groups in your ministry.  Were they assembled by design?  With some kind of intentionality?  Or did they just sort’ve randomly come together?

These are very important questions that are almost never asked.  They’re important because, to paraphrase Andy Stanley, “your small group (ministry) is perfectly designed to produce the results you’re currently experiencing.”

Think about that line for a moment.  The results you’re experiencing are directly linked to the design of your group (or your ministry).  That should tell us that we ought to be paying attention to the design.

Design Your Groups for Maximum Impact

There are a number of important aspects to the design of a group.  Keep in mind that like everything else,there are no problem-free designs.  Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  Every design combination will produce different results.  Wise leaders choose the design combination that produces the results they want to have.

  • Affinity (men, women, couples, singles, single again, single…

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Shaping Shepherds and SheepA friend who was in charge of our men’s ministry once said, “Some of these guys really don’t want me coaching them; they don’t want my help!”

“That’s all right,” I said, “If all these guys are living spiritually healthy lives, you can take it easy.”

“But some aren’t thriving spiritually,” he said. “They need encouragement.”

A coach’s primary goal is to help leaders become fully mature in Christ. Colossians 1:28 says, “We are to proclaim him, admonishing every man and woman, and teaching every man with all wisdom that we may present every man or woman complete in Christ.” Jesus desires that we grow deeper in our walk with him so we’re prepared for the mission to which God has called us.

By mentoring small group leaders Shaping Shepherds and Sheeps and their groups, we participate in the process of presenting every man and woman complete in Christ. This happens by helping them cultivate their spiritual health—even when it’s an uphill battle.

The acronym MENTOR provides steps to help you guide your small group leaders to spiritual maturity.

Motivate them to find a spiritual partner. You might think you already are their spiritual…

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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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