Archives For Small Groups

Whether you use a low or high bar of small group leadership, I think all of us have hope that our leaders will do more than open their home, facilitate a discussion or convene a meeting.  And…I think some of us have begun laying the foundation for a kind of leadership pathway.  See also, Raising the Bar, Lowering the Bar, or Open Bar and Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway.

Not long ago I noticed a post on Thom Rainer’s blog on the 8 Commitments for Bible Study Leaders.  As usual, it was very well thought out and extremely helpful, but it seemed to be primarily focused on the role of a Bible study teacher.  Important…but not targeted to the small group leaders many of us are identifying, recruiting and developing.

Here are the commitments I’d like my small group leaders to make:

  1. I will make my daily, living connection with Jesus Christ a priority—being in community with Him is the foundation for all community.  How will a new leader know what this means?  It will have to modeled by a coach or mentor.  Remember, whatever you want…

    Continue Reading

In a recent study by Men’s Health it was revealed that the top two ways men stay connected with friends are texting (#1) and “get togethers” (#2).  The reason we prefer these ways are twofold:  texting fits the factual, short, bottom line style of communication we appreciate and “get togethers” feed our need for closer, interpersonal camaraderie and connection with each other. Whether it’s just the guys or the guys with the gals we usually huddle by gender and “dive deeper.”  Guys usually assemble around wherever the meat is being grilled and sample it with a beverage in hand.  At the same time, the girls keep it real in the kitchen while prepping for the meal and talk about, well, everything.  That’s where the similarities end because guys do nottalk about everything.

In fact, guys prefer to keep it on the surface when we get together.   We stick to sports, work updates, kids sports, house projects, power tools, cars, working out, and our favorite recreational pursuit.  So let’s get this straight:  in the one setting with the most potential power in our lives to build strong

Continue Reading

PropellerEver wonder why some small group ministries seem to steadily move to new levels of success and health while others start with a bang and go out with a whimper?

Here are 5 commitments that make the difference:

  1. Connecting everyone to a small group is a top objective every year.  By “everyone” I mean everyone.  And not just 50% or 80% of the weekend adult attendance.  I’m talking about 150% of the weekend adult attendance number!  In addition, the commitment is to a small group (i.e., not a class or a Bible study that meets in rows).  And it’s not about off-campus versus on-campus.  It’s all about connecting to a group that includes the essential ingredients of life-change.  See also, Essential Ingredients of Life-Change and Design Your Group for Life-Change.
  2. Small group membership is an essential step in the strategy.  This is sometimes a little tricky but always very important.  If your church features a kind of buffet or a menu with multiple options to choose from for adults (i.e., Sunday morning classes, Wednesday night classes, discipleship groups, off-campus small groups, etc.), there is a strong possibility that you’re not clearly identifying active membership…

    Continue Reading

Once you make the decision that small groups will be your primary (or only) delivery system for connection and discipleship it only makes sense to look for ways to accelerate small group ministry growth and impact.

Here are what I’ve found to be 6 keys:

  1. Your senior pastor must become the primary spokesperson and champion.  Although I’ve not ranked these 6 keys in order of importance, there is no question that this a very important key.  If you want to build a thriving small group ministry, there is no work-around for the absence of this key.  See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.
  2. Move from promoting a menu of options (buffet) to a single next step (“plated meal”).  In its optimum form, this includes all types of promotion (verbal, print, and web).  Moving to a single next step is a very under-appreciated move.  At the same time, I’m not sure its power can be overstated.  See also, A “Plated Meal” Leads to a Church OF Groups and 10 Ideas That Have Shaped My Philosophy of Ministry.
  3. Rethink minimum leadership requirements to make it easy to…

    Continue Reading

DotsDo you have small group ministry issues you just can’t figure out?  Feel like there are just some dots that don’t connect to anything?  I think most of the time, they actually do connect.  We just miss the connection between the way we’re doing things and the results we’re experiencing.

I love this line from Andy Stanley:

“Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you’re currently experiencing.”

If you don’t like the results you’re currently experiencing, it’s time to start connecting some dots.

Here are four grouplife dots you may not be connecting:

I can’t find enough leaders…is most often connected to the method you’re using to identify and recruit them.  Setting the leader qualifications too high can play a role here too, but leaderscarcity is almost always related to inadequate leader identification tactics.  If you’ve settled for announcing your upcoming new leader training course, waiting for volunteers or relying on the apprentice model, you really are set up for disappointment.

Solution: Begin building in easier ways for potential new leaders to put their toes in the water.  The HOST strategy combined with a church-wide campaign is a great way to offer a six week test…

Continue Reading

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…

    Continue Reading

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…

Continue Reading

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…

    Continue Reading

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…

Continue Reading

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…

Continue Reading

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…

    Continue Reading

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…

    Continue Reading