Archives For Small Groups

BottleneckDid you know that a number of factors can throttle your small group ministry?  Did you know that there are certain factors that can limit your ministry impact?

A Brief Example

In some ways it’s like what I found out this week from the company that hosts my blog.  For several days in a row between 6 and 7 a.m. I kept getting an error message when I tried to log in to the editing dashboard.  Concerned, I tried to check the blog itself only to get an error message that essentially said, “You are out of business.”

What was causing it?  My blog was being throttled due to too much traffic and too much traffic related issues.  If you’ve tried to read it and been blocked…I’m sorry!  Hopefully, it will soon have those kinks worked out.

Now Back to Small Group Ministry

What are the factors that might be throttling your small group ministry?  Here are a few:

  1. Someone other than the senior pastor attempting to champion small group ministry.  Delegating the champion role to a staff member (even the small group pastor) or key volunteer screams, “This isn’t important.”  If you really want to connect beyond the…

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Mastering these two qualities will make all the difference in your group’s participationLeadership

Few traits describe a good group leader as effectively as “authentic” and “patient.”

When you lead a group, just be yourself. God wants to use your unique gifts and temperament. Don’t try to do things exactly like another leader; do them in a way that fits you! Admit it when you don’t have an answer and apologize when you make a mistake. Your group will love you for it.

You can show patience when you ask a question. This is often difficult for leaders because they fear awkward silences, but someone will eventually respond. Sometimes people need a moment or two of silence to think about the question, and if silence doesn’t bother you, it won’t bother anyone else.

After someone responds, affirm the response with a simple “Thanks” or “Good job.” Then ask, “How about somebody else?” or “Would someone who hasn’t shared like to add anything?” Be sensitive to new people or reluctant members who aren’t ready to say, pray, or do anything. If you give them a safe setting, they will blossom over time. Again, patience will serve your…

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Small Group GatheringHow do you answer the question, “What does your group do?”

Probably the most common answers would be, “Our group…

  • meets to discuss their pastor’s last message
  • works their way through a book of the Bible
  • always has a DVD-driven study
  • eats a meal together twice a month
  • chooses a service project to do together
  • etc.

Healthy Groups Integrate Four Components into Every Gathering

One of the many helpful insights that Carl George introduced with the Meta Church model is that four components are present at every gathering in healthy groups.  These components are love, learn, decide and do.  The balance between the components are determined by the purpose or function of the group (for example, a small group that focuses on Bible study might be 20% love, 70% learn, 5% decide, and 5% do, while a serving group might be 20% love, 10% learn, 5% decide, and 65% do).

The key to the insight is that for a group to be healthy, all four components must be present.

Remember, designing your group for life-change is much more than simply choosing the best activity or study.  The way you spend your time together is a key element.  If you want your group…

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 Three Ways to Become More Like Christ

Scripture Cards

The novel Across the Nightingale Floor is a classic hero tale set in a fictional ancient Japan. Cut off by tragedy from his childhood world, teenage Takeo forges a new life as the adopted son of Lord Shigeru. Shigeru is nothing like the villagers among whom Takeo was raised, but the boy quickly decides he wants to be just like Shigeru when he becomes a man. It’s not just that Shigeru saved his life. Shigeru also has qualities that Takeo wants: wisdom, patience, kindness, and the skills and honor of a warrior. Takeo commits his life to emulating his adopted father/master and fulfilling Shigeru’s goals.

Like Takeo, we too were born to be heroes—people who serve God and bring about significant good in the world. But who can save our lives and then show us how to live them? Jesus can.
When Simon, Andrew, James, and John first met Jesus, they were already looking for something more in their lives than just fishing. Jesus was a rabbi seeking students. In those days a rabbi wasn’t just an academic lecturer, and a student or “disciple” wasn’t interested in mere…

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Quiet GuyI was in a small group my junior and senior years of high school that was absolutely monumental in my spiritual journey. That group helped me more than years and years of sermons I heard. More than years and years of sitting under a Sunday school teacher. More than years and years of individual study.Even though I didn’t talk much.

You know why I didn’t talk much during group time?

I was afraid.

I was afraid that I’d say something and be wrong.

Afraid I’d misquote a Scripture.

Afraid I’d say something and be disproven.

Afraid I’d say something dumb.

There were a handful of times when I’d share something, only for someone to immediately respond with, “Well, why would you say this if ______ is true? What about the verse that says, “______.”

I’m sure that the guys saying these things weren’t trying to strike fear in me. Surely they weren’t intentionally trying to undercut every little step of faith I took to kick my fear in the teeth. They couldn’t be backhanding slamming my little serve across the net, like the guy that toys with you in ping pong, only to make you look silly with…

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The Saddleback Internet Campus leadership team put together this great video challenging people to consider hosting an Easter party to watch the online service with friends. What a tremendous evangelism idea.

How could your church use this idea this Easter? What creative means do you use to reach more people at Easter?

And if you’re interested in hosting a party using Saddleback’s online service, click here.

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Right now at Saddleback Church we are in the thick of it! We are finishing up our “Live Your Calling” Campaign; a Campaign that launched over 3,000 new small groups. Yup, you are reading the correct! Praise God and oh my Lord we need your help!!! This is been the most successful Campaign at Saddleback in the 15 years I have been their Small Groups Pastor. Right now at the height of the Campaign we have 7,018 adult small groups! If you don’t know what a Campaign is, click HERE.

So what has helped Saddleback Churches small groups sustain over these past 15 years to increase from 260 adult small groups to 4,587 adult small groups (this number is prior to the Campaign)? Some of it is learning in the moment and some is trail and error, but most of it is by God’s grace! As a small group pastor for over 25 years now, (hurts to even say that!) what I have learned is that it is easier to start groups than sustain them. Every year we face the same situation, how do we hold onto all that God creates? (this is a…

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BibleOne man’s advice on finding a Bible that speaks to you.
By Ben Irwin

I grew up in a Christian home surrounded by Bibles—all 400-year-old King James Versions. One day, someone gave me one in a language I could understand, and it transformed my life. I went to seminary, worked as a youth pastor for little while, and then worked for Christ Bible Publishers, where I edited Christian literature—which I love. Because of my experience, I’m passionate about helping people engage the Bible—for the first time or all over again in a fresh way.

Many small groups members want to go deeper, but after looking at shelves upon shelves of Bibles, are unsure of what translation to choose. Unlike a paraphrase Bible, which is written by one or a few, a translation is edited by a committee of scholars. Both have tremendous value to the church.

Several translations are available today, which include fantastic resources. The New International Version is clear and accurate, while the New Living is readable, using language similar to ours today. The New American Standard provides detailed word study, while the New King James is an updated version of the cadence…

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One Great Way to Get Your Group to Open Up

Prayer Circle

One concern of nearly every small group leader is how to get everyone to open up. This is especially problematic in larger groups. If your group has more than seven people, here’s a great technique for encouraging sharing:

Separate your group into discussion circles of three or four people. With a greater opportunity to talk in a small circle, people will connect more with the study, apply more quickly what they’re learning and ultimately get more out of it.

A small circle also encourages a quiet person to participate and tends to minimize the effects of a more vocal or dominant member. And it can help people feel more loved in your group. When you gather again at the end of the section, you can have one person summarize the highlights from each circle.

Small circles are also helpful during prayer time. People who are unaccustomed to praying aloud feel more comfortable trying it with just two or three others. Also, prayer requests won’t take as much time, so circles will have more time to actually pray.

When you gather back with the whole group,…

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Several years ago a small group pastor joined our coaching program. He had gone from having no small groups in his church to actually launching 233 groups for a 40 day church-wide campaign. At the end of the campaign, when it was all said and done, he ended up with three groups. What a heartbreak!

Over the years, in the laboratory of hundreds of churches across the country, we’ve learned a few things about keeping the momentum going and helping to sustain groups for the long haul.

1.       Groups Need a Next Step.

Most new groups do not have an opinion of what they want to study next. How many times has a new group leader presented a selection of curriculum to the group only to hear, “They all look good. Why don’t you pick one.” Happens almost every time.

Of course, the other issue here is the fact you invited folks to join a group for six weeks and not for the rest of their lives. For some strange reason, once the six weeks ends, they feel like their commitment is up – because it is.

We launched groups at our church in…

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I’ve been a student of small group ministry and ministries for almost 25 years.  I’ve read everything I could find.  Found ways to ask a lot of questions.  Even cultivated my own set of confidential informants (okay, that’s not really what they were, but you get the idea).

Let’s just say I have been a student and I’m still learning.

Along the way I’ve carefully noted the distinctives of the various strategies and models.  Come to conclusions about their advantages and disadvantages.

I’ve also noticed that the most effective small group ministries share four key traits.

  1. They are championed by the senior pastor.  It’s interesting to note that Steve Gladen and Bill Willits have played key roles in building the two largest small group ministries in the country but are rarely, if ever, seen in the weekend services at Saddleback and North Point.  See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.
  2. Small groups are offered as the way you get connected and the way you grow spiritually.  They’re not promoted or described as one of several options.  See also A Plated Meal Leads…

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As I write article I am sitting in a Starbuck’s at 7 a.m., which in itself doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary. Factor in now that I am not a morning person, it is my day off, I was up late, and being here is not my choice…I am a prisoner!

To what?

My daughter’s schedule. As an incoming freshman she tried out for “cheer” at her High School. She made the squad! We were so happy…but reality was just beginning to set in. Like so many parents who have High Schoolers involved in team sports and school activities, you become a prisoner to the schedule they need to keep. My freedom to choose has been taken away.

Taken for granted

When we talk about freedom, what do you think? To be honest, for so many of us we probably never think about it too much because freedom is always around us. To most of us, unless we are in prison or in an addictive behavior that imprisons us, freedom rarely comes to mind. Being a “prisoner” probably comes more to our minds (if at all)…

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