Archives For Small Groups

Don’t we all long to be a part of something fun, exciting, and life-giving? girls

The sitcom Friends captured this desire. Every week, 50 million people watched six actors pretend to have relationships with one another. Its popularity was fueled by the deep longing we all have to be connected in community.

The advertising world has caught on to this yearning as well. MCI promises to connect us with “friends and family.” The felt need is clear. But the real need is found in the biblical word, koinonia, which means “fellowship.”  God’s plan from the beginning was that each one of us would belong to a spiritual community, where we all would be known and we would know others.

How can we create a community like this? How can we connect with one another?

Here are seven principles to help you CONNECT with the people in your group and to help them connect with one another:

1. Create a “one-another” community. In the New Testament there are more than 50 different references to “one another”: love one another, bear one another’s burdens, pray for one another, serve one another. This can’t happen only on Sunday mornings; it needs to happen in other…

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WallIf you’re like many, you’ve wrestled with the question, “Why can’t we break through this barrier?”

Here are what I believe are five of the most common artificial barriers that limit small group ministry:

  1. The impression that the weekend service meets the minimum weekly requirement.  Is it crystal clear in your church that being part of a small group plays an essential role in spiritual growth?  If being part of a small group isn’t consistently referenced as essential in both the weekend and everyday communication, you can be sure that your congregation has the impression that attending the weekend service meets the minimum weekly requirement.  See also, Life-Change at the Member Level.
  2. Too many selections on the next step menu.  It may surprise you to learn that too many options is actually demotivating.  In a fascinating study by Sheena S. Iyengar and Mark R. Lepper (Choice is Demotivating) it was learned that more is rarely better.  Their study examined customer responses to two jam sampling opportunities on two consecutive weekends at a high-end grocery store in Menlo Park, CA.  The first weekend featured a stand with 24 selections (extensive choice).  The second weekend featured…

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Why your groups must step out of their boatsboat

You’ve seen them walk by. The “cooler than thou” group. The group that everyone in the church wants to be a part of and everyone outside of the church blames as the reason why they don’t come.

Most of us became aware of cliques in high school: the preps, the jocks, the high-achievers, and the rockers, to name a few. Ancient cliques included groups like the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Hellenists, who condemned everyone and only enjoyed the company of each other.

We know how cruel kids can be, but we forget that church members and leaders can be just as cold-hearted and narrow-minded.

When our mindset is not one of multiplying people who disciple others and mentors, then we miss out on one of the most fundamental assets of the church: an individual’s capacity to minister to another individual. We know that not everyone is called to be a teacher or a leader, but every member is called to minister.

We’re reminded of this in 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that…

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When was the last time you watched a movie at home with your family and a few friends? Did you call the church office to decide whose house you would go to? Did you ask your pastor who to invite?

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Probably not!

If you are like most people, you just drove over to your local video store, checked out a movie, and called a friend or two. If that’s the case for most Christians, then why do we go to so much trouble signing people up to get into small groups and matching them with a small group leader?

Do we not trust them to invite the “right” people? To turn on a DVD or VCR? Or do our church attendees and members not have any friends, family, neighbors or co-workers they would like to hang out with for a few weeks studying a DVD-driven Bible study?

I realize this may be a new idea, but ironically it better follows Jesus’ model for forming his own small group community with the 12 disciples. First he spent time with a number of “Christ followers” getting to know them and discerning whether they would be the ones he “asked”…

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The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”  Matthew 9:37 (NIV)harvest

“I didn’t think I could do it.
But I found out I could.
It’s not as hard as you think.
You just have to have a willing heart.” – Anonymous

For those living fast-paced, high-pressured, demand-filled lives, the Church stands as an oasis. The church allows us to connect to God and to each other, and at the heart of this connection is the small group community — a circle of friends that help you live your life on purpose..

Small groups enable a large church to be personal, to be able to touch the lives of individuals through relationships. Key to the success of a small group is a host/leader. But how on earth do you ever get enough of them?

While I served as the small group champion on the Saddleback staff we witnessed an incredible outpouring of God’s Spirit on our church family. In just a matter of months we saw literally thousands of people get connected under the care of a small group leader. And yet 50 percent of church families were still not connected under the care of a…

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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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