Archives For Small Groups

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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What changes everything in small group ministry?  What’s the one thing that makes the biggest difference?

I’ve written about this many times in the last several years, but it’s clear to me that the one thing that changes everything is senior pastor support.  To be clear, I’m not talking about moral support.  I’m not talking about “I believe in what you’re doing” kind of support.  And I’m not talking about simply being a believer and participant (as a leader or a member) in a small group.

Those are all good things.  But they’re not ultimately the one thing that changes everything.

The one thing that changes everything is when a senior pastor truly becomes the small group champion.  Way more than a figure head or a front man, senior pastors that truly become small group champions actually lead the public charge for small group participation.

  • They look for opportunities to tell stories about the benefits of their own group
  • They look for moments when an interview or a testimony can cast the vision of grouplife
  • They already embrace small group ministry as delivery system for ministry
  • Their support goes well beyond an annual plug and all the way to a weekly (and even daily) reference

The one thing…

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StrategyHaving lived through 9 campaigns (running point on 5) in my 12 years as Small-Group Pastor here at Saddleback, I have discovered that a strategy is only as good as the foundation and follow-through that surrounds it. As they say, the devil is in the details. That’s why our Saddleback Church Campaigns come with full instructions on how to run the campaign from start to finish. The instructions explain what types of teams you need to develop in addition to providing a calendar timeline and training DVDs.

Here’s another thing I’ve learned: a church-wide campaign will be an exponential experience for any church. It can be exponentially positive or negative, depending on how you approach it. So, based on my experiences (and a few battle scars), here are 12 tips to ensure a positive outcome for your church.

1. What’s the Compelling Question?

When you run a campaign, you need to know which question the campaign will answer. To give you an example, for our 40 Days of Purpose Campaign the question was, “What on earth am I here for?”

The compelling question gives your people a reason to join a small group and attend…

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KeysWhat makes for a dynamic small group experience?  Most of us know it when we see it.  Most of us have been in groups that have a different quality and go well beyond the ordinary.  I’ve written about what I think are theessential ingredients of life-change several times.

Here are what I think are the 5 keys to a dynamic small group experience:

  1. A group leader who is becoming more like Jesus.  Like Paul, the leader can say, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ,” 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV).  Embedded in this key are the practices of Jesus (praying for group members, thinking about their needs, loving them even when they fail, celebrating their faith steps, and appropriately challenging their stumbles.  A key for me is that need to be becomingmore like Jesus.  Like Jesus’ closest followers, they can start very far from being like Him.  See also The 12 Were Not Chosen from the Core and Leader Qualification: Raising the Bar, Lowering the Bar, or Open Bar.
  2. A group leader who is being mentored by someone who is a few steps ahead.  I’ve often said, “Whatever you want to happen in the lives…

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On Christmas Day, one of our traditions is to read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and before presents are opened, we discuss what we want to give Jesus this coming year. Now before you think higher of my family than you should, this is not a lengthy theological discussion, and not always met with the greatest excitement. However this year we actually had some great discussion and lead to many rabbit trails conversations, some good and some…well, really?

A rabbit trail conversation that turned interesting, was one of my kids wanted to ask Siri what she got for Christmas. The iPhone reply was perfect. She said, “I have learned to be content in what I have”. Now as a parent, this was a great springboard to drive home the value of being “content” and not wanting materialism to creep in. What it also brought up was the idea: do we ever NOT want to be content? Interesting, huh?

When you think of the New Year, for many of us it is about change. For many, it’s about being content. Culture calls these “New Year…

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Tips for New Year


Join Steve Gladen, Brett Eastman, Mark Howell, and Allen White as they talk to small group ministry leaders about five ways to go into 2013 strong. They’ll discuss how to disciple people, grow more groups, and have a healthier church.

Watch Now

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