Archives For Small Groups

Old Sunday School

When a church begins new small groups or Sunday School classes, eternity is impacted. New hands are put to the task. Easy entry points are established. Members are more likely to invite lost friends. Peripheral members become involved. And Christians joyfully rediscover the outreach purpose of the church.

Imagine what would happen if your church began lots of new classes this year. Need some fresh ideas?

  • Life changes offer opportunities for new classes. Provide a small group for expectant parents or engaged couples. (They will evolve into new parents and newlyweds classes.)  How about a class for recent retirees or college students? If your youngest adult class has aged a bit, add a new class for younger adults.
  • Your church ministries may provide opportunities for new small groups. Example: a church with weekday childcare could invite those parents for a new class.
  • Consider establishing a new small group for each decade of adults. Fresh new classes attract newcomers and others who do not currently attend. Provide a list of new members who aren’t active in a small group, as well as recent guests and uninvolved church members. Advertise the new class in your…

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You know the painfully frustrating experience when your computer is just stuck and you can’t get it to do what it’s supposed to do?  You sit there helplessly and watch the little twirly thing spin.  Can’t get any work done.  Can’t even shut down correctly.

Know the feeling?  Sometimes the best solution is to reboot the computer.

Sometimes a small group ministry is like that.

Sometimes you just need a reboot, a fresh start, a “do over.”

Here are the top 10 signs your small group ministry needs a reboot:

  1. Your senior pastor is hesitant to promote your connecting events.
  2. You’ve had the same 8 small group leaders for the last three years.
  3. You can’t find any new qualified leaders.
  4. The most obvious product of your small groups is dissension and gossip.
  5. You have more than enough groups but can’t persuade your unconnected members and attendees to join.
  6. Your church has the impression that real discipleship happens in rows, not circles.
  7. Small groups are seen as an extracurricular activity for the highly committed.
  8. Your church has more rogue groups than on-board groups.
  9. You never hear life-change stories from your group leaders.
  10. Groups being joined by a neighbor or co-worker never happens.


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Everyone knows that before you take your car on a road trip…you really should do more than fill up the gas tank.  You might check the tire pressure and take it in for an oil change.  You might decide it’s time for new windshield wipers or even a new set of tires.

Getting ready for the next leg in your small group ministry adventure?  Maybe it’s time you took your ministry through my signature 10 point checklist!

  1. Review your small group ministry’s present state.  There are a number of ways you can think about the way things are right now.  An accurate understanding of where you are right now is essential no matter where you want to go.  See also, Diagnosing a Small Group Ministry and The Four Helpful Lists by Tom Paterson.
  2. Review (or create) your end in mind for your ideal small group.  What kinds of groups do you want for every member of a group?  Are there certain activities and habits?  Are there certain experiences?  What do you want it to feel like to be part of a small group in your system?  See also, 

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If I told you I look forward every year to the next campaign from Saddleback…you’d know I was telling you the truth, right?  Listen, Transformed: How God Changes Us is brand new, hot off the presses, and might be just what the doctor ordered for your church.

If the early part of the year is made for turning over a new leaf and a new beginning, Transformed is really well conceived.  Anchored in the apostle Paul’s profound truth in Romans 12:2, this campaign will guide and grow your church by exploring what the Bible has to say about every essential area of our lives: Spiritual, Physical, Mental, Emotional, Relational, Financial, and Vocational.

DVD-driven, Transformed is a 7 session study that accompanies a 7 week message series.  The national launch of the campaign is March 2nd, 2014 (this is actually when it begins at Saddleback).  Like all of Saddleback’s campaigns, this one is the complete package and is a true church-wide campaign with material for the whole family.

The DVD segments are classic Rick Warren.  It’s Rick 2.0, slimmer and the Hawaiian shirt has been replaced by a…

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From the mundane and everyday to the extraordinary and once-in-a-lifetime, all of us have puzzles we are trying to solve.  Sometimes a single new perspective is all that’s needed to solve a difficult puzzle.  I love Alan Kay’s wisdom that “perspective is worth 80 IQ points.”

The thing is, I don’t know what your puzzle is.  No clue.  Well…to tell you the truth…I can kind of guess what some of them might be.  And here’s the best part.  I think one or more of these 5 powerful ideas could help you solve the puzzle!  They’ve helped me over and over.  Bet if you try them on for size, it’ll be like adding 80 IQ points!

5 Powerful Ideas

  1. There is no problem-free.  This simple idea when inserted into a discussion about the best way to do anything is an extremely powerful idea.  The truth is there are no problem-free ways of doing anything.  Every strategy, every solution, comes with its own set of of problems.  Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  See also, The Pursuit of Problem-Free.
  2. Next steps for everyone and…

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Healthy Small GroupI’m sold on small groups. There are very few ways to create an atmosphere conducive to building strong relationships than studying the Bible in the living room of a friend. I also agree with Rick Howerton about the need to consider a more organic pathway to healthy groups.

I was recently in a conversation with my coach, Danny Kirk, about what small groups look like at Grace Hills, and how we know when a group is healthy. By the end of our conversation, I had seven clearly articulated signs of group health and the kind of metric to apply to each. (And that’s the benefit of coaching!)

So here are my seven signs of a healthy small group:

1. There is a consistency in meeting and a desire to meet.

When a group is healthy, there is a desire and a delight in getting together. It doesn’t feel like “one more thing” but rather “when can we meet next?” And healthy groups are intentional about meeting if at all possible. Illness, travel, weather, and other events can get in the way, obviously, but for the most part, healthy groups get together regularly…

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SproutsHave you figured this out already?  Still arm wrestling with the usual suspects over whether the return on investment is worth the cost?

Here are 10 killer benefits of a thriving small group ministry:

  1. Life-change happens best in small groups. You might have a killer weekend worship service with powerful teaching and inspiring worship, but you still need to know that “the optimal environment for life-change is a small group” because life-change happens best in circles, not rows.  See also, Essential Ingredients for Life-Change andAndy Stanley on Creating a Culture that’s All About Circles.
  2. Small groups make churches personal.  Whether your church averages 150 or 1500, if I can slip into a back row and then leave without sharing life with a person…your church is too large to not incorporate a small group experience.  Yes, it’s still true that a certain kind of person or a particular stage in life makes a toe-in-the-water easier when you can be anonymous.  But the research is in.  The desire to find a few good friends is on the rise and loneliness is increasing.  See also, Don’t Miss These Two Huge Barna Findings for Small…

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Small group coaching does not work.”  If I’ve heard that once, I’ve heard it a million times.  In fact, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard it…I’d be a millionaire!

Ever said it yourself?

I’ve discovered there are five assumptions that set small group coaching up to #fail.  Wonder if you have any of these?

5 Assumptions that Set Small Group Coaching Up to #Fail:

  1. Expressing a desire to be a coach is enough.  Not!  Just like taking volunteers to lead a group you assemble, taking volunteers to be a coach is incredibly risky.  Harmful below-the-waterline motivations are very common (I estimate more than half the time!).  Power and prestige hunting posers are very common.  Much safer and more effective to decide who to recruit and accept no substitutes.  See also, How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.
  2. Warm and willing is better than nothing.  Not!  Similar to assumption #1, warm and willing candidates won’t get the job done.  They are happy to say “yes” to coaching but don’t have the stature to pull it off.  Settling for 30-fold leaders when a 60-fold or 100-fold is…

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We pastors are good at our individual faith. Really good.

We can pray.

We can read.

We can introspect.

We can “interpret.”

We can do a “quiet time.”

We can study.

We can exegete.

But we pastors aren’t so good at sharing our faith. I mean, we can share it from stage. Woven into generic illustrations that describe “a” faith journey. But it’s too easy to hide behind our beautiful masks.

It’s time to acknowledge that we all deal with junk. Sometimes it’s a product of our own doing. Sometimes it’s from someone else.

But that beautiful mask you’ve constructed is still a mask, hiding who you really are.

Quit hiding. It’s not doing you any good. Nor is it doing any good for those you lead.

Your messy story paints a beautiful picture of grace, mercy, hope, and love.  No need to hide.

You need Gospel community, just like those you lead do.

Gospel community offers you refuge that the secrecy of your beautiful mask would like to keep hidden.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! – God (Isaiah 43:1)

If you’re interested in taking your…

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Don’t hate me, but there are at least 5 things I used to believe about small group ministry…that I no longer believe are true.  Actually, I no longer believe they are the best way to do what needs to be done.

Here are 5 things I used to believe…and what I’ve found to be a better solution:

  1. Then: The best way to multiply small group leaders is to recruit and develop an apprentice (who would be ready to birth a new group in 18 to 24 meetings).  Now: Apprenticing is a very important practice and ought to be part of every leadership development plan.  At the same time, the idea that it is the best way to multiply small group leaders is a beautiful sentiment that almost never works in the real world.  The best way to identify, recruit and develop leaders is with a well planned and well executed church-wide campaign.  The second best way is to use a connecting event that identifies leaders (like a small group connection).  See also, Five GroupLife Dots You May Not Be Connecting and How Important Is It to Have An…

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Senior pastors…you need to know something.  If you want authentic community to flourish in your church, it begins with you.  It must begin with you.

I don’t know what has prompted your hope for authentic community to take hold in your church.  Maybe you’ve listened to Rick Warren or Andy Stanley or Bill Hybels talk about their own personal small groups and how important they’ve been in their own lives.  Maybe you’ve come to it through your own insight from scripture that you can’t do the one anothers in rows.  See also, The Real Reason Saddleback Connects So Many in Small Groups and Andy Stanley on Creating a Culture That’s All About Circles.

I don’t know.  But I do know this: If you want authentic community to flourish in your church, it begins with you.  It must begin with you because the hope that your congregation will experience something different or more than your own experience…isn’t anchored in reality.  If you want your congregation to experience authentic community it begins with you.  See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups and 

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The moves I’m going to suggest are simple.  They’re not hard to understand.  They’re not even hard to execute.  They’re not easy.  They will take some work.  But they’re not complicated.  They’re simple and they will shift your ministry to a new trajectory.

Here are 5 simple moves:

  1. Choose a cross-cultural church-wide campaign for February, 2014.  It’s not complicated.  Choose an off-the-shelf campaign on a topic that your friends and neighbors care about.  Imagine yourself walking next door to invite your neighbors to attend.  What would the topic have to be for them to even consider joining your group?  See also, Top 5 January/February Church-Wide Campaigns for 2014 and 5 Things You Need to Know about Connecting Unconnected People.
  2. Adjust the height of your leader bar to make it easy to begin.  This is a simple move with huge dividends.  Making it easy to say “yes” to hosting a group allows the people with the largest number of strong connections into the community to play.  You can still set parameters that mitigate the risk of this move (i.e., Anyone can pick up group material as long as…

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