Archives For Small Groups

Words

Ever heard someone use a word or a phrase and there was something about the way they said it that made you realize…they didn’t know what it meant?  I remember when a friend of mine kept talking about the long tail (a business term) and ecosystem (or some other buzzword, I don’t remember) and it was so obvious to everyone else that he had no clue what either of the words actually meant!  To use a now ancient buzzword…it was emperor’s new clothes obvious.

Think there are buzzwords that we use and sometimes don’t actually know what they mean?  Or sometimes use in a way that is significantly different than everyone else?  I think there’s more than you might think!

Here are 10 of the most overused small group ministry buzzwords:

  1. Disciples who make disciples.  This actually might be the most overused small group ministry buzzword right now.  Not because it’s pretentious or anything.  Mostly because you’re probably not actually a disciple if you’re not making disciples.
  2. Spiritual formation.  If it isn’t complicated…it’s probably not legit.  I like what Dallas Willard said in Renovation of the Heart: “Spiritual formation…is the process by which the human spirit or will is given a…

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Gears

How do you know you have chosen the right small group system?  Can you know?  I think you probably can.

While there are at least half a dozen different small group systems, none of them areproblem-free.  Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  See also, How to Choose a Small Group System or Model.

So…how do you know you have chosen the right small group system?

You know you have the right small group system when…

  • …its design is consistent with the business you are in.  For example, if you claim to be in the disciple-making business, your system must be designed to make disciple-making an ordinary and everyday outcome.  Pointing to the exceptions as evidence is not proof that you have the right system.  See also, If I Was Starting Today and The First Question Every Small Group Pastor Must Answer.
  • …what you’ve predetermined you will call “success” is actually happening on a regular basis.  If you’ve written down what you will call a win and it’s actually happening, then you’ve probably chosen the right small group system.  If what you’ve predetermined you will call success only happens on the whiteboard when you’re casting vision…

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Healthy Small GroupSaddleback Church might seem like a large church on Sunday, but what’s really amazing is that we’re actually larger when we’re smaller. We’re larger during the week. On a recent weekend at Saddleback, we had over 25,000 people gathering on our campuses in southern California for weekend worship services, but there were about 35,000 who met in small groups from Santa Monica to San Diego.

Our model for ministry isn’t found in the list of largest or fastest-growing churches on earth. Our model for ministry is actually the very first church in the Bible. In Acts 5:42 it says this “The first church met day after day in the temple courts and from house to house.” We come together on the weekends for a large group gathering of everyone in the congregation. And then we scatter all week long for small group gatherings from house to house.

This matters a great deal if you want to see lives transformed. On the weekends, people come together and experience God’s powerful presence, hear teaching from the pulpit, and serve others within the life of the church. But it’s during the week, in small groups, that…

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Shortcut

Ever had this happen?  You’re doing a repetitive task the same way you’ve been doing it for years and then someone sees what you’re doing and tells you an easier way.

Or how about this, you’re driving somewhere you’ve been a million times and someone in the backseat says, “Did you know that there’s a much faster way?”

It’s kind of like that in small group ministry, you know.  There are definitely secrets and shortcuts that will get you where you want to go faster and more effectively.

Here are 5 small group ministry secrets and shortcuts:

  1. There are no problem-free small group systems, models or strategies.  This may not seem like a shortcut, but believe me, the pursuit of problem-free delays more ministry than anything else.  Wise leaders recognize that there is no problem-free and simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  See also, The Pursuit of Problem Free.
  2. If you’re having problems recruiting enough leaders, you’re using the wrong strategy.  If you’re still signing up leader candidates to attend the upcoming leader training course, you are overlooking the elephant in the room.  A significant percentage of leader training sign-ups (in a system where members are…

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Small Groups

Yesterday I asked the question, “What have you designed your groups to make?”  Answering my own question, I said, “Our small groups are designed to make followers of Jesus.”  And I must admit that my answer begs the question, “what kind of group will make disciples or followers of Jesus?”  See also, What Have You Designed Your Groups to Make?

What kind of group will make disciples…or followers of Jesus?

We could also ask, “What would have to be true about a group for it to make followers of Jesus?”

Good questions…don’t you think?

I’m sure there are more than these 5, but I don’t believe you can actually make followers of Jesus without these.  See what you think.

5 essential ingredients of groups that make followers of Jesus:

  1. The presence of a person who can say, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).”  How far ahead must they be?  A step or two.  Note: This person (or these people) may not need to be the leader of the group.  See also, 8 Habits of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader and Groups of All Kinds and the Essential Ingredients of Life-Change.
  2. A curriculum focused on learning…

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Romans 8Take a journey together with your small group to greater faith! If you’ve ever had feelings like, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m never going to change,” or “Life is too hard,” Romans eight is the chapter for you! Pastor Tom Holladay taught this video series beginning at the bottom and moving to the top of Saddleback Mountain through each of the four sessions to help us see clearly the journey from doubt to faith—from discouragement to hope—that God has for us.

Sessions Include:

Session 1: No Condemnation!
Session 2: No Frustration!
Session 3: No Desperation!
Session 4: No Separation!

Great Chapters of the Bible is a video-based small group series that will take your group in a verse by verse study through some of the most life changing truths in God’s Word.

Each chapter of the Bible is great because God wrote it all. But there are certain chapters that speak to our hearts and minds in an especially deep way. So each volume in this series goes deep into one chapter to draw out the life change that awaits us in these great passages.

Learn More or Purchase the…

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Coach for GroupYou can’t wait until the end of the summer to prepare for the fall ministry season.  Have you figured this out yet?  Most likely you’re on to this fact of life…but even if you are, you might need an idea or two about how to prepare and what to focus on.  See also, What To Do Before You Plan Another Church-Wide Campaign.

Here are 5 things I believe must be done in June:

  1. Meet with your senior pastor to clarify involvement and fine-tune where necessary.  It really doesn’t matter what strategy you’re using this fall to launch new groups, you need your pastor in the game.  Integrating the HOST ask into their sermon is essential.  Leveraging their influence at a HOST gathering is a huge opportunity.  Casting the vision for everyone to be involved in a group is something that only your pastor can do.  June is the time to confirm and clarify involvement (before vacations and/or study breaks).  See also, 6 Ways to Help Your Senior Pastor Make the Small Group Ask.
  2. Make sure your existing small group leaders are aware of the fall plans.  ”Why…

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Rookie

“That was a rookie mistake.”

Ever heard that? Ever said it to yourself? Probably all of us have been there and done that.

Here are 5 of the most common mistakes of rookie small group pastors:

  1. Trying to take care of too many small group leaders. This is a very common mistake and reflects a lack of understanding of span of care. Caring for too many can only do two things: burn out the caregiver or provide inadequate and watered down care. See also, Span of Care and How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.
  2. Propping up existing groups instead of starting new groups. It happens to all of us and if we let it, it will happen over and over. ”We are down to three couples…if you could send us a couple more it would be helpful.” This is a losing proposition. Far better to prioritize new groups and teach existing group leaders how to be on the lookout for new members. See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs. Start New Groups and Great Question: How Do I Train Leaders to…

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Exponential GrowthSometimes we know we need to make changes in our strategy, but we remain stuck because we’re focusing on the wrong variable.

Here are 5 simple small group ministry moves with exponential payoffs:

  1. Clarify and simplify your “leader” requirements.  What is in your current “leader” requirements that might be keeping the very first step into “leadership” from happening?  For example, you may want small group leaders to be members, to complete new leader training, and to be connected to a coach.  Is there are first step into leadership that can happen without membership?  Perhaps a preliminary category will enable a much larger number of first steps into leadership (like the person who picks of a grab-and-go pack and invites their own friends to join).  See also, Leader Requirements: Raising the Bar, Lowering the Bar, or Open Bar? and Customized Leader Requirements and Benefits
  2. Focus on starting new groups.  Whenever you have a choice, start new groups rather than adding new members to existing groups.  This may seem counterintuitive, but new groups have a much better chance of sticking than a new member added to an existing group.  Groups…

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What On Earth?Saddleback released the 40 Days of Purpose church-wide campaign in 2002.  Although they had previously launched internal spiritual growth campaigns, this one really was a just-add-water option.  Of course, in 2002 it really was just about the only option.

Today, there are lots of options and there are more all the time.  I’ve reviewed many of them and cataloged them here for your convenience.  How to choose?  I’d highly recommend my article, “How to Choose the Right Church-Wide Campaign.”

The Nearly Complete List of Church-Wide Campaigns (as of 4/29/14)

Note: This list is alphabetical.  In most cases, I’ve linked to my own review of the campaign.

Fresh New Growth

Here’s a growth axiom you can take to the bank. Whether you are pastoring a (large, medium, or small) church…leading a youth group…overseeing a music ministry…or involved with any other aspect of a church in which you believe God desires growth, it is just about guaranteed. Here it is:

New Units = New Growth

It’s a proven principle. New Sunday school classes attract new people. New small groups involve new people. New worship services connect with new people. New churches reach new people.

Why It Works

The most common application of this principle is in starting new groups. Here is why the strategy of starting new groups is so predictably successful:

  • New groups respond to human need. In long-established groups, members just like to be together. Relationships have become the primary value. And that’s good. But, often such groups lose their outward-focus and no longer contribute to the growth of the church. Starting a new group focuses on a specific human need(s) and how the new group will meet that need. Starting new groups directs a church’s focus outward.
  • New groups involve new people. Because new groups focus on meeting needs, those who were not…

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Healthy Small GroupI get a steady stream of emails asking for help with small group ministries.  I also find myself sitting down with small group pastors and senior pastors when I’m at conferences (or when ministry teams stop in to see me in Vegas).

It’s fun and I love the opportunity to help.  But I thought it might help you to know that I ask the same basic diagnostic questions in almost every case.  Yes…there are exceptions and yes, the answers lead me to different follow up questions.  But the set of first questions is such a pattern I thought it might help you to see what they are.

The First 7 Questions I Ask:

  1. What is your church’s average adult worship attendance?  Depending on your church’s philosophy of ministry, you might need to back out children and students in worship, but this is an important number.
  2. What is your church’s Easter or Christmas Eve adult attendance?  Again, this may take some thinking and it might require an intelligent guess.  You need to know this number though, since it is a more accurate reflection of the number of adults who consider your church to be their church.
  3. How…

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