Archives For Fellowship

These articles are written to encourage and equip you and your people to connect authentically with God’s people.

Topics include: Small groups, relationships, conflict resolution, etc.

5 Tools to Help People Grow Spiritually

All living things grow. It’s evidence of life. If a child doesn’t grow to physical maturity, that’s a tragedy.

And if people in our congregations don’t grow spiritually, that’s a tragedy, too.

Many churches focus on getting people in the doors and maybe making a salvation decision. But that’s only a small part of our responsibility.

Jesus gives us another example. During his ministry, he started by urging people to “come and see.” And they did! People began to follow him. But then Jesus slowly turned up the heat. He began adding qualifiers, statements that start with “You’re my disciple if”:

  • You love one another (John 13:35)
  • You abide in his Word (John 8:31)
  • You deny yourself (Matthew 16:24)
  • You make Jesus your prime allegiance (Luke 14:26)

Eventually, Jesus took it a step further and said that a person had to “come and die” (Luke 14:27) to be a disciple.

But Jesus didn’t start with “come and die.” He moved people slowly from “come and see” to “come and die.”

That’s what discipleship is all about. And I learned early in my ministry at Saddleback that I couldn’t grow the church….

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Four Ways Every Youth Pastor Can Bring Out the Best in Students

The first job I ever had in a church was as a youth pastor. When I took the position, I knew nothing about youth ministry. Honestly, I was as green as they come.

I’ll never forget the church’s pastor, W.C. Bryant, pulling me into his office after he hired me. We couldn’t have looked more different. He was in a three-piece suit. I was in jeans and a t-shirt. But W.C. looked me right in the eyes and said, “Rick, if I didn’t trust you, I wouldn’t hire you. If I didn’t trust you, you wouldn’t be on this staff. The very fact that you’re here means that I do trust you. So go for it. Do whatever it takes to reach kids for Christ.”

And that’s what I did. After he showed that kind of trust for me, I went all out engaging our community’s youth with the Gospel. We reached hundreds of teenagers for Christ. That experience profoundly changed the course of my future ministry. I learned lessons that would eventually help me found and lead Saddleback Church. I’ve taught…

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4 Ways to Involve Your Small Groups in the Great Commission

If you want your church to balance God’s purposes and grow in a healthy way, your small groups must lead the way.

It goes like this: You’re only as healthy as the cells in your body. It’s a basic truth of human health. If your cells are sick, your body will be sick, too.

The same is true in churches. Your church will only be as healthy as the cells within it.

And your small groups are those cells. They help build God’s purposes into every heart, every group, and every ministry.

In Acts 2, we read about the first small groups in the early church. The Bible says:

    • They grew spiritually (v. 42)
    • They ministered to one another (v. 45)
    • They fellowshipped (v. 46)
    • They worshiped (v. 47)
    • They evangelized the spiritually lost (v. 47)

Unfortunately, many small groups today just focus on one or two purposes. Often, it’s fellowship or discipleship (or both). Maybe they’ll add some worship songs at the beginning of the meeting time. They might even be…

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11 Simple Strategies for Helping Guests Feel Welcome

When I think back to some of the factors that have helped Saddleback grow through the years, one of the most important has also been one of the most overlooked.

If you want people to show up, you must be nice to people.

Sounds simple, right? It really shouldn’t surprise anyone. But even though most churches say they’re friendly, some of them really just mean their members are friendly to people they already know. They’re friendly to people who look like them and act like them.

And that doesn’t guarantee they’re friendly to guests.

You must be intentional in your friendliness. You don’t overcome unfriendliness by accident. You need to build friendliness into your worship service.

That’s why, early on at Saddleback, I instituted the three-minute rule. Guests are usually among the first to leave at the end of a worship service. Longtime members stay the longest. I’d tell my longtime members to find someone who looks like a guest (they are usually easy to spot) and talk with the person right after the service. I’d encourage them to spend some time getting to know these guests and making…

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Breaking the Chains of Hopelessness

The first time Rick publicly prayed at a weekend church service for people living with a mental illness, his words were simple. He asked God to bring comfort and strength to anyone living with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or any other mental illness. He asked God to reassure them that their pain and suffering mattered to God and to their brothers and sisters, and to remind them that as a church family, we would do all we could to offer support to them and their families.

The response from the congregation was astonishing. As he stood on the patio following the services, dozens of men and women who were living with a mental illness, or who loved someone living with a mental illness, lined up to give him a hug and to thank him for bringing their struggle into the light. Many spoke through their tears about the deep gratitude they felt to hear mental illness mentioned from the pulpit in such a loving and positive way. “I’ve kept my illness a secret at church,” several said. “I didn’t know it was okay to talk about it.”

That simple,…

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How to Refuel Your Life in Mid-Flight

During the Cold War, the Strategic Air Command operated 24 hours a day as a shield of protection for our nation. This meant that at any point in a given day, there were fully combat-configured bombers flying to assure the safety of our nation.

Since these planes flew constantly, how did they remain full of gas? They did what is called mid-flight refueling. A refueling plane actually flew up next to the Strategic Air Command plane, docked in, and filled the plane with gas.

As a pastor, you need to learn how to refuel your life in mid-flight. You can’t just hop off to a tropical island every time you get tired and discouraged. You have to keep going. You have to learn how to recharge yourself in the middle of your hectic lifestyle.

The fact is, it takes energy to do God’s will. What do you do when you run out of energy? Psalm 94:19 says, “Lord, when doubts fill my mind, when my heart is in turmoil, quiet me and give me renewed hope and cheer” (TLB).

I suggest that…

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Share With Newcomers These Six Reasons to Get Plugged In

The difference between being a church attender and a church member is commitment.

Attenders are spectators from the sidelines; members get involved in the ministry. Attenders are consumers; members are contributors. Attenders want the benefits of a church without sharing the responsibility.

One of the biggest hurdles you will face as a church leader is convincing attenders they need to commit to their church family and become members. Today’s culture of independent individualism has created many spiritual orphans without any identity, accountability, or commitment.

God is not silent on this issue. The Bible offers many compelling reasons why every believer needs to be committed to and active in a local fellowship.

1. A church family identifies you as a genuine believer.

I can’t claim to be following Christ if I’m not committed to any specific group of disciples. Jesus said,“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35 NLT).

When we come together in love as a church family from different backgrounds, races, and social statuses, it is a witness to the world. No one believer can be the body…

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How to Prepare for a Spiritual Growth Campaign

One of the most powerful tools God has used to grow Saddleback Church in profound ways over the last several decades has been the spiritual growth campaign.

We usually move through seven or eight major sermon series per year, which gives us the chance to cover all five of the purposes of God for the church. Typically, two of those series are what we refer to as spiritual growth campaigns.

These campaigns have been responsible for thousands of baptisms and tens of thousands of spiritual decisions, as well as major waves of growth for our church.

One of our campaigns always happens in the spring while the second is in the fall, when people are finding their routines and starting to re-engage after summer vacation season has ended.

The end of summer, for us, is always a season of preparation for the fall campaign. Here are four ways you can prepare for a spiritual growth campaign in the upcoming season.

Identify the areas of growth your church needs most.

In a season of prayer and reflection, look back on the series you’ve preached in the last couple of years and…

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5 Keys to Building a Solid Foundation for Your Small Group Ministry 

I have this displayed on my office whiteboard: “Vision without implementation equals hallucination.” I believe in vision. If you don’t have a plan for implementing your vision, you are wasting your time. Success involves the management of ideas. Ideas can provide wonderful breakthroughs for your ministry. However, trying to implement too many ideas at once can crush or fragment your ministry. Here are five important keys to begin building a solid foundation for your small group ministry . . .

1. Think church-wide

Each local church is meant to be a unified body, working together in a coordinated way toward a common purpose. This means that as you plan your small group ministry, you should start by thinking church-wide. The weekend services, the small groups, and the other church ministries all work together to achieve the outcome of a mature disciple—what Saddleback calls the Purpose Driven Life.

2. Plan intentionally 

Whole-church coordination doesn’t happen by accident. It takes intentional planning. As Christians, it is possible to get caught in the passive “If God wants it to…

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Every relationship—even a good one—has conflict. If you don’t know how to deal with it, how to resolve it, how to manage it, you can kill your relationship.

The Bible says conflict is caused by selfishness. James 4:1 says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Aren’t they caused by the selfish desires that fight to control you?” (GNT). I am basically a selfish person. I think of me before I think of anybody else. And you do, too. I want what I want and you want what you want, and when these competing desires collide, that’s called conflict.

The night before I got married, my father-in-law sat down with us and said, “There are five areas where marriages usually have conflict: money, sex, in-laws, children, and communication.”

My father-in-law was a prophet. In our marriage we’ve gone five for five! We’ve hit every single one of them.

Some of you are in major pain right now. You are frustrated. You feel stuck in your relationship because you have argued about certain issues over and over with no resolution, much less reconciliation. You don’t know what to do.

If you’re going to pull together when conflict…

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Growth of a Plant

The world needs the influence of the church more than ever before. And, at least in Western culture, the church faces many significant struggles as it seeks to influence its surrounding culture.

The solution, at its root, is to plant, grow, and build as many healthy, vibrant local churches possible — churches that believe and teach the biblical Good News about Jesus.

In other words, the growth of the church is for the good of the entire world, so your church needs to grow!

But how?

There are plenty of answers in terms of systems and methodologies, models and approaches. But before we go about the reshaping of the structure or ministry of a church, we first need to experience a change in our mindset.

You must develop an unshakable conviction about growth.

An opinion is something you’ll argue about; a conviction is something you’ll die for.

You need to settle the issue that God wants his church to grow. All living things grow. If a church is alive, it grows. Growing a healthy church is hard work, and unless you clarify your convictions, you’re going to be tempted to give up.

You have to develop this conviction because:

Walking Together as a Group

We may attract attenders through preaching, but disciples are made in small groups.

When you’re leading a campaign, like 40 Days of Prayer, or anytime in the future as you lead your congregation toward a deeper relationship with Jesus, you’ll want to explain to your members why small groups are so important to spiritual growth and why they are more than just a Bible study.

Small groups provide the kind of accountability and support we need to mature as believers, so I want to give you four reasons why they are important to your congregation.

Small groups are relational.

You can’t have a conversation with 600 people or 60 people, but you can have a conversation with six people. Generally, when there are more than 10 in a group, people stop talking. It is impossible to learn how to love your neighbor as yourself unless you are involved in a small group of some kind. You don’t need a lot of friends in life, but you do need a few good ones, and you find those solid, supportive friendships in small groups.

Sometimes I hear people say they…

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