Archives For Small Groups

Many people come through the front doors of our churches during Easter—and many people get saved. But, as you already know, not all of the people who come during Easter return the following week. And not everyone who gets saved during Easter services grows spiritually either.

So how do we make sure the people who attend our Easter services return, become active in our churches, and get involved in ministry?

Keeping the fruit of your ministry is as important as winning the fruit in the first place.

What did the early Church do after big evangelistic harvests?

  • They preached the Gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said in Acts 14:21-22 (NIV).
  • Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. But…

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Spiritual growth isn’t a solo affair. We grow in community. You can read the Bible on your own. You can memorize a verse on your own. But you can’t grow spiritually by yourself. 

The New Testament uses the phrase “one another” 58 times. We’re told to care for one another, pray for one another, help one another, and so on. But our church members can’t do any of those things if they’re not involved in small groups.  

True growth happens with other people. That’s why, when we do spiritual growth campaigns at Saddleback, small groups are at the heart of them. In fact, spiritual growth campaigns are a factory for creating healthy small groups. 

So, how can you leverage spiritual growth campaigns to get more people connected in small groups?

First, provide great small group content. 

For many years, I emphasized the wrong aspect of small groups as I tried to encourage people to get plugged-in. I would tell them that small groups will help them build relationships. But that didn’t motivate the response I was looking for, because most people have plenty of relationships and feel…

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Pastors are the most powerful change agents in the world. Only one thing on earth will last forever—the body of Christ. That means, as a church leader, you’re investing in the most important entity on the planet. 

The role of a pastor is particularly essential during difficult times. When people are hurting, they often turn to the Lord. In a crisis, they want to get connected to God and others. They’re hungry for spiritual, relational, and emotional connection. As the world has battled COVID-19 over the past year and a half, we’ve seen this hunger for relationships become more intense than at any other period in our lifetime. 

It’s important, as pastors, that we model healthy connections and help people learn how to cultivate them in their own lives. 

Here are 10 reasons why I believe connections are vital right now:

Connections are the essence of life.

The only reason our organs function properly is because they are connected to the body. They would wither and die if they were disconnected. The same is true of the local church. Our churches are living organisms. When we…

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Pastor, do you want your congregation to grow? I’m not talking about numerical growth. Do you want your members to grow in their relationship with Jesus?

Nothing will facilitate intentional growth like small groups. 

But as powerful as small groups can be in the life of your church, their health isn’t automatic. The values your small groups hold will make the difference between groups that foster growth and groups that don’t. 

Here are five small group values that influence spiritual growth:

  1. Encourage your members to show up every week to their small groups.

Just attending every other week won’t lead to transformational small group experiences. When people attend small groups consistently, they put themselves in a position to grow. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer” (GNT).

A habit means you consistently do something. You make it a priority. This is one of the reasons we ask participants…

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Every one of us needs a support system. A brain surgeon wouldn’t operate without first hooking their patient up to a life support system. A deep-sea diver wouldn’t explore the depths of the ocean without first connecting to a life support system.

You, as a pastor, can’t send your congregation into the world each week without a life support system to help them navigate life’s challenges and help them grow spiritually. It doesn’t matter how strong of a preacher you are. Your congregation can’t survive without a life support system. 

That support system is called a small group. God wired us for community. The very first thing God said when he made humans is, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Whether or not we ever marry, we’re better together. We need each other, even during seasons when social distancing is recommended and we have to get creative with ways to connect safely.

Why are small groups so important in the life of your church? Biblical small groups do five things that help your congregation sustain themselves spiritually and live out God’s purposes. You can…

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The most frequently asked question I get from pastors is always about online small groups, and it’s a question that has become dramatically relevant for churches in recent weeks. How does Saddleback Church do online small groups? How do they meet? How do you train leaders? Do you ship materials to group members? These are all great questions! The Online Campus at Saddleback Church has over 1,000 online-only small groups, and we’ve learned a great deal about what works and doesn’t work over the years.

Take a few minutes to read our answers to commonly asked questions!

1. What is an online small group? It’s a group of three to fifteen people who gather regularly through a text platform, audio call, or video software, facilitated by curriculum and training from our church.

2. What does a typical online small group meeting look like? Most online small groups watch a video teaching prior to their slotted meeting time. During an online small group text conversation, audio call, or video meeting, they use the discussion questions provided with the video teaching to guide the conversation. Meetings start…

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As leaders, whether we like it or not, “doing church” requires regular meetings with our team. Meetings are important for several reasons:

  • Communication. When it comes to the details, everyone needs to be on the same page.
  • Vision. Your team needs to be reminded of the WHY behind your small group program.
  • Accountability. Meeting together allows the question, “How am I doing?” to be asked.
  • Community. Your leaders need to be reminded that they aren’t alone, because they are part of a leadership community.
  • Sharing Stories. Encourage one another by talking about the good things God is doing.
  • Answering questions. Nothing runs on automatic, especially a small group ministry. Meeting together gives space to talk about concerns, issues, and problems.

Most of the time, people aren’t excited about meetings. With a little bit of work, you can make them valuable—even to the point of creating feelings of anticipation within your team. 

Make every meeting a place where people want to be; here are…

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Healthy Relationships Will Have Conflict
You’ll never have a strong relationship without conflict. It’s impossible. Open and frank conversations are a bridge every relationship must cross to reach relational depth.

Proverbs 24:26 says, “An honest answer is a sign of true friendship” (GNT). Being candid and connected go together; you can’t have one without the other. That’s why a true friend doesn’t use flattery. Empty encouragement is a sign of a manipulator, not of someone who sincerely cares about you.

It sounds counterintuitive, but all healthy relationships must allow for the opportunity to express frustration and anger. Out-of-control anger isn’t good, but anger is part of a loving relationship. If you don’t get angry, you don’t care. If you don’t care, you don’t love.

Many people are too afraid of showing any anger in their relationships. They run from conflict. As a result, they’re always masking the issues and refusing to deal with them. That may lead to a 20-year-old friendship with hidden conflict that could have been resolved 10 years ago.

Going through the tunnel of conflict

You won’t have a genuine friendship without going through what I call “the tunnel…

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3 Keys to Getting Healthy

Everything you have is a gift from God.

Most of us are accustomed to looking at our money, our talents, and our time as a gift. However, stewardship is so much more. God wants us to manage every aspect of our lives in a way that will maximize our influence.

That includes how we take care of our bodies. Honestly, I didn’t pay attention to my health for years. But I had an epiphany a few years ago: I realized my health could limit my ministry, and I needed the energy to do what God was calling me to do.

God had given me a vision for the PEACE Plan, to mobilize my church and churches around the world to lean on God’s power to tackle some of the biggest global challenges. At Saddleback, we were making plans to engage churches worldwide to plant churches that promote reconciliation, equip servant leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation.

It was a tall order!

To fulfill what God had called me to do, I was going to need more energy and had to make the most of the…

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How to Grow and Serve Effectively According to Timothy and Paul

As leaders we cannot successfully walk through ministry alone. We must be connected to people who are ahead of us in the journey, people who are right behind us, and people who are walking alongside us.

Paul described this kind of multigenerational mentoring relationship in 2 Timothy 2:2: “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others” (NLT).

Paul and Timothy modeled three kinds of relationships all Christian leaders need in order to grow and serve effectively. Their relationship showed us that:

We need a spiritual father.

Paul calls Timothy “my true son in the faith” in 1 Timothy 1:2 (NLT). We first meet Timothy in Acts 16 when Paul is heading out on his second missionary journey. He stops in Lystra to pick up the young disciple who accompanies him, assists him, and serves as a sort of apprentice under him. Paul becomes a spiritual father to Timothy.

My heart hurts as I see the number of young pastors and leaders who…

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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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