Archives For Small Groups

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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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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If God allowed you to baptize hundreds of new believers, add hundreds of new members, and increase your average attendance by thousands in just 40 days, would you call that a revival?

If, during those same 40 days, God prompted people in your church who were previously uninvolved to start serving in ministry, and caused others to commit to a world missions project, what would you call that? An awakening?

What term would you use if God led your members to become so concerned for their spiritually lost friends that they convinced their neighbors to study the Bible for six weeks in one of thousands of small groups meeting in homes around your city? A miracle?

Well, whatever you call it, all this has actually happened at Saddleback Church during the various campaigns we’ve conducted over the years, and we stand in awe at what God has done. And God has repeatedly worked through campaigns hosted by thousands of churches around the world in similar ways.

Untold thousands have come to Christ and have been baptized, welcomed into church membership, connected to a small group or Sunday School class, taught the meaning of real worship and fellowship, equipped for ministry, and then…

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Bikes

Summer is a great time to reflect on your leadership. You are between the “start of the year” season of ministry and the “fall season,” wrapping up the end of the year. In my personal life, each month, I look at my spiritual health planner to see where I’m at with spiritual goals, course correct, and the push into next month. It’s like my spiritual tune-up.

The same is true for my leadership. For me, summer is a season when I can take a deep breath, pause, and evaluate. I like to look at five attributes of my leadership that affect our church’s Small Group Ministry.

Am I taking a risk?

Comfort zones can be stabilizing places, but they can also be a barrier to the next level of ministry for you and your team. A good question to ask yourself is – Where are you taking a risk in ministry? When I use the word, “risk”, I mean, is there a new way you need to do ministry that may be better? If money wasn’t a barrier, what would you do?

Once you answer that, what are different ways to accomplish that goal with the funds…

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One great way to connect your church into small groups is to focus on life transitions. More than at any other time in our lives, we need people when we’re going through periods of great change. Helping people join small groups during these times provides immediate comfort as well as the potential for years of ongoing support.

What transitions should your church use to connect people?

Significant events: Take a look at significant events in people’s lives. When you baptize several people at the same time, try to get them together in a small group.

After you hold a baby dedication, start a parenting small group. In your premarital counseling process, recommend that young couples join a small group. These events happen all the time in churches. Use them to help people build meaningful relationships.

Struggles: Pain motivates people to get connected with other people. No doubt about it. For example, many people are struggling with finances right now. Help them connect with others who are struggling in that area. You can find all sorts of great small group curriculums that deal with finances. Whenever we do a stewardship message at Saddleback, we give people…

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HuddleThere are two questions inherent in every small group ministry: How do you get people connected into new groups, and how do you sustain existing groups? There are two crucial areas you need to consider in sustaining your small group ministry.  One is how you do infrastructure; not sexy, but needed if you have over 10 groups in your church.  This topic will be discussed in next month’s issue. The second area, and the topic of this article, is Sustaining Gatherings.

What in the world is a Gathering? Why are Gatherings important and why should your church do a Gathering?  How do you do a Gathering?  Are Gatherings just for large Small Group Ministries?  Each of these questions needs to be answered in order for you to sustain the small groups you start.

What is a Gathering?  MLM’s (Multi-Level Marketing) or companies doing a “pyramid” strategy have known the value of bringing together their people for a rally for some time.  At these gatherings, the companies cast vision, share values, and get their people excited about the future. This is a valuable lesson we can learn from.  The church, however, reaches far beyond…

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Baptism at Saddleback

Many people came through the front doors of our churches during Easter—and many people were saved. But, as you already know, not all of those 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 those 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 Paul and…

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High Pressure PreachingPreaching to people who aren’t accustomed to church isn’t like preaching to a well-churched community. Too many preachers say they want to reach people who are far from God, but they don’t adjust their preaching style to impact the spiritually lost.

One change in your preaching style to consider is how you ask for a commitment. I believe it’s essential that every Gospel preacher ask his listeners to make a commitment. Jesus did it. Paul did it. Faithful preachers throughout the ages have done it.

But an effective invitation to make a commitment to Christ isn’t a high-pressure pitch. I’ve found that pressure is actually counter-productive. It becomes a battle of the wills. It often simply hardens the heart of the listener. That’s the last thing you want!

If the fruit is ripe, you don’t have to yank it. People who listen to God’s Word on a regular basis will commit to him and his ways. It’s just a matter of time until the Holy Spirit draws the person to the Lord. Evangelism is usually a process of repeated exposures to the Good News.

In fact, we tell people at Saddleback to take…

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When it comes to fellowship, size matters: Smaller is better. You can worship with a crowd, but you can’t fellowship with one. Once a group becomes larger than about 10 people, one or two will dominate the group, and someoneusually the quietest personwill stop participating altogether.

Unfortunately, creating small groups within your church does not guarantee your people will experience real community. Many Sunday school classes and small groups are stuck at a superficial level and have no clue as to what it’s like to experience genuine fellowship. They may share a meal together, but they don’t share their lives.

As a pastor, you can build small groups that mattergroups that provide a place for members to fully experience biblical fellowshipby focusing on four essential elements: authenticity, mutuality, sympathy, and mercy.

Authenticity

Authentic fellowship is not superficial, surface-level chit-chat. It is genuine, heart-to-heart, sometimes gut-level, sharing. It happens when people get honest about who they are and what is happening in their liveswhen they share their hurts, reveal their feelings, confess their failures, disclose their doubts, admit their fears, acknowledge their weaknesses, and ask for…

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When you look back in life you realize that there are some moments that literally changed your trajectory. The birth of a child; your wedding; Steve Bartman interrupting the 2003 Cubs playoff game, etc.

One of those moments for me was a text I received inviting me and Denise to join Rick Warren and their team on a journey to Rwanda. It was short notice and not great timing, but it felt like a God idea.

TIM JOSH RICK

I’ve written about the journey and the incredible experience of being in Rwanda. (Rwanderful and Where Did $500 Billion Go?)

We have worked in Kenya for many years and been there several times. So we thought we had an idea of what to expect in Africa. Especially in a country only 20 years removed from a national genocide that eliminated 10% of the population.

What we found was a country that was unified, beautiful, orderly, and only a few months away from being the first orphanage-free country in the world. A country where the top members of every major denomination and church organization not only worked together…

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