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.

1. 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 identify areas that might have been neglected or opportunities that need a fresh focus.

We’ve dedicated…

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 Keys to 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.

  1. 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 happen, it will happen” trap, and this can often…

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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.

1. 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 don’t…

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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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Fall is a prime season to launch groups in churches across the country. In my consulting work, I am working with churches from Florida to Washington and Southern California to New York City. Among churches of various sizes and denominations, we are seeing some tremendous results. But, not every church hits a home run with their group launch. Here are some reasons why.

1. You picked the wrong topic.

Small groups are a great vehicle for people to grow spiritually. But, in order for people to grow in a group, they need to actually be in a group. If a church’s goal is to connect their congregation into groups, then a felt needs topic is very attractive. If you give people something they want to study, they will jump right in. If you offer something they “should” study, it may not go so well.

Let me go on the record: Healthy, balanced small groups cannot live by felt needs topics alone. But, kicking off groups usually doesn’t go well with series on evangelism, stewardship, fasting, or other self-sacrificial studies. You need to establish your goal. If you want to increase the number of groups, then go felt needs….

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My husband and I recently travelled from Australia to New York. While we were there, we visited the 9/11 Memorial Site. It was a very moving experience for us, however amidst the sadness I heard this story:

“A Callery pear tree became known as the “Survivor Tree” after enduring the September 11, 2001 terror attacks at the World Trade Center. In October 2001, the tree was discovered at Ground Zero severely damaged, with snapped roots and burned and broken branches. The tree was removed from the rubble and placed in the care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. After its recovery and rehabilitation, the tree was returned to the Memorial in 2010. New, smooth limbs extended from the gnarled stumps, creating a visible demarcation between the tree’s past and present. Today, the tree stands as a living reminder of resilience, survival and rebirth” (911memorial.org).

It took 9 years of tender loving care before the tree could be replanted. And now with ongoing care this tree flourishes year after year after year. It made me think about the level of initial care and on-going care we need to give to our small group leaders if we want them…

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“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b NIV).

Make a list of the top three times of growth in your life. Odds are quite high that one, two, or three of them were troublesome times. Maybe you brought the trouble on yourself by going to graduate school. Or the trouble happened to you when multiple staff members left at the same time. Either way, trouble comes our way and we have to face it. In times like these, I’m encouraged by an adage a mentor once told me:

Growth does not come free of charge.

Small group ministry lends itself to messes. We want people to be real and to be in relationships. That’s a recipe for messiness! Fortunately, our God is one of restoration and growth in the midst of pain.

As long as you’re going to have the messes, you (and your small group leaders) might as well grow from them. In God’s Word we see imagery of the refiner’s fire subjecting precious metals to extreme temperatures to enhance and perfect it. Consider a mess you may even be in right now, and let God…

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U Turn

While the phrase “Paradigm Shift” may be used and heard a lot today, the actual occurrence of one is still a rare sight.

A paradigm shift can be defined as a dramatic change by members of a group or community in the cognitive framework of basic assumptions, ways of thinking, underlying suspicions and methodology. I believe a true paradigm shift in small group ministry can release a desperately needed disciple-making revolution in our churches.

For many years, small groups were seen merely as an assimilation tool. In other words, if you get new church attenders plugged-in to a small group, they won’t be able to sneak out the “back door.” While this was (and is) a real benefit of small groups, it was an isolated motivator that typically didn’t generate enough sustainable momentum for churches to eventually see the “back door” shrink or close.

Since then, small groups have been re-discovered as an oasis for community, transparency and best friends. In others words, you need a small group to form close-knit, Christian relationships in your life that allow you to be vulnerable and cared for. While this was (and is) a real benefit of small…

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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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Facebook

In a recent interview with WIRED*, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and cofounder of Facebook, shared that small group ministry is a model he considers when he looks to the future of his social media website. It’s an intriguing comment from the marketplace and it’s loaded with transferable insights for disciple makers. I think it’s important for me to note that Jesus’ way doesn’t require validation from the secular space, but in certain instances it should reinforce what we already know to be true.

In this particular interview, Mark Zuckerberg is quoted as saying, “When I started Facebook, the mission of connecting people wasn’t a controversial thing.” In recent times, Facebook has unintentionally become a contentious experience for some as they are confronted with their friends’ subjective opinions about politics, social issues, and news stories. What started out as a digital space for people to connect has morphed into an intense debate forum with differing levels of credible information. The article says it like this…

“As has repeatedly said… he believes his platform brings people together—despite the sea of evidence that in its stated mission to “connect the world” Facebook may be helping to tear…

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Trees

We just had the Purpose Driven Church Conference at Saddleback. There were thousands of pastors who came to learn and grow. I was talking with one whose question was really good.

How can we possibly make sure groups don’t go crazy? I mean, we have so many scattered all over the place. We don’t want them going off the rails theologically or practically. Is that possible?

The answer to that is so easy. Yet the answer is also the most difficult answer in groups.

You can’t.

However, you can build the infrastructure in such a way that gives support, care, and guardrails to leaders and groups that and helps direct them toward the end in mind. But at the end of the day, you can never guarantee perfection. Here’s a Saddleback-ism you can take to the bank:

You can structure for control, or you can structure for growth. But you can’t structure for both at the same time.

If you want control, you can have it. But it comes at the expense of growth.

If you want growth, you can have it. But it comes at the expense of control.

So at the end of the day, there’s no way to guarantee…

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