Archives For Small Groups


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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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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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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Work Harder

As an individual, I have a laser beam focus on discipleship. I’m a consistent practitioner. I’m constantly evaluating effectiveness and brainstorming strategies. I speak and teach about it. I love to write about it. In case you didn’t know I also blog about it.

I was speaking at a church recently and had a friend ask me, “Why are you so passionate about discipleship?” I was astonished to find myself at a loss for words. It was difficult for me to answer the question in a succinct fashion. I shared a couple thoughts but left that conversation in deep reflection.

I eventually realized that there were multiple reasons I was passionate about discipleship. The number of reasons was too many for a simple answer because discipleship intersects with multiple motivations.

I believe it’s more important for us to have clarity on “why” we’re growing disciples rather than “what” we’re doing to grow disciples. As long as you know the “why” you can always discover the “what.”

Here is my personal list of 7 motivations for making disciples:

1. Compelled by Compassion. The Bible says that when Jesus “saw the multitudes, he was moved with…

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Burnout is a very real problem for many ministry leaders. I know because I’ve been there. If you aren’t careful, burnout can be a devastating experience that could lead to quitting ministry altogether. God has brought me through more than one season where I needed to do some housework in my own ministry. As leaders, it is so easy for us to become discouraged, and even worse, dislocated. Here are some tools to help you strengthen and sustain your role as a leader:

Never stop learning and growing.

Read and study. Never stop growing. We live in a world of information. There is no shortage of books, small group materials, conferences, seminars, and leadership materials available today. Make time to focus on your own personal growth. Above all, spend time in prayer and God’s Word. Never stop learning and allow God to grow you into the leader he has called you to be.

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52 ESV).

Don’t try to do it alone.

No one can do everything well. If you share responsibilities with your apprentice and group members, you will be more apt…

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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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Feet on Break

Genesis 2:3 (NKJV) says, “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it he rested from all his work which God had created and made.” If the Eternal Creator of the Universe rested from work then we finite human beings should make sure we rest. I believe the same is true for small group ministry and leaders as well. This is why I implement planned breaks into our small group ministry at our church.

I don’t think there is anything inherently evil about having a continuous small group ministry. Some churches do it and do it successfully. I can share with you from experience that many people and even leaders have questioned me as to why we take breaks. They point out that it can break the momentum of the group. They also share concern about people who begin attending the church during a small group break. What if they’re looking for a group to join and there isn’t one there? What if they never get connected and stop attending the church before the next small group launch?

Those are valid concerns with genuine merit. My initial response is that…

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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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Arnold Kiburi, pastor of small groups at Karura Community Chapel in Nairobi, Kenya, and the leader of a Small Group Network huddle in that city, was my guest recently and we talked about his 11 years of leading small group ministries in several churches.

Among the many topics we entertained was the issue of transparency. Arnold’s pointed question was, “Are you transparent, or are you telling people what they should do while you are not walking on the same road?” His point was this – he had met many small group ministry leaders who looked at small groups as an occupation. Their job was to help the congregation, but they were not in a small group themselves.

Rick Warren, senior pastor at Saddleback Church, is one of the strongest champions of small groups. He regularly shares how his own small group has been a source of comfort, encouragement, support and unconditional love. In the challenges of life, such as the tragic loss of his son a few years ago, Rick said that he found solace and embracing love in the members of his small group who encircled him and his wife through some of the…

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This time of year can be a good time to evaluate where you are as a small group ministry and begin to pray and cast vision for change. One of the areas I think needs to be the most fluid when it comes to change is the overall structure of how you do small groups at your church.

Are the people in your church excited about small groups?

Are you launching new small groups on a regular basis?

Are you raising up new apprentice leaders and (or) small group leaders on a regular basis?

If you answered no to any of these questions, it might be time to take a solid look at your structure and begin to make some changes. Here are five of the most popular small group structures to help guide you in your change-making process.

HOST Groups

“Can you open a bag of Doritos and press play on a DVD player?” I once heard a pastor ask that question to promote HOST Groups, and while these groups are a good easy step into small group leadership, they can also be a good easy step for quick growth. HOST Groups are often recruited in…

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I’m new at this.

I took on leadership of small groups at my church in early 2017. Immediately, I signed up for The Lobby – my first small group conference experience! It was exciting – and a bit intimidating, to be honest. I felt like the new kid in school. But I came home feeling encouraged, equipped, and motivated to act.

Our church has functioning small groups, but a change in leadership always offers a chance to reexamine vision and values. There is much I don’t know about leading a small group ministry – but certain principles translate easily. Since I’m probably not the only one who is starting from scratch, here are a few basic principles to remember when starting fresh:

1. Pray. Duh. This seems to be a no-brainer, but truth be told, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forged ahead with some great ministry idea – all on my own strength. I’m a leader – my default is to get things done – so I have to remind myself to pray first for discernment and wisdom. I asked God to show me the right people for a leadership team; if I am going to preach with integrity that we are #bettertogether, I need…

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I recently had an aha moment.

I realized I had made significant personal growth in a particular area of my life. As this sunk in, I physically felt taller, and heard that little voice inside my head say . . . Well done. Good job. It was worth the effort. I felt great.

However a deeper impact came when my husband verbalized the same positive messages. When he said the words I felt proud, positive, stirred up, ready to take on a new challenge!

Celebrating a person’s growth; whether it be increased effort, a job well done, reaching a set goal or their willingness to serve God and others is always worth doing because of this effect. We honor what the person has done but the celebration also acts as a catalyst to build self-belief and impart a desire to take on the next challenge.

So how can we celebrate and honor those who lead in our small group ministry? Here are a few ideas you might like to try.

Share the stories

If a leader is doing something creative or different in their group and it is reaping rewards for group life, talk about it! Whether it’s in a…

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