Quotebook: The Personal Nature of Disciple Making

personal conversationOne of the books that influenced my early ministry direction was The Lost Art of Disciple Making by Leroy Eims. The notion that disciple making is carried on by people and not by programs shaped my conviction that whatever we want to happen in the lives of the members of our groups must happen first in the lives of the leaders.

“The ministry is to be carried on by people, not programs. It is to be carried by someone and not by some thing. Disciples cannot be mass produced. We cannot drop people into a ‘program’ and see disciples emerge at the end of the production line. It takes time to make disciples. It takes individual, personal attention. It takes hours of prayer for them. It takes patience and understanding to teach them how to get into the Word of God for themselves, how to feed and nourish their souls, and by the power of the Holy Spirit how to apply the word to their lives. And it takes being an example to them of all of the above.”

See also:

Everything You Need to Know about Small Group Models

everything libraryThere are many things you need to know about small group models, systems and strategies. Too many to include in a single article!

Here are three very important things to know (and links to other key posts on this topic):

First, every small group model, system or strategy comes with a unique set of advantages and disadvantages. I like to say, “there are no problem-free small group models, systems or strategies.” That said, be prepared to acknowledge that there is an upside and a downside to every model.

If you like the semester model, don’t overlook the challenge of confirming which leaders will commit for the next semester and what they will study…early enough to assemble your catalog of available groups. If you like the cell group model, don’t turn a blind eye to the reality that groups don’t always birth new groups fast enough to absorb the number of unconnected people in your congregation. If you like the campaign-driven strategy, be prepared for messy. See also, Breaking: No Problem-Free Small Group System, Model or Strategy.

Second, the model you choose should be predetermined by what you hope to accomplish. Before you choose a model, you should have already identified the business you are in, the customer you will be serving and what you will call success. I know that may seem like a strange way to say something about ministry, but it is the best way to point out a very important truth about a very important topic.

For example, if you’re in the business of giving group members an in-depth Bible study experience, you will be wise to choose certain models. If the customer you want to serve will be unchurched neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members…it will predetermine certain models and not others. And if you dream of more people in groups than you average at your weekend services, you must choose the right model, system or strategy. See also, If I Was Starting Today (I’ve written at length about this important idea in this series of posts).

Third, you should choose your model carefully and only change it after careful consideration.  A lot rides on decisions you make. Changing models every time you read a new book or attend a conference will shake the confidence of your group leaders and coaches. Changing models frequently can be quite toxic. See also, 5 Toxic Small Group Ministry Moves.

Aren’t there reasons to change models or implement a new strategy? Absolutely. A careful analysis of your small group ministry and its results may drive you to rethink the model you’ve chosen. After all, “your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.” If you want different results, you’ll need a different design. See also, 5 Signs Your Small Group Ministry Design Is Inadequate.

Finally, there is a lot to know about small group models, systems and strategies! They are not all the same and they don’t all accomplish the same thing. They each have unique advantages and disadvantages. Some make it easy to find leaders. Some make it easier to connect beyond the usual suspects. Some more reliably make disciples. You can learn much more in the additional posts below.

Image by Loughborough University Library

Don’t Miss This Powerful Study: Finding Your Way Back to God

finding your way back to god dvdEarlier this year I reviewed a powerful new book by Dave and Jon Ferguson. In my review I noted that “Finding Your Way Back to God: Five Awakenings to Your New Life has tremendous outreach potential and if you’ve not had a chance to spend some time with this book, you need to make time!  This book is a game-changer!”

I am even more excited about the 5 session DVD-driven study that accompanies the book. I believe this might be the most powerful outreach study I’ve ever reviewed.

The DVD segments are very compelling and exactly the right length to grab and hold attention. Both Dave and Jon Ferguson come across as real people who genuinely care about this message. Each session also includes the compelling testimony of some who have found their way back to God. An aspect of the video segments that stands in stark contrast to some is that these people have a very familiar presence and feel like they could be your neighbors. 

I believe this might be the most powerful outreach study I've ever reviewed.

The participant guide is well-written and very easy to use. Although some participants will be anxious about joining a discussion on this topic, most will be quickly made at ease by the tone set in the opening questions. Each session of the study includes an opening icebreaker and questions that will consistently welcome everyone to the conversation. The Bible study portion of the study does a very good job of exploring the Parable of the Prodigal Son. A life application section will help participants make the story personal. Each session also includes optional segments for personal decisions and expanded discussion of additional scripture.

The participant guide also includes an extensive leader guide that will enable even the most inexperienced leader to feel better equipped to lead.

Finding Your Way Back to God is a very powerful study. Whether you are simply looking for a small group study that will connect with friends and neighbors who are far from God or a compelling study for a church-wide campaign, I hope you’ll take a look at Finding Your Way Back to God. I love this study and I think you will too.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I may receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Thinking Thursday: Brené Brown: Listening to shame

brene brownShame is an unspoken epidemic, the secret behind many forms of broken behavior. Brené Brown, whose earlier talk on vulnerability became a viral hit, explores what can happen when people confront their shame head-on. Her own humor, humanity and vulnerability shine through every word.

Can’t see the video? You can watch it right here.

Every week I choose a video that I think you need to see and believe will inspire some new thinking. You can find the rest of the collection right here.

5 Toxic Small Group Ministry Moves

toxicI’ve noticed that there is a short list of small group ministry moves that can be toxic. They often seem harmless. They don’t look dangerous. But they can cause great damage.

Here are a 5 toxic small group ministry moves:

  1. Switching to a different small group model, system or strategy…again. There are several main models or systems and versions of each. Whether you call it Idea fatigue or shiny object syndrome, switching models can be toxic. You may have just read a very good book or attended a conference that made a different model sound better, but when you choose a system you need to commit to it for 3 years. And by that, I mean you need to pursue it head long for 3 years. See also, How to Choose a Small Group System or Strategy.
  2. Assigning coaches to experienced group leaders…again. Retroactively assigning coaches to experienced leaders almost never works. It often permanently sours the coach and almost always is rejected by the small group leader like a bad organ transplant. Fortunately, it is possible to provide care for experienced leaders with a little finesse and wisdom.  See also, How to Implement Coaching for Existing Group Leaders.
  3. Springing required curriculum on groups. Whether it happens as a result of a last minute inspiration on the part of your senior pastor or a poorly communicated church-wide campaign, mandating that all of your groups use a curriculum that they didn’t choose can have toxic results (the obvious exception is a sermon-based approach.) While there are definitely times that it just makes sense to call all groups to a common study (church-wide campaigns, the desire to align everyone around a single vision, the need to renew congregations, etc.), be very careful about last minute requirements. See also, Small Group Ministry Myth #3: Leaders and Members Know Best What to Study.
  4. Allowing the preferences of the wrong people to select study topics. We should all be clear about this dilemma. Groups that have been meeting longer will often settle into studies that are informative, but not necessarily application-oriented. Unconnected people will primarily be attracted to topics that seem directly related to their own personal struggles or interests. Be careful about allowing the preferences or tastes of the already connected to determine what you select if you hope to connect unconnected people. And be equally careful about adding studies to your recommended list if they don’t incorporate a healthy dose of application. See also, Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer and Here’s a Sample Recommended List.
  5. Calling everything a group. If this happened in one church…it happened in 10,000 churches. You may have a desire to be a church OF small groups, but arbitrarily changing what you call classes or studies is delusional and toxic every time.  See also, Groups of All Kinds and the Essential Ingredients of Life-Change.

What do you think?  Have a question? Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Image by Rob

Find the Gaps in Your Strategy with This Simple Technique

circlesI love Rick Warren’s concentric circles diagram; a classic illustration of the different segments of people who are associated with your church. The concentric circles also provide a visual representation of Saddleback’s crowd-to-core strategy. See also, Crowd-to-Core: An Essential Understanding.

The way I talk about crowd-to-core is that I want to design next steps for every Ridger (crowd, congregation, committed and core) and first steps for their friends (community). And of course, when I draw the circles I don’t draw them the way they are in the diagram (equally spaced). I draw them as I believe they are at Canyon Ridge (see below). And as I draw the circles I talk about what they represent this way:

  • Outside of this circle is the community. In the 8 zip codes we draw from there are 250,000 people.
  • Inside the circle is the crowd. Based on our Easter numbers and our Christmas Eve numbers, we estimate there are between 10,000 and 12,000 adults who consider Canyon Ridge to be their church. They don’t come every week and they may only attend a few times a year.
  • Inside the crowd is the congregation (when I draw this circle I try to accurately represent the size, 2500 to 3500 adults). These people attend more frequently, 2 to 3 times a month. They are usually connected in some way (i.e., they may be in a small group, on a serving team, etc.). They give on a regular basis, but it is probably not a tithe.
  • Inside the congregation is the committed. They attend 3 to 4 times a month. They definitely serve and often are leaders of groups, teams, or ministries. They tithe. There are hundreds of these people.
  • And finally, inside the committed is the core. They don’t miss a week and are believers of “attend one, serve one.” They give sacrificially. They serve sacrificially. There are less than 300 of these people.

canyon ridge circlesSee how I use the diagram to segment the basic kinds of people who attend?

Here’s how you can use it to illustrate the gaps in your strategy. In my own diagram here, I’ve focused on our men’s ministry and three of their events.

  1. Take an honest look at each of the existing ministries, programs, classes and events and determine which segment of the church are they really designed for. Honesty is essential. You get no where with this is you turn a blind eye to what’s really going. Brutal honesty is required.
  2. Try to overlay them on the concentric circles to illustrate who you believe each menu item exists for.
  3. In order to truly have next steps for everyone and first steps for their friends, there will be no gaps. When you identify gaps you need to create the steps that are missing (that will help everyone take a step). See also, How to Design Next Steps and First Steps.

Cautions:

  • Insiders have great difficulty recognizing that the programs they love don’t work for everyone.
  • Leaders of existing programs often see the world through rose colored glasses and don’t understand why everyone doesn’t come.
  • Most people need to be coached to see the wisdom that just like restaurants have a target customer, so do good programs, events, ministries, and classes.

See also:

Quotebook: The Essence of Discipleship

starting lineWhat is a disciple and how is a disciple made? When does it begin? What does it look like to begin? All good questions and should be driving our thinking as we set out to build a thriving small group ministry. After all, if you don’t know what you’re trying to make, how will you know if you’ve arrived at your preferred future? See also, How to Build a Thriving Small Group Ministry and Start with the End in Mind.

I’m finding Bill Hull’s, The Complete Book of Discipleship: On Being and Making Followers of Christ to be a rich resource and very thought-provoking. I came across this line in chapter 7:

“We don’t try to become like Jesus; instead we make a commitment to train to become the kind of person who naturally does what Jesus would do.”

You can hear the words of Dallas Willard in the line, but I love the clarity here. “We make a commitment to train to become the kind of person who naturally does what Jesus would do.”

In the preceding paragraph Hull points out that this “marks the starting line and represents the essence of discipleship. We make following Jesus our life’s goal and intention.”

Are your small groups designed to help members make a commitment to train to become the kind of people who naturally do what Jesus would do?

Could it be that if the commitment to train is implied in joining a group, today’s question might be,

Image by tableatny

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Wanted: Men’s Pastor/Director at Canyon Ridge

Are you the man for the job? Do you know the man for the job?

We’re looking for the right player to join our team at Canyon Ridge and lead our Men’s “ministry.” It’s a groups position and the best fit will be someone with a minimum of 5 years experience in groups ministry and a passion to help men get connected and grow in Christ. Because of the size of Canyon Ridge (weekend attendance just over 7000), the right candidate will likely be someone leading a groups ministry.

The most important outcome/objective of this position is identifying, recruiting and developing leaders of leaders as our Men’s Life Group grows from 500 men connected to 2000. Another significant outcome is building the teams that will design and develop next steps for every Ridger and first steps for their friends.

Could this be you? You can read more about the role right here.

Could this be someone you know? Why not forward them this post?

Have a question? Email me.

Thinking Thursday: Choice, happiness and spaghetti sauce

Malcolm Gladwell“Tipping Point” author Malcolm Gladwell gets inside the food industry’s pursuit of the perfect spaghetti sauce — and makes a larger argument about the nature of choice and happiness.

Why is this important for us? Think about your menu of next steps.

Can’t see the video? You can watch it right here.

What’s on Your Small Group Ministry’s Stop Doing List?

stopResearcher and management guru Jim Collins is the author or co-author of Built to Last, Good to Great, Great by Choice and How the Mighty Fall (and a number of other books).

One of Collins’ most profound insights is that as important as a to-do list might be, organizations also need to “create a “stop doing” list and systematically unplug anything extraneous.” A corollary is that for every major ‘to-do’ on your list, you should have a corresponding item that you will stop doing.

Can you spot the looming question?

“What is on your stop doing list?

I can tell you a few things that have been on my stop doing list over the years:

  • Providing group members for unsolicited volunteer “leaders.”
  • Sending new members to groups who continually need a few more.
  • Providing a matchmaking service for people looking for the perfect group.
  • Allowing my senior pastor to delegate the small group champion role.
  • Accepting warm bodies willing (or clamoring) to be coaches.

I can also tell you a few things that are currently on my stop doing list:

  • Adding a new menu item without removing an old menu item.
  • Assigning new leaders to coaches without ongoing inspection. “People do what you inspect, not what you expect.”
  • Procrastinating discipleship conversations with ministry leaders.

What would be on your “stop doing” list?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

See also:

Image by Marlon Malabanan

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