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Dilbert on Having an Accurate Worldview

Sometimes you just need to laugh…

an accurate worldview

This Concept Might Change Your Strategy

circle and squareSpoiler Alert: The most connected people in your congregation almost always have the fewest connections in the community.

Four Things You Need to Know

I use this drawing to illustrate an important concept.  There are four things you need to know in order to understand the drawing,

First, the circle represents your adult attendance on Easter.  As you know, the difference between your average adult attendance and your Easter adult attendance is not that everyone brings a friend.  Instead, the main reason your attendance is higher on Easter is that everyone comes on the same weekend. See also, What Percentage of Your Adults Are Actually Connected?

Second, the square represents the people in your congregation who are truly connected.  That is, if something happened to them or a member of their family, someone else in your congregation would find out about it within 24 hours without anyone calling the church.  A pink slip at work.  Marital issues.  A scary medical diagnosis.  A teenager who goes south.  24 hours.  Someone else knows.

Third, if you were to interview the folks in the square (the most connected people in your congregation) and ask who their 10 closest friends are in your area, you’d find out that 8, 9, or even all 10 of them are also inside the square.  Now, before you get excited, there are exceptions (many church staff members, those with the gift of evangelism, etc.).  But in general, the most connected people in your congregation are the least connected in the community.

Fourth, when you interview the folks in the circle you’ll find out that 8, 9, or even all 10 of their best friends have never been to your church.  Let me repeat that:

When you interview the folks in the circle you’ll find out that 8, 9, or even all 10 of their best friends have never been to your church.

Here’s the big idea: If you want to recruit hosts who can fill their own group with unconnected neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members…you need to learn how to recruit from the circle.  Churches that keep going back to the well of the usual suspects (the most connected) shouldn’t be surprised when hosts from the square don’t know their neighbors.

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

Further Reading:

Quotebook: There Are No Problem-Free Systems, Models or Strategies

ProblemFree“There are no problem-free systems, models, or strategies. Every system, model and strategy comes with a set of problems. Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.”

I refer to this “quote” in almost every consultation, coaching call, workshop, and seminar I give. I believe this line is a version of something Niccolò Machiavelli wrote in The Prince, but I’ve never confirmed it.

Regardless, I believe the pursuit of problem-free delays more ministry than almost anything else. I also believe there are no problem free small group ministry systems, models or strategies.

How Do You Train New Small Group Coaches?

new coachI’m curious. What are you doing to train new small group coaches?

I know many struggle with even getting a coaching structure going. I also know that many have given up on even offering coaching (as a result of ineffectiveness).

But…if you have coaches, how do you train them as they begin?

Since you’re a reader here, I assume you’ve already looked at my strategies for building an effective coaching structure (Perhaps you’ve even taken advantage of my mini-course: How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure – The 2016 Version).

Still, what are you doing to train new coaches as they begin?

Remember, the number one predictor of new groups that survive and flourish is that they have a coach who is walking alongside them from the very beginning.

If you don’t have a plan or you need help, you really should take advantage of Basic Training for New Small Group Coaches (my newest mini-course). This new mini-course can be used two ways:

  1. You can take it yourself and then use the handouts and other resources to train your new coaches.
  2. You can simply provide the link to the resource page and password and let me train your new coaches.

Either way…your new coaches start their ministry the right way. It’s a win – win.

So…what do you think?  How are you training your new coaches?  Have a question? You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Image by Keri-Lee Beasley

5 Ideas You Ought to Be Testing This Fall

idea testing

5 Ideas You Ought to Be Testing This Fall

I have never been more proud than when my prospective boss at Parkview was told, “If you’re okay with a mad scientist, Mark will be a good hire.”

And no other statement has rocked my imagination like this one from Craig Groeschel: “If you want to reach people no one else is reaching, you have to do things no one else is doing.” Translation: If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep reaching who you’ve always reached.

Here are 5 ideas you ought to be testing this fall:

  1. “If you have a couple friends you’d like to do the study with…” If you haven’t yet tried Saddleback’s latest innovation, this fall is the perfect time to test it. The HOST strategy was a remarkable 2002 innovation created by Brett Eastman and Saddleback’s small group team at Rick Warren’s insistence that they “add a zero” to their goal. Their latest iteration (“If you have a couple friends you’d like to do the study with”) has dramatically improved the outcome. See also, Saddleback Has Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again.
  2. Auditorium section leaders to warm up your weekend service. If the safety and anonymity of your auditorium is a mixed blessing (i.e., allowing less extroverted or newer attendees to ease into your weekend experience), what would happen if a team of relationally gifted volunteers began to own sections of your auditorium. And what if their primary mission was to meet and get to know the people who habitually sit in that section with the ultimate aim of offering each person they meet a next step? Willow Creek has been using this strategy for several years (and I hope to have an interview with them soon about it).
  3. On-campus studies (that lead to off-campus groups). There are many people who attend our churches for whom simply attending the weekend service has required great courage and willpower. What is so familiar and normal to most of us is actually uncharted territory for a generation of people for whom even attending a church is a new experience. When we ask them to leave the safety and anonymity of the auditorium and join a small group that meets at a stranger’s house, we should not miss the fact that we are asking them to take an even more courageous and daring step into the unknown. On the flip side, what if you simply chose a study that same kind of person would find interesting and offered it on-campus at a convenient time? And what if the seating was at round tables with 6 to 8 other unconnected people? And what if about 4 weeks into a 6 week study you suggested that if they were enjoying the company of the people at their tables they may want to consider continuing to meet somewhere else? This is the essence of a strategy we’ve been using for a couple years. See also, Take Advantage of This Short-Term On-Campus Strategy.
  4. Intentionally designed community incursions. What if you identified 2 or 3 no-brainer opportunities for church members to spend time with the people who live on their street and in their neighborhood? For example, what if instead of (or in addition to) holding your annual Harvest Festival or Trunk-or-Treat you equipped your members to create fun and inviting outposts on their driveways? Or what if instead of having a movie night in your auditorium or fellowship hall, you equipped your members to host block party movie nights on their cul-de-sacs? See also, Connect with Neighbors This Fall: Top 10 Ideas for Small Groups.
  5. Launch a neighboring initiative or pilot. This is more than a twist on #4. The Art of Neighboring  is a great book we all ought to be reading. Written by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon, The Art of Neighboring was prompted by a joint church movement developed in Denver in response to a comment made by Arvada, Colorado mayor Bob Frie.  When asked, “How can we as churches best work together to serve the city?” Frie said,” The majority of the issues that our city is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors.” What if you read the book and then launched a neighboring initiative (or even a pilot)? See also, Don’t Miss This Great Resource: The Art of Neighboring.

Image by Freaktography

Take a Fresh Look at LifeGuide Bible Studies

sermon on the mountLooking for some easy-to-use Bible studies you can recommend to your small group leaders? You might want to take a fresh look at IVP Connect’s LifeGuide Bible Study series.

Although the LifeGuide Bible Study series is not new, it will be to many small group leaders and group members. While more than 15 million LifeGuide studies have been sold over the years, it’s likely that it will be unfamiliar to most of your group leaders and members.

Since it is very common for group leaders to look for a study that will guide their group through a book of the Bible, a particular part of the Bible, or an important topic of the Bible, there’s even a LifeGuide Finder designed to help your leaders choose the right next Bible study for their group. You can sample it right here.

I particularly like the easy-to-use format of these studies. Every study includes a helpful “Getting the Most out of ____________” section that does a good job of introducing the significance of the Bible book or topic as well as important themes. Leaders and members who want to really dig in deeply will want to read this section.

An inductive Bible study, the individual lessons within each study are straightforward and well-written, designed to help members discover for themselves what the Bible is saying. A group discussion starter question (like an ice-breaker) is included to prime the discussion pump. There is also a question for personal reflection that will help focus members on the important topic about to be discussed. The flow of the study questions takes members from observation to interpretation to application.

Leader’s notes are included in every study guide, making this study an easy one for members to take turns facilitating.

If you’re looking for a series of reliable and easy-to-use studies for groups ready to dig into the Bible, consider bookmarking this site to pass on to your leaders. I like this series and I’m sure your leaders and members will as well.

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 will 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.”

How Keen Is Your Cross-Cultural Awareness?

cross culturalHow Keen Is Your Cross-Cultural Awareness?

If you’ve been following the conversation here for very long you know that I believe all signs point to a rapidly shifting culture, quickly moving to a post-Christian America.

Hopefully, that is not breaking news for you.

Clearly, there have already been massive shifts in culture with more to come.

And that leads me to today’s question: How keen is your cross-cultural awareness?

Put another way, how keenly aware are you of the difference between your preferences, understandings and assumptions and those of the unconnected people in your crowd and community (and I would argue, even those of the outer edge of your congregation)?

How keenly aware are you of the difference between your preferences, understandings and assumptions and those of the unconnected people in your crowd and community?

I’m not sure how to measure cross-cultural awareness, but I do know our ability to connect unconnected people absolutely depends on it. If cross-cultural awareness is measured on a continuum, we must be on the keen end if we want any hope of successfully connecting unconnected people and making disciples.

cross-cultural awareness

Indications you have a keen awareness

  1. You don’t assume biblical literacy
  2. You don’t assume everyone believes the Church provides something essential
  3. You don’t assume a Christian worldview
  4. You don’t assume the terminology of the Church is familiar
  5. You don’t assume commitment
  6. You recognize cross-cultural affinities (cause, family, freedom, etc.)

Indications you have a dull awareness

  1. You regularly reference biblical stories or principles, assuming prior knowledge
  2. You talk about the Church as if everyone assumes it provides something essential
  3. You have trouble anticipating the differences in a secular worldview
  4. You assume everyone gets the lingo
  5. You assume what you’re offering will inspire commitment
  6. You don’t understand why only the core and committed sign up for what you’re offering.

Key Takeaway

If you want to connect the unconnected people in your crowd and community, developing a keen awareness of their preferences, understandings, and assumptions is essential.

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

Further Reading:

Image by Scott Beale

Has Blind Spot #1 Limited Your Small Group Ministry?

blindspot mirrorBlindspots.

I think we’ve all experienced what happens when you’re driving, maybe changing lanes, and suddenly a loud horn honking from a car you did not see breaks up what was a perfectly uneventful commute. At a minimum, it’s embarrassing! And at its worst…well, it can end up costing you a lot of money.

Blindspots.

When you buy a new car you learn where its blindspots are. And you take precautions. Hopefully.

When your repeatedly drive to the office or your children’s school you learn where the blindspots are.

At last year’s Global Leadership Summit you may have learned from both Bill Hybels and Sheila Heen that our personal blindspots are tough to become self-aware of and require the courage to ask friends and co-workers to help us begin to see them.

Blindspots.

Blindspots can also limit the impact of small group ministries. In fact, I think there are a set of very common blindspots that may be limiting your small group ministry. See if you’re aware of blindspot #1:

Blindspot #1: How you identify potential small group leaders

Question: How do you identify potential small group leaders?

If the primary way you identify potential small group leaders involves choosing from among current small group members, you most likely are unaware of blindspot #1.

If the primary way you identify potential small group leaders involves challenging your apprentice leaders to start new groups, you most likely are unaware of blindspot #1.

Take another look at the situation

Very Important: Here is the real situation. Pay careful attention to the next paragraph. What I am about to tell you may cause you to eliminate a blindspot.

Unless your percentage connected is very high, it is likely that many or most of the highest capacity potential leaders are not currently in a group. Can you see that? Also, once your attendance grows beyond a certain number it becomes more and more likely that your staff will not really know everyone who attends.  See also, What Percentage of Your Adults Are Actually Connected?

Can you see the blindspot?

If you read the previous paragraph carefully, you should now be aware of a potentially damaging blindspot.

Now, when you become aware of a blindspot in your car or a blindspot at a certain intersection, you adjust the way you drive. Right?

And if you’ve become aware of a blindspot in how you identify potential small group leaders, you need to adjust the way you choose new leaders. Right? At a minimum, you will be wise to figure out how to avoid injury!

Here’s what I’ve found to be the solution

Only choosing new leaders from among the usual suspects is a terrible ministry decision at the very heart of many, many stuck small group ministries. The fact is, the best potential leaders in many churches are not yet in a group and are unknown by the staff and key leadership recruiting new leaders. The genius of both the small group connection strategy and the HOST strategy within a church-wide campaign is that these strategies help identify leaders from outside the usual suspects. See also, How to Launch New Groups Using a Small Group Connection and  7 Things You Should Know about the HOST Strategy.

Further Reading:

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

Image by Alan Hudson

10 Worst Small Group Ministry Decisions…Ever

decisions10 Worst Small Group Ministry Decisions…Ever

We all make a lot of decisions. Sometimes we make good or even great decisions. Sometimes we decide to do something and immediately regret our decision. Other times we make a decision and really don’t figure out it was a bad one until months or even years later.

When the decision affects us (and rarely) only us, it’s frustrating.

But when the decision affects the lives of others…well that can be more than frustrating.

Have you ever made a list of the worst decisions you ever made? Maybe a list of friends, exes, purchases, job changes, etc.?

10 Worst Small Group Ministry Decisions…Ever

  1. Adding new members to existing groups instead of starting new groups. It seems like the right thing to do, doesn’t it? After all, don’t you have a commitment to help small group leaders succeed? Why shouldn’t you provide a steady stream of new members to existing groups? There are at least two very good reasons. First, prioritizing launching new groups is a key to building a thriving small group ministry. Second, it is actually counter productive to add new members to existing groups. Once a group has been meeting longer than about three months it becomes increasingly more difficult for a new member to break through the nearly impermeable membrane that forms. Only the most brazen extroverts,  experienced party crashers, and friends of current members succeed. Everyone else finds breaking into the clique too difficult. See also, Top 5 Ways to Start New Groups. Lots of New Groups and Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs Starting New Groups.
  2. Allowing the senior pastor to delegate the role of small group champion. It may seem logical to delegate the role of small group champion to the small group pastor. After all, why have a small group pastor if not to be the champion? This simple mistake may seem logical, but when this is allowed to happen you announce to everyone that being involved in a small group is an add-on activity. You also fail to take advantage of the most influential voice in the church. See also, Rethinking the Role of the Small Group Pastor and Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.
  3. Neglecting the opportunity to partner with the senior pastor. Related to mistake #3, there is a tremendous opportunity for impact when a small group pastor learns how to help the senior pastor champion small group ministry.  See also, 6 Ways to Help Your Senior Pastor Make the Small Group Ask.
  4. Expecting the small group pastor to take care of too many small group leaders.  This is a very common mistake and reflects a lack of understanding of span of care.  Caring for too many can only do two things: burn out the caregiver or provide inadequate and watered down care.  See also, Span of Care and How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.
  5. Starting New Groups without Providing a Coach. While building an effective coaching structure is definitely a challenging part of building a thriving small group ministry, providing someone with experience to walk alongside every new leader is an important key to sustaining the new groups you launch. Failing to provide a coach to guide every new leader is a simple mistake that sinks many small group ministries. You can start as many new groups as you’d like, but if you can’t sustain a high percentage of what you start your ministry will not grow. See also, 5 Steps to Sustaining the New Groups You Launch.
  6. Calling everything a group. In order to invite unconnected people to something more than an opportunity to develop friendships, what you invite them to must be something that provides the essential ingredients of life-change. Unless everything you call a small group provides the essential ingredients of life-change, you will often send unconnected people in the wrong direction, connecting them to programs that detour them from where they need to go. See also, Groups of All Kinds and the Essential Ingredients of Life-Change.
  7. Only choosing new leaders from among the usual suspects. This is a terrible ministry decision at the very heart of many, many stuck small group ministries. The fact is, the best potential leaders in many churches are not yet in a group and are unknown by the staff and key leadership recruiting new leaders. The genius of both the small group connection strategy and the HOST strategy within a church-wide campaign is that these strategies help identify leaders from outside the usual suspects. See also, How to Launch New Groups Using a Small Group Connection and  7 Things You Should Know about the HOST Strategy.
  8. Not saying “no” to unfit “leaders”.  Although unfit can cover a lot of ground, the version that catches many rookie small group pastors are the people who want to be a leader but couldn’t build their own group if their life depended on it.  They need to be given 10 members and then don’t have what’s necessary to hold the group together.  Learning to say “no” often begins with learning to ask, “Do you already have a few people you can invite?”  Seasoned small group pastors learn to be wary of the “leaders” who can’t build their own group.
  9. Promoting small groups on an annual basis. If the annual emphasis for small group ministry (alongside the annual emphasis for volunteering, student ministry, children’s ministry, foreign missions, local outreach, etc.) is the only time you talk about or promote the importance of being connected to a group, you will never build a thriving small group ministry. In fact, one of the most important reasons explaining Saddleback and North Point’s success at connecting such high percentages of their adult attendance to groups is that they never stop talking about small groups. See also, Top 10 Reasons Saddleback Has Connected Over 130% in Small Groups.
  10. Relying on apprenticing and “birthing” new groups out of old groups as the primary way to grow the number of groups.It turns out that while apprenticing is a powerful leadership development practice, it is only occasionally a dependable method of multiplying groups. See also, Small Group Ministry Myth #1.

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

Image by Riccardo Cuppini

My Top 10 Favorite Posts on Small Group Coaching

My Top 10 Favorite PostsMy Top 10 Favorite Posts on Small Group Coaching

Over the last 8 years I’ve written a lot about small group coaching. A LOT! I tried determining the actual top 10 posts (according to Google Analytics), but realized after the fact that many were written in 2008 and 2009…and there are some big ideas that have emerged in the last two or three years.

Coaching, you know, is so important! Why? As challenging and difficult as it is to build an effective coaching structure, I believe if you don’t have coaching in place you will almost certainly fail at building a thriving small group ministry.  Why?  I believe this because I am convinced that whatever you want to happen at the member level, must happen to the leader first. [Click to Tweet]

So…these are my favorites. Hope you find them helpful!

Here are my top 10 posts on small group coaching:

  1. Skill Training: Four Questions Every Coach Should Be Asking (2010)
  2. Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Coaching Strategy (2011)
  3. Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Leaders (2015)
  4. 7 Rules at the Essence of Small Group Coaching (2014)
  5. 20 Frequently Asked Questions about Small Group Coaching (2014)
  6. 5 Obstacles to Building an Effective Coaching Structure (2015)
  7. The Big Idea Behind Small Group Coaching (2015)
  8. The Big Misunderstanding that Dooms Most Coaching Structures (2015)
  9. 4 Steps that Build an Effective Coaching Structure (2015)
  10. 5 Assumptions that Shape My Small Group Coaching Strategy (2015)

And I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you about one of my most popular mini-courses: How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure. You can find out all about it right here.

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