Hebrews: Don’t Miss This Timely Bible Book Study

hebrews etbSpent some time this week with a new study from LifeWay’s Explore the Bible series. Hebrews is a 13 week study, divided into two study guides: Chapters 1-7 “introduces the Book of Hebrews and gives encouragement and hope to believers.” Chapters 8-13 “helps believers understand how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise of a New Covenant.”

The Explore the Bible series provides “deep, book-by-book study. Each study focuses on one book of the Bible (or section of a book) and features questions designed to encourage group discussion. These studies encourage transformational encounters with Scripture that help participants know the Word in a personal and meaningful way. And because the Word equips us “for every good work,” as Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3, these studies help adults understand how to live it out in their own life context (from the website).”

Why study the book of Hebrews? (from the website):

  • It was written to a persecuted people.
  • It was written for a church struggling to remain passionate about the gospel.
  • It elevates the superiority of Christ.
  • It reminds struggling believers that they have an advocate and brother in Jesus.
  • It urges believers to endure in the faith until Christ returns because He is returning.

A good leader’s guide is included in the member book. Each session features a creative activity designed to generate good discussion, along with questions that will help your members understand the context, explore the text and obey the text.

The Hebrews study is being featured as a special emphasis this fall by LifeWay. The emphasis includes free additional resources that will enable your church to use Hebrews as a church-wide study.  You can find out more about the emphasis right here.

I like the Hebrews study because the issues of the 1st Century world correspond so directly with those of the 21st Century. If you’re looking for a study that will help your members find hope in the middle of the 21st Century, be sure and take a look at Hebrews.

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: The Power of Time Off

stefan sagameisterEvery seven years, designer Stefan Sagmeister closes his New York studio for a yearlong sabbatical to rejuvenate and refresh their creative outlook. He explains the often overlooked value of time off and shows the innovative projects inspired by his time in Bali.

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

Image by Bret Hartman

4 Steps that Build an Effective Small Group Coaching Structure

stepsWho are you looking for when you are trying to find another coach? How do you recruit small group coaches? Do you have a tried and true system for building an effective small group coaching structure?

I was talking with one of the members of my 2015 small group ministry coaching network and I realized that I have a system, an ideal set of steps that I go through as I’m building a coaching team. I know I did not have this system when I began. And I know that what I have now is the way it should be, the way it should have been, and the way you should do it too.

Here are the steps that lead to an effective small group coaching structure:

  1. Develop a clear understanding of the role of a small group coach. I’ve pointed out for many years that it is first what and then who. Until you know what you want a coach to do, it is pointless to look for coaches. Whoever you recruit needs to fit the role. I believe the simplest way to understand the task is that I need coaches to do to and for (and with) leaders whatever i want the leaders to do to and for (and with) their members. See also, Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Small Group Leaders.
  2. Develop a clear understanding of the kind of person who makes the ideal coach. There is no shortcut for this step. When you become clear, crystal clear, on the person you are looking for, your decision process becomes so much simpler. Really there is no substitute. See also, 6 Essential Characteristics of an Effective Small Group Coach.
  3. Invite potential coaches to a test-drive. This may sound strange, but my ideal scenario is to ask my existing coaches to identify a small group leader or two from their huddle (4 to 6 leaders) who they think might be effective coaches. The invitation is essentially this: “You are doing a great job with your group. We’re launching a bunch of new groups this fall. Would you be willing to take a new leader or two under your wing for 10 weeks during the fall campaign? It’ll probably take you an less than an hour a week.” See also, How to Recruit a Small Group Coach: My “Secret” Formula.
  4. Evaluate your “launch phase coaches” at the end of the 10 week test-drive. You will have little trouble identifying the test-drive coaches who are actually doing what you recruited them to do. It will be obvious. All that will remain is to confirm that they are both fruitful and fulfilled in doing the job. Fruitful or fulfilled will not work. Fruitfulness is obvious. The right question(s) reveal fulfillment. “How does it feel to know that both of the group leaders you were coaching have decided to continue meeting?” See also, How to Do an Exit Interview for a “Launch-Phase” Coach?

Can you see how these four simple steps will build an effective small group coaching structure? It’s really not complicated. It does take some work. It does take conviction and a willingness to stay the course. But it’s not complicated.

Need more detailed help? Take my short course: Building an Effective Coaching Structure.

Image by Dermot O’Halloran

FAQ: When Should We Begin Promoting a Church-Wide Campaign?

5397530925_87102f74b2_zI get a lot of questions.  This is a good one and one you need to be thinking about as you plan for your next church-wide campaign.

When should we begin promoting a church-wide campaign?

That is a good question; don’t you think? And the answer might be a little different than you’ve assumed.

My answer? You should begin promoting your church-wide campaign 3 to 5 months before it’s scheduled to begin.

Here’s an example fall campaign timeline:

  • May 9-10 or May 16-17: Begin mentioning the fall campaign (i.e., by the way, we’re already preparing for a message series you’re not going to want to miss this September. You’re not going to want to miss Transformed: How God Changes You. It’s coming on September 19th and 20th. It’s going to be a great season here at Canyon Ridge. In fact, if you’ve got a couple friends and would like to host a Transformed life group, just fill out your contact card and write HOST at the top and drop it in the offering later in the service). See also, Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game Again.
  • June 6-7: Begin mentioning a special packet designed to help your congregation get to know their neighbors. The packet includes a plan to hold a block party on either July 4th or Labor Day (or both). Include invitations, a Top 10 Ways to Have a Great Block Party, and other fun items. The simple form to be filled out when a packet is given out asks for contact info (which will be used to provide follow-up ideas and information).  The follow-up email suggests that the block party host keeps in mind the possibility of hosting a Transformed life group (and invite neighbors and friends from the block party). See also, What Can You Pull Off in 3 Weeks? A Block Party with a Purpose.
  • June and July: Tease the fall campaign in messages, announcements, in your bulletin/program, and on your website. Like a highly anticipated movie scheduled for a fall release, your campaign will benefit from a nicely times reminder or hint (i.e., even a subtle one inserted in your pre-service slides).
  • July 25-26 and August 1-2: Promote the block party kit again and highlight a Labor Day option (i.e., pick up your block party kit at HOST Central on the patio).
  • August 8-9: Begin your main HOST recruiting phase and highlight it exclusively for three weekends (in your pastor’s message and in the announcements). See also, Why You Must Make the HOST Ask Three Weeks in a Row and How to Make the HOST Ask.
  • August 29-30 to September 8-9: Promote the importance of attending every weekend of the series and being in a life group that is using the study that goes along with the weekend message series. Give clear instructions for how to connect with a life group. See also, 5 Keys to Getting Everyone Involved in a Church-Wide Campaign and
  • September 19-20: Campaign message series begins.

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

Image by photosteve101

5 Best Church-Wide Campaigns for Fall 2015

14164934172_d5b87a8da1_cI don’t know about your church, but right about now is when many churches pull the trigger on a fall church-wide campaign.  And although there are two other windows when the impact of a campaign can be optimized, in many ways the fall is still the best of the three.  See also, When Is the Best Time to Launch a Church-Wide Campaign.

While choosing the best church-wide campaigns is certainly subjective, I’ve made these selections with over a decade of experience leading churches through the process of choosing, designing and launching powerful and trajectory altering church-wide campaigns.  See also, How to Choose the Right Church-Wide Campaign and Church-Wide Campaign Coaching.

Here are my picks for the 5 best campaigns for fall 2015:

transformed 3DVD-driven, Transformed is a 7 session study that accompanies a 7 week message series.  Although this campaign launched in 2014, this is a potent theme and should be on your radar.   Anchored in the apostle Paul’s profound truth in Romans 12:2, this campaign will guide and grow your church by exploring what the Bible has to say about every essential area of our lives: Spiritual, Physical, Mental, Emotional, Relational, Financial, and Vocational.Like all of Saddleback’s campaigns, this one is the complete package and is a true church-wide campaign with material for the whole family.

I like Transformed because it will appeal to both the congregation and the crowd (and in many situations to the community as well). Who doesn’t sense the need to change in some way? You can read my full review right here.

freeway

Freeway: A Not So Perfect Guide to Freedom is a powerful seven session study by Mike Foster and Garry Poole.  Built on God’s amazing grace, honest conversations with friends, and finding freedom from deepest pain and struggles, Freeway is way more than a study.  It’s an experience in the very best sense of the word.

I love this study.  If you’re looking for a study that will take people on a journey, a grace-filled journey, toward the life God dreams for them, you’ll love this study too.  Freeway is the kind of study that will cause you to see every other study in a new light.  Great stuff.  I loved it and I think you will too.

You can read my full review right here.

finding your way

Finding Your Way Back to God: Five Awakenings to Your New Life has the most powerful  outreach potential I’ve come across in a long time. If you’ve not had a chance to spend some time with the book yet, you need to make time!  This book is a game-changer!

Finding Your Way Back to God is being done as a campaign series as I write this review at Community Christian Church in the Chicago.  The resources you need to put on your own campaign will be available from July to December (including sermon transcripts, small group participant/leader guides, teaching videos, series bumper video, and website graphic).  You can sign up to find out more right here.

You can read my full review of the book right here.

Life on Mission largeIf you’re looking for a church-wide campaign that will help your whole congregation step into mission, Life on Mission is calling your name.  I found it very compelling and I think you will too.

DVD-driven, the sessions average 14 to 18 minutes in length and feature a combination of Harlow’s very engaging style of teaching, compelling stories from church members, and a collection of short vignettes by Mindy Caliguire, Tom Holladay, Gene Appel, Jud Wilhite, Lee Strobel, Cam Huxford, Kyle Idelman, Cal Jernigan and Alan Hirsch.  If you’re not familiar with Tim Harlow, he is the senior pastor of Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park, Illinois, one of the fastest growing churches in America for 7 of the last 10 years.  I had the great privilege of serving on Tim’s staff at Parkview and am so excited that his teaching ended up in a campaign we can all take advantage of!  You can read my full review right here.

be the message

Be the Message is the newest campaign from Kerry and Chris Shook, founders ofWoodlands Church, a multi-campus church with attendance of over 18,000 outside of Houston, Texas.   No strangers to the development of church-wide campaigns, their previous campaigns (One Month to LiveLove at Last Sight, and Stolen) have been very popular.

Be the Message is a 5 session study based on a very simple idea: “the gospel is not about what you say.  It is about who you are and what you do–and how you can be God’s hands and feet in the world.”

Truly a church-wide campaign, the Be the Message Challenge Kit includes everything you need to do this campaign at your church (weekly sermon outlines, promotional artwork, outreach ideas, and much more).  Free downloadable children’s curriculum on the website makes it possible for everyone to have the same conversation.  You can read my full review right here.

Image by Kwibuka Rwanda

A Must Read: Finding Your Way Back to God

finding your wayFinally had the time to finish my review of a new book by Dave and Jon Ferguson.  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!

Finding Your Way Back to God is very well-written and might be one of the easiest books to read I’ve ever come across.  At the same time, it is packed with provocative stories of life-change and redemption.

One of my favorite things about Finding Your Way Back to God is its built-in potential to be used as an “I’ll read it with you” resource.  If you have a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker or a family member that you’ve been hoping and looking for ways to help them take a step toward God, this is a book you need to know about.

As the subtitle indicates, there are five awakenings “that almost always occur in a person’s journey back to God.”  I like the way the authors describe the awakenings: “Where people start and what motivates them to begin this journey are often different, but the stages they go through are remarkably similar.”  The book explores five different “God, if you are real” prayers that are intended to arouse the five awakenings.

The book also includes an intriguing element; one that I am looking forward to sharing with a few friends.  Referred to as a Thirty Day Wager, the last chapter of Finding Your Way Back to God is actually a kind of 30 day journal to be used by anyone willing to put 15 minutes a day into an honest pursuit to find God.  If you take a few minutes to flip through these pages you’ll begin thinking about people you know who could be persuaded to make the wager.

I particularly like the potential this book has as the anchor for a church-wide campaign.  Finding Your Way Back to God is being done as a campaign series as I write this review at Community Christian Church in the Chicago.  The resources you need to put on your own campaign will be available from July to December (including sermon transcripts, small group participant/leader guides, teaching videos, series bumper video, and website graphic).  You can sign up to find out more right here.

I love the potential of this book.  Whether you give it away, read it with one friend, use it in your small group, or use it for a church-wide campaign, there is real potential for many, many people to find their way back to God.  I highly recommend that you take a look at Finding Your Way Back to God.

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: Forget Big Change, Start with a Tiny Habit

bj foggWhat if someone told you to floss only one tooth everyday? Or start the new year, not with grand resolutions, but with a simple challenge.. like ONE pushup a day? BJ Fogg shows us that the key to lasting change does not lie in planning big, monumental changes, but in thinking really, really small. Chosen by Fortune Magazine as one of “10 New Gurus You Should Know”, Fogg directs the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University.

I heard about BJ Fogg from my friend Eric Swanson.  He’s mentioned Fogg many times.  The most recent mention is in his Leadership Network article The Minimum Viable Spiritual Growth Plan.  Here is a very good companion article.

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

Quotebook: Dallas Willard on How to Become Like Christ

follow pathwayIf it is true that “whatever you want to happen at the member level, will have to happen to the leader first” there can be no question about what must happen to the leaders in your small group ministry.  And by extension, there can be little debate about the role of a coach.

And if the role of the coach is to do to and for (and with) the leader whatever you want the leader to do to and for (and with) their members, the question must be asked…what is it that we want to happen in the lives of the members of our groups?  My argument?  We want the members of our groups to become like Christ.  How?  By following Jesus in the overall style of life He chose for Himself.

I love the clarifying simplicity of this line from Dallas Willard’s, The Spirit of the Disciplines:

“My central claim is that we can become like Christ by doing one thing — by following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself.” (The Spirit of the Disciplines, ix)

Father in Heaven…let us all seek to follow Jesus in the overall style of life He chose for Himself.

Image by Dustin

FAQ: What’s the Best Way to Connect a Leader with a Coach?

conversationI do get a lot of questions and this is a very frequent question.  Usually this question is one of a rapid-fire list of questions about small group coaching.  See also, 20 Frequently Asked Questions about Small Group Coaching.

What’s the best way to connect a leader with a coach?

The Best Way to Connect a Leader with a Coach

Important Note: All of this assumes that you have done the hard work of recruiting the right men and women to serve as coaches.  See also, 6 Characteristics of an Effective Small Group Coach.

Here’s how I answer.

First of all, the best time to connect a leader with a coach is when the leader is brand new.  When a leader is brand new they almost always have a little anxiety, have a lot of questions, and are very open to the idea that they need help.  This stage only lasts for about three months.  In the first three months a new leader either figures out how to do the basic things that keep a new group alive…or the group often dies.

If the new leader makes it through the first three months without a coach it becomes much more difficult for them to believe they actually need a coach.  Most commonly, once a new leader develops confidence that they know how to do it, they know intuitively that whatever a coach might provide…they already know.  This is actually not true, but it is a belief that is very hard to shake.  See also, See also, Small Group Ministry Myth #5: Only New Small Group Leaders Need a Coach and The Big Misunderstanding the Dooms Most Small Group Coaching Structures.

Second, the best way to connect a new leader with a coach is in person.  It is absolutely a major advantage when the introduction is face to face.  Especially when someone the new leader respects (like the senior pastor or small group pastor) is able to provide an introduction, a face to face meeting is a game changer.  “Joe, I’d like you to meet Bob.  Bob is one of our coaches.  He’s led a great small group for a number of years and he knows a lot about small groups.  I’ve asked Bob to be a resource to you as your new group gets going.”

Third, the best way to connect a new leader with a coach is with the right first conversation.  Once the introduction happens, a short conversation between coach and new leader is essential.  This face to face opportunity allows them to begin to know something about each other.  The coach can share a little of their story with the leader, modeling an appropriate answer.  And then the coach can ask the leader to “tell me a little bit about yourself.”  They can swap contact info (it’s helpful if the coach has a card or an info sheet with their contact info preprinted).  The coach should have a notebook or add info directly into their cell phone.

Fourth, the best way to connect a new leader with a coach is with a prearranged check-in.  One of the things that should be arranged during the first conversation is how and when is the best time to talk again.  “I’d love to check back with you in a few days to see how things are going.  When is the best time to talk for a few minutes?”  Follow up should be in person (i.e., right after the 9:00 a.m. service) or on the phone (lunchtime, morning commute Thursday night after your kids are asleep, etc.).  The key is a prearranged conversation.

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

Image by Kathleen Tylor Conklin

The Big Misunderstanding that Dooms Most Coaching Structures

misunderstanding doomI’ve written about small group coaching many times.  I’ve focused on coaching because I believe it is a widely misunderstood and frequently under-appreciated yet essential ingredient in building a thriving small group ministry.  See also, How to Build a Thriving Small Group Ministry.

Now, 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.  And once your small group ministry is larger than the number of leaders you can care for (about 10), you must expand your caring potential by adding an effective coaching structure.  [Teaching better technique has almost nothing to do with the role of a small group coach].

The Big Misunderstanding

I’ve often written that whatever you want to happen at the member level, must happen to the leader first. I believe this is the true why behind small group coaching.  I also believe it is at the very heart of a misunderstanding that causes many attempts at building an effective small group coaching structure to fail miserably.  What’s the misunderstanding? Far too many believe that small group coaching is about teaching better technique. And while it’s understandable (the batting coach on a major league baseball team works with players to correct or refine their swing or approach), teaching better technique has almost nothing to do with the role of a small group coach.  See also, Model What You Want to Happen at the Member Level and 5 Obstacles to Building an Effective Small Group Coaching Structure.

The major role of a small group coach is to do to and for (and with) the small group leader whatever you want the leader to do to and for (and with) their members.

Can you see how this understanding would almost completely change the characteristics of the kind of person who’d make the best small group coach?  Once you understand the major role of a coach to be doing to and for (and with) the small group leader whatever you want the leader to do to and for (and with) their members…you will begin looking for a different kind of person.  See also, 6 Essential Characteristics of an Effective Small Group Coach and Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Small Group Leaders.

Today’s Questions

  1. Are you recruiting the kinds of men and women who have what it takes to do to and for (and with) your small group leaders whatever you want your leaders to do to and for (and with) their members?
  2. Have you compromised and filled your coaching structure with warm and willing, instead of hot and qualified?
  3. Have you given up (not understanding that to miss this dooms your efforts to build a thriving small group ministry)?

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

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