Don’t Miss Scott Boren’s Latest: Leading Small Groups in the Way of Jesus

leading small groups in the way of JesusSpent some time with a new book from M. Scott Boren this week.  Leading Small Groups in the Way of Jesus is his latest (and might be his best) in a long list and you are going to want to know about this one.

The essential premise of Leading Small Groups in the Way of Jesus is that objective of small group ministry is not good group meetings.

The prelude hints at a set of practices “that will move your group from being a ‘good’ meeting group to one that participates with Jesus in the way that changes life as we know it and shines forth the surprising and unexpected way of God’s kingdom.”  The rest of the book reframes leadership greatness “so that our way of leading begins to reflect the way of Jesus.”

Leading Small Groups in the Way of Jesus introduces and highlights a set of 8 practices that help leaders become “the kind of leaders who live in the love of God demonstrated on the cross.”  The 8 practices are:

  • Hear the Rhythms of the Jesus Way
  • Gather in the Presence
  • Lead Collaboratively
  • Be Yourself
  • Hang Out
  • Make a Difference
  • Fight Well
  • Point the Way to the Cross

If you’re any kind of small group ministry veteran you can probably come very close to the topics addressed in each of these chapters.  What you would almost certainly miss is the rich detail offered in the effort to help small group leaders develop these practices; these new habits.  In the opening lines of chapter two Boren introduces a set of ideas from Charles Duhiggs’ The Power of Habit.  This little detail underpins a very good aspect of the ideas here, as the practices are not new–they are ancient and rarely practiced.  If you want to incorporate them into your small group ministry, you will need to teach new habits.

Leading Small Groups in the Way of Jesus is a very good addition to the short list of books that are a must-read for small group point leaders.  If you want the small group leaders in your ministry to accomplish more than convene a good meeting, you need to be devouring this book right now!

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.

Does Your Small Group Ministry Need to Grow Exponentially?

exponentialDoes your small group ministry need to grow exponentially?  Or can it grow incrementally and meet the needs of unconnected people?  Remember, unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being in your church again.  See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting Unconnected People?

A very simple calculation can help you determine your answer.  The most common calculation is the number of adults in a small group divided by weekend adult worship attendance (for example, 150 adults in small groups divided by 300 adults in worship equals 50%).  This is a helpful baseline understanding.

Note: I argue that the number of adults in a small group divided by your Easter or Christmas Eve adult worship attendance is a more accurate estimate of your percentage connected. See also, What Percentage of Your Adults are Actually Connected?

Does your small group ministry need to grow exponentially?

Now back to my question.  Does your small group ministry need to grow exponentially?

As I pointed out yesterday, there are three strategies that launch waves of new groups and can lead to exponential growth.  Virtually all other strategies launch a new group now and then and lead to incremental growth.  See also, Top 1o Ways to Launch New Groups.

Your answer to my question should determine the strategy you choose.

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

3 Strategies that Launch a Wave of New Groups

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Three Very Important Discoveries for Small Group Pastors

  1. The first very important discovery for small group pastors is that there are no problem-free small group systems or models.  A breakthrough happens when leaders learn that every system comes with a set of problems and wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  See also, Breaking: No Problem-Free System, Model or Strategy.
  2. A second very important discovery for small group pastors is the realization that starting new groups is more productive than adding members to existing groups.  While this is counterintuitive for some, there is no doubt that launching new groups is the best way to grow the number of groups and the number of people connected.  Far better to train your small group leaders to fill their own group and focus your efforts on launching new groups.  See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs Start New Groups and Skill Training: Top 10 Ways to Find New Group Members.
  3. Finally, a third very important discovery for small group pastors is that starting a wave of new groups (as opposed to one at a time) is a key to the momentum needed to build a thriving small group ministry.  This is the difference between incremental growth and exponential growth.  Unless your church is nearly 100% connected in groups or experiencing a decline in attendance, incremental growth in new groups will not get the job done.  See also, How to Build an Exponential Small Group System.

Takeaway

These three important discoveries should lead you to wonder, “What’s the best way to launch a wave of new groups?”

Here are the top 3 ways to launch a wave of new groups:

  1. Launch a church-wide campaign.  In most cases, the very best way to launch a wave of new groups is with a church-wide campaign using the HOST strategy.  This strategy leverages the external connections of hosts and with the right campaign can provide an amazing link into the community.  See also,The Exponential Power of a Church-Wide Campaign, Saddleback Changed the Game…Again, and 10 Simple Steps to a Great Church-Wide Campaign.
  2. Hold a Small Group Connection.  The key to this strategy is that it connects the people who come to the event and doesn’t require “pre-qualified leaders” going into the event.” See also, How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection.
  3. Plan and launch GroupLink.  This is an excellent strategy.  If you are a fast growing church and late to the game, it will not catch a moving train.  But…if you’re looking for a plug-and-play concept that will work in season and out…you’ve got to consider this one.  See also, North Point’s Small Group System.

There are a number of other very good strategies that do a good job of connecting unconnected people.  The big idea of these three strategies is that they launch waves of new groups.  Other strategies primarily focus on adding members to existing groups and a new group here and there (such as the sermon-based strategy or the free market strategy).  See also, Top 10 Ways to Launch New Groups.

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

6 Things You Need to Know about Small Group Ministry

Sometimes things seem more complicated than they really are.  Small group ministry is truly one of those things.  It’s just not that complicated.

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Photo Credit: Alejandro Guijarro

6 things you need to know about small group ministry:

  1. There is no problem-free small group strategy or system.  It really doesn’t matter what system, strategy or model you choose.  They all come with a set of problems.  Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  The hunt for a problem-free solution may be the number one cause of ministry delay.  See also, Breaking: No Problem-Free Small Group System, Model or Strategy.
  2. Your strategy or system is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.  Don’t like the results you’re experiencing?  You must look at the design.  Results are directly related to design.  You may want to believe your results are a fluke; that they are related to the weather, or who was playing in the Super Bowl, or who won the election.  But your results are produced by the design.  Want different results?  Change the design.  See also, 5 GroupLife Dots You May Not Be Connecting.
  3. There is no substitute for your senior pastor as small group champion.  There is no avoiding this reality.  If you want to build a thriving small group ministry, the role of small group champion cannot be delegated.  You may be able to connect the men and women in your church who are naturally inclined toward community (every church has a group of people who would connect even if it was illegal).  But if you want to connect beyond your average weekend adult attendance, you will need the most influential person in your church to be the spokesperson for life in community.  See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #1: A Doubtful and Conflicted Senior Pastor.
  4. Unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again.  This is my way of saying there is no tomorrow for some of the unconnected men and women in your crowd.  Their window is closing.  If you want to connect them to a small group, time really is of the essence.  “We don’t have enough qualified leaders” will not be an acceptable excuse.  See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting Unconnected People?
  5. Whatever you want to happen at the member level will have to happen to the leader first.  Doesn’t it stand to reason?  If you want your members to know that someone is praying for them, to know what it feels like to be prayed for, their leader will have to have already had that experience.  If you want group members to be discipled, it will have to happen to their leader first.  Bottom line?  This almost always makes building an effective coaching structure an essential step.  See also, Model What You Want to Happen at the Member Level.
  6. You can’t build a thriving small group ministry overnight.  Do not miss this.  Building a thriving small group ministry requires a long term commitment.  It happens over years of launching waves of new groups and sustaining a percentage of them.  Season after season.  Never wavering.  Wash, rinse and repeat.  See also, Wash, Rinse, Repeat and the Long Run.

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

5 Obstacles to Building an Effective Coaching Structure

“Coaching does not work here.”

I’ve heard that line many, many times.  Maybe you’ve said it yourself!  Very often, though, there are some incorrect assumptions that undermine coaching success.  See also, 5 Assumptions that Set Up Small Group Coaching to #FAIL.

There are also some real obstacles to building an effective coaching structure.

5 Obstacles to Building an Effective Coaching Structure

  1. Recruiting the wrong people.  Coaching is an essential ingredient of small group ministry that can only happen when you have the right people on the team.  You cannot build an effective coaching structure if you end up with anything less than high capacity people who are both fruitful and fulfilled in their role.  See also, 6 Essential Characteristics of an Effective Small Group Coach and How to Recruit a Small Group Coach: My “Secret” Formula.
  2. Asking your coaches to do the wrong things.  It’s not unusual for mall group coaches to be recruited to the role of an accountant or a hall monitor.  Instead of mentoring group leaders, caring for them in a way that encourages leaders to follow Christ, coaches end up being asked to ensure that rosters are up to date and only approved curriculum is being chosen.  If the job description you use for small group coaches describes anything less than “doing to and for your small group leaders whatever you want your leaders to do to and for their members” you have the wrong job description.  See also, Life-Change at the Member-Level.
  3. Assigning coaches to the wrong leaders.  It’s very common for small group pastors to decide to try coaching one more time and simply assign every small group leader to a coach.  Doing this underestimates the power of one of the most important obstacles to understand.  Experienced leaders who currently don’t have a coach know intuitively that they do not need a coach.  They reason, “Obviously, I already know what I need to know.  If I didn’t need a coach when I was beginning to lead a small group, why would I need one now?”  This logic is nearly irrefutable.  We have rarely painted an accurate  picture of the role of a coach and it is difficult for leaders to see anything other than what they’ve always imagined.  Better to assign coaches to new leaders and adopt another strategy for caring for experienced leaders.  See also, How to Provide Coaching for Experienced Group Leaders.
  4. Insufficient investment in your coaches once recruited.  If your pattern is to recruit coaches and then release them on their own recognizance to coach small group leaders you face an insurmountable obstacle.  This obstacle can only be overcome by changing your pattern and beginning to invest time and energy in doing to and for your coaches whatever you want your coaches to do to and for the leaders they are coaching.  See also, 7 Practices for Developing and Discipling Your Coaches.
  5. Failure to evaluate the performance and fit of your coaches.  If your coaching structure has the feel of the Supreme Court (lifetime appointments), you will have great difficulty building an effective coaching structure.  If you want to build an effective coaching structure, you must become wiser about who you recruit and how you recruit.  You must also begin to evaluate the performance and fit of your coaches.  See also, Diagnosis: The Coaches in Your System and How to Recruit a Small Group Coach: My “Secret” Formula.

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

Fight Back with Joy: A Powerful New Study from Margaret Feinberg

fight back with joyI had the opportunity to preview a new study from Margaret Feinberg this week.  Fight Back with Joy: Celebrate More, Regret Less, Stare Down Your Greatest Fears is a new 6 session study and it is one you are going to want to add to your recommended list.

Margaret Feinberg was recently named one of 50 women most shaping culture and the church today by Christianity Today, one of the 30 Voices who will help lead the church in the next decade by Charisma magazine and one of the ’40 Under 40’ who will shape Christian publishing by Christian Retailing magazine.

In Fight Back with Joy Feinberg asks the question, “What if joy is better than you imagined?”  She points out that although “this virtue has been stamped on coffee mugs, sewn on decorative pillows–even displayed on dish soap…joy is more than whimsey; it’s the weaponry you can use to fight life’s greatest battles.”

DVD-driven, the session videos feature the captivating teaching of Margaret Feinberg.  At an average length of 23 to 25 minutes, there are some speakers that would lose their audience.  That doesn’t happen here.  Truly a creative writer, Feinberg’s language is as imagination-provoking as humanly possible.  Your group members will stay engaged as she explores these important biblical truths.

The Bible study book is a very creative experience as well.  Far more than a set of discussion questions, each session includes a variety of experiences that will help unpack a number of profound ideas and life-changing truths.  Every group session begins with an experiential activity “designed to be a trigger for group engagement and help move people toward the ideas explored in the teaching.”

Included in the Bible study book is a set of daily studies to be done in preparation for the upcoming session (except for the first session).  A manageable length, most participants will find them to be a satisfying experience and just the right length to pull them along in the journey without overwhelming.

The Bible study book also includes a simple video notes section with many of the main statements and quotes, allowing members to capture other ideas that grab their attention.  The study book concludes with a “joy bomb journal” designed to be a place to capture those amazing daily moments when God explodes on the scene with a sunset or a warm hug or an unexpected note from a friend.

While reading the book Fight Back with Joy is not required, it will help some participants get the most out of the experience.  Margaret points out that “this is especially true for those facing a crisis of their own, whether a diagnosis similar to Margaret’s or something completely different.”

Fight Back with Joy is a powerful study that will be life-changing for many.  I’m adding this study to my recommended list 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 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.

Freefall to Fly: A Powerful New Women’s Study from Rebekah Lyons

freefall to flyFinally had the opportunity to preview a new study from Rebekah Lyons.  Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning is a six session study based on Lyon’s 2013 book by the same title.  If you’re unfamiliar with Rebekah Lyons, she serves alongside her husband, Gabe, as cofounder of QIdeas, an organization that helps leaders winsomely engage culture.

In her bio Rebekah Lyons is described as “an old soul with a contemporary, honest voice who puts a new face on the struggles women face in living a life of meaning. Through emotive writing and speaking, Rebekah reveals her own battles to overcome anxiety, depression, and consumer impulses-challenging women to discover and boldly pursue the calling God has for them. Rebekah wears her heart on her sleeve, a benefit to friends and readers alike.”  After spending some time with Freefall to Fly, I can tell you her bio is an accurate reflection!

Freefall to Fly is a powerful study that will resonate with many, even while it may intimidate a few.  With excerpts from Lyons’ book, participants will have a 15 to 20 page reading assignment each week in preparation for their meeting.  Interspersed in the reading is a set of questions that are designed to help prompt personal reflection.

This is a well-written and deeply engaging study.  I really like the way Lyons weaves scripture into her writing.  Some participants will be tempted to skim chapters, but they would be wise to slow down, wrestle with the ideas here, and savor the rich experience.

Although not DVD-driven, there is a set of short introductory videos are available free of charge at Lifeway.com/freefall.  A very complete leader’s guide is included in the member’s book, making this a study that can be done with a newer or less experienced leader.

I like this study!  Freefall to Fly will not be for every group, but for those groups ready for a study that will take them deep into the mystery of how God can turn our greatest struggles into our greatest strength…Freefall to Fly makes my recommended list!

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 to Help a HOST Become a Small Group Leader

dirt roadIf you’ve been following this conversation at all, you know one of my major themes is I want to make it easy to take first steps into hosting a small group and nearly automatic for hosts to take the steps that lead to becoming an authentic shepherd.  I’ve referred to this idea many times as lowering the bar in terms of who can be a leader and simultaneously raising the bar in terms of the coaching and development the leader receives.

These are two very important ideas.  Let me repeat them:

  • Make it easy to take first steps into hosting a small group and nearly automatic for hosts to take the steps that lead to becoming an authentic shepherd.
  • Lower the bar in terms of who can be a leader and simultaneously raise the bar in terms of the coaching and development the leader receives.

These are two very important and interrelated ideas.  I believe the primary way you make it nearly automatic for new hosts to take the steps that lead to becoming an authentic shepherd has very little to do with centralized training.  What we’re really talking about is life-change and as we all know, life-change rarely happens in rows.

At its essence, helping a host become a leader, an authentic shepherd, is about modeling.  Helping a host become an authentic shepherd is about doing to them and for them whatever you want them to do to and for their members.  And modeling is really what coaching is all about.

What does a coach model?  What if they started with the 8 Habits of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader?  And don’t forget, this will also inform what someone will need to model for your coaches (depending on your structure, that might be you).

When does it happen?  It should be a combination of:

  • one-to-one conversations (weekly, bi-weekly or monthly depending on the stage of maturity)
  • group meetings with the other leaders in the coach’s huddle (3 to 6 times a year), and
  • centralized meetings will all leaders (once or twice a year).

You can see how this works on my coach’s job description.

How long does it take?  Can you see that this is something different than a course to be completed?  Can you see that it’s really a journey to be taken?  See also, From Here to There: The Preferred Future for Small Group Leaders.

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

 

Very Little Surprise Here: 21 Days of Flesh Has Real Possibilities

21 days of flesh.1Earlier this month I reviewed Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth, a new book by Hugh Halter.  Spoiler Alert: I loved it!  Let’s just say I found it “challenging with just a dash of scary–but so inspiring!”  You can read my full review right here.

I learned from Hugh that they’ve developed a 21 day church wide campaign and after looking at the concept, I think will be just the thing for some churches.  It won’t work for everyone, or at least not for every campaign.  But it’s a powerful topic and focused on the very thing that many of our churches need to develop.

What is the topic?  This paragraph from the 21 Days of Flesh resource page does a very good job of highlighting the big idea:

Flesh teaches people how to live their human lives like Jesus lived His human life. Everyone is talking about being missional these days, but missional only means “to be sent.” Incarnation is the key to everything because being incarnational is about going to the world like Jesus did. Hugh believes that almost every problem we have in church leadership and in our influence on the culture stems from the lack of incarnational Christ followers—and the Flesh campaign is designed to finally get at the issue.

A very simple campaign, there are just three ingredients:

  1. Listen to the weekend message for four weeks (the 21 Days of Flesh resource page has free sermon outlines that are fairly robust and far beyond what I would call an outline).
  2. Read a section of the book each week (Hugh’s style is very readable and packed with stories.  Every chapter concludes with a set of questions that will challenge and motivate those who take this journey and could easily be used to guide the small group discussion).
  3. Read a simple daily devotional for 21 days (also available as a PDF on the 21 Days of Flesh resource page and could be distributed by email to participants).

I really like this idea!  If you’re looking for a simple campaign that will introduce your congregation to a more incarnational form of ministry, don’t miss 21 Days of Flesh.  It may be just what you are looking for!

 

 

Can Your Small Group Ministry Take These Four Next Steps?

When you are a beginner, you do what beginners can do.  Think about when a newborn turns over for the very first time.  Or takes their first step.  Or puts a phrase together.

Clearly, there are things that you do when you are a beginner.

And then there are things you can only do once you have mastered the basics and are ready for what’s next.

I think there are small group ministry steps like that.

Actually, I think the best way to begin is to begin.  Sure, there is the temptation to carefully lay the groundwork and slowly build a solid foundation.  But I believe that long preparations come at the expense of unconnected people.  And unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again.  See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting Unconnected People?

So the best way to begin is to begin.  And build the bridge as you walk on it.

But once you’ve begun it will soon be time to take next steps.  Like what?  Like these!

Four Next Steps for Small Group Ministries:

Refine your preferred future.  You’ve given some thought already to the preferred future for your small group ministry.  Now it’s time to refine it and fill in some blanks.  Writing down, wordsmithing or crafting the picture of your preferred future will help you get there.  Clarifying today what your small group leaders and coaches will be like in your preferred future will help you arrive.  More importantly, knowing where you are going will help you make decisions along the way(i.e., “If we are going to arrive there, we will do this and not this.”)  See also, Creating Your “Refined” Preferred Future.

Create a preferred future “org chart.”  In his groundbreaking book, The E-Myth, Michael Gerber described the power of creating an org chart for your future organization complete with every role you will one day need:

  • filling in the names those currently owning the responsibilities (often it will be your own name)
  • systematically writing job descriptions for these roles, and
  • recruiting the right people to fill the roles

What a fantastic idea!  Can you imagine the potential of this simple next step?  See also, Creating the Organization You Will Need Sooner Than Later.

Evaluate and reinvest in an effective coaching structure.  Developing a culture of evaluation is a wise step.  Casting vision for the value of open-handedness, the servant quality that acknowledges the truth that “I may not always be the best fit for this role,” is another very wise step.  The year in, year out refreshing of your coaching team will keep you moving toward your refined preferred future.  Committing again to invest in the development of your coaches is also an essential ingredient that builds a truly effective coaching structure.  See also, What Does Coaching Look Like in Your Preferred Future?

Establish a small group leader pathway.  Establishing a small group leader pathway is an important ingredient to building a thriving small group ministry.  Whether you have fully embraced my philosophy that lowering the leader bar and simultaneously raising the coaching bar produces more leaders and more groups, when you recruit a small group leader you ought to have a journey in mind for them that takes them from “host” or “newbie” to “shepherd” and “seasoned leader.”  See also, Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway.

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

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