Pushing Boundary-Free GroupLife

Is THIS What’s Keeping You from Your Goals?

goalsIs THIS What’s Keeping You from Your Goals?

If I know you, you’ve worked very hard to start the small groups you’ve started. You’ve recruited leaders that worked out for the most part and you’ve made announcements, and run blurbs in weekend bulletins, and sent out emails, and even got your pastor to mention small groups a few times. And still you’re having trouble getting unconnected people to sign up for a group.

You’ve tried several times to connect people in waves using a small group connection or GroupLink. You’ve run two or three different church-wide campaigns. You’ve tried small group fairs and tried updating your online finder.

And still, at the end of the day, are right about where you have been all along in terms of percentage connected.

When Pete Wilson published What’s Keeping You Up at Night? you already knew what was keeping you up at night.

But do you? Do you know why you’re stuck? Why you’re not reaching your goals? Why you keep trying and keep falling way short?

Of course, there could be a number of reasons. I’d love to talk with you one on one about it.

But could there be a simple explanation?

What if there was a really simple explanation?

Think about this

It turns out that we are most often kept from our goals “not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.”

“We are kept from our goal not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.” Robert Brault

Ouch! Could it be that obvious?

What if the reason your percentage connected remains stuck at 32% is that too many other steps are easy to take and more obvious? That is, it’s not easy for unconnected people to choose the small group option because there are too many other options. See also, A “Plated Meal” Leads to a Church OF Groups, Think Steps, Not Programs, and Making GroupLife On-Ramps Easy, Obvious and Strategic.

What if the reason your attendance at your small group connection is way less than you hoped is that there were too many other easier selections to make when it came right down to it (i.e., you also offered sign-ups for everything under the sun during the same weeks leading up to the connection).

If you want to connect unconnected people you have to make it way easier to do than anything else, way more obvious than anything else, and way more strategic than anything else.

Not kind of easier or kind of obvious or kind of strategic.


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

Further Reading:

Image by Resad Kurtanovic

Top 5 Church-Wide Campaigns for 2017

Top 5 Church-Wide Campaigns for 2017Have you pulled the trigger yet on church-wide campaign for 2017? It’s not too late, but now is the time if you plan to incorporate a church-wide campaign (an alignment between your weekend message series and a small group study).  Although you would really have to hustle to take advantage of a campaign in February (in my mind the second best time of the year for a campaign), there are two other windows when the impact of a campaign can be optimized (post-Easter and fall).  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 15 years 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.

If you’re a subscriber to you’ll notice some repeats from last fall’s list. The truth is that although most years offer a selection of new campaigns, some are still too good to exclude.

Here are my picks for the Top 5 campaigns for 2017:

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.

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! I believe this might be the most powerful outreach campaign 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.

The resources you need to put on your own campaign (including sermon transcripts, small group participant/leader guides, teaching videos, series bumper video, and website graphic) are available from You can find our more right here.

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

starting-overRecently had an opportunity to take a look at a powerful new campaign from Dave and Jon Ferguson. Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets is the newest project from the authors of Finding Your Way Back to God.

Starting Over was developed as a result of many conversations the Ferguson’s had with people who had read Finding Your Way Back to God: Five Awakenings to Your New Life. The authors made a curious discovery. If you’re familiar with Find Your Way Back, you may remember that the second awakening was awakening to regret. Their discovery? “Many of the people we talked to experienced the Awakening to Regret but then got stuck there.” Starting Over was developed to help people “come face to face with your regrets and learn to start over.”

Like Finding Your Way Back to God, the study (and accompanying videos) are very engaging. Packed with personal stories and skillfully told stories from the Bible, this is the kind of study that make it easy to invite friends, neighbors, co-workers and family.

A 5 session study, Starting Over is well-written and very easy to use. Although some participants may 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 a series of stories, Psalms, and passages on regret. A life application section will help participants make the story personal.

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

I have to tell you, I believe Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets may have even greater potential than Finding Your Back to God. Why? I think regret is an even more cross-cultural topic. While everyone may not be overwhelmed by feelings of regret, everyone can personally relate. If you’re looking for a compelling study that will appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike, take a look at Starting Over. I love this study and I think you will too!

You can read my full review of the book and the study right here. Also, you’ll find all of the resources for the church-wide campaign right here.

Wonderlife: A Not So Perfect Guide to Who You Are and Why You’re Here is the newest resource from Mike Foster and the folks at  The study is designed to take people on “an authentic journey through their not-so-perfect stories to find their sacred calling.” Based on the principles of Psalm 139, the small group workbook, DVD and weekend series can easily be used as a church-wide campaign.

Covering the kind of topic that makes an easy invite for friends, neighbors, co-workers and family, it is designed to generate a fairly personal discussion. At the same time, it comes at it from such an exploratory angle, it ends up being fun and engaging at the same time.

If you’re looking for a study that makes for a great outreach opportunity, take a look at Wonderlife: A Not So Perfect Guide to Who You Are and Why You’re Here. I think you’ll like what you find. I loved this study and I think you will too!

The Miracle of Mercy, a new 6 six-week church-wide campaign, is anchored by a weekend teaching series that launched the weekend after Easter, 2016.

If you want to know how to leverage a church-wide campaign to unite your congregation around a purpose and fan into flame difference-making action…you absolutely must take a look at Saddleback’s newest spiritual growth campaign. This is very powerful stuff. Don’t miss it!

I have pointed out many times that Saddleback strategically uses their small group ministry to drive ministry initiatives (think 40 Days of Community and the P.E.A.C.E project). There has never been a better example than The Miracle of Mercy. If you want to unleash a tidal wave of impact on your community and the world, you must take a look at this campaign.

You can read my full review right here.

What if you could start 10 times as many new groups-

10 of My Favorite Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes

I’ve had a plaque on my office wall for many years. It features a picture taken at Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. It also has a button that when pushed starts the speech. I love the sound of it and the words that he spoke (and I love the expression on the faces of visitors to my office when they push the button). If you can’t see (or hear) the video, you can click here to hear it.

Here are 10 of my favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotes:

  1. “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”
  2. “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
  3. “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”
  4. “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.”
  5. “No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for.”
  6. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
  7. “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.”
  8. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
  9. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
  10. “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

You can read more from my Quotebook right here.

Don’t Miss Rescue Academy (a New Resource from

rescue academySpent some time this week with a new resource from People of the Second Chance.  Whether it finds a place in your resource library or you use it to train small group leaders or coaches, it really looks like something you may want to take a look at.

Resource Academy is “a 7-part video and workbook training that will help your team say the right things at the right time as they counsel others through real-life problems. Many leaders face difficult counseling situations that they have never been trained for. This course teaches principles, strategies and key insights to handle almost any situation and equip staff, group leaders and volunteers to be equipped in helping hurting people (from the website).”

Video-driven, the video sessions are 17 to 22 minutes in length and feature author and speaker, Mike Foster. Mike is the founder of People of the Second Chance and the creator of Rescue Academy. An unassuming and engaging speaker, Mike’s style is very conversational and easy to listen to.

Each of the workbook sessions include a set of sections and activities. A creative introduction, a video viewing guide, and a helpful set of discussion questions is standard for each session. In addition, each session also includes a “real life rescue” example (that calls for thinking about how we should respond) and a creative element (or two) that will help participants absorb the principles and practices.

This paragraph from the website provides a helpful insight into the why behind the resource:

Most leaders are overwhelmed with trying to accommodate all the coaching/counseling needs within their church or organization. Rescue Academy solves this problem by training your people to handle almost every life-counseling situation and create healthy next steps. Rescue Academy makes it simple, safe and removes the hassle of having to do all the work.

Sound familiar? Sound like something that might be a helpful resource? I thought so!

I like Resource Academy 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.”

The Awesome Potential of the Launch-Phase Coach Strategy

launch phaseI’ve written previously about how to identify a potential coach. I’ve also written about how to recruit a potential coach.

In post I want to help you to develop a basic job description for a “launch-phase” coach. But before I get into developing a job description, I want to lay out a little philosophy that will help you understand the potential of a launch-phase coach.

The Awesome Potential of the “Launch-Phase” Coach Strategy

I tripped across this idea several years ago. We were preparing for a church-wide campaign and knew we’d need a lot of help caring for a lot of brand new leaders. We also knew that the brand new leaders who needed care would largely be people who had simply volunteered to open up their home for 6 weeks, serve a simple snack, and tell a few of their friends (We had used the HOST strategy to recruit these new leaders).

Knowing that we would have a lot of brand new leaders who probably wouldn’t know a lot about leading a group, we decided to recruit some existing leaders to simply walk alongside these new leaders for about 10 weeks (a week or two before the 6 week study began, the 6 weeks of the study, and a week or two on the backside to try and help these new groups decide to continue meeting).

When it came to identifying the right existing leaders to step into this 10 week commitment to help the new leaders get started, we essentially did what you learned yesterday (we sifted through our list of existing leaders, looking for the ones we felt had what it took to do what we needed them to do). Once we had identified the right existing leaders we recruited them to help us, inviting them to make a 10 to 13 week commitment to help 2 or 3 newbie group leaders for the upcoming campaign (you’ll be learning how to recruit in lesson 13).

Two Important Unanticipated Benefits of the Launch-Phase Coach Strategy

I want you to really catch what I’m about to tell you. Don’t miss it. These are benefits that we really tripped across. We did not see them coming.

First, when you recruit potential coaches to help you for a short season (10 to 13 weeks) you are really appealing to the same built-in level of willingness that prompts someone to commit to host a small group for the 6 weeks of the church-wide campaign. In the case of the small group host, they’re able to rationalize that “it’s just 6 weeks.” In the case of the launch-phase coach, they’re able to rationalize that “it’s just 10 weeks.”

Are you following me? One important unanticipated benefit of the launch-phase coach strategy turned out to be that because it was “just a 10 week commitment” we were able to recruit lots of the right people to “help a few newbie leaders for 10 weeks.”

The second unanticipated benefit? We were able to recruit lots of the right people to a short window of responsibility that allowed us to observe them in action before we invited them to a long-term commitment. In a sense, we were taking them out for a test-drive. Why is that important? Easy. Once you learn to recruit this way (to a short-term limited responsibility and commitment), you will very rarely invite the wrong person into a longer-term and much more important responsibility and commitment.   

Developing the Right Job Description for a Launch-Phase Coach

Okay, now with that background information, let’s get on with today’s assignment: developing a basic job description for a launch-phase coach.

Step One: Take a look at a sample launch-phase coach job description

Click here to see a sample copy of a launch-phase coach job description.

Take a few minutes to look over the sample I’ve provided.

  1. You’ll notice that it includes a very simple, one-sentence purpose statement. We will actually use this document when we recruit launch-phase coaches and we want the purpose to be clear from the beginning.
  2. The job description has a simple set of responsibilities. It’s not complicated.
  3. Notice that we included some expectations about an end in mind. The job responsibilities have a definite start and stop written in.
  4. A set of non-negotiable qualifications is also written in.

Step Two: Write your own job description

Feel free to use the sample as a guide. You’ll obviously want to customize it to fit your situation (the sample was customized to fit our campaign timeline).

Building an effective coaching structure is one of the most important components of building a thriving small group ministry. While you will learn a many of the most important elements straight from my blog posts, you may want to take my most popular mini-course: How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.


Image by Joe Wolf

playing-it-safe“Your first job as a leader or a change agent, is to convince your colleagues (and maybe even yourselves) that playing it safe may be the riskiest course of all. Change begins to happen when people finally conclude that the risk of trying something new is less than the cost of what’s worked in the past.” Bill Taylor (author of Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Things in Extraordinary Ways)

You can read more from my Quotebook right here.

Image by Katherine Hitt

7 Things You Might Be Missing about Unconnected People


7 Things You Might Be Missing about Unconnected People

Ever wish you could suddenly unravel the mystery of how to connect the unconnected people in your church? You know–the ones that no matter what you try, no matter how hard you try–they really don’t seem to want to do anything more than sit in a row. Maybe you wish you’d just sit bolt upright in the middle of the night and yell out “Eureka! I know how to connect unconnected people!”

Or maybe you’ve just given up and assumed if God really wanted everyone connected in a group He would have given everyone the same level of desire to be part of a group!

Although I’ve frequently written about unconnected people, I’m not sure I’ve framed their situation quite this way.

7 things you might be missing about unconnected people:

  1. Unconnected people are almost never loners. They are connected already, just not to other people at your church. In fact, I’ve said for many years that the least connected people in your church are the most connected people outside of your church (and conversely, the most connected people inside your church are the least connected outside).
  2. With very few exceptions, all of us are pre-wired for community. While unconnected people seem to be wired differently, they often are already experiencing a version of community somewhere else.
  3. Their taste buds don’t find the same topics appealing. Topics that long-time participants find fascinating rarely do it for unconnected people. Just like the taste for coffee, beer or wine, and brussel sprouts is an acquired taste, the key is to find topics in which unconnected people are already interested.
  4. Since almost nothing new is ever purchased without first sampling, trying on for size, or test-driving for feel, why would connecting to a small group be any different? The longer the initial commitment sounds (“sign up for the fall semester” or “sign  a 12 to 18 month covenant”), the more cautiously an unconnected person will approach connecting. Conversely, the more the invitation sounds like a test-drive or a taste-test, the less concerned an unconnected person will be.
  5. Unconnected people are not all the same. Within the broad category of unconnected people there are extroverts and introverts. There are socially adept people and there are socially awkward people. There are unconnected people who make great first impressions and those who don’t. While one strategy may work for extroverted, socially adept unconnected people who make great first impressions, the same strategy may feel like a death sentence (or at least life in prison) to the introverted, socially awkward spouse who makes a terrible first impression.
  6. Unconnected people are rarely regular attenders. They may only attend your weekend service on the weekends they have their children, or have Sunday off, or their team plays on Monday night. There are many reasons they only infrequently attend your weekend service.
  7. Unconnected people are often most comfortable with the familiar. While there are unconnected people who seek out new experiences and are the first in line for the new ride at Disneyland or the new latte at Starbucks, there are also many who are drawn to the familiar. At the same time, there are some who will only try the new restaurant if it’s in a familiar part of town or if it serves a familiar dish.

The Key Takeaway: Like all good designers, if you want your product to be purchased and used, you must know your customer. Becoming a student of unconnected people will help you understand them and create better next steps for them (and even first steps for their friends).

Further Reading: Top 10 Posts on Unconnected People

Image by Javier Morales

How to Communicate with Leaders (and Hosts)

how-to-communicateHow are you communicating with your small group leaders and hosts (remember, I’m differentiating between those just getting a toe in the water and those stepping onto the leadership conveyor belt)?  How hard (or easy) is it for you to get the word out about upcoming events, recommended curriculum, and leader development?  How do you do it?  Still using a print newsletter?  Sending an email out to a list?  Smiling and dialing?  In this post I want to point you to four easy-to-use tools that will make communicating with your team easier and more effective. See also: How to Help a HOST become a Small Group Leader.

First, give your leaders a way to get information 24/7. You may have a great website and a really cooperative webmaster…but most of us don’t.  The truth about most church websites is that finding what you’re looking for is a challenge and adding or changing content is even tougher.  What’s the answer?  Use a blog linked to your website that you and your team can update!  It’s easy to use and inexpensive to provide (less than $60 a year).  There are several web-based programs that make it so easy that even a caveman can do it.

You can see the blog I’m creating for life group leaders at Canyon Ridge right here.. If I have a training event that I want to promote or curriculum that I want to recommend it is easy to add and I can do it without waiting on our webmaster. Even better…I can set it up so that when I add the content my leaders are notified!

If you want to know How to Launch a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog in 20 Minutes, click here. Michael Hyatt does a great job of explaining and has helped thousands of people get started.

Second, provide training and encouragement without scheduling an on-campus meeting. You can do this several ways.  For example, a short teleconference is a great technique that your leaders will really appreciate.  Using a service like allows your leaders to take part in a training session without driving over to the church. That is a huge idea!  For many of your leaders it will save them 30 minutes both ways by the time they get in their car and drive over.

Another idea that is being used more and more is providing a quick videoconference. With a service like Zoom you can do training or coaching huddles using a webcam and a computer. Zoom allows your leaders to click a link from wherever they are and join a video call in progress. If they don’t have a webcam they’ll still be able to see everyone who does. If only the leader of the call has a webcam it can still provide a way for you to communicate visually with your team. And the basic level is free! Also, for as less than $15 per month, the calls can be recorded and the captured video can be uploaded to your website (or the blog I mentioned above) for just-in-time access later.

Third, take advantage of an online small group finder to allow unconnected people to find a group 24/7. Most church management softwares (CMS) have good enough built-in applications that can make a web-based small group finder available. Some CMS even include the ability for your leaders to do updates themselves (or you can do it for them), It is a real advantage to be able to provide current information about available groups 24/7. Additionally, with a web-based approach any church-wide email can provide a link to your small group finder.  This can be used in combination with verbal and print announcements to encourage maximum response to a church-wide emphasis.

If your CMS doesn’t offer an easy to set up small group finder, you might take a look at ChurchTeams.

Finally, take advantage of social media to stay connected with your leaders. Your leaders are already on Facebook.  If you haven’t set up your page yet, there’s no time like the present. Twitter is another social media service that could be on your to-do list.

Need a new approach? You don’t need to move from A to Z in one move. Move to B. Add a simple blog that you can update yourself.  Implement the small group finder application in your CMS. The key on all of these new ideas is to take a first step!

Further Reading:


Friday’s List | January 6th

fridays-listEvery Friday I post a short list of the things I’m reading, listening to, loving and wrestling with:

Here’s what I’m reading right now:

TEN MAJOR TRENDS FOR CHURCHES IN 2017 by Thom Rainer. An important list to take in.

6 Disruptive Church Trends That Will Rule 2017 by Carey Nieuwhof. Must Read!

Preparing Your Group Ministry for Generation Z by Rob Timms on Definitely something we must be aware of (particularly in light of what James Emery White is talking about on the Carey Nieuwhof podcast).

Beyond the E-Myth: The Evolution of an Enterprise: From a company of 1 to a company of 1000 by Michael E. Gerber. When you listen to Rick Warren or Andy Stanley, they will tell you about the role Michael Gerber’s E-Myth played in their organizational thinking. This is Gerber’s latest version (and it’s on sale for $1.99 in the Kindle!).

Here’s what I’m listening to:

James Emery White On The Rise Of Generation Z: A Post-Christian, Post-Millennial Generation on the Carey Nieuwhof podcast. MUST Listen.

The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Performance by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. I’m testing out Audible for absorbing an additional book every month.

Lean Start-Up (Part 1 of 2) | Eric Swanson | Exponential  This is a video of a breakout at Exponential. Excellent and so applicable to church planters or starters of ministry.

Lean Start-Up (Part 2 of 2) | Eric Swanson | Exponential  This is part two of Eric Swanson’s breakout at Exponential. Very good.

Quote I’m wrestling with:

“Those who fear the new are the ones who have mastered the old.” Simon Sinek

App I’m using:

I’m committed this year to increasing my effectiveness. Nozbe is a leading productivity app. First heard about it from Michael Hyatt. It’s already making a big difference.

My own post I hope you’re reading:

5 Things to Do in January to Connect More People in 2017. Now is the time to think about connecting more people in 2017.



Simon Sinek on Differentiation and an Excess of “What”

options“Companies that offer lots of options are often struggling to differentiate. Differentiation comes from clarity of Why not excess of What.” Simon Sinek

You can read more from my Quotebook right here.

Image by Bryan

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