Pushing Boundary-Free GroupLife

General Eric Shinseki on Change and Irrelevance

SHINSEKI“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” General Eric Shinseki

4 Lines That Shape My Convictions about the Future of Small Group Ministry

futureMy thinking about small group ministry has always been influenced by the thinking of people a lot smarter than me. While there are definitely other quotes from really smart people that have helped shape my philosophy of ministry, these four thoughts are forever nearby:

“The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.” Albert Einstein

I take this line by Albert Einstein to indicate that the solutions (systems, models and strategies) that worked in the past will almost certainly not be the solutions that propel us into the next era.

“Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.” Andy Stanley

I hope to always be quick to recognize that the results I am currently experiencing are directly connected to the design we are using. There are no flukes. If we want a different results we must change the design.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

I have learned it is easy to point to others doing the same thing and expecting different results and difficult to see this in myself. This truth must be recognized at the planning stage. We must ask, “Are we expecting different results while using the same plan?”

“To reach people no one else is reaching, you’ve got to do things no one else is doing.” Craig Groeschel

Connecting the unconnected people in the crowd (and even the community), will not happen if we keep using yesterday’s playbook. To connect people no one else is connecting, we must try things no one else is trying.

Image by Ben Rea

Further reading:

4 Essential Skills Most New Small Group Pastors Need to Develop

unconsciously competentWhat are the essential skills a new small group pastor needs to develop; to have in their toolkit? And I would clarify the question by asking what are the skills in which a new small group pastor must develop an unconscious competence?

But before we begin shaping a list of the skills most new small group pastors need to develop, to have in their toolkit, we might need to think about the four stages of learning.

You probably have heard about the four stages of learning, but you may not know the name. Noel Burch, an employee with Gordon Training International, developed the ConsciousCompetence Ladder in the 1970s.

Here are the four stages of learning:
  1. Unconscious incompetence: Don’t know that they don’t know.
  2. Conscious incompetence: Know that they don’t know.
  3. Conscious competence: The skill requires concentration.
  4. Unconscious competence: The skill has become second nature.

If all of us chimed in we could come up with a list of things a new small group pastor needs to know how to do.

Veteran small group pastors could come up with a great list of things we had to know how to do (or things we had to learn how to do). Of course, depending on how long it has been since we were new, we might not remember what we didn’t know how to do when we began. Or we might actually be unconsciously competent.

New small group pastors could also come up with a list of what they are learning to do right now (or learned recently). And the truth is, new small group pastors may not yet know what they don’t know how to do. A new small group pastor would often be unconsciously incompetent. Right?

So, what are the skills most new small group pastors need to learn?

I made a preliminary list (and I’d love you to add your ideas in the comments below).

  • How to prioritize.
  • How to schedule their week for productivity.
  • How to develop an annual grouplife calendar.
  • How to make choices about what to do and what not to do.
  • How to develop small group leaders.
  • How to identify, recruit and develop coaches.

4 Essential Skills Most New Small Group Pastors Need to Develop:

I believe there are four essential skills in which a new small group pastor must become unconsciously competent:

A behind the scenes instigator who sets in motion an annual strategy to connect people.  There are two key elements to this role.  First, the small group pastors with thriving small group ministries almost always operate behind the scenes and are unknown by the congregation.  Second, they’re thinking year round about opportunities to connect unconnected people and designing strategies around those opportunities.  See also, 5 Keys to Launching New Groups Year Round.

A role model, doing to and for your leaders (or coaches as your ministry grows) what you want them to do to and for the members of their groups.  Since adults learn on a need to know basis, developing leaders is a customized and just-in-time practice.  When this role is played effectively, leaders learn to do what you want them to do to and for their group members.  See also, The Most Important Contribution of the Small Group Pastor.

A talent scout always identifying, recruiting and developing high capacity people, managing a reasonable span of care.  The key here is that building a thriving small group ministry is a team effort and every congregation has high capacity people who will only be fruitful and fulfilled when they play a high-impact role.  5 Habits I’d Look for If I Was Hiring a Small Group Pastor.

A Joshua to Moses or Timothy to Paul, looking for ways to help your senior pastor be the small group champion.  Never underestimate this aspect of the role of the small group pastor.  Thriving small group ministries aren’t built when the senior pastor delegates the role of small group champion, See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.

What do you think?  Have an essential skill to add?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Image by KNLPhotos2010

The Resurrected Life: Making All Things New

resurrected lifeI spent some time with a new DVD-driven study this week that is almost a one-of-a-kind. The Resurrected Life: Making All Things New is a 7 week study designed to be used following Easter. Part of a three study series (the Christian Life Trilogy), The Resurrected Life was developed by Rev. Charlie Holt and produced by LifeTogether. The rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Lake Mary, FL, I first learned about Holt in 2004 when he led his congregation to do 40 Days of Purpose and then shared one of the most remarkable and powerful stories of community transformation.

“The Bible promises that those who are in Christ are “new creatures.” But how does that transformation take place? This unique Easter-season curriculum provides a space in which we can discover what truly means to live a new life. As we listen, we’ll learn how the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything–for us (from the cover).”

The Resurrected Life shows you how to live every day in the hope and power of the resurrection. The seven sessions explore:

  • All Things New: Overcoming Doubt and Fear
  • New Life: Letting Go and Letting God
  • New Temple: Inviting God’s Presence
  • New Body: Manifesting Jesus
  • New Covenant: Experiencing Resurrection Power
  • New Creation: Stewarding the Good News
  • New Day: Living in the “Now” but “Not Yet”

DVD-driven, the video segments feature teaching by Rev. Charlie Holt and a powerful set of personal testimonies. At 10 to 12 minutes in length, the segments are just about right. Short enough to hold everyone’s attention and long enough to set up an important discussion.

The study guide is well-written and easy to use. Each session is designed with a simple flow that makes it very possible for newer leaders to feel confident and effective. The study guide also includes several leader resources that will help enhance the member experience.

A daily devotional with 49 focused reflections will also enrich the experience. Spending time each day, continuing the journey, will encourage members to deeply reflect seven key areas of life transformation.

Produced by LifeTogether, The Resurrected Life campaign includes downloadable templates for flyers, posters, powerpoint backgrounds, and web banners. An excellent campaign manual is available right here.

For churches planning to use The Resurrected Life as a church-wide campaign, you’ll find the complete collection of sermon audios right here.

There are two other studies in the Christian Life Trilogy (The Crucified Life and The Spirit-Filled Life). “While these studies can be done at any time of the year, many congregations use The Crucified Life and The Resurrected Life for Lent and Easter and then kick off The Spirit-Filled Life in the fall season after Pentecost (from the brochure).”

I really like the potential of The Resurrected Life: Making All Things New and this series! If you’re looking for a series that will help your congregation explore the new life available in Christ, please take a look at The Resurrected Life.  I like this study and I think it’s a great resource that will help many congregations.

Thomas Merton on Love as Its Own Reward

feat-thomas-merton-800“Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love, therefore, is its own reward.” Thomas Merton, No Man Is An Island

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Determining What to Do…and What Not to Do

determine what to doHow do you determine what to do…and what not to do?

How do you determine which next steps in include? And which to eliminate?

How do you determine which menu items to add? And which to remove?

cone_slide8I have used the term “the preferred future” to describe where we dream of arriving. The preferred future is what we dream our small group ministry looks like. It is what a small group leader or coach is becoming. It is what a disciple is becoming.

Not every path leads to the preferred future. There may be more than one way to get there, but there are many that lead elsewhere.

And in order to arrive anywhere you must choose the path carefully. Not every path leads to the preferred future. There may be more than one way to get there, but there are many that lead elsewhere.

In order to become anything you must choose your physical or mental regimen carefully. Not every activity or routine leads to the preferred future. There may be more than one way to get there, but there are many that lead elsewhere.

According to Michael Porter,the father of modern strategy, “the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”

If you’ve been in on very much of this conversation, you are probably becoming very familiar with this diagram.  I use it for all kinds of discussions (you’ll see many of them right here), but we’ve rarely talked about choosing what not to do.

Choosing what not to do is very near the heart of identifying your preferred future.  If you study the diagram for a moment, you’ll see that the preferred future is actually a subset of three areas:

  • The Probable Future: I think of this as a way of describing the way things will be in your ministry or organization if nothing changes.  You pick the timeline, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, it doesn’t matter.  The probable future is what things will look like if you’re doing the same things.  See also, Start with the End in Mind.
  • The Possible Future: This is actually all of the known or imagined possibilities for the future.  For example, you might have a meeting where you brainstorm as many possibilities for connecting people as you can.  See also, Where Do You Want to Go with Your Small Group Ministry?
  • The Adjacent Possible: This section isn’t labeled in the diagram, but if you look closely in the preferred future section, you’ll notice that it includes some of what is actually beyond the possible future.  See that?  The white space.  I think of the adjacent possible as the Ephesians 3:20-21 aspect of the preferred future.  See also, Grouplife Agnostics and the Adjacent Possible.

Calling out the preferred future is really a three step process:

  1. identifying the gold of what you are currently doing
  2. imagining all of the possibilities beyond what you are currently doing
  3. choosing what not to do trims out the extra that may very well be good but not great.

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

Image by Seongbin Im

Further reading:

8 Habits of a Life-Changing Small Group Coach

habits of a life-changing coachIf it’s true that “whatever you want to happen at the member level, will have to happen to the leader first,” it follows that whatever you want to happen in the lives of the leaders of your groups, will have to happen to your coaches first.

With me? It does make sense, doesn’t it?

I believe this understanding informs the job description of your coaches. It tells us what the coach will have to be able to do TO and FOR the leaders they are caring for.

Still with me? Doesn’t it still make sense?

I also believe this understanding informs the habits of a life-changing small group coach. Doing is preceded by being. After all, “Jesus does not call us to do what he did, but to be as he was, permeated with love. Then the doing of what he did and said becomes the natural expression of who we are in him (Dallas Willard).”

Here are the 8 habits of a life-changing small group coach.  Life-changing small group coaches:

  1. Make time with God a daily priority.  “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35 NIV
  2. Follow the best example and offer a good example.  “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV
  3. Have clear priorities.  “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 NIV
  4. Put the interests of others ahead of their own.  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4 NIV
  5. Know they haven’t arrived.  “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Philippians 3:12 NIV
  6. Clear up relationships.  “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24
  7. Give and receive scriptural correction.  “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13 NIV
  8. Follow spiritual leadership (within scriptural limits) and make it a joy for their leaders.  “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” Hebrews 13:17 NIV

Are these habits prerequisite to beginning?  Not in the least.  Instead, they become the preferred future of a life-changing small group coach.  Can you imagine a better destination?  How do you help small group leaders move in the right direction?  Help them build the habits that will take them there. How do you help small group leaders build these habits? Recruit coaches who are already developing them. See also, What Does Coaching Look Like in Your Preferred Future?

Full disclosure? Everyone in leadership of any kind ought to be developing these habits. Anyone in leadership without a commitment to developing these habits…shouldn’t be in leadership.

Although many people have influenced my thinking, I have to acknowledge Harold Bullock and Hope Church in Fort Worth, Texas and their heart attitudes.

Image by Andres Rodriguez

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

New from Priscilla Shirer: The Armor of God is a Can’t-Miss Study

armor of GodI spent some time with The Armor of God this week. Priscilla Shirer’s newest study is definitely one you need to know about and add to your recommended list. Shirer is one of today’s most powerful speakers and The Armor of God leaves nothing on the field. The daughter of well-known pastor and Bible teacher Tony Evans, Shirer is a very popular teacher in her own right.  A dynamic communicator, this is a study that will resonate very well with many Bible study groups.

A seven session DVD-driven study (with six weeks of daily Bible studies), The Armor of God presents the powerful truth that while “a very real enemy has been strategizing and scheming against you, assaulting you, coming after your emotions, your mind, your man, your child, your future,” you can “be armed and dangerous, prepared to stand firm against his insidious schemes (from the introduction).”

The DVD sessions allow Shirer’s dynamic teaching to shine. Averaging 35 to 40 minutes in length, Shirer’s powerful delivery of scriptural truth interspersed with captivating personal stories easily captures and holds the listener’s attention.

The Armor of God is designed to be used by groups or Bible studies that meet once a week to watch the video and then do the personal work on their own through the week. The leader’s guide in the back of the member Bible study book provides direction and some tips on what to do in the weekly group meeting. With a little preparation, leaders will have no trouble guiding a good discussion about what participants have learned in their personal study.

The Bible study book includes both the weekly video viewing guide (with fill-in-the-blank notes and room to jot down other insights), as well as daily work for five homework sessions. The daily homework sessions are challenging and will require a 30 to 60 minute investment. Built-in activities in each session provide memorable takeaways that participants who dig in will find genuinely impactful.

If helping the women in your church learn to use the armor of God in their daily battle against the schemes of the evil one sounds like an important truth to give them, The Armor of God is a must-add to your recommended list. Whether you use it for an on-campus or off-campus study, this study will shape participants in a life-changing way.

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.”

beautiful diamond“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” Winston Churchill

What Are You Doing to Renew and Recharge?

renew and rechargeWhat are you doing to renew and recharge yourself? I’ve found that I’m a lot like a phone I used to have. It worked fine as long as I charged it every night and kept a power cord with me at all times. It just wouldn’t hold a charge!

Every year I renew and refresh my commitments. I end the year with a time of reflection, trying to determine the state of my present and then reminding myself of the preferred future I see in the distance. And then I assemble a set of practices that I think will start me on the right trajectory and keep me moving in the right direction.

I’m sure your pattern is similar.

These are my current daily practices:

  • Reading one book of the Bible each month as many times as I can. I started the year in Acts and should make it through 3 times. My friend Eric Swanson called this the Bible Book Club 30+ years ago when he first shared it with me.
  • Reading one Psalm a day.
  • Journaling every day. I record the date and what I’ve read on the top line. I write a paragraph or two reflecting on what happened yesterday, reflecting on both the blessings and the challenges spiritually and relationally. I actually start my entry with “Yesterday I …” Next, I write out my prayer thanking God for yesterday and seeking help to do the things I need to do to clean up any messes or in pursuit of spiritual power.
  • Read a section in Richard Rohr’s “What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self.” 26 days into this, I’m not sure I’ll make it through. I may set it aside and find a more helpful devotional book.
  • Read a page in my copy of The Daily Drucker. Set up with 365 days of individual ideas, it’s always interesting how often Drucker’s writing will have ministry connections.

What are your daily practices? You can click here to jump into the conversation.

For further reading:

Image by Tez Goodyear

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