How to Make Disciples in Small Groups

light at the endI don’t know about you, but I’m determined to build a thriving small group ministry that makes disciples.  That is the light at the end of the tunnel for me.  It is the end in mind.  It’s not just to connect unconnected people.  That’s important, but only a beginning.  My objective is to make disciples.  And I suspect–since you are still along on this journey with me–that is your objective too!  See also, How to Build a Thriving Small Group Ministry and 5 Things You Need to Know about Connecting Unconnected People.

And if your objective is to make disciples…you must know what it is you are trying to make (i.e., What is a disciple?).  Once you know that little detail, you will be able to lay out a path that leads to that preferred future.

With me?

And to that end, I love this paragraph from Dallas Willard.  In my mind it informs what it is that I need to do in laying out the path.

As a disciple of Jesus I am with him, by choice and by grace, learning from him how to live in the kingdom of God. This is the crucial idea. That means how to live within the range of God’s effective will, his life flowing through mine. Another important way of putting this is to say that I am learning from Jesus to live my life as he would live life if he were I (emphasis mine) I am not necessarily learning to do everything he did, but I am learning how to do everything I do in the manner in which he did all that he did.  How to Be a Disciple

Still with me?  This sets up a fairly clear understanding of the things that will have to be true about a small group ministry that will make disciples.

  1. It defines what I must do as I develop coaches.  I will need do to and for my coaches the things that will help them learn to live their lives as Jesus would live their lives.  See also, The Most Important Contribution of a Small Group Pastor.
  2. It defines what our coaches must do to and for the leaders they are discipling.  See also, Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Leaders.
  3. It defines what our small group leaders must do to and for the members they are discipling.  See also, 8 Habits of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader.

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

3 Post-Easter Strategies that Ought to Be on Your Radar

ChessAs you know, there are certain windows every year when it is easier to launch new small groups.  You may not have thought about it, but it is important to know that these windows are not the same.

Each of these windows is unique.  Each window appeals to a different demographic slice.  A different underlying motivation accompanies each window.  And most importantly, different strategies will maximize the connecting potential of each window.

One of the best windows to launch new small groups is the four to six weeks right after Easter.  There is often a heightened spiritual receptivity (although it is diminishing, Easter is still on the minds of many who are essentially churchless).  Easter can sometimes motivate a desire for (if fleeting) recommitment.  Easter, along with Christmas Eve and Mother’s Day, is a time when couples (and families) attend together.

3 Post-Easter Strategies

There are three strategies that ought to be on your radar.

  1. A small group connection is an event that can be scheduled one or two weekends after Easter.  It can be promoted as a  short-term opportunity (ideally a six week study).  The right topic (one especially chosen to appeal to infrequent attenders and the spouses of frequent attenders) can make it an appealing first step out of the auditorium.  Six weeks is short enough to seem reasonable and just long enough to begin to establish enough connectivity to encourage groups to decide to continue beyond the six weeks.  See also, How to Launch New Groups Using a Small Group Connection, 5 Things to Remember When Planning Connecting Events and 5 Studies that Will Connect People after Easter.
  2. A short-term on-campus study can be scheduled two weeks after Easter.  Selecting the right topic (or set of topics) will entice some to put a toe in the water.  Holding the study on-campus removes the fear of showing up in a stranger’s living room.  The topic itself (for example, Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage) provides the motivation (as opposed to promoting the benefit of being part of a group).  See also, Take Advantage of This Short-Term On-Campus Strategy.
  3. A take-home study that accompanies your post-Easter message series can be scheduled right after Easter.  Promoted as a study that can be done with a couple friends (or simply with your family), the right topic will make this an easy next step.  Many off-the-shelf studies provide almost everything you need to encourage a wave of hosts to pick up a grab-and-go kit from the table in the lobby and invite a couple friends to do the study with you.  Adding the element of just-in-time coaching provided via email can help new groups add additional new members in the first couple weeks.  See also, Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again.

By the way, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day both offer additional opportunities to launch new groups and connect unconnected women and men.  See also, Take Advantage of Special Days to Launch New Small Groups.

Dilbert on Developing Insight

Sometimes we just need to laugh.  And then again, sometimes it hurts to laugh.

bad time to become insightful

Thinking Thursday: Why Great Leaders Make You Feel Safe

As you watch this video from Simon Sinek (best known for his book Start with Why), listen for clues about the aspects that ought to be built in to what is modeled for small group leaders.

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

5 Things to Remember When Planning Connecting Events

post itThere are certain things you must keep in mind as you’re planning events or strategies to connect unconnected people.

  1. Unconnected people care about what they care about.  In other words, what already connected people care about or are curious about doesn’t matter.  When you are choosing a topic or a small group study, the only people whose opinions count are the people you are trying to connect.  See also, Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer?
  2. Unconnected people are infrequent attenders.  They will not necessarily be there on the week you’ve chosen to announce or promote the connecting event.  If you want to give them the very best opportunity to connect, you must promote the connecting event several weeks in a row.  See also, 5 Things You Need to Know about Unconnected People.
  3. Unconnected people are more likely to respond to a short-term test-drive (4 to 6 weeks).  The longer the commitment the less likely they are to respond.  It is far more effective to offer a short-term commitment with built-in next steps.  The longer the required commitment the smaller the percentage who will sign up.  The shorter the required commitment the greater the percentage who will sign up.  See also, 5 Small Group Ministry Shortcuts You Need to Know.
  4. Unconnected people are looking for convenience.  Be sure you are scheduling the event at the most convenient time or times.  Plan to offer free childcare.  Provide an all-inclusive experience.  Every unnecessary step and everything that inconveniences them or forces them to go out of their way increases the chance that they will decline to take the test-drive.
  5. Unconnected people are often quick to change their mind.  While they don’t have to be, they are sometimes looking for a reason or excuse not to come (think about how often one spouse is interested and the other is not).  The more you can do to reinforce their commitment the better.  Confirmation and reminder emails are essential, a reminder phone call the day before, and an “even if you didn’t sign up” announcement the day of the event are all helpful measures that make attendance more likely.

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

Take Advantage of an Early Easter to Launch Small Groups

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image: CreationSwap.com user Phyl Brown

I’ve been thinking about the rhythms of connecting people and wanted to share an idea that you might want to consider.  With Easter, 2015  just about as early as it can possibly be (April 5th), there is still plenty of spring left before summer and it makes a lot of sense to launch another wave of small groups.

There are three steps to the idea.

Step One

As you know, we’re coming into a season (regardless of your hemisphere!) where many people are thinking, at least a little bit, about spiritual things.  Regardless of ones religious background, there will be a number of noticeable references to Lent and Easter over the next 40 days.

The weeks leading up to Easter can be a good opportunity to cast vision into existing small groups about opportunities to invite unchurched neighbors, friends, co-workers and family to Easter services.  A simple video of your senior pastor speaking directly to group members about the opportunity could be played in every group.

Step Two

Easter (April 5th) is quite early in 2015.  With over two months left before school is out for summer (at least in the United States), there is plenty of time for a connecting event and enough weeks to allow new groups to have a chance of solidifying.  See also, How to Launch New Groups Using a Small Group Connection.

If a study was selected that would appeal to infrequent attenders (who will be attending this Easter) as well as friends and neighbors, it could lead to an easy opportunity to connect unconnected people.  See also, Design Your Connecting Event with Unconnected People in Mind and Four Secrets of Connecting Unconnected People.

Promotion of a connecting event could begin the week before Easter.  The event could be scheduled for April 12th or 19th.

Step Three

Choosing the right study will make it easier to promote the connecting event and encourage unconnected people to join “a six week group.”  Of course, you’ll be doing everything you can to make it such a good experience that they will want to continue, but you’ll also be leveraging the power of a test-drive.  See also, 5 Studies that Will Connect People after Easter.

The right study will also make it easy for those who have invited friends and neighbors to host a group in their home that will do the study.  I’ll be posting an article next week that will highlight several good choices for post Easter strategies.

I hope this strategy helps you connect more people this spring!

5 Studies that Will Connect People after Easter

Early Easters present a third very good connecting opportunity.  In 2015 Easter is almost as early as it can be (April 5th) and leaves almost two months before summer.  See also, 5 Keys to Launching Groups Year Round.

If you want to connect unconnected people, you must select topics that will actually appeal to unconnected people.  See also, Preoccupied with the Needs and Interests of the Right People.

5 Studies that Will Connect People after Easter

Here are 5 studies that are good possibilities and will connect unconnected people after Easter.

transformed bookTransformed: How God Changes Us is the latest study from Rick Warren.  Anchored in the apostle Paul’s profound truth in Romans 12:2, this study explores what the Bible has to say about seven essential areas of our lives: Spiritual, Physical, Mental, Emotional, Relational, Financial, and Vocational.

If you’re looking for a study that will connect less frequent attenders, Transformed has a number of advantages.  Rick Warren’s name is very recognizable and deals with a topic that is fairly cross-cultural (who doesn’t wish they could change something about themselves?).  You can read my full review right here.

jesus isJesus Is ______: Find a New Way to Be Human is an 8 session small group study that reveals the character of Jesus in a powerful way.  Judah Smith is the Lead Pastor of The City Churcha multi-site church with thousands in attendance each weekend in the Seattle area.

If you’re looking for a topic that might appeal to infrequent attenders, you might want to consider Jesus Is _______.  Virtually no one has a problem with Jesus and many people who don’t believe He is God are still intrigued by His teaching and influence.  You can read my full review right here.

overwhelmed book Overwhelmed: Winning the War Against Worry is a six week, DVD-driven study on a topic that is dead center for many, many people.  Perry Noble, the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church, “a growing, vibrant church with multiple locations all over the state of South Carolina,” is a gifted communicator and teacher, convicted about speaking the truth as plainly as possible.

The application elements that are built in to the Bible study book are really exceptional.  Some very good work has crafted an excellent experience.  I loved Overwhelmed and I think you will too.  You can read my full review right here.

7 questions[7] Seven Questions that Rattle in the Minds of Most Men is a powerful new study based on a 7 week study that has been offered at North Point over the last several years.  Now available from North Point Ministries, this is a resource you need to be aware of.

Offering a selection of studies could engage a larger number of unconnected people.  It’s easy to imagine this study grabbing the attention of the unconnected men in your church.  You can read my full review right here.

the best yes

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands is a new study by Lysa TerKeurst.  In this six-session video-based Bible study TerKeurst shares how to make better use of the two most powerful words, yes and no.  Using Biblical teaching and practical insights this study will help you be more equipped to discern the best answers for your life.

I am always looking for studies that will interest a broad cross section of adults.  When I can find a topic that appeals to new Christians and seasoned veterans, and will even appeal to friends and neighbors, I know I’ve found a winner; what I call a cross-cultural study.  You can read my full review right here.

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 New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating: A Great New Study from Andy Stanley

love sex and datingSpent some time with a new DVD-driven study from Andy Stanley this week.  The New Rules for Love, Sex & Dating is a four session study that you’re going to want to know about.  In this study Stanley explores “the challenges, assumptions and land mines associated with dating in the twenty-first century.  Best of all, he offers the most practical and uncensored advice you will ever hear on this topic (from the cover).”

Who is the study designed for?  While the primary audience is single adults, married adults will have no trouble relating and learning.  Keep in mind that the video segments were taken from a weekend message series at North Point.  What about teens and young adults?  This study ought to be required.

While the session titles provide a preview of where these sessions are going, like every Andy Stanley study Love, Sex & Dating is very creatively and memorably arranged.

  • The Right Person Myth
  • Gentlemen’s Club
  • Designer Sex
  • If I Were You

DVD-driven, Love, Sex & Dating features teaching by Andy Stanley, one of the most compelling communicators in America.  At an average length of 20 minutes, the video segments easily hold the attention of participants.

The small group discussion guide is built in to a book by the same title that accompanies the DVD.  Easy to use, the discussion guide includes a short introduction, a simple video video viewing notes section, and a very good set of discussion questions.  The discussion guide also features a simple between sessions assignment that includes a verse to memorize and a section of the book to read.

The book is very well written and packed with great insights.  No holds barred, Andy Stanley addresses the topic of love, sex and dating in an eye opening way that grabs attention.

The New Rules of Love, Sex & Dating is a great study!  I’m already thinking about how to use this content and get it in the hands of the most people.  I loved it and I know 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.”

 

 

Thinking Thursday: Where Good Ideas Come From

Where do good ideas come from?  Whether we want to connect people no one else is connecting or make more disciples (or both), it will require someone having a better idea.  This talk, based on Steven Johnson’s fascinating book Where Good Ideas Come From, is full of insight and must watch in my opinion.  Enjoy!

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

Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Leaders

conversationA core understanding in my philosophy of small group ministry is that whatever you want to happen at the member level, will have to happen to the leader first.  Once you acknowledge that basic understanding, it automatically follows that you now know most of what the coaches in your system need to do.  This becomes their job description.  See also, Life-Change at the Member Level.

Job Description of a Coach

Here’s my shorthand for the job description of a coach: Do to and for (and with) the leaders whatever you want your leaders to do to and for (and with) their members.

Now, if this is the simplest job description, really the root idea of the job description, can you see what your coaches need to do?  Almost entirely, we should be equipping coaches to develop and disciple leaders.  Can you also see what you might have them doing that they really don’t need to be doing?

Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Leaders

Essentially, your coaches need to model the way we want leaders to develop and disciple their members.  It has a lot to do with the relationship they build with them, the conversations they have with them and the love they show for them.  It has almost nothing to do with the information they pass on to them or collect from them.

As you can see, this isn’t an idea that can be completely fleshed out in a single article.  But I think we can begin here.

Questions your coaches should begin to ask:

  • How can I pray for you?
  • What are you learning in your daily time in God’s word?
  • What is the one thing you’re hearing from God that you least want to do?
  • What are you sensing Jesus is calling you to do next?  What’s your next step?

Don’t Miss This

The kind of relationship that will enable and produce conversations like this will take time to develop.  It won’t happen over the first cup of coffee.  It also won’t happen if your coaches haven’t mastered the art of appropriate self-disclosure; if your coaches aren’t learning to be appropriately transparent about their own journey.

Finally, don’t miss the fact nothing like this happens at the member level until your leaders have experienced it first.  And nothing happens at the leader level until your coaches have experienced it first.  If you aren’t modeling this to your coaches…you cannot expect it to go very far.  See also, 7 Practices for Developing and Discipling Your Coaches.

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

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