Pushing Boundary-Free GroupLife

Black Friday: Take Advantage of My 72 Hour Sale Pricing

5309486652_bb04cd65ff_zI’ve never done this before. I thought I’d try it out. For the next 72 hours, until 3:30am PST on Monday 11/30/15, I’m offering several screaming deals.

Save on a 5 call package of coaching calls:

  • Regular Price: Five 60 minute coaching calls for $625
  • Black Friday Price: Five 60 minute coaching calls for $500

Save on two popular Online Short Courses:

Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry is a 4 session audio course that will take you through what I believe are four essential steps.  This course is based on my most requested and most popular workshop, it draws more positive comments and rave reviews than anything else I talk about. You can find out more about the course right here: Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry

Black Friday

Supercharge Your Ministry Season provides a jump start for a powerful small group launch.  Recorded during a series of  live conference calls in August, 2014, there are references to the fall ministry season, but the strategies and tactics I reference will help no matter the season. You can find out more about the course right here: Supercharge Your Ministry Season

Black Friday

Image by Elliott Brown

We Have So Much To Be Thankful For

4537175786_96f711c423_zIt has been just over 14 months since Eric, our 19 year-old son, was killed in a motorcycle accident. We’ll never forget the knock on our door just before midnight. As word got out, we were quickly surrounded by friends and family and inundated with calls, texts and emails as our friends from everywhere offered their support and prayers. We were numb but surrounded by community.

This morning I did what I do almost every morning. While I made coffee, I thought about Eric and thanked God for the years we got to spend with him, watching his transformation from the 35 pound, shell shocked and painfully shy six year old we adopted to a truly amazing young man who impacted pretty much everyone he came in contact with.

This morning, I thanked God for Eric and asked God the same thing I do every morning. “When you see Eric, could you tell him we all miss him and can’t wait to see his big smile again?”

This morning I went on to thank God for the way He has blessed us with so much. I’m thankful for Debbie, who has endured me and loved me for almost 27 years. We’re thankful for our son Chris and his wife, Dee, and their three children. We’re thankful for our daughter Alexis and her three children. And what a blessing our parents and brothers and sisters are every day.

We’re thankful for so many friends both here in Las Vegas and everywhere we’ve been (Parkview, Adventure, LifeTogether, Seacoast Grace, Lake Avenue, Woodlands Church, WoodsEdge, Heritage, etc.). Actually, our friends go back to even before Debbie and I were married (to First Baptist Duncanville and Del Cerro).

We’re thankful for the members of so many small groups and Bible studies over the years. We’re thankful for neighbors who stay in contact long after we’re gone and look forward to seeing us when we’re back in town. We’re thankful, too, for many, many connections that have made big churches seem small.

We’re thankful for the opportunity to be part of the mission in churches that are committed to reaching unchurched people and making a difference where they are and around the world.

And I have to say, I thank God every day for the opportunity to share what I’m learning with small group ministry point people  everywhere. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear from someone somewhere in the world about how what I’m sharing has made a difference.

It’s Thanksgiving Day here in America and we have a lot to be thankful for.



Image by Judy Merrill-Smith

My 2015 Christmas Reading List

21395471761_c9ee04d057_cEvery year I create a list of books I think you should read.  Sometimes the books I include are very purely about small group ministry, discipleship or spiritual formation.  Other times, the books I include may seem pretty far afield (innovation, design, leadership, or strategy).  You’ll just have to trust me.  I wouldn’t include a book I didn’t think would be added to your toolbox and contribute in a trajectory-altering way.

This year my reading list is a combination of books I’ve just read (or am reading now) and a few that are on my stack and I’ll read over the next few weeks. You may want to keep these books in mind and pick up one or two yourself!

My 2015 Christmas Reading List

lasting impactOne of the books that I’ve already begun reading is Carey Nieuwhof’s Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations that Will Help Your Church Grow. Carey’s blog is one I read every day and is always packed with insights into reaching people far from God. I’m just a couple chapters into Lasting Impact and I can already tell it is going to be very helpful. As you know, I’m a fan of great questions that lead to great conversations. If you are too, this book will be right up your alley!

H3 leadershipI just ordered Brad Lomenick’s newest book, H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle. Brad served as lead visionary and president of Catalyst (one of America’s largest movements of next-generation leader) for more than a decade. He’s an influencer and has tremendous insights into leadership and developing leaders. He also has a blog that I have in my feed reader as a daily read. This one will be next up on my stack. Can’t wait to jump into H3 Leadership!

rising strongBrené Brown’s TED talk on the power of vulnerability got my attention several years ago. Her book Daring Greatly was so good a couple years ago. Her newest book is Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution and I added it to my must read list when I heard her talk at this year’s Leadership Summit. If your work is like mine, you regularly swing for the fences and you suffer your share of knock downs. This book is about getting up to go another round. I’m in for that and can’t wait to get started reading it!

what the mystics knowWhat the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self is my introduction to Richard Rohr. I’m always looking for content that can help shape my devotional life and have been greatly helped by Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Thomas Merton and others. I’ve heard about Richard Rohr but never read any of his work. What the Mystics Know is organized like a daily reader and pulls together the best of the rest of his writings in shorter sections. I’m a few days in and can see this is going to be a helpful addition to my daily devotional habit.

boldBold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth, and Impact the World byPeter Diamandis may seem an odd choice (especially to follow What the Mystics Know!), but I’m looking forward to reading this one. I’ve heard Diamandis a couple times on the Tim Ferriss podcast (his first interview was so good I listened to it twice) and can’t wait to jump into this book. I’m always looking for exponential thinkers who can help me think differently. I know I was inspired by two powerful ideas I heard about on the podcast. I’m very excited to jump into Bold.

the innovatorsThe newest book by Walter Issacson, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution has been out for about a year. Steve Jobs was a great read and The Innovators looks like it will be a very good addition. There is just something about a good biography about great leaders, inventors, or thinkers that I find very helpful in my own journey. I always like to have a biography working on my bedside table. Can’t wait to get started with The Innovators.

how we got to nowHow We Got to Now: Six Innovations that Made the Modern World is Steven Johnson’s latest book. One of my favorite authors, I loved his earlier book, Where Good Ideas Come From (if you’ve heard me talk about the adjacent possible future, this is where the idea came from). How We Got to Now is a great read. Johnson takes a deep look into how innovations like refrigeration, clocks, and eyeglass lenses have changed the world. I loved this book and if you enjoy learning and have an eye for transferable insights, you’ll love this book too.

the wright brothersThe Wright Brothers by David McCullough is so good. McCullough is another of my favorite authors and I’ve loved several of his previous books. You may think you know the story of how the age of flight began. Trust me, The Wright Brothers is an amazing story of perseverance, ingenuity, and exceptional courage you need to read. I had no idea of all these two men went through in pursuit of their dream. It’s a very inspiring story and I’m sure will impact my thinking.

Image by Catface27

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.”

5 Lightbulb Insights that Clarified Small Group Ministry for Me

7324829530_86718b1a19_cHave you ever suddenly noticed something so obvious and then wondered how in the world you could have missed it before?

Call it what you want, when you see (and understand) certain things for the first time it really is like a 100-watt lightbulb suddenly illuminating the room. And some lightbulb moments–insights–are such game-changers you literally never see things the same way again.

5 lightbulb insights that clarified small group ministry for me:

  • New groups are the key to connecting more people. It is very tempting to assist dwindling groups by “sending them another couple or two,” but adding unconnected people to existing groups rarely leads to an effective connection. The longer a group has been meeting the more impermeable the membrane around group members becomes. While there are exceptions, only the most brazen extroverts (or friends of existing members) can break through beyond 3 to 4 months. The most effective way to connect unconnected people is to focus on launching new groups. See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs Start New Groups?
  • Matchmaking is a dead end. The sooner you stop facilitating matchmaking (attempting to find the perfect group for everyone who fills out a sign-up form), the sooner you can focus your limited attention on the most effective activities. Eliminating every “sign-up to join a group” opportunity (guest card, letter to first timers, etc.) and instead offering periodic opportunities to sign-up to attend a connection will add hours to your week that can be focused on more productive activities. See also, 5 Stupid Things Small Group Pastors Need to Stop Doing.
  • What is done to and for the leader determines what happens in the lives of their members. A small group may be the optimal environment for life-change, but without a leader who has already experienced (or is experiencing) whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of the group…it will be a meager experience. Curriculum can help keep a Bible study on the rails. Training in technique can assist the leader in leading a lively discussion. Training in abiding by the guidelines of a group agreement can fabricate a functional group. But if you want the members of the group to truly experience life-change, you must have a leader (or be developing a leader) who has already experienced what you want the members to experience. And this understanding determines the true role of a coach. See also, 7 Things You Must Do TO and FOR Your Small Group Leaders.
  • Coaching is not about technique. New leaders will either figure out everything they need to know about how to lead their group (technique) in the first 3 months, or the group won’t make it. Most new leaders will benefit from coaching in the techniques of leading an effective discussion, understanding and leveraging group dynamics, including the more reserved members of their group and limiting the contributions of the more dominant personalities in their group. But while most new leaders will benefit from some coaching on technique, it is what a coach can offer beyond the first 3 months that will ultimately have the greatest impact on the leader and the members of the group. A life-changing relationship with a spiritual mentor a few steps ahead who can do to and for the leader whatever you want the leader to do to and for the members of the group is a game-changer. See also, 20 Frequently Asked Questions about Small Group Coaching.
  • Retroactively assigning coaches to existing leaders almost never works. “We need to assign every group leader to a coach” is one of the most potentially dangerous conclusions a small group pastor can come to. Another dangerous conclusion is that having a 1 to 5 ratio (coach to leader) is more important than having the right people in the role of a coach (often leading to recruiting warm and willing coaches as opposed to hot and qualified). New leaders who make it through the first several months without a coach’s help know they do not need a coach. After all, if a coach was an essential ingredient (and they didn’t have one) their group would have died prematurely, right? Wise small group pastors identify, recruit and develop coaches who can be assigned to help new leaders get off to a great start and establish a relationship that will endure well beyond the initial 3 months. See also, 5 Toxic Small Group Ministry Moves.

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

Image by Dennis van Zuijlekom

Have You Identified the Milestones that Lead to Your Preferred Future?

milestoneDo you have a clearly defined preferred future but still struggle to know whether you are moving in the right direction or will ever arrive? If so, it may be that you’ve missed an essential step in the process. What step? Developing milestones that lead to your preferred future (and indicate you are moving in the right direction).

What is a milestone? Webster defines a milestone as “a stone by the side of a road that shows the distance in miles to a specified place.” A modern understanding of milestone is “an important point in the progress or development of something : a very important event or advance.” For our purposes, a milestone is an attainable step that points to the preferred future. See also, Are We There Yet? Milestones that Lead to the Preferred Future.

The identification of milestones is an essential step in the strategy of arriving or progressing toward a preferred future. Milestones also play an important role in the strategy of developing “next steps for everyone and first steps for their friends.”

Here are some examples of milestones:

  • By December of 2016, we will have 100 small groups, and 70 percent of them will have an apprentice.
  • By June of 2016, we will have 10 test-drive “coaches” and every new group will be assigned a coach.
  • By Easter of 2016, we will implement a “first step out of the auditorium that is easy, obvious and strategic.”
  • By September of 2016, we will identify a single best next step for everyone (core, committed, congregation and crowd) and a first step for their friends (community).

Have a question?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Image by Peter Reed

Dilbert on 360-Degree Reviews

Sometimes you just have to laugh. I’m pretty sure Bill Hybels doesn’t think this way. At least he didn’t in the talk I mentioned earlier this week.

360 degree review

Here are some of my favorite Dilbert cartoons.

Thinking Thursday: Charlie Rose – An Hour with Jim Collins

jim collins

Note: This video is longer than most of my Thinking Thursday recommendations, but it is such a good conversation! Taking the time to watch it. You will be glad that did!

In Great By Choice: Uncertainty Chaos and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All we ask: why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not? Based on nine years of research, buttressed by rigorous analysis and infused with engaging stories, Jim and coauthor Morten Hansen enumerate the principles for building a truly great enterprise in unpredictable, tumultuous, and fast-moving times. This book is classic Collins: contrarian, data-driven, and uplifting.

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

Every week I choose a video that I think you need to see and believe will inspire some new thinking. You can find the rest of the collection right here.

Quotebook: The Great Illusion of Leadership

illusionWhatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your groups must happen first in the lives of your leaders.

I love this line from The Wounded Healer:

“The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.” Henri Nouwen

You’ll find more from my collection of quotes right here.

Image by Chris Beckett

360 Leader: 10 Questions for Self-Leadership

compass leading yourselfIf you’ve been along for much of this conversation, you know how frequently I write about the need for small group point people to do to and for the coaches whatever you want them to do to and for your small group leaders. Why? Because “whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your groups must happen first in the lives of your leaders.”

I spent some time today listening to The 360 Degree Leader, a Bill Hybels’ talk from the 2000 Leadership Summit (from the Leadership Summit resource: Best Leadership Talks from the Leadership Summit). Here are two statements that I heard that reinforced my thinking:

“Leaders should carefully calculate how much time and energy they invest in each of these directions (up, down, laterally and yourself). We should invest 50% of our energies in leading ourselves. 25% in leading up. 20% in leading laterally. 5% in leading down.” (Hybels concluded this from an article by Dee Hock who popularized the idea of 360 degree leadership)

A second quote stirred even more thinking:

“Exceptional leaders become so because of self-leadership.” Daniel Golman, Emotional Intelligence

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your groups ultimately have their basis in what’s happening in your life. See also, Model What You Want to Happen at the Member Level.

And finally, here is a set of questions that Hybels uses for his own self leadership.

10 questions for self-leadership:

  1. Is my calling sure?
  2. Is my vision clear?
  3. Is my passion burning hot?
  4. Is my character fully submitted to Christ?
  5. Is my pride subdued? Or is my own ego messing with ministry ambitions?
  6. Are my fears at bay?
  7. Is my psychological baggage affecting current decisions?
  8. Are my ears open to the Spirit?
  9. Is my pace sustainable?
  10. Is my heart for God increasing or decreasing?

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

Image by Walt Stoneburner

5 Problems Only an Experienced Small Group Pastor Recognizes

experiencedThere are certain problems only an experienced small group pastor recognizes. Without the wisdom produced by multiple rodeos, less experienced small group pastors often operate from a wishful thinking kind of optimism born of naïveté.

Don’t get me wrong. There are certainly new small group pastors who are quick learners and wiser beyond their years. And there are also long-time small group pastors who still haven’t learned to recognize certain problems.

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a wiser than your years rookie, this set of problems only an experienced small group pastor recognizes will make life better if you learn to spot them (and apply the right steps to mitigate or solve them).

5 problems only an experienced small group pastor recognizes:

  1. Certain coaches on your coaching team are the wrong people. You cannot build an effective coaching structure with anything less than higher capacity men and women who are both fruitful and fulfilled in the role of a coach. Recruiting warm and willing people who lack capacity and are only fruitful or fulfilled leads to an ineffective coaching structure. Turning a blind eye to less-than-qualified members of your coaching team only perpetuates the problem. Experienced small group pastors recognize the members of the coaching team in the wrong role and skillfully move to replace them. See also, 6 Characteristics of an Effective Small Group Coach.
  2. Your senior pastor’s lack of engagement has created a lid. Your senior pastor as small group champion is not an optional ingredient and there is no real workaround. While there are things you can do if you realize change is unlikely your senior pastor’s lack of engagement is a problem that needs to be recognized for what it is and acknowledged. This  limitation is a design element that cannot help but affect your results. See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #1: A Doubtful or Conflicted Senior Pastor.
  3. Lack of clarity about the best next step has created a lid. More options does not lead to more next steps being taken. The larger the menu the more difficult it is to choose and the more likely outcome is a kind of decision paralysis. The hard and challenging work of trimming the belong and become menu is the solution but trimming comes hand in hand with “last 10%” conversations and hard fought decisions. See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #2: A Bloated Belong and Become Menu.
  4. Your strategy will not consistently make disciples. If making disciples is the end game (and it should be), then a strategy that is not making disciples consistently is a problem. While there are no problem-free strategies (wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have), this is a problem that experienced small group pastors will recognize and take steps to correct. See also, 5 Signs You May Have a Bad Disciple-Making Strategy.
  5. Your strategy cannot produce new leaders fast enough. When your weekend attendance is growing and you’re not adding new groups (with new leaders) faster it is a problem. When your percentage connected remains flatlined whether your attendance is growing or remains steady, it is a problem. Experienced small group pastors recognize that their leader identification and development strategy is inadequate and do something about it. See also, 6 Steps to Building a Leader Development Process.

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

Image by Hamed Parham

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