Quotebook: Speaking the Last 10 Percent

“Sometimes love must be bold. Bold enough to say things to one another that we usually lack the courage to say. Bill Hybels calls it ‘saying the last 10 percent.’ We will usually say 90 percent of the encouraging words, or 90 percent of the hard-to-hear words of truth, but we usually hold back from the last 10 percent. But that last 10 percent is the part that often makes the most difference.” John Burke, Soul Revolution: How Imperfect People Become All God Intended

Love must be bold enough to say things that we usually lack the courage to say. Bill Hybels calls it ‘saying the last 10 percent.’Love must be bold enough to say things that we usually lack the courage to say. Bill Hybels calls… Click To Tweet

You can read more from my Quotebook right here.

Image by Andreas Bloch

Insight: The Upside of a Scorecard over a Job Description

I’m frequently asked for a sample job description for small group pastors. Generally it is a senior pastor or executive pastor asking for a copy (to use as they enter the hunt to hire a small group pastor).

I tell them, “We don’t use a job description at Canyon Ridge, but I can share my scorecard with you.” And that often sets off a back and forth email chain as I try to explain the scorecard concept (and how it is related to our monthly one-to-one check-ins).

Here’s our method of scorecards and one-to-one monthly check-ins:

A little over 5 years ago we moved from job descriptions to scorecards. We got the idea from Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. It would be a tremendous over-simplification to say it is a very helpful book on hiring the right people.

We got a ton from Who, but one of the most important insights had to do with our current understanding of the upside of a scorecard over a job description.

Three main differences between a scorecard and a typical job description:

First, while a job description typically describes duties and expectations, “Scorecards describe the mission for the position, outcomes that must be accomplished, and competencies that fit both the culture of the company and the role.”

Second, while a job description tends to be static and unchanging, a scorecard is dynamic and changes as outcomes are accomplished.

Finally, while a job description tends to be written by the organization, a scorecard can become a very personal outline of future intentions and actions. A new team member may be handed their first scorecard, but it almost always becomes something written by the employee as a way of saying, “here are my plans for the next 30, 90 or 180 days.”

You can see a copy of my most current scorecard right here (written in December, I’ll be editing it, removing a few items as these have been accomplished and adding a few more items I’ll be working on).

Monthly One-to-One Check-Ins:

The second component of our system is a monthly one-to-one check-in meeting/conversation. The essence of the check-in is a conversation guided by a morphing set of questions. I refer to the questions as “morphing” because they are not exactly the same every month. There are four main categories for the questions (two are directly related to the scorecard and two are personal).

Each of the four categories of questions include several questions, but the main questions directly related to the scorecard are (1) What were your goals since your last Rating* Month? and (2) What projects/tasks will you work on until your next rating* month?

You should be able to see the connection between the scorecard (in most cases developed by the employee) and the monthly one-to-one check-in. The role of the supervisor is able to shift to staff development. The desired employee becomes much more invested in identifying the hills to be taken and the work to be done.

*Rating month refers to our current method of merit pay increases and could be the subject of a future post.

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

Further Reading:

4 Tell-Tale Signs Your Small Group System Is Broken

tell taleYou know how certain things in life are tell-tale signs something is wrong? For example, when your car’s bouncing down the road and the tires are wearing unevenly…it’s a tell-tale sign that your car’s wheels need to be aligned . Or when your thermostat is set on 72 but it’s 82 in the house and the air conditioner is blowing hot air. Or how about when your debit card is declined the morning after your paycheck is deposited?

Tell-tale signs.

Did you know there are tell-tale signs that your small group system is broken?

4 Tell-Tale Signs Your Small Group System is Broken:

Your total number of groups is remaining the same year after year.

Your total number of groups is remaining the same year after year. If your total number of groups isn’t growing, it’s a tell-tale sign something is broken. Even if your church’s attendance is flatlined, a growing total number of groups is an indication of a healthy small group system.

A flatlined total number of groups may indicate a number of issues:

  • You are simply adding new members to existing groups (instead of focusing on launching new groups).
  • As existing group leaders move away or “take a break” you’re finding a replacement (instead of letting the group die).
  • You haven’t taught your group leaders to “fish for new members” themselves (and they’re relying on you to send them replacements.

See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs Start New Groups and Great Question: How Do I Train Leaders to Add New Members?

Your percentage connected remains the same year after year.

Your percentage connected remains the same year after year. If your percentage connected is not increasing year after year, it is a tell-tale sign something is broken (or inadequately designed). Even if your church’s attendance is increasing, a healthy small group system (or the right small group system) will allow your percentage connected to increase year after year.

A flatlined (or decreasing) percentage connected my indicate:

  • Your menu of belong and become options is too broad and needs to be pared down (to narrow the focus to only the best option(s).
  • Your system is inadequate to the challenge and simply isn’t designed to expand quickly enough.

See also, What Percentage of Your Adults are Actually Connected?

You’re not sustaining the new groups you are launching.

You’re not sustaining the new groups you are launching. When you are launching new groups but you’re not sustaining a high enough percentage of them, it’s a tell-tale sign something is broken.

A low percentage of new groups sustained may indicate:

  • You’re not providing appropriate support for new group leaders (i.e., you don’t have an effective coaching structure in place).
  • The method you’re using to launch new groups is poorly designed (i.e., a flaw in the launching strategy may actually predict poor affinity or unreasonable expectations).

See also, 5 Steps to Sustaining the New Groups You Launch

Groups members show few signs of life-change.

Groups members show few signs of life-change. It is a deeply held assumption that the optimal environment for life-change is a small group. If life-change is not happening in a meaningful way (and stories of life-change are hard to find), it is a tell-tale sign something is broken.

A lack of life-change evidence may indicate:

  • A poorly designed method of gathering stories.
  • A lack of intentionality in doing TO and FOR your leaders what you want them to do TO and FOR their members.
  • A laissez-faire attitude or lack of intentionality in guiding the selection of group curriculum.

See also, Skill Training: Design Your Group Meeting for Life-Change and 5 Signs You May Have a Bad Disciple-Making Strategy.

Image by badheartbull

Friday’s List: October 28

fridays-listFriday’s List: October 28

I’ve been meaning to do this for quite awhile. I’m asked for recommendations all the time. I’ll be posting a short list every Friday.
Here are the things I’m reading, listening to, loving and wrestling with:

Here’s what I’m reading right now:

Steve Jobs on communicating your core values ow.ly/PM1u305qkDm by Garr Reynolds. Garr’s blog, Presentation Zen has been on my Design feed for years. If you’re interested in design in the way I talk about it (i.e., your ministry is perfectly designed…), you’d be wise to subscribe to this blog.

10 of the Greatest Leadership Questions Ever Asked by Ron Edmondson. You know I love a good question! And this is a good set of questions. 

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney. If you were at the 2016 Global Leadership Summit, you heard McChesney. If you weren’t, you can read a good summary of his talk over at TonyMorganLive. Bottom line, if execution is part of your role, you need to read this book.

Here’s what I’m listening to:

Marcus Buckingham on Capitalizing on Your Personal Strengths. This is a great episode over at the EntreLeadership Podcast. Marcus is the author of a number of books including Now, Discover Your Strengths and Standout 2.0 (which are mentioned on this podcast).

Take Courage by Kristene DiMarco from Bethel. I saw this video on Church Music You Need to Know About by Greg Atkinson back in August. The whole list was great. This was my favorite and still on my playlist months later. Be patient, listen well. Give it a few minutes. Take Courage builds to an awesome anthem at about 4 minutes.

Quote I’m wrestling with:

“Nothing is more counterintuitive for a leader than saying no to a good idea, and nothing is a bigger destroyer of focus than always saying yes.” Chris McChesney The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals

My own post I hope you’re reading:

7 Signs You May Have the Wrong Small Group Ministry System.  It turns out there are some important signs that there is something wrong with your small group system. Might have worked fine previously. Actually, might have never really fired on all cylinders. Might have even been running rough for quite a while.

Doesn’t have to. You can do something about it, you know.

Celebrating 2000 Posts: My 20 Favorites

celebrating-2000Earlier this month I published my 2000 post here at MarkHowellLive.com. I knew I was closing in on it, but honestly it slipped by without me noticing.

I began blogging here in early 2008. Although I don’t have accurate stats on readers and pageviews until 2009, I know it was a slow beginning in terms of traffic. Today…well today is different.

I realized that some of my top 20 posts (according to Google) had benefitted from being among my oldest posts. So I decided to choose my 20 favorites instead.

Here is my best attempt at my 20 favorite posts. Hope they’re among yours too!

  1. 8 Habits of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader (October, 2013)
  2. 5 Things You Need to Know about Connecting Unconnected People (May 2013)
  3. What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting Unconnected People? (June 2012)
  4. 7 Practices for Developing and Discipling Your Small Group Coaches  (December, 2013)
  5. 5 Essential Practices of a 21st Century Small Group System (August, 2012)
  6. 7 Assumptions that Shape My Small Group Strategy (June, 2013)
  7. 5 Habits I’d Look for If I Was Hiring a Small Group Pastor (January, 2014)
  8. 7 Things You Must Do TO and FOR Your Small Group Leaders (October, 2015)
  9. 6 Essential Questions about Making Disciples and Small Group Ministry(November, 2014)
  10. Four Obsessions of the Extraordinary Small Group Pastor (February, 2015)
  11. 5 Stupid Things Small Group Pastors Need to Stop Doing (September, 2015)
  12. Ten Ideas that Have Shaped My Philosophy of Ministry (December, 2012)
  13. Top 5 Reasons Small Group Leaders Quit (August, 2015)
  14. 8 Secrets for Discovering an Unlimited Number of Leaders (December, 2014)
  15. 5 Things that Used to Work in Small Group Ministry (January, 2016)
  16. 5 Things You Need to Know about 21st Century Small Group Ministry  (September, 2015)
  17. Foundational Teaching: Next Steps for Everyone (October, 2015)
  18. 10 Things Small Group Pastors Should Always Be Thinking (September, 2015)
  19. 5 Clues that Point to a Change in Small Group Ministry (October, 2015)
  20. The Future of Small Group Ministry (July, 2016)

What do you think?  Is your favorite missing?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Image by Evan Long

7 Signs You Have the Wrong Small Group Ministry System

Pressure GuagesYou know how there are times when you just can’t figure out what’s wrong. Something’s wrong, but you just can’t quite put your finger on it. Like you’re driving along and the car just doesn’t feel right. Or something’s just off kilter in a relationship. Or when your back gets that feeling like it could give way at any time.

Can you relate?

It turns out there are some important signs that there is something wrong with your small group system. Might have worked fine previously. Actually, might have never really fired on all cylinders. Might have even been running rough for quite a while.

Doesn’t have to. You can do something about it, you know.

Signs You Have the Wrong Small Group Ministry System

  1. Your percentage connected is flatlined.  Whether your weekend attendance is increasing or not, a flatlined percentage connected (the percentage of your adults who are connected in a group) indicates that you’ve chosen the wrong small group system. The right system will not just make it easier to connect people. It will also be able to keep up with growth. See also, Breaking the Mythical 150% Participation Barrier and The Catch a Moving Train Scenario.
  2. You have trouble finding enough leaders.  This is a common symptom of systems that depend on selecting new leaders from the usual suspects.  Once your congregation is larger than about 250 adults it will become increasingly common that your senior pastor and platform staff will be recognized at the grocery store and restaurants by people they don’t know.  When this happens your system must be able to recruit from the adults you do not know because some of the highest capacity potential leaders will be unknown.  This phenomenon is what makes the HOST strategy and the Small Group Connection strategy so effective.
  3. You have leaders ready but not enough interest to fill their groups. This is often an indication that there are too many options on the belonging and becoming menu (i.e., Sunday school, discipleship training, Precepts, off campus small groups, etc.). It can also be an indication that your congregation sees the weekend service as everything they need. See also,Small Group Roadblock #2: A Bloated Belong and Become Menu and Determining the Minimum Required and Recommended Dose.
  4. Your coaching structure does not work. This is a common symptom of bad small group ministry system. The right system will make it easier to find the right people and enough of them to adequately care for a growing number of new small group leaders. The wrong system will make it more likely that the men and women chosen to be coaches will warm and willing as opposed to hot and qualified. See also, How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.
  5. Your senior pastor is reluctant to champion the importance of community. Although there are several other reasons a senior pastor may be reluctant to be the small group champion, a common reason is they don’t see your system as effective. The right system will produce the results that demonstrate the right design. See also, 5 things Senior Pastors Need to Know about Small Group Ministry.
  6. Your small groups deliver a sense of belonging but rarely produce becoming.  Small group systems that make it easy to connect but aren’t designed to make disciples are poorly designed.  See also, 5 Keys to Building Small Group Ministry at the Corner of Becoming and Belonging and Would You Rather: Connect More People or Make More Disciples?
  7. Only a small percentage of your new groups continue meeting after they’re launched. This design flaw is a leading indicator for flatlined percentage connected. Systems that struggle to launch and sustain new groups need an immediate overhaul.  Like a rocket launch, if massive energy is expended on the launch but the rocket’s orbit can’t be successfully sustained, there is a design flaw that must be corrected, See also, 5 Steps to Sustaining the New Small Groups You Launch.

could-a-one-hour-coaching-call-help-your-ministry

Image by SteFou!

Who’s coaching you? Anyone?

whos-coaching-youWho’s coaching you? Anyone?

Who’s coaching you?

Now before you even think about that, take a moment and think about the following:


You realized a long time ago that whatever you want to happen in the lives of small group members has to happen in the lives of their leaders first.

It was one of those things that was just self-evident. Right?

So you started working hard to build an effective coaching structure (so your coaches will be able to do TO and FOR your small group leaders the things you want your leaders to do TO and FOR their members).

And now that you’ve got that going, you are able to begin investing in your coaches. Doing TO and FOR them the things that you want them to do TO and FOR the leaders they are developing.

And that begs a question.

Can you see it?

Yep! Who’s coaching you? Who’s developing you? Anyone?

Doesn’t it stand to reason that whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your small groups might ultimately have something to do with your own growth?

If you can see that, I want to invite you to consider joining my 2017 small group ministry coaching network.

Now, you might be thinking, “Well, Mark’s kind of already coaching me. He’s just coaching me via his blog!” And if my blog is helping you…I’m really glad. But…I’d still say you’re missing a key ingredient of coaching. You’re missing the two-way conversation. You’re missing the feedback!

Alternatively, you might be thinking, “Well, I’m getting some good feedback from the other small group pastors in my huddle.” And if you are part of a huddle or you’ve got some knowledgable small group ministry compadres, I’m really glad. But…I’d still say you’re probably missing a key ingredient of coaching! Depending on who is in your huddle, I might just bring something to your table that only someone with my experience can bring.

Honestly, I don’t really know what you’re thinking! I just know how often I hear from previous coaching network participants telling me how valuable the experience was and how much of a difference it made in their most recent church-wide campaign or how their coaching structure is finally effective and healthy!

Super Early Bird Registration closes October 31st!

Bottom line? I really wish you’d consider joining my 2017 small group ministry coaching network! And join the network before the super early bird registration closes on 10/31!

And, I want you to remember that the super early bird gets more than the worm! The super early birds also get the best prices! And, if that weren’t enough, this year the super early bird also gets the added bonus of attending GroupLife Southwest as part of your package!


Here’s the scoop about my 2017 coaching network:

My 2017 Small Group Ministry Coaching Network experience is designed to give you the tools and strategies you need in order to build a small group ministry that works in the 21st century. The coaching network program will expose you to a new perspective. While it makes sense that in order to get different results you need to do different things…it’s not always clear what those different things might be. My coaching network program is designed around the idea that different, not better, leads to the kind of strategy that connects beyond the usual suspects.

Who will be part of the network? Each of my networks are limited to 15 participants and are designed for small group champions who serve in a local church. Because of the nature of the role, champions may be senior pastors, executive pastors, small group pastors and directors, ministers of education, and other key leaders.

What will you receive?

  • Five monthly coaching sessions. Anchored by a 90 minute video conference call, these group session provides focused exposure to the strategies that will build a more powerful platform.  Sessions are scheduled at 11am Pacific on January 19th, February 16th, April 20th, May 18th, and June 15th).
  • Two day gathering in Las Vegas. March 29th: 1pm-5pm followed by dinner | March 30th: 8am-12pm
  • Bonus: Registration for GroupLife Southwest is included (my small group conference here in Las Vegas is March 27th and 28th)
  • Focused training on key strategic steps including planning with the end in mind, developing an annual grouplife calendar, identifying an unlimited number of new leaders, launching new groups in waves, and impacting your community through groups.
  • Tools, strategies and next steps to be implemented after every session.
  • Access to special password protected network pages with customized content for each session.
  • Scheduled 60 minute one-on-one calls to address questions more specifically, bring team members into the conversation, or help equip your senior pastor or other key staff members.
  • The opportunity to connect with other network participants between sessions
  • Email access to Mark during the six months

What are the expectations?

  • Participate in all six sessions
  • Invest as little as $1050* (*super early bird pricing thru 10/31/15, early bird pricing of $1150 from 11/1-11/30, $1250 after 11/30/15)
  • Cover your own travel expenses to the two day gathering
  • Commit to the reading and exercises between sessions

What’s next? Complete the Coaching Network Application. My 2017 Coaching Network begins on January 19th, 2017. Questions? Contact me.

Friday’s List: October 21

fridays-list

Friday’s List: October 21

I’ve been meaning to do this for quite awhile. I’m asked for recommendations all the time. I’ll be posting a short list every Friday.

Here are the things I’m reading, listening to, loving and wrestling with:

Here’s what I’m reading right now:

5 Emotional Intelligence Hacks that Can Immediately Improve Your Leadership by Carey Nieuwhof. If you haven’t subscribed to Carey’s blog, you’re missing out on some of the best ministry writing on the web.

The Lesson Donald Trump Taught Me by Pete Wilson. Pete recently resigned from Cross Point in Nashville and became the President of the A Group, a marketing firm in Nashville. I’ve always loved his writing and am glad he’s still publishing.

Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Things in Extraordinary Ways by William C. Taylor. Bill Taylor was the co-founder of Fast Company magazine and also the author of two of my favorite books (Practically Radical and Mavericks at Work).

Here’s what I’m listening to:

Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast Craig Groeschel is no stranger to any of us, but you may not know about his podcast. He only releases a new podcast once a month but it is so good I listen to each episode multiple times.

Hillsong Worship: Let There Be Light We were at Hillsong London this summer when two of the songs on this album were part of the worship set. So good!

Quote I’m wrestling with:

“The idea that you can trust Christ and not intend to obey him is an illusion…. In fact, you can no more trust Jesus and not intend to obey him than you could trust your doctor or your auto mechanic and not intend to follow their advice. If you do not intend to follow their advice, you simply do not trust them.” Dallas Willard

My own post I hope you’re reading:

Top 10 Reasons My Church Has a Long Way to Go (in small group Ministry After posting several top 10 reasons other leading churches are succeeding in small group ministry, I decided it was time to post some of my concerns about my own small group ministry.

You May Need This Simple Logic about Small Group Coaching

simple-logicYou May Need This Simple Logic about Small Group Coaching

Follow me on this simple logic about small group coaching:

  1. Whatever we want to happen in the lives of the members of our small groups has to happen in the lives of our small group leaders first. I believe you know that too, even if this is the very first time you’ve ever thought about it.
  2. Small group coaching is only initially about technique. That is, only in a new small group leader’s first 3 or 4 months will a coach be needed for guidance on technique (i.e., how to help the non-stop talker in the group let others into the conversation, how to help the group pray together, etc.). If the new small group leader doesn’t learn the basic in the first few months, the group probably dies.
    • Note: I’m often asked whether a coach has to have experience leading a small group. Can you see that these first 3 or 4 months make it important that the coach has some experience leading a small group?
    • Note: This is also at the root of why retroactively assigning a coach to an experienced leader is almost always rejected. Experienced leaders know they know what they need to know in order to lead a group.
  3. Only after a relationship is established between a new leader and coach (in those first 3 or 4 months), does the coach have the  opportunity to take on the role of a spiritual mentor or discipler.
    • Note: In order for the coach to take on the role of a spiritual mentor or discipler, they need to be the right kind of people.
    • Note: The most effective spiritual mentors or disciplers have someone mentoring or discipling them.
  4. Until the coach takes on the role of a spiritual mentor or discipler they don’t have permission to do TO and FOR the leader whatever we want the leader to do TO and FOR their members. Effective coaches build relationships with leaders in the first few months and earn permission to speak into the life of the leader.

Questions that begged to be asked:

  1. Do the men and women who are currently serving as coaches in your small group ministry know what they need to know to begin working with new small group leaders? Remember, what the new leader needs in their first few months is almost entirely about technique.
  2. Are the men and women who are currently serving as coaches in your small group ministry the kind of people who can take on the role of a spiritual mentor or discipler?
  3. Do the men and women who are currently serving as coaches in your small group ministry know how to shift from coaching on technique to coaching on life?
  4. Who is doing TO and FOR your coaches whatever you want them to do TO and FOR the leaders they are coaching?
  5. Who is mentoring or discipling you?

Further Reading:

  1. Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Leaders (2015)
  2. 7 Rules at the Essence of Small Group Coaching (2014)
  3. The Big Idea Behind Small Group Coaching (2015)
  4. The Big Misunderstanding that Dooms Most Coaching Structures (2015)
  5. 5 Assumptions that Shape My Small Group Coaching Strategy (2015)

Image by Derek Bruff