Here’s a great one-two punch example of a small group “ask”

It doesn’t happen every time, but when it does it is so powerful!

As we prepare for a Life Group Connection (on February 25th), we’ve been inviting unconnected people to sign up for it in order to get connected.

We’ve used announcements, program inserts, website promotions, a church-wide email to unconnected people, etc.

The BEST one-two punch is always a great set-up by the service “host” (the person who does the welcome, leads communion, and shares one or two announcements during the offering) and an “ask” by the senior pastor during the message.

On February 10-11 we had one of the best one-two punches I’ve ever seen.

Early in the service, the host asked everyone to take out the Life Group Connection insert in their program and hold it up. He said, “Our next Life Group Connection is on February 25th right after the 11:00 a.m. service. If you’re not in a Life Group, I want you to fill this out. You can decide later if you want to drop the insert in the offering bucket, but for now, I want you to fill it out.”

Then, in the first few minutes of his message, the teaching pastor used several minutes to set up the critical importance of being connected and invited everyone who needs to get connected to sign up for the Life Group Connection.

The one-two punch produced a very large response (over 500 sign-ups).

Watch the first 15 minutes to see how it happened (the ask happens at 13:30, but the set-up begins at about 11:00 minutes).

Further Reading:

How to Make the HOST ASK: The 2012 Version

6 Ways to Help Your Senior Pastor Make the Small Group Ask

4 Ingredients of an Effective “Ask” (that Recruits Small Group Members)

5 Best Practices of Thriving Small Group Ministries

Definition: “A procedure that has been shown by research and experience to produce optimal results and that is established or proposed as a standard suitable for widespread adoption.” Webster

You can learn a lot by studying the best practices of thriving small group ministries. You can improve your results by adopting the best practices of thriving small group ministries. Occasionally, you can improve your results by adapting the best practices of thriving small group ministries to fit your context. I say occasionally because adapting most commonly strips away the design elements that produce the results you hope to attain.


Note: In the spirit of “there’s an upside and a downside to everything,” you will never produce break-the-mold innovation by emulating perfectly a best practice. See also, The Problem with Best Practices


5 of the best practices of thriving small group ministries:

The senior pastor is the champion.

You shouldn’t be surprised to learn this. It is just the way it is. There is a reason the two most thriving small group ministries are Saddleback and North Point. Rick Warren and Andy Stanley figured out a long time ago that people do what the most influential person in the organization promotes.

Another important element of this best practice? The average attenders of Saddleback and North Point couldn’t pick Steve Gladen and Bill Willits out of a line-up because they lead their small group ministries from behind the scenes. Small group leaders and coaches know them. But the public face of the small group ministry is the senior pastor.

Think about it: Is your senior pastor the champion? Or does someone else play that role?

See also, TOP 5 THINGS EVERY SENIOR PASTOR NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT SMALL GROUP MINISTRY

Thriving small group ministries are promoted year-round

Do you have an annual small group push? Maybe at the end of September? Or in early January? You need to know that thriving small group ministries are year-round endeavors. They are promoted 52 weeks a year. There may be times of greater emphasis, but highlighting group engagement is never out of season.

Thriving small group ministries are always looking ahead to the next opportunity to connect to a group. They are also highlighted year-round in the language of message illustrations and stories of life-change.

Churches with thriving small group ministries rarely miss the opportunity to reference the prominent role of small groups in their strategy. Don’t believe me? Try listening for the drumbeat in a North Point or Saddleback weekend service.

Think about it: Does your church promote small groups year-round? Or is there a groups campaign every year?

See also, 5 No-Brainer Characteristics of Churches That Actually Connect Beyond 100%

Churches with thriving small group ministries ministries clarify what is most important

They may have more on their menu than small groups, but there is no mystery or confusion about what is most important. If you have any doubt, a quick look at the websites of churches with thriving small group ministries will confirm this. A look at their weekend service program and verbiage from the stage will provide conclusive evidence.

Emphasizing the importance and priority of small groups forces deemphasis of anything and everything else (that might cause confusion about first steps or next steps.

“Should I do this? Or this?” is an uncommon question in churches with thriving small group ministries.

Think about it: How clear is the importance and priority of small groups in your church?

See also, How Would You Rate the First Steps out of Your Auditorium? and What Do You Need to Change about Your Small Group Ministry?

Thriving small group ministries are budget priorities

Want to build a thriving small group ministry? Take a look at your church’s general budget. Can you tell from the budget that small group ministry is important?

The budgets of churches with thriving small group ministries are powerful indicators. And it is very important to note that their small group ministry budget explains their results (as opposed to their results being rewarded with budget increases).

Think about it: Does your staffing structure (which is a function of the budget) indicate that small group ministry is important? Or does your staffing structure indicate something else is really more important?

Does your website indicate small group ministry is important? Is it easy to find out about the next connecting opportunity or learn about small group involvement?

Does your on-campus promotion (signage, kiosk, welcome center, first step experience, etc.) indicate small group ministry is important? Is it clear to unconnected attenders?

Does your facility reservation and availability indicate small group ministry is important?

See also, FAQ: How to Budget for a Thriving Small Group Ministry

Thriving small group ministries deliver a robust experience

Getting connected and doing life together may be the beginning, but it is not the destination. Making better disciples, life-change, becoming like Jesus, doing what Jesus would do, is the end in mind.

Thriving small group ministries deliver a robust experience. Far beyond closing the back door, small groups are designed to help group members become steadily more like Jesus, experiencing (and practicing) the one-anothers as a way of life.

Think about it: Do examples of groups that “get it” stand out? Are they commonplace (happening all the time)? Or extraordinary (the rare, out-of-the-ordinary group)?

See also, 8 Things I Know For Sure about Making Disciples in Groups

Hero Maker: 5 Essential Practices for Leaders to Multiply Leaders

I’ve spent the last 10 days working my way through a new resource from Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird. Hero Maker: 5 Essential Practices for Leaders to Multiply Leaders is set to publish on March 13, 2018. Personally, I can’t wait to pick up copies for both of the teams I serve on!

Note: discover some special pre-order offers right here.

Ferguson is the founding and lead pastor of Chicago’s Community Christian Church, a multisite missional community considered one of the most influential churches in America. Dave is also the visionary for the international church-planting movement NewThing and president of the Exponential Conference. Bird is a primary researcher and writer for Leadership Network and has collaboratively written twenty-nine books, all on subjects of church health or church innovation for leaders.

Hero Maker grabbed my attention from the first few pages. My copy is more marked up, underlined, starred and dogeared than anything I’ve read in the last 5 years. I’ve been telling everyone this is the must-read and apply book of the year!

Hero Maker is the must-read and apply book of the year. Click To Tweet

What’s so great about Hero Maker? For starters, the premise of this book is a powerful game-changer. Whether you are leading ten people or ten thousand, shifting from hero to hero maker maximizes your leadership and potentially extends your impact to the 4th generation.

As much as I love the premise though (and I am tremendously inspired by it), what I really appreciate is that Hero Maker includes everything you need to practically begin to apply the 5 essential practices of hero making.

The 5 essential practices of hero making?

  • Multiplication Thinking: dreaming big and strategically investing yourself in others to multiply your effort
  • Permission Giving: making yes your default response as a leader.
  • Disciple Multiplying:  investing in the work of helping others multiply apprentices.
  • Gift Activating:  releasing leaders to new opportunities as their gifts and skills grow.
  • Kingdom Building: defining success by what you release and send out.

Every chapter has what you need to understand and practically put into motion the practices that lead to generational impact. Very, very practical and application oriented, every chapter includes the tool that makes the practice work and an inspiring story of an authentic hero maker. Finally, every chapter includes a great set of discussion questions and is built to be a team resource.

As much as I like the way the 5 essential practices are presented, there are some powerful ingredients in section three that anticipate challenges and tensions that come with the practices. Ever practical, even the appendices include resources that will help shift from concept to application.

Let me say this again. Hero Maker is the must-read and apply book of year! If you have a passion for true impact, do not miss this!

Note: discover some special pre-order offers 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 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.”

How to Take Full Advantage of an Early Easter to Launch New Groups

In case you missed it, Easter 2018 is April 1st! Just about the earliest Easter can occur.

This is big news for all of us, because an early Easter offers a third really good opportunity to connect unconnected people in groups (normally late September/early October and late January/early February are far better than post-Easter).

Ordinarily, Easter happens a little too close to summer to allow new groups to meet enough times to firmly establish before the inevitable interruption brought on by vacations, sports leagues, summer camps, etc. Just when you get a new group going…they decide to take the summer off. And that’s all she wrote!

But, when Easter is early, executing the right strategies will yield some new groups that have two full months and maybe part of a third before they start running into summer issues. And that’s enough time for them to be connected well enough to survive the summer.

Here are three strategies that will launch new groups:

Schedule a small group connection in mid April.

If you begin promoting the small group connection on Palm Sunday, you can collect sign-ups on 3/25, 4/1, and 4/8 and then hold it on 4/15. Choose a great starter study and then help them help them continue by pre-selecting a follow-up study and providing them a strategy for surviving the summer.

Remember, the topic you choose determines who will say yes to joining a group (or attending a connection). The studies/topics in my 2018 lists were hand-selected for this purpose.

See also, Top 5 Post-Easter Studies for New Groups (2018)

Launch gender or life-stage specific on-campus studies (that lead to off-campus studies) the week of April 15th.

For example, scheduling a study like Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage will attract unconnected couples. Facilitated around tables, this strategy will allow attendees to experience the benefits of a group with the safety of an on-campus first step. Providing them a natural follow-up study to be done off-campus will encourage many groups to continue.

Remember, a great first step out of the auditorium will help a significant number of unconnected people get connected. For all but the most extroverted, showing up at stranger’s front door is pretty scary. Walking into a familiar on-campus room is an entirely different story.

See also, Take Advantage of This Short-Term On-Campus Strategy

Launch a church-wide campaign that begins the week after Easter.

The right series will provide an excellent comeback incentive for unconnected people. Making it easy for unconnected people to join a new group or even invite a couple friends to join them in doing the study will give many the first step into community they need.

The key is to steward well this opportunity to launch new groups and connect unconnected people. We don’t get this chance every year. It’s a gift and the right strategy will connect people we would miss otherwise.

All of the church-wide campaigns in my 2018 list can be promoted in a way that will catch the attention of unconnected people in general and newer attendees in particular. With a well-designed on-ramp, a church-wide campaign post-Easter could be a powerful season at your church.

See also, 10 Simple Steps to a Great Church-Wide Campaign

Further reading:

 

Top 5 Post-Easter Studies for New Groups (2018)

Looking for a way to connect unconnected people right after Easter 2018? This year Easter is almost as early as it can be and that makes it a great opportunity to connect another wave of people before summer.

The 5 studies I’ve chosen to highlight were selected on the basis of their topic. Remember, the topic determines who will say yes to leading/hosting and who will say yes to attending. While existing, longer-term groups might want something deeper or meatier, unconnected people are most open to putting a toe-in-the-water when the topic interests them.

Connect + Grow

We’ve been getting ready to launch our next wave of groups with a new study/experience from North Point Ministries called Connect + Grow, a free 4 part video driven experience (available on Anthology, North Point Ministries’ online resource).

A curriculum descendant of Community: Starting Well in Your Small Group (North Point’s 2013 game-changing group starting study/experience), Connect + Grow is well-designed and easy to use.

Connect + Grow is not a Bible study. Instead, it’s a relational connection engine. Created to help new groups begin (with or without a prequalified leader), each session is designed from beginning to end to help unconnected people quickly get to know one another and, where needed, figure out who among them would make the best, most qualified leader.

In addition to the get-to-know-each-other ingredients, Connect + Grow does an excellent job of shaping the concept of authentic community and what makes a satisfying group.

If you’re looking for a study that will connect unconnected people after Easter, you probably won’t find a better study than Connect + Grow.

Transformed: How God Changes Us

Transformed: How God Changes Us is a 2013 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.

Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets

Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets is a 2016 study from Dave and Jon Ferguson, 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

Wonderlife: A Not So Perfect Guide to Who You Are and Why You’re Here is a 2016 resource from Mike Foster and the folks at SecondChance.org.  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!

Divine Direction: 7 Decisions that Will Change Your Life

Divine Direction: 7 Decisions that Will Change Your Life is the latest “campaign” from Craig Groeschel and Life.Church.  launched in early 2017 at Life.Church. Divine Direction has all the pieces you need to be considered a church-wide campaign (i.e., sermon outlines, small group discussion guide, promotional artwork, etc.). And to top it off, everything except the tradebook is available free on their open church site.

Designed to help participants learn how to seek God’s will for their lives and how He cares more about who they are than what they do, Divine Direction has real potential both for regular church attenders and their friends.

You can find out more about Divine Direction right here.

 

Discerning the Voice of God: Revised and Expanded

I spent some time this week with the revised and expanded version of Priscilla Shirer’s classic study, Discerning the Voice of God. Have you seen it yet? So good!

Shirer is one of today’s most powerful speakers and Voice of God is a great example of what happens when she is in her element. 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), Voice of God “invites you to explore a more intimate relationship with Him—His will, His heart and His voice—your ongoing experience. Discover how you can listen with greater confidence, clarity and discernment (from the cover).”

The DVD sessions allow Shirer’s dynamic teaching to shine. Averaging 40 minutes in length, Shirer’s powerful delivery of scriptural truth interspersed with captivating personal stories easily captures and holds the listener’s attention. Let me just say, you better come ready to hear from God every week! And hold on to something…because every session comes right at you.

Voice 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.

A special addition rounds out the homework experience every week. In this Digging Deeper with Dad section contributed by Dr. Tony Evans “you’ll find another layer of insight to reinforce what you’re learning.”

If helping the women in your church learn to discern the voice of God sounds like it might be a really important learning, Discerning the Voice 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.”

An Analysis of the Semester System

An Analysis of the Semester System

There are no problem-free small group systems, models or strategies. And there is an upside and a downside to everything.

Because of the popularity of both the sermon-based system and the free market system (two fairly common small group ministry systems) the semester system certainly has its advocates. Because of the inherent challenges of the semester system, it also has its detractors.

As I’ve done with sermon-based, free market, and other systems, I’ll attempt a fair and balanced analysis of the semester system in this post.

What is the semester system?

Before I begin the analysis, what is the semester system?

Essentially, semester-based is a strategy designed to take advantage of three (sometimes two) well-timed opportunities to help people connect with a group. Typically the fall, winter and spring seasons with the summer off. Each semester is usually 10 to 12 weeks.

Semester-based is also a strategy that is used in combination with other concepts (like sermon-based or free-market) to provide a more complete small group delivery system.

Like every strategy, semester-based has some real advantages. There are also some disadvantages that need to be acknowledged. As I’ve written in the past, there is no problem-free solution.  Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  Here are the advantages and disadvantages of this strategy:

What are the advantages of a semester based system?

  • Semester provides a built in opportunity to promote group life three times a year.  Generally those three times are just after school starts in the fall, January when people are naturally primed to want to turn over a new leaf, and about Easter (depending on when the holiday falls).  For churches used to only talking about groups once a year, this alone will take the church in a whole new direction.
  • Each semester offers an easy to spot on-ramp to small group participation. These on-ramps are often positioned as first or second steps out of the auditorium.
  • Because each semester is 10 to 12 weeks long, it provides a relatively easy commitment for people who are being encouraged to try a group.
  • Because the commitment is only for the semester, it allows an easy way out of a less-than-ideal match with the others in the group.

What are the disadvantages of a semester based system?

  • A 10 to 12 week commitment seems short (especially in comparison to a year), but 6 week commitments have been found more palatable for second steps out of the auditorium. Lyman Coleman pointed out that 6 weeks is short enough to get my commitment and long enough to begin to establish connection. Important Note: It should be noted that the campaign-driven system takes advantage of a 6 week commitment in launching new groups with the understanding that if the new group is going well, it’s easy to continue meeting.
  • The easy off-ramp provided is another important disadvantage to note. While providing multiple on-ramps every year is a real advantage, providing an easy out after only 10 to 12 weeks sometimes brings an end to a group just as a genuine sense of connection begins.
  • A major disadvantage is that the upside of three big time promotional periods a year comes with the downside of the work involved in recruiting new leaders or confirming continuing leaders, confirming new offerings (in the case of free-market), producing catalogs (print or web-based), etc. The horsepower required to pull this off should not be underestimated.
  • The semester idea requires a promotional phase for each semester. Like anything else, if you want people to respond, you’ll need to narrow the focus on those weeks and allow the upcoming beginning of the new semester to be the priority. You can’t get traction if it is simply added to the list of the other events and activities being promoted.

Summary

There probably are other advantages and disadvantages to the semester-based strategy. These are just a few that are easily identified. I suggest that you pull together a team and have a no-holds-barred discussion. To prepare for the discussion, I suggest reading ActivateSticky Church and Dog Training, Fly Fishing and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century. Combined, you’ll pick up some very transferable ideas that will help you implement the strategy if you decide to adopt the semester-based concept.

Further Reading:

An Analysis of the Free Market Small Group System

An Analysis of the Sermon Based Small Group Strategy

An Analysis of the Church-Wide Campaign-Driven Strategy

Top 10 Reasons North Coast Has Consistently Connected Over 80%

Link this article to Top 10 Axiomatic Beliefs of Group Life

7 Signs Your Small Group Ministry Has a Bad Design

7 Signs Your Small Group Ministry Has a Bad Design

If it’s true that “your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing (Andy Stanley),” the corollary is that if you don’t like the results you are currently experiencing, you need to acknowledge that you have a bad design and change it.  After all, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (Albert Einstein).”

Let me say that again.  If you don’t like the results you are currently experiencing, you need to acknowledge that you have a bad design and change it.

If you don't like the results you are currently experiencing, you need to acknowledge that you have a bad design and change it. Click To Tweet

7 signs your small group ministry has a bad design

Sign #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 your small group system is inadequately designed.

Think about it. Whether your weekend attendance is growing, staying the same, or declining, the number of adults in groups ought to be increasing. And, your design ought to be capable of producing a growing number of groups and group members, sufficient to exceed all but the most dynamic weekend worship attendance growth.

If on the other hand, your percentage connected is flatlined or declining, it is a strong indication that you have a bad design and must look for a better alternative. See also, Breaking the Mythical 150% Participation Barrier and The Catch a Moving Train Scenario.

Sign #2: You have trouble finding enough leaders.

This is a common symptom of designs that depend on selecting new leaders from the usual suspects (by usual suspects, I mean the people you already know, typically members of existing groups).

Think about it. 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 strategy must be able to recruit leaders 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. Both strategies recruit leaders from the unknown segment of your congregation and crowd.

Sign #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.

Think about it. If, when unconnected people look at your website or weekend program, there are too many options to choose from, they are less likely to choose a small group (from a purely mathematical standpoint, if nothing else) and more likely to choose nothing at all (from the standpoint of more options leading to fewer selections, not more).

The greatest opportunity to connect the largest number of unconnected people exists when a single first step out of the auditorium leads directly to a taylor made connection point.

See also, Small Group Roadblock #2: A Bloated Belong and Become Menu and Determining the Minimum Required and Recommended Dose.

Sign #4: Your coaching structure does not work.

This is a common symptom of bad small group ministry design. The wrong people or the wrong job description can both play a part in the implications of a bad design. And since one of two primary upsides of an effective coaching structure is its ability to sustain a much higher percentage of new groups, the lack of an effective coaching structure predicts a flatlined or declining number of groups.

Think about it. If whatever you want group members to experience must happen to the leader first (i.e., a sense of family, the knowledge that they’re being prayed for, life-change, etc.), then the coach must do to and for the leader whatever you want the leader to do to and for the members of their group.

If your coaches are not selected for their ability to do the right things to and for the leaders they are assigned to care for, they will default to the role they are suited to play (typically doing nothing or at best serving as a kind of accountant, checking on attendance and how often the group is meeting).

See also, My Top 10 Favorite Articles on Coaching.

Sign #5: Your senior pastor is reluctant to champion the importance of community.

There are several reasons senior pastors are reluctant to champion the importance of community. For example, they may see you as the champion and not want to take back something they’ve delegated. They may not be in a group themselves and be hesitant to promote something they are not part of. Or, they may see your system as ineffective.

Still, building a thriving small group ministry requires the most influential person in the congregation (the senior pastor) to serve as its #1 spokesperson and champion.

Think about it. Connecting beyond the usual suspects (those already inclined toward community), requires changing the minds of the members in your crowd and congregation who aren’t naturally drawn to connecting. Your senior pastor as champion takes advantage of the most influential person in your congregation.

See also, TOP 5 THINGS EVERY SENIOR PASTOR NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT SMALL GROUP MINISTRY.

Sign #6: Your small groups deliver a sense of belonging but rarely produce becoming.

Small group strategies that make it easy to connect but aren’t designed to make disciples are poorly designed. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, belonging is more fundamental than becoming, but both are essential.

Think about it. Small groups are often characterized as “the optimum environment for life-change” but in order to truly be that, they must be designed for more than belonging. They must make becoming an ordinary part of the experience.

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?

Sign #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.  Strategies that struggle to launch and sustain new groups need an immediate overhaul.

Think about it. Regardless of the number of new groups launched, if you’re not sustaining a reasonably high percentage of new groups, your percentage connected is not likely to increase. Instead, you may only be replacing groups that come to an end.

See also, 5 Keys to Sustaining the New Small Groups You Launch.

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

Review: The Forgotten Jesus: How Western Christians Should Follow an Eastern Rabbi

Spent some time this week with a new DVD-driven study from Robby Gallaty and LifeWay.com. The Forgotten Jesus: How Western Christians Should Follow an Eastern Rabbi is a 6 session, DVD-driven study that offers western Christians fresh insights into the life and ministry Jesus, an eastern rabbi.

You may recognize the author’s name. I’ve reviewed several of Gallaty’s books in the past, and while this is his first video-driven resource, you’ll quickly see why his teaching ministry is so appreciated at the churches in which he’s served as senior pastor. The senior pastor at Long Hollow in Hendersonville, TN, is also the founder of Replicate Ministries and the author of several books, including Growing Up, Firmly Planted, and Rediscovering Discipleship.

The Forgotten Jesus is a DVD-driven study that features the teaching of Gallaty in six 8-10 minute sessions. Very comfortable in front of the camera, participants will quickly be drawn in and set up for a great discussion.

The Bible study book includes a number of features. A short, well-written set of discussion questions and a video viewing guide anchors what happens during the group sessions. The daily Bible reading plan includes a combination of Old and New Testament references (as you might imagine). Each week also includes a set of two personal studies designed to help you understand Jesus’ words and teachings from a Hebrew mindset.

A fairly robust leader’s guide is included in the Bible study book.

Group members interested in going deeper in the study may want to order a copy of the book on which the study is based: The Forgotten Jesus: How Western Christians Should Follow an Eastern Rabbi.

Although other studies in this category are available, The Forgotten Jesus offers a very fresh take on an important truth. In order to truly see the full picture of Jesus, His teaching and ministry, we need a closer look and a deeper understanding of the Jewish mindset and context of a first century rabbi.

I loved The Forgotten Jesus and I bet your group members will too. I highly recommend it.

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.”

Does your small group ministry system need to be refreshed? Or replaced?

Does your small group ministry system need to be refreshed? Or replaced?

I’m regularly having this conversation now. Sometimes a small group pastor, but often a senior pastor, will ask for help and this will be their comment:

We don’t know what to do! Our small group ministry needs a lot of help! We don’t know if it can be salvaged!

Ever said something like that? Thought it?

When I ask the right questions I often discover that the real question concerns their small group ministry system. And what they’re really wondering is,

Does our small group ministry system need to be refreshed? Or replaced?

And my answer? It depends on the stage your ministry is in.

Every ministry, program, organization, and event (even every small group or Bible study) has a life cycle.

In most models, there are four stages in an organizational life cycle:

  • Birth (accelerating)
  • Growth (booming)
  • Decline (decelerating)
  • Death (tanking)

As you might imagine, the four stages generate very different concerns and questions. For example, when your ministry is growing you ask different questions. You might have more sign-ups to join groups than you have leaders. Or you might have more people registered for an upcoming connection than you can fit into the room you’ve reserved.

On the flip side, when your ministry is declining, sign-ups for groups might be low for the 3rd semester in a row. More leaders might be “taking a break” than new leaders are emerging.

Refresh or Replace: How to Know What to Do

Does your small group ministry system just need to be refreshed? Or do you need to replace the system with one more aligned with your mission?

These are very good questions and difficult to answer without more information and real insight into the situation.

Although it may be time to schedule a 60 minute coaching call (and take advantage of my January special), your next step may be to review the following articles.

Further Reading:

7 Signs You Have the Wrong Small Group Ministry System

How to Choose a Small Group System or Strategy

Use My Signature 10 Point Checklist to Evaluate Your Small Group Ministry

How Are You Evaluating Your Small Group Ministry?