Friday’s List | April 28

fridays-listEvery Friday I post a short list of the things I’m reading, listening to, loving and wrestling with:

Here’s what I’m reading right now:

20 Life And Leadership Lessons I Learned From Reggie Joiner by Carey Nieuwhof. Very good read on one of ministry’s best thinkers.

7 Things Every Leader Should Banish Starting Today by Carey Nieuwhof. Two articles in the same week? Absolutely. So good!

10 Easy Steps to Split Your Church by Tony Morgan. This one will bring pause on several of his thoughts. Very good insights.

Why It’s Easy (And Wrong) To Think Growing Churches Simply Won The Lottery by Carey Nieuwhof. Oh. My, Goodness. Three in one week? Yep. Also a great read debunking a natural conclusion.

How to Make Yourself ‘Unoffendable’ and Teachable (Yet Still Maintain Your Confidence) by John Brandon. This one is great as a test of self-awareness. Read it if you dare (HT Tim Stevens).

Community 101: Reclaiming the Local Church as Community of Oneness byGilbert Bilezikian (Author), John Ortberg (Introduction). Re-reading this one. Very helpful to understand community.

Here’s what I’m listening to:

Adam Grant—Championing Creative Ideas on the EntreLeadership podcast. Author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. This a great conversation.

Justin Dean On The Future Church In The Online World on the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast. Justin Dean was the communications director for Mars Hill.

21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell. I read the hardback years ago. Thought a refresher would be helpful and I was right!

Quotes I’m still wrestling with:

“Argue like you’re right and listen like you’re wrong.” Adam Grant, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

App I’m using:

I’m committed this year to increasing my effectiveness. Nozbe is a leading productivity app. First heard about it from Michael Hyatt. It’s already making a big difference.

My own post I hope you’re reading:

Reasons Your New Groups Are Short-Lived (i.e., die before their time) Unless you’re sustaining 70% of the new groups you launch AND growing BOTH your number of groups and the percentage of adults connected…you need to read this post.

FAQ: I’d Like to Do That, But My Elders Have Higher Standards

FAQ: I’d Like to Do That, But My Elders Have Higher Standards

I get questions. I get a lot of questions. Some come in via an email. Others in a comment. And some I get asked in a workshop or conference session.

This one is actually not a question. Instead, I’d like to respond to a comment I received about a strategy post I shared. And the way I’ve shaped the comment here has been edited to better reflect a very common response I get to strategy posts on “recruiting an unlimited number of leaders (for instance, Top 10 Ways to Launch New Groups).”

“I’d like to do that, but my elders have higher standards (about who can be a leader).”

Ever been handcuffed (great term, used by many to describe situations outside their control) by a policy handed down by leadership?

The truth is, we’ve all been there. Right?

What I want to do here today is simply share a short and sweet overview of my approach to situations like this when they happen to me (or to a small group pastor in a church I am consulting or coaching).

First, I work to make sure we’re all understanding the landscape in the same way.

First, I work to make sure we’re all understanding the landscape in the same way. I do that by walking everyone through the calculation of our true percentage connected.

I start, like I suggest we all do, with the basic math (number of adults in groups divided by average adult weekend worship attendance). For instance, 290/450 = 64%.

Once I’ve established the basic math, I draw their attention to what I believe is the true percentage connected (number of adults in groups divided by the average adult attendance at our Easter or Christmas Eve services). For example, if there are 600 adults at Easter and 290 are connected, 290/600 = 48%.

Why do I believe this is the true percentage connected? It’s not the same 450 every week. It’s the larger number infrequent attenders added to the more consistent base.

It is not unusual for elders (who often set policy) to not fully understand how many adults are actually attending their church. See also, What Percentage of Your Adults are Actually Connected?

Second, I work to make sure we’re all understanding the benefit of being connected and consequence of not being connected.

Second, I work to make sure we’re all understanding the benefit of being connected and consequence of not being connected.

I begin with an understanding of the benefit(s) of being connected. Depending on the circumstances, I might ask everyone in the meeting to contribute what they think are the benefits. Or I might simply suggest a few (i.e., feeling known, loved, cared for, held accountable, challenged, forgiven, etc.).

Essentially, people who are connected experience what it is to be one-anothered.

Next, I want everyone to be clear on the consequence(s) of not being connected. Same story, I might ask everyone in the meeting to contribute what they think are the consequences. Or I might simply suggest a few (i.e., feel like a face in the crowd, lonely, discouraged, etc.).

At this point, I also make my case for the reality that unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at our church again.

Unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at our church again.Unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at our church again. Click To Tweet

Unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at our church again. Loss of a job.  Divorce or separation.  A devastating diagnosis.  A child in trouble.

One tough thing.

We live in a world where one tough thing is always close by.

Unconnected people rarely call the church for help.  It’s much more common for unconnected people to simply stop coming.

See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting Unconnected People?

Third, I come back to the math. I want to make sure everyone in the discussion owns the reality.

The true percentage connected in our example reveals that over 50% of the flock is not in the sheepfold. They are unconnected and one tough thing away.

Ultimately…it is a stewardship issue. Is it not?

Fourth, I explore possible solutions with the group.

Fourth, I explore possible solutions with the group. I spend a few minutes painting a scenario. For example, I might say,

“Here are a few ways we might connect the other 310 adults. To start, we’d probably need another 30 groups (or so). And 30 more leaders.

“We could challenge every group leader to have an apprentice and then 12 months from now they could all multiply and we’d have our 30 more leaders.”

“In fairness, the challenge to that is two-fold. First, it’s not a given that every apprentice will actually become a new leader at all, let alone that it will only take 12 months.

“More importantly, in the 12 month window, how many of our unconnected 310 adults will experience the one tough thing that takes them out of the flock?

“Alternatively, we could introduce an additional method of identifying potential leaders. And we could develop some ways to make sure the potential leaders begin well and continue to develop into everything we really want our leaders to be. For example, we could pair them up with a coach or an experienced leader for encouragement and accountability.

At this point, I often talk through 3 ways to connect more unconnected people. I explore the church-wide campaign strategy and include the “if you’ve got a couple friends” element. I talk through the connection strategy and the guardrails that come with it. And I talk them through the short-term on-campus strategy with its own set of guardrails.

I believe the key to this exercise is to help everyone see the situation as a stewardship issue. It is possible to see our need and responsibility for recruiting and developing leaders who are everything we want them to be AND at the same time the need and responsibility to care for the unconnected people in our church.

Further Reading:

4 Tell-Tale Signs Your Small Group System Is Broken

What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting Unconnected People?

Top 10 Ways to Launch New Groups

 Image by Bernard Spragg. NZ

5 Reasons Your New Groups Are Short-Lived (i.e., die before their time)

5 Reasons Your New Groups Are Short-Lived (i.e., die before their time)

Do you find yourself launching plenty of new groups but watching too many of them die before their time? There are some important reasons why that happens. And there are some steps you can take to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Here are my 5 reasons new groups are often short-lived:

First, you’re not choosing the right launching study.

The right launching study is critical for the short-term survival of new leaders and new groups. Choosing a study that is too challenging, has too much required leader preparation, or is simply not what new members will find engaging or satisfying leads to the premature demise of many, many new groups.

Choosing the right study to launch new groups is an important key to help this fragile new life off to a really good start. Minimal leader preparation allows the new leader to focus their attention on helping new members build healthy relationships. The right topics (from the perspective of new participants) make conversation seem easy and spontaneous. The right topics easily promote conversation that doesn’t pit one point of view against another.

The right launching study is critical for the short-term survival of new leaders and new groups.The right launching study is critical for the short-term survival of new leaders and new groups Click To Tweet

Second, you’re not encouraging (or requiring) leaders of new groups to begin with a co-leader.

Not encouraging (or requiring) leaders of new groups to begin with a co-leader is often deadly. Not only is it deadly, but death often comes too quick as the new leader’s expectations aren’t met. Keeping a new group going is challenging and often too hard for one person to pull off. Beginning life with someone else (other than a spouse) to help shoulder the challenge makes it much easier.

Not encouraging (or requiring) leaders of new groups to begin with a co-leader is often deadly.Not encouraging (or requiring) leaders of new groups to begin with a co-leader is often deadly Click To Tweet

Third, you’re not giving your new leaders a coach from the very beginning.

Not giving your new leaders a coach from the very beginning may need to classified as a crime! A crime? Really? Yes. For two very important reasons:

  • Having a seasoned veteran leader walking alongside, especially in the first 6 to 12 weeks, helps new leaders tackle some of their toughest challenges. Having even a short weekly conversation about what’s working and not working in their new group helps new leaders quickly adjust to ensure the health and viability of their new group.
  • Almost more importantly, new leaders working with a coach from the beginning ensures that once they no longer feel the need for a coach they will have established a solid relationship with someone a few steps ahead of them spiritually (doing TO and FOR them whatever you want the leader doing TO and FOR their members).

Not giving your new leaders a coach from the very beginning may need to classified as a crime!Not giving your new leaders a coach from the very beginning may need to classified as a crime! Click To Tweet

Fourth, you’re not giving your new leader a study to next.

Not giving your new leader a study to next (right after the launching study) puts their new group in serious jeopardy. Why? New groups often aren’t strong enough to survive the challenge of a discussion, debate or disagreement about what they should study next.

Trust me, every new group has someone in it that will either suggest a study that is simply to hard or challenging for the new leader to lead or one they’ve recently heard plugged by Oprah Winfrey.

New groups don’t yet have the connective tissue they will soon have. Giving them a study to do next (that is similar-in-kind to their launching study) will help them build strength of connection that will soon help them choose for themselves what to do.

Not giving your new leader a study to next (right after the launching study) puts their new group in serious jeopardy.Not giving your new leader a study to next puts their new group in serious jeopardy. Click To Tweet

Fifth, you’re not helping your new leaders and their new groups begin with a load-sharing mentality.

Not helping new leaders and their new groups begin with a load-sharing mentality often leads to leader discouragement as everything falls on them to do. Everything, from getting the house ready to providing refreshments, and from calling or emailing reminders about the meeting to being ready to be a gracious host, often becomes quickly overwhelming.

Far better to set new leaders and new groups up to win by helping them understand from the very beginning that everyone can help in some way. Creating a simple set of expectations that is shared at the very first meeting will help new leaders make what can be an awkward moment more satisfying for everyone.

Not helping new leaders and their new groups begin with a load-sharing mentality often leads to leader discouragement as everything falls on them to do.Not helping new leaders and their new groups begin with a load-sharing mentality often leads to… Click To Tweet

Further Reading: 

Image by Stacey

Friday’s List | April 21

fridays-listEvery Friday I post a short list of the things I’m reading, listening to, loving and wrestling with:

Here’s what I’m reading right now:

5 Key Principles Every Leader Should Master by Carey Nieuwhof. Very important read. Read it today.

RECOVERING THE LOST ART OF NOTE TAKING by Michael Hyatt. Very helpful and motivating.

Early Signs Your Church Is Headed for Decline | The Unstuck Church by Tony Morgan. Great thinker. Can’t wait to check out this book.

5 Things Leaders Who Want Respect Should Read And Understand by Brian K. Dodd. Short and sweet, but so powerful.

4 ESSENTIAL DISCIPLINES FOR GETTING THINGS DONE by Michael Hyatt. Another excellent article.

To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter. This is not an easy read, but the payoff is very big.

Here’s what I’m listening to:

Scott Belsky—Making Ideas Happen on the EntreLeadership podcast. Author of one of my favorite books, Making Ideas Happen. This a great conversation.

Principles of Higher Hiring, Part 1 by Craig Groeschel. This is such a helpful podcast. I look forward to hearing it every month.

21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell. I read the hardback years ago. Thought a refresher would be helpful and I was right!

Quotes I’m still wrestling with:

“The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it’s who you become. That’s what you will take into eternity.” Dallas Willard

App I’m using:

I’m committed this year to increasing my effectiveness. Nozbe is a leading productivity app. First heard about it from Michael Hyatt. It’s already making a big difference.

My own post I hope you’re reading:

The Team You’re Building Determines the Size of Your Ministry This is an important aspect of my philosophy of ministry. Sole proprietors don’t get the real job done. It takes a team.

The Team You’re Building Determines the Size of Your Ministry

The Team You’re Building Determines the Size of Your Ministry

I am a big believer in the importance of philosophy of ministry. If you’ve read much here at MarkHowellLive.com you already know that.

Still, whether you’re a seasoned veteran or brand new to my writing, you may not realize how deeply philosophy of ministry runs in my approach and how adopting this ministry practice could positively affect your own ministry development.

Here’s an example: I believe the team you’re building determines the size of your ministry. And I am making no distinction between staff and volunteers. The team you’re building may be entirely volunteers, it may be a staff team, or most likely it will be a mix of staff and volunteers.

The team you’re building determines the size of your ministry.The team you're building determines the size of your ministry. Click To Tweet

Here’s what I mean. There are several aspects.

First, span of care determines the health and scalability of your ministry.Span of care determines the health and scalability of your ministry. Click To Tweet

First, span of care determines the health and scalability of your ministry. Carl George’s notion that “everyone needs to be cared for by someone but nobody can take care of more than (about) 10” is at the essence of my philosophy. When care is happening throughout the structure of your ministry it allows your ministry to grow larger. Adding groups without caring for leaders doesn’t lead to more groups and more people connected. It leads to a shuffling effect with the same basic number of people connected in the same basic number of groups. Every time you add a few new groups a few of your older groups die.

Second, what you are making determines what is being made at the member level of your groups.What you are making determines what is being made at the member level of your groups. Click To Tweet

Second, what you are making determines what is  being made at the member level of your groups. If it is true that whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your groups must happen first in the lives of the leaders  (and I believe it is), that ought to be telling you what you must be doing in the lives of your leaders.

And–since span of care determines the health and scalability of your ministry–you should already be able to see how many (or how few) leaders you will be able to impact. In other words, you may believe that what you are making determines what is being made at the member level but not be able to improve what you are making because your span of care is inadequate.

Third, the way you spend your time reveals your true convictions.The way you spend your time reveals your true convictions. Click To Tweet

Third, the way you spend your time reveals your true convictions. Saying you care about the players on the team you are building while spending your time on less important things demonstrates what you really believe. See also, 5 Stupid Things Small Group Pastors Need to Stop Doing.

Further Reading:

10 Ideas that Have Shaped My Philosophy of Ministry

10 Assumptions that Shape My Small Group Strategy

10 Principles for Building a Thriving Small Group Ministry

Sole Proprietor? Or Builder of a Great Team?

What would this be worth to you?

What would this be worth to you?

(I’d love your feedback! I’ve included a short survey below)

If you’ve been reading what I’ve been posting at MarkHowellLive.com for very long, you are just the person I want to ask a few questions! (And if you are new to my blog, I want to ask you a few questions too!)

As you may know, there are now well over 2100 articles here on a variety of important small group ministry topics. Everything from the best ways to launch the largest number of group (and connect the largest number of people), to strategies for identifying and developing new leaders, building effective coaching structures, identifying and recruiting potential coaches, making disciples, what changes might be necessary in the 21st century, leader training ideas and tips, working with your senior pastor, investing in your own spiritual growth, etc.

You know that right?

And most likely, you also know that even the best articles are often only a taste of what you need and in order to begin to get what you need you’ve got to dig deep, follow the links I include (i.e., “See also…” and “Further Reading”).

You might have purchased one or more of my most popular mini-courses. You might have set up a coaching call (or even a package of calls). And you might have participated in one of my coaching networks.

The truth is…if you’re still reading this article, you might be exactly who I want to ask a few questions!

I’m always looking for the service or program that will allow me to help the largest number of small group pastors and directors. And I mean really help. More than just point in the right direction. Actually help build a thriving small group ministry. More like an adjunct staff member…if you know what I mean.

Would you take 2 or 3 minutes and complete a simple feedback survey? I’d love to know what you think!

Click here to take the survey!

Your feedback means a lot to me!

P.S. In order to provide this new service I will be adjusting the frequency of my posts here at MarkHowellLive.com. What I’ve already written will largely still be available, but I’ll be writing more detailed pieces for GroupLifeInsider.com.

Friday’s List | April 14

fridays-listEvery Friday I post a short list of the things I’m reading, listening to, loving and wrestling with:

Here’s what I’m reading right now:

The Lie Of Inspiration (5 Reasons Waiting Almost Never Makes You Better) by Carey Nieuwhof. Very insightful and several very practical ideas.

3 Questions About Your Key Relationships by Dan Reiland. A very helpful and important challenge here.

Catalyst ’16 – 23 Leadership Quotes From Andy Stanley Catalyst Opening Session More than a little slow on the draw here. Something about the Andy Stanley talk from Catalyst ’16 on Uncommon Fellowship caught my attention this week.

Catalyst LIVE Notes // Andy Stanley On Uncommon Fellowship by Paul Sohn. Same story, second verse. Wish I would have heard this one!

Uncommon Fellowship – Catalyst East 2016 Andy Stanley by Jason Lalonde. Some additional insights and notes.

Catalyst 2016 – Andy Stanley – Uncommon Fellowship by Chris Edmondson. These are some very good notes on the talk. Some additional insights.

To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter. This is not an easy read, but the payoff is very big.

Here’s what I’m listening to:

The Present and Future Church with Andy Stanley on the Catalyst Podcast. Very interesting conversation.

Catalyst West Road Trip Edition // Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, and Christine Caine. This Rick Warren interview is really good stuff.

21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell. I read the hardback years ago. Thought a refresher would be helpful and I was right!

Quotes I’m still wrestling with:

“Imagine a world where people were skeptical of what we believed, but envious of how well we treated one another.” Andy Stanley

App I’m using:

I’m committed this year to increasing my effectiveness. Nozbe is a leading productivity app. First heard about it from Michael Hyatt. It’s already making a big difference.

My own post I hope you’re reading:

The Very Best Way to Launch the Largest Number of New Groups If you’re focused on launching new groups (and I hope you are) this is a post you need to read.