Friday’s List | March 24

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:

When Large Churches Get Stuck: Reducing the Span of Care by Tony Morgan. Several great insights that will help you think about growing your church and what might be keeping you stuck.

Does Your Church Website Have an Easter Page? by Greg Atkinson. Great resource! You’ll find this helpful as you prepare for Easter.

The End Of Culture Fit  by Lars Schmidt and Forbes. Very interesting from a hiring practice standpoint. HT Tim Stevens.

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:

CNLP 132: Greg Atkinson On The Secrets Of A Secret Church Shopper: What People Are Looking For When They Come To Your Church. Very helpful and provides some great insights into understanding the way first time guests see your church.

Creating a Culture of Continual Improvement, Part 1 by Andy Stanley. Enough said. This is very good.

Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track – and Keeping It There by Les McKeown. I’m testing out Audible for absorbing an additional book every month.

Quote I’m wrestling with:

“The main reason why Christian believers today (from various communities) have not had the influence in the culture to which they have aspired is not that they don’t believe enough, or try hard enough, or care enough, or think Christianly enough, or have the right worldview, but rather because they have been absent from the arenas in which the greatest influence in the culture is exerted.” James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern 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:

How to Launch a Short-Term On-Campus Strategy (that leads to off-campus groups). This innovation has added a third important strategy to connect unconnected people.

Peter Thiel on Best Practices and Dead Ends

“Today’s Best Practices lead down dead ends; the best paths are new and untried” Peter Thiel, Zero to One

Sometimes we are on a hunt for best practices. The truth is, a best practice can take you quickly to the best way a particular thing can be done. Thiel’s point is that there are times when what you need is not the best way to do what you are already doing. What you need to develop is a way of doing something you have not yet tried. And that requires a new and untried path.

Note: The HOST strategy and the Small Group Connection are examples of new and untried paths.

Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur and investor. He started PayPal in 1998, made the first outside investment in Facebook, and provided early funding for LinkedIn, Yelp, and dozens of other successful technology startups. He also is a partner at Founders Fund, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that has funded companies like SpaceX and Airbnb.

You can read more from my Quotebook right here.

Image by Benny Lin

Easter 2017 Comes Once. Take Advantage of It!

I should make a list of the things that make me angry. At least the ministry things that make me angry. So far, I haven’t turned over a table or anything. But there are definitely things that make me mad.

One of them is when leaders decide to wait until next year. That is a killer!

Maybe it’s happening where you are! It does, you know. As we approach Easter, thousands of churches will decide to put off ministry initiatives because doing them would be a stretch, or succeeding isn’t a sure thing, or it would cause them to have to reprioritize there announcements, or…you get the point.

About three weeks ago I wrote an article suggesting three things you could this week to connect more people after Easter. That article has been read by hundreds and hundreds of church leaders–you probably read it–and only a few will put the ideas to use. The rest will decide to wait until next year.

I hope you’re not waiting until next year!

Here’s an excerpt from my article 5 Terrible Small Group Ministry Ideas to Avoid at ALL Costs:

Waiting until next year.  This is a truly terrible idea!  Every year, every ministry season is a gift from God.  Waiting until next year is what the third servant did in Matthew 25!  We can provide all kinds of rationales:

Waiting will give us more time to prepare

We’ll be better trained

Our foundation will be stronger

Etc.

When we wait until next year we assume that unconnected people will still be around.  They won’t!  Unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again.  When we wait until next year we assume we will have discovered a problem-free solution or strategy.  We won’t!  The pursuit of problem-free delays more ministry than anything else.  See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting People? and The Pursuit of Problem-Free.

Forgive my little bit of a rant today. Waiting until next year just makes me angry. After all…Easter 2017 only comes once!

How to Launch a Short-Term On-Campus Strategy (that leads to off-campus groups)

How to Launch a Short-Term On-Campus Strategy (that leads to off-campus groups)

I’ve written about this several times, but haven’t ever put the nuts-and-bolts in one place. This short-term on-campus strategy (that leads to off-campus groups) is so effective it has become a third component of our yearly approach (alongside an annual church-wide campaign and two or three small group connections. See also, How to Build an Annual GroupLife Calendar – 2016.

The essence of the short-term on-campus strategy

The essence of the short-term on-campus strategy is that it provides a first step out of the auditorium for unconnected people who may be uncomfortable with the idea of an off-campus group. While it is a group experience, it isn’t marketed that way. It is described on our website, in our weekend program, and verbally as a short-term on-campus study or experience.

Keys to implementing the strategy:

Although we are still only 2 years into this strategy, these are the what we believe make it work best:

Timing

Timing: Run the short-term on-campus strategy when it won’t conflict with your major connecting strategies (i.e., don’t run it in competition with your church-wide campaign or small group connection). Depending on when your fall campaign begins, the strategy can be scheduled to launch in October, concluding before Thanksgiving. Another effective window is after your January small group connection and in time to conclude before Easter (keep spring break in mind).

Content

Content: Choose 4 to 6 week studies that are DVD-driven and will successfully attract unconnected people of distinct affinities. Consistently use the same studies every time to avoid simply providing an on-campus solution for people who would rather be on-campus than off (unless you have unlimited space available and feel you can truly deliver the same experience in a classroom that you can in a living room). Always be testing for effective interest in the topics you choose. When you find winners, stay with them.

Here are some of the studies we’ve found most effective:

  • Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage by Mark Gungor: This has been our biggest success and we’ve used it very effectively for the last 2 1/2 years. You can find out more right here.
  • 7 Questions that Rattle in the Minds of Most Men by John Woodall. This is the most successful of several we’ve tried for men. You can read my review right here. You can find out more right here. We’ve also tried Authentic Manhood Volume 1 with mixed success.
  • The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst (marketed as Wise Decisions) and Comparison Trap by Sandra Stanley have been effective but still leave room for the possibility that there is a better study.
  • The New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating by Andy Stanley. Full Disclosure: We have not tested this one yet, but will soon. It looks like a great fit to attract unconnected single adults. You can find out more right here.

Marketing

Marketing: Like every other connecting strategy, if you want to connect unconnected people you need to promote it for at least three weeks. Unconnected people are the most infrequent attenders and at best will only be in one of the three services it is promoted.

In addition to promoting your short-term studies in your weekend services, strategically placing promotion on your website (i.e., not 3 or 4 clicks away from the homepage) and two well-timed emails to unconnected adults will widen the net (Remember, unconnected people are infrequent attenders. They may not be in any of the services you’ll promote the studies).

Registration

These are not free studies. We charge enough to cover the cost of the study guides and anything we’ll provide. Childcare is available but there is a prepaid charge.

In addition, registration also helps us anticipate attendance and plan for it (i.e., number of tables, possible ways attenders will be seated, etc.).

Upon registration a follow-up email is sent to each registrant with details about the study (i.e., what room it is in, what time to arrive, where to drop your children off, etc.).

An email reminder is sent a few days before the study begins.

Room set up

All studies are set up around tables that seat 8 to 10. In many cases, each table will have a number. A sign-in table will distribute name-tags, books, and also guide participants to seating.

Seating

Every study will attract both unconnected people and people who are already in a small group. We DO NOT want them sitting together. As attenders arrive, they are asked if they are already in a small group. Those who are already in a group are seated together. Depending on the study and the size of the registration, everyone else is seated at tables accordingly (i.e., affinity of some kind).

We’ve found that people naturally return to the same table every week.

First session

Our facilitators will take a few minutes to introduce themselves and give a very quick overview of how the study works (i.e., how many sessions, what happens in a session, etc.). They’ll also do a little housekeeping (i.e., where are the restrooms, it’s okay to get up and go to the restroom or get a refill on coffee, etc.).

If the study you are using doesn’t do it already, be sure and build in a good get-to-know-you question or two at the very beginning (i.e., How’d you get to Canyon Ridge the first time and what made you come back? What prompted you to sign up for this study? What do you hope to get out of it?).

Typically, a good set-up question or two will allow you to jump right into watching the DVD segment. If the DVD segment has a fill-in-the-blank component be sure and leave enough lighting to make that possible.

After the DVD segment it will be time for the study discussion to begin. Our facilitators set this up by having everyone turn to the correct page and then giving quick instructions on how to get started. Depending on the study, it may require more of the facilitator. Typically, table groups are able to work well with  simple instructions (i.e., “Take some time and work your way through questions 2 through 6. If I see you’re stuck I’ll pop over and get you going again.”)

Finishing session one

Depending on the study, there may be a question or two that point to praying together. Use your judgement to decide how to play that element. We usually give some instructions for the week ahead and then close the session with prayer. I’ve begun experimenting with having the participants share a prayer request related to the topic and having everyone write down the prayer requests on the back page of their study guides. That has already prompted some interesting outcomes.

Sessions two thru ?

Every session of your study will require slightly less facilitation. By the time you get to session 4, everyone will automatically arrive and sit down at their table and begin talking. The facilitator will be able to interrupt very briefly and welcome everyone before starting the DVD. When the DVD segment ends the facilitator will be able to give any specifics about the session but remain in the background.

No later than the second to last session, your facilitator will set up the possibility of the group continuing to meet. Choose a follow-up study that makes sense for the group (for example, the follow-up study for Laugh Your Way might be Andy Stanley’s iMarriage). Have a table with sample study guides and a laptop to play the DVD before and after the session. Do this both of the last two weeks.

While the specific instructions may vary slightly, here’s the essence of what we say,

“We’ve noticed that you guys are really hitting it off well. It’s very common for our Laugh Your Way tables to decide to continue meeting as a group. If you’d like to do that, we’d like to help you. You can’t do it here, there isn’t room on-campus. Most groups that decide to continue simply choose a home to begin meeting in and pick up right where they left off. Why don’t you think about it this week and we’ll talk more about it next week.”

Final Session

Like the second to last session, a focus of the final session to help any groups that want to continue successfully transition to an off-campus group. We assign them a coach (who is typically there so they can meet in person). We provide the DVD (or access to RightNow Media) and sell them the study guides.

Further Reading:

Friday’s List | March 17

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:

3 Key Components for Healthy Leadership Development: An Interview with Eric Geiger.  Good stuff here and a great look into Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development

Yuval Harari Works Less Than You by Cal Newport on the Study Hacks blog.

SCORECARD LEADERSHIP IN MINISTRY How do you measure your effectiveness? by Will Mancini. I’ve been a fan of Will Mancini for a long time. This article includes a free download of his Dream Big Workbook…a great resource.

9 Signs Your Church Is Stalling Out by Carey Nieuwhof. Read at your own risk.

3 Subtle Ways to Lose Influence by Dan Reiland. An important reminder.

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:

Andy Andrews—How Small Changes Help You Win on the EntreLeadership podcast. Let me just say, whether you know who Andy Andrews is or not…you need to listen to this.

Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track – and Keeping It There by Les McKeown. I’m testing out Audible for absorbing an additional book every month.

Quote I’m wrestling with:

“The main reason why Christian believers today (from various communities) have not had the influence in the culture to which they have aspired is not that they don’t believe enough, or try hard enough, or care enough, or think Christianly enough, or have the right worldview, but rather because they have been absent from the arenas in which the greatest influence in the culture is exerted.” James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern 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:

YOU Can Still Make It to GroupLife Southwest ’17! This post has a discount code only good thru midnight tonight!

YOU can still make it to GroupLife Southwest ’17!

YOU can still make it to GroupLife Southwest ’17!

That’s right! It’s not too late! Call a friend (or two). Throw a few things in an overnight bag, Find your sunglasses and flip flops. Redeem those miles you’ve been saving for a last minute getaway. And come to GroupLife Southwest ’17 in Las Vegas!

Listen, there are a few times in life when it actually makes sense to throw caution to the wind and do something last minute. And one of those times might just be staring you in the face!

GroupLife Southwest ’17 is just around the corner. March 27-28 in Las Vegas. The one in Nevada. A great speaker lineup (we think the best lineup this year). Small group peeps from across North America (US and Canada). Great weather (highs in the mid-70s). And lots to do.

And…we’ve put together a last-minute discount to squeeze in a few last-minute registrations!

Special Note: I’ve included a discount code below to allow you to take advantage of a discount code for an even better price on registration.

What’s an EVEN BETTER price? How about $149.95? If you think that’s a good price, you can register today by entering the code: INSIDER (I’m only offering this price until midnight on March 24th).

 

 

 

 

No one is more excited (or shocked) that we’re 11 days away from what I believe is the best small group ministry conference happening in 2017.

What’s so great about GroupLife Southwest ’17?

Why do I believe GroupLife Southwest ’17 is the best small group ministry conference happening in 2017? That’s easy!

Reason #1: We’ve got the best speaker lineup!

Imagine hearing from the point leaders of many of the churches with the most impactful small group ministries:

  • North Point: Bill Willits and Tim Cooper
  • North Coast: Dave Enns
  • Austin Stone: Todd Engstrom
  • Cross Point and Seacoast Community Church: Chris Surratt

Further, our speaker lineup also includes several of the leading voices in reaching into the community and beyond the usual suspects:

  • Mike Foster: People of the Second Chance
  • Hugh Halter: Forge Ministries

And that doesn’t even include Mindy Caliguire (one of American’s leading experts in spiritual formation and developing leaders and coaches), Allen White (author of Exponential Groups and leading expert on launching campaigns), Boyd Pelley (co-founder and developer of Churchteams.com, one of the leading applications for small group ministry).

Or me!

Need more? See below for the full speaker lineup!

Reason #2: The conference format gives you the best opportunity to learn and rub shoulders with your peers from around the country.

Sure, you can listen to podcasts, read books and blogs, and participate in a local huddle…all without leaving the comforts and confines of your office or conference room. But in order to truly benefit from the upside of cross-pollination, you need to spend time with a cross section of leaders and thinkers from other disciplines, from other models and systems.

Reason #3: Registration is such a great value! Compare with any other conference this year.

Seriously…GroupLife Southwest ’17 is priced so you can bring your team! (And by the way, many churches are bringing their team). This is a tremendous advantage when it comes to taking in the content of over 20 breakouts!

I don’t want YOU to miss this conference! And I want you to bring your team!

That’s why I’m offering YOU a really good deal on registration.

What’s a REALLY good deal? How about $149.95? If you think that’s a good price, you can register today by entering the code: INSIDER (I’m only offering this price until midnight on March 24th).

Reason #4: Travel to Las Vegas is cheap (or at least affordable) from almost everywhere!

Sure, if you’re coming from Jakarta (I know you’re out there Alvi Radjagukguk) you may not have it in your budget this year. But almost everywhere else…flights and hotels are very reasonable. Want to stay on The Strip (where you can come early or stay over and catch a show and enjoy a great dinner at Emeril’s Fish House or Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill or Giada’s or Mario Batali’s, etc.) you can always find a deal.

Would you rather stay out near the conference (we’re holding GroupLife Southwest ’17 at Canyon Ridge, about 25 minutes north of The Strip and McCarran International Airport)? You can find a list of nearby hotels right here.

Reason #5: Las Vegas weather in March is legendary.

Seriously, unless you live in San Diego, our weather in March is probably better.

I think those are some pretty good reasons! Don’t you?

What might be an EVEN BETTER reason?

How about $149.95? If you think that’s a good price, you can register today by entering the code: INSIDER (I’m only offering this price until midnight on March 24th).

Still not convinced GroupLife Southwest ’17 is for you?

Here’s a link to the conference website for more information.

*Here is the complete lineup for GroupLife Southwest ’17:

  • Mike Foster from People of the Second Chance. Mike is a speaker, author and founder of People of the Second Chance. His latest resource, Rescue Academy, has tremendous potential to be used in leader and coach training.  He’s also published two of the most creative video-driven studies (Freeway and Wonderlife) along with his newest book, People of the Second Chance.
  • Bill Willits from North Point. Bill has been at North Point since their beginning and has been the point person for the small group ministry that has connected over 72,000! His insights alone will be worth the price of the conference.
  • Tim Cooper from North Point. You may not know Tim, but I can tell you his breakout at re:group 2016, Community for Everyone, was truly inspiring and incredibly challenging. I personally came away from his breakouts with a number of game-changing insights.
  • Chris Surratt from LifeWay. You probably recognize Chris’s name, but you may not remember his role as the Small Group Pastor for Cross Point Church (and prior to that Seacoast Community Church) and the author of Small Groups for the Rest of Us (packed with the great insights that only come from a seasoned practitioner accustomed to figuring out how to connect the people you aren’t already connecting and actually make disciples).
  • Mindy Caliguire from SoulCare. Mindy Caliguire is the founder of Soul Care, a spiritual formation ministry that exists to increase “soul health” in the body of Christ.
  • Dave Enns from North Coast. Again, you may not recognize Dave’s name, but you probably recognize North Coast Church. Well known for their sticky church small group strategy and philosophy, they have consistently connected over 80% of their weekend adult worship attendance in small groups. And they’ve been doing it for years while they’ve become one of the largest churches in the country.
  • Hugh Halter from Forge America. Hugh is not a household name…unless you want to connect unchurched friends, neighbors, co-workers and family. I’ve heard him a number of times at conferences like Exponential. His latest book Happy Hour is packed with insights. When I was assembling the lineup, he was the first person I contacted. If you want to be effective in the 21st century, you need to be paying attention to Hugh.
  • Todd Engstrom from Austin Stone. Several years ago The Austin Stone Community Church began a transition from an ordinary, business-as-usual small group ministry (that primarily existed for insiders) to a missional community strategy, intent on becoming a force that would impact Austin. Their journey is a great story and their transition is full of lessons learned.
  • Allen White: author of Exponential Groups and president of Allen White Consulting.
  • Boyd Pelley: Co-founder and Co-CEO of Churchteams. One of the earliest and best small group ministry databases (many, many churches swear by Churchteams).
  • Me. In addition to hosting the conference, I’m planning to present two breakouts that I think you’ll find very helpful. In addition, I’m cooking up a special breakout for Monday night that will be a live demonstration of how a small group connection works.

Ready to register?

FAQ: What About Personal Recruitment of New Group Leaders?

I get questions. 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 question is fairly common, at least the essence of it is, and I think you’ll pick up a familiar theme from my answer if you’ve been along for very much of this conversation.

Here’s the question:

What role does personal invitation/recruitment of new group leaders by the small groups pastor in a growing church of 2000 adults play?

There are church-wide strategies that we employ, but this is a point of discussion that crops up from time to time. Is “cold calling” through small group rosters something you see as a strategy that should be done alongside other strategies?

Now don’t be distracted by the part of the question that mentions the size of their church (i.e., “in a growing church of 2000 adults.”). The answers to these questions really apply to almost all small group pastors.

Almost all? Read on, you’ll see why I say almost all.

Here’s my answer:

As a church grows it reaches the point where there are too many people for the pastor (and any other staff) to know* everyone. While some pastors are better at remembering the names and stories that go with the face, every pastor has a limit to how many people they can actually know*. I think this usually happens around the time the church begins to average about 150 adults (keep in mind that averaging 150 adults probably means there are 300 adults who attend irregularly and on Easter more of them come on the same Sunday).

*Know means something more than recognize. All pastors and staff have the experience of being at the grocery store or waiting for a table at a restaurant and exchanging a nod (or even having a short conversation) with someone who obviously knows who they are, but the knowledge isn’t mutual.

With me?

Now, as a church continues to grow, it reaches a point where there are actually more people that no one knows than there are people who are known by the pastor and staff. Right? Can you sense that where you are?

This next sentence is very important.

The reality that follows is that there are eventually more potential leaders who are unconnected and unknown than there are potential leaders who are connected to a group already.

Read this sentence very carefully:

I do not assume that participating in a small group as a member is a prerequisite to leading a group. Assuming one must be a member of a group before becoming an apprentice or a leader ensures a low number of new groups. It also ensures missing the connection window for many, many unconnected people who experience their “one tough thing” before there is an open group.

Can you see it?

This is the appeal of the group launch strategies we use (and that I’ve highlighted here). Sure, you can do what you’ve asked about, but the truth is your time is better spent focusing on launching new groups in ways that identify leaders as part of their process.

You can rely on an idea like the “small group vacation strategy” to identify leaders from existing groups.

Further Reading:

Image by NordForsk

Friday’s List | March 10

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:

Amazon’s Leadership Principles This is a very interesting page in the Amazon’s Jobs section of their site. Even a quick look will reward and probably prompt a more thorough examination. Should provoke some great discussion about your organization’s values and behaviors as well. HT Tim Ferriss.

5 Questions for a Better Discipleship Path – Defining a Simple, Effective Discipleship Process (Part 2) by Gabe Kolstad via TonyMorganLive.com. An excellent followup to last weeks Part 1.

Want To Be More Creative? Start Acting Like Children by Phil Cooke. Excellent!

The Two Fictional Stories We Tell Ourselves About Ourselves by Brandon A. Cox. Definitely a must follow and a must-read article.

10 Questions About Future Church Attendance No One Really Knows How To Answer by Carey Nieuwhof. Excellent! Carey notes that “the future isn’t pioneered by the clarity of the answers nearly as much as it by the quality of the questions.” There are some great questions in this article.

Where’s the Staffing Gap on Your Team? by Tony Morgan. This post has a great diagram that makes it easy to see the staffing gap.

5 Reasons Why Your Small Group Leaders Just Quit by Chris Surratt (via TonyMorganLive.com). Great read. Very important.

Leading Someone Who Dislikes You by Dan Reiland. Excellent understanding.

Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck. Technically…I’m re-reading this book. Very strong and helpful. You can read my review right here.

Here’s what I’m listening to:

 

Marie Forleo—The Value of Investing in Yourself on the EntreLeadership Podcast. Forleo is a marketing expert and innovator.

Deep Work with Cal Newport on the Smart Passive Income Podcast. You may have noticed I often listen to the same guest on multiple podcasts. Yes, that is my pattern. You can learn a lot by listening to the right people. If you listen to a variety of interviewers, you’ll pick up nuances that you will miss if you only listen to one interviewer.

Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track – and Keeping It There by Les McKeown. I’m testing out Audible for absorbing an additional book every month.

Quote I’m wrestling with:

“To reach people no one else is reaching, we must do things no one else is doing.” Craig Groeschel

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:

Still Time to Grab the Insider Discount for GroupLife Southwest! Yes, there is still time but only until midnight TONIGHT!