Must-Read: Add 4 Chair Discipling to Your Disciple-Making Resource List

I spent some time this week with 4 Chair Discipling: Growing a Movement of Disciple-Makers by Dann Spader. Published in 2014, this one began hitting my radar a couple years ago, but is just now making it onto my reading stack (one of the books on my 2017 Summer Reading List).

Dann Spader is the founder of Sonlife Ministries, a training organization that trains, coaches and mentors leaders, providing a fresh encounter with Jesus as our model for making and multiplying disciples. Spader is currently serving as a training consultant for Southeast Christian Church in Louisville KY, helping them develop their disciple-making strategy.

4 Chair Discipling looks at the life of Christ through the lens of a new person who wants to become a Christ-follower (p. 143).” I really like the way Spader looks carefully at the sequential steps Jesus took with his closest followers. So helpful, a chronological examination is eye-opening in terms of understanding Jesus’ model.

The essence of Jesus’ model or strategy is outlined in “four challenges He posed to His followers: ‘come and see’ (John 1:39), ‘follow me’ (John 1:43), ‘follow me and I will make you fishers of men’ (Matthew 4:39), and ‘go and bear much fruit’ (John 15:16) (p. 13).”

Spader provides a very readable examination of Jesus’ model. I’d probably call it a page-turner if it weren’t also packed with insights that demand reflection. My copy is marked and highlighted extensively (so I can circle back and think more about these implications and applications).

Well-organized, 4 Chair Discipling offers a very clear example (and numerous personal illustrations) of how Jesus’ model can be applied in the 21st century. Like me, I think you’ll come away with a number of unforgettable insights.

The book also includes two important chapters on the sticking points and barriers between “chairs.” Further, the appendices provide a helpful overview of how to build a disciple-making ministry.

If you’re looking for a fresh understanding of how to make disciples the way Jesus did, 4 Chair Discipling is a must-read. 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.”

Top 10 Ways to Find New Members for Your Group

Skill Training: Top 10 Ways to Find New Members for Your Group

Who makes the best new members for your group? That’s easy. Unconnected people with whom you are actively building a relationship. Here are some ideas that will help you find new members:

  1. Look for people who are already doing the same things you are. If you have a  middle schooler, make it a point to get to know other parents. If your kids are younger…make it a point to meet other parents as you check your kids in on Sunday morning. Whether you’re in a bunko group, on a softball team, do scrapbooking, or regularly watch your kids’ little league games…be on the lookout for people who are already doing the same things that you are.
  2. If you sit in the same area or the auditorium every week, you’ll often begin to notice some of the same people. Get in the habit of getting to know one or two new people every week. In the “say hello to a few people around you” part of the service…make it a point to remember their names. Write their name(s) down as soon as you sit down. As the service ends tell them you’ll see them next week.
  3. Take a few minutes in your next meeting to talk about who your members know that would be a good fit in your group. It’s a good idea to talk through the Circles of Life handout (click here to download a copy). Sometimes all you need is something to jog your memory.
  4. Plan a social get-together (potluck, cookout, theme dinner, chili cookoff, etc.) and invite unconnected friends over. This is a great idea to schedule on a regular basis between studies. The perfect way to get to know a few new people.
  5. Volunteer to serve at your new member class (whether it’s 101 or NeXT, every church has a “new here” class or experience). Think about it. Everyone at the class is taking a next step…the perfect time to join a small group.
  6. One step sooner? If your church has a “New Here?” kiosk in the lobby (or just outside the auditorium), volunteer to serve there. There may be no better way to meet a lot of new people who have gone out of their way to connect.
  7. Volunteer to serve as an usher or greeter. You’ll see a lot of the same people.  Easy to be friendly and invite them to your group.
  8. Volunteer to serve at the small group kiosk in your lobby. You’ll have first crack at the people looking for a group! How cool is that!
  9. Volunteer to serve with…(see a pattern developing? Almost every volunteer opportunity will put you in contact with unconnected people.
  10. Make sure your group is absolutely, positively, up-to-date in the Small Group Finder.

Click here to download a copy of this article.

Further Reading:

Top 10 Simple Skill Trainings for New Small Group Hosts

Skill Training | Top 10 Ways to Learn to Pray Together

10 Essential Small Group Leader Skills

You’ll find my all my skill training articles right here.

Testing a Feature of GroupLife Insider on June 27th

Office HoursI’m continuing to work on a new service I’ll be launching soon. GroupLife Insider, a new member site, will allow me to focus more of my time helping a select group of small group ministry point people. Membership rates will be very affordable and available with a monthly or discounted annual subscription. Click here to read more about GroupLife Insider.

One of the features I am maybe disproportionately excited about is a weekly “office hours” concept. Like when you were in college and your professors had “office hours” and you could drop by and ask questions about assignments and projects. Everyone who was in the office benefitted. Both the questioners and the eavesdroppers.

I’ve thought about this concept for a long time. Full disclosure: It’s really something Carl George mentioned to me that he was thinking of doing. Ever since that day I’ve thought this could be a lot of fun and very helpful for the most interested students.

How will office hours work for GroupLife Insider members? It will be a regularly scheduled video conference session that members will have the password to attend.

Testing GroupLife Insider Office Hours Soon

I’m testing the concept on Tuesday, June 27th, from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. (PDT, 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. (EDT).

Want to check it out?

Only those who have expressed interest in GroupLife Insider will get an invite (Note: If you’re already on the GroupLife Insider list, you don’t need to sign up again).

I’d love to include you!

Sign up to find out more right here:

Can’t see the sign up form? Click here to sign up.

Don’t Miss The Disciple Maker’s Handbook! A Great Addition

Worked my way through a new book by Bobby Harrington and Josh Patrick. The Disciple Maker’s Handbook: Seven Elements of a Discipleship Lifestyle is Harrington’s latest contribution to the relational disciple-making conversation.

Harrington is the lead pastor of Harpeth Christian Church in Franklin, TN, and also the founder of Discipleship.org (along with Todd Wilson of Exponential).

Although I found The Disciple Maker’s Handbook to be easy to read, there were many sections that I re-read to make sure I took in everything intended. My copy is pretty marked up, as there is a lot here that will come in handy again and again.

A brief introduction sets up part one of the book which makes a compelling case for disciple making as the priority of the Church. The aim of the book “is to help you understand what Jesus did and how he did it–and how you can emulate his commitment to reach people and make disciples (p. 13).”

“The Disciple Maker’s Handbook includes some key tools:

  • A simple, clear picture of what it means to be a disciple and make disciples
  • A practical model for disciple making that you could use right away
  • The seven elements of disciple making taken from the life of Jesus
  • Inspiration and real-life stories to help you apply these teachings
  • An explicit invitation to join the discipleship-first revolution
  • An appendix with key insights for pastors and leaders (p. 14)”

I found part two particularly helpful with its detailed look at the seven elements of a discipleship lifestyle. Harrington presents a simple model that is very transferable and could easily be incorporated into most churches and most ministries.

Most helpful to me was Harrington’s emphasis on a relational disciple making model. By carefully observing Jesus’ own method, we learn that “disciple making is a relational process, one build on trust.”

I came away with many practical applications and an excellent overview of a very transferable model and method. The Disciple Maker’s Handbook is a must-read and 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.”

My Top Small Group Ministry Learnings 2016 – 2017

I like to think of myself as a learner. On the StrengthsFinder tool I am also futuristic with a twist of ideation. I’ve been called a mad scientist (and it’s one of my favorite tags). At one stop I almost convinced my boss that my new title should be The Destructor of the Status Quo.

Here’s my list of top learnings from the 2016-17 ministry year:

  1. The best time to connect a new leader with a coach is at the very beginning. And I mean the VERY beginning. When a new leader is chosen at one of our Life Group Connections, they are introduced to their coach in the stand-up meeting that follows the connection. See also, Skill Training: The Best Way to Connect a New Leader with a Coach.
  2. We don’t yet know how to sustain a high percentage of “host” groups. By “host” groups I mean the groups that we launch by inviting people to “do the study with a couple friends.” We’ve regularly launched hundreds of new “host” groups in conjunction with our fall church-wide campaigns and always sustain some of them into a follow-up study. We’ve tried coaching them with a weekly  email and invited them to our host rally…but clearly have room for improvement. See also, Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again.
  3. Language matters. This is more of reminder. Whether you’re inviting people to consider “doing the study with a couple friends” or challenging them to join a six-week Life Group where they can get everything possible out of the message series,” language matters. Every word matters and results are quantifiable. See also, 5 Tiny Language Tweaks that Make a Very Big Difference.
  4. We need to do a better job of identifying the lead measures that predict discipleship outcomes. We are clear on the relationship between design and results. We have a good understanding of the lead measures that result in toes-in-water, we’ve only partially identified the steps that lead to better disciples. See also, FAQ: What Should We Be Measuring (to build a thriving small group ministry)?
  5. We need to codify the things that must be done to and for leaders. What some on our team do intuitively must be defined in a way that can be learned and is transferable. Translation: Everything must scale. See also, 7 Things You Must Do TO and FOR Your Small Group Leaders.
  6. Building an effective coaching structure doesn’t make caring for leaders easier. Adding a layer of high capacity leaders who do to and for leaders what you want leaders to do to and for members creates a challenging environment that requires greater attention to personal discipleship. The outcome of an effective coaching structure is greater capacity to make better disciples, but intensifies the effort required from top to bottom. See also, Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Leaders.
  7. Transitioning from silos to full alignment is a never ending process. Aligning affinities (couples, singles, men and women) is step one and easier to understand and compel. The payoff of aligning broadly (missions, next generation, evangelism and worship) is temporary and quickly forgotten. Enduring alignment is conversation intensive, painstaking, and never ending. See also, Insight: Repositioning Affinity Ministries Helps Create Alignment.
  8. Adding a multi-site philosophy is a beast unto itself. Like the alignment transition, developing and supervising is a daily endeavor. It is conversation intensive, painstaking, and never ending.

Friday’s List | June 9

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:

One Thing That Separates Good Leaders From Great Leaders by Dan Reiland. This is a great article. Love the quote from Jim Collins.

3 Strategic Questions to Help Your Church Get “Unstuck.” by Chris Sonksen on DanReiland.com. Really valuable insights here.

12 Ways to Recognize Mediocrity in Your Ministry by Tony Morgan. Great insights here.

Every Church Staff Team Needs a Little Bit of Friction by Brandon Cox. So true!

The Disciple Maker’s Handbook: Seven Elements of a Discipleship Lifestyle by Bobby Harrington and Jost Patrick. Very helpful.

The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace by S. Chris Edmonds. Part of my learning path this year.

Here’s what I’m listening to:

David Platt On Overcoming The Struggles Of His First Decade Of Leadership on the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast. Love the conversation.

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

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future Audible Audiobook – Unabridged by Kevin Kelly. Very interesting. One of the books I’m recommending on my 2017 Summer Reading List.

Quotes I’m wrestling with:

“Values are the written reminder of the only acceptable behaviors in our organization.” S. Chris Edmondson, The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace

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:

My 2017 Summer Reading List. Every summer and every Christmas I publish a reading list. Reading is so important if you want to grow as a leader.

2017 Summer Reading List

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

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly. “Anyone can claim to be a prophet, a fortune teller, or a futurist, and plenty of people do. What makes Kevin Kelly different is that he’s right. In this book, you’re swept along by his clear prose and unassailable arguments until it finally hits you: The technological, cultural, and societal changes he’s foreseeing really are inevitable. It’s like having a crystal ball, only without the risk of shattering.” David Pogue, Yahoo Tech.

The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For by David McCullough. Every summer list needs a good dose of American history. When McCullough comes out with a new one, it’s always time to include.

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. This book has been on my stack for several years. Finally, I’ve just heard about it too many times from too many people.

Corporate Culture

I am on the hunt for a better understanding of corporate culture and how to change corporate culture. I’ll no doubt discover another title or two, but here are two I’ll be reading this summer:

The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace by S. Chris Edmonds. I’m 50 pages into this one and it’s already proving to be rich in ideas and  insights.

Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT by Paul Marciano. One of the highest rated books I could find on the topic.

Disciple-Making

I’m always searching for help in learning to make more and better disciples.

The Disciple Maker’s Handbook: Seven Elements of a Discipleship Lifestyle by Bobby Harrington and Josh Patrick. I’m about 75% through the handbook and it is full of very practical takeaways and ideas for disciple-making.

4 Chair Discipling: Growing a Movement of Disciple-Makers by Dann Spader. I haven’t started this one, but Spader is pointed to by many of my independent Christian non-denominational friends as their mentor. You can learn more about this book right here.

Further Reading:

Here are the reading lists for books I recommend to everyone.

You can catch up on previous years’ reading lists right here.

Image by Andrew Siguenza

Behind the Scenes: Promote Your Church-Wide Campaign Early and Often

One of our biggest ahas in learning to maximize the reach and impact of a church-wide campaign is that you gain a major advantage by promoting early and often.

Although that may seem obvious (like, “good one Captain Obvious”), and you may think you’re promoting early enough and often enough, it’s very possible that just like us you need to rethink your timeline.

Here are four keys you might need to incorporate:

Think about the way major movies are promoted

Think about the way major movies are promoted. That’s right. If you think about how Batman or Star Wars is promoted, you’ll likely come away with an idea or two.

For example, movies like Star Wars and Batman are first promoted very early with a trailer. It might be as simple as a single slide, “The Dark Knight Rises. Coming Soon.”

But the trailer runs months (and often a year) early.

Use multiple methods of promoting the campaign

Use multiple methods of promoting the campaign. In addition to promoting inside your auditorium, use the weekend program, website, church-wide emails, invite cards, and social media.

What begins months earlier (we begin promoting our fall church-wide campaign in late spring) with a single slide in the preservice slide loop accelerates to become everywhere by the end of the summer.

Keep your small group leaders in the loop

Keep your existing small group leaders in the loop. In fact, bring these leaders into the loop early. A “leader briefing” in late spring will help your group leaders communicate with group members about plans for the fall.

The leader briefing can be as simple as 15 minutes between the 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. services. A little vision from your senior pastor, a handout with the important dates of the campaign, and a 2 or 3 minute excerpt from the DVD will go a long way in helping your leaders get on board early.

Promote every phase separately over multiple weekends

Promote every phase over multiple weekends. When you’re recruiting hosts (“If you have a couple friends you’d like to do the study with…”) be sure and set aside three weekends when you’re only recruiting hosts (and not members).

Three weekends enables you to make the host ask to as many infrequent attenders as possible. A single weekend approach ensures that you only reach a very narrow slice.

When you’re recruiting members to join a group, you’ll want to make that ask over several weekends too. “If you want to get everything possible out of the message series this fall, you need to be part of a six-week group that is using the study that goes along with the weekend message series.”

Keep promoting opportunities to join in after the series begins

Keep promoting opportunities to join in after the series begins. Keep in mind that your infrequent attenders may hear about your church-wide campaign in its very first weekend (or the second). If you want to engage as many unconnected people as possible, keep inviting participation even after the message series begins.

Further Reading:

Behind the Scenes: Developing a Timeline for Your Church-Wide Campaign

Behind the Scenes: Preparing for a Church-Wide Campaign

How to Maximize YOUR Church-Wide Campaign (Take a minute to check out one of my most popular mini-courses)

Image by Henry Burrows

5 Things You Need to Know about Connecting Unconnected People

5 Things You Need to Know about Connecting Unconnected People

(This post originally posted May 1, 2013. A core element of my philosophy of ministry…I decided to run it again).

There are a few things I know about connecting unconnected people.  And let me tell you something.  While there are definitely exceptions to just about every rule…if you can think of examples counter to these five you are thinking of exceptions.  Build your ministry off the rule and not the exception.

I’ve said many times that unconnected people are one tough thing away from not being at your church. Loss of a job.  Divorce or separation.  A devastating diagnosis.  A child in trouble.

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

Here are 5 more things you need to know about connecting unconnected people:

  1. Unconnected people have different appetites and rarely respond to menu items that appeal to the core and committed.  If you’re finding it hard to connect beyond the usual suspects, you might need to take a careful look at the topics of studies you’re offering.  See also, How to Choose Curriculum That Launches Groups and Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer.
  2. Unconnected people are wary of long commitments.  When you promote a short-term study that’s 13 weeks (Financial Peace, Experiencing God, some Beth Moore studies), you need to know that unconnected people hear “lifetime commitment.”  What’s the right length?  I’ve found that 6 weeks is just about ideal.  Lyman Coleman has said many times that 6 weeks is short enough to commit to and long enough to help people begin to feel connected.  Lyman’s right.
  3. Unconnected people respond to test-drives and putting toes-in-the-water.  In addition to offering shorter short-term opportunities, making it clear that it’s “just a test-drive” helps unconnected people feel more comfortable putting their toe in the water.  If they know they can have a taste and opt out if it’s not for them, they’ll be much more likely to give it a try.  Language is so important.  The power of the right words cannot be overstated. See also, Test-Drives, Taste-Tests and Toes-in-Water.
  4. Unconnected people connect easiest when the first step out of the auditorium is familiar.  Listen to very many new attendees at your church and you’ll often learn that just getting up the nerve to come to a weekend service was a real challenge.  I’ve talked with many who’ve told me they drove by many times before they ever pulled into the parking lot.  I’ve had a number tell me they made it to the parking lot more than once and couldn’t get out of their cars.  Want these same people to join a small group?  Better give them a way to attend an on-campus study or small group connection as their first step.  See also, How Would You Rate the First Steps out of Your Auditorium? and How to Calm an Unconnected Person’s Second Greatest Fear.
  5. Unconnected people attend less frequently than connected people.  Have a connecting opportunity coming up?  If you want unconnected people to hear about it, you better keep in mind that promoting the event several weeks in a row is essential.  See also, Why You Must Make the HOST Ask Several Weeks in a Row.

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

Image by Jan Nagalski

Friday’s List | June 2

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:

7 Things That Get Harder As Your Church Grows by Carey Nieuwhof. Things do change and get harder and more complicated.

How to Lead Your Church Through Adversity by Dan Reiland. Always good. This article is no exception.

Become a Master Coach by Skip Prichard. Very interesting and sounds like a great read.

Don’t Take It Personally” Is Terrible Work Advice by Duncan Coombe and HBR. Great read and important since we’re all working on a big thing. HT Tim Stevens.

The Disciple Maker’s Handbook: Seven Elements of a Discipleship Lifestyle by Bobby Harrington and Jost Patrick. Very helpful.

The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace by S. Chris Edmonds. Part of my learning path this year.

Here’s what I’m listening to:

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg in Imperfect is Perfect on the Masters of Scale Podcast. Cool new podcast by Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn.

Doing What Only You Can Do (Part 2) with Andy Stanley on the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast. Great stuff! Here’s part one if you missed that in May.

Lance Witt On What Takes Pastors Out Of Ministry And How To Guard Against It on the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast. Great wisdom. Always listen when Lance Witt is speaking.

Real Artists Don’t Starve (with Jeff Goins) on the Accidental Creative podcast. If you’re a “maker” and make stuff, this is a great listen.

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 wrestling with:

“Values are the written reminder of the only acceptable behaviors in our organization.” S. Chris Edmondson, The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace

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:

To Do List: Start These Projects Before Summer. Now’s the time! Don’t wait until August to get this done!