Are you getting the most out of MarkHowellLive.com?

Are you getting the most out of MarkHowellLive.com?

Almost every day I get a question from at least one long-time reader. And very often I get one from a new reader. And as much as I love getting questions, they remind me of the fact that with nearly 2300 articles, there’s a lot here and it’s easy to miss out on much of what is most likely the largest and most comprehensive resource for small group pastors and directors.

Would you indulge me for a moment and let me give you a quick tour? I wouldn’t want you to miss out on anything.

First, if you’re looking for a certain topic (i.e., church-wide campaigns, small group coaching, small group strategy or leader tips), take a look at my category search. You’ll find it on the right sidebar just below my most popular articles.

Second, if you know the title of the article you’re looking for, use the Google search feature at the top of the sidebar to the right. It’s fast and very accurate.

Third, take a moment and look over the Practical Resources I offer. You’ll find a link to them in the menu at the top of the page. Sometimes the easiest way to learn what you need to know is by taking one of my mini-courses or scheduling a coaching call.

Fourth, take a moment and subscribe to my blog.  It’s FREE and you can choose from 3 ways to have the content delivered fresh (by email, RSS, or a weekly digest).  Click here to get started.

Finally, if you’re wondering who I am, need a little more info about what I do, or need to contact me, you can check out my “about page.”

I hope this little guided tour helps you get the most out of MarkHowellLive.com. And if you ever want to ask a question, you can always Email Me. Next to a great question itself, there are few things I enjoy more than answering them!

Plan Your 2018 GroupLife Strategy with These Concepts in Mind

Do you want to connect people no one else is connecting? You know, not just the men and women that are looking for a group but the ones that never seem to respond to ordinary and routine groups campaigns. Not just the same old people that sign up and then don’t show up…but the people who desperately need community but are the last to figure it out.

Want to develop group leaders who truly shepherd their members? Know how to make better disciples? Are inspired to do more than open their home, arrange for a few snacks, and play a video?

Need to identify, recruit and develop a team of coaches who will care for and help group leaders learn to shepherd their members? To make better disciples?

Maybe you need to figure out how to build a rhythm into the year that enables a more productive year. One that has a why behind the what and the how of your groups ministry.

Here is the essence of what I’ve learned about building a thriving small group ministry.

First, if you want to connect people no one else is connecting, you’ve got to do things that no one else is doing

First, if you want to connect people no one else is connecting, you’ve got to do things that no one else is doing (a version of Craig Groeschel’s quote). Simply put, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.

If you want to connect people no one else is connecting, you've got to do things that no one else… Click To Tweet

Want to catch different fish? Try different bait or a new lure. Move to another part of the stream, lake or ocean. Get up earlier or stay out later.

This has everything to do with planning your annual grouplife calendar with a keen awareness of the needs, wants, and motivations of unconnected people.

Second, if you’ve lowered the leader bar in order to increase the number of potential leaders recruited…

Second, if you’ve lowered the leader bar in order to increase the number of potential leaders recruited, you’ll need to raise the bar in terms of the care you provide leaders and the on-the-job training and encouragement you provide.

If you've lowered the leader bar in order to increase the number of potential leaders recruited,… Click To Tweet

Simply put, these two realities are inextricably joined at the hip. They have an inverse relationship. If you do one, you must do the other.

This has everything to do with putting a leader development strategy in motion at the same time you’re trying to connect beyond the usual suspects.

Third, once you have more than 5 to 10 groups you can no longer adequately care for and develop group leaders

Third, once you have more than 5 to 10 groups you can no longer adequately care for and develop group leaders. At least, not in a way that will truly shepherd them and help them learn to make better disciples of their members.

What Jethro told Moses is just as true today as it was on the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. As Carl George wisely pointed out years ago, “everyone needs to be cared for by somebody, but nobody can care for more than (about) 10.”

Everyone needs to be cared for by somebody, but nobody can care for more than (about) 10. Carl… Click To Tweet

Need to know how to do the above?

For starters…let me encourage you to sign up for my FREE upcoming webinar: GroupLife Strategy Call ’18. I’m offering it twice, but it’s filling up fast.

Image by Postscapes

Join Me for GroupLife Strategy Call ’18?

Join Me for GroupLife Strategy Call ’18?

Is your grouplife strategy ready for 2018? It’s coming, you know!

Depending on when you’re reading this…you have less than 7 weeks to get ready for what could be the year you launch more new groups and connect more unconnected people than ever before!

But the clock is ticking. And the calendar is racing toward January.

Ready?

Why not join me for a free 60 minute webinar that will give you the ideas you need to crush 2018?!!

Two great times to choose from:

Monday, November 27th at 10:00 a.m. (PST)

Tuesday, November 28th at 11:00 a.m. (PST)

The good news? The webinar is FREE!

The bad news? I can only offer these times to a very limited number of people.

Want in? The sooner you RSVP the better!

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Day and Time

Image by Dafne Cholet

Friday’s List | November 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:

Sean Parker on Facebook’s Brain Hacking by Cal Newport on the Study Hacks blog.

Leading Effectively When You Inherit a Mess by Ron Carucci on HBR. Great article and very applicable to many of us. HT @LeadNet.

5 Signs Your Insecurity Is Ruining The Future by Carey Nieuwhof. A great article to check your spirit agains.

7 Practical Indicators of Good Leadership Character by Dan Reiland. Very challenging and an essential read for leaders.

Is Execution Where Good Strategies Go to Die? by Mark Bonchek on HBR. Great article about the strategy-execution gap and how to close it. HT Todd Engstrom.

The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company by Ram Charan. This book was referred to several times in Designed to Lead by Geiger and Peck.

Here’s what I’m listening to:

Jocko Willink—The Discipline Advantage on the EntreLeadership Podcast. If you’ve ever heard Jocko Willink, you know this will be a good conversation. If not…you need to hear this one.

Uniquely Better – Part One by Andy Stanley on the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast. As usual, as very sharp idea is the foundation for this talk.

3 Questions For Anticipatory Leaders by Craig Groeschel on the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast. As you know, I love a good question and there are three great questions here. This one is worth listening to again. And again.

Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team by Simon Sinek, David Mead and Peter Docker. This takes Sinek’s teaching in his first book and helps with application. Very powerful stuff!

All the Earth by The Belonging Co. So good! Wait until you hear Peace Be Still.

Quotes I’m wrestling with:

“The man who knows ‘how’ will always have a job. The man who knows ‘why’ will always be his boss.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

My own post I hope you’re reading:

3 Important Learnings from Bring Life (our 2017 fall campaign)

Whenever we do anything, we plan on the front end and evaluate on the back end. Here are three insights from our most recent church-wide campaign.

 

Thinking Thursday: Take “The Other” to Lunch

“There’s an angry divisive tension in the air that threatens to make modern politics impossible. Elizabeth Lesser explores the two sides of human nature within us (call them “the mystic” and “the warrior”) that can be harnessed to elevate the way we treat each other. She shares a simple way to begin real dialogue — by going to lunch with someone who doesn’t agree with you, and asking them three questions to find out what’s really in their hearts.” (from the TED synopsis)

Can’t see the video? Click here to watch it on TED.com.

See the rest of my Thinking Thursday series right here.

If I Was Starting Today…Part 7

(This is part 7 of a 7 part series.  You can read part 1 right here)

If I was starting over and knew then what I know now…I’d take advantage of the central role of the senior pastor. This is a huge concept and absolutely explains a key difference between churches that with groups and churches of groups (see my series. The Top 10 Fantasies of Church WITH Groups). If you are the senior pastor, you need to understand this concept. If you aren’t, you need to understand it and then make sure your senior pastor gets it. Without this step…groups will never be pervasive.  Why?  Read on…

Senior Pastor as Champion: The Big Idea

For groups to be pervasive in your church (a church “of” as opposed to “with”) your senior pastor needs to become your small group champion. I’m not saying they need to do the the dirty work. Organization, planning, training, etc. can all be done by other staff members or even key volunteers. But if the senior pastor isn’t the lead spokesperson…you’ll have limited success. Why? In most churches the senior pastor is the most influential person. When they speak, people listen. When anyone else walks up (announcements, etc.) listening and engagement immediately decrease.

The best example right now is the way Saddleback uses Rick Warren as the key spokesperson for group life (all of their teaching pastors play the role very well). You’ll hear about groups in announcements and in the printed material as well, but it’s a very rare week when you don’t hear about them in the message.

How to Implement the Big Idea

  1. Champion community regularly: Every worship service is an opportunity to talk about the importance of community. As messages are prepared, take advantage of any illustration that could refer to small groups or the power of community. Use testimonies (live or video) whenever possible. Most sermon topics can find application in group life (encouragement, accountability, support, challenge).
  2. Cast vision broadly: In addition to the weekend message, take advantage of your website, newsletter, all church e-newsletter, scrolling slides before the service begins, Small Group Table in the lobby with a stand-up poster featuring a short blurb by your senior pastor (“I can’t imagine trying to ‘do life alone.'”).
  3. Coordinate messages and themes throughout the year: Although you can insert small group stories and testimonies in most messages, featuring the importance of community at strategic times is important. Late September/Early October is a key time to think alignment (weekend message series combined with small group curriculum). Another great time is end of January/early February.
  4. Call to action: Using a “call to action” gives an easy way to respond. Make it easy to find a group (use a web application like Churchteams) or even a list of groups at the table in the lobby. Be sure you’re staffing the table or booth with friendly, knowledgeable people (especially friendly people who are looking for members in their own group!). E-newsletter articles by your senior pastor with active links into your small group finder are another way to provide a call to action.

The key to this whole concept is for your senior pastor to use every opportunity to champion group life. Day to day ministry leadership can be delegated to the small group pastor. Big picture vision and communication cannot be given away.

Further Reading:

Dear Senior Pastor…

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

Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church of Groups

Image by Brett Wood

FAQ: What about leaders that don’t do what we want them to do?

I get questions. In fact, I get a LOT of questions. Sometimes they come directly to me via email or a comment here on the blog. Other times they come to me via a Facebook post or some other indirect route.

Here’s one I get fairly often, even frequently. I get you’ve asked or wondered a version of this one:

What do you do if group leaders are not consistently meeting or struggling with their group members showing up? How do you hold them accountable?

Sound familiar?

I thought so.

Here’s my answer:

Actually, here’s the way I answered the question.

The first thing I did was ask another question. Here’s the question I asked:

How did they become leaders? How did their group begin (i.e., where did their members come from)?

Do you know why I asked that question?

I asked that question because the situation is almost always the result of the design being used. In this case it turns out that:

  1. Prospective leaders (who were currently members in groups) were called and invited to consider leading a new group.
  2. These prospective leaders were given the group leader covenant and a full explanation of what it means to be a group leader. They were also asked to commit to lead the new group for three quarters.
  3. Those that agreed to the covenant were invited to host tables outside the auditorium for 2 to 3 weeks, taking sign-ups from prospective group members. The prospective group members were committing to one quarter.

Remember, I believe Andy Stanley is correct and that “your system is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.”

Now, here’s my answer:

Newly recruited prospective leaders whose members are assigned to them (or who join the group at a groups fair or event), are often in a precarious position. When prospective group members sign up to attend a new group a lot can change in between signing up and showing up. Can it work? Absolutely. This is essentially an element of the strategy used by North Coast and others who use the semester system.

Keep in mind that showing up at a stranger’s home for the first meeting is not easy for unconnected people taking a first step toward community. To lessen the degree of uncertainty, it is advisable to train the new leaders well to follow up immediately after sign-up and put several elements into motion. See my handout, The ABCs of a Great First Meeting.

One of the real advantages of an event like a small group connection or North Point’s GroupLink is that the newly formed group gathers first on-campus and spends enough time with the leader and other members of the group to help overcome their fears of showing up at a stranger’s house. See also, How to Launch New Groups with a Small Group Connection and North Point’s Small Group System.

My answer to the accountability question:

Regarding how we hold group leaders accountable, we do everything we can to start healthy groups and then do everything we can to help them make it into the 3rd study, but we also know that not every group makes it. When we end up with potential leaders that can’t hold their group together, we don’t feel bad or make them feel bad. In our case we just invite them back to the next small group connection. I joke that I am a Darwinist and okay when a group doesn’t make it.
I’d suggest you do a serious autopsy/diagnosis on why their groups aren’t meeting. Ask questions. Do a little investigation. You may find that their results are a reflection of the strategy’s design, In which case, you’ll need a different design.

Further Reading:

The Best Training for Small Group Leaders

FAQ: How Are You Training New Leaders These Days?

What Can I “Require” of My Small Group Leaders?

From Here to There: The Preferred Future for Small Group Leaders

3 Important Learnings from Bring Life (our 2017 fall campaign)

This year we produced Bring Life, a 7 week church-wide campaign at Canyon Ridge. We produced our own video content and also wrote the study guide and a 40 day devotional (we combined the two in a 160 page book).

It wasn’t the first campaign we’ve produced. We produced campaigns in 2012 and 2013 (and Canyon Ridge already had a couple under their belt prior to my arrival). In addition, I’ve produced campaigns at several churches prior to joining the team here.

It’s against that backdrop that this year’s learnings stand out. And what I learned may not seem significant, but I think 2017 will turn out to be the fork in the road I’ve been watching for.

2017 Learnings from Bring Life:

The most powerful learning has to do with two questions that were inserted into the rhythm of expected, usual suspect questions in the small group Bible study. I’ve been writing Bible studies for 20 years. It’s not the part of my role that I enjoy but I’m a student and I’ve learned a lot over the years.

This year we inserted a couple questions that were versions of Discovery Bible Study questions. I began learning about Discovery Bible Study when I met a former staff member from Canyon Ridge now serving in Asia. This style of Bible study is the essence of his strategy. And it has a fascinating wrinkle that when inserted into the kind of study I’m used to writing (i.e., different things happen).

The first question we added was simply the inclusion of an “I will” statement to be written at the end of each Bible study session.

Example from session one of Bring Life

Here are the last two questions from session one:

Q8: What will you do this week to begin to use your gifts, skills, interests and abilities at Canyon Ridge?

Don’t end your meeting without making a plan and commitment for how you will use your gifts and talents regularly with other believers.

Complete this sentence: To be a life-bringer at church, I will __________________________________________________________________

The second question we added was a check-in question each week that asked for participants to report in on how they did with their “I will” statement from the week before.

Example from session two of Bring Life

Here is the first question from session two:

Q1: Did you do what you committed to do last week? How did it go? Did you learn anything?

Other learnings include the following:

The importance of developing and providing digital versions of both video and print content. The number of group leaders and hosts picking up their materials already streaming video content as the norm was significant. While not a clear majority, it was noticeably increased over previous years,

In addition, there were many requests for a digital version of the study guide and devotional.

Although we did upload the video content to our RightNow Media account (so our groups and hosts could stream it, we also added the video segments and group study guide to a newly created page on the Canyon Ridge website. This addition made it easier for online campus participants around the world to access much of the content.

Keeping our messaging crisp is a never ending task during campaign season. We did a great job beginning weekend promotion of Bring Life back in June and July (primarily as mentions in weekend messages).

I allowed a lack of focus by not enforcing single message clarity beginning in August. As you know if you follow my church-wide campaign strategy, I encourage careful promotion of one strategic move each weekend beginning in August (i.e., the first three weekends focusing on recruiting HOSTs and the next three weekends focusing on recruiting small group connection signups).

This very big strategic mistakes led to smaller numbers than hoped for in both HOST signup and small group connection signups.

Further Reading:

10 Simple Steps to a Great Church-Wide Campaign

Top 10 Reasons Church-Wide Campaigns Miss the Mark

Behind the Scenes: Preparing for a Church-Wide Campaign

How to Maximize Your Church-Wide Campaign

 

Friday’s List | November 3

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:

4 Ways to Get Better at Deferred Gratification by Michael Hyatt. I don’t know about you, but I’m very determined and can hold out for delayed gratification. But I can always get better. And this article will help.

5 Signs Your Passion Level In Leadership Is White Hot by Carey Nieuwhof. This includes some great insights that are a kind of self-test.

Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck. Just finished re-reading this one. So good and very helpful. If you are involved in leadership development, this is a must read.

Here’s what I’m listening to:

Jocko Willink—The Discipline Advantage on the EntreLeadership Podcast. If you’ve ever heard Jocko Willink, you know this will be a good conversation. If not…you need to hear this one.

Allyson Evans On Life Church’s Approach To Reaching Families, Unbelievable Growth, Hard Decisions And Leveling The Next Gen Playing Field on the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast. Very interesting!

Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team by Simon Sinek, David Mead and Peter Docker. This takes Sinek’s teaching in his first book and helps with application. Very powerful stuff!

Quotes I’m wrestling with:

“If every member of a team doesn’t grow together, they will grow apart.” Simon Sinek

My own post I hope you’re reading:

THE LATEST ON CHURCH-WIDE CAMPAIGNS – 2017

I revise this list every 18 months or so. If you’re involved in small group ministry you need to stay up to date on what is available and happening in this space.

 

Ray Dalio on Building a Company Where the Best Ideas Win

What if you knew what your coworkers really thought about you and what they were really like? Ray Dalio makes the business case for using radical transparency and algorithmic decision-making to create an idea meritocracy where people can speak up and say what they really think — even calling out the boss is fair game. Learn more about how these strategies helped Dalio create one of the world’s most successful hedge funds and how you might harness the power of data-driven group decision-making.


This is a fascinating idea! We may not have the technological capabilities to make it work in our setting, but the concept is brilliant and can be applied on most of our teams.


Can’t see the video? Click here to watch it on TED.com.

See the rest of my Thinking Thursday series right here.