The Truth at the Very Center of What I Do

The Truth at the Very Center of What I Do

I’ve been preparing for this week for months. Monday and Tuesday small group pastors and teams showed up from around the country for GroupLife Southwest ’17. Today and tomorrow the members of my 2017 coaching network are here for 8 hours of intensive work on some of the more challenging aspects of small group ministry.

The arrival of this week forces me into some thinking about the ideas and assumptions that inform and drive the way I do small group ministry.

After many years of working this puzzle there are some irreducible ideas that shape the way I do things. I realized this week that one of them is this statement:

“Whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your groups must happen first in the lives of their leaders.”Whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your groups must happen first in the… Click To Tweet

How is it that that truth is at the heart of what I believe and do?

First, that truth informs leader development. It clearly identifies what must happen to group leaders in order for them to be most effective in their role.

Second, that truth informs the job description and role of a coach. What is at the essence of the role? Here is the big idea:

“Do TO and FOR (and with) the group leaders in your huddle whatever you want your group leaders to do TO and FOR (and with) their members (from the Life Group Coach job description).”

Third, it clarifies how a coach must be developed. Once you know what you want to happen in the lives of the members of your groups, you know with certainty what kind of a person a coach must be and what a coach must be able to do.

Finally, that truth ought to inform what is still needed in my own life. Think about it. Since I am not what I used to be and not yet what I’m going to be (Philippians 3:12-14), the missing attributes in my own life must play some role in the development of coaches and/or leaders and must ultimately play a role in the development of the lives of the members of our groups.

Further Reading:

Image by Jeremy Brooks

Want to Peek into GroupLife Southwest ’17?

Want to Peek into GroupLife Southwest ’17?

GroupLife Southwest ’17 begins this morning! Can’t wait to hear what our speakers have in store.

I wish we were able to stream the conference, but we can’t (at least this year).

But…I plan to livestream on Facebook moments throughout the next two days. If you’ve liked and/or followed me on my page, you’ll be notified when I’m about to be live. Plus…you’ll be able to see the video after it’s ended as well.

Want in? Click here to Like and Follow me right here.

 

 

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 their 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!

Quotebook: Speaking the Last 10 Percent

“Sometimes love must be bold. Bold enough to say things to one another that we usually lack the courage to say. Bill Hybels calls it ‘saying the last 10 percent.’ We will usually say 90 percent of the encouraging words, or 90 percent of the hard-to-hear words of truth, but we usually hold back from the last 10 percent. But that last 10 percent is the part that often makes the most difference.” John Burke, Soul Revolution: How Imperfect People Become All God Intended

Love must be bold enough to say things that we usually lack the courage to say. Bill Hybels calls it ‘saying the last 10 percent.’Love must be bold enough to say things that we usually lack the courage to say. Bill Hybels calls… Click To Tweet

You can read more from my Quotebook right here.

Image by Andreas Bloch