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Enlist Your Congregation in the Mission with “Life on Mission”

Life on Mission largeHad an opportunity to preview a new church-wide campaign from Tim Harlow (produced by Lifetogether and published by  Life on Mission: God’s People Finding God’s Heart for the World is a 6 week campaign that “offers clear Bible teaching designed to empower you to share your faith with people right in your own neighborhood.”

If you’re not familiar with Tim Harlow, he is the senior pastor of Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park, Illinois, one of the fastest growing churches in America for 7 of the last 10 years.  I had the great privilege of serving on Tim’s staff at Parkview and am so excited that his teaching ended up in a campaign we can all take advantage of!

Taking his cue from Acts 1:8, the teaching centers on the powerful realization that although reaching the world is important, the United States is actually the 4th largest mission field opportunity and God has placed us where we are for a reason.  Based on Tim’s new book by the same title, I love the way the teaching zeroes in on reaching our own Jerusalem.

DVD-driven, the sessions average 14 to 18 minutes in length and feature a combination of Harlow’s very engaging style of teaching, compelling stories from church members, and a collection of short vignettes by Mindy Caliguire, Tom Holladay, Gene Appel, Jud Wilhite, Lee Strobel, Cam Huxford, Kyle Idelman, Cal Jernigan and Alan Hirsch.

The Life on Mission study guide includes a video viewing guide, an engaging set of discussion questions, a section devoted to applying what you’ve learned, and a digging deeper section designed to help those ready to explore the topic further.  Each of the six sessions also includes a short set of daily quiet time experiences.  A good set of leader and group resources are included in the study guide.

The Life on Mission campaign kit also includes a resource disc loaded with downloadable sermons, series artwork, powerpoint slides, and much more.

If you’re looking for a church-wide campaign that will help your whole congregation step into mission, Life on Mission is calling your name.  I found it very compelling and I think you will too!

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 may 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.”

7 Ways to Add Prayer to Your Church-Wide Campaign Preparation

I’ve written about the importance of prayer in your church-wide campaign, but I haven’t let you in on some of the best prayer ideas that I’ve come across.  See also, Note to Self: Don’t Forget to Pray for Your Church-Wide Campaign.

7 ways to add prayer to your campaign preparation:

  1. Challenge your staff and other key leaders to pray daily for the campaign.  This may go without saying, but involving your staff and key leaders (elders, deacons, etc.) in praying daily will be a unifying experience.
  2. Invite your staff and other key leaders to meet together in the morning to pray for the campaign.  I personally experienced the power of this idea while on the staff at Woodlands Church.  In preparation for Easter we would meet before the work day began and pray as a staff team for Easter.
  3. Enlist a prayer coordinator and team to both pray daily for the campaign and create opportunities for your congregation to pray.  Long an ingredient in Saddleback’s campaigns, every church has prayer warriors.  Involve them in the effort.
  4. Provide opportunities for others to join in praying for the campaign.  Whether you collect names on a clipboard, sign-up cards, use a “text to join” strategy, or post a link on your website, opening up engagement beyond your usual suspects will help include new participants.
  5. Challenge all of your current small group leaders and coaches to pray daily for the campaign.  When you’re preparing for a campaign, existing leaders are often overlooked and many times we presume they know what is coming and are planning to join in.  Don’t presume.  Reach out to them.  Use your senior pastor’s influence to cast vision and challenge them to join you in praying.  See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.
  6. Distribute a 7 day prayer guide with every HOST packet.  Here is a simple form I’ve included in new host packets for over 10 years.  I got the idea for this 7 day prayer guide from the 40 Days of Purpose campaign kit.
  7. Incorporate prayer for the campaign in your worship services 2 to 3 months before it begins.  Making the campaign part of your public prayers in your worship services will allow your congregation to catch fleeting glimpses of God’s heart for unconnected people.

Listen.  However you do it, don’t forget to pray for your campaign.  It is a powerful strategy but without God’s involvement it is just a strategy.

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

FAQ: School Starts in August. Shouldn’t Our Fall Campaign Launch in August?

I get a lot of questions.  This question is high on the list of frequently asked questions (FAQs).

The Question:

School starts in mid August in our community.  Shouldn’t our fall church-wide campaign launch when school starts?

Assumptions that drive the question:

  • An attendance surge often coincides with school starting.  “Our congregation is back after taking vacations in June and July.”
  • People often report being too busy to join a group in late September.  “They’ve already arranged their family calendars and commitments before a late September launch of a church-wide campaign.”

My Answer: You probably should not launch in August.  At least not without wrestling through several major questions.  Here are the 4 questions that must be answered:

When will you promote your church-wide campaign?  The most effective campaigns are well promoted.  For example, although Saddleback’s fall campaigns typically begin in late September or early October, it’s not unusual for Rick Warren to begin talking about their fall campaign in late spring.  A successful mid August campaign would need to begin promotion no later than late May or early June.  See also, When Is the Best Time to Launch a Church-Wide Campaign?

Who will lead the new groups you hope to launch?  The most impactful campaigns engage a wave of new small group leaders.  Rather than being content to tap the usual suspects, the HOST strategy is implemented specifically to offer potential leaders an opportunity to put their toes in the water.  A successful mid August campaign would need to begin recruiting group leaders no later than early July.

Who do you hope to connect?  Church-wide campaigns offer the very best opportunity to connect the largest number of unconnected people…provided the campaign is well planned and strategically implemented.  Unconnected people are infrequent attenders and may be attending for the first time in many weeks right when your campaign is launching.  A successful mid August campaign would need to take the traits of unconnected people into consideration.  See also, 5 Things You Need to Know about Connecting Unconnected People.

What is the purpose of your church-wide campaign?  This is a critical question.  Campaigns can unify churches, deepen the prayer life of members, and make stronger disciples.  They can also reach the friends, neighbors, co-workers and family of hosts who invite them to join their group.

  • Note: Attempting to do “all of the above” is a recipe that leads to ineffective campaigns.  Far better to develop a clear objective and design everything around it.
  • Note: Churches that have a clear understanding of their objective (i.e., what they will call success) have the best opportunity to succeed.

My Takeaway: Although I am regularly asked this question, I sincerely believe it is best to follow my 10 Simple Steps to a Great Church-Wide Campaign.

What do you think?  Have a question?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

What To Do Before You Plan Another Church-Wide Campaign

As you might imagine, I talk with church leaders almost every day about church-wide campaigns.  Home runs and whiffs.  What worked and what didn’t work.  What was great and what was absolutely terrible.

If you’re planning a church-wide campaign (or even thinking about planning one), can I give you a short list of things to do first?

Hold an autopsy without blame of your last campaign.  Whatever else you do, don’t plan your next campaign without thoroughly evaluating your last campaign.  That makes it essential to evaluate how it went last time and then make changes in your strategy that reflect your learnings.  See also, Top 10 Reasons Church-Wide Campaigns Miss Their Mark.

Key to Remember:

Albert Einstein was right when he said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.”

Carefully determine what you hope to accomplish with your next campaign.  This is a critical step.  Miss this step and you will almost always be the person that climbs the ladder to the top and then realizes it was leaning against the wrong wall.  What you hope to accomplish should determine the campaign you choose and how you prepare for it.

Some examples of what you hope to accomplish might be:

  • Unify your congregation
  • Connect as many unconnected members and attendees as possible
  • Help your congregation connect with their neighbors
  • Deepen the prayer lives of your congregation
  • Etc.

Key to Remember: It rarely works to choose more than one thing you’d like to accomplish.  Why?  The campaign you choose to unify your congregation or deepen the prayer lives of your congregation won’t be the topic that will appeal to the crowd or community.  See also, Three Keys to Connecting Beyond the Core and Committed and Your Church-Wide Campaign Topic Determines Two Huge Outcomes.

Commit to do the things that make a church-wide campaign a win.  If you choose to do a campaign, commit to doing your campaign the way that will accomplish what you hope to accomplish.

Key to Remember: Like any of the Apollo missions, just a degree or two off course took the rocket on an entirely different trajectory.  Have a destination you hope to reach?  Do the things that lead to a win.  See also, Build Crowd to Core Flow in Advance

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

The Latest on Church-Wide Campaigns (2014)

Saddleback released the 40 Days of Purpose church-wide campaign in 2002.  Although they had previously launched internal spiritual growth campaigns, this one really was a just-add-water option.  Of course, in 2002 it really was just about the only option.

Today, there are lots of options and there are more all the time.  I’ve reviewed many of them and cataloged them here for your convenience.  How to choose?  I’d highly recommend my article, “How to Choose the Right Church-Wide Campaign.”

The Nearly Complete List of Church-Wide Campaigns (as of 4/29/14)

Note: This list is alphabetical.  In most cases, I’ve linked to my own review of the campaign.

Steve Gladen on the Power of HOST Gatherings

steve-gladen-e1328876116556I had a great phone call with Steve Gladen (Saddleback’s Pastor of the Small Group Community) last week, thinking that I’d glean enough to turn around and create an overview of the host rally event.  I was right…I got a ton of great ideas…but there was so much good stuff that I decided to post an edited transcript and a link to my recording of the phone call.
Spoiler Alert: Waaay longer post than normal.  My suggestion, read along while you listen to my recording of the phone call.  Here’s the audio: Steve Gladen on the HOST Gathering.
MH: At Saddleback, you always seem to be working to improve the way you do what you do and the church-wide campaign seems to be no exception.  One aspect that I’m really curious about is the post-campaign host rallyWhy hold a rally?
SG: First off I want to say a couple things.  Our language is more of a “host gathering.”  And we really do two different gatherings.
  • First, we do a gathering prior to the launch and we’ll do this with both our existing hosts, to get them familiar with what we’re trying to do and why we’re trying to do it.  We’ll also do one for brand new hosts and give them an opportunity to get their materials first.
  • On the backside we’ll do another event that is for celebration, Rick will love on them a lot,  and also get them new curriculum for what’s going to happen next.

MH: What are the key ingredients of the rally?  It would be good to know things like how long it is? what’s the program like? with as many hosts as you have do you have more than one time? does each site have their own rally? how are the hosts seated? is it a meal? etc.

There are three main ingredients to the gathering.

  • Appreciation: We want to appreciate and honor long time hosts.  We want to have a prayer time for new hosts and celebrate them.  They’re standing and we all applaud them.  Everybody needs appreciation.  It’s the fuel for motivation and taking next steps.  You have appreciation and then you have vision.
  • Vision casting: This is where Rick comes in and plays a big role.  The other beautiful thing is the he’s very scriptable and is the first one to ask what you need said.  How can I help you. This is about vision casting from the senior leader.  And the other major ingredient is recruitment.
  • Recruitment: A lot of times when you think of recruitment you think of just gathering people that you can bring along with you on the journey, which is very, very true.  But also part of recruitment is mentally getting the hosts into that next phase of what we want them to do.

Pre-rally it is clear, bring somebody with you.  Nobody comes alone.  At our last rally for our new hosts we had 100 to 130 of their invitees in the room sign up to lead groups themselves.  We’ll do the same thing on the post-side.

But also recruitment is getting them to take the next step and continue on.  Part of that is having curriculum available, having our bookstore in full operation and they can buy online or onsite.

MH: So there are three main components.  Appreciating and honoring.  You’re casting vision.  And then recruitment is really more than to the next curriculum or what your group is going to do next.  It has to do with what the leader or the host’s next step might be.

SG: We never miss an opportunity to take people from where they’re at to where we want to take them.  A great thing I haven’t talked about yet is that at our rallies we know that everybody is at a different place in their spiritual journey so we will give hosts an opportunity to step across the line of faith.  Because we engage people who aren’t even followers of Christ yet, as long as they have two friends, we don’t advertise their groups, but if they have two friends, we’re going to engage them and let them be a part of our community.  Rick will clearly say, “And if you haven’t stepped across the line of faith, you need to do it.”  We will also have our baptismal ready, for those that want to make a public declaration and share that with everybody that is there that night.  They can have an opportunity after the gathering to get baptized.  (Here’s a sample of this year’s “My Spiritual Next Steps” commitment card)

The net is somewhat wide in that aspect because we’re always trying to say at everyone of our gatherings we’re saying what is the next step?  Because we do this so wide, we keep the funnel wide at the top, and it narrows as it gets through.  We will meet them where they’re at, they come because of the content, but they stay because of the relationship.

MH: When the post-rally happens, and the campaign is over but the group might not have had their celebration yet, how do you help the people that said, “Yes, I will open my home 6 times” take their next step to a group that will continue?  And the role of your leadership pathway?

SG: In all sales, people need to hear things 7 to 9 times, before they make that little aha, that connection, that actual step through.  So the rally is emphasizing what has been emphasized all along. During a campaign, hosts are getting multiple touches:

  1. One is on the DVD itself we have “helps for hosts,” that are always trying to encourage them to their next steps.  So, about two thirds of the way through the campaign, the helps for hosts are saying, “hey be thinking about your group, what could be your next study?” We’re not asking them to decide whether they’re going to continue or not, we’re asking them to think about their next study.
  2. Also, in the weekly tips that either I send out or Rick sends out, we do the same thing.  We’re saying “be thinking what’s that next step you could do with your friends?  what is that you would want to do?  Here are some great curriculums.  If you’re brand new, here are some other ideas.”
  3. We’ll also have our community leaders that are calling through all of our new groups and trying to do three touches throughout the campaign.  On their second touch, they’re saying, “Hey be thinking about what you can do.”

So when they come to the gathering, whether it’s online or at one or our sites, the powerful thing is that they’re getting that same reinforcement only their call to action is a little more prominent because they’ll have the curriculum there, that they can buy right then and there for their group.  We will have a little more of that pastoral push because both myself who will host it and Rick who will be there will be giving that emphasis to it.”

MH: You guys have a vision about how you develop a host into a leader, how do you help them take the next step from a leadership standpoint?  Is there something in the rally that moves them?

SG: You have to know where the escalator is going.  We are clear and precise on where we want to take them on our leadership pathway.  Inside the pathway you’ve got to have a cognitive arm and a relational arm.  For our relational arm there are community leaders that are coming alongside new hosts.  This is about trust and trust takes time.  There’s also the cognitive arm that is our training that we will do with our group leaders.  Inside the DVD curricula there are guardrails that are set up.

What the gatherings do, they give motivation, they give hope, they give inspiration, they give vision.  When you’re in your group you just need that injection of something bigger than you.  We inject fun.  We inject serious moments.  We inject next steps.  We script our rallies so they have a flow.  They help move people along.  We try to orchestrate a next step for every type of host who will be present, whether they’re brand new, maybe need to respond to Christ, be baptized.  Experienced hosts as well, that they would be able to take a next step.

MH: Any lessons that you’ve learned from previous gatherings?

SG: First, people often come to me and say my pastor isn’t on board yet.  If that’s you, just ask your pastor to come by the gathering and say “hi.”  Make it easy for them.  Also, it’s easier for them to edit than create.  Give them 3 things that they could say and let them shape it.  Think crawl, walk, run.

Also, engage people who are better at creating fun than you are.  Have them work on making it fun.  Find people who are great recruiters and talk about how to get more hosts there.  Get decorators involved.  Think through not only the event but what are they going to walk away with.  Make sure you have a commitment card with next steps for your hosts with the different steps for them to take.  If you just have the gathering and no way to respond, you’ve missed a great opportunity.  (Here’s a sample of this year’s “My Spiritual Next Steps” commitment card)

You’ll Get Through This: A New Church-Wide Campaign from Max Lucado

youll get through thisWorked my way through You’ll Get Through This, a new church-wide campaign from Max Lucado and Thomas Nelson.  You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times is a six session church-wide campaign that features pastor and New York Times best-selling author, Max Lucado and is based on his 2013 book by the same title.

You’ll Get Through This is based on the biblical story of Joseph the favorite son of Jacob.  Knowing that, you can foresee where the campaign’s title comes in.  Joseph’s life, a series of tragic turns-of-events, is perfect for illustrating how God takes the threads of our lives’ troubles and uses them to form a tapestry of good (to use one of Lucado’s phrases).

Anchored by a six session DVD-driven small group study, the DVD features Lucado in his familiar mode as a story-teller.  With the video segments coming in at 22 to 25 minutes, they will hold the attention of most audiences, but they are right on the edge in length.

Each of the study guide sessions include a video teaching note section (designed to help participants capture the principles as Lucado presents them) as well as a straightforward Bible study that will guide groups through the six concepts that make up the series.  A between sessions section is included following each study to help group members personally apply what they’re learning in the study.  In addition, each of the study sessions includes a reference to a reading assignment from Lucado’s book.

Sermon outlines, a campaign starter guide, and templates for bulletin inserts, promotional posters and invite cards are all available for free download at

The campaign’s theme is timely and Lucado’s tone and manner will be received well by most groups.  This will be a very helpful campaign for some congregations.  If you’re looking for a study that will encourage people, you’ll want to take a look at You’ll Get Through This.

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 may 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.”

The Evidence Is In: Rick Warren and Saddleback Are Committed to Small Groups

I’ve written many times about the need for senior pastors to champion small groups.  If you’ve been along for any length of time, you know it’s a frequent rant for me.  See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.

I really believe the #1 reason that Saddleback has so many small groups (and has connected so many people to a small group) is that Rick Warren is a relentless champion.  He never quits on the need for people to be in a small group.  He never delegates the responsibility to be the one to make the challenge.  See also, The Real Reason Saddleback Connects So Many in Small Groups.

Nearly 34 years since founding Saddleback Church he’s just taken advantage of another church-wide campaign to recruit another 2000 small group hosts to connect another huge wave of unconnected people.  Rick Warren is relentless because he knows the power of life-on-life.  He knows that life-change happens in circles…not rows.

Exhibit A: Here’s the text of Rick’s January 17th newsletter to Saddleback attendees:


This weekend I intoduce our revolutionary spiritual growth campaign for 2014. If you participate in a small group, it WILL transform your life for the better. If you don’t form a 50 Day group, I’m certain you’ll later regret missing out on what God intended to bless you with.


Anybody can be a HOST! We’ve proven this over 7,000 times! You just turn on the DVD player at your home or work.

Last weekend, nearly 2,000 brave people took a step of faith and volunteered to host a 50 Day group at work, or in a home. How about you?


The leatherette Life Journals, the seven DVD lessons, and all the other life-changing materials for your group.

As a small group HOST, you have two options for picking up your free kit:

  1. Tonight (Friday, January 17) spend one hour with me and all the other HOSTS during our ALL-CAMPUS HOST GATHERING at our Lake Forest Worship Center at 7:00 p.m.
  2. Or wait in line on the patio this weekend after each service.


I’m going to teach everyone how to use this tool for personal transformation.

The HOSTS always grow the most! You CAN do this! Step out in faith and watch God bless you. Bring a friend this weekend.

Exhibit B: Here’s the text of Saddleback’s January 9th e-newsletter: 

Next weekend, we will begin Pastor Rick’s new small group study, Transformed, and weekend series, 50 Days of Transformation. Learn how real change—lasting change—can actually happen in your life. There’s no better time to become a small group host. Signing up is easy! With you and just two additional people, your group is ready to go. Then join Pastor Rick on January 17 for a special small group host gathering to celebrate the start of the new series and pick up your group materials. Go online to learn more and sign up today!

Read More

You can learn a lot from what Rick has to say.  Is your senior pastor saying anything close to this about small groups?

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

Rick Warren’s Newest Church-Wide Campaign: Transformed: How God Changes Us

transformed campaign kitI had an opportunity over the weekend to preview the newest church-wide campaign from Rick Warren and Saddleback Church.  If I told you I look forward every year to the next campaign from Saddleback…you’d know I was telling you the truth, right?  Listen, Transformed: How God Changes Us is brand new, hot off the presses, and might be just what the doctor ordered for your church.

If the early part of the year is made for turning over a new leaf and a new beginning, Transformed is really well conceived.  Anchored in the apostle Paul’s profound truth in Romans 12:2, this campaign will guide and grow your church by exploring what the Bible has to say about every essential area of our lives: Spiritual, Physical, Mental, Emotional, Relational, Financial, and Vocational.

DVD-driven, Transformed is a 7 session study that accompanies a 7 week message series.  The national launch of the campaign is March 2nd, 2014 (this is actually when it begins at Saddleback).  Like all of Saddleback’s campaigns, this one is the complete package and is a true church-wide campaign with material for the whole family.

The DVD segments are classic Rick Warren.  It’s Rick 2.0, slimmer and the Hawaiian shirt has been replaced by a black t-shirt.  He gives all seven talks seated at a small table on a beautiful patio in southern California.  The talks average 25-35 minutes long.  I’d say for almost anyone else, they’d be a little long, but for Rick Warren, they’re right on target.  Still have to say…he is the master of this style of communication.

The small group study guide now includes a daily journal, the DVD based study guide, Sunday sermon notes, and devotional extras all in one resource. It’s really designed to be a keepsake for your members.  In addition, I noticed several innovative new wrinkles that I know you’ll find helpful (for example, a new section allows members to set 3 month goals for each of the sessions and another includes the complete answer key for the entire DVD).

The campaign starter kit includes many tools to help you customize the campaign specifically for your church. Includes Transformed logos, powerpoint templates, and web banners.

Beginning in March, 2014, there will be a free downloadable Transformed sermon series taught by Pastor Rick Warren.  In addition, a free Easter message, “Easter Changes Everything,” will also be downloadable.

This campaign is fully loaded!  If you’re looking for a theme that will help your congregation build a solid foundation, I can highly recommend Transformed.  I found myself thinking about when I’ll be using it and what it will mean to our congregation (even into the crowd with the right promotion), and I am really looking forward to this one!  I’m thinking it’s right on target!

Great New Men’s Study from Craig Groeschel: Fight: Winning the Battles That Matter Most

fightHad an opportunity over the weekend to check out Fight, a new study for men from Craig Groeschel.  Fight: Winning the Battles That Matter Most is a 5 session, DVD-driven study that I think you’re going to want to take a look at.

Anchored by Groeschel’s dynamic teaching, each of the DVD sessions are about 20 minutes long, on the upper end of today’s attention spans…but still very watchable.  Presented in front of a live audience, there are no punches pulled here.  This is Craig Groeschel at his most direct.

The study guide includes a video viewing guide, a great set of discussion questions (written by long-time Willow Creek veteran Judson Poling), and an individual activity designed to help capture the key takeaway from the session.  A section for personal study is also included for each of the 5 sessions.  Designed to be used in conjunction with Groeschel’s hardback by the same title, each of the personal study assignments contain a few insight generating questions that will take the learnings from the group session deeper.

The reading assignment each week is about 30 pages long. but it is an easy-to-read, very attention grabbing exercise.  Packed with personal stories and illustrations from the life of Samson, possibly the greatest Bible story for men to understand.

Looking for a campaign that will help the men in your church uncover who they really are–men created in the image of God with a warrior’s heart–and learn how to stand up and fight for what is right?  Fight is designed to be used as a church-wide campaign that will do just that.  Additional resources are being added to and including downloadable preaching resources, promotional pieces and samples.

Fight is a great addition to the recommended list for men and men’s small groups.  If you’re looking for material that will resonate with guys…you really need to check this one out.  I like it and I think you will too.

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.”
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