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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 SmallGroupSource.com/campaign/youll-get-through-this-by-max-lucado/.

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:

IT’S FINALLY HERE!

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.

IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO GET A COUPLE FRIENDS AND START A 50 DAY STUDY GROUP!

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?

AS A HOST, YOU’LL RECEIVE THE ENTIRE KIT FREE:

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.

BRING YOUR LEATHERETTE WORKBOOK TO CHURCH THIS WEEKEND!

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 www.fightthebook.com and www.open.lifechurch.tv 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.”

All In: You Are One Decision Away from a Completely Different Life

all in dvdHad an opportunity this week to preview All In: You Are One Decision Away from a Completely Different Life, a new DVD-driven study by Mark Batterson.  Batterson, the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington D.C. is no stranger to developing creative resources to help small groups take bold steps together.  The Circle Maker and The God Anthology, two earlier projects, were both well received.

Anchored by a four session DVD, Batterson lets us know in the opening moments that All In isn’t designed to comfort the comfortable.  If you’re looking for a study that will challenge your members to new levels of commitment, this study fits the bill.  I was captivated by a few of the opening lines that reflect the spirit of the study:

“When did we start believing that God wants to send us to safe places to do easy things? Jesus didn’t die to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous. The will of God is not an insurance plan; it’s a daring plan. It’s time to quit living as if the purpose of your life is to arrive safely at death.”

Developed with Bible study veterans Kevin and Sherry Harney, each of the four sessions in the study guide include a video viewing guide (for taking notes during the video), a great set of discussion questions packed with scripture and designed to lead to application, as well as a very helpful guided prayer exercise.  The study guide also includes Between Sessions material for personal reflections, personal actions and journal reflections and notes.

All In has the potential to be a powerful church-wide campaign.  An available All In Campaign Kit includes a copy of the tradebook by the same title and a very simple campaign starter guide.  Additional free resources (sermon transcripts along with templates for posters, invite cards and bulletin inserts) are available online at Zondervan’s Small Group Source site.

Whether you’re looking for a DVD-driven study that will challenge your small groups to truly follow Christ or you’re on the hunt for a church-wide campaign that will move your church in a new direction…All In ought to be on your short-list.

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 5 January/February Church-Wide Campaigns for 2014

I’ve written previously about the three best times to launch a church-wide campaign.  As you probably know, January has a very different vibe than September.  There are a couple main themes that make late January/early February a great opportunity to leverage a church-wide campaign to provide a toe-in-the-water for unconnected people.  See also, When Is the Best Time to Launch a Church-Wide Campaign and Your Campaign Topic Determines Two Huge Outcomes.

The two main themes seem to be:

  • Turn over a new leaf.  You can see how this theme fits at this time of year.  Christmas Eve services draw people who know that next year has to be better.  They’re maxed out on their 3rd credit card.  They’ve been hustling to get everything done, including hauling their kids to every party.  They’ve eaten poorly for the whole month of December and haven’t been to the gym in 45 days.  If there was ever a time to turn over a new leaf…it’s now.
  • Build a solid foundation.  Slightly different than turn over a new leaf, build a solid foundation is about establishing the kind of foundation that can help you become the kind of person God designed you to be.  This is a reference to sand vs rock.

Here are my top 5* picks for January/February Church-Wide Campaigns (*I included a 6th campaign, just too good to pass up!)

let hope in

Let Hope In is an easy fit for the turn over a new leaf theme.  Based on Pete Wilson’s newest book, this study is extremely cross-cultural, the book is extremely readable, the study very accessible (even for a brand new host).  The topic is just about spot-on.

Wilson, founding and senior pastor of Nashville’s Cross Point Church, is no stranger crafting topics that appeal cross-culturally (to both believers and seekers).  His previous studies, Plan B and Empty Promises were two great examples of studies that caught the attention of people who needed to turn over a new leaf.

Available beginning in late 2013 as part of LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life series, Let Hope In provides everything you need to launch a true church-wide campaign.  Study materials for kids, teens and adults, as well as sermon outlines, marketing ideas, etc.  In addition, I was excited about Pete’s recent post and offer to provide additional resources.  You can read about that right here.

If you’re looking for a turn over a new leaf study, Let Hope In could be just the ticket.

what on earth am i here forAnother very good turn over a new leaf candidate is Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Purpose (retitled, What On Earth Am I Here For?).  Cross-cultural on steroids, everyone, no matter their culture wonders if there’s more to life; if they have a purpose.  When 40 Days launched for the first time in 2004, it unleashed a tidal wave that swept through 30,000+ churches over several years.

Now in its 3rd major version, the study guide and DVD have been given a complete overhaul.  It was featured on Oprah’s Life Class in the summer of 2013.  Millions of people know who Rick Warren is.  Even if your church has done this study in the last 10 years, it might be the perfect time to revisit this classic study.

Available materials for kids, teens and adults, there are sermon outlines, marketing ideas, and much more.

If you’re looking for a turn over a new leaf topic, finding my purpose in life is very near the top of the list!  If you’re looking for an easy invite for neighbors and friends, how about, “We’re studying the Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren for the next 6 weeks.  Want to join us?”  You can read my full review right here.

weirdNow almost 3 years old, Craig Groeschel’s WEiRD: Because Normal Isn’t Working is another great fit for the turn over a new leaf theme.  Inspired by Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:13-14 and the central idea that the “broad road leads to destruction” (normal) and the “narrow road” leads to life (weird), the study takes a look at a set of topics that will make sense to Christians and non-Christians alike (making WEIRD a very compelling option for a church-wide campaign).

One of the Church’s most dynamic and creative communicators, Craig Groeschel’s practice of looking right at the camera while preaching (making it easy for participants in one of 15 campuses and a  growing number of LifeChurch.TV Network churches around the world who use the teaching video).  The DVD is very compelling.

You can find some of LifeChurch.TV’s collateral resources on their Open site (which, if you have not yet discovered it, it is a goldmine!).

You can read my full review right here.

40 days in the wordIf your church needs to build a solid foundation, there might not be a better choice right now than Saddleback’s 40 Days in the Word.  Released in 2012, it’s truly a church-wide study.  With special curriculum for children  and messages for junior high and senior high students, 40 Days in the Word is designed to be done system wide.  Adults, teens and children, whole families, can be part of a single conversation; a powerful combination.

Like Saddleback’s previous campaigns, 40 Days in the Word is designed to leverage the power of alignment. With daily video devotionals, DVD-driven small group curriculum, weekend service sermon outlines and other resources, this is an immersive experience.

There’s a lot to love about this church-wide campaign.  Easy to use, plug and play material.  Components that will help you engage your whole congregation.  Resources that make it easy to deliver a powerful weekend service experience.  A step-by-step guide that will take you from start to finish.  This is good stuff!  40 Days in the Word will help your members love the word, learn the word, and live the word.  You can read my full review right here.

follow meAre you truly a follower of Jesus?  That is the central question of Follow Me, and takes the idea of a church-wide campaign way beyond building a solid foundation.  Although this topic won’t be the best campaign topic for every church, it may be perfect for yours.

Anchored by a six session DVD, each of the sessions are classic David Platt.  Great teaching.  Very passionate.  Packed with biblical content.  And…each of the sessions is about 30 minutes in length (which would be a little long for the average attention span, but for Platt’s very compelling intensity).

An available Follow Me Church Kit, as well as Student and Preteen study materials make it possible to do Follow Me as a church-wide campaign. In addition to copies of the Student and Preteen Member books, the Follow Me Church Kit includes an administration guide, sermon outlines, and digital art files for a promotional poster, bulletin inserts, presentation slides, and more.

You can read my full review right here.

The StoryBonus:  There are church-wide campaigns and then there are church-wide campaigns.  That is, some campaigns are bare bones and only include a small group study for adults and outlines of the weekend message series.  Others (like 40 Days of Purpose) are very robust, providing the full range of curriculum (from Preschool Children all the way to the adult small group study) along with a book or devotional (like The Purpose Driven Life) and weekend service resources, as well as detailed implementation guidance.

The Story, a new church-wide campaign from Zondervan has a lot going for it.  There are a number of great aspects that deserve mention.  There are also a couple things that should be pointed out and taken into consideration.

First, this is a 31 week experience.  That is not a typo!  31 weeks.  And as you know, anything longer than about 6 weeks is seen as a major commitment by unconnected people.  That’s the downside.  The upside is that The Story is just about a perfect way to expose an entire congregation to the amazing, interconnected and immersive experience that is the Bible.

Second, The Story is available in formats for kids, teens, and adults.  Truly church-wide.  And that’s a very good thing.  You can read my full review right here.

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.”

Don’t Miss Pete Wilson’s Latest: Let Hope In

let hope inThere are some books you hear about early and you just know they’re going to be very important.  Pete Wilson’s newest is that kind of book.  Let Hope In: 4 Choices That Will Change Your Life Forever is just about perfectly timed to have a very big impact (be sure and take a look at the church-wide campaign option).

Wilson, the lead pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, is both a gifted writer and an insightful anthropologist/sociologist; like one of the men of Issachar, able to understand the times.  Although deeply biblical, Let Hope In wrestles with a topic and presents it in a way that is cross-cultural and will inspire and move both Christ followers and their neighbors.

Written in an easy, conversational style, Let Hope In is a book that will end up being read by many.  Pete’s personal stories and examples build a kind of familiarity that leave you with the sense that you’re really just talking with a friend, listening to his wisdom as he lays out a life-altering point of view; a very wise pathway.

The four choices are powerfully simple and absolutely transformational:

  • Choosing to transform instead of transfer
  • Choosing to be okay with not being okay
  • Choosing to trust rather than please
  • Choosing to free people rather than hurt them

Like Pete’s other books (Plan B and Empty Promises), Let Hope In is both deeply personal and aggravatingly practical.  It is the kind of book that is a page-turner.  You’ll be quickly caught up in the stories and freshly rendered biblical accounts.  Let Hope In is also the kind of book that leads you over and over again to now obvious conclusions.  The four choices lead to “the grace of release from where you have been so you can receive what God has for you now.”

Let Hope In is a powerful book.  I think it’s going to be the book that many, many people point to as the instrument God used to give them hope for the very first time.  I’m thinking about who I know that need to read it.  I’m rereading it already.  It’s that kind of book.

P.S. Making Let Hope In a great church-wide campaign option, a six-session DVD-enhanced study based on Let Hope In releases in December, 2013.  You can learn about it right here.

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. In addition, I am a small group specialist for LifeWay. 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.”

Launch Your Church-Wide Campaign with the End in Mind

Launching a church-wide campaign this fall?  You may have your hands full already, but right now is the perfect time to prepare for what’s next!  In fact, what you do right now has a lot to do with whether your campaign is a success…or not. Here are two keys to sustaining your newest groups: First, choose a small group study to recommend to groups that want to continue.  In my experience, two important details determine how many of your new groups continue.  Providing a coach or mentor to walk alongside new leaders is one.  Providing a study to do next that is similar in kind to the launching study is the other.  Let me point out:

  • Don’t let the fact that your new leaders only made a 6 week commitment dissuade you from recommending a follow-up.  Many new group members will begin asking if there is anything after this in about week 3 or 4.
  • Don’t wait until the campaign is over.  Begin talking about what’s next in week 3 or 4 of the launching study.
  • Choose one (1) study for your new groups to use.  They’re not strong enough yet to survive a vote.  You make the choice.
  • It must be similar in kind.  That is, if you launch with a DVD-driven study, give them another study like it.  If it required minimal preparation, give them another study like it.  Switching formats is hard for new leaders.

See also, What’s Next?  When (and how) to Promote the Next Curriculum. Second, take a look at the calendar and pre-plan your holiday approach.  I know it seems early.  It’s only a few days after Labor Day!  But now is the time to think about how you’ll help your newest groups navigate and survive the holidays.

  • It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s important to help your new groups start a next study before they break for the holidays even if they can’t finish it.  In fact, starting a new study and breaking part way through may actually be an incentive to meet again early in January.
  • Depending on when their first study ends, it should be possible to meet 2 or 3 more times before the week of Thanksgiving.
  • Help them meet at least one more time after Thanksgiving.  They can either do another session of their study or simply meet for a Christmas party.  Either way, an important ingredient of this final meeting of the year is to pull out calendars and set their next meeting date.
  • Helping your new groups find a way to serve together in December is another very helpful ingredient.  Whether they serve as greeters at a Christmas Eve service, help serve a meal at a homeless shelter, or simply go caroling at a local convalescent hospital or retirement home, spending time together will help solidify newly formed connections.

See also, Four Steps That Help Groups Survive the Holidays.

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

Note to Self: Don’t Forget to Pray for Your Church-Wide Campaign

You’ve done everything you could to ensure that you’re ready for a powerful church-wide campaign.

  • You’ve carefully prepared, planning the weeks leading up to the campaign, the campaign itself, and the series that follows.
  • You’ve chosen a great series for the campaign.
  • You’ve recruited coaches to help sustain as many new groups as possible.

Can I remind you about a very important step?  Don’t forget to pray!  Don’t forget to pray for your senior pastor.  Don’t forget to pray for God’s protection on the leadership of your church.  Don’t forget to pray for every new host that will be recruited.  Don’t forget to pray for every new small group member that will be invited.

Who should be praying for your campaign?  Everyone!  Your staff should be praying every day.  Your elders or deacons ought to be praying every day.  If you have a prayer ministry, invite them to pray for the campaign and recruit others to join them.  Your existing small group leaders…ought to be praying every day.

I want to urge you to consider one more level of prayer.  I want to urge you to consider adding a 7 day prayer guide to your new host packet (that you’ll distribute at your host orientation).  Teach your new hosts to pray every day during the week before your launch.  Give them a 7 day prayer guide that will help your new leaders know what to do.

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.

If you’re like me, you get so caught up in the practical preparation for the campaign.  Don’t miss this key step!  Don’t miss what only God can do!

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