Life.Church’s Open Network is a Powerful Resource…and it’s FREE

Life.Church’s Open Network is a Powerful Resource…and it’s FREE

Yesterday I posted an update about Anthology,  North Point’s FREE resource,

Today, I want to make sure you know about Life.Church’s Open Network resource. Although it’s been open (see what I did there?) for several years now, there’s a good chance you’ve missed out on all the Open Network offers.

First, it is a great FREE source for small group curriculum. While not as extensive as Anthology, it has plenty of great portable content that will serve your small group ministry.

Second, you’ll find content for way more than just small groups. Open Network includes content for Kids, Youth, Worship, Leadership, Messages, etc. A very extensive collection.

Third, there are some really good leadership development resources in Open Network. Seriously, if you’ve checked out what they share for FREE you need to spend some time there ASAP. So good! Very usable as is, or use as a model for something you create.

Fourth, Open Network also includes FREE access to a great set of Apps. You probably know that Life.Church developed the YouVersion Bible App. But did you know they a growing line of other cool apps? For example, DEVELOP.ME transforms your staff (or volunteer) performance review cycle into year-round growth and collaboration.

Finally, Open Network actually features more than just Life.Church content. Elevation, Hillsong, Willow Creek Association and others have begun sharing their content there, as well.

If Open Network is new to you, take some time to check it out. Your ministry will be enriched by what you find there. And, if it’s been awhile since you’ve looked around in the Open Network, you owe it to yourself to take another look.

So good! Don’t miss it!

Anthology: A FREE Resource from North Point Ministries You Need to Know About

Anthology: A FREE Resource from North Point Ministries

If you’re looking for ways to resource your small group leaders, North Point Ministries Anthology: Group Studies for Life & Faith needs to be on your radar.

Have you already checked it out? Good for you! Are you using it? Hopefully! (Even if you already know about it and are already using it…keep reading for a couple out of the box ways to use Anthology).

I like Anthology for several reasons (and I think you will too):

First, it provides an easy way to provide great content for groups and group leaders that is easy to access. The included studies can be viewed on your TV, computer or mobile device. Easy to view just about anywhere by downloading the Anthology app.

Second, the content library is extensive and it’s easy to find the right topic. Studies are grouped into predictable categories (i.e., Beginning a Group, Career, Christianity, Faith, For Men, For Women, Hard Times, etc.).

Third, the video content features Andy Stanley, Jeff Henderson, and other North Point Ministries communicators. You can be sure the included content is both engaging and biblically solid.

Finally, the video content is FREE! Yes, in most cases group members will still want to purchase the companion study guide (available on Amazon), but the video itself is free.

Don’t Miss These Additional Ways to Use Anthology

There are two additional ways to take advantage of Anthology.

First, some of the studies found on Anthology can easily be used as church-wide campaigns. For example, everything you need to turn What Makes You Happy into a church-wide campaign is available for purchase on North Point Resources (I chose Happy as one of my Top 5 Church-Wide Campaigns for 2018). Happy has a series planning kit, the sermon intro video, and a sermon prep kit.

Second, some of the studies found on Anthology can also be accessed via specially created series websites, making the discussion questions free. It might take you a little effort to locate what you need (and not all of them are available this way), but worth it to check out. For example, one of my favorite studies is In The Meantime, available on Anthology and it’s own website.

Further Reading:

Top 5 Church-Wide Campaigns for 2018

New from Tony Evans – Add Detours to Your Recommended List

I spent some time this week with Detours: Lessons from Joseph: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny, the newest study from Tony Evans. Evans, has been the Senior Pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship for close to four decades and is one of America’s most dynamic preachers.

A six session study, Detours uses the epic faith, life, and career of Joseph to “teach that God is more interested in your development than your arrival.” One of the great Old Testament stories, Joseph’s story is one that wrestles with a cross-cultural topic that many people are interested in: Destiny and Purpose.

Filmed live, the DVD segments capture Dr. Evans’ signature energy and style.  At an average length of 25 to 30 minutes, Dr. Evans intensity and the strength of his content will hold your members’ attention.

The Bible study book includes a well-written set of opening questions designed to help members engage in the discussion.  A viewer guide makes it easy to follow the Dr. Evans’ teaching.  Each of the sessions conclude with a carefully designed set of discussion questions that will help members respond to what they have learned and experienced.

Each session in the Bible study book also includes a set of five daily devotional studies that will help deepen your members’ understanding and expand application.

The leader kit also includes a copy of Dr. Evans’ book by the same title.  Members that desire a deeper understanding may decide to read the book in addition to completing the weekly devotionals.

A simple set of tips for leading are included in the Bible study book, making them available for every participant.

Detours covers a cross-cultural topic that most people are interested in: Destiny and Purpose. Add it to your recommended list and watch what happens!

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.”

Add “You Are Free” to Your Recommended List (New from Rebekah Lyons)

Next up on my stack of small group studies to review is You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are, a new study for women by Rebekah Lyons. Lyons is probably best known as the co-founder of Q Ideas (with her husband Gabe), a non-profit that convenes and equips Christians to influence culture. She’s also a best-selling author and I think with You Are Free will become best known for that.

(From the cover) You Are Free will help you:

  • Overcome the exhaustion of meeting others expectations and rest in the joy of God’s freedom.
  • Release stress and anxiety to uncover the peace that comes from abiding in God’s presence.
  • Find permission to grieve past disappointments and find strength in your journey toward healing.
  • Throw off self-condemnation, masks of perfection, and step boldly into God’s purpose for you.
  • Discover the courage to begin again and use your newfound freedom to set others free.

A DVD-driven study, You Are Free features Rebekah Lyon’s teaching in 6 video segments. Teaching, though, I think gives the wrong idea. The DVD segments really have the feel that you’re listening to a new friend spill her guts and be completely honest about something very personal that radically changed her life. If this is your first time to read her books or hear her speak, your experience will begin like new friendships always do: just a little awkward, for about 2 or 3 minutes. And then by the end session one you begin to feel that you’ve always known her and can’t wait to hear more.

The study guide (written with Annie Downs) includes many of the elements that are now customary. A fairly robust video viewing guide (complete with notes and quotes that will help you follow along. A set of well-written discussion questions. An individual activity (becoming more and more common) that will help members immediately apply the teaching. Also included in the study guide is a personal study to be completed between sessions. The personal study will take some investment, but with a little discipline will deliver a big payoff every week.

Based on Lyons’ best-selling book by the same title, there are recommended readings every week (helpful, but not essential).

This is a powerful study. If you’re looking for a study that will resonate with women who don’t yet have it all together (and who isn’t?), please take a look at You Are Free. I highly recommend it!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I 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.”

Add We Saved You a Seat to Your Recommended List

Spent some time with We Saved You a Seat: Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships,  a new study by Lisa-Jo Baker.

As you should be able to tell by the title, this study is designed from the outset as something more than understanding friendship. It really is designed to help members get past the barriers that limit friendship.

7 sessions, We Saved You a Seat is a DVD-driven study. Each session is anchored by a short video segment (about 20 minutes long). Different than any other study I’ve reviewed, it’s not a talking head. This one actually features a conversation between a group of friends in a women’s small group that perfectly sets up a great conversation about friendship.

Special Note: This study is featured as LifeWay’s summer Bible study for women and the videos are currently available for viewing free (at least at the time of this review).

The Bible Study book is easy to use and crammed full of some good stuff. The content is delivered at a really good, very appropriate level. Each of the 7 sessions feature a viewer guide with a short set of discussion questions. I like the questions and you will too if you’re looking for a simple study that can be a first step for unconnected women. Don’t be fooled by the simple questions, though. These questions will help a brand new group get off to a great start.

Also included in the Bible Study book is a set of three days of personal study that will help group members dive in a little deeper at their own pace. Even the newest newbie will be able to work their way through it, and more experienced members will get a lot out it as well.

A simple Leader’s Guide is included in the Bible Study book and will help leader’s with a little coaching about making the discussion better.

If you’re looking for a good intro level study that will help Bible study newbies get a toe-in-the-water, We Saved You a Seat might be perfect. The topic is right for a first step and the experience promises to be a rich one. I highly recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I 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.”

Take a Look at Proven – New from Jennie Allen

Proven: Where Christ’s Abundance Meets Our Great Need

Spent some time this week with the latest study from Jennie Allen. Proven: Where Christ’s Abundance Meets Our Great Need appeared on the scene earlier in 2017 and it needs to be on your radar.

I’ve reviewed two of Allen’s previous studies (Restless and Chase) and have routinely been impressed with her teaching style and the content loaded into these studies. Proven is just as powerful as the others.

An 8 session study, Proven takes a look at key passages in the Book of John, demonstrating how only Jesus is enough. “We don’t have to prove anything because Jesus has already proven everything. Discover how our thirsty hearts can only be quenched by the living water (from the cover).”

DVD-driven, each session features the dynamic teaching of Jennie Allen. On the short side, the videos range from 10 to 14 minutes in length, just right for today’s attention spans. Allen is a powerful teacher but seems to connect especially well with younger participants.

The Bible study book is very well written and each session includes a number of elements that set up a powerful group time.  While nowhere near overwhelming, working through each week’s lesson will provide the right amount of challenge for most.  Enough to require measured engagement; not too much to intimidate newer or less experienced participants.  Very well written, there is both depth and plenty of next steps prescribed.

As with Chase and Restless, I love the creative elements of Proven.  Every session includes four experiences designed to creatively open eyes to see and ears to hear the biblical truths being taught.

Another very cool ingredient are the conversation cards that accompany each session.  Introducing the ingredient of play, the cards nonetheless prompt a deeper, more provocative conversation.

An extremely helpful leader’s guide is included in the study kit.  It’s no exaggeration for me to call this one of the most helpful leader’s guides you’ll ever run across.  Very complete, even the least experienced leaders will find the helps they need to lead with confidence.

This is a great study! If you’re looking for a study that will help your women’s groups dig into God’s word and leave different, I highly recommend Proven: Where Christ’s Abundance Meets Our Great Need.

Add this Hearing God DVD (featuring Dallas Willard) to Your Recommended List

I had a rare privilege this week. I spent several hours with Dallas Willard, Richard Foster and John Ortberg. Not live, but on a very special video captured at a Renovaré event designed to introduce the core themes of Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God, Willard’s classic, first published in 1999.

This paragraph, from the 2012 expanded edition of Hearing God helps to understand the heart of Willard’s intent:

“It is very important to remember and to always keep before your mind this fact: You are an unceasing spiritual being, created for an intimate and transforming friendship with the creative Community that is the Trinity. Learning to hear God is much more about being comfortable in a continuing conversation, and learning to constantly lean on the goodness and love of God, than it is about turning God into an ATM for advice, or treating the Bible as a crystal ball. My hope is that this book will help you develop an ongoing relationship with God that will involved conversation, communion, and consummation (from the author’s note).”

The DVD includes six thirty-minute sessions that incorporate teaching from Dallas Willard along with conversations with Richard Foster and John Ortberg.

The six sessions are titled:

  • You Were Created for Intimate Friendship with God
  • What Hearing God Is Not
  • Trinitarian Fellowship
  • The Still Small Voice
  • Hearing God in the Kingdom of God
  • Hearing God as a Life

Like every opportunity to hear or read Dallas Willard’s teaching, a notebook and pen is essential. And in this case…the DVD remote (so you can hear again what he just said).  For me, every session had a moment (or several) when I made a mental note that I will need to keep this DVD so I can hear it again.

Included with the DVD is a very simple six session discussion guide with a simple set of discussion questions designed to help group members get to the heart of Dallas Willard’s teaching. The discussion guide also includes a simple homework assignment to be completed prior to the next sessions.

Clearly this DVD and it’s related discussion guide (as well as the book Hearing God itself), will not be helpful for every small group. But, for groups that want to grow in their ability to hear God, to seek a richer ongoing conversation with God, this is absolutely a must-add to your recommended 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.”

Don’t Miss The Apostles Creed by Matt Chandler

Finally had an opportunity this week to spend some time with The Apostles’ Creed, the newest small group study from Matt Chandler.

Chandler, Lead Teaching Pastor of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, and President of the Acts 29 Network, is widely regarded as one of America’s finest communicators. He’s also the author of numerous books and Bible studies (many of which I’ve reviewed in the past right here).

Now I’m not sure about you, but growing up we didn’t spend a lot of time learning about or talking about the Apostles’ Creed. It’s possible that my first awareness of the creed may have been when I was in seminary. As important as the Apostles’ Creed was in church history, it was just not part of the tradition I grew up in.

While I was in seminary I learned about the importance of this now 1600 year old creed “which united the church around core Christian doctrines as revealed in Scripture.”

“The Apostles’ Creed “contains essential Christian doctrines and beliefs that summarize the gospel and make up the foundation of our faith. The scriptural truths contained in the creed help us operate from good theology, with the knowledge that our faith is rooted in truth and a rich history that spans past, present, and future. The lines of the creed aren’t mere words. They convey the essence of what we confess and believe as the body of Christ (from the introduction).”

Chandler’s teaching and small group study tackles this 1600 year old confession of faith very skillfully. Far beyond teaching the creed itself, The Apostles’ Creed study faithfully examines the scriptural basis for each of the 12 core statements.

The DVD segments average 35 to 40 minutes in length. Again, Chandler is a masterful communicator. He easily holds attention, even in a day when attention spans are short and getting shorter.

The Bible Study book includes a number of familiar elements. A video viewing guide outlines Chandler’s teaching and allows note-taking and a well-written set of discussion questions encourages a good conversation. An additional element included in The Apostles’ Creed is a set of activities for families “to consider the truths of the gospel together.”

The Bible Study book also includes a set of three personal studies to be completed each week as homework. The personal studies include scripture to be examined and questions to develop deeper insights into the group study and DVD content.

If you’re looking for a study that will center your group(s) on biblical teaching and help them deepen their understanding of the “essential Christian doctrines and beliefs that summarize the gospel and make up the foundation of our faith,” The Apostles’ Creed will be just the thing. I highly recommend this study!

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 Rescue Academy (a New Resource from SecondChance.org)

rescue academySpent some time this week with a new resource from People of the Second Chance.  Whether it finds a place in your resource library or you use it to train small group leaders or coaches, it really looks like something you may want to take a look at.

Resource Academy is “a 7-part video and workbook training that will help your team say the right things at the right time as they counsel others through real-life problems. Many leaders face difficult counseling situations that they have never been trained for. This course teaches principles, strategies and key insights to handle almost any situation and equip staff, group leaders and volunteers to be equipped in helping hurting people (from the website).”

Video-driven, the video sessions are 17 to 22 minutes in length and feature author and speaker, Mike Foster. Mike is the founder of People of the Second Chance and the creator of Rescue Academy. An unassuming and engaging speaker, Mike’s style is very conversational and easy to listen to.

Each of the workbook sessions include a set of sections and activities. A creative introduction, a video viewing guide, and a helpful set of discussion questions is standard for each session. In addition, each session also includes a “real life rescue” example (that calls for thinking about how we should respond) and a creative element (or two) that will help participants absorb the principles and practices.

This paragraph from the website provides a helpful insight into the why behind the resource:

Most leaders are overwhelmed with trying to accommodate all the coaching/counseling needs within their church or organization. Rescue Academy solves this problem by training your people to handle almost every life-counseling situation and create healthy next steps. Rescue Academy makes it simple, safe and removes the hassle of having to do all the work.

Sound familiar? Sound like something that might be a helpful resource? I thought so!

I like Resource Academy 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.”

Don’t Miss This Powerful Study: Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets

starting-overFinally had an opportunity to take a look at a powerful new book (and study) from Dave and Jon Ferguson. Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets is the newest project from the authors of Finding Your Way Back to God.

Starting Over was developed as a result of many conversations the Ferguson’s had with people who had read Finding Your Way Back to God: Five Awakenings to Your New Life. The authors made a curious discovery. You may remember that the second awakening was awakening to regret. Their discovery? “Many of the people we talked to experienced the Awakening to Regret but then got stuck there.” Starting Over was developed to help people “come face to face with your regrets and learn to start over.”

Like Finding Your Way Back to God, this book is very engaging. In my opinion, Finding Your Way Back was one of the most readable books I had ever come across with an evangelistic theme. And Starting Over? It has the same quality! Packs with personal stories and skillfully told stories from the Bible, this is the kind of book that will be given to friends, neighbors, co-workers and family. Easy to read and so encouraging.

A 5 session study is well-written and very easy to use. Although some participants will be anxious about joining a discussion on this topic, most will be quickly made at ease by the tone set in the opening questions. Each session of the study includes an opening icebreaker and questions that will consistently welcome everyone to the conversation. The Bible study portion of the study does a very good job of exploring a series of stories, Psalms, and passages on regret. A life application section will help participants make the story personal.

The participant guide also includes an extensive leader guide that will enable even the most inexperienced leader to feel better equipped to lead.

A short video also accompanies each session of the study guide. Available for viewing online at StartingOverBook.org, each of the video sessions includes a short teaching by Dave or Jon Ferguson and very compelling personal story about regret.

I have to tell you, I believe Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets may have even greater potential than Finding Your Back to God. Why? I think regret is an even more cross-cultural topic. While everyone may not be overwhelmed by feelings of regret, everyone can personally relate. If you’re looking for a compelling study that will appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike, take a look at Starting Over. I love this study 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.”