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Here’s How I Lead a Small Group Connection

me leading a connectionI’m often asked for specifics about how I lead a small group connection. See also, How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection.

Here are two general assumptions:

  • The best laid plans will sometimes need to be set aside. The connection process is something like a quarterback standing at the line of scrimmage, ready to call an audible.
  • Plenty of help from coaches and other support players will help make the event a success. In order for you to lead effectively, you need to be able to delegate certain things.

Here is a moment by moment overview of the event:

  • (6:45 p.m.) A welcome table should be in place staffed by greeters (who might also be coaches) 10 to 15 minutes before the event begins. Name tags and medium point sharpies should be available. Everyone who arrives should put on a name tag (“and we’re preferring real names”)
  • (7:00 p.m.) As the event begins I give a few general instructions: (a) We’re going to be here for about 60 to 75 minutes, (b) for the next few minutes I’m going to ask some questions to see if I can get you sorted out into “groups” around the room.
  • We are currently only launching groups for women, men and couples. This sorts them into clumps around the room: “Show of hands…how many of you are hoping to get connected with a women’s group? Great! Would you all move over to this corner of the room.”  “How many of you are looking for a men’s group? Great. Would all of you guys move over to this corner.” And how many of you are hoping to connect with a couples group? Awesome. You all can move over to this corner.”
  • There will often be a few folks that have hopes of ending up in a coed singles group or a mixed group (of couples and singles). I always want to have someone I can point them to while I move ahead with the next step. The person I send them to will attempt to handle their concern and get them situated in the right clump.
  • (7:10 p.m.) “Now, what I want you to do within your clump is a little different depending on the clump. If you’re looking for a couples’ group, I want you to find another couple you’d like to get to know, introduce yourselves and tell each other how you ended up at Canyon Ridge the first time and what made you come back. If you’re looking for a men’s or women’s group, get in groups of 4, introduce yourselves and tell each other how you ended up at Canyon Ridge the first time and what made you come back.” Note: Sometimes our coaches are quietly guiding certain matches.
  • (7:20 p.m.) “Okay, now, I want you to take your group of 4 and join with another group of 4 within your clump. Once you’ve found another group of 4 you should be in a group of 8 and I want you to introduce yourselves again and answer this question: Have you been in a group before of any kind and what was your experience? Doesn’t matter the type of group. Could have been a small group, a Bible study Fellowship group, a 12 step group, a work group. Have you been in a group before of any kind and what was your experience?” Note: your coaches can help make this happen quicker.
  • (7:35 p.m.) “Okay! Now, if you’re looking for a couples group I want you to take your group of 8 and join up with another group of 8, and pull some chairs into a circle. If you’re in a men’s group or a women’s group, pull some chairs into a circle. Once you’re all seated, I’ve got one more question I want you to answer.” Note: your coaches should be proactively guiding this move.
  • “Ready for the final question? Listen…the first two questions were softball questions. I call this the white knuckle portion of the program because this next question is not a softball question. Before I give you the question, let me set it up. The thing I love about Canyon Ridge is that every time you sit down in the auditorium you are on a row with all kinds of people. There are some folks on your row who have been following Jesus for a long, long time. And on the same row, there are some who really are brand new. They’re just beginning. And then there are some on your row that are actually there against their will. Their spouse said, ‘We’re going and you’re coming with me!’ What I love about Canyon Ridge is that it really is a come as you are kind of church. And the thing is, all of those people are here tonight, too!  In this room are people from every possible spiritual background. And we love that! Note: this disclaimer is very important! It helps ease the tension in the room.
  • Here is the final question: “Briefly answer this question: Where are you on your spiritual journey? Where are you on your spiritual journey?  Now before you answer the question, here are a couple things I want you to keep in mind. First, the word ‘briefly’ is very important! If you each take 5 minutes to answer the question…we’ll all miss tonight’s episode of the Real Housewives. Second, if you’re brand new and still trying to figure things out, say that! If your wife made you come tonight, say that! Alright! Ready? Where are you on your spiritual journey?” Note: you will need to arrive at your own way of saying this. The key is that you want everyone to answer and you want to help them relax.
  • (8:00 p.m.) When everyone is finished answering you can move ahead with choosing leaders. “Okay! Has everyone had a chance to answer the question? Awesome! I hope that was not too painful. Here’s what we’re going to do next. Believe it or not, I’m now going to help you choose leaders from your group. And you’re going to love the way we do it. Believe it or not, I’m actually going to have you point to someone on the count of three!” Note: there is always laughter right here.
  • “But before I have you choose, let me tell you what to look for. The best leader may not be what you think. For example, there might be someone in your circle who has led groups before and they might be the best leader, but they might not. You might have someone in your circle who quoted a few Bible verses and seems to know a lot about the Bible. That’s not necessarily a sign they’d make the best leader. I want to suggest that the best leader is the person that as they shared their spiritual journey you found yourself thinking, ‘I wish I could grow like that.’ Or maybe you thought, ‘I think I could talk with them about my fears or my concerns.’ The best leader is the person you thought might care about you.” Note: what you say here shapes who gets chosen.
  • “Does that help? Okay, now I’m going to teach you how to point! In a minute I’m going to have you each point, on the count of three to the person you’d be willing to follow for this 6 week study. Not yet. Before you choose, keep a few things in mind. First, everyone needs to participate. You cannot abstain! Second, this is not Chicago and you can only vote once! You can only point to one person (I demonstrate by pointing to a different person with each hand). Third, this is not Florida and you can’t change your vote! There is a natural human reaction that causes you to see who the others are pointing to and do this (I point to someone and then shift my hand to someone else). And last, you need to keep pointing until I tell you to put your hand down!” Note: This takes some of the tension out of the room.
  • “Okay, ready to choose? Before we choose leaders, I’m going to pray and I want you to pray with me. Father, tonight we’ve heard a lot of stories from a lot of brave people. Would You through Your Holy Spirit prompt us right now to remember the things that people said that could help us choose a leader. Remind us right now of how we felt at the moment they shared. Guide us Father right now. Give us the wisdom we need to make a good choice.” Note: this prayer will often still the room and add a holy element that is almost tangible.
  • “Alright, ready to choose? Here’s how we’re going to do it. You know the game Paper, Rock, Scissors? (I hit my fist against my palm three times as I say paper, rock, scissors). That what’s we’re going to do. Not yet, but we’re all going to say, ‘One, two, three, point.’  And when you point you’re going to keep pointing until I tell you to put your hands down. Ready? Here we go. One, two, three, point!” Note: Your coaches will help each group figure out which people the group is pointing to. There will almost always be more than one person chosen. 
  • At this point the coaches take over at each circle. They should move systematically, and noticing who the largest number are pointing to should ask, ‘how many of you are pointing to her? How many of you are pointing to Linda? Okay, if you’re pointing to Linda, you can put your hands down.” Now noticing who the next most people are pointing to should say, Okay, if you’re pointing to Susan you can put your hands down.” Note: Once you’ve identified the two or three obvious leaders, you can move on to the next item.
  • The coaches now should say, “Okay, now we need to figure out the night you’re going to meet and where you’re going to meet. And while we’re doing this, I’m going to ask you to each write down your name and info on this roster.” (You’ll pass the roster around the circle on a clipboard). “Is there a night that you cannot meet?” (Start by looking at the leader(s) and asking this question, then ask the group. This will often reveal the remaining best night(s)). “Okay, so it looks like Monday and Tuesday and Friday are out. Can everyone meet Thursday? Great! Now where should we meet?” Note: it is very common for someone in the group to have such a busy schedule they simply cannot meet when the leader can meet. See if you can switch them to another group.
  • Once the group has (1) figured out who the leaders are, (2) where they are going to meet, and (3) completed the roster, the leaders are asked to step over to a brief leaders meeting and the members are dismissed. Note: the coaches need to be proactive right here. It is sometimes difficult to pull leaders away from their group, but they need to move to the leader’s meeting quickly or it will prolong the event for everyone.
  • (8:15 p.m.) Once the leaders are gathered, you can affirm them, distribute the leader packets, connect them with their coach, and dismiss them. I affirm them this way: “How many of you came tonight expecting to be a leader? (there is often a hand or two). How many of you feel like you’ve been tricked? You came expecting to be IN a group and you ended up LEADING a group? (this is usually everyone else). Okay, here’s what you need to know. When you read the Bible, you’ll notice that there are no great stories of people VOLUNTEERING to lead. All of the great stories are about people being CHOSEN to lead. In fact, in the whole Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, there are stories of people VOLUNTEERING to lead. Sometimes people want to say, ‘What about Nehemiah?’ but Nehemiah didn’t volunteer to lead. He was brave and admitted concern for his homeland, but was actually chosen by the king to lead. Every other great story is about someone who was chosen. Moses? Chosen. Gideon? Chosen. The disciples? Chosen. Paul? Chosen. My favorite story is the story about how David was chosen to be the next king of Israel. The prophet Samuel came to Jesse’s house and when he told Jesse he was there to anoint the next king, Jesse did what every good Hebrew dad would do, he brought out his oldest son. And I believe the Holy Spirit whispered to Samuel, ‘It’s not him.’ So Jesse brought out the next oldest, and I believe the Holy Spirit whispered, ‘It’s not him.’ And this went on all the way through until finally Samuel said, ‘Is there anyone else?’ And Jesse said, ‘There’s David, but he’s with the sheep.’ And the Holy Spirit said, ‘It’s David.’ I believe that when we prayed tonight and asked God through His Holy Spirit to help us choose leaders…you were chosen.” Note: affirming the leaders is important.
  • Once I’ve affirmed the leaders, I quickly go over the info in the packets and turn them over to their coaches for a very quick conversation and they are dismissed. Note: the coaches essentially just exchange contact info and arrange a phone call to follow up.

This is how I do it. It’s always fun. It’s always crazy. There is electricity in the room. And God often shows up in unexplainable moments. You can read more about the connection process right here.

Everything You Need to Know about Small Group Models

everything libraryThere are many things you need to know about small group models, systems and strategies. Too many to include in a single article!

Here are three very important things to know (and links to other key posts on this topic):

First, every small group model, system or strategy comes with a unique set of advantages and disadvantages. I like to say, “there are no problem-free small group models, systems or strategies.” That said, be prepared to acknowledge that there is an upside and a downside to every model.

If you like the semester model, don’t overlook the challenge of confirming which leaders will commit for the next semester and what they will study…early enough to assemble your catalog of available groups. If you like the cell group model, don’t turn a blind eye to the reality that groups don’t always birth new groups fast enough to absorb the number of unconnected people in your congregation. If you like the campaign-driven strategy, be prepared for messy. See also, Breaking: No Problem-Free Small Group System, Model or Strategy.

Second, the model you choose should be predetermined by what you hope to accomplish. Before you choose a model, you should have already identified the business you are in, the customer you will be serving and what you will call success. I know that may seem like a strange way to say something about ministry, but it is the best way to point out a very important truth about a very important topic.

For example, if you’re in the business of giving group members an in-depth Bible study experience, you will be wise to choose certain models. If the customer you want to serve will be unchurched neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members…it will predetermine certain models and not others. And if you dream of more people in groups than you average at your weekend services, you must choose the right model, system or strategy. See also, If I Was Starting Today (I’ve written at length about this important idea in this series of posts).

Third, you should choose your model carefully and only change it after careful consideration.  A lot rides on decisions you make. Changing models every time you read a new book or attend a conference will shake the confidence of your group leaders and coaches. Changing models frequently can be quite toxic. See also, 5 Toxic Small Group Ministry Moves.

Aren’t there reasons to change models or implement a new strategy? Absolutely. A careful analysis of your small group ministry and its results may drive you to rethink the model you’ve chosen. After all, “your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.” If you want different results, you’ll need a different design. See also, 5 Signs Your Small Group Ministry Design Is Inadequate.

Finally, there is a lot to know about small group models, systems and strategies! They are not all the same and they don’t all accomplish the same thing. They each have unique advantages and disadvantages. Some make it easy to find leaders. Some make it easier to connect beyond the usual suspects. Some more reliably make disciples. You can learn much more in the additional posts below.

Image by Loughborough University Library

5 Toxic Small Group Ministry Moves

toxicI’ve noticed that there is a short list of small group ministry moves that can be toxic. They often seem harmless. They don’t look dangerous. But they can cause great damage.

Here are a 5 toxic small group ministry moves:

  1. Switching to a different small group model, system or strategy…again. There are several main models or systems and versions of each. Whether you call it Idea fatigue or shiny object syndrome, switching models can be toxic. You may have just read a very good book or attended a conference that made a different model sound better, but when you choose a system you need to commit to it for 3 years. And by that, I mean you need to pursue it head long for 3 years. See also, How to Choose a Small Group System or Strategy.
  2. Assigning coaches to experienced group leaders…again. Retroactively assigning coaches to experienced leaders almost never works. It often permanently sours the coach and almost always is rejected by the small group leader like a bad organ transplant. Fortunately, it is possible to provide care for experienced leaders with a little finesse and wisdom.  See also, How to Implement Coaching for Existing Group Leaders.
  3. Springing required curriculum on groups. Whether it happens as a result of a last minute inspiration on the part of your senior pastor or a poorly communicated church-wide campaign, mandating that all of your groups use a curriculum that they didn’t choose can have toxic results (the obvious exception is a sermon-based approach.) While there are definitely times that it just makes sense to call all groups to a common study (church-wide campaigns, the desire to align everyone around a single vision, the need to renew congregations, etc.), be very careful about last minute requirements. See also, Small Group Ministry Myth #3: Leaders and Members Know Best What to Study.
  4. Allowing the preferences of the wrong people to select study topics. We should all be clear about this dilemma. Groups that have been meeting longer will often settle into studies that are informative, but not necessarily application-oriented. Unconnected people will primarily be attracted to topics that seem directly related to their own personal struggles or interests. Be careful about allowing the preferences or tastes of the already connected to determine what you select if you hope to connect unconnected people. And be equally careful about adding studies to your recommended list if they don’t incorporate a healthy dose of application. See also, Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer and Here’s a Sample Recommended List.
  5. Calling everything a group. If this happened in one church…it happened in 10,000 churches. You may have a desire to be a church OF small groups, but arbitrarily changing what you call classes or studies is delusional and toxic every time.  See also, Groups of All Kinds and the Essential Ingredients of Life-Change.

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

Image by Rob

Find the Gaps in Your Strategy with This Simple Technique

circlesI love Rick Warren’s concentric circles diagram; a classic illustration of the different segments of people who are associated with your church. The concentric circles also provide a visual representation of Saddleback’s crowd-to-core strategy. See also, Crowd-to-Core: An Essential Understanding.

The way I talk about crowd-to-core is that I want to design next steps for every Ridger (crowd, congregation, committed and core) and first steps for their friends (community). And of course, when I draw the circles I don’t draw them the way they are in the diagram (equally spaced). I draw them as I believe they are at Canyon Ridge (see below). And as I draw the circles I talk about what they represent this way:

  • Outside of this circle is the community. In the 8 zip codes we draw from there are 250,000 people.
  • Inside the circle is the crowd. Based on our Easter numbers and our Christmas Eve numbers, we estimate there are between 10,000 and 12,000 adults who consider Canyon Ridge to be their church. They don’t come every week and they may only attend a few times a year.
  • Inside the crowd is the congregation (when I draw this circle I try to accurately represent the size, 2500 to 3500 adults). These people attend more frequently, 2 to 3 times a month. They are usually connected in some way (i.e., they may be in a small group, on a serving team, etc.). They give on a regular basis, but it is probably not a tithe.
  • Inside the congregation is the committed. They attend 3 to 4 times a month. They definitely serve and often are leaders of groups, teams, or ministries. They tithe. There are hundreds of these people.
  • And finally, inside the committed is the core. They don’t miss a week and are believers of “attend one, serve one.” They give sacrificially. They serve sacrificially. There are less than 300 of these people.

canyon ridge circlesSee how I use the diagram to segment the basic kinds of people who attend?

Here’s how you can use it to illustrate the gaps in your strategy. In my own diagram here, I’ve focused on our men’s ministry and three of their events.

  1. Take an honest look at each of the existing ministries, programs, classes and events and determine which segment of the church are they really designed for. Honesty is essential. You get no where with this is you turn a blind eye to what’s really going. Brutal honesty is required.
  2. Try to overlay them on the concentric circles to illustrate who you believe each menu item exists for.
  3. In order to truly have next steps for everyone and first steps for their friends, there will be no gaps. When you identify gaps you need to create the steps that are missing (that will help everyone take a step). See also, How to Design Next Steps and First Steps.


  • Insiders have great difficulty recognizing that the programs they love don’t work for everyone.
  • Leaders of existing programs often see the world through rose colored glasses and don’t understand why everyone doesn’t come.
  • Most people need to be coached to see the wisdom that just like restaurants have a target customer, so do good programs, events, ministries, and classes.

See also:

What’s on Your Small Group Ministry’s Stop Doing List?

stopResearcher and management guru Jim Collins is the author or co-author of Built to Last, Good to Great, Great by Choice and How the Mighty Fall (and a number of other books).

One of Collins’ most profound insights is that as important as a to-do list might be, organizations also need to “create a “stop doing” list and systematically unplug anything extraneous.” A corollary is that for every major ‘to-do’ on your list, you should have a corresponding item that you will stop doing.

Can you spot the looming question?

“What is on your stop doing list?

I can tell you a few things that have been on my stop doing list over the years:

  • Providing group members for unsolicited volunteer “leaders.”
  • Sending new members to groups who continually need a few more.
  • Providing a matchmaking service for people looking for the perfect group.
  • Allowing my senior pastor to delegate the small group champion role.
  • Accepting warm bodies willing (or clamoring) to be coaches.

I can also tell you a few things that are currently on my stop doing list:

  • Adding a new menu item without removing an old menu item.
  • Assigning new leaders to coaches without ongoing inspection. “People do what you inspect, not what you expect.”
  • Procrastinating discipleship conversations with ministry leaders.

What would be on your “stop doing” list?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

See also:

Image by Marlon Malabanan

5 Quick Ideas that Will Connect More People This Fall


You might be thinking, “We don’t have time for anything complicated, but we really need to help a new wave of people get connected!” If that’s you…here’s some help!

5 Quick Ideas that Will Connect More People This Fall

  1. Plan a small group connection. Pick an appealing small group study. Pick a convenient day and time. Promote the connection 3 weekends in a row. It’s just about that simple. The study you choose determines who will attend. The process itself is designed to identify leaders at every table. You’ll find plenty of detail in How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection.
  2. Plan a 6 week on-campus study that leads to an off-campus group. Choose a study that will grab the attention of a select group of people (i.e., Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage). If you have more than one group you’d like to target, choose the perfect study for each target (i.e., couples, men, women, etc.). Choose a convenient night and time when you have available on-campus space. Arrange child-care. Promote the study 3 weeks in a row. You’ll find additional details in Take Advantage of This Short-Term On-Campus Strategy.
  3. Plan a “book club.”  This strategy attracts people who wouldn’t ordinarily join a small group (but they might be attracted by an intriguing topic). Choose a book with a captivating title and built-in discussion questions. Choose a convenient day and time. Promote the “book club” 3 weeks in a row. You’ll find additional details in Two Big Opportunities That Will Connect More People This Spring.
  4. Plan a church-wide campaign. I know that doesn’t sound like a quick idea, but with the right off-the-shelf study it’s not difficult to pull off. Choose the right campaign. Choose a launch date in late September or early October. You’ll find plenty of ideas in 5 Best Church-Wide Campaigns for Fall 2015 and 10 Simple Steps to a Great Church-Wide Campaign.
  5. Plan a special event with a speaker (live or video) on a topic that attracts an affinity (couples, singles, men, women, empty nesters, single parents, etc.).  With the right advance planning and a little creativity, it’s easy to imagine the strategic grouping of unconnected people at a first-step event that includes a speaker, dessert, and conversation.  Can you imagine how the right next step event (like a 6 week on-campus study) would connect even more people? You’ll find additional help in How to Design Next Steps and First Steps.

These are just 5 of many great ways to connect unconnected people. You’ll find more strategies in Top 10 Ways to Launch New Groups.

Image by misspixels

See also:

5 Signs Your Small Group Ministry Is Due for a Tune Up

tune upMost of us quickly recognize the signs that there is something wrong with the way our car’s engine sounds or feels. When our car dies at the stop light or backfires as we drop off our teenage daughter at school…we get it. There’s something wrong with the engine. We may not know what it is but we know it’s time for a tune up.

But do you know the signs your small group ministry is due for a tune up?

5 signs your small group ministry is due for a tune up:

  1. You never need to start new groups because there’s always room in your existing groups. This is a serious sign that your small group ministry needs a tune up. It’s a problem for two reasons. First, the hardest place for a new member to connect is in an existing group where relationships are already established. The easiest place for a new member to connect is in a group where everyone is new. Second, small group leaders (and members) of existing groups need to learn to “fish” for new members. See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs Start New Groups and Great Question: How Do I Train Leaders to Add New Members?
  2. You’ve given up on build a coaching structure because none of your leaders want a coach anyway. While it’s true that established small group leaders will almost always reject the retroactive assignment of a coach, new and inexperienced small group leaders will almost always gladly accept a coach. Still, there are two things to keep in mind. First, the assignment of a coach is one of the most important steps to sustaining the new groups you launch. Second, while experienced small group leaders may not feel the need for “coaching” from a technique standpoint, we need to remember that whatever we want to happen in the lives of the members of our groups, must happen in the lives of the leaders first. If that is true, then finding a way to connect experienced leaders with a spiritual mentor is essential. See also, 5 Steps to Sustaining the New Groups You Launch and How to Implement Coaching for Existing Group Leaders.
  3. Your senior pastor mentions the importance of belonging in a small group once a year (on the same Sunday he promotes the other 132 ministries). If you hope to build a thriving small group ministry, you must have a senior pastor willing to be the champion. One of the most important duties of the champion is the constant reference to the importance of being in a small group. Preferring one ministry over another is not easy for many senior pastors. As long as your senior pastor promotes every ministry equally, it will be difficult for your connection and discipleship engine to run smoothly. See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups and Small Group Ministry Roadblock #1: A Doubtful and Conflicted Senior Pastor.
  4. You’re spending way too much time selecting the perfect group for the 23 people who signed up to join a group. If you’re spending any significant time as matchmaker (or you’re asking another valuable member of your team to do it), your system desperately needs a tune up. First, even the best matchmaking attempts still add new members into already established relationships (where only the most extroverted fit in). Second, when the small group leader you’ve given the name to calls to invite the new members, they will almost always end up speaking to the spouse who didn’t sign up. Few strategies have results more discouraging than matchmaking. Far more effective to focus on launching new groups for new members. See also, 3 Strategies that Launch a Wave of New Groups and Top 10 Ways to Launch New Groups.
  5. You have trouble explaining the advantages of joining a small group (without hurting the feelings of Sunday school teachers, Paul/Timothy discipleship leaders, Precepts teachers, etc.). If your small group ministry is struggling with this issue, you’re not alone. This is a serious and a very common sign of trouble. Identifying the best way to help unconnected people take a step that leads to getting connected is the first step. Becoming comfortable with only promoting the best way is the second step. Both steps are essential. See also, A Smörgåsbord of Destinations vs Sequential and Tailored Next Steps.

Image by Sherry Wiesmann

5 Steps to Sustaining the New Small Groups You Launch

space launch

“We’ve launched 25 new groups!  How can we help them continue to meet?”

With the development of strategies like the small group connection strategy and the HOST strategy it is not hard to launch a wave of new small groups. In fact, it is very easy to do. But like I always say, “There’s an upside and a downside to everything.”  What’s the upside? They’re easy to start. The downside is that they come with a life expectancy of about six weeks. See also, 3 Strategies that Launch a Wave of New Groups.

Six weeks? That’s all? Isn’t there anything that can be done? I’m glad you asked!  And the answer is “Yes!”

The step before the first step:

I think there are five steps to sustaining new groups, but there is a very important step that happens before your new groups even begin.  What is it?

Choose the right launching study.

Choose the right launching study. This is an important key because if you don’t choose the right launching study, the groups that do launch will struggle immediately. How can you choose the right launching study? It will be on the right topic and easy to use. This should be self-evident, but sometimes a little explanation is helpful. The study you choose will determine both who will say yes to hosting a group and who will say yes to joining a group (or attending a connection). If you want your hosts to fill their own group you’ll need to find a topic that is very invitation friendly. I’ve written about what I call the Easy/Hard Continuum. If you want to connect the largest number of unconnected people you will need to choose a study that has broad appeal. There are a growing number of great studies to choose from.  I’ve written about some of them right here. See also, 5 Best Church-Wide Campaigns for 2015.

Here are the 5 steps to sustaining the new groups you launch:

  1. Encourage every new group to begin with a co-leader. Regardless of how your new groups begin, make it a priority for every new leader to identify a co-leader (who is not a spouse) as their first step.
  2. Give them a coach on the front end, before they even begin, who will connect on a weekly basis, walk alongside them and help them get started.  This is important.  We’ve talked about this before. New hosts are usually very receptive to this idea in the beginning than they ever will be again.  Caution: It is important to recruit coaches based on who’s right for the job, not who’s available.  The best candidates are almost always already serving.  Freeing them up to move to the right seat on the bus separates fruitfulness from “in-name-only.”  Don’t give in to the temptation to fill an org chart with available bodies.  If you want to sustain groups, you’ll need the right people. See also, How to Recruit Additional Coaches for Church-Wide Campaigns.
  3. Choose a study to do next that is similar in kind (before you even begin) and give it to your new groups by week 4 or 5.  There are two important parts to this step. First, what you give them to do next must be similar to the study they start with.  DVD driven?  Give them a DVD study to do next. 6 weeks? Give them another 6 week study to do next. Easy to prepare? You get the idea. Keeping them in a similar format ensures that your new hosts will not be intimidated. Second, telling them what’s next by week 4 or 5 catches them while they’re beginning to develop a rhythm of getting together.  Caution: Allowing each group to come up with their own follow up study almost always leads to the selection of a study that is too hard or too long. See also, 5 Recommended Follow-Up Studies for Church-Wide Campaigns.
  4. Encourage your new groups to take turns facilitating.  Session one ought to end with a brief look at the calendar and the invitation for group members to share responsibility for the group by taking a turn bringing refreshments, coordinating the prayer list, or even facilitating a session!  Recruiting one member in advance to take a turn is often all you need to prime the pump.  Groups that rotate facilitators are much more likely to continue meeting.  Caution: Do this in a way that is not forced.  “Everybody needs to take a turn” is not the idea.
  5. Encourage your new hosts to find at least one other member who is willing to open their home for a meeting.  Groups that can meet even when the host is out of town are much more likely to continue.  Caution: It should be nearby. Moving week four’s meeting to a home 15 miles away is not a good idea.

Image by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

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Quotebook: Self-Control

self controlI know (and you know) that “whatever you want to happen at the member level, will have to happen to the leader first.” We know this. It is not a mystery or some kind of secret code. I know (and you know) that what happens at the member level is ultimately influenced by what happens in our lives. This also is not a mystery or secret code. It is self-evident.

And I much as I write about the habits I’d look for if I was hiring a small group pastor and the 8 habits of a life-changing small group leader, I know intuitively (and so do you), that we are fools to expect anything more than what we are living at the member level. See also, 5 Habits I’d look for If I Was Hiring a Small Group Pastor8 Habits of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader and Model What You Want to Happen at the Member Level.

And this is why it has become my preoccupation for the next season to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

To that end, here are two lines that I’ve written out on post-its so they’ll become part of my daily routine:

“Self-control begins when you begin to take your thoughts captive.” Clay Scroggins, Wish You Were Here, Control Yourself

“You only have control over three things in your life: the thoughts you think, the images you visualize, and the actions you take.” Jack Canfield, Resolved: 13 Resolutions for Life by Orrin Woodward

Image by Dave

What Do You Need to Abandon?

abandonedThis program has meant so much for so long to all these people! How can you even think of getting rid of the program that helped all of us start following Jesus? Old Mrs. Jones would roll over in her grave if she knew that the class named after her was being cancelled!

Who hasn’t had this “discussion” (read argument)?

The prerequisite to successful pursuit of the new and highly promising

Peter Drucker wrote that “planned, purposeful abandonment of the old and of the unrewarding is a prerequisite to successful pursuit of the new and highly promising.  Above all, abandonment is the key to innovation—both because it frees the necessary resources and because it stimulates the search for the new that will replace the old (Managing for Results, p. 143).”

Of course, Peter Drucker wasn’t writing about a church. He was writing about business, right? Actually, Drucker often focused his attention on non-profits and personally mentored both Rick Warren and Bill Hybels.

Corporations, both for-profit and non-profits, struggle with the difficult task of putting an end to programs that were successful in the past; with things that were once the bread-winner and now are mostly a resource drain.

Still, the truth is most businesses, most non-profits struggle to do what they know they should do…and a few make hard but necessary decisions and then reap the benefit.

INTEL actually provides one of the most dramatic examples of a company that abandoned a successful product in order to make resources available for the product that would carry them into the future. Beginning to see the handwriting on the wall of the memory chip business, Andy Grove and Gordon Moore knew they must move to microprocessors. Finally, they reasoned, “If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what would he do?  Why shouldn’t we walk out, come back in and do it ourselves?”  Andy Grove, Former CEO, INTEL

The question today is, “What do you need to abandon?” See also, Andy Stanley: Random Thoughts on Leadership.

Image by freaktography


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