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Category: Small Group Strategy (page 1 of 75)

Bad Idea #2: Use an On-Demand Call Center to Provide Coaching

call centerBad Idea #2: Use an On-Demand Call Center to Provide Coaching

Not long ago my post 5 Stupid Things Churches Need to Stop Doing (in the name of small group ministry) offered a short list of dumb things churches do.

It was an incomplete list.

Here’s another really bad idea that actually happened.

“Let’s use an on-demand call center to provide coaching!”

The essence of the idea

Instead of assigning a particular coach to each small group leader, small group leaders were provided a phone number to call if they needed help. Coaches provided a kind of call-center approach to offer coaching when needed. In essence, what developed was a team of coaches who were available by phone to provide coaching on-demand.

Can you picture it?

You may be able to picture the brain-storming session that produced this bad idea. You may even wonder why it is a bad idea. It may sound like a brilliant idea. And I have to admit, it has some fine qualities.

It just misses the real point of small group coaching.

Coaching is not about teaching technique

I’ve pointed out before that new small group leaders rarely need help with technique after the first few months. They either figure it out or they don’t. They either learn how to lead a dynamic discussion (or they don’t). They either learn how to guide participation (or they don’t). They either learn how to draw out their less extroverted members (or they don’t). See also, The Big Misunderstanding that Dooms Small Group Coaching.

The essence of true coaching

The real issue with the bad idea for delivering coaching is that it misses the real essence of coaching. Remember, whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your groups has to happen to the leader first. This has almost nothing to do with learning a better technique. It has everything to do with developing a trusted relationship over time (between leader and coach) that allows the coach to do TO and FOR the leader whatever you want the leader to do TO and FOR the member.

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

Further Reading:


Image by Dan H.

How Saddleback Online Has Started 1700 Small Groups in 4 Years

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 6.57.50 AMOnline.

Many churches are currently making  worship services (or at least the sermons) available for viewing online. Some are streaming their services. Others are simply making them available for viewing on-demand.

A few churches are creating a true online campus.

Do you know the difference?

If your church has an online presence (whatever the type), do you have groups there yet?

Jay Kranda has been Saddleback’s Online Campus Pastor since 2012 and has helped launch over 1700 small groups. Click here to see the Saddleback Online Campus landing page.

Here’s a link to a very interesting interview with Jay Kranda on the Vanderbloemen Leadership Podcast. If you listen, you can pick up several important clues about how Saddleback is launching new groups via their online campus.

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

Click here to see the show notes or listen to the podcast on the Vanderbloemen site.

Click here to learn more about the Vanderbloemen Leadership Podcast.


What Do Your Goals Say about Your Ministry?

goals finish lineYou can learn a lot about ministries and organizations by analyzing their goals.

Some churches have attendance goals.

Some churches have baptism goals.

Some multi-site church have goals for the number of sites.

Some churches have church planting goals.

Your church’s goals are an indication of priorities (of your true priorities). Goals can be something like a litmus test or a lie detector, betraying what is genuinely important. Goals are commonly an indication of passion or heart.

What do your church’s goals say about your ministry?

Reflecting on North Point Ministries 20 year anniversary, Andy Stanley said,

“20 years in people ask me, ‘What would you change if you started over?’ Our one numeric goal (to have 100,000 people in groups*) has shaped everything. It has shaped everything including our budget. Your goals shape where the money goes. Groups is the best bet.”

20 years.

One numeric goal.

100,000 people in groups.

What do your church’s goals say about your ministry?

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

*North Point Ministries has 72,000 adults, teens and children in groups as of May, 2016.

Image by Wally Gobetz

Do You Have Your Ducks in a Row for a Powerful Fall Ministry Season?

5008344952_c051560307_bDo You Have Your Ducks in a Row for a Powerful Fall Ministry Season?

Well do you? Have your ducks in a row? It’s not too late to do the planning that will prepare your church for a powerful fall ministry season…but now is the time.

You might be thinking church-wide campaign, but you certainly don’t have to be. There are a number of other strategies that will still launch a wave of new small groups. See also, Top 10 Ways to Launch New Small Groups.

Here are five things you should be doing:

Start with the end in mind

This is a really, really big point.  In fact, I’ve begun saying “start with perfect and work backward.”  When you’re looking ahead you should be envisioning all the elements you’d like to have in place.  For example, think way beyond the number of groups you’d like to launch and include other aspects of what it will look like.

  • Who you’d like to connect
  • Next steps you want people to take
  • Service opportunities that will impact your community
  • Etc.

Pull out a calendar and work backward

Pull out a calendar and work backward from the launch date to include all of the steps.  For example, if you’re planning a church-wide campaign you should know the end of September or beginning of October is the best time to launch.  Once you’ve plugged in your launch date you can work back from there, plugging in promotion, orientations, host recruitment, coach recruitment and series planning.

Choose a study that connects the people you hope to connect

This is an extremely important step!  We all understand that if you want to satisfy the taste buds of people who’re craving a savory, mouth-watering steak…you need to serve a steak!  And if you want to entice people who love the spicy heat of a chile relleno…you need to serve Mexican food.  In the same way, the exact same way, if you want to connect unconnected people, you need to choose a study that will interest them! See also, Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer?

Identify and recruit a team of launch-phase coaches

One of the best early steps you can take is to make a list of some current small group leaders that could easily help a newbie get off to a great start…and invite them to help start a new group or two this fall!  Almost nothing else has as much potential as connecting a new leader with an experienced veteran.  Your new leaders feel supported and more confident.  Veterans get to use their experience and might even get that sense of fulfillment that is so essential in a coach who commits to the long run. Note: My mini-course, How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure explains how to do this successfully.

Launch a get-to-know-your-neighbor initiative

One of the most important early steps you can take is to give your members some ideas that will help them get to know their neighbors over the summer.  If you want to connect way beyond the usual suspects, launching a series on a topic that unconnected people care about makes it easy to invite neighbors…provided your members know their neighbors!  (see my Top 10 Ways to Get to Know Your Neighbors This Summer for more information)

Can I Help You?

There are two ways I can help you get your ducks in a row:

  • I regularly coach churches on preparing for church-wide campaigns and growth initiatives. While I am sometimes available for an onsite consultation, I can also schedule a series of video conference calls to guide your team through the process.  Email Me for more information.
  • My newest mini-course, How to Maximize YOUR Church-Wide Campaign is designed to help your team learn at their own pace and at a very reasonable price.

Image by Matthias Liffers

The Best Training for Small Group Leaders

best trainingIn yesterday’s post I updated an older article about how we’re training new small group leaders these days.  The article generated several good comments and questions. Here’s a little more thinking on how to provide the best training for small group leaders.

First, I want to make it as easy as possible for people to step into leadership and nearly automatic that they step onto a leader development conveyor belt. If you miss this, you’ve probably missed the point of a lot of what I train small group pastors to do.

I believe many churches have built an imposing barrier to entry that is actually counter-productive. Believing that by making it harder to qualify as a leader they ensure the safety of the flock, they simply ensure a leadership shortage. See also, Small Group Ministry Myth #4: High Leader Entry Requirements Ensure Safety in the Flock.

Second, making it as easy as possible for people to step into leadership should be accompanied by a limited set of constraints that mitigate risk. For example, when we make a group starter kit available for those who would like to “do the study with a couple friends” we don’t provide members and we don’t legitimize the group by adding it to our online finder. In order for a group to begin this way, the new host must fill the group with their own friends. See also, Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again.

Third, making it nearly automatic that new “leaders” step onto a leadership development conveyor belt comes with a set of understandings and expectations. For example, depending on where they step onto the conveyor belt, they’ll either be added to a set of coaching emails or connected to a coach.

  • Adults learn on a need to know basis. When new leaders are chosen at a small group connection, they have an immediate need to know and are quite receptive to coaching. When people respond to the invitation to pick up a host kit and “do the study with a couple friends,” they have a natural interest in the set of coaching emails.
  • Coaching is primarily about doing TO and FOR leaders whatever you want them to do TO and FOR their members. Developing and discipling leaders has little to do with completing a study or curriculum and a lot to do with life-on-life interaction between  mentor and mentee. See also, 7 Things You Must Do TO and FOR Your Small Group Leaders.
  • Those who pick up a “host kit” are added to a set of coaching emails that provide tips, ideas and guidance as they begin meeting. Upon completion of the launching study, they will be connected to a coach.
  • Those who are chosen as leaders in one of our small group connections are immediately connected with a coach.
  • The combination of one-to-one interaction with their coach, huddle opportunities with other leaders, and twice yearly on-campus leader gatherings helps move leaders in the direction we want them to go (from host to shepherd leader).

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

Further Reading:

Image by Chris Blakeley

FAQ: How Are You Training New Leaders These Days?

leader trainingI get questions. A lot of questions. Some come in a comment right here on the blog. Others come in an email. And some come when I’m speaking at a conference or workshop.

Here’s a very frequent question:

“How are you training new leaders these days?”

Great question! I love it because in the question you can see that the asker already understands that times change and what may have worked in the past may not work today.

A Short History of My Leader Training Journey

When I stepped into the small group ministry role at Fellowship of the Woodlands in 2000 there was an 8 session small group leader training class already in place. I’m sure it may have been a good idea at one time. However…I ran it one time and then determined that requiring potential leaders to complete an 8 session leader training class as a prerequisite to leading was not a good idea.

It was not a good idea for three reasons:

  • First, it was a serious barrier to entry to many reluctant leaders (and as you know, the best leader candidates almost never volunteer to be a leader).
  • Second, it turned out that competing the class was not a good predictor of who could attract and retain group members.
  • Third, adults learn on a need to know basis. On-the-job training is much more effective because as adults lead they will be confronted with many situations that will inspire an eagerness to listen to a coach.

Enter the Small Group Connection Strategy

Shortly after we realized the 8 session leader training class was an ineffective strategy (both for identification and training), we discovered the small group connection. We learned that the small group connection was a much better leader identification strategy. We also discovered that the leaders who were identified were very coachable.

How did we train the leaders who were identified at the connection? We invited them to a 90 minute leader orientation meeting that consisted of some coffee, donuts and very basic training. We also connected them to a coach who provided on-the-job training as required.

Enter the HOST Strategy and Church-Wide Campaigns

One of the limitations of the small group connection strategy is that it only connects the people who attend the connection. Self-evident, I know, but it is a limitation.

How to connect people who don’t (or won’t) attend the connection? Invite people who…

  1. Have a HEART for unconnected people (that’s the “H” in HOST).
  2. Will OPEN their home six times (that’s the “O”).
  3. SERVE a simple snack (you get the idea).
  4. TELL a few friends.

How do you train people who volunteer to HOST a group of their friends, neighbors, co-workers and family? For a number of years we required them to attend a short HOST orientation meeting at a convenient time. Very similar to the small group connection strategy.

Is There a Better Way to Provide Training?

The best way we’ve discovered to provide training today is by distributing a set of short videos that cover “the need to know” skills a new leader needs right out of the gate. I tripped across a couple hints of how this could work back when I interviewed Steve Gladen about Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway. We make them available on our website and on a thumb drive that is distributed in the HOST kit.

Want to see a very good sample of what the video looks like? Saddleback is leading the way in this innovation and you can see their videos right here: Saddleback’s Video Training for New Hosts

A Few Concepts That Made This Change Inevitable:

There are several factors converging that make it obvious that a change is needed:

  • People are busy and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to get new, toe-in-the-water hosts to make time for an orientation.
  • It’s more and more common for people to come from further than 20 minutes away, making meeting times even more difficult to schedule.
  • Mobility is a key to training and leader development.  If you’re not yet providing mobile options for training yet, you will have very little choice in the very near future.

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

Further Reading:

Image by jcookfisher

How Personally Are You Taking It?

take it personallyIn the closing message at re:group Clay Scroggins reflected on the incident in Mark 2:1-12 where four friends brought a paralyzed man to be healed by Jesus. Remember the story? Here’s the paragraph he spent most of his time on:

Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

In a series of statements, Scroggins shared something so important for all of us:

“Jesus was moved not by what they believed, but by what they did because of what they believed.”

“Jesus was moved not by their model of community but by their decision to model community.”

“When you begin to take community personally you’ll learn how to make community better.”

So…how personally are you taking community?

Image by Samuel King Jr.

How Are You Managing the Tension Between Theology and Ministry? (re:group Day Two)

manage tensionI came away with a number of profound insights from this year’s re:group Conference. One of my most eye-opening moments happened toward the end of Training Leaders to Engage Culture, a second day breakout.

Pointing to Jesus’ ability to focus on core issues of the faith while moving time and again “toward the messes,” Tim Cooper emphasized that we need to treat core issues of the faith differently than peripheral ones (as Jesus did when he went to Matthew’s house).

“Address core issues of the faith differently than peripheral ones.”

To help train their leaders to distinguish between core issues and peripheral issues North Point developed a “beliefs assessment” that measures a leader’s ability to make the distinction. You can see their beliefs assessment right here.

Here are some tips to help distinguish core versus peripheral (from the Beliefs Assessment):

  • Core issues are beliefs that are essential to faith.
  • Christians have considerable differences of opinion about peripheral beliefs.
  • While core issues have endured over time, many peripherals have changed over time.
  • Even if something is peripheral, that does not mean it is unimportant.
  • Statements about core beliefs can be pronounced publicly in the local church, but conversations about peripheral topics are many times better handled privately.
  • Whether a topic is core or periphery determines how much energy and emotion it warrants.

In explaining the thinking behind the beliefs assessment, Cooper pointed out that “the more issues that are core to you the harder you make it for people to turn to God.”

“The more issues that are core to you the harder you make it for people to turn to God.”

You can see their beliefs assessment right here.

Can you see their thinking? Have you ever thought through this tension? Have you ever trained your leaders to manage this tension?

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

Further Reading:

Image by Luke Addison

Influencing Culture: Jesus’ Model vs the Pharisees’ Model (re:group Day Two)

influence cultureIn yesterday’s post I gave you a quick overview of a second day breakout called Training Leaders to Engage Culture. If you haven’t read it, you might want to go back and catch up.

One of the big takeaways was embedded in a careful look at the difference between Jesus’ model for influencing culture vs the Pharisees’ model for influencing culture. Sharing an insight into Jesus’ model, the presenter (Tim Cooper) talked about an incident that Matthew records in Matthew 9:9-13:

“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'”

Pointing to verse 13 and citing an insight from Richard Beck’s Unclean, Cooper noted that sacrifice is intentionally moving toward purity (away from what is impure) while mercy is moving toward what is different.

“The Pharisees, seeking purity, pull away from the sinners. Jesus, seeking fellowship, moves toward the sinners.” Richard Beck, Unclean: Meditations on Purity, and Mortality.

And once again, I have to circle back to a great question from the breakout: “What’s encouraging your small group leaders to push through their natural instinct to avoid people God is trying to influence?”

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

Further Reading:

Image by Rachel Kramer

Training Leaders to Engage Culture (re:group Day Two)

engage cultureTraining Leaders to Engage Culture (re:group Day Two)

One of the most powerful takeaways I came away with was a renewed commitment to the importance of training small group leaders. Yes, adults learn on a need to know basis, and yes, I still believe the best practice is to do TO and FOR your leaders whatever you want them to do TO and FOR their members, but when leaders are well trained they will be better prepared to do something beyond facilitate a good discussion. And they will almost always need to be trained to engage culture.

If you read my post on Community for Everyone from day one of re:group you’ll know that I resonated deeply with the need to offer community to everyone (i.e., far beyond community for the usual suspects). As long as I can remember it has been my hope and ambition to reach deeply into the crowd and community to reach people who are far from God. I suspect that you read my blog because you share in that same hope and ambition.

And that leads me to an aha moment from the Community for Everyone breakout. Here’s the insight:

“The wider the diversity (you hope to include) the better the leader must be.”

Did you catch it? Do you see it? I can’t assume every small group leader has my passion for reaching people who are far from God. I also shouldn’t assume they have my intuition about what to say or how to engage. And as a result, I need to make sure I’m actually equipping small group leaders to engage culture.

Training Leaders to Engage Culture

Here is the introductory paragraph from the session notes of a breakout called Training Leaders to Engage Culture:

“From politics to sexuality there are numerous topics where culture intersects with faith and opinions vary. How we think about these issues is as important as what we think about them. In this breakout, we will take you through how we train volunteers to engage with culture. We’ll explore some root causes of existing cultural tensions and focus on how to walk alongside someone who has a viewpoint different from your own.”

I loved the 5 declaratory statements that were part of the breakout notes:

  1. We have to decide if we really want to influence the culture we live in. Note: The difference between what churches believe is true and right and what the culture believes is true and right creates a gap. How we teach people to handle the gap influences how we view and treat the people on the other side of the gap.
  2. Our ability to influence culture is limited by our disgust toward it.
  3. To overcome disgust, we must intentionally move toward the messes. Great Question: “What is encouraging your leaders to push through their natural instinct to avoid people God is trying to influence?”
  4. Jesus models how to influence culture. Note: It was right about here that Tim Cooper said, “If what someone is doing keeps you away from ministering to them, you have a higher standard than Jesus.”
  5. Managing the tension between theology and ministry requires work.

Can you make out the flow of the discussion?

I have to tell you, I’ve thought of little else since I attended this breakout. I am convinced that as the West becomes an increasingly post-Christian culture, it is imperative that we become better at engaging culture.

I found the conclusion of the breakout notes captivating:

“How we educate volunteers to engage with and influence culture is one of the most important things we will do as a church. When our devotion to God is illustrated, demonstrated, and authenticated by our love for others, we make it possible to change our culture…and our world.”

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

Image by Terry Shuck

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