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Great Question: How Can I Recruit Leaders from the “Crowd”

Who Can Host (1)I get a lot of questions.  I got a great question yesterday and I thought many of you might be interested in this answer.

After reading Do You Know This Game-Changing Connection Secret? a reader asked, “What are the best tactics to recruit leaders within the circle?”

Interpreting the Question

If you haven’t read the article, you might not have learned yet that I believe the most connected people in your church (represented by the square in the diagram) are almost often the least connected in the community (outside the circle).  And as the diagram illustrates, the people in the circle actually are the most connected in the community.

See why it’s a great question?  If you could learn how to recruit leaders from the circle (as opposed to the square) you’d actually be able to begin reaching into the community.

Here’s My Answer

Recruiting leaders from the circle isn’t problem-free.  It comes with a set of problems.  I often use this diagram as an alternative to Saddleback’s concentric circles, but if we were thinking about Saddleback’s diagram the square would roughly represent the core, committed, and the inner edge of the congregation.  The circle would represent the outer edge of the congregation and the crowd.  Recruiting from the circle comes with a set of problems.  People from the circle attend less frequently, are often younger in their faith and are actually more like the people in the community.

Don’t miss this important corollary: recruiting from the square has its own set of problems.  The most important problem with recruiting leaders from the square is that they often do not know anyone outside the square.  If you want to connect people outside the square, it is an advantage to have a leader who knows some!

So, how do you recruit leaders from the circle?

  • A church-wide campaign offers the best opportunity to recruit leaders from the circle.  A small group connection promoted the right way will also draw unconnected people to attend and within the attendees will be plenty of people from the circle.
  • Your senior pastor making the ask in the right way will get the attention of the right people.  See also, How to Make the HOST Ask: The 2012 Version.
  • In most cases you will need to rethink who can lead in your church.  The people in the circle are often not members, attend less frequently, and may not meet high standards.  But they do have the most connections outside the circle.  See also, Small Group Leaders: Qualifications, Hoops and Lowering the Bar.
  • Keep in mind that the study you choose for the church-wide campaign determines who will say “yes” to hosting and who will say “yes” to attending.  See also, Your Church-Wide Campaign Topic Determines Two Huge Outcomes.

You are asking a great question!  I hope this helps.  For a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges see also, Clue #2 When Designing Your Small Group System and Connecting the Gap Between Congregation and Community.

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

The 5 Biggest Ministry Mistakes I’ve Made

All of us have made mistakes.  I have made plenty.  You have too.  The key is to learn from your mistakes and only make them once.

What are the biggest mistakes I’ve made?

  1. Using the same strategy and expecting different results.  Albert Einstein said it well, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.”  I’ve fallen more than once for the temptation to try the same strategy one more time and pay closer attention to certain details.  I’d like to say I’ve made this mistake for the last time.  Trust me…resist the temptation!  See also, Start with the End in Mind and Top 10 Reasons to Try a Failed Strategy One More Time.
  2. Ignoring the elephant in the room.  The presence of certain ingredients and the absence of others should never be ignored.  Turning a blind eye to the fact that your senior pastor isn’t on board with essential aspects of your strategy is almost always a fatal mistake.  Ignoring the fact that other existing commitments will diffuse the impact of a church-wide campaign is foolish.  Don’t make this mistake!  Never ignore the elephant in the room.  See also, 5 Blatantly Obvious Truths about Starting New Groups.
  3. Rationalizing or minimizing the correlation of design and results.  If you only get one tattoo, it should be Andy Stanley’s one-liner: “Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.”  Rationalizing or minimizing the correlation of design and results is Exhibit A in the case against many of us.  Believe me when I tell you this, there is a direct correlation between the design of your ministry and the results of your ministry.  Can’t find enough volunteers for your weekend children’s program?  It is not a fluke or coincidence.  Didn’t get the connecting event sign-up you were hoping for?  Blame the design.  See also, 7 Signs You Have a Bad Design for Your Ministry.
  4. Assuming one meeting or one conversation would be sufficient.  Bottom line,  when I’ve been planning something, I’ve thought a lot about it.  A lot.  Most of the time I’ve been thinking about it for weeks and sometimes months.  When I share it with my senior pastor or our elder team, it is usually the first time they’ve heard it.  That is never enough.  I like this quote (possibly apocryphal) attributed to President Richard Nixon: “You know, when I’m tired of hearing it, I know my staff has gotten it.  When my staff is tired of hearing it, I know the press corp has gotten it.  And when the press corp is tired of hearing it, I know the nation has gotten it.”  The moral of the story?  One meeting or one conversation is never enough.  Over-communicating is the key.  This is one of the reasons I re-read Patrick Lencioni’s Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive every year.
  5. Procrastinating conversations and decisions.  Some conversations and some decisions cannot be put off until tomorrow (or next week) without consequence.  Life is better when conversations happen and decisions are made in a timely manner.  “Can we have this conversation next week at the meeting?”  “Can we put this decision off until after the teaching team retreat?”  “Can I call you when I’m back in town?”  Truthfully?  No.  The latest we can have the conversation or make the decision is Friday.  And it would be better if we could meet today and again on Friday in order to make the best decision.

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

Here’s a Quick Overview of a January Connecting Plan

Hard to believe it but the fall ministry season has come and gone.  Hopefully, you and your ministry reached the goals you set back in the spring for groups launched, unconnected people connected, coaches recruited, etc.

Have you already planned for January?  Are you making final tweaks to your plan or do you need to get serious about the strategies you will use?

January is a great time to connect people to groups.  I think of it as the second best time to launch groups (with the fall being the best time).  See also, When Is the Best Time to Launch Groups?

There are some naturally motivating factors that really prompt movement and interest in January.  The idea of making New Year’s resolutions, turning over a new leaf or rebooting after a tough year is right at the front of many people’s minds in late December and January.

Capitalizing on New Year’s Resolutions

As you plan your January strategy, keep in mind the natural motivations of people.  Unconnected people are already thinking about what they need to do to have a better 2015.

Here are 7 ideas to help you plan:

  • Schedule a connecting opportunity in late January or early February.  This will provide several weeks to promote your connecting event.  See also, How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection.
  • Choose an easy-to-use study with the right theme for the people you are trying to connect.  Think “fresh start” or “building a solid foundation.”  You might want to take a look at WEiRD: Because Normal Isn’t Working, Transformed: How God Changes Us, The Best Yes, or Fight: Winning the Battles That Matters Most.
  • Plan to spend several weekends promoting your connecting event.  Remember, unconnected people are infrequent attendees.  If you want them to hear about your event, you’ll need to promote it several times.  See also, When Is the Best Time to Launch Groups?
  • Make it easy to sign up for your event.  An insert in your bulletin with a simple sign up form (first name, last name, best phone number, best email), an opportunity to sign up online (or via their phone), a convenient table in the lobby, should all be employed in the attempt to get the word out.
  • Leverage your senior pastor’s influence.  You have the greatest potential to connect people when your senior pastor is your small group champion and mentions the connecting event in the sermon.  See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church of Groups.
  • When people sign up to attend be sure and send a follow up email from your senior pastor congratulating them for taking an important next step and providing instructions for the event.
  • Plan to send a reminder email 3 days prior to your event.
  • Recruit a calling team to make quick reminder phone calls the day before the event.

Hope this helps as you plan!

5 Crucial Small Group Ministry Dashboard Indicators

How healthy is your small group ministry?  How do you know?  What are you measuring?

The dashboard in your car monitors fuel level, speed, RPMs, oil pressure, engine temperature, etc.  What should your small group ministry’s dashboard be monitoring?  How do you know whether your ministry is healthy?

Here are the 5 crucial indicators I think you should be watching:

  1. The number of active small groups and active group members.  This may be an annual or semi-annual snapshot taken at a predictable time (i.e., mid-November or mid-April).  If you’re taking advantage of an easy-to-use church management system like Churchteams, you may be able to monitor this number week to week.  Be sure you are measuring in a way and at a time when you’re not simply noting the high water mark of a church-wide campaign.  Beyond simply monitoring the numbers it can provide a glimpse into the span of care in your groups.
  2. Year to date change in the number of active small groups.  Carefully monitoring the number of active groups helps keep your finger on the pulse of the groups in your system.  Active is an important word and should not include groups that only meet during your church-wide campaign.
  3. Year over year change in the number of active small groups and active group members.  Tracking this trend line over several years provides an important measure of effectiveness.  Remember, it is easiest to connect new members to new groups.  See also, Top 5 Advantages of New Groups.
  4. The number of active coaches and the number of leaders in their care.  Since whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your groups must happen first in the lives of your leaders, the number of active coaches is important to monitor.  Pay attention to the second aspect of this measurement.  Coaches can only influence and impact the leaders for whom they are actually providing care.  See also, The Most Important Contribution of a Small Group Pastor and The Truth about Building an Effective Small Group Coaching Structure.
  5. The number of leaders not in the care of a coach.  This is an important number to monitor.  While some of these leaders may have someone encouraging their spiritual growth, it is quite likely that they do not.  Leaders who are not being cared for in a way that encourages spiritual growth are not likely to provide that kind of care for their members.

Here are a few more indicators you may want to watch:

  • The total number of facilitators.  How many different people take a turn at facilitating your groups?  This number can be captured in an annual or semi-annual snapshot.  It is a leading indicator that hints at the number of potential leaders within your existing small group membership.  Encouraging your group leaders to enlist and engage additional facilitators is important and can be part of your annual effort.  See also, 10 Things Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know and Skill Training: How to Develop More Leaders.
  • The total number of homes and locations used by your groups.  This is an important leading indicator for potential new group leaders.  See also, Skill Training: Rotating Host Homes.
  • The number of active group members who don’t attend your church.  This number can provide important clues into the inclusivity of your groups.  It can also provide a hint into the kinds of people who are leading your groups.  Remember, the least connected people in your church are often the most connected outside your church.  See also, Do You Know This Game-Changing Connection Secret?

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

How to Design Next Steps and First Steps

circlesAt Canyon Ridge we want to provide next steps for every Ridger and first steps for their friends.  The essence of the idea is that when you think about the various kinds of people who attend your church, each of the various kinds of people would require their own next step.

The simplest way to think about the various kinds of people would be to think about the differences between the never-miss-a-week type and the Christmas and Easter type.  Can you see that difference?  It’s probably very distinct.

Saddleback’s concentric circles illustrate the various kinds of people in an easy to understand way.  I’ve provided my own definitions and descriptions of their five categories in another post.  Again, the key is in understanding that each of the various category would require their own next step.  See also, Clue #2 When Designing Your Small Group System.

Here’s my prescription for designing next steps for everyone:

First, begin to assemble a set of characteristics for each of the kinds of people who attend your church.  For example, the congregation are “people that attend more regularly.  They may come 2 or 3 times a month.  They may serve occasionally (for instance, when you add greeters for Easter).  They may give when they attend and many of them may give what they happen to have in their wallet.  But mostly, they’re more frequent consumers of what you’re producing.”

Note: Saddleback’s concentric circle diagram is a good place to start but as your understanding becomes more clear you should begin to notice nuances and expressions unique to your church.  For example, I often refer to the fact that those in the outer edge of the congregation are not that different from those in the inner edge of the crowd.  I’ve also found that there’s not much difference between those in the crowd and those in the community.

Second, begin to form a set of assumptions about their interests and needs.  It often helps to think about a few actual people that you know who fit in the demographic category.  As your understanding of each category grows your assumptions about their interests and needs should become more accurate.

Ask: “What could we offer that would appeal to their interests and meet their needs?”

Ask: “Do we already have anything that will appeal to their interests and meet their needs?”

Third, design a next step for each of the kinds of people who attend your church.  Start by designing a next step for the group you think will be the easiest to target (or the most productive to target).  Don’t hold out for perfect.  The sooner you can test the step you’ve designed, the sooner you will know whether you have it right.

Note: In the same way that restaurants and retail stores are designed with a different market niche in mind, next steps must be customized to suit the different groups who attend your church.

Fourth, be sure and evaluate the effectiveness of each step.  Your process should be design, test, evaluate and modify.  Evaluating the steps you design will help your design become better and more accurate.  For example, when we evaluated our first try at a short-term on-campus strategy we realized it would probably help our results if we seated unconnected people together and seated already connected people at a different table.  Once we made that change, our results improved dramatically at the very next opportunity.  See also, Breaking: North Point Increases GroupLife Participation by Adding an Easier Next Step.

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

5 Blind Spots that Affect Small Group Ministries Everywhere

I think we all know what a blind spot is…when it’s in our car.  It’s that spot that you can’t really see when you’re changing lanes or backing up.  If you’ve seen the movie Blind Side you know what it means in football (and you know the role of the left tackle).

What you may not realize is there are a few natural blind spots that affect small group ministries everywhere.

Think you might have a blind spot or two?  Here are 5 of the most common blind spots for small group ministries.

5 Blind Spots that affect small group ministries everywhere:

  1. Unnecessarily high entry standards for leaders.  Listen…we all want leaders who are truly capable of shepherding the members of their groups.  All of us dream of group leaders who will do to and for their members the things that will produce life-change.  All of us want that.  At the same time, entry levels that exclude the very people Jesus chose (Peter, Matthew and James), are Exhibit A of the blind spots that affect small group ministries everywhere.  See also, Leader Qualification: Raising the Bar, Lowering the Bar, or Open Bar.
  2. First steps that require extreme commitment.  First steps that require a 12 months or 18 month commitment are obviously extreme.  What about first steps that are 10 to 13 weeks?  Guess what…they seem an eternity to unconnected people!  Think about when you took a first step into a new habit.  Did you commit to a year?  Or a year and a half?  Unconnected people will only take a first step that is easy.  A one hour commitment?  Done.  A 4 to 6 week commitment?  Maybe.  A one year commitment?  Not a chance.  If you’re not offering a one time test-drive or a 6 week toe-in-the-water experience…you have a blind spot you don’t even know about.  See also, Creating Connecting Steps that Are Easy, Obvious, and Strategic.
  3. First steps that require near psychic intuition.  How easy is it to figure out what to do first?  Must I be psychic?  Do I have to do the hard work of figuring out who to call or where to click?  Remember, I’m barely interested.  And my husband (or my wife) will have to be bribed!  Whatever you want me to do first will have to be so easy even a caveman can do it.  It won’t require 3 clicks to find on the website and your receptionist will have to know the answer.  See also, How Would You Rate the First Steps Out of Your Auditorium?
  4. Interpretation for the unconnected.  You have an interpreter for the hearing impaired?  The unconnected people in your auditorium do not read lips and are not able to read between the lines.  If you want to connect unconnected people, your weekend teacher and every announcement and communication must provide explicit instructions that cannot be misinterpreted.  Offering “several ways that you can get connected here at First Community” only insures that unconnected people will hesitate and wait for clarity.  See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #2: a Bloated Belong and Become Menu.
  5. A menu that pacifies the status quo.  Do you have menu items that only interest the already connected?  You know what I’m referring to.  Whether you want to connect unconnected people or provide legitimate next steps for the already connected and under-committed, you must de-clutter your menu and only feature legitimate next steps.  Including “steps” that only collect attendees and don’t actually lead anywhere are sideways energy and must be eliminated or retooled.  See also, Which Customer Is Your Ministry Designed to Connect?

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

4 Keys to Choosing the Next Study for New Groups

I’ve pointed out that the time to think about what’s next for new groups is before you even begin.  Whether you’re starting new groups with a church-wide campaign, a small group connection, or an on-campus strategy with a built-in next step that launches off-campus groups, it is essential to choose the follow-up study before you even begin.  See also, Now Is the Time to Think about What’s Next.

What we need to talk about now is how to choose the best next study for your new groups.  While there are plenty of studies that might get the job done, with a little attention to detail you can choose the best next study.  Here are a few things to think about:

  • Whenever possible, choose a follow-up study that is similar-in-kind to the launching study.  If you recruited new HOSTs with the promise that “this study almost leads itself,” be sure and choose a follow-up study that is also easy to use.  If your launching study was a “show up” study (as opposed to preparation or homework), choose a show-up study as follow-up.  DVD-driven?  You get the idea.
  • Choose a follow-up study that will have broad appeal.  Stay away from studies that will exclude some groups or some members (i.e., marriage, parenting, etc.).
  • Pay attention to seasonal realities or issues.  Certain themes lend themselves to certain seasons.  For example, January is an opportunity for a study about fresh starts or new foundations.  Late fall is often an opportunity to focus on the true meaning of Christmas or making a difference in the community.
  • Consider the cost of participating and factor it into your choice.  Some studies on require the DVD or the leader’s guide.  Others require the study guide and a devotional book.

Although there are no truly one-size-fits-all studies, making a good selection will encourage more of your newest groups to continue.  Next to providing a coach, choosing a follow-up study that is similar-in-kind and beginning to promote it as early as week 3 or 4 of the launching study one of the most important keys to sustaining new groups.  See also, 5 Keys to Sustaining New Groups.

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

Have You Determined Your “Essential Intent”?

Have you clarified the win for your small group ministry?  Have you figured out what you’re going to call success?

I’m working my way through Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less and in today’s reading I came across an idea that I know is going to help me and I’m pretty sure is going to help you.

Author Greg McKeown references a study in which he “gathered data from more than 500 people about their experience on more than one thousand teams” and “found a consistent reality: When there is a serious lack of clarity about what the team stands for and what their goals and roles are, people experience confusion, stress, and frustration.  When there is a high level of clarity, on the other hand, people thrive (p. 121).”

Question: How clear is your team on what their goals and roles are?

McKeown goes on to point out that one way “we achieve clarity of purpose is [when we] decide on an essential intent.”

What is an essential intent?  “An essential intent is both inspirational and concrete, both meaningful and measurable.  Done right, an essential intent is one decision that settle one thousand later decisions (p. 125).”

“To get everyone in the U.K. online by the end of 2012″

The example cited by McKeown is when Martha Lane Fox was asked to become the U.K.’s first “digital champion.”  “Martha and her team came up with this essential intent: ‘To get everyone in the U.K. online by the end of 2012.’”

“An essential intent is both inspirational and concrete, both meaningful and measurable.”

What is your essential intent?  I was thinking about this today and plan to declare that our essential intent is “to connect 150% of our weekend adult attendance in groups by 2022.”  We’ll never drift to 150%.  It will require grit and determination to get to 150%.  It will require a steadfast focus.

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” Michael Porter

Connecting 150% of our weekend adult attendance in groups will also require a willingness to choose what not to do.  Anything and everything that doesn’t lead to our essential intent becomes a non-essential.

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

Rethinking the Role of the Small Group Pastor

Do you have a job description for a small group pastor?  What should we be looking for in a small group pastor?  Can you help us find the right small group pastor?  See also, Do You Have a Job Description for a Small Group Director?

These are just a few of the questions I get asked on a regular basis.

Want to know what I tell them?  The first thing I ask them is, “What do you want your small group pastor to do?”

This is an important question because it often reveals a set of bad ideas about what a small group pastor ought to be doing.

Bad ideas about the role of the small group pastor

  • Champion small group ministry (that role belongs to the senior pastor)
  • Recruit small group leaders (hand-to-hand combat will only get this job done in the smallest churches or in the very beginning of launching a small group ministry)
  • Train small group leaders (again, only in the smallest churches or in the very beginning)
  • Connect unconnected people (matchmaking is rarely, if ever, a strategic use of your small group pastor’s time).

What should be the role of the small group pastor?

If you’re going to build a thriving small group ministry, your senior pastor must be the small group champion.  That begs the question, “What is the role of the small group pastor?”  There are four main components:

  1. A behind the scenes instigator who sets in motion an annual strategy to connect people.  There are two key elements to this role.  First, the small group pastors with thriving small group ministries are almost always operate behind the scenes and are unknown by the congregation.  Second, they’re thinking year round about opportunities to connect unconnected people and designing strategies around those opportunities.  See also, 5 Keys to Launching New Groups Year Round.
  2. A role model, doing to and for your leaders (or coaches as your ministry grows) what you want them to do to and for the members of their groups.  Since adults learn on a need to know basis, developing leaders is a customized and just-in-time practice.  When this role is played effectively, leaders learn to do what you want them to do to and for their group members.  See also, The Most Important Contribution of the Small Group Pastor.
  3. A talent scout always identifying, recruiting and developing high capacity people, managing a reasonable span of care.  The key here is that building a thriving small group ministry is a team effort and every congregation has high capacity people who will only be fruitful and fulfilled when they play a high-impact role.  5 Habits I’d Look for If I Was Hiring a Small Group Pastor.
  4.  A Joshua to Moses or Timothy to Paul, looking for ways to help your senior pastor be the small group champion.  Never underestimate this aspect of the role of the small group pastor.  Thriving small group ministries aren’t built when the senior pastor delegates the role of small group champion, See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.

Need more help?  You’ll find these two articles helpful: What Some Small Group Pastors Know…that Others Don’t and 7 Biggest Problems Facing Small Group Pastors

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

Four Decisions Wise Small Group Pastors Make Once

You know the decisions you have to make every time you turn around?  The decisions that seem almost forced upon you in moments of weakness?  The decisions that catch you off guard and lead you to agree to things you don’t really want to do?

I think all of us could make a quick list of decisions we’ve made that we immediately (or eventually) regretted.  All of us.

Some of us, though, have learned from the consequences and decided to never make that mistake again.

Here are four decisions wise small group pastors make once:

  1. Prioritize launching new groups over adding members to existing groups.  This is such an important decision!  If you want to build a thriving small group ministry, launching new groups must be a high priority.  Wise small group pastors decide to focus their energy on strategies that launch more new groups.  They also decide to train existing group leaders to fish for new members.  See also, Critical Decision: Launch New Groups vs Add Members to Existing Groups and Skill Training: Top 10 Ways to Find New Group Members.
  2. Step down from the role of matchmaker.  Your time and energy (and your team’s time and energy) is better devoted to higher priority aspects of small group ministry.  Taking sign-ups to join a small group sets in motion the time and energy draining activity of finding the best group for each member.  The larger the sign-up, the more difficult the role of matchmaker becomes.  Instead of spending time and energy matchmaking, wise small group pastors decide to stop taking sign-ups to join a group and start taking sign-ups to attend an event that launches new groups (i.e., a small group connection or GroupLink type event).  See also, What’s the Best Way for People to Sign Up and Commit to a Group?
  3. Never recruit new coaches. Always recruit “helpers”.  Wise small group pastors understand that it is much harder to get someone out of a role than into a role.  This is true whether the role is a staff position or a volunteer position.  When you recruit some to be a small group coach (without observing them in action first) you set up the potential for a difficult conversation.  Wise small group pastors decide to engage potential new coaches in a test-drive first and decide whether coaching is a good fit based on fruitfulness and fulfillment.  “We’re launching some new groups this fall and I’m wondering if you’d be willing to walk alongside 1 or 2 newbie small groups leaders for their first 6 to 10 weeks?”  See also, Three Keys to a Coaching Tune-Up and Recruiting Additional Coaches for Church-Wide Campaigns.
  4. Invest time and energy in the right things.  There are many things that must be done by somebody that aren’t the best way for a small group pastor to spend their time and energy.  Wise small group pastors spend their time doing a few simple but vital things.  (a) Identifying, recruiting and developing leaders of leaders (coaches).  They understand that whatever you want to happen in the lives of group members must happen first in the lives of group leaders and whatever you want to happen in the lives of group leaders must happen first in the lives of small group coaches.  (b) Planning an annual series of group launching and leader development strategies.  And (c), developing an effective partnership with their senior pastor (i.e., the small group champion).  See also, The 7 Biggest Problems Facing Small Group Pastors and What Some Small Group Pastors Know…that Others Don’t.

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

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