Pushing Boundary-Free GroupLife

Page 10 of 192

7 Tips that Will Help Optimize Your Small Group Ministry

15894436305_29152fc7fd_cRegardless of your small group ministry model, there are a few things you can do to optimize your small group ministry.

Here are 7 tips that will help optimize your small group ministry:

  1. Focus your attention on the things that only you can do and delegate everything else, Conduct an audit on your weekly calendar. Whatever you are doing that could be done by someone else, must be delegated. If you don’t have anyone to delegate to, see tips #2 and #3.
  2. Make identifying, recruiting and developing leaders of leaders your number one objective. Start by taking a serious, steely-eyed look at your existing small group leaders. Every super effective small group leader ought to be looked at as a possible coach (a leader of leaders). Anyone who is a sixty or hundred-fold leader and leading a small group of adults (even if there are 20+ members in their group) might actually be misappropriating their capacity on ordinary men or women when they could (and should) be focusing on leaders.
  3. Make identifying and recruiting a volunteer team of men and women who are passionate about small groups part of what you do all the time. Some of the most enthusiastic potential volunteers are not leaders of leaders. If you can’t figure out how to use them, spend an afternoon creating an org chart for your ideal small group ministry. Add positions for every person it would take to maximize your potential. Strapped for administrative help? Add a position or two. Serving as a greeter yourself at your small group connections? Add positions for greeters. Writing discussion questions yourself for your sermon-based study? Recruit a writing team.
  4. Give regular attention to optimizing your next step menu and strategy. A buffet does not lead to more participation. A carefully groomed selection of next steps takes great courage and skillful tact and wisdom. Trimming available options (or at a minimum highlighting only the best next step will yield the highest completion. This cannot be put off. Although it often can only be accomplished with the tenacity and temerity of a political operative, a carefully manicured becoming and belonging menu will maximize the number of adults who get connected.
  5. Eliminate every opportunity to sign up to join a small group. The only sign-ups you should be taking are sign-ups to attend the next event or program that will launch new groups. Every sign-up opportunity that necessitates a contact to arrange a matchmaker function on your part (or anyone on your team) is wasted energy. Edit your connection card to remove “I’d like to join a small group” and add “I’d like to sign up for the small group connection.” Edit your website content to remove matchmaker functions and replace with sign-ups that will ultimately launch new groups.
  6. Focus on launching new groups. Evaluate your menu of connecting opportunities and focus on events and strategies that launch new groups. Everything you are currently doing to add members to existing small groups (i.e., taking sign-ups to join a group, holding small group fairs that repopulate existing groups, editing catalogs or lists of open groups, etc.) are almost always the least effective ways to spend your time. Instead, focus your time and attention on planning and implementing events that launch new groups. The most effective way to connect unconnected people is to give them opportunities to join groups where everyone is new.
  7. Train leaders of existing groups to be always inviting new members to their group. Every group leader will eventually need to add new members. Their best chance of actually adding new members who can break through the nearly impermeable membrane of an existing group is when a leader or a member invites a friend to join their group. Matchmaking is almost always counter-productive. In most cases only the most brazenly extroverted (with the exception of experienced small group participants from other churches or who come from a group that died) will use a small group finder. It is also a seldom acknowledged reality that it is the addition of a brazen outsider that causes the demise of a number of otherwise healthy groups every year.

Further Reading:

Image by C

Take a Look at Max Anders’ Brave New Discipleship

brave new worldI spent some time with a new book from Max Anders that I think you’re going to want to know about. I really stumbled across it as I worked my way through a stack of books that had been submitted as part of Outreach Magazine’s resource of the year project. Hadn’t heard of the book. Was only vaguely familiar with the author, but was very impressed with Brave New Discipleship: Cultivating Scripture-Driven Christians in a Culture-Driven World.

The title is a reference to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World in which “he imagined a very unpleasant future resulting not from everything being withheld from us, but from everything being made available to us, regardless of its value.” It is Anders’ observation that Huxley’s vision of the future is coming true and that “twentieth-century models of discipleship will not effectively translate widely into this Brave New World of twenty-first culture (from the introduction).”

In Brave New Discipleship Anders offers a set of 17 principles for discipling others. You can also “use the same principles to disciple yourself.” The principles are presented in short chapters and every chapter includes a set of exercises designed to “increase your memory, understanding, and application of the material in the chapter.”

The 17 principles include what Anders calls “the 7 marks of a complete Christian.” A few examples are, “a complete Christian worships God individually,” “a complete Christian worships God corporately,” and “a complete Christian impacts the world.”

Brave New Discipleship as a stand alone resource is definitely worth adding to your thinking about designing a discipleship pathway that works in the 21st century. There is also a video series that I’ve not seen or had an opportunity to review that might be worth taking a look at.

If you’re looking for resources that will help you build a discipleship pathway, I think you need to take a look at Brave New Discipleship. There are several ideas here that I know you will find helpful.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wanted: Men’s Pastor/Director for Canyon Ridge

5863884809_7dcbcea2e5_zAre you the man for the job? Do you know the man for the job?

We’re looking for the right player to join the Groups team at Canyon Ridge and lead our Men’s “ministry.” It’s a groups position and the best fit will be someone with a minimum of 5 years experience in groups ministry and a passion to help men get connected and grow in Christ. Because of the size of Canyon Ridge (weekend attendance just over 7000), the right candidate will likely be someone leading a groups ministry.

The most important outcome/objective of this position is identifying, recruiting and developing leaders of leaders as our Men’s Life Group grows from 500 men connected to 2000. Another significant outcome is building the teams that will design and develop next steps for every Ridger and first steps for their friends.

Could this be you? You can read more about the role right here.

Could this be someone you know? Why not forward them this post?

Have a question? Email me.

5 Things to Do in January to Connect More in 2016

january calendarWant to connect more people in 2016? There are a few things you can do now to exponentially increase the number you connect.

Here are 5 things to do:

  1. Plan a connecting event in late January. If you run the event on January 31st, you’ll have several weeks to promote it. Use a strategy like a small group connection in order to launch the maximum number of new groups. Small group fairs or other events that add members to existing groups are better than nothing, but don’t come anywhere near connecting the largest number of people for the year. See also, How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection and Here’s How I Lead a Small Group Connection.
  2. Think strategically about the placement of your 101 class. If your 101 class is designed to offer a short list of next steps and you’ve slotted your connection event to follow a week or two later, you have an easy and effective one-two step that leads to more people connected.  At Canyon Ridge we have a 60 minute experience called NEXT that is offered about every 6 weeks. The three next steps that are promoted during NEXT are baptism, an upcoming small group connection (1 or 2 weeks after), and signing up for a back-stage tour designed to expose unconnected people to serving opportunities. See also, How to Design Next Steps and First Steps.
  3. Review your calendar of connecting opportunities for 2016 and make sure you’re offering a well-timed selection. We build in an annual church-wide campaign every fall. We also schedule at least two other major small group connections and one or two opportunities to choose from a strategically selected set of on-campus group experiences that lead to off-campus groups. In all, we try to always have an upcoming opportunity that will connect people who have attended NEXT. See also, How to Build an Annual GroupLife Calendar.
  4. Choose a church-wide campaign for the fall ministry season and begin the planning process for it. The right church-wide campaign run the right way will maximize the number of people connected in new groups. Although a church-wide campaign may fit on the calendar in other seasons, the fall is the best time. See also, How to Choose the Right Church-Wide Campaign.
  5. Take a serious look at offering at least one 6 week on-campus experience that leads to an off-campus group. What we call a base group, offers a smartly selected topic that will appeal to unconnected people. For example, we use Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage to draw unconnected married couples. They’re seated intentionally with other unconnected couples like them (we actually segregate any couples who are already in groups to their own tables). The material almost leads itself but the most natural leaders always emerges by the 3rd week. In week 5 we begin suggesting that if they’d like to continue to meet together off-campus, we’d like to help them. See also, Take Advantage of This Short-Term On-Campus Strategy.

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

Image by Emma Kate

The Latest on Church-Wide Campaigns – 2016

The Latest On Church-Wide CampaignsSaddleback released the 40 Days of Purpose church-wide campaign in 2002.  Although they had previously launched internal spiritual growth campaigns, this one really was a just-add-water option.  Of course, in 2002 it really was just about the only option.

Today, there are lots of options and there are more all the time.  I’ve reviewed many of them and cataloged them here for your convenience.  How to choose?  I’d highly recommend my article, “How to Choose the Right Church-Wide Campaign.”

The Nearly Complete List of Church-Wide Campaigns (as of 1/5/16)

Note: This list is alphabetical.  In most cases, I’ve linked to my own review of the campaign.

What if you could start 10 times as many new groups-

5 Commitments for This Small Group Pastor

5 COMMITMENTSHave you made any New Year’s resolutions? I’ve made a set of resolutions. I’ve also renewed a set of 5 commitments as a small group pastor.

Here are the 5 commitments I’ve made as a small group pastor:

  1. I will make my own daily, living connection with Jesus Christ a priority—being in community with Him is the foundation for all community. This is truly where it must begin. How can I have any hope of leading anyone where I am not already going personally? Remember, whatever you want to happen at the member level in your system will have to be experienced by the you first.
  2. I will lead an exemplary Christian lifestyle—anyone watching me will see an obedient servant of Jesus Christ growing in maturity. I have a moment-to-moment opportunity to live the life I am proclaiming to others. In the words of Yoda, “Do or do not. There is no try.” See also, 8 Habits of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader.
  3. I will convene my own small group regularly (2 to 4 times a month). How can I call everyone to life in community if I am not in community?
  4. I will provide personalized care and development for each of my area leaders (staff and volunteer). In order to provide appropriate care at the leader and member levels, I must pay close attention to the care being given to coaches and community leaders. Within the constraints of our span of care, I must do TO and FOR my area leaders (men’s, women’s, couples, etc.) whatever I want them to do TO and FOR the community leaders and coaches for whom they provide care.
  5. I will regularly gather our coaching community for training and encouragement.  We all need to pay attention to the examples of the leaders just ahead of us.  We also need to meet the needs of the leaders just behind us.  Although it is countercultural, we need each other and we are in this together.

While there are other ministry-centric actions and habits that I’m committed to, these five are at the core of what I must commit to as a small group pastor.

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

Top 10 Posts of 2015 at (part two)

Top 10 Posts of 2015 (1)Another great year at! Thanks for coming along! Here are my top 10 most popular posts for 2015 (#6 to #10):

#6 – 5 Toxic Small Group Ministry Moves

I’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.

#7 – 5 Stupid Things Small Group Pastors Need to Stop Doing

We all do them. They’re just stupid. And we need to stop doing them.

Here are a few that are MUST. STOP. DOING.

  1. Matchmaking. Few of us actually have time or available horsepower to place members in groups with room for members. Time spent matchmaking is almost always better spent (a) focusing on launching new groups and (b) training leaders to learn to fish for their own new members.

#8 – 5 Clues that Point to a Change in Small Group Strategy

There’s no doubt that one of the most toxic small group ministry moves is changing small group systems, models or strategies too frequently or flippantly. It is important to make a three year commitment and pursue it with everything you’ve got when you do decide to change. See also, 5 Toxic Small Group Ministry Moves.

#9 – 5 Simple Mistakes that Sink Small Group Ministries

Figuring out why small group ministries fail is not complicated. There is a short list of simple mistakes that sink small group ministries.

5 Simple Mistakes that Sink Small Group Ministries

  1. Allowing the senior pastor to delegate the role of small group champion. It may seem logical to delegate the role of small group champion to the small group pastor. After all, why have a small group pastor if not to be the champion? This simple mistake may seem logical, but when this is allowed to happen you announce to everyone that being involved in a small group is an add-on activity. You also fail to take advantage of the most influential voice in the church.

#10 – 5 Signs Your Small Group Ministry Design is Inadequate

If it’s true that “your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing,” it follows that the results you are currently experiencing clearly indicate whether your design is the right one or the wrong one.

See where I’m going with this?

It makes sense, doesn’t it?  If you don’t like the results you are currently experiencing, you must blame the design.  It is not a fluke.  Results are directly connected to design.

Did you miss part one? You can see #1 to #5 right here.


Top 10 Posts of 2015 at (part one)

Top 10 Posts of 2015Another great year at! Thanks for coming along!

Here are the top 10 posts of 2015 (#1 to #5):

#1 – Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Leaders

A core understanding in my philosophy of small group ministry is that whatever you want to happen at the member level, will have to happen to the leader first.  Once you acknowledge that basic understanding, it automatically follows that you now know most of what the coaches in your system need to do.  This becomes their job description.

#2 – 5 Signs You May Have a Bad Disciple-Making Strategy

You may want to argue with me, but I think there are certain signs that indicate clearly whether you have a bad disciple-making strategy.  With me?  Isn’t obvious that certain results or a lack of results would indicate a bad disciple-making strategy?  Remember, “your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.”  If you don’t like the results, you must change the design.

I love this line from Winston Churchill.  “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”  If you don’t like your results, change the strategy.

3 – 4 Obsessions of the Extraordinary Small Group Pastor

I’ve written quite a bit about small group pastors.  I’ve shared their most important contribution and what they need to know on day one.  I’ve talked about their most common rookie mistakes and biggest problems.

What I haven’t written about is what a small group pastor needs to be preoccupied with, obsessed with, in order to succeed in their role.  With an obvious reference to Patrick Lencioni’s fabulous book, here are the four obsessions:

4 – 7 Things You Must Do TO and FOR Your Small Group Leaders

Can I let you in on a little corner of reality? Small group leaders are no different than the rest of us. A few of them (maybe 5 to 10%) are self-starters and have the internal wiring to take the right steps to grow on their own. The other 90-95% of all small group leaders need someone to develop and disciple them.

This is a very important concept to understand because whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your small groups must happen in the lives of your leaders first. No life-change in the leader, no life-change in the member.

5 – How to Make Disciples in Small Groups

I don’t know about you, but I’m determinedto build a thriving small group ministry that makes disciples.  That is the light at the end of the tunnel for me.  It is the end in mind.  It’s not just to connect unconnected people.  That’s important, but only a beginning.  My objective is to make disciples.  And I suspect–since you are still along on this journey with me–that is your objective too!  See also, How to Build a Thriving Small Group Ministry and 5 Things You Need to Know about Connecting Unconnected People.

And if your objective is to make disciples…you must know what it is you are trying to make (i.e., What is a disciple?).  Once you know that little detail, you will be able to lay out a path that leads to that preferred future.

Come back tomorrow to check out $6 to #10!

5 Decisions Delayed at Great Expense

delayThere may be some things that can be put off until later, but there are a number of decisions that are delayed only at great expense. What expense? Oh, first impressions missed, connection misplayed, leadership engagement squandering, etc.

Here are 5 decisions that are delayed only at great expense:

    1. Launching a good enough first-step-out-of-the-auditorium. What does delay cost? Total up the number of first time guests in the past 12 month period and use this number to analyze your weekend worship attendance. What percentage of first time guests who return for a second visit would you think would be a healthy target? What percentage of your first time guests should contribute to growth in your weekend worship attendance average? Churches that launch (and continue to perfect) a good enough first step out of the auditorium increase their opportunity to meaningfully connect new attendees. See also, How Would You Rate the First Step out of Your Auditorium?
    2. Converting to an always on prioritization of new groups. The best way to connect unconnected people is to prioritize launching new groups over adding members to existing groups. Referring potential new members to existing groups only occasionally leads to a connection. Groups that have been meeting longer than 3 to 4 months begin to form a nearly impermeable membrane that only the most outgoing and brazenly extroverted candidates can penetrate. Converting to an always on prioritization of new groups leads to more efficient connecting and fewer missed handoffs. See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs Start New Groups.
    3. Prioritizing the needs of unconnected people. Conduct an audit on your current menu for adults with an eye for one critical detail. Make a list of what you are offering that prioritizes the needs of unconnected people (outsiders) and another list that actually prioritizes the needs and interests of already connected people (insiders). Because insiders can only rarely remember the worldview of an outsider, you may need the help of a few people with a decidedly neutral bias. Continued delay on this decision is at the heart of the lack of growth for many churches. See also, Design Your Connection Strategy with Unconnected People in Mind.
    4. Trimming your become and belong menu. There is conclusive evidence in the retail world that a larger menu actually leads to fewer purchases. Buyers confronted with more choices do not buy more. They buy less. The underlying psychology explains the ineffectiveness of bloated become and belong menu (all the options you are currently offering for adults who want to connect relationally or grow spiritually). Delaying trimming this menu is understandable because of the feelings of the many committed volunteers who run the programs that contribute to the glut of offerings. In addition, many alumni of the programs remain passionate advocates long after they’ve graduated to other endeavors. Still, delaying these decisions leads to fewer purchases and fewer purchases leads to something far less than a satisfying outcome. See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #2: A Bloated Become and Belong Menu.
    5. Giving the annual budget a future forward makeover. One of the most significant hurdles in achieving escape velocity is a nearly inescapable commitment to last year’s budget allocations. If you want to break free from the gravitational pull of the commitments and strategies that have gotten you to where you are but will not get you to where you need to go…you must decide to begin the budget conversation with an outside-in perspective. Specifically, you must agree to “temporarily let go of your inside-out perspective and ask the question…’what does the world really want from us?'”See also, Can You Reach Escape Velocity?

Do you have what it takes to make these decisions? Or will you settle for the status quo?

1Geoffrey Moore, Escape Velocity

Image by Bryan Rosengrant

Good Intentions + Bad Decisions = Bad Results

good intentions

Good intentions are not enough. Wishful thinking may bring feelings of warmth and hope, but good decisions are essential.

I love this line from Jim Collins:

“Bad decisions taken with good intentions…are still bad decisions.”

Image by Michael Ransburg

« Older posts Newer posts »