Thinking Thursday: Why Great Leaders Make You Feel Safe

As you watch this video from Simon Sinek (best known for his book Start with Why), listen for clues about the aspects that ought to be built in to what is modeled for small group leaders.

Can’t see the video?  You can click here to watch it.

5 Things to Remember When Planning Connecting Events

post itThere are certain things you must keep in mind as you’re planning events or strategies to connect unconnected people.

  1. Unconnected people care about what they care about.  In other words, what already connected people care about or are curious about doesn’t matter.  When you are choosing a topic or a small group study, the only people whose opinions count are the people you are trying to connect.  See also, Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer?
  2. Unconnected people are infrequent attenders.  They will not necessarily be there on the week you’ve chosen to announce or promote the connecting event.  If you want to give them the very best opportunity to connect, you must promote the connecting event several weeks in a row.  See also, 5 Things You Need to Know about Unconnected People.
  3. Unconnected people are more likely to respond to a short-term test-drive (4 to 6 weeks).  The longer the commitment the less likely they are to respond.  It is far more effective to offer a short-term commitment with built-in next steps.  The longer the required commitment the smaller the percentage who will sign up.  The shorter the required commitment the greater the percentage who will sign up.  See also, 5 Small Group Ministry Shortcuts You Need to Know.
  4. Unconnected people are looking for convenience.  Be sure you are scheduling the event at the most convenient time or times.  Plan to offer free childcare.  Provide an all-inclusive experience.  Every unnecessary step and everything that inconveniences them or forces them to go out of their way increases the chance that they will decline to take the test-drive.
  5. Unconnected people are often quick to change their mind.  While they don’t have to be, they are sometimes looking for a reason or excuse not to come (think about how often one spouse is interested and the other is not).  The more you can do to reinforce their commitment the better.  Confirmation and reminder emails are essential, a reminder phone call the day before, and an “even if you didn’t sign up” announcement the day of the event are all helpful measures that make attendance more likely.

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

Take Advantage of an Early Easter to Launch Small Groups


image: user Phyl Brown

I’ve been thinking about the rhythms of connecting people and wanted to share an idea that you might want to consider.  With Easter, 2015  just about as early as it can possibly be (April 5th), there is still plenty of spring left before summer and it makes a lot of sense to launch another wave of small groups.

There are three steps to the idea.

Step One

As you know, we’re coming into a season (regardless of your hemisphere!) where many people are thinking, at least a little bit, about spiritual things.  Regardless of ones religious background, there will be a number of noticeable references to Lent and Easter over the next 40 days.

The weeks leading up to Easter can be a good opportunity to cast vision into existing small groups about opportunities to invite unchurched neighbors, friends, co-workers and family to Easter services.  A simple video of your senior pastor speaking directly to group members about the opportunity could be played in every group.

Step Two

Easter (April 5th) is quite early in 2015.  With over two months left before school is out for summer (at least in the United States), there is plenty of time for a connecting event and enough weeks to allow new groups to have a chance of solidifying.  See also, How to Launch New Groups Using a Small Group Connection.

If a study was selected that would appeal to infrequent attenders (who will be attending this Easter) as well as friends and neighbors, it could lead to an easy opportunity to connect unconnected people.  See also, Design Your Connecting Event with Unconnected People in Mind and Four Secrets of Connecting Unconnected People.

Promotion of a connecting event could begin the week before Easter.  The event could be scheduled for April 12th or 19th.

Step Three

Choosing the right study will make it easier to promote the connecting event and encourage unconnected people to join “a six week group.”  Of course, you’ll be doing everything you can to make it such a good experience that they will want to continue, but you’ll also be leveraging the power of a test-drive.  See also, 5 Studies that Will Connect People after Easter.

The right study will also make it easy for those who have invited friends and neighbors to host a group in their home that will do the study.  I’ll be posting an article next week that will highlight several good choices for post Easter strategies.

I hope this strategy helps you connect more people this spring!

5 Studies that Will Connect People after Easter

Early Easters present a third very good connecting opportunity.  In 2015 Easter is almost as early as it can be (April 5th) and leaves almost two months before summer.  See also, 5 Keys to Launching Groups Year Round.

If you want to connect unconnected people, you must select topics that will actually appeal to unconnected people.  See also, Preoccupied with the Needs and Interests of the Right People.

5 Studies that Will Connect People after Easter

Here are 5 studies that are good possibilities and will connect unconnected people after Easter.

transformed bookTransformed: How God Changes Us is the latest study from Rick Warren.  Anchored in the apostle Paul’s profound truth in Romans 12:2, this study explores what the Bible has to say about seven essential areas of our lives: Spiritual, Physical, Mental, Emotional, Relational, Financial, and Vocational.

If you’re looking for a study that will connect less frequent attenders, Transformed has a number of advantages.  Rick Warren’s name is very recognizable and deals with a topic that is fairly cross-cultural (who doesn’t wish they could change something about themselves?).  You can read my full review right here.

jesus isJesus Is ______: Find a New Way to Be Human is an 8 session small group study that reveals the character of Jesus in a powerful way.  Judah Smith is the Lead Pastor of The City Churcha multi-site church with thousands in attendance each weekend in the Seattle area.

If you’re looking for a topic that might appeal to infrequent attenders, you might want to consider Jesus Is _______.  Virtually no one has a problem with Jesus and many people who don’t believe He is God are still intrigued by His teaching and influence.  You can read my full review right here.

overwhelmed book Overwhelmed: Winning the War Against Worry is a six week, DVD-driven study on a topic that is dead center for many, many people.  Perry Noble, the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church, “a growing, vibrant church with multiple locations all over the state of South Carolina,” is a gifted communicator and teacher, convicted about speaking the truth as plainly as possible.

The application elements that are built in to the Bible study book are really exceptional.  Some very good work has crafted an excellent experience.  I loved Overwhelmed and I think you will too.  You can read my full review right here.

7 questions[7] Seven Questions that Rattle in the Minds of Most Men is a powerful new study based on a 7 week study that has been offered at North Point over the last several years.  Now available from North Point Ministries, this is a resource you need to be aware of.

Offering a selection of studies could engage a larger number of unconnected people.  It’s easy to imagine this study grabbing the attention of the unconnected men in your church.  You can read my full review right here.

the best yes

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands is a new study by Lysa TerKeurst.  In this six-session video-based Bible study TerKeurst shares how to make better use of the two most powerful words, yes and no.  Using Biblical teaching and practical insights this study will help you be more equipped to discern the best answers for your life.

I am always looking for studies that will interest a broad cross section of adults.  When I can find a topic that appeals to new Christians and seasoned veterans, and will even appeal to friends and neighbors, I know I’ve found a winner; what I call a cross-cultural study.  You can read my full review right here.

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

The New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating: A Great New Study from Andy Stanley

love sex and datingSpent some time with a new DVD-driven study from Andy Stanley this week.  The New Rules for Love, Sex & Dating is a four session study that you’re going to want to know about.  In this study Stanley explores “the challenges, assumptions and land mines associated with dating in the twenty-first century.  Best of all, he offers the most practical and uncensored advice you will ever hear on this topic (from the cover).”

Who is the study designed for?  While the primary audience is single adults, married adults will have no trouble relating and learning.  Keep in mind that the video segments were taken from a weekend message series at North Point.  What about teens and young adults?  This study ought to be required.

While the session titles provide a preview of where these sessions are going, like every Andy Stanley study Love, Sex & Dating is very creatively and memorably arranged.

  • The Right Person Myth
  • Gentlemen’s Club
  • Designer Sex
  • If I Were You

DVD-driven, Love, Sex & Dating features teaching by Andy Stanley, one of the most compelling communicators in America.  At an average length of 20 minutes, the video segments easily hold the attention of participants.

The small group discussion guide is built in to a book by the same title that accompanies the DVD.  Easy to use, the discussion guide includes a short introduction, a simple video video viewing notes section, and a very good set of discussion questions.  The discussion guide also features a simple between sessions assignment that includes a verse to memorize and a section of the book to read.

The book is very well written and packed with great insights.  No holds barred, Andy Stanley addresses the topic of love, sex and dating in an eye opening way that grabs attention.

The New Rules of Love, Sex & Dating is a great study!  I’m already thinking about how to use this content and get it in the hands of the most people.  I loved it and I know you will too.

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



Thinking Thursday: Where Good Ideas Come From

Where do good ideas come from?  Whether we want to connect people no one else is connecting or make more disciples (or both), it will require someone having a better idea.  This talk, based on Steven Johnson’s fascinating book Where Good Ideas Come From, is full of insight and must watch in my opinion.  Enjoy!

Can’t see the video? You can watch it right here.

Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Leaders

conversationA 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.  See also, Life-Change at the Member Level.

Job Description of a Coach

Here’s my shorthand for the job description of a coach: Do to and for (and with) the leaders whatever you want your leaders to do to and for (and with) their members.

Now, if this is the simplest job description, really the root idea of the job description, can you see what your coaches need to do?  Almost entirely, we should be equipping coaches to develop and disciple leaders.  Can you also see what you might have them doing that they really don’t need to be doing?

Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Leaders

Essentially, your coaches need to model the way we want leaders to develop and disciple their members.  It has a lot to do with the relationship they build with them, the conversations they have with them and the love they show for them.  It has almost nothing to do with the information they pass on to them or collect from them.

As you can see, this isn’t an idea that can be completely fleshed out in a single article.  But I think we can begin here.

Questions your coaches should begin to ask:

  • How can I pray for you?
  • What are you learning in your daily time in God’s word?
  • What is the one thing you’re hearing from God that you least want to do?
  • What are you sensing Jesus is calling you to do next?  What’s your next step?

Don’t Miss This

The kind of relationship that will enable and produce conversations like this will take time to develop.  It won’t happen over the first cup of coffee.  It also won’t happen if your coaches haven’t mastered the art of appropriate self-disclosure; if your coaches aren’t learning to be appropriately transparent about their own journey.

Finally, don’t miss the fact nothing like this happens at the member level until your leaders have experienced it first.  And nothing happens at the leader level until your coaches have experienced it first.  If you aren’t modeling this to your coaches…you cannot expect it to go very far.  See also, 7 Practices for Developing and Discipling Your Coaches.

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

Lagging Indicators of Effective Disciple-Making Small Group Ministries

economic chartIn the world of economics, “lagging indicators are indicators that usually change after the economy as a whole does.”  For example, changes in the unemployment rate are lagging indicators that lag changes in the economy.  As the economy improves, more jobs are added and the unemployment rate decreases.  The Consumer Confidence Index and the Dow Jones Transportation Average are other examples of lagging indicators.  Their movement, up or down, trails changes in the economy.

Lagging indicators are useful for economists because they confirm the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of earlier strategies and actions.

Can you see where this is going?  Might there be lagging indicators that validate or invalidate the effectiveness of small group ministry disciple-making strategies and structures?  I believe there are a few that we should be tracking.

Lagging Indicators of Effective Disciple-Making Strategies and Structures

This is a very preliminary list, but doesn’t it make sense that the following lagging indicators would be in evidence?

  • Growing evidence of a biblical worldview.  As more and more disciples are made, wouldn’t biblical principles infiltrate ordinary conversation among small group members?
  • A growing culture of generosity.  Couldn’t you compare the giving levels of small group members with the giving levels of those not in a group?
  • An others first mentality.  Doesn’t it make sense that a Philippians 2 attitude would begin to be in evidence?  With some work it should be possible to quantify a decrease in taking the best seat and an increase in setting aside what is due?
  • An abundance of ministry volunteers.  Wouldn’t every ministry have a surplus of committed volunteers?  Doesn’t the perennial shortage of ministry volunteers indicate an ineffective disciple-making strategy?
  • A pervasive attitude of humility.  If there was an effective disciple-making strategy, wouldn’t a growing percentage of small group members acknowledge that they have not yet arrived and readily recognize that they are not yet what they will be?
  • A persistent determination to clear up damaged relationships.  Don’t you imagine that an effective disciple-making strategy would greatly reduce the presence of petty grievances, malicious gossip, and barely covered ill will?
  • An increasing willingness to follow spiritual leadership.  Wouldn’t stubborn refusal to submit to spiritual authority steadily diminish when there is an effective disciple-making strategy?

Admittedly, in a growing church spiritual immaturity will always be present.  But in a church with an effective disciple-making strategy, there should also be the presence of an encouraging set of lagging indicators.

See also, Four Leading Indicators of Small Group Ministries that Make Disciples and 8 Habits of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader.

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

5 Signs Your Small Group Ministry Design Is Inadequate

designIf 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.

Signs Your Small Group Ministry Design is Inadequate

  1. You can’t find enough leaders.  If interest in joining a small group exceeds your ability to identify, recruit and develop small group leaders…you have an inadequate design.  The right design will produce an unlimited number of leaders and allow you to connect beyond 100% of your average adult weekend worship attendance.  See also, 8 Secrets for Discovering an Unlimited Number of Small Group Leaders.
  2. You can’t find enough coaches.  If you are not able to identify, recruit and develop an adequate number of high capacity candidates, it is most likely that your design has incorrectly characterized the critical nature of the role.  The best candidates are almost always already serving in some capacity and will need encouragement and release to move to the right seat on the bus.  This is rarely an easy move and never without consequence.  As Carl George pointed out, “leaders allocate the finite resources of the organization to the critical growth path.”  High capacity leaders might be the most finite of all resources and it the critical growth path includes a thriving small group ministry, the design must reflect wise reallocation of volunteers.
  3. Your percentage of connected adults is not increasing.  Many of us know this reality.  We find some new leaders and launch some new groups only to discover that some leaders decide to take a break or move away and some groups are always ending.  In a way our ministries are treading water.  A number of design elements can be responsible for a stuck percentage (A doubtful or conflicted senior pastor; a bloated belong and become menu; indecision about the best next step; a myopic understanding of the culture; or a leadership development disconnect).  See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblocks.
  4. You are connecting unconnected people but not making disciples.  A pattern of launching new groups and connecting lots of unconnected people every year without the lagging indicators that evidence a growing number of disciples, is an indication that your design is inadequate.  See also, Four Leading Indicators of Groups that Make Disciples.
  5. You are making disciples but not connecting unconnected people.  Some inadequate designs have the opposite issue.  They can point to a trickle of new disciples on an annual basis but express frustration at the inability to attract the congregation and crowd to the disciple-making process.  While it is true that few will choose the narrow gate, the right design will maximize the opportunity to choose it.  See also, Would You Rather: Connect More People or Make More Disciples?

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

A Man and His Marriage: A Great Addition to 33 The Series

man and his marriageSpent some time with A Man and His Marriage this week.  The latest in a line of men’s studies called 33 The Series, it was inspired by the Men’s Fraternity material created by Robert Lewis (I reviewed part 1 of the series right here).

Like the other studies in this series, A Man and His Marriage can be used in several ways.  Much like Men’s Fraternity, it can be used as a weekly on-campus large group study with discussion groups.  It can also be used very effectively by men’s small groups that meet in homes, at work, or in a coffee shop.

“There are many important relationships in a man’s life, and none deserve more care, focus, and investment than the relationship with his wife.  A man’s marriage is meant to be and can be an incredible source of energy, joy and intimacy.” [From the cover]

A Man and His Marriage wrestles with 6 important topics:

  1. The Biblical Foundation for Marriage
  2. Die to Live
  3. Friendship in Marriage
  4. Physical Intimacy
  5. Obstacles to Biblical Oneness in Marriage
  6. Game Changers

DVD-driven, A Man and His Marriage is a six session study that features teaching by Bryan Carter (senior pastor of Concord Church), Tierce Green (lead house church pastor of The Church Project),  and John Bryson (founding pastor of Fellowship Memphis).  These three communicators are known for their ability to connect with men.  In addition to series regulars Carter, Green and Bryson, this volume includes segments from marriage expert Paul Tripp.  The DVD segments average 30 to 35 minutes in length and include a variety of elements: teaching, man on the street interviews, and personal testimonies.

The Training Guide includes a note-taking section to be used while viewing the teaching segment, as well as a reflection and discussion guide that will direct the group experience.  In addition, you’ll also find an engaging set of short between-session reading assignments on a series of topics that will capture and hold the attention of group members.  Because of the way the questions are designed, no leader is required.

Far more than a study guide, the design of the Training Guide has a very engaging design.  I’ve been impressed with the look and feel of every volume and this one is no exception.  It has a very contemporary feel and will hold attention very well.

The Leader Kit comes with a second DVD that includes a promotional trailer, leader ideas, creative ideas for building a men’s large group study and much more.

If you’re looking for a new study that will reinforce the marriages in your church, you need to take a look at A Man and His Marriage.  I like this study and I think you will too.

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

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