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Here’s How Saddleback Does Week #1 of a Church-Wide Campaign

Willing to take a dare?  If you want to know how Saddleback launched their newest 2200 small groups–and that’s not a typo–I dare you to give me 3 minutes of your time.

Watch the first 3 minutes of this video to get a feel for the way Saddleback launched What On Earth Am I Here For? (their new version of 40 Days of Purpose).  I double dog dare you!

Here’s the link.  It will literally take 3 minutes to see what you need to see.  If you’re the person that leads the church-wide campaign…you have got to see this.

 

Ministry in a Fog? Here are 6 Critical Questions that Create Clarity

fogYesterday I added a simple exercise you can use to identify next steps.  It occurred to me as I wrote yesterday’s post that even completing that simple exercise is very tough for many organizations, because they don’t know the answers to a set of essential questions (what I often refer to as the Drucker Questions).

I’ve been working my way through The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni’s latest, for the last several months.  Unlike Lencioni’s previous fables, The Advantage calls for a careful read.  Packed with insights and practices, it includes a set of 6 critical questions that create organizational clarity.

Honestly, I don’t know how anyone can build ministries without this kind of clarity.

Here are Lencioni’s 6 Questions:

  1. Why do we exist?  This is the why question.  “An organization’s core purpose–why it exists–has to be completely idealistic.”  “How do we contribute to a better world?”  Don’t settle for the first answer.  Ask “Why?”  See Start with Why for more.
  2. How do we behave?  This is about values.  Core, Aspirational, Accidental, Permission-to-play.  Core values have been identified correctly when it will “allow itself to be punished for living those values and when it accepts the fact that employees will sometimes take those values too far.”  Aspirational values are those an organization wants to have, wishes it already had, and believes it must develop in order to maximize it success in its current market environment.”  Permission-to-play values are “the minimum behavioral standards that are required in an organization.”
  3. What do we do?  This is the what question.  An “unsexy, one-sentence definition.”  Drucker’s “What business are you in?” is a little bit of a blend between this very basic angle and Lencioni’s “why do we exist?”  See also, The First Question Every Small Group Pastor Must Answer.
  4. How will we succeed?  For Lencioni this revolves around the question, “How will we make decisions in a purposeful, intentional, and unique way that allows us to maximize our success and differentiate us from our competitors?”  See also, The Second Question Every Small Group Pastor Must Answer
  5. What is most important?  There can’t be multiple top priorities.  The implication of top priority is that there really is only one.  “Every organization, if it wants to create a sense of alignment and focus, must have a single top priority within a given period of time.”
  6. Who must do what?  This is about understanding and agreeing on roles and responsibilities.  “Everyone on the leadership team knows and agrees on what everyone else does and that all the critical areas are covered.”
I think you can see that this isn’t an assignment you complete over lunch.  It’s a time-consuming and painstaking process.  But…if you spend the time working through these 6 questions, you’ll probably notice that the fog has begun to lift (if you haven’t read The Advantage, I highly recommend it).
Image by Dom Crossley
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. In addition, I am the Small Group Specialist for LifeWay. 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.”

Try This Simple Exercise to Identify Next Steps

Need a little push in order to get moving?  Try this simple exercise to identify some next steps.  It’s based on this great Andy Stanley line:

“Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you’re currently experiencing.”

The exercise?  There are two steps.

First, make a list of all the individual components in your small group ministry (i.e., finding new leaders, starting new groups, connecting people to groups, coaching, etc.).

Next, examine each component individually and begin to list all of the results you can think of.

  • If you have a team, do this as a team.
  • You might use a whiteboard or flip chart.
  • Don’t distinguish between positive and negative results (if you’re not identifying both positive and negative results, you’re not thinking carefully enough).
  • Celebrate the positive results!
  • Develop a list of the negative results, prioritizing those that would have the greatest impact if they were different.

Remember, the results you’re currently experiencing are directly related to your ministry design.  They aren’t coincidences or flukes.  If you want different results, you’ll need to change the design.

Need additional help?  Take a look at my 5 post series on the 5 Clues of Small Group Ministry Design.  Need some guidance?  Let’s set up a coaching call.  You can find out how to do that right here.

Faith Limps: Trusting a Good God in a Broken World | New from Lifeway

Spent some time this weekend with a relatively new study from LifeWay.  Faith Limps: Trusting God in a Broken World, featuring Michael Kelley, is DVD-driven study that will help your group members wrestle with some of life’s most challenging questions.

There are several very important aspects to Faith Limps.  First of all, the back story of this DVD-driven study is very compelling.  As told in Michael Kelley’s 2012 Wednesday’s Were Pretty Normal, the teaching in this study is very personal.  Kelley’s understanding of the biblical concepts became very personal when his young son Joshua was diagnosed with leukemia.  The journey of the next long season became practical theology.

The DVD sessions are pitched just right.  More slice of life than talking head, the sessions are captivating and at about 10 minutes long, they do a great job of setting up a very good discussion.

Along with the DVD, a companion member book includes a set of getting started questions, room to take notes on the DVD segment, a walking on section with questions for discussion, and a short reading.  Just enough to provide the foundation a leader needs to wrestle with this kind of topic.

In addition, the member book includes a very reasonable set of daily devotionals for each week.  While not too challenging in terms of the time investment, these daily exercises are very practical and will help members dive in to a study that will help ground their faith.

As I worked my way through the study, the practical application of Faith Limps was very evident.  Without prompting, the faces and stories of people of faith that I’ve known over the years quickly came to mind.  This study has the potential to help many people take very productive faith steps.  Still, there are a couple aspects that should be noted.  First, there isn’t a leader’s guide.  A simple study, that shouldn’t be an issue for most experienced leaders.  If you have a newer leader, you might need to provide a little help.  Second, there are a few times when Kelley’s language and terminology assumes a little more biblical knowledge than I’d prefer.  At the same time, for many, if not most small group leaders this will not even be noticed.

If you’re looking for a resource that builds faith even when faith limps…this is a great study and ought to be on your recommended list.  I really found it very compelling 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 will receive an affiliate commission. In addition, I am the Small Group Specialist for LifeWay. 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 One Thing That Changes Everything…and How to Get It

What changes everything in small group ministry?  What’s the one thing that makes the biggest difference?

I’ve written about this many times in the last several years, but it’s clear to me that the one thing that changes everything is senior pastor support.  To be clear, I’m not talking about moral support.  I’m not talking about “I believe in what you’re doing” kind of support.  And I’m not talking about simply being a believer and participant (as a leader or a member) in a small group.

Those are all good things.  But they’re not ultimately the one thing that changes everything.

The one thing that changes everything is when a senior pastor truly becomes the small group champion.  Way more than a figure head or a front man, senior pastors that truly become small group champions actually lead the public charge for small group participation.

  • They look for opportunities to tell stories about the benefits of their own group
  • They look for moments when an interview or a testimony can cast the vision of grouplife
  • They already embrace small group ministry as delivery system for ministry
  • Their support goes well beyond an annual plug and all the way to a weekly (and even daily) reference

The one thing that changes everything is a clear advantage and the only way a church really becomes a church OF groups. [Click to Tweet]

The question might be…”How am I going to get that?

If you’re going to get it, here’s how to get it:

First, you need to become a student of how those stories are being told in churches that do it well.  I make it a point several times a month to check the websites and listen to or watch the messages from Saddleback and North Point.  I’m looking for the ways they use stories and content to cast vision.  If you see or hear something with potential, reach out to their staff and ask a question about how they developed that idea or pulled off that idea.  You probably need to begin to curate the videos you discover and the ideas you surface, watching for the right opportunity to pass them on.

Second, you need to be a constant resource for great stories about the power of small group ministry.  The more you pass on about what’s happening in groups, the better chance you have that some of those stories will find their way into messages and testimonies.  This makes it essential that you’re mining your coaches and group leaders for “the best thing that happened in your group this week.”  By the way, this probably means that you make it part of your weekly routine to find a time to regularly tell the best stories to your senior pastor.  Might be a calendared meeting.  Might be as simple as Tuesday afternoon after staff meeting.

Third, you need to adopt the perspective of the long view.  You’re probably not looking at a transformation that happens before your eyes.  But over time, with constant application of being a student and passing on what you’re learning…you might help your senior pastor become the one thing that changes everything.

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

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.”

Todd Engstrom’s Update on Austin Stone’s Missional Move

About 18 months ago I had the opportunity to interview Todd Engstrom, Austin Stone’s Pastor of Missional Communities about a strategic grouplife move they were making.  After almost a year of meaning to get an update, I finally had the chance this week to get the latest on a very interesting story.
MH: It’s been 18 months since we talked about Austin Stone’s move to a missional community strategy from a more conventional small group strategy.  Can you give us a sense of the challenge you’ve faced and a snapshot of where things are right now?
TE: In the last 18 months, we’ve gone from a church of 2 campuses to 6 campuses, so we are very much dealing with the growing pains and complexities that this situation brings.  Challenges aside, the campuses have been an exception opportunity to network our missional communities in regions of the city together by providing a consistent gathering point.
Additionally, we have a number of missional communities in various stages of formation – those that have just launched with people relatively unfamiliar with the concept, those who have been going for a few years, and still some communities from our legacy small group structure that are hanging tough.  Currently, we’re thinking through systemic training and how we can meet such a diverse set of needs.
Our biggest learning during this time has been the need to be doggedly persistent about simplicity and clarity in theology, philosophy and practice of missional communities.
MH: What are some of the biggest benefits of the move?
TE: I think some of the biggest benefits of the move are watching people “get it”.  If we’ve equipped our leaders and communities well, they are indeed fledgling church plants who are identifying pockets of lost people in our city, orienting their lives together around them, and then figuring out how to share the good news of the gospel in a compelling way.
Additionally, from an evangelistic perspective, we’ve seen that missional communities are performing as many baptisms as we are in our corporate services.  It’s pretty awesome to see the people of God make disciples!
MH: What might be some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
TE: I’m not sure how many we’ve overcome yet :).  I’d say our biggest challenges that we’re currently working hard at are:
  1. Gospel – our greatest battle is keeping the gospel of Jesus at the center of everything we do.
  2. Pace – we are fighting to keep pace with training, coaching, care and assessment needs of our leaders and communities.
  3. Clarity – we are fighting really hard to keep things clear, simple and reproducible.
Each of those topics is at least a blog post, so for brevity’s sake, I’ll keep it to that.
MH: What has surprised you?
TE: I’ve honestly been very surprised at how few people can articulate the gospel with clarity.  In every training, we do a pop quiz on sharing the gospel.  In our new group trainings, on average only about 20% of people can talk through Christ’s perfect life, atoning death, and resurrection, and that by faith we can be saved from our sin.  Virtually no one opens their Bible or quotes Scripture when they answer that question.  If only 20% of the people in a church can walk through the gospel, we’ve got some serious work to do!
Our response to this has been a core commitment to this idea – “we never assume the gospel”.
MH: If you missed the original interview with Todd, you can read it right here.  If you want to be sure and catch the next stop in the journey…you’ll need to be sure you’re signed up to get my updates!

What Are You Doing about the “Mortality Rate” of Premature Spiritual Babies?

Here’s the set-up: I reread a fascinating story today in Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation.  It was the story of how a Parisian obstetrician named Stephane Tarnier stumbled across the way baby chicks were being cared for at the Paris Zoo.  Curious, he wondered if the simple chicken incubators would make any difference in the infant mortality rate.  Tarnier hired the zoo’s poultry raiser “to construct a device that would perform a similar function for human newborns.”

Want to guess what happened when they tested it on five hundred babies?

“While 66% of low-weight babies died within within weeks of birth, only 38% died if they were housed in Tarnier’s incubator box.”

500 babies.  Normally 330 would die within weeks of birth in 1870s Paris.  With the incubator box they cut the number of baby deaths to 190.

Here’s the question: What’s the incubator we need to develop to decrease the mortality rate for premature spiritual babies?

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

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.”

Supercharge Your Ministry Impact with These 5 Questions

superchargeNeed to take your ministry impact to a new level?  So often we find ourselves in meetings or planning sessions that could move things in the right direction, but it’s almost like we’re the guy who shows up with a knife to a gunfight!

What can move things in the right direction?  Sometimes the right questions make all the difference.

Here are 5 of my favorites:

  1. What’s the best way to…?  I picked this up recently from Andy Stanley.  Works great when you’re stuck with legacy solution that just isn’t working very well any more (from Andy Stanley’s Leadership Podcast, Introducing Change).
  2. How might we…?  I got this one from Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO (from The Secret Phrase Top Innovators Use).
  3. What would have to be true for that approach to work?  Or, “for the idea on the table to be a fantastic option?”  I love these two questions from Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management (p. 12, The Design of Business).
  4. What are we not doing that we should start doing right away?  What should we immediately stop doing in order to allow for the emergence of the new?  Bill Taylor, a co-founder of Fast Company, is a great source of ideas like this. (p. 123, Practically Radical) 
  5. What 21st-century challenges are testing the design limits of our ______ strategy? Also, What are the limitations of our model that have failed to keep up with the times?  Gary Hamel has been called “the world’s leading expert on business strategy.” (from The Future of Management)
Are these five questions enough?  They’re certainly enough to get you moving in a new direction!
More great questions:

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

Image by Otis Blank

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.”

New from Rick Warren and Saddleback: What On Earth Am I Here For?

I took some time this weekend to preview What On Earth Am I Here For?, the 2013 version of 40 Days of Purpose.  Before I say anything else, let me just say…Wow!  So powerful!  Whether you’ve never done 40 Days or it’s been several years, you’re going to want to consider taking your church through this powerful study.

I should note right at the top that this is a completely updated campaign.  Every component, even the Purpose Driven Life itself, has been completely retooled and updated to respond to today’s challenges.  For example, The Purpose Driven Life now includes video introductions and an online audio lesson at the end of each chapter as well as two new bonus chapters on the most common barriers to living the purpose driven life and access to an online community for feedback and support.

Like the previous versions, there are three participation aspects to this campaign.  Individual, group and weekend service.  The group experience is anchored by a great new version of the DVD.  Beyond the switch from hawaiian shirts to a slimmer, more trendy look, there seemed to me to be a new passion for the powerful principles that are embedded throughout.  I’m not sure I can explain it, but I found myself deeply engaged in the video as I imagined the members of my group watching for the first time.  Very, very, powerful stuff!

The study guide has a new look, too, with updated graphics and very contemporary look.  More importantly, two new aspects greatly enhance the experience.  I really like the addition of a catching up opener, designed to pull in new insights from the daily readings in the Purpose Driven Life.  That will help get the group off to a good start.  I also like the addition of recommended resources in the diving deeper section.  Might seem like small things, but in my mind these details make it easier for ordinary people to host groups.

As in the previous editions, there is plenty of help available to maximize the impact of the spiritual growth emphasis.  Sermon outlines, powerpoint, graphics, and much more are included (either on the resource disc or at www.saddlebackresources.com/campaigns).  In addition, the success guide is the blueprint for a great experience and it’s included in the campaign preview kit.

If you’re wondering what to do for your next church wide campaign, you’ve got to at least consider taking advantage of What On Earth Am I Here For?  So powerful and it addresses questions that everyone has.  An easy invite for neighbors and friends, this is a truly cross-cultural topic.  At the same time, it will take your congregation to a new place.  I really like this new edition and I think you will, too!

Need more information?  You can find out everything you need to know right here.

Dilbert on What Not to Say to Your Senior Pastor

We can learn a lot from Dilbert.  Here’s what not to say to your senior pastor:

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