Courageous: A New Church-Wide Campaign (based on the movie)

Sure to be a popular movie, Courageous: Honor Begins at Home hits theaters on September 30th, 2011.  From the creators of Fireproof and Facing the Giants, Courageous provides an “opportunity to encourage your body of believers and to reach out to a community of nonbelievers (from the planning guide).”

The Courageous Campaign Kit provides everything you need to pull off a focused effort and at $34.99 is reasonably priced.  Add the Courageous Starter Kit (see below) and you’ve got a “just-add-water” campaign that will work very well for many churches.

Anchored by a four week DVD-driven Bible study, the Campaign Kit also includes:

  • Campaign Planning Guide (I found it packed with ideas and good direction)
  • DVD-ROM includes a four week sermon series with presentation slides based on Michael Catt’s Courageous Living book.
  • 1 copy of the Courageous Living Book by Michael Catt, Senior Pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church and Executive Producer of Fireproof and Courageous.
  • Sample chapters of The Resolution for Men and The Resolution for Women.

Courageous Starter Pack

With the movie tie-in and family-oriented theme, Courageous has the potential to provide an outreach opportunity.  The Courageous Starter Pack makes it easy to pull off with posters, post cards, impact cards, invitations, bulletin insert ideas, a 23″ by 87″ banner, and a catalog–showing other promotional items that can be ordered.  At $59.95, the Starter Pack will be everything many churches will need and a great beginning for many others.

Timing Your Campaign

Although the four week church-wide campaign can be used leading up to the movie’s premier, it can also be used as a follow-up.  And since Courageous will likely follow the pattern of Fireproof and Facing the Giants, it will probably continue to make its way into sermon series and conversations long after it releases on DVD.

Food for Thought

While not for everyone, Courageous is a church-wide campaign that will be an easy invite in some communities.  For churches that are looking for ways to spark interest in family ministries, this is a campaign that will make a lot of sense and could have a big impact.

The Right Answer to the Wrong Question

Here are a few of the most common grouplife questions:

  • Where can I find more leaders?
  • How can I find more apprentice leaders?
  • How can I help groups birth faster?
  • Where can I find better coaches?
  • How can I get more adults to sign up for a group?

Ever asked any of those questions?  I have.  What if it turned out that every one of those questions…are the wrong question?

Hope you’re wondering about that.  It may be a little scary, but I believe that at least three, and maybe all five, of those questions are the wrong question.

Peter Drucker said that “the important and difficult job is never to find the right answers, it is to find the right question.  For there are few things as useless–if not dangerous–as the right answer to the wrong question.”

Scary, isn’t it?

Wondering which questions I think are the wrong questions?

Here’s one for starters.  I’m convinced that “Where can I find more leaders?” is the wrong question.  When you ask that question, you’re continually searching for identifying characteristics.  What if it turned out that the right question is “How can I create easy ways for people to connect without a leader?”

What are some other questions that you’re asking that you’re wondering about?

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

Scott Boren’s Latest Learning: What Comes After Church-wide Campaigns?

In a recent post, I pointed out the fact that we’re not living in “a day when the status quo is a good thing.  At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century…it is clearly time to develop a bias toward what’s next.”  To help all of us figure out what’s next, I’ve asked a number of the best-known grouplife practitioners to share their latest learnings.  Here’s what Scott Boren had to say:

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Church-wide campaigns have become commonplace in the church strategy today.  In ten to twenty years, they might become as entrenched in our imagination as Sunday School.  From my perspective, I think they are great!  I’ve either written or helped write 11 different sets of curriculum for such campaigns (Click here if you are interested in reviewing them).

There are lots of articles and resources available on the benefits of them and on how to run them.  If you have not done a church-wide campaign, the resourses are available to help you do them well.  You don’t have to recreate the wheel.

However, after working with groups in various capacities, I’ve found it hard to help people move beyond the six-week short-term small group experience into an ongoing healthy community.  We’ve tried quite a few different approaches to help groups grow together, but none of them resulted in what we wanted.  Either they lived in floundering mediocrity (often without even knowing it) or they waited until the next campaign to reconnect.

I’ve seen some who blamed the people in the groups for the lack of commitment to live out community.  After further discussion, we found that the issue is not really about commitment.  The people needed guidance not judgment.  They needed direction for growing into an ongoing group.  When they jumped from the curriculum we provided for the campaign and started doing our sermon guides or another curriculum, the groups might have a good Bible study but they were not dealing with the issues that would help them form into a healthy group.

This led to the development of some experimental curriculum to guide groups through this transition time.  The goal is to help groups assess what it means to take the next step beyond a short-term commitment and develop a few basic relationship skills to empower them to be successful in these next steps.

The curriculum is called The Journey Together. I wrote it for my former church in Saint Paul, MN and I recorded short youtube videos to help groups talk about the topics.  The videos are rough as I developed them for pilot groups so we could attain their feedback.  The response was better than we expected.  The written curriculum has been modified after we worked through this feedback.  I had hoped to record the final videos before I completed my time as a pastor there, but we ran out of time.  The content is final, but the recordings are rough, very much youtube kind of quality.

If you click here, you can download the curriculum for free and view the pilot videos we developed.  If you use this, I encourage you to develop your own youtube videos, even if they are rough and unprofessional.  Make them local.  Make them to fit who you are and what you feel God calling your groups to be.

What do you think? Have a question? You can click here to jump into the conversation.
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Scott Boren is the expert on missional small groups.  Missional Small Groups was on the list that I recommended to everyone this summer and his most recent book, MissioRelate is even better. If you don’t know him, you need to.  You can check out his blog right here and follow him on Twitter right here.

Allen White’s Latest Learning: Finding (More) Great Coaches

“Rapidly growing groups during a church-wide campaign has a very positive upside.  New leaders get their gifts in the game.  New people are connected into new groups.  Relationships are developed.  Believers are discipled.  There are awesome results all around.  The problem comes in caring for new leaders when your coaching structure is already overwhelmed.  Where do you get new coaches?” Allen White

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In a recent post, I pointed out the fact that we’re not living in “a day when the status quo is a good thing.  At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century…it is clearly time to develop a bias toward what’s next.”  To help all of us figure out what’s next, I’ve asked a number of the best-known grouplife practitioners to share their latest learnings.  Here’s what Allen White had to say:

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I ran into this problem a few years ago, when we doubled the number of our small groups in one day.  We didn’t feel we were adequately coaching the first half.  Now, we needed to help an equal number of newbies.  Then, the light bulb turned on.  If half of the groups are new and half of the groups are experienced, we just needed to match them up.  We created a “buddy system” with experienced leaders helping new leaders.  Never let a good crisis go to waste.

Over the years, this coaching strategy was finessed into an intentional approach rather than a last ditch effort.  In advance of a new church-wide campaign, we expect dozens, if not hundreds, of new leaders or hosts to step forward.  Otherwise, why would we do a church-wide campaign?  In anticipation of this new growth, we also know that we will need new coaches to encourage the new leaders.  Where do we get the new coaches?

At least a month before we start recruiting new leaders and host homes, we gather all of our existing leaders for a “Sneak Peek” event to reveal the Fall campaign curriculum.  This is a great way to rally the troops and get our existing groups in on the new series.  We explain all of the details of the series.  We cast vision for new people connecting in groups and for new leaders starting new groups.  Then, we present an opportunity for our existing leaders to “walk alongside” a new leader just for the six week campaign.  Notice that we don’t use the word “coach” at this point.

The ask goes like this: “Once upon a time, you were a brand new leader who had a lot of questions and a few fears about starting a new group.  Some of you had a coach.  Some did not.  All of us need someone in our corner to encourage us, to pray for us, and to answer our questions.  Would you be willing to do that for a new leader or group host during this next series? The commitment starts when the leader attends the host briefing and goes through the six week campaign.”  And, our existing leaders sign up to help every time.

The job description is simple.  We ask them to do three things: (1) Pray for the new leaders. (2) Contact them every week in a way that’s meaningful to the new leader (not in a way that’s merely efficient for the new coach). (3) Answer their questions.

During the New Host Briefing, I match the new leaders and group hosts with their new “coach.”  Usually I start the meeting by introducing the series content and the timeline, then I tell the new leaders, “Now, I would like to introduce some very important people to you who are going to help you get your group started.  They will be available to answer all of your questions as you’re getting started.”  I introduce the new “coaches” and pair them up with the new leaders according to the type of group they are starting or the geographical region where they live.  The “coaches” take over the meeting at this point and give the new leaders all of the details of how to gather their group, what to do the first night, and answer any questions they have already.  They exchange contact information and the “coaching” begins.

After the six week campaign, we check in with the new “coaches” about their experience.  We ask three key questions:

  1. How important do you feel you were to the new leaders?
  2. How easy was it to keep in contact with the new leaders?
  3. Which of the new groups plan to continue?

The results are uncanny.  If the new “coach” has the ability to coach, the answers are always come out: “My help was very important to the new leaders.  Contacting them was easy.  Most of the groups continued.”  If the new “coach” doesn’t have it, the responses are: “My help wasn’t important.  Contact was difficult.  Most of the groups will not continue.”  There is very little middle ground.

For the new coaches that answer positively, we invite them to continue coaching.  For those who answer negatively, we thank them for serving for six weeks, and let them go back to leading their groups.  You might be asking, “But, isn’t it risky to give a new leader to an inexperienced coach?”

It’s risky working with people period.  Personally, I’d rather hire staff to do all of the coaching, but who has the budget for that?  What’s more risky is sending out a new leader or group host without a coach.  The payoff here is that new groups will be established, and new coaches will be recruited.

I’ve stopped recruiting with a job description over coffee.  I don’t always do a great job choosing coaching candidates.  What I have learned is that sometimes the most unlikely people make the best coaches and leaders.  Let the trial run define who has what it takes to coach.

What do you think? Have a question? You can click here to jump into the conversation.
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Allen White is one of the smartest guys I know in the small group movement.  If you don’t know him, you need to.  You can read the rest of his bio right here, check out his blog right here and follow him on Twitter right here.

Rick Howerton’s Latest Learning: 6 Compelling Reasons to Consider Intergenerational Groups

“Many will hesitate when it comes to intergenerational* groups.  I certainly understand the hesitation.  While I am a proponent of all types of groups, there are at least six very compelling reasons churches should consider them.”  Rick Howerton
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In a recent post, I pointed out the fact that we’re not living in “a day when the status quo is a good thing.  At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century…it is clearly time to develop a bias toward what’s next.”  To help all of us figure out what’s next, I’ve asked a number of the best-known grouplife practitioners to share their latest learnings.
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Here’s Rick Howerton’s Latest Learning:

Fact #1: Intergenerational groups require moms and dads to be models and mentors. A healthy intergenerational small group is the perfect place for a child to see a multi-dimensional Christian life modeled by mom and dad.  A great group will cry out to God on behalf of one another, be on mission together, learn and live out God’s directives found in scripture together, carry one another’s burdens, forgive one another, and the list goes on and on.

Fact #2: Intergenerational groups are the key to the next generation continuing to connect with a local church. Studies have shown that “five or more” adults investing time with a teen “personally and spiritually” is a vital factor in a youth continuing to journey with a local church.  There may be no more natural way for a teen to be substantially connected to five adults who invest in them personally and spiritually than by their being involved in an intergenerational small group.

Fact #3: Young adults long for and need older adults to mentor them. LifeWay Christian Resources did an extensive study of young adults.  Their interviews pointed out the following facts.: Young adults:

  • have a strong desire for relationships with people who are more experienced at life.
  • have an increased interest in learning from other people’s mistakes and experiences.
  • have a desire for relationships that go beyond their own stages of life.
  • have a desire to process hurts or frustrations with others who may have already experienced what they’re going through

Fact #4: Not-Yet-Adults add much to the small group experience. When children receive Christ they are not then filled with a miniature Holy Spirit.  The same Holy Spirit indwelling every adult in a small group is also supernaturally at work in and through any child or teen and God will use them in the lives of everyone in the group in profound ways.

Fact #5: Intergenerational grouping gives one-parent kids two parent relationships. One-parent homes are norm.  In a one-parent home one of two households exists, a mom and her kids or a dad and his kids.  Any child living in a one-parent home is at a great loss as they are without a model of either the male parent or the female parent.  While group members can never replace a mom or dad, group members can be models and mentors to a child whose home is void of one gender or the other.

Fact #6: Intergenerational grouping gives older adults a chance to pass on their wisdom to the next generation. It is in living life that we learn life.  And those who have lived it the longest are often full of wise counsel.  The question is, “What is the most natural and effective setting to receive wise counsel from those who have lived more life than we have?”  There is no better setting than in an intergenerational small group.

*A small group made up of multiple generations. In most instances an intergenerational group will include households of varying life stages with all persons in those households functioning together as a small group.

What do you think?  Have a question?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.
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Rick Howerton is truly one of the premier leaders in the small group movement.  You can read the rest of his bio right here, check out his blog right here and follow him on Twitter right here.

A Bias Toward What’s Next

Think you’ve nailed the way small groups work?  Think your current strategy or system is working as well as it can?  Wait…before you answer, think about this:

Willow Creek

In the early 90s, Willow Creek switched from a thriving discipleship strategy (by many accounts) to a modified meta church model and over the next 10 years became the first mega church in America to have more adults in groups than they had at the weekend services.  Why’d they switch?  The original method was a slow-moving, small group system where they provided intensive and intentional discipleship input in closed groups over a 2 year commitment…and they realized that they were never going to catch the moving train.  How did they know the new strategy would work?  They didn’t.  They had a bias toward what’s next.

Saddleback

In the fall of 2002, Saddleback switched from a very effective small group connection model to an untested small group host strategy (combined with a church-wide campaign).  To fill in a blank, they had grown from about 70o people in groups to about 8000 in groups using the connection strategy over a 4 to 5 year period.  Who could have known that over the last 8 years they’d grow from 800 groups to over 4000 groups?  Who could have known that they’d grow from 8000 in groups to 28000?  No one.  Why’d they switch?  They had a bias toward what’s next.

Why Am I Telling You This?

Why am I telling you this?  Simple.  You must develop a bias toward what’s next.  There is a next thing.  If there weren’t, all of us would have over 100% of our weekend adult attendance in groups.  Saddleback would have already connected the rest of Southern California.  The biggest reason?  We’d have figured out how to connect the widening 60% of adults who are unreachable with the attractional model.

A bias toward what’s next develops an appreciation for careful observation, a curiosity that leads to innovation, and a willingness to experiment for the sake of connecting more people, developing more leaders, and producing more committed disciples.  A bias toward what’s next see the status quo as something to be broken.  A bias toward what’s next is looking for latest learnings.

What’s Your Latest Learning?

Over the next few weeks, I’ve asked a number of the best-known grouplife practitioners to share their latest learnings.  Watch for these posts.  Try some of the things they’re figuring out.  Argue if you want to.  Chime in with your own.  The key really is this.  Although Solomon said “there’s nothing new under the sun,” God, through the prophet Isaiah said,

“See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:19

We are not living in the day when the status quo is a good thing.  At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century…it is clearly time to develop a bias toward what’s next.

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

The Divine Conspiracy Participant Guide with DVD: A New 6 Week Study

One of the most important books in my own spiritual development has been Dallas Willard’s, The Divine Conspiracy.  I’ve worked my way through it several times and it is a great book.  Admittedly, it was made more understandable by John Ortberg’s frequent references to it over the years, but that’s why Zondervan’s new DVD-driven study immediately caught my eye.

Based on the Sermon on the Mount and Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy, The Divine Conspiracy Participant Guide with DVD was released in late 2010 and builds in the missing ingredient of video.  Although there were earlier study guides, the DVD brings the study to life in a new way.

The DVD sessions feature Dallas Willard with John Ortberg in a series of conversations.  At an average running time of 25 to 27 minutes, they’ll seem just a little longer than some would like.  But the right groups, the ones that are ready for something a little more challenging, will wish the conversation continued longer and even that they could ask Willard a question.  This content will definitely hit the spot for the right groups.

The participant guide is fairly straightforward but does include some additional material that groups will find helpful.  The Bonus Study segment will be attractive to many groups and the Between Sessions component provides just enough direction to support groups that want a little more without burden.  Although the Leader’s Guide is very basic it does give some valuable direction.

If you’ve been looking for a way to introduce Dallas Willard to the groups in your system looking for a deeper, more challenging opportunity, the Divine Conspiracy Participant Guide with DVD is a must add to your approved list of studies.  Great stuff.  Very engaging and at the same time, presented in a way that will provoke some very thought provoking discussion.

Why You Must Make the HOST Ask Several Weeks in a Row

Ever wonder why you must make the HOST ask several weeks in a row in order to maximize the response?  It has to do with two important understandings.

The first understanding you must have is the simple truth that the average attendee in your church doesn’t come every week.  At least…not in the average church.  Your results may vary, but in every church there are some folks who are there every week, some who are there 2 to 3 times a month, and still others who are only there once or twice a month.  There are some that only attend once or twice a year (think Easter and Christmas Eve).

Think about that for just a minute.  What that means is that unless you make the HOST ask several weeks in a row, you’ll limit the number of people who will hear it.

The second understanding you need to have is easily understood by looking at a bell curve that illustrates the adoption of innovation.  Introduced in 1962 by Everett Rogers and his book Diffusion of Innovation, the curve identifies innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards.

Can you see how it might apply to the way people in your congregation would respond to a HOST ask?  I’ve found over a number of years that the curve accurately predicts percentage responses over the course of a 3 to 5 week season (provided the rest of the factors are consistent).  In fact, I’ve also used the curve to illustrate anomalies when the other factors have been inconsistent (as was the case last fall when the response to the last minute grab-and-go strategy far exceeded the normal 5 to 10% uptick and there was mass hysteria at the grab-and-go table.

What do you think?  Does it make sense?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Opportunity vs. Obligation Mode Thinking

How are you functioning?  Is it purely about “maintaining a system that someone else invented?”  Is it “reactively doing what you have to in order to get things done without building capacity for future work?”

Those are both “symptoms of obligatory living.”  Those are both about obligation mode.

Here’s the thing.  If you want to make a difference at crowd’s edge…you must shift from obligation mode to opportunity mode.

I love this paragraph from The Accidental Creative:

A big factor in shifting from obligation mode to opportunity mode is thinking regularly about how you are investing in your capacity to do better work in the future and taking accountability for your own creative growth (p. 182).

For starters…are you doing what we talked about yesterday?

Can I tell you something?  You will never break free from the status quo by tweaking the way it’s been done before and marginally improving last year’s model.  Breaking free, reaching the widening 60% who will never be reached by the attractional model has everything to do with opportunity thinking.

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

How to Create Effective GroupLife Strategy

A frequently cited assumption here is that there is no problem-free.  Every solution and every strategy comes with a set of problems.  Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.

No doubt by now, many of you are so used to reading that line, you use it yourself!  Good for you!

Today, I want to give you my latest learning on an idea you can use to create effective grouplife strategy and the best part is that it’s an extension of the no problem-free concept.  Here it is:

Todd Henry, author of  The Accidental Creative, notes two things that are important.  First, the type of person most likely to have a game-changing insight is what he calls a developer.  Developers “have a strong sense of the overall objective and have a sense of purpose and priorities…but instead of just plowing through the work with their noses down, purposefully approach each task or element of a project as an opportunity to develop new connections or potential ideas.”

Know any developers?  We all need to grow in this area.

Second, the most important work on a new project happens in the very beginning.  That’s where projects (or strategy development) gets positioned to move in the right direction.

Two Important Steps

Henry suggests two steps that make it easier to stay focused on the preferred outcomes:

Identify the problem set that comes with the project.  You can see how this fits.  I’ve suggested in the past that when you’re choosing between a couple solutions, just make a list of the problems that go with both and then choose the set of problems you’d rather have.  Here’s a real-life example we’re dealing with right now:

Example: We are in the ramp-up stage of a church-wide campaign and hope to launch 200 to 300 new small groups to go with the 200+ that we have right now.  We hope to sustain over 60% of the new groups we launch.  When we listed our problem set we came up with the following:

  • Many who turn in host sign-up forms never complete the training/orientation prerequisite and fail to begin.
  • Others complete the training/orientation but never have their first meeting, putting off inviting friends and filling their group.
  • Some meet 2 or 3 times, or even complete the initial study but don’t continue to the next study.

Second, identify 4 to 6 challenge questions that will help your team “surround the problems and ensure that all critical aspects are given adequate attention (p. 83).”  This is genius!  You can’t imagine how helpful this is until you try it.  Here’s an example of how we used the idea at Parkview to create a strategy to launch as many new groups as possible:

Example challenge questions:

  • How can we help host candidates (our term for those who turn in a sign-up card) take the very next step in the process? (notice, we did not say “complete the process”)
  • How can we help those who complete the training/orientation invite their first two members? (notice, we didn’t say, “fill their group”)
  • How can we help hosts have their first meeting? (notice, we didn’t say, “finish the study”)

Working through the first challenge question (How can we help host candidates take the next step?) we came up with several actionable ideas that could be incorporated into our system.  It was very exciting to see how this idea help our team quickly focus our minds on action steps.

In the section on this technique Henry quotes inventor Charles F. Kettering: “A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.”  That is the understatement of the year!

What do you think?  Make sense?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.