Will You Reach Far Enough in 2011?

Who will you connect in 2011?  Will you focus your efforts on the usual suspects?  Those still unconnected folks that already attend your weekend services a couple times a month but have been resisting commitment since before there was Sunday School?

Who will you connect in 2011?  Will you take a shot at connecting the folks that only come a few times a year…but might come to a small group connection if the topic was right?

Who will you connect in 2011?  Will this be the year that you choose a church-wide campaign that is actually designed to reach the neighbors and friends of the folks in your congregation?

Can I tell you something?  I already know who you’ll connect this year.  It’s not a magic trick either.  Want to know what I know? Continue Reading…

My Weirdest Post Ever…and a Request

Okay…I know this is weird.  But I have to get your help on this.  I want you to watch a music video and then tell me what you think about my idea.

First, here’s the idea.  As I’ve now mentioned many times, Tim Steven’s great post about the widening 60% that will never be reached by a church always has me thinking.  Always.  On a technicality, I arrived at this conviction independently and have been wrestling with this for several years.  In fact, it’s the basis for my article on exponential outreach.

If it’s true…and I believe it is…how will we reach them?  How will we reach the 60% that will never come to church?  I have an idea.  Here’s my idea: What if we could help the crowd, who are more connected to the community than they are to the congregation, learn to simply launch a conversation?

Now for the weird part: I want you to watch a Nickelback video.  That’s right.  Nickelback.  I want you to watch their Savin’ Me video and imagine watching it with your non-Christian friends.  Listen to the lyrics.  Watch the images.  Seriously.  I want you to watch it and then let me know what you think.

But before you watch it, keep a few things in mind.  To the best of my knowledge, Chad Kroeger, songwriter and lead singer of Nickelback, is not a Christ follower.  Equally, Nigel Dick, the award winning director of the video is not known to be a Christ follower.  Nickelback is not a Christian band.  At the same time, Nickelback sells out stadiums and goes platinum quickly.  All that said, I want you to watch for some things while you’re watching:

  • What does the tattooed image (name and 2003) mean at about the 1:00 mark?  (That’s Mike Kroeger, Nickelback’s bass guitarist).
  • What are some things from which we all need saving?
  • What do you think is meant by the dual countdown clock at 3:12?  Isn’t it interesting that an unborn baby would have a countdown clock in a rock video?
  • What do you think about the way the main character goes right back to “business as usual” right after saving the girl?
  • What do you think about the idea that everyone has a countdown clock?
  • What do you think happens when the clock runs down?

Remember, imagine watching the video with friends.  Here’s the link: Savin’ Me (It will open in a new window).


Prison gates won’t open up for me
On these hands and knees I’m crawlin’
Oh, I reach for you

Well I’m terrified of these four walls
These iron bars can’t hold my soul in
All I need is you

Come please I’m callin’
And oh I scream for you
Hurry I’m fallin’, I’m fallin’

Show me what it’s like
To be the last one standing
And teach me wrong from right
And I’ll show you what I can be

And say it for me, say it to me
And I’ll leave this life behind me
Say it if it’s worth saving me

Heaven’s gates won’t open up for me
With these broken wings I’m fallin’
And all I see is you

These city walls ain’t got no love for me
I’m on the ledge of the eighteenth story
And oh I scream for you

Come please I’m callin’
And all I need from you
Hurry I’m fallin’, I’m fallin’

Show me what it’s like
To be the last one standing
And teach me wrong from right
And I’ll show you what I can be

And say it for me, say it to me
And I’ll leave this life behind me
Say it if it’s worth saving me
Hurry I’m fallin’

And all I need is you
Come please I’m callin’
And oh I scream for you
Hurry I’m fallin’, I’m fallin’

Show me what it’s like
To be the last one standing
And teach me wrong from right
And I’ll show you what I can be

And say it for me, say it to me
And I’ll leave this life behind me
Say it if it’s worth saving me
Hurry I’m fallin’

And say it for me, say it to me
And I’ll leave this life behind me
Say it if it’s worth saving me

Thoughts? I’d love to know what you think about this video and it’s use as a discussion starter.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have a short interview with the songwriter or video director to hear their take on the meaning behind the lyrics and the images?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

One Last Look into the Archives

Miss the action earlier this week?  I’ve been poking around in my archives, digging up the articles that have gotten the most attention.  I also grabbed a list of my 10 favorite articles.  Everything you need is right here:

2010′s Most Popular Articles

The conversation has really grown here over the last 12 months.  If you missed any of these articles (or if you joined us in progress), you might want to go back and take a look at what you missed.  Here are the most popular articles in 2010:

  1. Top 10 Reasons Saddleback Has Connected Over 130% in Small Groups.  If you’re a student of small group ministry, this is a must read.  In many ways, what is happening at Saddleback is a model many small group practitioners are looking at for inspiration, so it’s good to understand how they are doing what they are doing.
  2. How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection.  This is part one of a 5 part series and although I wrote it in 2008, it remains one of my most popular articles.
  3. Add 5 to 10% More Hosts with This Jedi Move.  Although this article has a quirky title, it got picked up by Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox and had a ton of page views.  If you didn’t read it, this strategy has the details on an important secret ingredient for any church-wide campaign.
  4. 5 Keys to Sustaining New Groups.  This is another article from 2008 that remains very popular for good reason.  Launching new groups takes a lot of energy.  All of us want to try and sustain what gets started.
  5. Looking for a New Church-Wide Campaign.  Still another key article from 2008, this one remains very popular.  I update this article at least twice a year to try and keep the content fresh.
  6. About Mark Howell.  This is a little weird to me, but my “about” page always gets a lot of traffic.
  7. 10 Essential Small Group Leader Skills.  This article is actually the anchor page to a 10 part skill-training series.  Each article is intended to be used to train small group leaders on an essential skill.  As always, you have permission to print them and use them for training provided you attribute the content to me.
  8. The Exponential Power of a Church-Wide Campaign.  Although this article was written in 2009, it remains very popular and provides a good overview of some of the keys to planning a church-wide campaign.
  9. Subscribe to Mark’s Blog – Three Methods.  I don’t know what it says when one of your most popular articles is your subscription page.  You’d think there was some kind of prize offered there!
  10. What’s the Best Way to Launch New Small Groups? Another article from 2008, this one integrates the “no problem-free idea” and looks at the problem sets of each of the most common ways of starting new groups.  It always stays near the top of the list.
  11. Groups Interactive’s New Version Takes a Big Step in the Right Direction.  Right after I posted this article, Max Lucado tweeted the link.  Huge traffic…the power of influence.
  12. How to Choose a Small Group System or Strategy.  This post is both a list of 9 of the most common small group systems and some advice on how to choose the best fit for your church.
  13. Reading List.  Hundreds of readers take a look at my reading list every year.
  14. Host: What Does It Mean? You’ve heard of a small group leader.  You might have heard of a host.  But what is a small group host?  Is it the same thing?
  15. What’s the difference Between a Cell Group and a Small Group? This article was actually a response to an article that Randall Neighbour contributed to SmallGroup.com.  I didn’t agree with him then and I don’t agree with him now.
  16. Consulting, Coaching and Speaking It’s amazing to me, but this page is very popular.
  17. Top 10 Articles on Small Group Coaching One of the toughest challenges for almost everyone is building an effective coaching structure.
  18. DVD Driven Curriculum One of keys to launching and sustaining new small groups is an easy-to-use curriculum.
  19. Santa Went Down to Georgia Another of North Point’s very creative openers, this one really got a lot of traffic.
  20. Top 10 Fantasies of Churches WITH Small Groups This is the anchor post for a series of articles on each of the 10 fantasies.

2009′s Most Popular Articles

I’ve been looking through my archives this week and found some good stuff.  These were my 20 most popular posts in 2009.  Some of these articles are the foundation for a lot of the things I’m writing now.

  1. Looking for a New Church Wide Campaign?
  2. How To Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection
  3. 5 Keys to Sustaining New Groups
  4. What’s The Best Way To Launch New Small Groups?
  5. The Exponential Power of a Church-Wide Campaign
  6. Top 10 Reasons to Abandon Small Group Ministry
  7. How To Build An Effective Coaching Structure
  8. DVD-Driven Curriculum
  9. New Church-Wide Studies for 2009
  10. Top 10 Reasons Saddleback Has Connected Over 130% In Groups
  11. Top 10 Reasons I’m a Fan of Open Groups
  12. How To Develop Video or Live Testimony That Recruits Leaders or Members
  13. The Role of the Senior Pastor
  14. What Do You Call Your Small Groups?
  15. HOST: What Does It Mean?
  16. Top 10 Axiomatic Beliefs of Group Life
  17. 5 Areas You Must Tweak with Your Small Group System
  18. Diagnosing Your Small Group Strategy
  19. 5 Essential Group Life Reads for Your Christmas List
  20. How to Choose a Small Group System or Strategy

More Solid Gold from My 2008 Archives

I finished working through my 2008 archives today and found more of the articles that have formed the foundation for what I love doing in small group ministry.  If you haven’t read them yet, I think you’ll find some very helpful ideas here.

Solid Gold from My 2008 Archives

Did a little digging last week and I was amazed by what I found in my archives. Best part? I think you’ll like what I turned up!

  1. The Easy/Hard Continuum
  2. How Healthy Are Your Newest Groups
  3. How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure
  4. Looking for a New Church-Wide Campaign
  5. Secrets of a Successful Small Group Launch
  6. The Power of a Small Group Agreement
  7. Exponential Outreach
  8. Concentric Circles
  9. What’s the Best Way to Launch Groups
  10. If I Was Starting Today

Parkview’s 2010 Christmas Eve Opener

We’ve had some huge changes in our lives in 2010 and one of the the biggest was moving 2,000 miles to join the staff at Parkview Christian Church.  We love this church and its heart to reach people who are far from God!

Here’s a peek at how our Christmas Eve services opened.  Need something cooler?  Wish I could show you the emails we got after the first service.  Life change rolling!

Parkview’s 2010 Christmas Eve Opener from Mark Howell on Vimeo.

The Next Christians: A Book You Should Definitely Be Reading

I read a lot of books every year.  A lot.  And I’ve been tweeting a couple lists lately.  My 5 Essential GroupLife Reads for your Christmas List and also a list from my other blog, Top 5 StrategyCentral Reads for 2010.  I’ve even got a recommended reading list with over 50 titles on it.

If you’re a reader, there are some real essentials on these two lists.  If you’re not a reader…well, you should be.

I need to point you to one final book in 2010.  Honestly, I had seen The Next Christians, by Gabe Lyons when it came out earlier in the year.  But I was too busy to pick it up.  You may have read his previous book, unChristian (with David Kinnaman).  90 pages into this one…I can tell you that you need to be reading this.

I’ll be back with a full review soon.  Just wanted to get it on your radar.  There are definitely some implications here for a number of the things we’ve been talking about.  Most importantly, that the widening 60% will never come to church.  If that’s true…then it will take the wisdom of books like The Next Christians to guide us in reaching them.

Although I’m not quite halfway through it, I can tell you with conviction that this is a book that will be influencing my writing and thinking about small group ministry.  The first 90 pages are pretty marked up and dog-eared and there was a jaw-drop moment on pages 66-67 that I know I’ll be coming back to many times.

If you end up with some Christmas money that’s burning a hole in your pocket…The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons is one you need to pick up.

Accelerate GroupLife in 2011: T – 1 Week

Welcome back to my 6 week bootcamp series, designed to walk you through the steps of preparing to accelerate the growth of your grouplife system in 2011.  There really are some very basic ideas that make this timeline effective, and frankly, make any ministry timeline effective.  If you can learn to do the following things, you can accomplish a great deal:

  • look ahead in your planning
  • identify natural opportunities that are built in to the ebb and flow of the people in your community
  • leverage the authority and position of your senior pastor
  • over-communicate

You’ll still have limitations (i.e., the size of your community, the pace of life in your community, built-in systems, etc.), but these four things…you can do way more than you probably think you can.  And, if you’re on board with what God’s already blessing, there’s nothing you can’t do!

This Week’s Assignment

Because we’ve looked way ahead (we actually started on this project 5 weeks ago!), there are only a couple things that must be done this week.  And honestly, these two things should become part of your weekly agenda…they’re that important.  Here’s what to do:

First, make sure you connect with your senior pastor and reconfirm their participation in promoting the small group connection(s) that you are planning.  Senior pastors are busy; they’re often thinking about more than one initiative at a time; and they’re besieged from all sides by the leaders of other ministries and programs clamoring  for their attention.  Which makes it supremely important that you keep reminding them of their key role in promoting the upcoming small group connection(s).

This is probably a good time to remind you of one the most important lessons I’ve learned about communicating with senior pastors.  Here it is: Life-change stories are almost always the best way to get their attention.  So…when you connect with your pastor to talk about their upcoming role in promoting the connection, make sure you’ve got a story (or two) about the life-change that’s happening in your existing grouplife system.

Second, it’s always important to reconfirm some details that you’ve probably already nailed down (i.e., that you’ve chosen the study that your new groups will be using, that you’ve determined when it is has to be ordered, that the bulletin insert is being designed and will be ready for inclusion, etc.).

Question: Feelin’ the assignment? Does it make sense? Use the comment section to put in your two cents. You can leave a comment by clicking here.