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What Can You Pull Off in 3 Weeks? Block Party with a Purpose

What could you pull off with just 3 weeks notice?  Could you plan and pull off a block party?

Think about your block.  What would you have to do tomorrow?  Get a couple other neighbors to say yes?  Make a flyer?  What about the next day?  Circulate the flyer?

Think you could do it?  How many block parties do you think you could get to happen?  What if 5 or 10 people from your church each had a block party on Labor Day weekend?

What if you could have 20?  And what if all 20 of the block parties was organized by someone who in 6 weeks was going to be hosting a small group?

What if at the block party everyone was asked to bring their favorite dish to share and you let everyone vote on their favorite dish and gave away a small trophy?  And what if you collected the winning recipes and included them in a cookbook?  And what if you sold the cookbooks and gave all the proceeds to a local homeless shelter?

Sound interesting?  Sound like something you could pull off?

Saddleback’s Example

In the fall of 2007 Saddleback repeated the 40 Days of Purpose.  They began talking about the upcoming church-wide study in mid-spring, 2007, encouraging members to “Use the summer to get to know your neighbors.  Invite them over for a barbeque or dessert.”  Further, they asked members to host block parties for Labor Day and ask everyone to bring their favorite dish to share along with the recipe.  The block party attendees voted on which dish was the best and included the winner in a church cookbook (proceeds going to support an important community need).

Think you can pull it off in 3 weeks?  Imagine how much easier the invite becomes to “join my group?”  Just think what could happen if every block party had 2 or 3 neighbors who said “yes” to joining a group?  What if every block had 4 or 5 who said “yes?”  This fall could be quite a season!

You’re Invited to the Living Proof Simulcast featuring Beth Moore

Getting ready to launch the fall session of your women’s Bible study?  Looking for a resource that will encourage and re-energize the women in your congregation?  You might want to check out the upcoming Living Proof Live Simulcast, scheduled for September 15th.

Featuring Beth Moore and worship leader Travis Cottrell, this event could be just the thing you need to jump start women’s ministry this fall.  Broadcast live from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. (Eastern), Microsoft Silverlight* provides an easy way for you to begin the simulcast at a more convenient time if you live in another time zone.

Beth Moore is no stranger to most women’s ministries, making the simulcast an easy event to promote.  If you’re preparing to launch a fall program that includes one of her DVD-driven studies (i.e., James: Mercy Triumphs, David: Seeking a Heart Like His, etc.), the simulcast could provide the one-two punch you need to increase your registrations.

Pricing is based on the size of your ministry, Bible study or small group; making the simulcast suitable whether an individual small group would like to view it in a home or a women’s ministry uses it to launch the fall ministry season.  You can find out more and sign up 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 will receive an affiliate commission. In addition, LifeWay has retained my services and I am under contract with 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.”

Do You Know about This Game-Changing Connection Secret?

Spoiler Alert: The most connected people in your congregation almost always have the fewest connections in the community.

Four Things You Need to Know

I use this drawing to illustrate this important concept.  There are four things you need to know in order to understand the drawing,

First, the circle represents your adult attendance on Easter.  As you know, the difference between your average adult attendance and your Easter adult attendance is not that everyone brings a friend.  Instead, the main reason your attendance is higher on Easter is that everyone comes on the same weekend.

Second, the square represents the people in your congregation who are truly connected.  That is, if something happened to them or a member of their family, someone else in your congregation would find out about it within 24 hours without anyone calling the church.  A pink slip at work.  Marital issues.  A scary medical diagnosis.  A teenager who goes south.  24 hours.  Someone else knows.

Third, if you were to interview the folks in the square (the most connected people in your congregation) and ask who their 10 closest friends are in your area, you’d find out that 8, 9, or even all 10 of them are also inside the square.  Now, before you get excited, there are exceptions (many church staff members, those with the gift of evangelism, etc.).  But in general, the most connected people in your congregation are the least connected in the community.

Fourth, when you interview the folks in the circle you’ll find out that 8, 9, or even all 10 of their best friends have never been to your church.  Let me repeat that:

When you interview the folks in the circle you’ll find out that 8, 9, or even all 10 of their best friends have never been to your church.

Here’s the big idea: If you want to recruit hosts who can fill their own group with unconnected neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members…you need to learn how to recruit from the circle.  Churches that keep going back to the well of the usual suspects (the most connected) shouldn’t be surprised when hosts from the square don’t know their neighbors.

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

New from IVP Connect: Paul’s Prison Letters

Looking for a way to take your small group into a whole new experience the Bible?  You might want to take a look at Understanding the Books of the Bible, a new series from IVP Connect.  I had the chance to dive into Paul’s Prison Letters over the weekend, and I can honestly say I’ve not seen anything else quite like this.

A key distinction in the Understanding the Books of the Bible series is that there is a strong emphasis on the fact that “the books of the Bible are real books and are meant to be read as such–without using any chapter or verse notations.”  I think this is a truly unique format and should be very interesting and engaging for the right kinds of small groups.

Paul’s Prison Letters includes 24 studies and covers Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, Philippians, 1 Timothy, Titus, and 2 Timothy.  The guide takes you though “the seven letters Paul wrote during or around the times of his imprisonments.”  Within this collection, this study focuses on understanding the “message and meaning of one book at a time.”  I love this aspect!  What a gift for newer Christ followers or those seeking to develop a more thorough understanding of the individual books of the Bible.

There is an overview session for each of the seven included books of the New Testament.  The overview provides an excellent backdrop for the individual books covered.  In addition, the first session of each of the seven books features an opportunity to read through the book in one sitting (generally 10 to 12 minutes).

Along with the overview session, the study of each book also includes a closer look at several of the most important themes.  This aspect will prove to be an essential ingredient in understanding the author’s original intent and its rich application for today.

I really think you’re going to want to add the Understanding the Books of the Bible series to your recommended list.  And, in particular, you’re going to want to take a close look at Paul’s Prison Letters.  A unique presentation, this study is one that will definitely resonate with groups looking for a deeper, more holistic experience.  I really like it…and I think you will, too.

You can pick up a copy from Amazon here.  Prefer to buy from IVP Connect?  You’ll find Paul’s Prison Letters right here.

Is Your Mindset Limiting What Is Possible?

I needed a prescription refill and hadn’t seen a doctor since we moved to Las Vegas, so I went in for a routine doctor’s appointment last week.  Amidst the expected barrage of health related questions (Do you take any medications?, Have you had any surgeries?, Have you ever been hospitalized?, etc.), there was one question I don’t think I’d ever heard before.

“How’s your mental health?”

Heard that one?  I answered without thinking, “Good.”

The nurse hurried on to the next question and then I said, “Wait…does anyone ever tell you their mental health is bad?”  “Oh yeah,” she said.  “They’ll tell me they’re depressed or anxious, something like that.”

I have to admit I was a little surprised.  I can see it, I guess, but it just seems likely that mental health would be a difficult self-diagnosis.  Know what I mean?

How Does This Apply to You and Me?

Between coaching calls, emails from readers, and comments on the blog I listen to a regular dose of self-diagnosis.

  • “We’ve been stuck at 7 small groups for three years…so we’re only hoping to launch two new groups this fall.”
  • “Our congregation has very few adults who are spiritually mature…so we’re struggling to find people with small group leadership potential.”
  • “People here are busy…so they won’t really commit to a small group.”

Ever heard these lines?  Ever said them yourself?  Can you hear the self-diagnosis?  Can you hear the mindset?  Can you see how the mindset might actually limit what is possible?

The Value of Fresh Eyes and Ears

The challenge of self-diagnosis is why it makes so much sense to invite an outsider to take your ministry’s temperature and check its blood pressure; to offer a diagnosis and prescription.

With me?  It does make sense, doesn’t it?  After all, fresh eyes and ears offer an invaluable perspective.  And since lives hang in the balance, who would knowingly disregard that responsibility?  I’ve always believed that one of the things we’ll be held accountable for is the way we steward and shepherd human resources (Matthew 25:14-30).

So…what if you have an incorrect self-diagnosis?  What if your mindset is limiting what is possible?  Wouldn’t it be worth bringing a pair of fresh eyes into the discussion?  Don’t underestimate this essential aspect of effective ministry.  You can find out how to schedule a coaching call right here.  At a minimum…make plans to talk through your self-diagnosis with an outsider.  You’ll sleep better.  You’ll have a much better chance of hearing “well done.”

How to Make the HOST ASK: The 2012 Version

Getting ready to recruit HOSTs for an upcoming church-wide campaign?  Let me give you my best shot at some keys to maximizing your impact.  I’ve written about this same topic in the past, but so much has changed since the earliest articles, I wanted you to have the 2012 version!

Here are what I think are the keys to maximizing the harvest:

Dedicate three (3) weekends to making the ask.  This is important.  If you want the largest response, keep four things in mind.

  • First, not everyone is there every week.  Your average adult attendee is in your auditorium 2 or 3 times a month at best (in some churches less than that).
  • Second, only crazy people respond the first time they hear the ask.  You know what I mean.  Only your pastor’s biggest fans will say “yes” on the first weekend.  Others will go home and think about it.  Some will even pray about it.  When they hear it again the next week, more will respond.
  • Third, it is important that some of your new HOSTs are from the “2 times a month” segment.  This is counterintuitive, but think about it.  Their friends have never been to your church.  If they fill their own group…their members will be people who have never been to your church.  In the words of Emeril Lagasse, “Bam!”
  • Fourth, make the HOST ask the only promotion.  If you want the maximum response, you’ve got to focus everyone’s attention on that one option.  Don’t build in choices or different ways to get involved on those weekends.  Don’t even talk about being “in” a group.  Only talk about hosting a group and you will maximize the impact.
  • Need more?  Read my article, Why You Must Make the HOST Ask Several Weeks in a Row.

Make the HOST Ask in the sermon.  Don’t substitute an announcement.  The most influential person in your congregation is almost always the senior pastor.  The sermon is the time when most people’s attention is on what the pastor is talking about.  You can and should also include an announcement, but don’t substitute an announcement for a moment in the pastor’s message.

Here’s my best shot at a script.  When I’m coaching pastors on how to do this, here are the specific ideas and phrases I encourage them to use:

  • Build a moment into the message when you can say, “If you have a heart for unconnected people, and you’d be willing to open your home for six weeks, serve some simple refreshments, and tell a few of your friends…you could be a HOST.”  See the acronym?  Corny?  Maybe.  But it gets the job done.
  • Next line: “In your bulletin is an insert.  It looks like this (said as your pastor pulls it out of the bulletin and holds it up).”
  • “While you’re taking out the insert I want you to hear the story of Bob and Jane Smith.”  I like to use a either a live testimony or a video account of someone who’s hosted in the past.  You can read about how to put it together in Take Advantage of Testimony to Recruit Hosts and watch an example in Video Testimonies that Inspire Action.
  • As the testimony or video ends say, “As your pastor, I want to encourage you to help us connect as many as possible for _________  (you’ll fill in the name of the series).  It’s a six week commitment.  We’ll train you to do a great job.  We’ll provide a coach who’ll help you get started.  You can do it.  Don’t miss this opportunity to see what God does in your home.  Just fill out this form and drop it in the offering later in the service.”

Make it easy to respond in the service.  You’ve worked hard to inspire a response.  Give everyone an easy way to turn in the HOST insert.  The best way I’ve found is to take the offering after the message and instruct everyone to “drop the form in the offering later in the service.”  Next best might be baskets at the doors with an usher.  Every step removed from the auditorium (dropping it off in the lobby, taking it to the small group booth, or completing the form online) lessens the response.

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

FAQ: Who Typically Pays for Materials in a Church-Wide Campaign?

I get a lot of questions.  Many in the form of a comment on a post and others that are emailed to me.  I got a good one yesterday that I thought needed to be answered here.

Q: Who typically pays for materials (DVDs and study guides) in a church-wide campaign?

Good question, don’t you think?  Maybe you’ve asked that question yourself!  Here’s how it works:

First, there are a couple main ways that churches typically handle the issue of who pays.

  • Because of the popularity of the church-wide campaign strategy, many churches have included the cost of the materials in their annual budget.  Makes a lot of sense.  After all, if it’s important enough to encourage everyone “to be part of a group that’s using the curriculum that goes along with our weekend message series,” shouldn’t churches make it easy for everyone to participate?
  • Many churches simply pass the expense on to small group members by selling the materials at a booth in the lobby (or send it home with group leaders on consignment with the expectation that the leaders collect the money from members).
Second, churches frequently skip some important thinking as they decide who pays.  I think there are several key questions that ought to be asked as the decision is being made.  Here they are:
  • Is the topic one that will make an easy invite to an unconnected friend or neighbor?  If it is what I call a cross-cultural topic (one that makes sense to Christians and non-Christians alike), it will pay off to make it easy for new hosts to pick up materials to use to invite their friends and neighbors without worrying about how to pay for them.  See Top 5 Resources for Groups Who Invite Non-Christian Friends
  • Are you recruiting new hosts with the expectation that they will fill their own groups?  This is a key component to the host strategy and many churches miss the implications involving how curriculum is distributed.  Can you see how it changes the invitation to join my group?  Imagine the difference if the new host can say, “I know it doesn’t sound like me, but my wife and I are gathering some friends to talk about this book, The Purpose Driven Life.  And I have a free copy for you if you’d like to join us.”  Compare that to the alternative: “And it’s $10 per person if you’d like to join us.”  See How to Make the HOST Ask.
  • What does it say about the topic if I feel comfortable asking the new group member to pay?  This is a very, very important question.  And keep in mind that the longer we’ve been in ministry, the more difficult it is for us to think like an unconnected person, a less committed person.  But if you can get into the mind of your least connected people you may come away with a clue about who should pay.  See Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer?
Every church will have to wrestle through this question for themselves.  My preference is to budget for this expense, making it easier for new hosts and new group members to say “yes.”  You may not have the budget this year.  My encouragement is to make it a priority to get there.

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

Top 10 Posts of July, 2012

Miss anything?  Maybe you slipped away for a vacation or were somewhere there just wasn’t wifi.  I was!  In any event, here are my top 10 posts of July, 2012.

  1. How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection (May, 2008)
  2. 5 Keys to Sustaining New Groups  (October, 2008)
  3. 33 The Series: A Man and His Design (July, 2012)
  4. 5 Great Church-Wide Campaigns You Can Still Pull Off in September (July, 2012)
  5. 5 Things Senior Pastors Need to Know about Small Group Ministry (June, 2011)
  6. 10 Essential Small Group Leader Skills (June, 2010)
  7. 10 Simple Steps to a Great Church-Wide Campaign (July, 2012)
  8. HOST: What Does It Mean? (April, 2008)
  9. When Is the Best Time to Launch a Church-Wide Campaign (March, 2011)
  10. How to Choose a Small Group System or Strategy (October, 2009)

What do you think?  Are these the posts you found the most helpful?

Three Itsy Bitsy Strategic Tweaks with Exponential Impact

Ever noticed that sometimes the tiniest changes can have the largest impact?  For example, an oil tanker has a massive rudder designed to turn the ship.  It’s huge and would take enormous power to change directions…if not for a much smaller part called a trim tab.  The trim tab is essentially a small flap that when it’s turned forces the much larger rudder to turn.  The impact of the trim tab is exponential because it moves the much larger rudder (which causes the ship to turn).

Did you know there are a few strategic tweaks that you can make that will have an exponential impact on your congregation?  Here are three strategic tweaks that can have exponential impact on your small group ministry:

First, instead of relying on an announcement, take advantage of the clout of the most influential person in the church.  Trust me, if your pastor would take on the role of chief recruiter you’d have no trouble enlisting the number of hosts needed to connect your congregation.  There is an opportunity every week to strike while you’ve got everyone’s attention.  It’s during the message!  If your pastor would simply integrate the host ask into the weekend message, the impact would be huge.

I’ve found that in most cases this one tweak results in a 50 to 100% increase in the number of people who say “Yes!”  That’s exponential.  Need more?  Read How to Make the HOST Ask (the 2012 version).

Second, instead of offering a buffet with lots of choices, focus everyone’s attention on the main course you want them to have.  Trust me, this is a huge point disguised in a teeny tiny detail.  And don’t miss this…you don’t have to trim down the menu right away to take advantage of this idea.  Instead, simply intentionally choosing what gets promoted and when it gets promoted has a big and immediate impact.  For example, focusing your promotion solely on recruiting hosts (as opposed to talking up three or four options) will have an exponential impact on the number of hosts you’re able to recruit.  When it comes time to challenge everyone to be part of a group that’s using the study that goes along with your campaign, focus solely on joining a group (as opposed to offering several competing programs as options).

You might find this hard to believe, but this simple change can also result in a big, big difference in response.  What if you could double the number of sign-ups for groups?  Need more?  Read A Plated Meal Leads to a Church OF Groups

Third, instead of adding members to existing groups, focus on launching new groups.  It’s a little thing, but when you turn your attention to launching new groups (whether you use a small group connection or recruit HOSTs to launch a church-wide campaign) you will see the immediate payoff.  Think about it like Lego blocks.  Every additional block offers an average of 10 new connecting spots.  Want to connect more people?  Add more blocks…errr, groups!

Can you see it?  By making the simple change of focusing on starting new groups (as opposed to filling and refilling existing groups) you will see an exponential difference in the number of people you can connect!  Need more?  Read Top 5 Advantages of New Groups

These are just three of the easiest tweaks you can make.  I help churches make these moves all the time.  Need help?  Find out more right here.

Empty Promises: A Compelling New Study from Pete Wilson

Had an opportunity this weekend to dive into Empty Promises, Pete Wilson’s newest DVD-driven study.  Wilson, the founding and senior pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee is widely recognized as one of America’s most creative communicators.  This study makes it easy to see why.  Based on his recent book, Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing, this 6 session study is going to be very popular.

Similar in design to Putting Plan B into Action (released in 2011), each session is anchored by a visually creative teaching video featuring Pete Wilson.  8 to 10 minutes in length, the six video segments are consistently captivating as a back story emerges.  Way more than a talking head, the creative use of story compellingly illustrated in the background makes the truth of scripture come alive visually.

The Participant Guide pulls group members into an engaging discussion launched by the video.  Solidly biblical, the included questions will help members wrestle with deeply personal topics.  A free downloadable  leader’s guide is designed to maximize the impact of the study.  You can download a pdf copy right here.

In addition to the group discussion questions, every session in the Participant Guide also includes 5 days of personal devotions designed to help members continue to think, meditate and reflect about what they’re learning in their small group.  The mix of related scripture and questions for reflection will help take the experience further for members whether they’re long-time Christ followers,  brand new to their faith, or even just beginning to investigate.

I really like the format of Empty Promises.  Highly creative, the video packs a solid punch that will prompt some great discussion.  Group members that engage in the daily devotional reading will discover how to turn their focus and worship away from the endless pursuit of more  and toward the only thing that will set them “absolutely free.”  A very compelling study.  I liked Empty Promises and I think you will too.

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