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Pushing Boundary-Free GroupLife

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Design Is Almost Everything

Like most discussions, there’s more than one way to look at things. In my experience though, when you’re talking about a small group ministry that succeeds, it’s almost always about design.

You might want to argue already, but before you do…let me give you a few things to think about.

First of all, I love this Andy Stanley line:

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

Like what you’re experiencing? Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t like it? Want different results? Change the design.

Second, design is a much more inclusive term than you might think.. For example, it’s not as simple as choosing between several small group models or systems. While that plays a part in design, can you see how your senior pastor’s engagement also plays a design role? How about whether you’ve chosen a full menu or a plated meal approach?

Third, I’m not discounting the impact of culture or heart attitudes. They certainly play a role. It’s just that design should be about taking the raw product, the come as you are product of the culture, and developing the kinds of heart attitudes that have impact on the culture.

It’s all about design. I hope you can see it. It’s such an important understanding. It absolutely determines the results you’re currently experiencing.

Corrected Links for Reality Check: First Day in a New Place

Note: If you tried a link earlier and it was broken…it should be fixed now.  Hate it when that happens, and always want you to be able to see what I’m talking about.  Here’s today’s post: Reality Check: First Day in a New Place:

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You may not be starting at a new place today, but you might still want to run your situation through the grid I’ll be using. There are two screens.

First, there are the questions wrapped up in my series, If I Starting Today. The whole idea in the series is that if I started over knowing back then what I know now…I’d do it differently…and so would you.

Second, everything I do anymore is with the core conviction that there is a widening 60% who will never be reached by the attractional model. Alongside this conviction is the certainty that the very best way to reach the 60% is to leverage the relationships of the people at Crowd’s Edge. Their best friends, their family, neighbors and co-workers…have never been to your church…and most likely won’t ever attend.

But what if you could somehow reach them through their friends who already are part of your congregation? Important Keys to GroupLife at Crowd’s Edge is my take on how that could happen.

What do you think? Ready to see your church through these two filters? It’s a whole new world…ready or not.

Reality Check: First Day in a New Place

You may not be starting at a new place today, but you might still want to run your situation through the grid I’ll be using. There are two screens.

First, there are the questions wrapped up in my series, If I Starting Today. The whole idea in the series is that if I started over knowing back then what I know now…I’d do it differently…and so would you.

Second, everything I do anymore is with the core conviction that there is a widening 60% who will never be reached by the attractional model. Alongside this conviction is the certainty that the very best way to reach the 60% is to leverage the relationships of the people at Crowd’s Edge. Their best friends, their family, neighbors and co-workers…have never been to your church…and most likely won’t ever attend.

But what if you could somehow reach them through their friends who already are part of your congregation? Important Keys to GroupLife at Crowd’s Edge is my take on how that could happen.

What do you think? Ready to see your church through these two filters? It’s a whole new world…ready or not.

Can You Handle the Truth?

I love this line from Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics:

Forget about what you believe may be true. Forget about what you hope may be true. Instead, just look at what’s actually happening.”

He used that line while discussing some of the misinformation surrounding global warming. I love it because he’s focusing on what is verifiable.

Why is that a key for all of us? Simple, really. The easiest thing to do is simply parrot back well-worn beliefs and assumptions. The hardest thing to do is look at what’s actually happening.

Are you a believer in apprenticing as a group multiplication strategy? How’s it working? What percentage of your apprentices actually birth a new group?

Are you a card carrying fan of the HOST strategy? How’s it working? How many new groups are you netting?

Do you talk a better disciple-making game than your system is actually producing?

Ready for a real challenge? Make it your ambition to uncover what’s actually happening and get to work clarifying the win for your small group ministry and designing steps that lead to a win.

Know what you’ll hear? “Well done.”

But Does It Scale? A Coaching Question

I had an interesting comment via Twitter in response to my article on How Do You Assign Coaches?  Life-Stage?  Geographic?  Random?  The reader said, “Our leaders coach who they raise up and multiply out.”

See where they’re going?  A group grows and then births a new group, led by an apprentice leader.  A classic example of cell group or meta church practice.  Core-to-crowd.

I asked the reader, “How’s it going?” and “Will it scale?”, followed by, “What’s your average adult worship attendance?  How many adults in groups?  And how

The reason the shepherd with 100 sheep in Luke 15 knew to look for the one that went missing was that he knew the total number. Not the average.
many adults at your Christmas Eve services or last Easter?”

Why did I ask those questions?   Two main reasons:

As you probably know by now, I want to be an evangelist for the truth that your Easter adult attendance or your Christmas Eve adult attendance is a much better gauge for the number of people you should be in the business of connecting.  The average weekend adult attendance only reflects the average.  It doesn’t reflect the total number of adults who call your church their church.

The reason the shepherd with 100 sheep in Luke 15 knew to look for the one that went missing was that he knew the total number.  Not the average.  Feel me?

Need a little more?  Spend some time with part 1 and part 2 of my series, If I Were Starting Today.   It’s so important, I wish it was required reading for small group pastors and directors.

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

Group Insights Leader Kit: An Interesting New Tool for Small Groups

Looking for a way to help group members really understand each other?  You’ll want to take a look at the Group Insights Leader Kit.  Developed to help groups maximize the experience and leverage the benefits of the Small Group Insights Profile (based on an assessment developed by Dr. Les Parrott), the Leader Kit is designed to guide the group experience.

DVD-Driven, the Leader Kit is designed to be played in the group meeting.  Featuring Les Parrott and Bill Donahue, the DVD provides a message for leaders, an introduction for group members, and four segments that will guide the group in their experience.  Presented in a conversational style, it feels almost like it would if Les and Bill had stopped in to lead the session.

Similar to the way the DiSC or Myers-Briggs introduces a language and a way of understanding temperament and preferences, the Small Group Insights assessment and profile could provide just the beginning or next step that many groups need in order to fully understand each other.  You can find out how to purchase the assessment right here.

The more I’ve thought about the benefit to group health, the more I like the idea of the assessment.  And the Group Insights Leader Kit makes it easy to facilitate a great experience for your members.

Prefer buying from Lifeway?  Here’s a link to the Group Insights Leader Kit.

Next Steps for the Howell Family

I very rarely update you on the goings on for the Howell family, but wanted to bring you up to speed on a big move for us.

We landed at Parkview Christian Church in February of 2010.  Joined a great team on a really great mission.  Led by Senior Pastor Tim Harlow, Parkview has been one of the fastest growing churches for something like 7 of the last 9 years.  So exciting to be part of what God is doing in southwest Chicago.

The last two years have been quite a ride for us.  The number of small groups and people in them has almost tripled.  Men’s and women’s teams are really solid and cranking out great opportunities, designing next steps for every Parkview man and woman and first steps for their friends.  Our GroupLife Midwest 2012 conference was very cool.  Really, really been a fun time.

But…a feeler extended by another great church in Las Vegas caught our attention.  5 hours from my parents and 4 to 5 hours from a sister and her family and a brother and his family.  Lots of geographic reasons to give the opportunity a hard look.  Throw in a leadership role and a chance to impact a region like Vegas…what’s not to love about that!

Still, we’ve loved every day here at Parkview.  Made some awesome friends.  Connected with many ministry leaders throughout Chicagoland.  The relationships are the toughest things to leave behind.

My first day in the office at Canyon Ridge Christian Church as Pastor of Discipleship Communities is February 29th.  Hope you’ll give me a shout if you’re out that way!  And…you might as well honk if you see two silver cars streaking toward warmer weather with Illinois plates.  Just might be the Howells!

Frequency: Discovering Your Unique Connection to God

Had an opportunity over the weekend to take a good look at Frequency: Discovering Your Unique Connection to God.  Written by Eric Parks and Casey Bankord as a companion resource to the Monvee Spiritual Growth Assessment, there’s a lot to like about Frequency.

First of all, the metaphor of frequency to describe our unique pattern of connecting with God is just beautiful; a picture of our individual design that is easy to paint and use to explain connecting with God.

Next, the chapter on finding your frequency does a very good job of integrating an understanding of several aspects of our unique design:

  • Spiritual Pathways: A concept explored in a more extensive way by Richard Foster, Gary Thomas, Bill Hybels, Ruth Haley Barton and a number of other authors, spiritual pathways are “the avenues and/or environments where you easily and effortlessly connect with God (p. 26).”
  • Learning Styles: Long understood to be an important clue to the particular way we learn best, the distinction between auditory, classroom, social, verbal and visual provides additional understanding about our unique design.
  • Personality: Along with other aspects, an understanding of personality types can also play a part in fine-tuning frequency.

Frequency blockers are also a helpful idea in the book.  Even with a better awareness of our frequency, developing a more accurate understanding of the role of sin patterns in blocking our hearing is essential ingredient.  The authors note that “because we are unique, we each have unique habits of sin (correlating to our personality) that tend to get in the way of our growth and cause us to live outside our frequency (p. 39).”

My favorite part of the book?  Part Two features a series of interviews, each with one of the nine different personality styles (the Monvee Spiritual Growth Assessment identifies a biblical figure you are most like).  When I took the assessment last year, I was most intrigued by this aspect and honestly, I was probably most amazed by the biblical character my profile revealed.  The interview opened my eyes to an even better understanding of this aspect of the profile.

Finally, purchase of Frequency includes a unique access code allowing a free assessment.  Like Marcus Buckingham’s Now, Discover Your Strengths or Love Talk by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, the assessment is really the key to the experience.  Completing the assessment and then reading part two provides a set of new insights about our own individual frequency.  Working through the book and assessment could provide a small group with new eyes to see and ears to hear each other.

Frequency: Discovering Your Unique Connection to God is a helpful addition to an already very helpful toolkit.  I got a number of new insights from it and I bet you will too.

Fresh: Reviving Stale Faith | New DVD-Driven Study from Kerry Shook

Looking for a study that will help your groups put their toe in the water of spiritual practices like meditation, fasting and silence?  You might want to take a look at Fresh: Reviving Stale Faith.  The newest addition to Lifeway’s Platform Series, this six session study features Kerry Shook, senior pastor of Woodlands Church, a multi-site church in Houston, Texas and one of the fastest growing churches in America.

The DVD segments are engaging and compelling; each a portion of a message from a series delivered live at Woodlands Church.  Noted for his creative presentations and application oriented teaching, Shook will keep your members’ attention.  Better, the teaching is delivered in a style that leads to practical application.

The Participant Guide includes several important components.  Like many DVD-driven studies, the Viewer Guide provides a little bit of room to take a few notes during the DVD segment.  It also includes a couple key questions that will help your members ease into the session’s discussion.  A Biblical Background section along with key included Scripture passages make it easy for group members to participate.  A well developed set of Small Group Questions steadily pull members toward application.  Each of the sessions conclude with a simple Journal assignment to be utilized at another time and a You’re Up section that provides a between meeting assignment (a different spiritual discipline every week).  While this is a simple curriculum to use, it’s important to note that there is no leader’s guide.

If you’re looking for a study that can be used by beginner groups as well as seasoned veterans looking for a fresh take on an ancient practice, take a look at Fresh: Reviving Stale Faith.  I came away with a number of fresh insights…and I think you will, too.

Prefer buying from Lifeway?  You can purchase this study right here.

STIR: Authentic Transformation in Small Groups

A little more than a month ago I had the opportunity to preview a Willow Creek Association resource that I think you’re going to want to purchase for your small group leader training library.  STIR: Authentic Transformation in Small Groups Kit is a collection of six outstanding 30 minute sessions featuring a great list of speakers on a set of topics that can be used as ongoing training or a half or full-day event.

Great pricing?  Originally offered at $129.99, they’re available right now at $49.00.  Even better?  Enter the special code and get a seat in the online LIFT course offered in April (by itself a $225.00 value!).  A great deal at $49.00.  An awesome deal when you realize it includes the online course that features its own all-star cast (seriously, you have got to see who’s on this list).  Take advantage of this deal right here.

Along with a reproducible guide for participants and a separate guide for your facilitating ministry leader, STIR features the following speakers and topics:

  • Leading From a Healthy Soul. Mindy Caliguire, Director of Transformation Ministry at the Willow Creek Association and Founder of Soul Care.
  • Safe People/Dangerous Groups. Henry Cloud, PhD., Clinical Psychologist and Best-Selling Author
  • Flawed Is the New Perfect. Heather Zempel, Discipleship Pastor at National Community Church
  • Responding to Flaws: Case Studies. Russ Robinson, Speaker and Author.
  • The Word Became FRESH. Bill Donahue, PhD., Speaker and Author.
  • A Conversation About Inspiring Others to Lead. Mindy Caliguire and Mac Lake, Chief Launch Officer, The Launch Network

Can you see how this might fit in your leader training concept?  This is a great resource.  I highly recommend it.  You might buy it because of the price.  You’ll use it because it’s just good stuff.

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