Pushing Boundary-Free GroupLife

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Top 10 Posts of December, 2011

December is always a little different than other months.  There’s some planning going on.  There’s an effort to review the latest small group curriculum for first of the year studies.  And then, there’s the Christmas Reading list.  Here are my top 10 posts this month:

  1. New from Beth Moore | James: Mercy Triumphs
  2. Victory in Spiritual Warfare: A Powerful DVD-Driven Study from Dr. Tony Evans and Lifeway
  3. How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection
  4. 2011’s Christmas Reading List
  5. 5 Things Senior Pastors Need to Know about Small Group Ministry
  6. 10 Essential Small Group Leader Skills
  7. 3 Common Misconceptions about DVD-Driven Small Group Curriculum
  8. Review: Not a Fan
  9. 5 Assumptions that Stunt Small Group Ministry Growth
  10. Distinctives of the Three Types of Small Group Connecting Events

Review: Just Walk Across the Room

There are a couple main categories of church-wide campaigns.  Some are designed to be an easy invitation for unconnected people or less-than-fully committed people who really need a next step.  Other campaigns are designed without apology to be a developing experience for everyone who participates.  Just Walk Across the Room, released in 2006, is without question in the second category.  It might even be the leading example of the kind of game-changing campaign that can move an entire congregation in the direction of powerful impact.

This is a fully developed, plug-and-play campaign.  You’ll find everything you need in the curriculum kit.  There are a number of key components to Just Walk Across the Room four week church experience.

First, it’s anchored by a very good four session DVD-driven small group experience.  The DVD content is well done.  Featuring Bill Hybels and a combination of stories and teaching, the video is the right length (about 15 minutes).  The first two sessions allow Hybels to give two great examples of his own journey as a just-walk-across-the-room sort of evangelist.  The third uses a combination of spoof bad examples with Hybels offering counterpoint examples of a more effective approach.  This session also features a clear explanation of “the bridge” illustration and Hybels’ classic ladder illustration.  Session four is a combination of Hybels’ description of his own “Matthew parties” and an intimate look into an his own ongoing opportunity to join in the lives of a regular group gathered by an unchurched friend.  I think you’ll be moved to consider how to do this yourself.  I know I was.

The included Leader’s Guide is fairly basic but does provide some good guidance for each of the sessions.  It will be especially valuable for newer leaders who just need a little extra encouragement.

The companion Participant Guide combines in-session discussion questions and in-between assignments that help take the discussion to application.  While there is work to do in between sessions…it’s pitched at a very inclusive level (Read: it’s not too hard for even the least committed to jump in an complete it).

Another available resource is Hybels’ book by the same title.  Just Walk Across the Room is extremely readable and each of the four group sessions includes a short reading assignment (2 to 3 chapters, about 50 pages).  It’s important to note that while the reading will enhance the experience, it’s not essential.  Participants will get a lot out of the study by attending the weekend service and taking part in the small group study.

As important as these other components are, the CD-ROM is packed with essential ingredients.  Here you’ll find sermon outlines, powerpoint slides (for both Mac and Windows), promotional ideas, web banners, and much more.  It really has everything you need to put together a memorable four week church-wide experience.

If you’re ready for your congregation to take the step that leads to impact…you’ll want to consider Just Walk Across the Room.  This is a powerful study and ought to be on your list to consider.

Most Popular Curriculum Reviews of 2011

I review a lot of curriculum every year.  Some DVD-driven.  Some homework intensive.  Some story-driven visual media.  I review everything.

Although my blog is sponsored by several of the larger publishers (much appreciated), it was interesting to see that 2 of the 3 most popular reviews I did were for Not a Fan and Basic: Who Is God; both from publishers that don’t sponsor me (hint).

Why did I rank these reviews separately from yesterday’s top 10 posts of 2011?  I decided that this list may be an indication of sales strength.  8 of 2011’s 10 most popular reviews were written in 2011.

  1. Review: Not a Fan (posted in September, 2010)
  2. New from Beth Moore | James: Mercy Triumphs
  3. Basic: Who Is God (by Francis Chan)
  4. The Story: A New Church-Wide Campaign from Zondervan
  5. Review: Life’s Toughest Questions (from Lifeway’s Platform Series) (Posted in August, 2010)
  6. New Church-Wide Campaign from Bill Hybels: The Power of a Whisper
  7. Crave: An Exploration of the Human Spirit (a 7 session study from Lifeway)
  8. Review: Walking with God in the Desert
  9. Courageous: A New Church-Wide Campaign (based on the movie)
  10. Review| Gospel Revolution: A New DVD-Driven Study from J.D. Greear

Top 10 Posts of 2011

Every year it’s interesting to see what the top 10 posts were.  This year, I took some extra time and created two separate lists.  These posts were all written in 2011 and were about building a more effective small group ministry.  Tomorrow’s list is the top 10 small group curriculum reviews:

  1. Clue #1 When Designing Your Small Group System
  2. Clue #4 When Designing Your Small Group System (I often tweeted this post as “The 5 Questions Every Small Group Pastor Must Ask)
  3. 5 Things Senior Pastors Need to Know about Small Group Ministry
  4. Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Coaching Strategy
  5. Current GroupLife Trends
  6. Eddie Mosley on LifePoints Discipleship Pathway
  7. Clue #2 When Designing Your Small Group Ministry (Build next steps for every participant and first steps for their friends)
  8. Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway
  9. Connecting the Widening 60% (who will never be reached by the attractional model)
  10. GroupLife Insights from William Vanderbloemen and Justin Lathrop


These Two Questions Will Change the Game

Looking for a question or two that might be game-changers?  Magazine Luiza is one of Brazil’s most admired companies, catering to the needs of the country’s poorest shoppers.  Really quite a fascinating story (as detailed by Bill Taylor in Practically Radical).

In preparation for Magazine Luiza’s biannual strategy session (referred to as the “Big Meeting”) employees at every level are asked two questions.  Their answers are collected, compiled, analyzed and create the foundation for the Big Meeting.

Want to know what the two questions are?  Here you go:

“Before they attend the meeting, though, thousands of rank-and-file workers answer two questions that drive much of the discussion: First, What are we not doing that we should start doing right away?  Second, What should we immediately stop doing in order to allow for the emergence of the new?” (p. 123, Practically Radical)

Can I tell you something?  Great questions will change the game.  These two might change yours.

Responding to Yesterday vs. Reminiscing about the Future

Stop what you’re doing.  Just stop for a moment.  If you think about the solutions and strategies you’re currently queuing up…are they about responding to yesterday’s issues?  Or are they about solutions and strategies that solve tomorrow’s challenges?

I love this line from Bill Taylor’s Practically Radical:

“The art of starting something new…is a matter of ‘reminiscing about the future.'” [Click to Tweet] (p. 119, Practically Radical)

Insurance executive, Robert MacDonald was asked how industry upstart LifeUSA could compete with Prudential and New York Life.  “The question is, ‘How can they compete with us?  They were responding to yesterday’s market.  We were reminiscing about the future.'” (p. 120, Practically Radical)

Need practical examples?  How about these:

  • Yesterday is about how to enlist more adults into on-campus classes.  The future is about connecting across the cul-de-sac.
  • Yesterday is about how to recruit more people into the 12 week leadership training course.  The future is about helping ordinary people learn to practice hospitality and open their homes to friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family.
  • Yesterday is about matchmaking–matching members with pre-qualified and trained leaders.  The future is about equipping hosts to invest in their friends, neighbors, family, and co-workers–and naturally include them in the life-change process.
As Peter Drucker pointed out:
“The important thing is to identify “the future that has already happened“–and to develop the methodology for perceiving and analyzing these changes.”
We have clearly slipped the bounds of the past.  The future is all around us.  It has already happened.  If you want to be part of connecting the widening 60% who will not be reached by the attractional model…now is the time to reminisce about the future.

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

Victory in Spiritual Warfare: A Powerful DVD-driven study from Dr. Tony Evans and Lifeway

If you’re looking for a study that will help your groups understand spiritual warfare, you need to take a look at Victory in Spiritual Warfare by Dr. Tony Evans.  An 8 session DVD-driven study featuring the teaching of Dr. Evans and based on his 2011 book, Victory in Spiritual Warfare: Outfitting Yourself for the Battle…this is a powerful study.

The DVD format, along with daily homework and scripture memory will make this study very appropriate for many on-campus studies and classes as well as groups that are looking for deeper content.

There are several keys to the study.

First, the DVD features significant portions of the teaching of Dr. Evans.  At an average length of 30 minutes, I think they’ll seem much shorter.  The first African-American to graduate with a doctoral degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, he is widely regarded as one of the very best communicators in America.

Second, the participant guide, the Field Guide for Battle (included in the Leader Kit), includes a several important ingredients:

  • a section for taking notes during each of the DVD segments,
  • a short set of discussion questions, and a verse for scripture memory
  • a very thorough set of daily studies for each of the 8 weeks.  Deeply biblical, the daily studies will give group members an in-depth understanding of spiritual warfare.

A Personal Note: In my opinion, Dr. Tony Evans is one of the most memorable preachers in America.  I will never forget a message I heard him give at a Promise Keepers event in the late 90s.  Whether you add this curriculum to your recommended list or feature it in an on-campus study or class…I’m confident it will have the same effect on many participants.  They may have never shouted out, “Amen!” or “That’s right!” before…but they will when they get caught up in the enthusiasm of this teaching.

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.”

Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: a new DVD-driven study from Zondervan

Looking for a way to help group members understand their Muslim neighbors?  You might want to take a look at Muslims, Christians and Jesus, a new DVD-driven study from Zondervan.  Based on the acclaimed 2008 book by Carl Medearis, an international expert in the field of Arab-American and Muslim-Christian relations, it is one of the most engaging studies I’ve come across in the last year…on any topic.

A four session study, each of the sessions feature a kind of fireside chat by Medearis, as well as interviews with Muslim religious leaders, Christian religious leaders and authors, as well as political experts.  The average length is about 20 minutes, normally a little longer than ideal, but I think your members will be amazed at how quickly the minutes fly by.

The Participant’s Guide is designed to allow note-taking while viewing the DVD and also includes discussion questions that will help your members dive into the presentation.  On the heels of the DVD segment, there is a very good Bible exploration section, designed to open eyes to Jesus’ teaching and personal involvement with people from other faiths (for example, John 4 when He talks with the woman at the well).  Finally, a personal reflection section and steps to take on your own, provide an opportunity for personalized response.

This study provides a very healthy way for group members to begin to understand the basics of Islam, the difference between ‘moderate’ Muslims and actual terrorists, the Muslim view of Jesus, and how we as Christians should respond to our Muslim neighbors, friends, and co-workers as well as current events.

If you’re looking for studies that will open your member’s eyes to other world religions and worldviews, Muslims, Christians, and Jesus is an excellent resource and I highly recommend it.  They’ll come away with a much better understanding, some very practical next steps, and best of all, eyes to see and ears to hear as they get to know their Muslim neighbors.

Dilbert on Smartphone Creep-Out

As I’ve said before…sometimes you just need a laugh.  Whether you have the new iPhone 4s or you believe the machines will one day take over in a truth is stranger than fiction Terminator kind of way, this one rings eerily true:

Coke’s Vision for an Extended Family

I remember seeing this commercial last year and how easy it was to resonate with the vision.  If you dream of your groups being more engaged in their neighborhoods…this is must see TV!

Click here to see the video. (HT @mike_breen)

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