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.

Everybody Needs a Coach

We’ve all launched new groups and known that a key to new leader effectiveness is the presence of a coach.  We’ve seen it in many other venues as well, whether it’s been in sports, music, or blogging.  It just pays off to have someone walking alongside who knows the secrets to doing it well and can provide the keys to success.

Whether we’re talking about new small group leaders or 9 year-olds learning to play baseball…we all understand the need for a coach.  I think most of us even get a highly paid major league baseball pitcher benefiting from the observations of a keen observer.  Dancers, artists, singers, basketball players, golfers, sprinters and distance runners all benefit from the expertise of a coach.

How about you?  Do you know what you need to know?  Could a small change or two make a big difference in your effectiveness?  Would it make a difference for you to talk with a small group ministry coach?

What if a 60 minute conversation would help you see the one strategic shift that would help you launch 50% more groups in 2011?  What if a short call could help you begin to collaborate more effectively with your senior pastor?  What if you could get started for as little as $75?

Benefits of Coaching

  • Maximize the results of your connection events
  • Fine tune your annual calendar of events to leverage impact
  • Collaborate more effectively with your senior pastor
  • Learn to identify more and better leaders
  • Identify the subtle changes in your ministry calendar that will exponentially change your results

(Learn how to set up a coaching call)

Got Any References?

I’ve been coaching small group ministry leaders for almost 10 years.  In fact, I’ve provided strategic coaching for many of the most effective small group ministries in the country.  Here are a few observations from satisfied clients.

I’d Love to Help Your Ministry Expand

I am a passionate fan of small group ministry.  I am confident that life-change happens best in living rooms, across dining room tables, or over a cup of coffee at a Starbucks.  I’ve written over 500 articles on how to connect more people in groups, how to launch groups more effectively, how to train leaders and how to build effective coaching structures.  There’s a ton of information here at MarkHowellLive and most of it’s free because I want your small group ministry to succeed.

But most of us could benefit immensely from an hour with a seasoned veteran with a keen eye.  If you’re ready to take that step and invest in your own growth…I’d love to help you.  You can find out how and make arrangements for our first conversation right here.

Santa Went Down to Georgia

I caught this opener on North Point’s online service this a.m. and knew you’d want to see it.  It’s bootlegged…just grabbed it on my flip camera.  But very cool.

Santa Went Down to Georgia from Mark Howell on Vimeo.

The Power of Story-Driven Visual Media

What’s the best way to get a discussion going? I think the best way to get people talking is to tell a story. Especially one that only has most of the pieces…in the way that the best movies don’t neatly wrap things up at the end. They leave you talking as you walk out to your car.

Lost had a huge impact on the culture, grabbed a massive fan base, because it told a compelling story.  Each week was a wild free-for-all that wrenched the audience back and forth, from the present to the past, back to the present, and even fast-forwarded into the future.  Always packed with what might be clues, or complete red herrings.

Jesus used stories, you know.  In fact, at the end of a long series of stories that Jesus told the crowds while sitting in a boat, Matthew 13:34-35 notes, “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.’”

Jesus didn’t say anything to them “without using a parable.”  Hmmm.  Story-driven.

Tripped across a great interview that Gordon Marcy did with Shane Sooter, Artistic Director and President of City on a Hill Productions about the power of story-driven visual media.  I highly recommend that you take the time to read the interview.  And to watch a short video that Sooter developed called, “Our Mission Field.”

One of the reasons that I’m so high on small group studies like those being produced by Liquid and City on a Hill (H2O, The Jesus Experience, Not a Fan, etc.) and story-driven testimonies like those mentioned in this post on the Collide Magazine blog is that I am absolutely convinced that story-driven visual media will be required to reach the widening 60% that will never come to church.