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My Top 10 Favorite Posts on Small Group Coaching

My Top 10 Favorite PostsMy Top 10 Favorite Posts on Small Group Coaching

Over the last 8 years I’ve written a lot about small group coaching. A LOT! I tried determining the actual top 10 posts (according to Google Analytics), but realized after the fact that many were written in 2008 and 2009…and there are some big ideas that have emerged in the last two or three years.

Coaching, you know, is so important! Why? As challenging and difficult as it is to build an effective coaching structure, I believe if you don’t have coaching in place you will almost certainly fail at building a thriving small group ministry.  Why?  I believe this because I am convinced that whatever you want to happen at the member level, must happen to the leader first. [Click to Tweet]

So…these are my favorites. Hope you find them helpful!

Here are my top 10 posts on small group coaching:

  1. Skill Training: Four Questions Every Coach Should Be Asking (2010)
  2. Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Coaching Strategy (2011)
  3. Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Leaders (2015)
  4. 7 Rules at the Essence of Small Group Coaching (2014)
  5. 20 Frequently Asked Questions about Small Group Coaching (2014)
  6. 5 Obstacles to Building an Effective Coaching Structure (2015)
  7. The Big Idea Behind Small Group Coaching (2015)
  8. The Big Misunderstanding that Dooms Most Coaching Structures (2015)
  9. 4 Steps that Build an Effective Coaching Structure (2015)
  10. 5 Assumptions that Shape My Small Group Coaching Strategy (2015)

And I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you about one of my most popular mini-courses: How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure. You can find out all about it right here.

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Move Toward the Mess Is a Book You Need to Be Reading

move toward the messI came home from North Point Ministries re:group conference with a copy of Move Toward the Mess: The Ultimate Fix for a Boring Christian Life in my swag bag. Honestly, I didn’t really even notice it until I got home and went through the contents of the bag (and decided what to do with it).

Let me tell you, I’m glad I kept this book and I’m so glad I read it! So good and it fits a theme of reading that I’m pursuing right now.

Written by John Hambrick, this is a very powerful book. Hambrick is part of the leadership team at Buckhead Church (the urban campus of North Point Community Church). His experience in Pakistan, London, South Africa, and inner-city Los Angeles has given him a unique perspective on what God is doing in the world.

In a weekend message I listened to after the conference I learned that Hambrick coined the phrase that is so often used around North Point and its various locations throughout the Atlanta area (and network churches far beyond).

Interspersed with some very powerful personal stories of what happens when you do move toward the mess, The compelling stories of Leroy and Janelle, Patrick, Rehan and Amreen pull you deep into a different worldview, a different kind of Christian life; a Christian life that isn’t boring.

The last section of the book provide a kind of roadmap for what to do when you’re ready to move toward the mess…yourself. After all, if all we do is learn more about other people who have moved toward the mess, what has really changed?

Every chapter concludes with a set of discussion questions, making Move Toward the Mess a very good book to read as a group.

I have to tell you, I’m so glad I stumbled across this book. This is a great read and very importantly, a book that might just change your direction. I highly recommend it.

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. 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.”

New “Double Shot” Mini-Course: Basic Training for New Coaches

Basic Training for New Coaches

Basic Training for New Coaches – 2016

If you’re using my strategies to build an effective coaching structure, you may have wondered how to train the coaches you’ve identified and recruited. After all, it’s possible to end up with the great coaching candidates who simply don’t know what to do.

It’s possible to end up with great candidates who simply don’t know what to do!

Who wants that?

Nobody. Right?

I’d like to show you exactly how I train the coaches I recruit. But…I really need to show you. To do that, I need you to join me for the four video sessions that teach the four basic skills a new coach needs as they begin.

Why do I call it a “double shot” mini-course?

Two Ways You Can Use Basic Training for New Coaches – 2016

You can use this four-session basic training two ways:

  1. Use it as a model to create your own version. In addition to the four video sessions, you will have access to the session notes and other downloadable forms (scripts for an excellent first conversation; conversation journal to record highlights, concerns, and prayer requests, etc.).
  2. Offer it to your new coaches as advance training. While each of the sessions will train coaches in the four skills we need them to have, every session will be limited to fully transferable content. This training is designed to allow you to supplement my Basic Training for New Coaches with handouts or live sessions that provide your own custom information for dates, times, etc.

Questions?  Email Me for information.

I’ve mentioned previously that new coaches need a combination of training-in-advance and just-in-time training. Some of what new coaches need to be trained to do will be very familiar and come quite naturally. After all, if you’ve chosen only the candidates who truly meet the criteria they will already know much of what they need to know.

However, some of the new skills your new coaches need to be trained to do may take them into uncharted territory. For example, while they meet new people easily, they might need to learn how to have an excellent first conversation. Or they may need to acquire some tools that will help them leverage every previous conversation to deepen their relationship with each new leader.

Here are the four skills your coaches will learn:

  • How to have an excellent first conversation with each new leader.
  • How to have 8 to 10 prearranged weekly conversations with each new leader.
  • How to leverage every previous conversation to deepen their relationship with each new leader.
  • How to maximize the sustainability of each new group.

What’s Included:

  1. Four 60 minute sessions (45 minutes of content + 15 minutes Q&A)
  2. Downloadable outlines (allowing you to capture every detail)
  3. Each session is packed with actionable takeaways
  4. All sessions are downloadable to share with your team
  5. Access to a password-protected site with additional supporting resources.
  6. 100% money back guarantee.  If you’re not completely satisfied…I’ll refund your money.
  7. Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $125)
  8. Questions?  Email Me for information.

When, Where and Other Details:

  • Sessions 1 and 2 are Tuesday, July 19th at 11:00 a.m. pacific. (I’m doing the sessions 1 and 2 back to back from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.)
  • Sessions 3 and 4 are on July 26th at 11:00 a.m. pacific. (I’m doing the sessions 3 and 4 back to back from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.)
  • Regular pricing: $49.95
  • Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $100)
  • Questions?  Email Me for information.

Are you ready? I’d love to show you how train your coaches in the four skills they need to succeed!

You can do it. Your senior pastor will be glad you learned how…and so will your church!


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Do You Know How to Give Group Members a Life-Changing Experience?

give a life-changingDo You Know How to Give Group Members a Life-Changing Experience?

Do you know how to give group members a life-changing experience? What do you think are the most important things you can do to influence the experience of a group member?

What do you think is the single most important thing?

Do you know?

I can tell you what I think. Of course, it is my opinion. But I think I’m right. And I think if you think about it you’ll agree.

The most important thing you can do to give group members a life-changing experience is provide them a leader who has already experienced life-change.

The most important thing you can do to give group members a life-changing experience is provide them a leader who has already experienced life-change.

Do you agree with me? Or do you want to argue for something different?

I guess if I was going to be completely accurate I would modify my statement slightly to say, “the most important thing you can do to give group members a life-changing experience is provide them a leader who has already experienced (or is experiencing) life-change.”

A Follow-Up Question

Which leads me to a follow up question.

Do you know how to ensure that your group leaders have already experienced (or are experiencing) life-change?

Again, I can tell you what I think. And of course, it is still my opinion. But I think I am right. And I think if you think about you will agree with me.

The best way to ensure that your group leaders have already experienced (or are experiencing) life-change is to give each of them a “coach” who will come alongside them and do TO and FOR your leaders whatever you want your leaders to do TO and FOR their members.

That is a long sentence! Let me say it in a shorter form.

Whatever you want to happen at the member level, will have to happen to the leader first.

Whatever you want to happen at the member level, will have to happen to the leader first.

And that means you will need to do TO and FOR your leaders whatever you want them to do TO and FOR their members.

How Will You Do That to All of Your Leaders?

That is where coaching comes in. Since “everyone needs to be cared for by someone but no one can really care for more than about 10 people (Carl George),” you will need to develop some coaches who can extend care to group leaders who are beyond your capacity (10) to reach.

Have you developed some coaches who can help you give group members a life-changing experience?

If you have…good for you! Your reward is no doubt the satisfaction of knowing that your hard work is paying off in the life-changing experience of group members.

If you’ve not yet developed some coaches who can help you give group members a life-changing experience, isn’t it about time to get after that?

If you need help understanding how to build an effective coaching structure, please take a look at my four-session mini-course. I think you’ll agree it was money well spent to take the course. Or your money back.

How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure

Further Reading:

Image by Bert Heymans

FAQ: How Do You Train “Launch-Phase Coaches”

train launch phaseFAQ: How Do You Train “Launch-Phase Coaches”

I get questions. A lot of questions. Some come by email and others begin as comments or questions on a blog post. I get a lot of questions, too, when I’m speaking at a conference or giving a workshop.

When I get a question I think you’d like to know the answer to…I often simply answer in a blog post!

Here’s one I get a lot, especially in advance of the 3 main seasons for church-wide campaigns.

Here’s today’s question:

“I think I understand how to identify a potential coach and also how to recruit a potential coach. But how do you train them to actually do what they need to do? How do you help them begin well?”

That is a great question! After all, if you go to the trouble of identify the right men and women and then recruit them in the right way, but they miss the mark because you haven’t given them the specific skills they need or focused their attention on the things they can do for the new leaders they’re assigned…well, that would be bad!

(Don’t miss my newest mini-course mentioned below!)

Here’s my answer:

First, be sure that your training is consistent with the job description you’ve developed and given them. That is, design your training to help them do what you recruited them to do. Click here to open a copy of the job description we use for what we call a campaign coach.

Remember, we only recruited people who made it through the four filters I mentioned in the first post in this series. They will be easy to train to do the simple things we need them to do.

Second, focus your training on the critical new skills they will need during their 10 to 13 week commitment. The four new skills they will need during their 10 to 13 week commitment are:

  1. Have an excellent first conversation with each new leader.
  2. Have 8 to 10 prearranged weekly conversations with each new leader.
  3. Leverage every previous conversation to deepen their relationship with each new leader.
  4. Maximize the sustainability of each new group.

Third, design your training to be a combination of training-in-advance and just-in-time training. Some of what your new coaches will need to be trained to do will be very familiar and come quite naturally. After all, you’ve chosen only the candidates who truly meet the criteria. In order to meet the criteria they will already know much of what they need to know.

However, some of the new skills your new coaches will need to be trained to do may take them into uncharted territory. For example, while they meet new people easily, they might need to learn how to have an excellent first conversation. Or they may need to acquire some tools that will help them leverage every previous conversation to deepen their relationship with each new leader.

Two Key Methods of Training

The training-in-advance can happen at a one-time centralized gathering (or a series). The advantage of a centralized gathering is that it will make role playing or practice possible. The disadvantage is the difficulty of getting all of your new coaches together for a training session.

The training-in-advance can also happen on a series of conference calls or video calls. The advantage is that new coaches can join the conference call or video session from wherever they are without having to drive to the centralized meeting (or even being in town). Another advantage is that your training session(s) can easily be recorded and made available for those who miss the training and for those who would like another chance to review.

Need More Help?

Take advantage of my newest mini-course/training offering:

Have you been working to build an effective coaching structure but need additional help? Take advantage of my  Campaign Coach Basic Training program! You can use this four-session mini-course two ways:

  1. Use it as a model to create your own version. In addition to the four video sessions, you will have access to the session notes and other downloadable forms (scripts for an excellent first conversation; conversation journal to record highlights, concerns, and prayer requests, etc.).
  2. Offer it to your campaign coaches as advance training. While each of the sessions will train coaches in the four skills we need them to have, every session will be limited to fully transferable content. This training is designed to allow you to supplement my Campaign Coach Basic Training with handouts or live sessions that provide your own custom information for dates, times, etc.

Need more information? Take a look at all the details right here.

Questions?  Email Me for information.

Campaign Coach Basic Training – 2016

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Further Reading:

Image by Al Flick

Happy Independence Day…from me and Ray Charles

Hey everybody! I’m taking the day off here in Las Vegas, but in the meantime I’d like to share with you my favorite Ray Charles version of America the Beautiful (Recorded during the 2001 World Series, a few weeks after September 11th).

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 6.16.00 AM

Happy Independence Day to all my friends here in America (and Americans everywhere)! And to my international friends, I hope you have a great start to your week.

May God bless you today!

mark

mistakes chalkboard“If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake.” – Frank Wilczek, 2004 Nobel Prize winner

Image by Hrag Vartanian

Top 10 Posts on Training and Discipling Leaders

leaderTop 10 Posts on Training and Discipling Leaders

I’ve written a little bit on the topic. Okay…I have written a LOT on this topic. With over 1900 hundred articles dating back to 2008, determining the top 10 articles was a little challenging. According to Google analytics, this is how it came out.

  1. Top 10 Essential Small Group Leader Skills
  2. 8 Habits of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader
  3. Skill Training: Equip Your Leaders to Help Members Plan to Grow
  4. Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway
  5. From Here to There: The Preferred Future for Small Group Leaders
  6. Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Leaders
  7. 7 Things You Must Do TO and FOR Your Small Group Leaders
  8. The One Thing Every Small Group Pastor Must Do for Small Group Leaders
  9. 7 Must-Have Resources for Training Small Group Leaders
  10. Small Group Leader Expectations: What Should They Be?

Image by LukeBlacks

Are You “Brutally Honest” about Your Small Group Ministry?

brutal xrayAre You “Brutally Honest” about Your Small Group Ministry?

How honest are you about your own small group ministry? You know…about how things are going…really?

Are you brutally honest?

In his best-selling book Good to Great, Jim Collins introduced the “discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

“You absolutely cannot make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts. The good-to-great companies operated in accordance with this principle, and the comparison companies generally did not.”

Today I want to talk about a very important step in the preferred future process. Just as important as identifying and describing your preferred future, being honest about how things really are today is absolutely essential. Only with real honesty, brutal honesty, can you begin to design the strategies that will help you get from where you are (your present) to where you want to be (your preferred future).

Brutal Honesty About Your Present.

Sounds harsh.  Brutal even.  But without an honest evaluation of right now, you can’t possibly build an exponential system.  So how do you evaluate your present?  What are you looking for?

Here are some of the questions I use:

First, Is group life promoted year-round as an essential ingredient of spiritual growth?  So that we’re clear, here’s what I mean about each of these terms:

  • Group life must be a life-on-life activity.  It can’t be a purely educational experience.  It’s about interaction.  Can it happen on Sunday a.m. in a classroom setting?  It can, but it will take work to create the right environment there.  At the same time, it takes work to create the right environment in a living room.
  • Group life must be promoted.  By promoted I mean talked about, highlighted, mentioned, and referred to.  It needs to happen in your pastor’s messages, in announcements, in testimonies, on your website, your e-newsletter, and your bulletin or program.
  • Group life must be promoted all the time, not once a season or when it’s recruiting time, and certainly not in a kind of rotating emphasis where equal time is given to every ministry or program.  This is a very important question about where you are right now.  Without year-round promotion, you can’t get to exponential.
  • Group life must be seen as an essential ingredient of spiritual growth.  From a practical standpoint, it really needs to be seen as one of a very few essential ingredients.  What are the others?  Gathering for corporate worship and serving in a gift-based, passion-driven ministry.  You’ll have difficulty getting to exponential if there is much there beyond those three.

How are you doing so far?  When you evaluate the way things are right now in your ministry, is group life promoted year-round as an essential ingredient of spiritual growth?

The next diagnosis question is: How obvious is the path to connect with a group in your system?  In other words, once I begin hearing about how essential group life is, will my next step be obvious?  Can I see it prominently promoted on the website?  Can I walk out into the lobby right after service and see what to do?  Is the next step obvious?

Next, how easy is the first step?  Can I take a baby step?  Or do I have to be a world record long jumper like Carl Lewis?  An example of easy is a six week test-drive on a timely and broadly engaging topic.  An example of a difficult first step is Experiencing God or The Truth Project.  Great studies, but at 12 to 14 weeks are too long for a first step.

Last, does the first step lead to a next step?  This is a very important part of getting to exponential.  It’s not that every group must survive or every person who joins continues.  It’s that you’re doing what you must to build in the greatest possibility of survival.

A Truly Brutal Diagnosis

A thorough diagnosis of your present would include an honest conversation about much more. There would be questions about the legitimacy of your coaching efforts. You’d have to assess whether you are truly making disciples or simply connecting people? You would have to look deeply into the reasons you’ve connected some but not others.

A thorough diagnosis of your present would also include a careful look at all the elements that effect small group ministry. For example, what does communication look like in your church? How effectively do all of the communication ingredients work together to present a clear sense of the next step you want unconnected people to take? Are you presenting a pathway that is easy, obvious, and strategic? Or are you really pointing unconnected people to a confusing buffet?

While communication is an important element to diagnose, there are many others. Here are a few more:

  • How committed is your senior pastor to the role of small group champion?
  • How confusing is your current menu of connection and discipleship options?
  • How adequately are you resourced for small group ministry? When you look at staff, budget, room allocation, lobby presence, and website presence can you tell that small group ministry is a priority? Or are you really prioritizing everything and nothing at the same time?

Your Next Step

Your next step is to pull together a conversation about how things really are right now in your ministry.  You’ll need the right people around the table.  It will take time.  You’ll have to be honest.  But here’s the thing.  You’re kidding yourself if you think you can get to exponential from just anywhere.  You need to rearrange the way things are today if you want to get somewhere different tomorrow.

Image by Jonathan Harford

Further Reading

How to Manage the 5 Tensions of Connection

tension

How to Manage the 5 Tensions of Connection

Connection between people is a little bit of mystery smack dab in the middle of a lot of predictability. It is mostly about managing the 5 tensions of connection. The 5 tensions are driven by things that seem true and good to everyone except unconnected people.

Here’s what I mean:

Connection is easiest when everyone is new. This is why it’s more effective to form new groups than to add new members to existing groups. I’ve said many times that once a group is 4 to 6 months old it begins to form a nearly impermeable membrane that prevents the easy connection of new members. Once that membrane forms the only new members that can break through are friends of existing members or the least self-aware and most brazen extroverts imaginable.

On the other hand, when everyone is new, no membrane exists. Barriers haven’t formed. Pecking orders aren’t established. It’s a level playing ground.

Tension #1: It will always be easier to send new members to existing groups. It is more productive to launch new groups.

If you want to connect unconnected people you need to focus on launching new groups. See also, Top 5 Ways to Start New Groups. Lots of New Groups and Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs Starting New Groups.

Connection is easiest when everyone is similar. The closer the affinity the easier it is to connect. True, there are some who are looking for an intergenerational group. Trust me, they are the exception. The easiest connections happen between people with common interests and similar life-stages.

While it is often true that greater diversity leads to a richer form of community, it is not automatic and it doesn’t form quickly enough to make connection likely.

Tension #2: It is easier to connect without intentionality. It is more work and harder work to design events and connecting opportunities that take advantage of affinity.

If you want to connect unconnected people you need to look for strategies that connect affinity, the closer the better.

Connection is easiest when the topic of study is customer-focused. That may seem an odd way of expressing the idea, but it is never harder to connect unconnected people than when the topic of study is only interesting to the people who chose it. Just like trying to get your children to eat their vegetables, telling them to eat it because “it’s good for you” is not helpful. See also, Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer?

Tension #3: The loudest voices are always the already connected minority. Unconnected people have little or no voice. Finding ways to learn their interests is a very important responsibility.

If you want to connect unconnected people you must keep their interests and concerns in mind and choose study topics that naturally appeal to them.

Connection is easiest when it’s convenient. Unconnected people are almost always the least motivated to connect. They have other priorities. We may believe they have the wrong priorities…but they are their priorities. Removing the barrier of inconvenience is essential. The day and time of your connecting event matter. The format of your event matters. Providing childcare matters. Inconvenience is in the eye of the beholder.

Tension #4: The most convenient design for unconnected people is almost always less convenient for staff and key volunteers.

If you want to connect unconnected people you need to create opportunities that are convenient to them.

Connection is easiest when it is a good value. Remember, unconnected people are almost always the least motivated to connect. The cost must seem to be a good value to them. If you’re going to subsidize anything, subsidize the cost to sign up for a first connection opportunity. Design your programs to make it easy and extra affordable for unconnected people. Their very first steps are the most difficult.

A good value is about more than the financial impact. Does it feel like a good use of their time? Does the sign up process and the event itself feel like a good use of their time?

Tension #5: Your budget will almost never drift it’s way into prioritizing unconnected people.

If you want to connect unconnected people you need to make connecting seem like a very good value for their money, time and effort. See also, Budgeting for the Preferred Future.

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

Image by Siddharth Vishnathan

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