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True or False: Leaders with Apprentices Leads to More Groups

True or False

True or False: Leaders with Apprentices Leads to More Groups

What do you think? Would you answer true? Or false?

Not sure?

Early in my ministry I attended a small group ministry conference at Willow Creek. At that conference I learned that “healthy groups grow and birth” and every small group leader needs an apprentice so that groups can grow and birth (multiply).

While at that conference I also learned that Willow had been profoundly influenced by Carl George’s Meta Church model. Naturally, I devoured Carl’s book and spent the next several years applying what I learned from it. See also, The Meta Church Small Group Model and Prepare Your Church for the Future.

At about the same time I attended a Fuller Church Growth conference and heard Jim Dethmer teach about leadership and vision. Jim shared a well-known fable about a man being rewarded by a king for something he had done. In the fable the man asks the king to give him a single grain of wheat and then double the amount every day for 64 days (like filling up the squares on a chessboard). The man ends up owning all the grain in the kingdom. The fable explains the power of multiplication or geometric progression. You can read more about the origin of the fable right here.

Over the next few years I insisted that every group leader and every coach in my small group ministry have an apprentice. Apprenticing was an important part of my strategy for developing leaders and multiplying groups.

But…and this is important…I eventually realized that apprenticing doesn’t actually lead to more groups. Or rarely leads to more groups.

Here’s what I believe about apprenticing:

Apprenticing can be a powerful leadership development practice. When legitimately practiced and honestly applied, apprenticing is a leadership development pipeline with great potential.

Don’t miss what I’m saying here. Legitimately practicing and honestly applying the practice of apprenticing means much more than filling in a name in a box or an org chart. If all you are doing is requiring every leader to provide the name of his or her apprentice…you have more than missed the mark.

Apprenticing as a group multiplication strategy is most effective in slow-growth situations. If you’ve already connected most of your average adult weekend worship attendance and you can wait 12 to 18 months for your next new group to open up to new members…apprenticing may be an adequate strategy. If, on the other hand, a high percentage of your adults are unconnected, depending on existing groups to “grow and birth” as your primary method for group multiplication is irresponsible.

Whether your church is experiencing slow growth or fast growth, apprenticing is important but there are other strategies for launching new groups that allow for more rapid leader identification. See also, 8 Secrets for Identifying an Unlimited Number of Leaders.

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

Image by Alberto G.

Further Reading:

Behind the Scenes: Developing a Timeline for Your Church-Wide Campaign

januaryBehind the Scenes: Developing a Timeline for Your Church-Wide Campaign

When you’re preparing for a church-wide campaign, developing a timeline is one of the most important early steps. I was looking at an article I wrote in 2009 about how to develop a timeline…and I realized how much has changed! It’s time to take another shot at it.

Here is the way I develop a timeline in 2016:

Start with the End in Mind

The very first step is to determine when your weekend message series will end. This is an important decision. For a fall campaign, I try to finish at least two weekends before Thanksgiving. This is ideal, since providing your newest groups with a study to do next is an important step in sustaining a high percentage of the groups you launch and finishing your campaign at least two weekends before Thanksgiving will allow your new groups to do at least the first session (or two) of the follow-up study before Thanksgiving.

With me? As I said, though, this is ideal and I can’t always make it happen. Sometimes other factors get in the way.

Once you’ve chosen the end date, you can simply count forward the number of weeks in the series and determine when it will begin. For example, this year we are doing Finding Your Way Back to God. Although it is a 5 week series out of the box, we are adding an intro week, making it a 6 week series. We want our ending date to be October 30 which makes our beginning date the weekend of September 17-18.

Work Backwards from the End Date

The small group connection strategy is designed to form new groups to connect people who come to an event. See also, How I Lead a Small Group Connection.

If our series begins on September 17-18, we’ll be holding a series of small group connections during the week before the series begins. This year we will hold connections on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. In our case, we’ve found it beneficial to offer more than one connection event (providing an additional time allows more people to attend a connection). In our case, we don’t have available rooms large enough to hold everyone we need to connect, so we actually offer 5 different times. In your case, keep in mind that you need critical mass for the connection strategy to be effective. Don’t offer so many times that it spreads attendees over too many nights.

Plan to Promote Your Connection(s) Over 2 to 3 Weekends

As I’ve said many times, unconnected people are almost always infrequent attenders. If you want to connect as many as possible, you need to promote your connection events over several weekends. I like to promote the connection event(s) three weekends in a row and hold it on the third weekend after the 11:00 a.m. service.

Since our small group connections take place during the week of September 11th, we’ll be promoting them on 8/27-28, 9/3-4 and 9/10-11. Same script all three weekends in the sermon, announcements, preservice slides, bulletin, and website. We’ll also send at least one church-wide email promoting the event.

If You Have a Couple Friends…

Another important strategy for connecting people is the latest iteration of the HOST strategy. I refer to it as the “if you have a couple friends” strategy and when used with the right campaign it can help connect a wave of people to people who simply invite them to do the study together. See also, Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again.

Again, since people are attending church less frequently, it is important to mention this opportunity at least two or three weekends in a row.

We will begin inviting people to stop off at Groups Central and pick up a HOST kit on 8/6-7. and continue on 8/13-14 and 8/20-21. Same script all three weekends in the sermon, announcements, preservice slides, bulletin, and website. We’ll also send at least one church-wide email promoting the strategy.

Recruiting Launch-Phase Coaches

Another of the most important ingredients in the attempt to sustain as many new groups as possible is providing coaches for every new group leader. Recruiting and training new “coaches” needs to begin in April, May and June. See also, How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure – 2016 Version.

Bring Your Existing Group Leaders into the Loop

It’s a good idea to keep your existing group leaders informed and bring them into the loop well in advance. We like to hold a Group Leader Briefing in between services in early June. These briefings are short and to the point and feature a brief appearance by our senior pastor who casts vision for the campaign and shows appreciation for our leaders. We typically will show a short clip from the video and provide a sample of the study guide.

Begin “Teasing” the Campaign

In late spring or early summer we begin “teasing” the campaign. Think about the way the next Batman movie is promoted. Long before a true movie trailer is produced, posters and seconds long video will be released during the previews in movie theaters everywhere. Batman Begins…coming Christmas 2016. Why not “tease” your campaign?

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GroupLifeInsider_black_141208In the next few weeks I’ll be launching a new site called GroupLife Insider.

GroupLife Insider will feature more detailed and step-by-step instruction on building a thriving small group ministry. It will also feature:

  • A backstage pass kind of look at how I do what I do.
  • Free access to every mini-course I produce.
  • Opportunity to join an invite-only video conference call to get your questions answered.
  • Video interviews with experts you will listen to again and again.

GroupLife Insider will feature a robust behind-the-scenes experience. It will be a subscription service. While the price per month will be very reasonable, it will not be free ($10 to $15 per month or an annual fee).

If you’ve enjoyed and benefitted from the strategies, tips and ideas of MarkHowellLive.com…you will probably see right away the upside of a backstage pass that would give you access to more detail and a better step-by-step explanation.

Want to find out more?

Let me know by subscribing to the GroupLife Insider list:

Can’t see the sign up form? Click here to visit the article on the blog itself.

Behind the Scenes: Preparing for a Church-Wide Campaign

behind the scenesBehind the Scenes: Preparing for a Church-Wide Campaign

What do you do to prepare for a church-wide campaign? When do you start preparing? What are the first steps that lead in the direction that maximizes your results?

These are all good questions. And along with many other questions, these are the right questions.

In today’s post, I want to give you a look behind the scenes as we prepare for this year’s fall church-wide campaign.

What’s already happened:

  • Earlier this spring our lead team/teaching team chose this year’s church-wide campaign. The first thing on our mind was the why behind the what. Last year we chose a campaign that was primarily intended to strengthen our congregation, committed and core (the people who were already here). This year, we determined to go after the friends, neighbors, co-workers and family of our congregation and crowd.
  • While there are some years that we choose to develop our campaign study (video and study guide) in-house, many years we use an off-the-shelf campaign (one that has already been produced by someone else). For example, last year we chose to use Saddleback’s Transformed: How God Changes You. This year we’ve chosen to use Finding Your Way Back to God. See also, Top 5 Church-Wide Campaigns for Fall 2016.
  • 3 weeks ago we laid out the timeline for the entire campaign. We start by determining how long the weekend message series will run and when we need to launch the message series in order to finish the series at the right time (Thanksgiving plays a role). After determining the length of the series, we determine the necessary weeks to promote and hold a series of small group connections. This is preceded by the number of weeks we plan to recruit a wave of people “who have a couple of friends they’d like to do the study with.” See also, How to Develop a Timeline for Your Church-Wide Campaign.
  • Over the last two weeks we’ve fine-tuned the budget for the campaign (promotion, leader training, materials, etc.). Part of fine-tuning the budget requires determining the bulk pricing of materials (DVDs, study guides, host bags, invitations, etc.).

Last Weekend:

  • We held a meeting for our coaches that outlined the campaign and their roles. The two most important aspects we discussed were the series of small group connections and the distribution schedule for host kits, group leaders, and member purchases.
  • We held a “briefing” for all of our existing small group leaders. The briefing was hosted by our groups team and featured a brief appearance by our senior pastor (who shared the “why” behind the series). This gave us an opportunity in early June to share the ideas behind the campaign and the timeline with our leaders. By sharing this information early we hoped to get more of our leaders on-board and prepared. One of the key takeaways for leaders was that “every group ought to plan to add a few new members or consider taking a small group vacation (so they could each plan to invite a few unconnected people to join them).

What’s happening right now:

Moving into the next 60 days there are several key targets:

  • We are on the hunt for another wave of “launch-phase coaches.” This is our term for the group leaders we believe are potential coaches that we will invite to help us by “taking a newbie leader or two or three” under their wing. It’s an 8 to 10 week commitment (a week or two on the front end, the 6 weeks of the campaign, and a week or two on the back end to make sure their new groups land”). This is our primary strategy for recruiting new coaches. See also, How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure – 2016 Version.
  • We are instigating a few select strategies designed to help our congregation and crowd get to know their neighbors and co-workers (with the hopes of greasing the skids, helping them have an easier invite to “do the study with me.”). See also, How to Build Crowd-to-Core Flow in Advance.
  • I will be working with our teaching team and communication team to insure absolute clarity on the message and adherence to the predetermined strategy (for example, last year we wrote a script for every reference to the campaign (sermons, announcements, preservice slides, bulletin announcements, website references, etc.).

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GroupLifeInsider_black_141208In the next few weeks I’ll be launching a new site called GroupLife Insider.

GroupLife Insider will feature more detailed and step-by-step instruction on building a thriving small group ministry. It will also feature:

  • A backstage pass kind of look at how I do what I do.
  • Free access to every mini-course I produce.
  • Opportunity to join an invite-only video conference call to get your questions answered.
  • Video interviews with experts you will listen to again and again.

GroupLife Insider will feature a robust behind-the-scenes experience. It will be a subscription service. While the price per month will be very reasonable, it will not be free ($10 to $15 per month or an annual fee).

If you’ve enjoyed and benefitted from the strategies, tips and ideas of MarkHowellLive.com…you will probably see right away the upside of a backstage pass that would give you access to more detail and a better step-by-step explanation.

Want to find out more?

Let me know by subscribing to the GroupLife Insider list:

Image by supafly

Dilbert on Finding Solutions

Sometimes…you just need to laugh.

solutions

Bill Hybels on Overscheduling

overschedule hurry“A runaway calendar will keep you from simplifying your life. It holds you hostage to tangible things—meetings, appointments, and projects—without giving proper priority to the intangibles: who you are becoming, your relationships with family and friends, your connectedness to God. Without conscious intervention, this pattern of chronically overscheduling ensures that the priorities you care about most will take a backseat to the urgent priorities of others every time.” Bill Hybels, Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul

Image by Simone Cento

Is It Time for a Small Group Ministry Checkup?

checkupIs It Time for a Small Group Ministry Checkup?

Most of us have probably had days when we’ve woken up feeling a little off. There’s that feeling that something is not quite right, but we wouldn’t say we feel sick…just not quite right.

You know the feeling?

Now, sometimes that feeling just goes away. Maybe after a glass of orange juice or a cup of coffee.

Sometimes the feeling that something is not quite right turns into something more, but still not serious. Like a summer cold or an upset stomach from eating too much popcorn and junk food while binge watching Breaking Bad.

And occasionally that feeling that something is not quite right turns into something a little more serious. Or even a lot more serious.

When it comes to the way we feel, we know when it’s moved beyond feeling a little off.

When it comes to our health, most of us know when it’s time for a visit to the doctor. Most of us.

Can you tell when your small group ministry is a little off?

Can you tell when your small group ministry is a little off?

How do you know? What are the symptoms?

In an earlier article I suggested that the 5 signs of a healthy small group ministry were:

  • An increasing total number of groups.
  • An increasing total number of adults in groups.
  • An increasing percentage connected.
  • A decreasing average age of groups.
  • An increasing percentage of group leaders actively connecting with a coach.

Can you tell when your small group ministry is more than a little off?

So…how can you tell if your small group ministry is more than a little off? And how can you tell if it’s a little thing (like a summer cold) or a serious problem (like cancer or an immune disorder)?

I think your ability to recognize the difference between a little off and something more serious is mostly about knowing what healthy feels like. See also, 5 Symptoms of a Healthy Small Group Ministry.

But I also think your ability to recognize when your small group ministry is more than a little off has to do with clearly seeing the preferred future and discerning whether you’re there yet. Or on the way there. Or heading in the wrong direction. See also, What Is Your Small Group Ministry Designed to Do? and Start with the End in Mind.

Can you tell? Do you know what you’re looking for?

Sometimes, the truth is we’ve forgotten what it feels like to feel right. That moment when someone says, “I think you need to go to the doctor.” Maybe even the moment when they insist and tell you to “get in the car and I’ll go with you.”

But what about your small group ministry? Can you tell when it’s more than a little off? Do you need a friend to tell you it’s time to go to the doctor?

Don’t put it off! If your small group ministry feels more than a little off, get the help you need.

Can I help you?

Can I help you? Maybe scheduling a simple coaching call would be the start of getting healthy. Email Me to find out how to get started.

Further Reading:

Image by William Brawley

Bad Idea #2: Use an On-Demand Call Center to Provide Coaching

call centerBad Idea #2: Use an On-Demand Call Center to Provide Coaching

Not long ago my post 5 Stupid Things Churches Need to Stop Doing (in the name of small group ministry) offered a short list of dumb things churches do.

It was an incomplete list.

Here’s another really bad idea that actually happened.

“Let’s use an on-demand call center to provide coaching!”

The essence of the idea

Instead of assigning a particular coach to each small group leader, small group leaders were provided a phone number to call if they needed help. Coaches provided a kind of call-center approach to offer coaching when needed. In essence, what developed was a team of coaches who were available by phone to provide coaching on-demand.

Can you picture it?

You may be able to picture the brain-storming session that produced this bad idea. You may even wonder why it is a bad idea. It may sound like a brilliant idea. And I have to admit, it has some fine qualities.

It just misses the real point of small group coaching.

Coaching is not about teaching technique

I’ve pointed out before that new small group leaders rarely need help with technique after the first few months. They either figure it out or they don’t. They either learn how to lead a dynamic discussion (or they don’t). They either learn how to guide participation (or they don’t). They either learn how to draw out their less extroverted members (or they don’t). See also, The Big Misunderstanding that Dooms Small Group Coaching.

The essence of true coaching

The real issue with the bad idea for delivering coaching is that it misses the real essence of coaching. Remember, whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your groups has to happen to the leader first. This has almost nothing to do with learning a better technique. It has everything to do with developing a trusted relationship over time (between leader and coach) that allows the coach to do TO and FOR the leader whatever you want the leader to do TO and FOR the member.

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

Further Reading:

BECS16 Ad

Image by Dan H.

5 Best Church-Wide Campaigns for Fall 2016

Top 5 Church-Wide Campaigns Fall 2016Have you pulled the trigger yet on your fall ministry strategy? It’s not too late, but now is the time if you plan to incorporate a church-wide campaign (an alignment between your weekend message series and a small group study).  And although there are two other windows when the impact of a campaign can be optimized, in many ways the fall is still the best of the three.  See also, When Is the Best Time to Launch a Church-Wide Campaign.

While choosing the best church-wide campaigns is certainly subjective, I’ve made these selections with over a decade of experience leading churches through the process of choosing, designing and launching powerful and trajectory altering church-wide campaigns.  See also, How to Choose the Right Church-Wide Campaign and Church-Wide Campaign Coaching.

If you’re a subscriber to MarkHowellLive.com you’ll notice some repeats from last fall’s list. The truth is that although most years offer a selection of new campaigns, some are just too good to exclude.

Here are my picks for the 5 best campaigns for fall 2016:

transformed 3DVD-driven, Transformed is a 7 session study that accompanies a 7 week message series.  Although this campaign launched in 2014, this is a potent theme and should be on your radar.   Anchored in the apostle Paul’s profound truth in Romans 12:2, this campaign will guide and grow your church by exploring what the Bible has to say about every essential area of our lives: Spiritual, Physical, Mental, Emotional, Relational, Financial, and Vocational.Like all of Saddleback’s campaigns, this one is the complete package and is a true church-wide campaign with material for the whole family.

I like Transformed because it will appeal to both the congregation and the crowd (and in many situations to the community as well). Who doesn’t sense the need to change in some way? You can read my full review right here.

finding your way

Finding Your Way Back to God: Five Awakenings to Your New Life has the most powerful  outreach potential I’ve come across in a long time. If you’ve not had a chance to spend some time with the book yet, you need to make time! I believe this might be the most powerful outreach campaign I’ve ever reviewed.

The DVD segments are very compelling and exactly the right length to grab and hold attention. Both Dave and Jon Ferguson come across as real people who genuinely care about this message. Each session also includes the compelling testimony of some who have found their way back to God. An aspect of the video segments that stands in stark contrast to some is that these people have a very familiar presence and feel like they could be your neighbors.

The resources you need to put on your own campaign (including sermon transcripts, small group participant/leader guides, teaching videos, series bumper video, and website graphic) are available from youwayback.org. You can find our more right here.

You can read my full review of the book right here.

The Miracle of Mercy, a new 6 six-week church-wide campaign, is anchored by a weekend teaching series that launched the weekend after Easter, 2016.

If you want to know how to leverage a church-wide campaign to unite your congregation around a purpose and fan into flame difference-making action…you absolutely must take a look at Saddleback’s newest spiritual growth campaign. This is very powerful stuff. Don’t miss it!

I have pointed out many times that Saddleback strategically uses their small group ministry to drive ministry initiatives (think 40 Days of Community and the P.E.A.C.E project). There has never been a better example than The Miracle of Mercy. If you want to unleash a tidal wave of impact on your community and the world, you must take a look at this campaign.

You can read my full review right here.

Wonderlife: A Not So Perfect Guide to Who You Are and Why You’re Here is the newest resource from Mike Foster and the folks at SecondChance.org.  The study is designed to take people on “an authentic journey through their not-so-perfect stories to find their sacred calling.” Based on the principles of Psalm 139, the small group workbook, DVD and weekend series can easily be used as a church-wide campaign.

Covering the kind of topic that makes an easy invite for friends, neighbors, co-workers and family, it is designed to generate a fairly personal discussion. At the same time, it comes at it from such an exploratory angle, it ends up being fun and engaging at the same time.

If you’re looking for a study that makes for a great outreach opportunity, take a look at Wonderlife: A Not So Perfect Guide to Who You Are and Why You’re Here. I think you’ll like what you find. I loved this study and I think you will too!

what keeps you up at nightWhat Keeps You Up At Night: How to Find Peace While Chasing Your Dreams is the latest study from Pete Wilson, founding and senior pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN.

Based on Pete’s new book by the same titleWhat Keeps You Up At Night hits the bullseye of what I call a cross-cultural study. After all, doesn’t everyone have things that keep them up at night? That’s not a topic that only Christians care about. This is a study that neighbors, friends, co-workers and family will readily identify with and it will make a very easy invite.

I love this line from the website: “Today’s world, with all its expectations, responsibilities, and shortcomings, has created an environment ripe for the kind of uncertainty that has shackled an entire generation. This small-group Bible study helps participants activate faith and trust in God that will propel them forward through fear and anxiety to peace, faithfulness, and trust.”

You’ll find many ideas for your own message series by watching the series given at Cross Point in April, 2015. You can read my full review right here.

What if you could start 10 times as many new groups-

Add Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice to Your Coaching Resource List

reno of the heart in daily practiceIn keeping with my belief that whatever we want to happen in the lives of the members of our groups, must happen in the lives of the leaders first, it stands to reason that we can’t expect the lives of our coaches and leaders to be something that we are not.

With me?

As a result, I’m always on the hunt for books that can help shape me and resources that might better equip me to develop and disciple my coaches (so my coaches can develop and disciples the leaders they coach).

In the course of my hunt I discovered a book this week that I think you should know about. Published in 2006, Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice by Dallas Willard and Jan Johnson contains “61 carefully chosen selections from Dallas Willard’s best-selling book Renovation of the Heart.”  The selections were chosen to guide you through Dr. Willard’s “plan for renovating the complete person.” Each chapter also includes Jan Johnson’s suggestions for “making the concepts come alive in your own experience.”

Dallas Willard’s book Renovation of the Heart is a book that has shaped me. At the same time, I’ve learned that the point or the application of Dallas Willard’s writing doesn’t always pop immediately into my mind. I don’t know about you, but it is often the case that I benefit most from the reference to or interpretation of a Dallas Willard phrase or quote by someone else (for example, John Ortberg).

I’m finding the format of Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice to be very helpful, both to me personally and in my thinking about the patterns and practices we need to introduce into the developing and discipling of our coaches. If you’re on the hunt for this kind of resource, I highly recommend this one.

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.”

How Saddleback Online Has Started 1700 Small Groups in 4 Years

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 6.57.50 AMOnline.

Many churches are currently making  worship services (or at least the sermons) available for viewing online. Some are streaming their services. Others are simply making them available for viewing on-demand.

A few churches are creating a true online campus.

Do you know the difference?

If your church has an online presence (whatever the type), do you have groups there yet?

Jay Kranda has been Saddleback’s Online Campus Pastor since 2012 and has helped launch over 1700 small groups. Click here to see the Saddleback Online Campus landing page.

Here’s a link to a very interesting interview with Jay Kranda on the Vanderbloemen Leadership Podcast. If you listen, you can pick up several important clues about how Saddleback is launching new groups via their online campus.

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

Click here to see the show notes or listen to the podcast on the Vanderbloemen site.

Click here to learn more about the Vanderbloemen Leadership Podcast.

 

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