Pushing Boundary-Free GroupLife

Page 2 of 177

Add “Jesus the King” to Your Recommended List

jesus the kingI spent some time with a new study this week that I think you’re going to want to know about and add to your recommended list. Jesus the King: Exploring the Life and Death of the Son of God, is a 9 session study by Tim Keller and Spence Shelton. While this study will be a challenge for less committed or less experienced group members, it will be just the right study for groups desiring a serious opportunity to deeply explore the life and death of “the most influential man to every walk the earth.”

Jesus the King is a study of Tim Keller’s book by the same title (originally published as King’s Cross in 2011) and the Gospel of Mark. The book was based on a series of messages given by Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in 2006 and 2007. Newsweek called Keller “a C.S. Lewis for the twenty-first century” and according to Christianity Today, “Fifty years from now, if evangelical Christians are widely known for their love of cities, their commitment to mercy and justice, and their love of their neighbors, Tim Keller will be remembered as a pioneer of the new urban Christians.”

Each session of this nine session study is broken into three parts: Pre-Group, Group Discussion, and On Your Own. “Pre-Group and Group Discussion are essential for a great group experience, while On Your Own is designed to help you dig further into the concepts if you so desire (from the How to Use This Study Guide section).”

The study guide, developed in collaboration with Spence Shelton (a grouplife veteran with “a deep understanding of the real-world dynamics of the gospel”) is well-written and very easy to use. It will almost lead itself and the design of the study will make it easy to facilitate. Thoughtfully developed questions will help members thoroughly engage in the discussion and as a result, call each member to “look anew at his or her relationship with God (from the cover).”

A significant challenge to the study is the required reading. While Keller is an excellent writer and his books reflect his speaking style, each session of the study calls for a couple chapters of a 252 page book (25 pages a week). The book captures the reader from the opening paragraphs and those who dig in and do the reading will be rewarded. At the same time, it’s important to note that the group discussion rests on the Pre-Group reading and study (i.e., if you haven’t done the Pre-Group reading and study, you will have little to contribute).

The Pre-Group section also includes a personal reflection assessment and a short set of Bible investigation questions.

Every small group ministry needs a recommended study list that includes some studies that are more challenging. Jesus the King is a challenging study that will reward those groups and group members that fully engage. I love this study and I think you will too.

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. I am also the Small Group Specialist for 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.”

10 Things Small Group Pastors Should Always Be Thinking

thinkingThere are a few things smart small group pastors should always be thinking. A set of questions we should always be asking ourselves. Are you always thinking about these things?

  1. How might we connect more unconnected people?
  2. What is the best way to connect the largest number of unconnected people?
  3. What kinds of people attend our church that we are not connecting?
  4. What stories do I need to tell my senior pastor (so my senior pastor can cast a compelling vision for grouplife)?
  5. Could we provide a better first step out of the auditorium (to connect more people)?
  6. What things must be true for our small group system to be the right system for our church?
  7. How might we improve the design of our small group experience to make more and better disciples?
  8. Am I doing to and for my coaches what I want our small group leaders to do to and for their members?
  9. What do we need to stop doing immediately?
  10. What do we need to start doing immediately?

Can I give you an assignment? Block off an hour or two every week to wrestle with these questions. Very little of what you are currently doing is more important. If you are regularly asking these questions (and taking action on their answers), you’ll begin to see movement toward your preferred future.

Image by Chris Price

Three Church-Wide Campaign Secrets that Everybody Knows…and Very Few Do

laser focusThese are not really secrets. I think almost everyone knows these things already, but almost nobody does them. They’re just too obvious. And honestly, it is just hard work to do them. But if you do them, your campaign will succeed like never before.

If you want to connect far beyond the usual suspects you need to get laser-focused far earlier and stay focused far longer than anyone will think necessary [Click to tweet]

3 Church-Wide Campaign Secrets

  1. Get laser-focused on promoting the campaign. You may not like the word promoting  but don’t let that word take you off course here. The key to this secret is to get laser-focused. For your church-wide campaign to do all you hope it will do, you must narrow your focus to the point that you are only talking about your campaign. If your normal pattern is to promote the buffet…you must change your normal pattern. Everything (announcements, bulletin inserts, website homepage, sermons, signage, etc.) must point to the campaign.
  2. Begin promoting the campaign far earlier than anyone believes necessary. If you truly want your campaign to succeed, you must begin promoting it months in advance. Launching in the fall? Start talking about it in the spring. Think about the launch of any major movie (i.e., Star Wars, Batman, etc.). When do you first begin hearing about it? That’s right. Early. The earlier you begin to get the upcoming campaign into the minds of your congregation and crowd, the greater the sense of anticipation you can develop.
  3. Maintain your laser-focus until your senior pastor and staff are tired of it…and then continue to stay focused. Actually, right about the time your senior pastor and staff begin to tire of the constant drum beat, your most frequent attenders (core, committed, and the inside edge of the congregation) are just starting to get the idea that this is important. If you want to reach the outside edge of the congregation and crowd, you’ve got to remain focused.

Listen, all of us have the same objections and will hear the same objections.

  • What about my ministry?
  • There’s a lot more going on than the campaign!
  • Doesn’t everyone already know this?
  • Haven’t we talked about this enough?

The key thing to remember is that the least connected people are almost always the most infrequent attenders. If you want to connect far beyond the usual suspects you need to get laser-focused earlier and stay focused far longer than anyone will think necessary.

Image by Hamza Hydri Syed

You’re Invited! Join My 2016 Coaching Network!

My Winter/Spring 2016 Small Group Ministry Coaching Network experience is designed to give you the tools and strategies you need in order to build a small group ministry that works in the 21st century. The coaching network program will expose you to a new perspective. While it makes sense that in order to get different results you need to do different things…it’s not always clear what those different things might be. My coaching network program is designed around the idea that different, not better, leads to the kind of strategy that connects beyond the usual suspects.

Who will be part of the network? Each of my networks are limited to 15 participants and are designed for small group champions who serve in a local church. Because of the nature of the role, champions may be senior pastors, executive pastors, small group pastors and directors, ministers of education, and other key leaders.

What will you receive?

  • Five monthly coaching sessions. Anchored by a 90 minute video conference call, these group session provides focused exposure to the strategies that will build a more powerful platform.  Sessions are scheduled at 11am Pacific on January 14th, February 11th, April 14th, May 12th, and June 9th).
  • Two day gathering in Las Vegas. March 9th: 1pm-5pm followed by dinner | March 10th: 8am-12pm (extend your stay thru March 12th and attend my soon-to-be-announced groups conference).
  • Focused training on key strategic steps including planning with the end in mind, developing an annual grouplife calendar, identifying an unlimited number of new leaders, launching new groups in waves, and impacting your community through groups.
  • Tools, strategies and next steps to be implemented after every session.
  • Access to special password protected network pages with customized content for each session.
  • Scheduled 60 minute one-on-one calls to address questions more specifically, bring team members into the conversation, or help equip your senior pastor or other key staff members.
  • The opportunity to connect with other network participants between sessions
  • Email access to Mark during the six months

What are the expectations?

  • Participate in all six sessions
  • Invest as little as $1050* (*super early bird pricing thru 10/31/15, early bird pricing of $1150 from 11/1-11/30, $1250 after 11/30/15)
  • Cover your own travel expenses to the two day gathering
  • Commit to the reading and exercises between sessions

What’s next? Complete the Coaching Network Application. My Winter/Spring Coaching Network begins on January 14th, 2016. Questions? Contact me.

Add “Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything” to Your Recommended List

hoseaHad an opportunity this week to spend some time with Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything, a new 7 session study from Jennifer Rothschild. A popular speaker and author of 10 books and Bible studies, Rothschild brings a little bit of southern charm to everything she does. If you’re unfamiliar with her work, you can find out more right here.

Your members may not be familiar with Hosea, one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament. A powerful love story about God’s unfailing love for His people, Rothschild does a very good job of telling the story in a way that will help your members see themselves in the story.

I like the way the cover of the book describes the contents. Hosea “is an unlikely story about an unlikely couple, an unusual courtship, and an illicit affair. But the marriage didn’t end; instead, a love story began. It’s Hosea and Gomer’s love story and it is your love story. When you’re looking for identity, God calls you His own. When you feel enslaved, God frees you. When you wander away, God brings you home. No matter where you are, God sees who you are and loves you faithfully. His unfailing love changes everything.”

DVD-Driven, Hosea is a 7 session study, suitable for both larger on-campus studies or small groups that meet in homes.  The DVD segments average 25 to 35 minutes and the Member Book provides a simple viewing guide for taking notes as well as a conversation guide to help your group(s) get started.  A thoughtfully designed leader’s guide provides additional discussion questions and scripture references that will take your members deep into the topic.

The Bible Study Book also includes six weeks of daily devotional studies for every session that will guide an exploration of this important topic.  Each devotional study is designed to pull participants a little further into the topic and will take most participants 30 to 45 minutes.  Since the session discussion questions refer back to the daily devotionals, working through them will enhance the study.

If you’re looking for a study that will deeply connect with the women in your Bible study, don’t miss Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything. I can see the story of Hosea and Gomer deeply impacting and forever changing the way your members see themselves. I loved it and I think your members will too.

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 is a regular advertiser on my blog. 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’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thinking Thursday: Taking Imagination Seriously

janet echelmanJanet Echelman found her true voice as an artist when her paints went missing — which forced her to look to an unorthodox new art material. Now she makes billowing, flowing, building-sized sculpture with a surprisingly geeky edge. A transporting 10 minutes of pure creativity.

Can’t see the video? You can watch it right here.

Every week I choose a video that I think you need to see and believe will inspire some new thinking. You can find the rest of the collection right here.

Image by

Has Your Mindset Trumped Your Skill Set?

mindsetWe’ve tried that before…and it didn’t work. I know it works other places, but there are just some things culturally here that keep it from working here.

Heard these? Said them yourself? Can I suggest something? It’s almost never your skill set that keeps you from breaking through barriers. Instead, it’s almost always your mindset.

Want to break through the barrier that’s preventing you from exceeding 100% connected in groups? Or maybe, stuck at 35% you’d like to break the 50% barrier? It probably doesn’t actually have much to do with your skill set (although understanding how to use the small group connection strategy or the church-wide campaign strategy can’t hurt).

Most of the time, when you need to break through a barrier, it almost always has to do with mindset.

Want a new mindset? I’ve found it’s mostly about believing the right things and asking the right questions.

What are the right things to believe? Here’s what I believe:

  • God is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” What we think can happen…is not even close to what God can do.
  • The most effective strategies we’ve ever discovered…are never more than a shadow of what could be (and will be).
  • What has gotten us to where we are currently…will not get us to where we dream of being.
  • Sometimes Often the thing that seemed impossible yesterday is closer every day to being reality. See also, Where Do You Want to Go with Your Small Group Ministry?

What are the right questions? Here are 5 of my favorites:

  1. What’s the best way to…?  I picked this up recently from Andy Stanley.  Works great when you’re stuck with legacy solution that just isn’t working very well any more (from Andy Stanley’s Leadership Podcast, Introducing Change).
  2. How might we…?  I got this one from Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO (from The Secret Phrase Top Innovators Use).
  3. What would have to be true for that approach to work?  Or, “for the idea on the table to be a fantastic option?”  I love these two questions from Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management (p. 12, The Design of Business).
  4. What are we not doing that we should start doing right away?  What should we immediately stop doing in order to allow for the emergence of the new?  Bill Taylor, a co-founder of Fast Company, is a great source of ideas like this. (p. 123, Practically Radical)
  5. What 21st-century challenges are testing the design limits of our ______ strategy? Also, What are the limitations of our model that have failed to keep up with the times?  Gary Hamel has been called “the world’s leading expert on business strategy.” (from The Future of Management)

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

Image by Jason Mrachina

4 Ingredients that Generate Intense Focus and Lead to Momentum

momentumYesterday I wrote about creating momentum by adding the game-changing power of intense focus. All of us hope for momentum and some of us have felt it from time to time.

What if we could learn to do the things that would produce an intense focus that leads to momentum?

Here are the key ingredients that must be present to generate intense focus that leads to momentum:

  1. A compelling vision. Momentum can only begin when a compelling vision emerges and takes hold. In the case of a church-wide campaign, it is not enough to imagine starting some new groups. It isn’t really enough that everyone would be challenged to attend the weekend service all 8 weeks, read the daily devotional, and be in a group that is using the study that goes along with the message. A compelling vision might be present when we can say, “This is the kind of series that we’ll still be talking about 10 years from now.” Or, “When people talk about this series they’ll say, ‘God changed the trajectory of my life in the fall of 2015.”
  2. Senior pastor, staff and key leaders willing to set their own interests aside for the sake of the vision. This rarely happens and it is the reason momentum is so rare. Intense focus is a group activity and it is an all-skate commitment. Surrendering the promotion of your own interests for the sake of the vision comes at a price few are willing to pay. The rewards are rich, but they come as a result of the sacrifice.
  3. Extravagant investment of resources (time, talent, treasure) into the pursuit of the vision. The kind of momentum generated by intense focus is worth an extravagant investment. Momentum is never the result of a penny-pinching attitude. Generating momentum often comes at a price of going all-in, pushing everything into the middle. There is certainly a financial investment, but momentum also requires the investment of time and talent. In a zero sum calculation, every dollar spent, every hour invested, every person committed, comes at the expense of things or ministries that do not receive intense focus.
  4. Determined resolve to run the whole course. Momentum is generated as the fly-wheel begins to turn faster and faster. It takes a all-in commitment over weeks and months to push the fly-wheel long enough to reach maximum velocity.

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

Image by Sean MacEntee


Add the Game-Changing Power of Intense Focus to Create Momentum

focusDo you know about the power of focus to create momentum? You certainly know the word focus. You probably know the definition of focus. But have you ever really seen focus in action? Have you ever seen the game-changing power of focus to create momentum?

Focus is almost always the opposite of what ministry looks like for most of us. It requires a discipline that is extremely challenging and a determined resolve that is like titanium. Focus is about saying no to many things so you can say yes to one thing.

We add the power of focus when we reduce all communication to a single message. We add intensity to focus when we repeat a single message over many weeks.

We’re seeing the fruit of intense focus at Canyon Ridge right now. For weeks we’ve only talked about our upcoming church-wide campaign (Transformed). We began hinting at it and teasing it in June and through August it became more and more intense every week. Three successive message series have included participating in Transformed as a key takeaway.

On the eve of the launch we’ve just ordered another 1500 books and another 200 DVDs.

We use a church-wide campaign every fall. It is a core strategy for spiritual growth. We put a lot of energy into it every year.

But there is no comparison between this years’ momentum and sense of anticipation and any of the three previous attempts.

What’s different? Intense focus.

Are you leveraging the game-changing power of intense focus? Saying no to many things so you can say yes to the most important thing? Or still saying yes to too many things, diffusing your energy?

Image by ihtatho

Dilbert on The Power of Written Goals

Sometimes you just need to laugh. I don’t know about you…but I was over do!
written goals

You can see the rest of Dilbert’s thoughts right here.

« Older posts Newer posts »