It’s Not Too Late! Take Advantage of My 2015 Coaching Network

Have you thought about joining my 2015 Small Group Ministry Coaching Network?  It’s not too late, but you need to act pretty quickly.  I have only a few spots left!

A few important details:

Before you decide you can’t participate, make sure you know a few important details:

  • There are several payment plans: All you need to get started is a deposit.  You can spread the balance over 4 payments.
  • All calls are recorded: I record every coaching call and you’ll have access to the recordings to listen later (or share with your team).  It’s not essential to participate in the live call and many have to miss a call now and then.
  • Make the Las Vegas day a team experience: You can bring a team member along to the day in Las Vegas in March.
  • Take your ministry to the next level: Whether you are a beginner, a seasoned veteran, or anywhere in between, my coaching network helps take small group ministries to the next level.
  • Build a thriving small group ministry that fits your church’s needs.  There are several systems that could work.  Choose the model that fits your church.

Have questions you need answered before saying yes?  Email Me.

I really want to encourage you to join my 2015 Small Group Ministry Coaching Network; an experience designed to give you the tools and strategies you need in order to build a small group ministry that works in the 21st century.

Find out more and apply right here.

My 2014 Network has already had big results

Several of my 2014 alumni from quite a cross section of churches have already reported launching and sustaining record numbers of groups and connecting far more people than ever before.  I’d love to help you do the same thing!

Don’t take my word for it!

Here’s what three of my alumni had to say about the coaching network experience:

  • “I was a part of Mark’s Coaching Network and found it to be not only beneficial to helping me think outside the box, but also to hear from other pastors across the nation. If you are looking for a coaching network that will help you grow in your skills, sharpen your strategies, and guide you to take your next steps in small group ministry, make sure you sign-up for this coaching network!”  Jonathan Holcomb, LifeGroups and LifeMissions Pastor, LifeChurch.tv, South Tulsa
  • “I would highly recommend Mark Howell’s Small Group Ministry Coaching Network.  I had been studying small group strategies prior to joining the network and discovered I had all kinds of questions as to which was the best approach for our church.  Rather than try to figure it out all alone, the network was a tremendous resource for me personally as well as our church as we began to implement a small group system.  Mark did a great job encouraging, challenging, and resourcing us as we chose a model to help us identify and reach our ‘preferred future’.  My experience with Mark Howell’s Coaching Network was well worth my investment of time and finances.  It has had a profound and lasting effect on my perspective of small group ministry.”  Kem Stickl, Journey Groups Director, Whitehaven Road Baptist Church
  • “I joined Mark Howell’s coaching network because I needed to make several significant decisions in our church’s group ministry. Adding Mark’s experienced, strategic mind to our process for that season was super helpful. But the best part has been the relationship I’ve continued to build with Mark since the coaching network.”  Mark Riggins, Community Life Pastor, Bible Fellowship Church

Ready to join?

My 2015 Small Group Ministry Coaching Network begins in February and as of 1/12/15 I have 5 spots left. You can find out more and complete your application right here.

Still have questions?  Email Me for some quick answers.  I’m hoping you’ll come along!

5 Small Group Ministry Truths I Hold to Be Self Evident

declaration of independenceThere are certain things, certain ideas, that are just true.  This was the case for Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers of the United States of America (Jefferson maintained they were self-evident).  And it is true for small group ministry.

With over three decades of small group ministry experience, I have found certain truths to be self-evident.  In the words of Captain Jack Ross in a Few Good Men, “These are the facts, and they are undisputed.”

5 small group ministry truths that I hold to be self-evident:

  1. A small group provides the optimal environment for the life-change Jesus intends for every believer.”  Circles, not rows.  A classroom environment is good for information, but the wrong model for authentic transformation.  The power of a group, not one-on-one. So much is gained when exposed to a variety of gifts.  See also, Groups of All Kinds and the Essential Ingredients for Life-Change.
  2. “Unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again.”  Time really is of the essence.  Next fall or even next season is never soon enough for some.  There is always a window closing on some unconnected people.  Therefore, postponing connection opportunities until leaders are identified, vetted and trained is a dangerous prerequisite.  See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting Unconnected People?
  3. “Joining a group in a stranger’s living room is the second scariest move (preceded only by coming to church for the first time).”  An awareness of and empathy for unconnected people is essential if you want to build a thriving small group ministry.  What the usual suspects want or can tolerate is far from the point.  Appreciation for the point of view of unconnected people (i.e., what they are interested in and afraid of) is essential.  See also, The Second Greatest Fear of Unconnected People.
  4. “Whatever you want to happen at the member level will have to happen to the leader first.”  No matter where you set the leader bar, you must understand that the member experience is absolutely determined by the leader’s steadfast pursuit of full devotion.  That said, it follows that very few adults are self-motivated.  Almost all adults need a mentor.coach who can say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”  Therefore, coaching is an essential ingredient for life-change.  See also, Life-Change at the Member Level.
  5. Your senior pastor as small group champion is essential in building a thriving small group ministry.  If there ever was an idea birthed in fantasy, it was that ordinary people would pursue something the most influential person is not modeling and championing.  See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #1: A Doubtful or Conflicted Senior Pastor.

These are 5 of the small group ministry truths I hold to be self-evident.  Are there more?  No doubt.  Still, I believe if you want to build a thriving small group ministry you will embrace these truths as well.

See also, Top 10 Axiomatic Beliefs of GroupLife, 7 Assumptions that Shape My Small Group Strategy, and 10 Ideas that Have Shaped My Philosophy of Ministry.

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

Missional Living Resources You Should Know About

Every year I end up being sent well over a hundred new small group studies, church-wide campaigns and ministry books of all kinds.  It’s a great privilege to be asked to review them.

A few weeks ago I received a box with a collection of resources on missional living from a variety of publishers.  Over the past month I’ve been spending time with these books and I thought you’d like to know about them.  It’s a category that should be on our radar.

In the Gap: What Happens When God’s People Stand Strong is by Wilfredo De Jesus.  Included in Times 100 Most Influential People in the World, “Pastor Choco,” In The Gap looks at nine examples of courageous people in the scriptures–men and women who recognized “gap” situations and trusted God to use them to make a difference (from the cover).

life on mission willisLife on Mission: Joining the Everyday Mission of God is by Dustin Willis and Aaron Coe.  New from Send North America and Moody Publishers, in Life on Mission Willis and Coe “explain biblical foundations and explore the practical implications for how God has designed your life to be a part of His purpose in the world (from the forward).”

field guide for everyday missionA Field Guide for Everyday Mission: 30 Days and 101 Ways to Demonstrate the Gospel is by Ben Connelly and Bob Roberts, Jr.  This is an interesting resource with contributions from Lance Ford, Rick McKinley, Mark Deymaz, Mary Demuth and Jeff Vanderstelt and a forward by Alan Hirsch.  A Field Guide for Everyday Mission answers some very important important questions in a very engaging way.

unstoppableUnstoppable: Running the Race You Were Born to Win by Christine Caine “enthralls us with true stories and eternal principles that inspire us to run the race of our lives, receiving the baton of faith in sync with our team, the body of Christ (from the cover).  You may have heard Christine Caine at a conference.  Unstoppable is a page turner.

flesh bringing the incarnation down to earthFlesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth by Hugh Halter is my favorite from a very good stack.  Its alternate subtitle: Learning to be human like Jesus is a better description of the content.  Halter does a very good job of integrating real life stories and examples with scripture.  You can read my full review right here.

Jesus Prom: Life Gets Fun When You Love People Like Jesus Does by Jon Weece is a powerful book that might have slipped under your radar.  The unusual name comes from an party “that Southland throws every year for the disabled, handicapped, and mentally ill.”  At the essence of Jesus Prom is the the powerful idea that the church is not a place you go but “a kind of community we are.”

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 to Recruit a Small Group Coach: My “Secret” Formula

I’ve written a lot about the small group coaching.  If you’ve been along for very much of this conversation, you’ve seen articles about the importance of coaching and the role of a coach.  You’ve also seen articles how to identify the right candidates, the characteristics of an effective coach, and even how to develop and disciple coaches.

Today I want to share my preferred method of recruiting them.  It’s really not a “secret” formula, but the way I do it might be different than you’ve tried in your own effort.

Here’s how I recruit a small group coach:

Step One

Once I’ve identified a hundred-fold candidate (or a sixty-fold), I set up an opportunity to talk with them about an upcoming (or current need) in our small group ministry.  We’re always starting new groups or planning a small group launch of some kind and it’s easy to anticipate the need for additional coaches.

My invitation to talk is very general.  “David, I was thinking about something we’re about to do in our small group ministry and I thought about you.  Could we grab a cup of coffee this week?  When would be a good time for you?”

Note that I didn’t say anything specific, just that we’re about to do something and I thought about him.  Sometimes the candidate will ask for specifics.  When they do I’ll just share that we’re about to launch some new groups and there’s a way he could help us.

Step Two

When we meet for coffee, I’ll tell the candidate about the new groups we anticipate launching (or the ones we just launched).  “We’re holding a small group connection in mid-February and we’re expecting to launch around 20 to 30 new groups.”

Since the best candidates are usually small group leaders themselves, they will almost always remember how their group started and be interested in what you’re planning.

Step Three

Once I’ve shared a little about the upcoming small group launch I tell the candidate why I thought of them.

“One of the things we know about starting new small groups is that we sustain a much higher percentage of new groups when we’re able to give each new leader someone to walk alongside them for the first few weeks.  Someone who knows what they’re doing and has done it themselves.”

Note: All I’m talking about is the “first few weeks.”  This is very important.

I continue by saying, “We’ve seen you in action.  You do a great job leading your small group.  It’s obvious that you know what you’re doing.”

“Would you be willing to come alongside a couple new small group leaders and help them get started?  It would be about a 10 week commitment.  A couple weeks on the front end (before they actually begin), the six weeks of their first study, and a couple weeks on the back end to make sure their new group lands.”

Note: I’ve specified a 10 week commitment.

“It would probably take about an hour a week.  You won’t be going to their group.  Instead, I want you to connect with each new leader every week by phone or in person.  We’ll train you, there are four questions we’ll want you to ask that will steer your weekly contact.  Mostly, it’s just being available to check-in with each new leader once a week as they begin their new group.”

Note: I’ve specified the time commitment.  I’ve clarified a little of what I need them to do and also what it’s not about.

At this point I share a simple job description with them.

Step Four

I make the ask.  “How does that sound?  Are you interested in helping us start a couple new groups?”

The candidate will almost always have a few questions or want clarification.  They will usually want to pray about it or talk with a spouse.  Sometimes they’ll immediately say, “I’m in!  Thanks for thinking about me!”

I usually suggest that they take a day and pray about it or talk with their spouse.  And then make a commitment to call them the next day to confirm their interest.

Important Takeaways

There are a few important things to note about my “secret” formula.

  • I actually try to steer away from using the term “coach.”  I use the phrase “come alongside” very often.
  • I emphasize the short-term commitment.  Sometimes they will ask, “What happens after the 10 weeks?”  When they ask, I will usually say, “Sometimes it’s such a good match or a good experience that it leads to a longer term commitment.”
  • I emphasize the limited responsibilities each week.
  • I emphasize that there will be little bit of training.

An important thing to note is that I don’t really talk about what happens at the end of 10 weeks.  I’ll cover what happens then in a separate blog post.

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

 

 

Review: Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth by Hugh Halter

flesh bringing the incarnation down to earthSpent some time with a new book from Hugh Halter this week.  Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth is the latest book by Hugh Halter, lead pastor of Adullam and founder of Missio.

Flesh is best described by its alternate subtitle: Learning to be human like Jesus.  I loved this book!  Hugh Halter is the real deal, so immersed in the day-to-day living out of the incarnational mission that it becomes far more than theology or theory.  Every chapter is challenging with just a dash of scary–but so inspiring!  I came away (as I did with The Tangible Kingdom And: The Gathered and Scattered Church) with a deep sense that I had tripped across a rare and startling glimpse into the actual way forward into the 21st century.

Written in five sections, Flesh follows “the flow, timing, order, and process of how Jesus moved into the lives of people.  In short, incarnation leads to a good reputation, which leads to a conversation, which leads to a natural confrontation and then transformation.”

These pages are full of scripture references that light up what it must have been like to actually spend time with Jesus; watching Him interact with his followers.  It is eye-opening in many ways to look with fresh eyes at the between-the-lines action in some very familiar passages.

I’ve always been pulled in by Hugh’s generous helping of real life stories and examples.  Far beyond illustration, these personal stories both make the point and inspire courageous steps in a new direction.  In addition, every chapter concludes with a set of questions that will challenge and motivate those who take this journey.

I also really like Hugh’s encouragement to bring a few others along!  Flesh is the perfect book to distribute to a few with whom you’d like to journey.

If you’re looking for the doorway to missional living, please don’t miss Flesh!  I loved this book and I’m sure 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. 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.

Yes, But What Do I Do First?

pick up sticksYou’re in, right? Ready to do the work that will take your small group ministry to new levels in 2015?  You’ve taken the time to write some new year’s resolutions and are beginning to figure out where you need to go.

But where do you start?  How do you figure out what must happen first?  Or does it matter where you start?

I call your dilemma “joining a game of pick up sticks in progress.”  I call it that because the truth is there really are some things that you must tackle before you can even get down to the issues you want to work on.

I believe in almost every church there are two primary issues that must be tackled at the same time.

First, if you believe that unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again, then you are already certain you’ve got to find better and faster ways to connect more people.  Waiting until certain deeper issues are solved or waiting until certain capabilities are developed won’t make sense in light of your awareness that every unconnected person in your crowd has a closing window on their availability to connect.  See also, 5 Things You Need to Know about Connecting Unconnected People and What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting Unconnected People?

Believing this is true should prompt you to take seriously the urgency of connecting unconnected people.

It should also convince you to:

Second, if you believe that coaches play a key role in sustaining new groups and furthermore, that whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your groups must happen first in the lives of your leaders, then you already know you that identifying, recruiting and developing coaches must be an immediate priority.  See also, Life Change at the Member Level

Believing this is true should prompt you to take seriously the need to identify, recruit and develop coaches.

Aren’t there other important things that must be done to build a thriving small group ministry?  Yes!  But without a doubt these are the two most important things and they will not wait for a better season.  They must be done well and they must be done now.

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

Where Will You Take Your Small Group Ministry in 2015?

Where will you take your small group ministry in 2015?  Have you thought about it?  Made any New Year’s resolutions?  Set any goals?

You may be one who makes New Year’s resolutions every year.  Lose weight.  Pay off credit cards.  Read through your Bible.

You may be one who always likes the idea of resolutions but never actually stops long enough to write them out and figure out how to act on them.

Or you might be one that just doesn’t see the merit in the idea.

I want to suggest that making New Year’s resolutions (or setting goals) for your small group ministry is actually very important.  In fact, I think the evidence is very strong that if you don’t think and dream and plan where you’d like to go you shouldn’t expect to get there.  See also, 10 Simple Things You Can Start Doing to Build a Thriving Small Group Ministry and 5 Things to Think about As 2014 Comes to a Close.

I believe the only way to get to where you really want to go is by conceiving of a preferred future and then intentionally acting to take steps in the right direction.  I believe we never arrive where we want to go by drifting and that we can only arrive at the preferred future by acting with intentionality.  See also, The Perils of the Well Worn Path and Creating Your “Refined” Preferred Future.

So…have you make any New Year’s resolutions for your small group ministry?  Where will you take your small group ministry in 2015?

Can I suggest a few goals?

Can I suggest a few goals to think about?  Here are a five possibilities:

Now What?

Once you’ve made these resolutions or set these goals you’ll want to write them down on a single piece of paper and put the paper somewhere you will see every day.  Create a shorthand way of saying the goals.  Make the goals visible and talk about them with your team.  Use the comment section below and tell me what your goals are.  The more visible the goals and the more you refer to them in your planning and implementing (and celebrating!), the more likely it is that you will reach them.

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

Review: Jesus Prom: Life Gets Fun When You Love People Like Jesus Does

Jesus PromHad the opportunity to preview a new study from Jon Weece and Thomas Nelson.  Weece is the Lead Follower at Southland Christian Church–a community of fourteen thousand Jesus followers in Central Kentucky.

Jesus Prom: Life Gets Fun When You Love People Like Jesus Does is a powerful study that might have slipped under your radar.  The unusual name comes from an party “that Southland throws every year for the disabled, handicapped, and mentally ill.”  At the essence of Jesus Prom is the the powerful idea that the church is not a place you go but “a kind of community we are.”  Further, six different verbs are explored (love, be, see, dance, give, and remember), “not ideas but invitations.”

DVD-driven, each session features the dynamic teaching of Jon Weece reinforced by a powerful testimony from someone from Southland whose life has been changed.  At a average length of 19 minutes, the video segments will hold attention spans very well.

The study guide is easy to use.  Each session begins with a checking-in opportunity; a set of questions that prime the pump of discussion.  Every session also includes a substantial  reading from a passage of scripture.  A simple viewing guide is followed by a set of well-written discussion questions that will help members wrestle with the key ideas in the teaching.

The study guide also includes a “be the church” section in every session that takes the teaching another step toward application.  Very creatively designed, there is a hands-on feel to the design of these activities.  You’ll also find between sessions content that will help every member move principles from head to heart.  Included in the between sessions content is a reading guide that will guide members through Weece’s book by the same name.

I like what Jesus Prom does!  Focusing on the actions of a kind of community, this study might be just the ticket for many of our groups.  Coupled with intentionality, this study could be a game changer for many.  I like 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. 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.

Top 10 Small Group Curriculum Reviews of 2014

Looking for great studies to add to your approved list?  Here are my top 10 small group curriculum reviews from 2014:

  1. Transformed: How God Changes Us by Rick Warren
  2. Children of the Day: 1st & 2nd Thessalonians by Beth Moore
  3. [7] Seven Questions that Rattle in the Minds of Most Men from John Woodall and North Point
  4. Recovering Redemption by Matt Chandler
  5. Fight: Winning the Battles that Matter Most by Craig Groeschel:
  6. Manhood Restored by Eric Mason
  7. A Man and His Work
  8. Overwhelmed: Winning the War Against Worry by Perry Noble
  9. Hebrews: The Nearness of King Jesus by Lisa Harper
  10. Jesus Is _____” by Judah Smith

Top 14 Posts of 2014

You can learn a lot by looking at a top 10 list (or in this case a top 14!).  I noticed a couple things right away as I compiled this list of the top posts of 2014.

First, I noticed how many of them are how-to posts and skill-training posts.  That tells me I should be writing more of those!

Second, I noticed how many of this years most read posts were from deep in my archives!  2008 was a very popular year!

With a 16% increase in page views, 2014 has been a good year here on the blog.  Thank you for coming along!

  1. How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection  (May, 2008)
  2. New to Small Group Ministry? Start Here!
  3. How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure (February, 2008)
  4. 8 Habits of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader (October, 2013)
  5. How to Choose a Small Group System or Strategy (October, 2009)
  6. This Is Why We Need Community (September, 2014)
  7. If I Was Starting Today (April, 2008)
  8. HOST: What Does It Mean? April, 2008)
  9. 5 Keys to Sustaining New Groups (April, 2008)
  10. Skill Training: Learning How to Pray Together (April, 2009)
  11. Skill Training: Top 10 Ways to Find New Group Members (March, 2010)
  12. North Point’s Small Group System (October, 2009)
  13. Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway (January, 2011)
  14. Rick Warren’s Newest Church-Wide Campaign: Transformed: How God Changes Us (December, 2013)
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