Sometimes…you just need to laugh!
You can see the rest of my Dilbert posts right here.
Sometimes…you just need to laugh!
You can see the rest of my Dilbert posts right here.
Image by Mohammad Abdullah
I’ve written extensively about there being no problem-free solution, strategy, or model. If you’ve read much here you know the next line is that wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.
I don’t talk about it as much, but it’s also true that we should never waste a good problem. A problem can lead to delay, frustration, or even despair. But it doesn’t have to. It can lead to some of the best thinking you will ever do. A good problem can force or help you to try out a new perspective and “perspective is worth 80 IQ points (Alan Kay).”
Before you simply chalk up what’s happening as a problem, spend some time analyzing the problem itself. Ask, “How might this problem actually help us rethink the solution?” See also, 4 Foundational Questions for Small Group Ministries.
In a slight modernization of Machiavelli*, Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” The essence of his thinking? Crises afford opportunities to do things you wouldn’t do (or be able to do) in the absence of a crisis.
The next time a crisis develops in your ministry, spend some time evaluating what opportunities the crisis might be affording. See also, Avoid These 4 Realities at Your Own Peril.
Constraints (budget, volunteers, the attention span of your senior pastor, etc.) can feel like deal breakers. Constraints can feel like impassible barriers.
But they don’t have to. Jason Fried, a co-founder of Basecamp, has pointed out that, “Instead of freaking out about these constraints, embrace them. Let them guide you. Constraints drive innovation and force focus. Instead of trying to remove them, use them to your advantage.”
The essence of Fried’s thinking? Simple. When confronted by a constraint, focus your thinking and action on what you can do. See also, Diagnosing Your Discipleship Strategy.
Don’t miss the upside of a good problem, crisis, or constraint. They each offer a doorway to great opportunity.
*“Never waste the opportunity offered by a good crisis.” Niccolo Machiavelli
Image by Joanna Paterson
Sometimes in life (and ministry) you trip across a solution to a problem and it truly is a Eureka! moment. You know what I’m talking about?
And I guess the longer you work at something, the longer you are kind of stuck, the more amazing the moment is when you discover a surprisingly simple solution to a big problem.
Here are some surprisingly simple solutions to big small group ministry problems.
This is a big problem for many small group ministries. Apprenticing rarely produces new leaders fast enough to meet the need. Tapping shoulders and individually inviting/challenging potential leaders relies on increasingly limited knowledge of who’s got potential. Planning and holding new leader training sessions produces mixed results with a few graduates who will easily succeed, a number of others who might succeed, and a few who clearly won’t.
What’s the solution?
The small group connection strategy relies on two key ingredients:
This is a BIG problem. And it’s a problem almost everywhere. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten emails or comments here on the blog about the difficulty of finding the right people to serve as coaches. I’m sure most people just give up and abandon the idea altogether.
This really was a Eureka! moment for me. How simple! I simply combined my growing awareness of how to identify a potential coach with a simple strategy that leveraged a reasonable favor. Once I combined those two things, the big problem disappeared! An amazingly simple solution.
Now, you do need to know how to identify a potential coach. There’s no substitute for that. And you need to know how to correctly and skillfully ask the right person for the right favor. But once you have those two things down, you too will be amazed at how simple this solution really is.
This also is a big problem in most churches. You know your congregation need to be connected in groups. You believe it is the optimal environment for life-change.
And despite your knowledge of what they need, you can’t persuade them to join a group. It’s actually like they say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
Can I add the horse-sense add-on phrase? “Unless you put salt in his oats.”
This is another really surprisingly simple solution. It helps to think about the big problem this way:
Unconnected people are mostly comfortable sitting in rows in the auditorium. Many of them have a longing to belong and to be known, but they don’t connect that longing with joining a small group. After all, who wants to go over to a stranger’s house!
How do you “salt their oats”? The surprisingly simple solution? Simply plan an occasional 6 week on-campus study on an attractive topic for each affinity you need to connect.
Image by Susan Smith
“What should I be reading?!!”
I get asked that question all the time. When I checked Google Analytics just now, I noticed again (for the millionth time) that the “reading list” tab in the menu bar was my 5th most popular page or post in the last 12 months.
For years I’ve simply linked the “reading list” tab in the menu bar to an Amazon store with my recommendations. Honestly, I’ve never been sure how effective that was.
Today, I’ve decided it might be better to simply include a link to 5 of the most important reading lists I’ve built over the last several years.
See what you think!
Required Reading for the Small Group Pastor: Systems I think of some books as required reading. The books in this first list fall in the category of systems. These 7 books provide an overview of what I view as the major small group ministry systems in use right now.
Required Reading for the Small Group Pastor: Building a GroupLife Culture I consider the previous list as required reading for the development of grouplife systems. This list includes 4 of my favorite books on how to build a grouplife culture.
7 Must-Have Resources for Training Small Group Leaders Many books and resources have been produced to help small group pastors train their small group leaders. I believe these 7 books are the best of the best.
Resources that Equip Small Group Coaches You’ll notice that this is not a long list. While other books and resources have been produced, I think these are the best.
Books that Have Shaped My Thinking If you’ve read very much at all here at MarkHowellLive.com, you know that I read continually. I almost always have 2 or 3 that I’m reading at any one time and another 4 or 5 on the stack. Still…certain books are more important than others. These are the book that have shaped my thinking.
Image by Lydia Liu
Spent some time this week with Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development, a new book from Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck. If Geiger’s name sounds familiar it’s because he is the co-author (with Thom Rainer) of best-seller Simple Church, one of the most influential ministry books in the last decade. If you’re unfamiliar with Peck it’s because he is Lead Pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church (where Matt Carter is Pastor of Preaching and Vision). Can I begin by saying, “these two might know a thing or two about leadership development and the church?”
I love the thesis of Designed to Lead: “The center of leadership development must be the Church–meaning, that the leaders who will ultimately transform communities and change the world come from the Church (p. 4).” Far beyond developing an inspiring thesis, the authors do an excellent job of both laying the theological foundation and delivering “a framework for developing leaders in your church.”
Like several of Geiger’s previous books, Designed to Lead is organized in a very logical and understandable way. Making the argument that “churches that consistently produce leaders have strong conviction to develop leaders, a healthy culture for leadership development, and helpful constructs to systematically and intentionally build leaders (from the cover),” Designed to Lead illustrates convincingly demonstrates the why and the what. Most importantly (to me), the book is made complete with numerous examples of implementable constructs.
If you’re looking for help in building a leadership development pipeline, the chapter on discipleship and leadership development is easily worth the price of the book. At the same time, the chapter on pipelines and pathways will definitely end up not only underlined, starred, annotated, and dog-eared…but also end up in what you practice.
Finally, I’ve made a single pass through Designed to Lead and can see that just like Simple Church made it into church-growth lingo, the constructs here will provide a better way of thinking about leadership development and the Church’s role, your church’s role, in transforming your community.
I hope you’re planning to join us for GroupLife Southwest! And I really hope you’ll take advantage of the Extra Super Early Bird Price ($99.95 until October 15th)!
A powerful lineup of trusted small group ministry experts and leading practitioners (Bill Willits and Tim Cooper from North Point, Chris Surratt from LifeWay, Dave Enns from North Coast, Hugh Halter from Forge America, Todd Engstrom from Austin Stone, me, and more).
Do you know what’s timeless and what’s timely? Learn the principles and practices that are making grouplife work in the 21st century.
Hang out with hundreds of small group ministry practitioners.
Las Vegas in March!
Find out more at GroupLifeSouthwest.com.
“The value of experimentation is not the trying. It’s the trying again after the experiment fails.” Simon Sinek
I don’t know about you, but I love this line from Simon Sinek.
I’ve said before that one of my proudest moments was when my prospective boss at Parkview was told “if you’re okay with a mad scientist…Mark will be a good hire.”
Let me say this to you. Sticking with the same design year after year guarantees you will not escape the gravitational pull of the status quo. Breaking free of the status quo requires experimentation and that means trying again when the experiment fails.
See also, 5 Ideas You Ought to Be Testing This Fall.
Image by dife88
Has it happened yet? If it hasn’t, it’s just a matter of time. Most likely, it will happen before you see it coming.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about ways the culture shift impacts grouplife.
Image by Anders Sandberg
My 2017 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?
What are the expectations?