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FAQ: What If My Senior Pastor Won’t…

what if my senior pastor wontFAQ: What If My Senior Pastor Won’t…

I get questions. A lot of questions.

My most frequently asked question? Probably has to do with “what if my senior pastor won’t…”

There are all sorts of these questions:

  • “What if my senior pastor won’t be the small group champion?”
  • “What if my senior pastor won’t narrow the focus, trim the belong and become menu, and prioritize now over then?”
  • “What if my senior will only preach expository sermons through books of the Bible?”
  • Etc.

As you can see, there are all sorts of these questions.

What if my senior pastor won’t be the small group champion?

Why don’t we start with this one: “What if my senior pastor won’t be the small group champion?”

First, it might help your senior pastor if they understood the role of the small group champion (what it is and what it isn’t).

Step One: Make sure your senior pastor knows that the role of the small group champion is simply to be the number one spokesperson for small groups: the optimal environment for life-change. Also, make sure they know the role of the small group pastor is to take care of the planning, the organization, the design, etc., making it easy for the senior pastor to simply focus on the champion role. See also, Essential Ingredients of Life-Change and Life-Change at the Member-Level.

Second, it might help you to determine the background for their reluctance. There may be several reasons why they won’t take on the mantle.

  • They may misunderstand what the small group champion does.
  • They may not understand why it is important for them to be the small group champion.
  • They may have been burned by a previous small group pastor who didn’t take care of their end of the bargain.
  • They may feel like their small group pastor is better qualified.
  • They may truly believe it is the small group pastor’s job.
  • They may not want to play favorites.
  • They may not want to seem to be playing favorites.
  • etc.

Step Two: Determine why, exactly why, they are reluctant to be the small group champion. How to go about this may require some gentle trial and error. Depending on your relationship with your senior pastor, your tenure on the staff, etc., determining the background for their reluctance may have to be learned over time. But…it is worth learning. See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #1: A Doubtful or Conflicted Senior Pastor.

Third, it may be that this is a game of inches, not yards (or miles). If every season is a step in the right direction, you will eventually arrive in about the right place.

Step Three: Be sure you are doing everything you need to do. Do the planning well in advance (i.e., What weekends could the small group launch be highlighted? What is the best sign-up method? How will the follow-up happen?) Fine tune the details (i.e., When must the sign-up form be printed? When will the names be entered into the database for follow-up? How will you be able to email sign-ups on behalf of your senior pastor? etc.). Script the ideal version of what you would like your senior pastor to say. See also, 6 Ways to Help Your Senior Pastor Make the Small Group Ask.

Conclusion: You can only do what you can do. Remember, your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing. Make your plan. Run the strategy. Determine results. Evaluate your strategy and begin to plan the next attempt.

In my own experience, the best results are actually developed over multiple efforts after careful planning, best-case execution, and thorough evaluation to discover the steps that could be improved.

Stay Tuned: Heading to re:group

NP_regroupFinally! My team heads for Atlanta this weekend to attend the re:group conference at North Point’s Buckhead Church campus on Monday and Tuesday. Such a good conference…every time. Can’t wait!

If you’ll be there and you want to connect, I hope to have a meet up during the break from 2:15 to 2:45 on Monday. If you want to join us, email me (Mark@MarkHowellLive.com) or tweet me (@MarkCHowell) and let me know!

And stay tuned right here for updates! Both of the last two re:group conferences have been loaded with takeaways! Here are the five posts from 2014 and 2013

 

 

quote marks“A new perspective could be sitting In the seat next to you.” Andrea Lucado

Bad Idea #1: Let’s Call Everything a Group!

bad ideaIn yesterday’s post I wrote about 5 Stupid Things Churches Need to Stop Doing (in the name of small group ministry). In the post I pointed out that one of the stupidest things churches do is decide to call everything a group. Probably because I didn’t spend a lot of time explaining why it’s a stupid thing to do, I got a couple comments that deserve a response.

Why is calling everything a group a stupid idea? Why is it a bad idea?

Maybe we should examine the motivation first. There are several reasons churches decide to call everything a group.

  1. They have several belong and become options on their menu and they genuinely want to make it easy for unconnected people to find their next step. For example, they have adult Sunday school classes (or ABFs), a class like Precepts, and some off-campus small groups and they simply want unconnected people to choose one.
  2. They get complaints from their adult Sunday school classes when they only promote off-campus small groups as the best next step. They decide to call everything a “group” in the attempt to appease the guardians of the status quo.
  3. They have introduced new options but can’t bring themselves to eliminate options that no longer meet their objectives.

There are probably other reasons churches decide to call everything a group, but these are the most common reasons.

Here’s why calling everything a group is a bad idea:

First, calling everything a group is a bad idea because it lumps things together that don’t accomplish the same thing. For example, if your off-campus groups meet in circles, have rich discussions, are led by shepherd leaders who genuinely care for their members and do life together, while your adult Sunday school classes meet in rows, listen to master teachers, and mingle over a cup of coffee and a donut when their class dismisses at 10:15, but that is the extent of their experience…can you really call them the same thing?

What if they do accomplish the same thing? Then feel free to call them the same thing! See also, What’s the Difference Between a Sunday School Class and a Small Group? and Groups of All Kinds and the Essential Ingredients of Life-Change.

Second, calling everything a group is a bad idea when it simply puts off a necessary conversation. When your become and belong menu includes options that are no longer effective (or not the best way to do something), the wisest thing to do trim the menu. It is not the easiest thing to do, but it is the wisest thing to do. More options do not connect more people. More options make it harder to choose and harder decisions are procrastinated.

What if it’s a really hard conversation? Conversations like this are about stewardship. While stewarding resources (budget, facilities, promotional bandwidth, etc.) is important, nothing is more important than stewarding the opportunities we are given to make disciples. See also, Think Twice and Thing Again before You Approve the New Menu Item.

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

Further Reading: What’s Better? Rows or Circles?

Image by Daniel Lobo

 

5 Stupid Things Churches Need to Stop Doing (in the Name of Small Group Ministry)

stupidLast year I wrote 5 Stupid Things Small Group Pastors Need to Stop Doing. What about the stupid things churches need to stop doing (in the name of small group ministry)?

5 Stupid Things Churches Need to Stop Doing (in the name of small group ministry):

Calling everything a group. The decision to call everything a group is usually the result of compromise. Rather than ruffle feathers and prioritize only the things that produce exactly what is hoped for, some churches blink and simply call everything a group. This puts rows and circles, learning and becoming, fellowship and discipleship all in the same category and further muddies an already muddy decision process.

Far better for churches to invest the time for a thorough evaluation of their belong and become menu and then call everything what it actually is. See also, Top 10 Signs Your Small Group Ministry Is Schizophrenic.

Naming small group involvement as essential but budgeting for it as if it is an elective. Calling members and attenders to make three (or four) commitments is a common practice. “Attend a worship service, serve in a ministry, and be involved in a small group” is an example of the way many churches talk about the things they believe are important.

Doesn’t it stand to reason that churches would budget accordingly? See also, Top 10 DNA Markers of Churches with Thriving Small Group Cultures and Budgeting for Your Preferred Future.

Promoting small group involvement once a year. Many churches have an annual groups push or campaign. Many churches only promote small group involvement during their annual groups push or campaign. And many of those same churches underestimate the damage of limiting promotion to once a year. These same churches frequently misdiagnose the reason their small group ministry is struggling.

Doesn’t it make sense that churches should talk about things that are truly important all year long? Churches that are building thriving small group ministries never stop talking about the importance of small groups, integrating life-change stories and references to upcoming opportunities to get involved every week and all year long, using every medium possible (sermon references, announcements and bulletins, website, email, etc.). See also, 5 Simple Mistakes that Sink Small Group Ministries.

Delegating the small group champion role to the small group pastor. One of the most important characteristics of churches that are building thriving small group ministries is that their senior pastors serve as the small group champion. As the most influential and visible person in the congregation, it only makes sense that they leverage their influence and visibility to draw attention to the critical importance of being in a small group.

“Then why do we have a small group pastor?!!” is the cry of senior pastors who seek to delegate away the role of the small group champion. This rarely has roots anywhere other than a misunderstanding of the true role (and the greatest contributions) of the small group pastor. See also, Rethinking the Role of the Small Group Pastor.

Failing to connect design and results. Love is blind and falling in love with a model, system or strategy is stupid. Churches should never lose sight of the fact that results are directly connected to design. “Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing (Andy Stanley) is never more true than when it comes to the connection between the design of your small group ministry and the results you are experiencing.

Churches that are building thriving small group ministries are keeping a steady eye on a dashboard and fine-tuning their approach as they go. See also, 5 Signs Your Small Group Ministry Design Is Inadequate.

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

Image by Matt Hollingsworth

FAQ: What If a New “Leader” Doesn’t Meet Leadership Standards?

high standards

FAQ: What If a New “Leader” Doesn’t Meet Leadership Standards?

I get questions. A lot of questions. Sometimes they come in by email. Other times as a comment to a blog post.

I try hard to answer them all. When it’s a question many are asking, I try to answer them here on the blog.

I bet I’ve answered today’s question about a hundred times a year for the last 10 years. No  joke.

Here’s the question:

“In order to be a leader at our church, you have to be a member. What do I do if someone who doesn’t meet our leadership standards ends up being chosen as a group leader in a small group connection (or volunteers to invite a couple friends to do the study that goes along with our church-wide campaign)?”

Here’s how I answer the question:

Important Note: There are at least two parts to my answer and I always encourage churches to consider both parts at the same time. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” This is not quite the same thing and I realize this is asking a lot, but it is important. Stick with me.

First, every church must determine for themselves the standards a person must meet in order to be considered a “leader.” At the same time, and at the risk of an unintended offense, every church ought to be open to carefully re-examining the standards a person must meet in order to be considered a “leader.” Let me explain what I mean.

While there are clear biblical standards for certain leadership roles (elders and deacons are an example), other roles are much less clearly defined (for example, Sunday school teachers and small group leaders). Can the same standards be applied across the board, regardless of role? While the same standards could be applied, should they be applied?

If the same standards need not be applied, what should the standard be for a small group “leader”?

While every church must determine for themselves the standards a person must meet in order to be considered a small group “leader,” it is my contention that every church ought to open to carefully re-examining the standards they have determined.

Second, I believe the best way to connect the largest number of people is to make it easy as possible to take first steps into leadership and nearly automatic to take the steps that lead to becoming an authentic shepherd.  I believe the same principle applies whether being chosen at a small group connection or inviting a couple friends to do a study.

I’ve referred to this idea many times as lowering the bar in terms of who can be a “leader” and simultaneously raising the bar in terms of the coaching and development the leader receives.

So…are there times when a person chosen to be the leader at a small group connection or who volunteers to invite a couple friends to do the study turns out to have some potentially disqualifying characteristic? Absolutely. And when they do, it makes necessary (and possible) a challenging conversation. Remember. There is no problem-free strategy or solution. Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.

My Summary:

Do the hard work of re-examining your church’s standards for leadership. It is good to have standards. It is also good to realistically assess the appropriateness (and the consequences) of the arbitrary standards you have chosen.

Remember: “Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing (Andy Stanley).” If you don’t like the results (trouble identifying enough leaders or difficulty starting enough new groups), you must see the connection between design and results. The standards you have set for leadership are part of the design.

Further Reading:

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

Image by janheuninck

Unleash a Powerful Wave of Impact with The Miracle of Mercy: Saddleback’s Newest Campaign

miracle of mercyIf you want to know how to leverage a church-wide campaign to unite a 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.

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 and is happening as I write this review. You can watch the first three messages right here.

The first few lines of the study set the tone and direction:

“Did you know that God’s mercy is his number one characteristic in the Bible? More than his sovereignty, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence or any other fancy words about him–more than anger or justice or judgement–more than anything else, the number one attribute of God in scripture is his mercy (from session one).”

DVD-driven, the small group study features Rick Warren’s engaging teaching. Although the segments are 27 to 31 minutes long, the topic and delivery does a good job of grabbing and holding attention.

The study guide includes both the small group study and a 40 day devotional guide; everything needed for a great study. A teaching outline is included in each session to capture the key ideas from the video teaching. A well-written set of discussion questions makes it easy to shift into discussion after watching the DVD together.

Every session of the study also includes personal and group assignments to put learnings into practice (that participants will not just be hearers, but doers also). At Saddleback, where the teaching series is in progress as I write this review, groups are being directed to choose projects from this mercy project page. The project page presents an inspiring example of what your church could do.

More than a small group study, The Miracle of Mercy is a church-wide spiritual growth campaign and includes everything you will need to take your congregation on the same journey.

The campaign starter kit includes:

  • 1 Study Guide
  • 1 DVD Small Group Curriculum
  • 1 Bookmark Sample
  • 1 Campaign Resource Disc
  • Downloadable Campaign Success Guide
  • Downloadable The Miracle of Mercy Sermon Series (***available April–May 2016***)
  • BONUS: FIRST …the debut worship album from Saddleback Worship

As I write this review, the Miracle of Mercy is happening right now at Saddleback. Although the downloadable sermon series is in progress and not yet complete, the starter kits are available now.

I love 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.

quote marks“The best plan is only good intentions unless it degenerates into work.” Peter Drucker

Top 10 Reasons Your Small Group Ministry Is Tanking

tanking

Top 10 Reasons Your Small Group Ministry Is Tanking

Is your small group ministry struggling? Do you feel like you’re spinning your wheels; not gaining traction; going nowhere fast?

When a small group ministry is struggling–tanking–there is almost always a combination of the following issues.

  1. Your senior pastor is not the champion. The role of small group champion really cannot be delegated. In order to build a thriving small group ministry your congregation (and crowd) must hear about the importance of being connected, of community, from the most influential person in your church. In almost every case that is your senior pastor. See also, The Real Reason Saddleback Connects So Many in Small Groups.
  2. You have too many connecting and/or disciple-making options on your menu. It has been conclusively demonstrated that offering more options (a buffet) does not lead to more people connected. More options makes it more difficult to choose; to decide what to do. Narrowing the focus, making the step into community easy, obvious and strategic, results in a larger number of people connected. See also, How Would You Rate the First Steps out of Your Auditorium?
  3. You aren’t identifying enough new leaders. An important key to building a thriving small group ministry is launching enough new groups to connect a growing number of unconnected people. In order to launch enough new groups to do that you must be able to identify enough new leaders. If you aren’t identifying enough new leaders it is almost never because there aren’t enough potential leaders. It’s almost always because you just can’t spot them. See also, How Can I Find More Leaders.
  4. You’ve made it too hard to become a leader. Raising the bar in terms of the steps that lead to becoming a leader (i.e., must be a member, must attend the 8 week class, must know the secret handshake, etc.) does not actually ensure the safety of the flock or prevent dissension or much of anything. Raising the bar does ensure that it will be harder to recruit enough new leaders and new leaders are essential if you want to start enough new groups. See also, Top 5 Keys to Starting New Groups. Lots of New Groups.
  5. You’ve made it too hard to join a small group. There are a number of barriers that make it more difficult to join a group than it needs to be. Not offering connecting opportunities frequently enough, not making the information easily available, and not talking about small groups often enough are just three of a long list of barriers that make it hard to join a group.
  6. You’re not talking about small groups and the value of community often enough. Unconnected people are almost always attend less frequently. If you aren’t talking about small groups often enough, it is quite likely they will not be there when you are talking about groups. See also, 5 Things You Need to Know about Unconnected People.
  7. You’re not doing the things that enable the largest number of new groups to survive. It is not enough to start enough new groups. If you want to build a thriving small group ministry you must also be doing the things that help the largest number of the new groups you launch to sustain into their second and third study. See also, 5 Steps to Sustaining the New Groups You Launch.
  8. You’re not developing and discipling your small group leaders. A well-launched new group will come with a built-in support relationship with a coach. While most new leaders will quickly figure out the basics of leading a group (within a few months), they will continue to benefit from a spiritual mentoring relationship with someone a few steps ahead. In addition, the best way to ensure that the leader is doing the right things TO and FOR the members of their group is to focus the right attention on the leaders of your groups. See also, 7 Things You Must Do TO and FOR Your Small Group Leaders.
  9. You’ve prioritized adding new members to existing groups over starting new groups. When I’m diagnosing struggling small group ministries, few issues crop up more frequently than this one. In order to build a thriving small group ministry, prioritizing new groups is an essential practice. See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs Start New Groups.
  10. You haven’t paid enough attention to the needs and interests of the crowd and community. Another very common issue in struggling small group ministries is paying too much attention to the needs and interests of the core and committed (the usual suspects) and not enough attention to the needs and interests of the crowd and community (unconnected people). When you’re choosing the topic for your church-wide campaign, don’t miss this important issue. When you’re choosing the topic for your small group connection, pay close attention to what an unconnected person might see as a helpful study or an interesting study. See also, 5 Subtle Differences between Thriving and Struggling Small Group Ministries.

Image by Dave Wilson

How Many of These 4 Essential Activities Are You Missing?

essential activitiesHow Many of These Essential Activities Are You Missing?

What if it turned out that you spent your time and energy focusing on good things but not the right things?

What if at the end of the season you realized that while you were busy taking care of the squeakiest wheels, you were overlooking the bigger issues or opportunities?

What if at the end of your ministry you finally saw with stark clarity what you sensed was happening but never acted on?

Peter Drucker pointed out that “every institution must build into its day-to-day management four essential entrepreneurial activities that run in parallel.” He went on to point out activities, these disciplines, were not just desirable but “conditions for survival today.”

Here are the four activities that Drucker isolated as essential:

  1. Organized abandonment of products, services, and processes that are no longer the optimal allocation of resources.
  2. Organized for systematic, continuing, improvement.
  3. Organized for systematic and continuous exploitation of successes.
  4. Organized for systematic innovation.

Spend a moment and evaluate how effectively you are addressing each of the four activities:

Organized abandonment of products, services, and processes that are no longer the optimal allocation of resources.

Are any of your products, services or processes holdovers from a previous era? Are any of your products, services or processes still budgeted for even though less effective than they once were? Still allocated prime space or optimal times? Still occupy the attention of key staff or high capacity volunteers?

According to Peter Drucker, the organized abandonment of products, services and processes that are no longer the optimal allocation of resources is a condition for survival.

Organized for systematic, continuing, improvement.

Which of your products, services or processes are you systematically improving?

According to Peter Drucker, organizing for systematic, continuing, improvement is a condition for survival.

Organized for systematic and continuous exploitation of successes.

Which of your latest successes have you exploited by increasing the budget, moving to prime location or time, or adding key staff or high capacity volunteers?

According to Peter Drucker, organizing for systematic and continuous exploitation of success is a condition for survival.

Organized for systematic innovation.

How frequently are you setting aside time, energy, and budget to explore new opportunities? Craig Groeschel pointed out that “if you want to reach people no one else is reaching, you have to do things that no one else is doing.”

According to Peter Drucker, organizing for systematic innovation is a condition for survival.

Which of the four essential activities are you missing?

As you evaluate your ministry, which of the four essential activities are you doing? Which of the four activities are you missing?

What if they really are conditions for survival?

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

Image by Mob Mob

Further Reading:

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