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Add Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters to Your Leadership Training

intentional livingI’ve been making my way through John Maxwell’s latest book these last couple weeks. Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters wasn’t on my radar when the summer began, but a few things Maxwell said at the Global Leadership Summit prompted me to think this book might be required reading for small group pastors and coaches.

Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters might be required reading for small group pastors and coaches.

Can I tell you why I think that? It’s simple, really. One of the main takeaways from Intentional Living is the philosophy and the playbook for adding value to others. Can you see why that might be important for a small group pastor or coach? That’s right. Whatever you want to happen at the member level, will have to happen to the leader first. And adding value is shorthand for doing just that.

Intentional Living is literally packed with great takeaways that will help you and your ministry today. Your role, no matter what it is, at its foundational level is almost certainly about adding value to the people you serve. You may be unfamiliar with the term adding value, but it is at the very essence of what it means to serve others in the way that Jesus did.

Like every John Maxwell book I’ve ever read, it is full of great one-liners and personal stories. Also like every one of his books, Intentional Living is full of very practical takeaways; practices you can begin to put into place as you read the book. I came away with many, many great ideas and a few that have already moved from good intentions to intentional living. I know you will benefit that way too.

Every chapter also includes an intentional assignment, an exercise that can be a practical next step. I loved it because I could see it would help me. I also recognized immediately the potential for this book to become a resource we could take every member of our groups team through (staff, coaches, and leaders).

If you’re looking for leadership development ideas, I highly recommend Intentional Living. This is very powerful book and I highly recommend it.

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.”

doing what we can do“We should never let what we cannot do keep us from doing what we can do.” Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters, p. 6

Image by Michael Bentley

What Are You Trying to Produce?

produce assembly lineOne of the questions I ask all the time is, “What do we want people to do?” Another is, “What do we want people to become?” The correct answers to these questions are not generalizations (i.e., fully devoted followers, disciples, etc.). The correct answers are very specific and defined.

Think about these two questions. Can you see that they are both about next steps? Can you see also they are both about outcomes and products?

When we think in advance about what we want people to do we are more likely to design the program, event, or message with that next step in mind. When we think in advance about what we want people to become we are more likely to design the program, event, or message with that outcome in mind.

Thinking in advance about outcomes and products is at the very heart of designing effective next steps and first steps. When we take the time to thoughtfully determine these two things in advance (i.e., “What do we want people to do?” and, “What do we want people to become?”), we dramatically increase our chances of succeeding, of actually arriving at the preferred future we dream of for our ministry and for the people we are leading.

Can you see that asking these questions in advance actually helps clarify what a win will be for the program, event or message we are planning? That’s right. Determining and declaring on the front end the outcomes and products you desire will not only help you plan the program, event or message, it will enable you to know whether you are winning.

I love this quote from Mike Bonem’s Leading from the Second Chair:

“I am convinced that the reason for so much burnout, lack of commitment, and low performance in our churches among staff and members is directly related to the failure to declare the results we are after.  We don’t know when we are winning.”

Would you like to decrease burnout, lack of commitment, and low performance? Spend more time determining in advance what you want people to do and what you want people to become. Be specific. Define the next step you want people to take and what you want them to become. And then design the event, program or message with that outcome, with that product in mind.

Further Reading:

How Discipleship Really Happens

missional communityHow Discipleship Really Happens

Ever buckle down and come up with your firm opinion about how discipleship really happens? Four years ago I put my thoughts together in an article called Top 10 Things I Need to Know about Discipleship. That title wasn’t a misprint or a mistake. They really were 10 things I needed to know.

In some ways the article was prescient. Over the last several years I’ve found myself more than once cautioning against what I believe are misunderstandings of how discipleship happens and how disciples are made.

A few days ago I had a comment on an article I wrote a couple years ago. In 10 of the Most Overused Small Group Ministry Buzzwords I listed 10 of the phrases that I think are used in a way that betrays a misunderstanding of an underlying truth. For example, the first buzzword I list is the phrase “disciples who make disciples.” Ever used that phrase? I included the phrase because as I understand the meaning of that word, you’re probably not actually a disciple if you’re not making disciples.

Another buzzword that I included in my list two years ago was “missional community.” Why include it? Because the way it was being used betrayed a misunderstanding of an underlying truth. Missional community was never used in its origin to describe the size of the group or convey that the group met somewhere in the community. Instead, missional community was used in its origin to describe the function and primary activity of a group.

I love a paragraph from The End of Discipleship As We Know It, a recent article by Hugh Halter:

“From my experience, the best leadership development happens in a missional community. A missional community is a group of friends who intentionally band together around a certain mission, who live in close proximity and who rhythm their lives together around kingdom life.”

That, to me, is the actual meaning of missional community. Not the size of a group or where it meets. Instead, it’s about the purpose of a group and the way they “rhythm their lives.”

That is also how I think virtually all small groups should function. Not just those groups that desire to go further or are ready to go further.

Why? Because it is how discipleship really happens. Just like Jesus taught His disciples to do everything He did. He didn’t use a classroom approach. He spent time with them and taught them by observation and practice how to do effortlessly what He would do if He were them.

Further Reading:

Image by jrsnchzhrs

Pssst. I’m Launching a Small Group Ministry Conference

grouplifePssst. I’m Launching a Small Group Ministry Conference

That’s right. I’m launching a small group ministry conference in Las Vegas. And I could use a little help.

Here are the details:

March 27th and 28th, 2017 (Las Vegas has great weather in March).

The conference is for small group ministry point leaders (paid and unpaid). It will also be a great experience for key ministry volunteers (i.e., coaches and other high capacity leaders).

I’ve already lined up 6 great speakers you are going to love:

  1. Bill Willits: Executive Director of Ministry Environments for North Point Ministries
  2. Tim Cooper: Leader Training and Resources team for North Point Ministries
  3. Chris Surratt: Discipleship and Small Group Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources
  4. Dave Enns: Lead Pastor Small Groups Ministry, North Coast Church
  5. Hugh Halter: U.S. Director of Forge
  6. Todd Engstrom: Executive Pastor of Ministries at The Austin Stone Community Church

I’m still working out the pricing but it will be in the same range as re:group or the Lobby.

The website will go live on 9/15/16.

Here’s where you come in:

I’d love to hear from you about the conference. You could help me with a little information.

First, would you email me and let me know you’re interested.

Second, in the email would you tell me which small group ministry speakers you’d like to hear from and what topics you’d like to learn about?

Thanks for your help!

Dilbert on the Purpose of Dashboards

Sometimes you just need to laugh…


Earlybird’s Closing Tomorrow! How to Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry

Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry

The earlybird rate ended Friday

How to Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry

Coming to the conclusion that you might need a new design for your small group ministry?  Concerned that there may be something (or a collection of factors) preventing you from taking your small group ministry where you need to go?

You’re Invited!

I want to invite you to join me for my new 4 session mini-course: How to Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry.  Much more than an update, this mini-course is based on my most requested and most popular workshop, it draws more positive comments and rave reviews than anything else I talk about.

Here’s what you’ll gain:

  • An accurate diagnosis of your current situation (limiting factors, barriers, untapped resources and advantages)
  • The tools that will help you identify future opportunities with the most upside.
  • Resources that help you craft a preferred future that will help your ministry move in the right direction
  • The strategies that will help you move in the direction of your preferred future and stay on course.

What’s Included:

  1. Four 75 minute sessions (60 minutes of content + 15 minutes Q&A)
  2. Downloadable outlines (allowing you to capture every detail)
  3. Each session is packed with actionable takeaways
  4. All sessions are downloadable to share with your team
  5. Password-protected site with additional supporting resources.
  6. 100% money back guarantee.  If you’re not completely satisfied…I’ll refund your money.
  7. Take advantage of my earlybird pricing at $39.95 (Regular pricing: $49.95)
  8. Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $125)
  9. Questions?  Email Me for information.

When, Where and Other Details:

  • The first session is on Thursday, September 8th at 11:00 a.m. pacific.
  • Sessions 2 thru 4 are on September 15th, September 22nd and September 29th..
  • Regular pricing: $49.95
  • Take advantage of a 20% discount ($39.95) through August 26th.
  • Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $125)
  • Questions?  Email Me for information.

Registration Options (pulldown)

uphill“Everything worthwhile is uphill. People have uphill hopes and downhill habits.” John Maxwell

Test-Drives, Taste Tests, and Toes-in-the-Water

toes in the waterTest-Drives, Taste Tests, and Toes-in-the-Water

Buying without trying is down.

Contracts and long commitments are out.

File these under #ThingsYouMustKeepInMind

Test-Drives, Taste Tests, and Toes-in-the-Water are in.

Question: How does this affect you and me?

I think it ought to affect us in two ways:

First, it ought to reshape our thinking about the importance of offering test-drives, taste-tests and toes-in-the-water. Think about it. Virtually everything is now available to be experienced now and purchased later.

You can listen to the song before you buy on iTunes. You can read a portion of the book on Amazon. You can arrange a test-drive of just about any car you’d like to drive. You can ask for a taste at the ice cream store or the brewery. Many clothing and shoe manufacturers now offer free shipping and free returns to entice you to try on their product.

If we want to connect unconnected people we should be offering test-drives, taste-tests and toes-in-the-water. Most of what we are offering feels like something you buy before you try (which is a very antiquated sales strategy). How long ago did that pass into history in just about every other arena?

Second, it ought to reshape our thinking about the length of commitment we’re asking for. Think about it. Renting is on the rise. Services like Spotify, Apple Music, Netflix and Hulu make it increasingly common to pay for access rather than purchase.

When we plan small group connecting events we should keep in mind that long commitments are out. If we want to help unconnected people take a step to join a group we should be offering baby steps.

Note: Baby steps must be designed with babies in mind. What is a baby step to a baby is a very important thing to understand. What we think is a baby step is often seen as a giant step by the babies themselves. And their perspective is the only perspective that matters.

Further Reading:

Image by Christine Rondeau

How Foggy Is What’s Next for Your Small Group Ministry?

foggyHow Foggy Is What’s Next for Your Small Group Ministry?

Do you know where you’re going? Can you see it clearly? Or is the road ahead kind of foggy?

I’m often asked, “How do you determine what’s next for your small group ministry?”

Here’s how I think about what’s next:

First, I begin with a honest evaluation of how it is going right now.

I am convinced that Andy Stanley is right when he says, “Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.” These are the facts and they are undisputed.

Why start there? Easy. Before I plan what’s next I need to think about how it is actually going right now (i.e., is our current strategy or plan working?). It’s important to look at what you are doing through the lens of “is what we are doing actually working?”

If you care about where you are going you must begin with an honest appraisal of how well or poorly your strategy is working.

Second, I look again and again at the preferred future we have identified.

We talk about our preferred future many ways, but it always includes the following:

  • We want to have more adults in groups than we have attend a worship service on the weekend.
  • We must focus on making disciples as we connect unconnected people.
  • We want to make as easy as possible for people to step into leadership and nearly automatic that they step onto a leader development conveyor belt.

There are certainly other aspects to our preferred future, but these are preeminent. When these are truly preeminent, we are forced to view our current results through the lens of “is what we are doing actually working?”

Third, I determine which aspects of our preferred future could be attained next.

This is important and it is often overlooked. While connecting more adults in groups is certainly an aspect of our preferred future, it is not the only one.

  • We should be determining what we can do in the short term to make more and better disciples.
  • We should be determining what we can do in the short term to make it easier to step into leadership and more automatic that new leaders step onto a leader development conveyor belt.

I refer to this as keeping one eye on the preferred future and the other eye on the next milestone. Maintaining focus on the end in mind, using preferred future language to cast vision for the promised land is a non-negotiable. Milestones that are clearly visible in the near future enable your team to stay focused and encouraged.

How are you determining what’s next for your small group ministry?

Can you see it? Are you seeing your preferred future clearly enough? Are you honestly evaluating how it’s going right now? Are you determining aspects that are attainable in the short term?

Further Reading:

Image by Emma Story

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