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How To Build an Annual GroupLife Calendar – 2016

annual calendarHow does calendar planning happen in your world?  Maybe the question should be, “does calendar planning happen in your world?  Let me tell you, whether you are naturally a planner or you will only plan when it’s done for you or you’re forced…calendar planning is a key to small group ministry effectiveness.  Here’s why it’s important and also some keys to doing it well.

Why Calendar Planning Is Important

Although you may be be a play-it-by-ear type when you’re on your own, when you’re leading a ministry that involves a lot of people you’ve got to take the needs of a lot of people into consideration.  Another very important reason that calendar planning is important is that we’re all competing for the attention of leaders.  If you want your ministry to catch and hold the attention of leaders…you’ve got to plan ahead.  Enough about why, here’s how to put together an annual calendar.

How To Build an Annual GroupLife Calendar

  1. Keep in mind that there are two kinds of events that will go into your annual calendar.  Connecting events and strategies should be dropped in first.  Right on their heels you’ll want to put in training and encouragement opportunities for both leaders and coaches.
  2. The first step is to put in the biggest of the big connecting rocks.  For most of us, that will be to plug in the dates of a fall church-wide campaign and all the pieces that go with it.  Most of the time that will include things like host recruiting, host orientations, and coach recruiting and training.  I’ve also found it to be helpful to plug in a mid-campaign leader’s meeting for encouragement and to guide leaders of new groups into a next curriculum.  The best time for this is usually end of September or the first of October. See also, Behind the Scenes: Developing a Time-Line for Your Church-Wide Campaign.
  3. Another very big rock that needs to be placed is an event or strategy that will help unconnected people find a group in late January or early February.  In most cases the best strategy to connect people is a small group connection.  It’s always a good idea to build in at least 2 weeks of promotion before the event.  Also, you’ll want to plug in a new leader’s orientation no more than 10 days after the connection. See also, How to Launch New Groups with a Small Group Connection.
  4. The last big connecting rock is often an opportunity to connect people after Easter (especially an early Easter).  Again, it makes sense to promote the event at least 2 weeks and choose a curriculum that will interest unconnected people.
  5. It’s often a good idea to put in a connecting event for women following Mother’s Day and also men following Father’s Day. See also, Taking Advantage of Special Days to Launch New Groups.
  6. With your connecting events in place…step back and look at the calendar.  Next, you’ll want to drop in some encouragement and training for your leaders.  Although the idea of a monthly leadership community has been the model for some churches, I’ve rarely found that to be a workable idea.  Instead, consider planning 2 annual training/encouragement opportunities that are centralized.  Do everything else as decentralized events in the homes of coaches or leaders. See also, FAQ: How Are You Training New Leaders These Days? and Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Leaders.
  7. I’ve found two leader gatherings a year to be about all that can be pulled off.  Early February is often a good time to schedule a Friday evening, Saturday morning event.  It can be done at a retreat center or right on campus.  Get your senior pastor involved in a time of vision and encouragement on Friday night.  Use Saturday morning for a combination of huddle and skill training.
  8. Another good time to drop in a leader training and encouragement event is at the mid-point in your fall church-wide campaign.  This allows you to build into the lives of new hosts and experienced leaders.  Use the first part of a 90 minute event to allow your pastor to cast vision, tell stories and make heroes.  Gather your leaders at tables with their coach (or by affinity) for encouragement for the middle segment.  Dismiss to separate venues for appropriate skill training. See also, Watch Saddleback’s Most Recent Host Rally.
  9. Once you’ve got the big rocks of connecting and leadership encouragement/training in place…begin to promote an annual view of small group ministry.  Use the website.  Hand it out at meetings.  Have it with you everywhere you go.

The most important key to planning…is to get started right away.  The sooner you get your big rocks in place and publicized, the sooner you’ll see the benefits of planning.

Image by Dafne Cholet

Want to Dramatically Increase the Impact of Your Fall Ministry Season?

What if you could dramatically increase the impact of your fall ministry season-Want to Dramatically Increase the Impact of Your Fall Ministry Season

When was the best fall ministry season you’ve ever had?

Last year?

2 or 3 years ago?

Too long ago to remember the exact date?

What did you do? Do you remember what worked so well?

Could you do it again?

Would it be enough?

What if the fresh eyes of a strategic outsider could help you improve your results by 10 or 20%? What if instead of starting 5 new groups you could start 10 or even 20 new groups?

What if instead of starting 10 new groups (and keeping 2 going beyond the beginning study) you could start 20 new groups and sustain 14 or 15?

What if you actually had a set of tailored next steps that would help the least connected people in your congregation and crowd actually take the best next step?

What If?

What if you could start the fall ministry season with a plan to:

  • Connect way beyond the usual suspects
  • Build easy next steps for everyone you connect
  • Launch more groups than ever
  • Sustain more of the groups you launch
  • Finish the season ready for an exciting New Year and a powerful 2017!

Does that sound too good to be true?

Maybe you need to sign up for my newest mini-course?

Supercharge Your Fall Ministry Season

Supercharge Your Fall Ministry Season

Supercharge Your Fall Ministry Season is my newest mini-course. I’ve offered parts of this four week course in the past, but this revision contains the latest strategies and ideas.

If you’re looking for a way to reach more people, launch more new groups (and sustain a high percentage of what you launch)…please consider signing up for Supercharge Your Fall Ministry Season.

Here’s what’s included:

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

When, Where and Other Details:

  • The first session is on Thursday, June 30th at 1:00 p.m. pacific.
  • Sessions 2 thru 4 are on July 7th, July 14th, and July 21st.
  • Regular pricing: $49.95
  • Take advantage of a 20% discount ($39.95) through June 24th.
  • 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.

Are you ready? I’d love to teach you how to supercharge your fall ministry season.

You can do it. Your senior pastor will be glad you learned how…and so will your church!

Ready to jump in?

Just choose your payment option below and you’re all set. Please don’t delay! The early bird pricing goes away soon and there is limited space available for the live version with Q&A.


Supercharge Your Fall Ministry Season



Can’t see the sign-up form? Click here to visit this page on my site.

Second Chance: Help Me Test Small Group Ministry Basic Training

New to Small Group Ministry BannerNote: I had some technical difficulties yesterday. If you were able to sign up, try again today!

New to small group ministry?  Trying to figure out where to begin?  Or maybe you’re trying to figure out how to reboot the small group ministry you have?

Whether you’re just starting out or you’re already some ways down the road, if you’d like to make sure you’re heading in the right direction, you might find it helpful to work your way systematically through the steps.

I’ve created a free series of simple assignments that will help you work through what I think are the first steps you need to take.

Click here to sign up for my free Small Group Ministry Basic Training.

Want to Help Me Test This: New to Small Group Ministry?

New to Small Group Ministry BannerA few weeks ago I launched Small Group Ministry Basic Training.

It’s FREE. It’s designed to help people who are new to small group ministry (or perhaps need to look at it from a fresh point-of-view).

I’d love your feedback.

Want to help me test a new program? Here’s the sign-up form:

5 Simple Things You Can Do TODAY That Lead to More Groups This Fall

TODAY5 Simple Things You Can Do TODAY That Lead to More Groups This Fall

You may not realize this, but the things you do in May and June often predetermine how it goes in September.

The things you do in May and June often predetermine how it goes in September.

With that in mind, here are 5 simple things you can do today:

  1. Make a list of small group leaders who could help 2 or 3 new small group leaders get off to a good start. It’s not complicated. Think through your small group leaders and simply ask the question, “If they came alongside 2 or 3 newbie leaders for the first 8 to 10 weeks of their new group…would it make a difference?” Make a list of the leaders for which that is true and invite them to help you launch some new groups this fall. By the way, this is the essence of what I do to recruit potential coaches. See also, Recruiting Additional Coaches for Church-Wide Campaigns.
  2. Invite your existing groups to take a small group vacation. Right now is the perfect time to cast a simple vision to your existing small group leaders and group members to consider taking a vacation from their small group this fall. Instead of meeting together as a group of 12, would they consider pairing up with another couple or a few others and help launch a new group? Just for the six weeks of a new study. Then they can go back to their original groups. That’s the essence of the small group vacation strategy and it leads to more new groups all day long. See also, Take a Small Group Vacation.
  3. Think through the members of your existing groups. Try to identify 10 to 20 members who really should be leading a group. The fewer groups you have today the easier this assignment is. It’s very common for your largest and most successful small groups to have several potential leaders in them. Often these potential leaders serve in another ministry and view their group as the way they “get fed” or cared for. Once you have your list of members who should be leading groups, ask them if they’d be “willing to help get a new group started, just for a six-week study, then they can go back to their group.” Assure them that you’ll help them identify a leader from the group they gather. This is a slight variation of the Vacation idea. I’ve used this in combination with the small group connection strategy to help jump start new groups. See also, How to Launch New Groups Using a Small Group Connection.
  4. Look ahead at the sermon series and messages planned for August and early September. The 6 weeks from early August through mid-September provide the best opportunities to craft special “asks” for small group HOSTs and unconnected people. Well-crafted and even scripted “asks” or invitations will help more people say yes to “inviting a couple friends to do the fall study with them.” Carefully developed challenges will help more unconnected people respond to the opportunity to join a group that is using the study that goes along with our fall message series.” See also, Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again and How to Make the HOST Ask: The 2012 Version.
  5. Think through your existing small group leaders and small groups for inspiring stories. Few things are as motivating as the inspiring story of a small group leader who said “yes” and then felt God’s “well done.” Or a small group member who finally said yes to joining a group and then God used that group to meet their needs in the way only community can. Adding these “stories” to the HOST ask and join a small group invitation will have an exponential effect on outcomes. See also, How to Develop Video or Live Testimony that Recruits Members or Leaders.

Image by F Delventhal

2016 Summer Reading List

summer reading umbrellas

2016 Summer Reading List

Every summer I create a list of books I think you should read.  Sometimes the books I include are strictly about small group ministry, discipleship or spiritual formation.  Most times, the books I include may seem pretty far afield (innovation, design, leadership, or strategy).  You’ll just have to trust me.  I wouldn’t include a book I didn’t think would be added to your toolbox and contribute in a trajectory-altering way.

Here’s what’s on my 2016 Summer Reading List:

Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business is the latest book by Charles Duhigg. I read The Power of Habit last December after hearing Andy Stanley’s interview with Duhigg and it was easily one of the best reads I’ve discovered in quite a while. James Emery White compares Duhigg to Malcolm Gladwell’s style of “a gathering of good data, studies, stories and ideas to chase a curious writer’s question.” I agree and it makes for a great read. I’m about 30 pages into this one and loving  it.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World is the latest book by Adam Grant, author of Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.  If you attended the 2015 Global Leadership Summit you may remember that name. He gave a fascinating talk on takers, matchers, or givers ran counter to much of what we’ve always assumed about who succeeds. The title of Originals caught my eye and this line from the jacket convinced me to add it to the summer list: “Reading Originals made me feel like I was seated across from Adam Grant at a dinner party, as one of my favorite thinkers thrilled me with his insights and his wonderfully new take on the world.” —Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers and The Tipping Point.

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger makes my list because of a TED talk I watched last year and found fascinating and deeply relevant to our work. His finding in Why Veterans Miss War help us understand some of the longing all people have for community, brotherhood, and belonging. This is the book that his work as a journalist at an outpost in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley produced.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanaithi sounds like the memoir of the summer (or longer). “At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live.” James Emery White noted that When Breath Becomes Air is his story and chronicles his move toward faith in the process. Sounds like it needs to make my summer reading list.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth sounds like something I need to read. Again, I like what Malcolm Gladwell had to say: “Grit is a persuasive and fascinating response to the cult of IQ fundamentalism. Duckworth reminds us that it is character and perseverance that set the successful apart.”

And for fun…

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan makes my list because I just need something a little off beat. I like the reviews I’ve read, particularly this line from The Paris Review Daily: “The kind of book that makes you squirm in your seat on the subway, gaze out the window at work, and Google Map the quickest route to the beach. In other words, it is, like Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, a semi-dangerous book, one that persuades young men…to trade in their office jobs in order to roam the world, to feel the ocean’s power, and chase the waves.”

Image by Andrew Siguenza

Supercharge Your Fall Ministry Season – 2016

Supercharge Your Fall Ministry SeasonSupercharge Your Fall Ministry Season

Want to supercharge your fall ministry season?  Sign up for my new four week mini-course course and buckle up!  It’s short.  It’s packed with strategies you can implement immediately.  And has a money back guarantee.

Supercharge Your Fall Ministry Season

  • Connect way beyond the usual suspects
  • Build easy next steps for everyone you connect
  • Launch more groups than ever
  • Sustain more of the groups you launch
  • Finish the season ready for an exciting New Year and a powerful 2017!

What’s Included:

  1. Four 75 minute video 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 video sessions are recorded and downloadable to share with your team
  5. Access to a password-protected site with additional supporting resources.
  6. 100% money back guarantee.  If you’re not completely satisfied…I’ll refund your money.
  7. Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $125)
  8. Questions?  Email Me for information.

When, Where and Other Details:

  • The first session is on Thursday, June 30th at 1:00 p.m. pacific.
  • Sessions 2 thru 4 are on July 7th, July 14th, and July 21st.
  • Regular pricing: $49.95
  • Take advantage of a 20% discount ($39.95) through June 24th.
  • 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.

Are you ready? I’d love to teach you how to supercharge your fall ministry season.

You can do it. Your senior pastor will be glad you learned how…and so will your church!

Ready to jump in?

Just choose your payment option below and you’re all set. Please don’t delay! The early bird pricing goes away soon and there is limited space available for the live version with Q&A.


Supercharge Your Fall Ministry Season




Add “A Fellowship of Differents” to Your Reading List

fellowship of differentsI left the re:group conference with a list of books to add to my reading stack. First up? A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together by Scot McKnight. If you’re not familiar with McKnight, he is currently Professor of New Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, IL, and the author of a numerous books including The Jesus Creed, The King Jesus Gospel and One.Life.

In A Fellowship of Differents, McKnight wrestles with a couple key questions:

  • What is the church supposed to be?
  • If the church is what it is supposed to be, what does the Christian life look like?

The answer to the first question? He finds it in the metaphor of “the salad bowl, which reflects the ways all us ‘differents’ — from different socioeconomic groups, genders, educational and ethnic backgrounds, and life situations — struggle to come together in fellowship as the church God intended (p. 13).

The answer to the second question is that “if the church is a fellowship of differents” six themes “become central to the Christian life”:

  • Grace: “the challenge is to establish a grace-created and grace-creating fellowship of differents (p. 48).”
  • Love: “the church God wants is one brimming with difference, and that will mean the Christian life is all about loving whoever happens to be with you in this fellowship of differents (p. 63).”
  • Table: “When God’s people live in fellowship with one another, when they ‘do life’ together, the church embodies the gospel about King Jesus and peopel respond to the gospel about them (p. 112).”
  • Holiness: “Christians are in the process of transformation, all of us without exception. Some are more mature in one area than in others, but no one is perfect –and that means we both desire mature Christian living and know maturity takes time (p. 133).”
  • Newness: “Everything about this early church life was new for everyone, including Paul. They were trying out a new kind of community under a new Lord with new people around them all kinds of new ideas about new morals. What God was doing was so full of promise, so altogether…well…new (p. 147).”
  • Flourishing: “Flourishing in this new community is what God wants for us, and when we let that work of God shape us, we will discover something that transcends what anyone could expect (p. 228).”

A Fellowship of Differents is an important read. It’s not a difficult read, as challenging understandings are interwoven with clarifying stories and illustrations. My copy is marked up and plenty of sections ended up being read more than once to make sure I fully caught the implications.

If you’re searching for a better understanding of how the Church and Christians are to live in changing world, I highly recommend you add A Fellowship of Differents to your stack.

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 Can I Help You?

helpHow Can I Help You?

Thanks for coming back! You keep coming back and that tells me what you’re finding is helping you. And that’s a very satisfying feeling for me.

But are you finding something that is really helping you?

Several times a week I get an email from a reader or a call from a coaching client that asks me about a service I provide. As I explain the service and how to access it, I realize again and again that I’m not thinking about things from your perspective!

And that’s a very unsatisfying feeling!

Can I tell you about several ways I’d like to help you?

Schedule a Coaching Call

My coaching clients tell me again and again how helpful a simple 60 minute coaching call is. Seriously! Bringing a trusted outsider into your challenges can really make a big, big difference. They’re very affordable and easy to schedule. You can find out more about my coaching call service by clicking right here.

Take Advantage of a Mini-Course

I have several very popular mini-courses that I think could really help you. I know they’ve already helped many small group ministries. I know that because I hear it all the time!

Here are three that you need to know about:

How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure

How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure is a very popular mini-course that includes four 75 minute video sessions. In this course you’ll find:

  • A crystal clear understanding of what you actually need to build.
  • The tools that will help you identify the right coaching candidates.
  • My time-tested method of recruiting high capacity leaders of leaders.
  • Actionable strategies for developing the coaches you recruit.

You can find out more about How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure right here.

How to Maximize YOUR Church-Wide Campaign

How to Maximize YOUR Church-Wide Campaign is a step by step video guide designed to give you my time-tested formula for a powerful church-wide campaign. In this course you’ll learn how to:

  • Recruit way more leaders than you ever thought possible
  • Launch more groups than ever before
  • Connect WAY beyond the usual suspects
  • Recruit and train the coaches you need in order to sustain the new groups you launch

You can find out more about How to Maximize YOUR Church-Wide Campaign right here.

Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry

Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry is a 4 session audio course that will take you through what I believe are four essential steps.  This 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.

In this course you’ll receive:

  • 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.

You can find out more about Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry right here.

Supercharge Your Fall Ministry Season

Supercharge Your Fall Ministry Season is a four session audio course designed to help you:

  • Launch more groups than ever
  • Connect way beyond the usual suspects
  • Sustain more of the groups you launch
  • Build next steps for everyone you connect

You can find out more about Supercharge Your Fall Ministry Season right here.

Need More?

Again, I’m so glad you keep coming back! And I really do want to help you build a thriving small group ministry that connects unconnected people and makes disciples. If you need help and can’t find what you need, don’t be afraid to email me.

Image by Grace Ota

True or False: Leaders with Apprentices Leads to More Groups

True or False

True or False: Leaders with Apprentices Leads to More Groups

What do you think? Would you answer true? Or false?

Not sure?

Early in my ministry I attended a small group ministry conference at Willow Creek. At that conference I learned that “healthy groups grow and birth” and every small group leader needs an apprentice so that groups can grow and birth (multiply).

While at that conference I also learned that Willow had been profoundly influenced by Carl George’s Meta Church model. Naturally, I devoured Carl’s book and spent the next several years applying what I learned from it. See also, The Meta Church Small Group Model and Prepare Your Church for the Future.

At about the same time I attended a Fuller Church Growth conference and heard Jim Dethmer teach about leadership and vision. Jim shared a well-known fable about a man being rewarded by a king for something he had done. In the fable the man asks the king to give him a single grain of wheat and then double the amount every day for 64 days (like filling up the squares on a chessboard). The man ends up owning all the grain in the kingdom. The fable explains the power of multiplication or geometric progression. You can read more about the origin of the fable right here.

Over the next few years I insisted that every group leader and every coach in my small group ministry have an apprentice. Apprenticing was an important part of my strategy for developing leaders and multiplying groups.

But…and this is important…I eventually realized that apprenticing doesn’t actually lead to more groups. Or rarely leads to more groups.

Here’s what I believe about apprenticing:

Apprenticing can be a powerful leadership development practice. When legitimately practiced and honestly applied, apprenticing is a leadership development pipeline with great potential.

Don’t miss what I’m saying here. Legitimately practicing and honestly applying the practice of apprenticing means much more than filling in a name in a box or an org chart. If all you are doing is requiring every leader to provide the name of his or her apprentice…you have more than missed the mark.

Apprenticing as a group multiplication strategy is most effective in slow-growth situations. If you’ve already connected most of your average adult weekend worship attendance and you can wait 12 to 18 months for your next new group to open up to new members…apprenticing may be an adequate strategy. If, on the other hand, a high percentage of your adults are unconnected, depending on existing groups to “grow and birth” as your primary method for group multiplication is irresponsible.

Whether your church is experiencing slow growth or fast growth, apprenticing is important but there are other strategies for launching new groups that allow for more rapid leader identification. See also, 8 Secrets for Identifying an Unlimited Number of Leaders.

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

Image by Alberto G.

Further Reading:

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