3 Important GroupLife Lessons from Week 5 of Saddleback’s Church-Wide Campaign

One of the things that I talk about in most consultations is how to leverage your small group ministry as a delivery system for almost everything else.  A very frequent question is “If we’re really going to prioritize being in a small group, how can we still raise awareness of the need to serve in a ministry or be involved in a mission opportunity?”

Here is a link to last weekend’s message at Saddleback.  It was week 5 of Live Your Calling (the new version of the 40 Days of Purpose).  On the 4th purpose, God Shaped You to Serve Him, the title of the message is You Are Called to Bless.

You’ll hear lots of great ideas throughout the sermon, but when you get to 27:50 minutes there are three very important group ideas.  Do not miss what happens right here.

About to release the service a little early so everyone can walk over to the ministry fair, Rick says three important things:

  • “First, go out and collect as many ideas as you can, visit all the tables.  Then, bring your best ideas back to your group and discuss doing a group project, with your small group.  Just find one thing that you can do together as a group.”  Did you catch it?  He challenged the hosts to proactively engage their groups in a ministry or project they could do together.
  • “How many of you are hosts, can I see your hands?  I’m authorizing all of you hosts to say, ‘Okay, Rick said for all of us to pick a project that we could do together.  One thing that we could do together to get started on.  Just take a baby step.”  Can you hear it?  Rick is letting every member know that this is coming.
  • “And by the way, those of you who raised your hand (indicating that they were hosting a group), go out there on the patio afterwards and sign up because I’m having lunch with you, all the hosts, next Sunday afternoon.  Did you hear that?  Week 5.  Looking ahead to week 6 and it’s all about celebrating the commitment of the hosts and sustaining new groups.

Can I tell you something?  None of what happened was off script or invented in the moment.  All of it was carefully designed to leverage this opportunity to help thousands respond to the challenge of serving.  Guess what.  Over 2600 signed up to start serving.

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

Quotebook: Arriving at the Preferred Destination

Sometimes a great one-liner can be very useful.

I love this line from Lewis Carroll:

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Cheshire Cat, Alice in Wonderland

You can see some of my other favorite quotes and one-liners right here.

 

4 GroupLife Learnings from Amazon

There are times when I come across something and it literally takes my breath away.  I know that probably sounds weird…but it is the truth.  When it happens, I almost always want to share the idea with you.  This is one of those times.

Last Friday I tripped across this article that referenced an Amazon shareholder meeting with CEO Jeff Bezos (HT @ScottDAnthony)

I loved this line from Jeff Bezos on innovation and the culture of Amazon:

“A big piece of the story we tell ourselves about who we are, is that we are willing to invent. We are willing to think long-term. We start with the customer and work backwards. And, very importantly, we are willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.”

Just take a moment and digest what Bezos is saying about Amazon’s corporate culture:

  • They are willing to invent
  • They think long-term
  • They start with the customer and work backwards
  • They are willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time

That, friends, is a commitment to innovation.  There is a ton there about why so many of us are stuck.  But if you’re tempted to shrug your shoulders, read on:

“I believe if you don’t have that set of things in your corporate culture, then you can’t do large-scale invention. You can do incremental invention, which is critically important for any company. But it is very difficult — if you are not willing to be misunderstood. People will misunderstand you.”

Why is this so big?  Why did it take my breath away?  Easy.  If you want to connect people no one else is connecting, you’ve got to do things no one else is doing.  Incremental invention will not get that done.

Incremental invention…tightening up the process, designing a more effective way to do a small group connection or a more efficient way to design the semester catalog…will never connect beyond the usual suspects.  If we want to do that, we need a willingness to invent, we need to think long-term, we need to start with the customer and work backward, and we need to be willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.

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

Follow Me: A Powerful New DVD-Driven Study and Church-Wide Campaign

Are you truly a follower of Jesus?  That is the central question of Follow Me, David Platt’s new Bible study.  Based on his new book by the same title, this is a challenging and important study that takes his teaching from Radical to a whole new depth.

Anchored by a six session DVD, each of the sessions are classic David Platt.  Great teaching.  Very passionate.  Packed with biblical content.  And…each of the sessions is about 30 minutes in length (which would be a little long for the average attention span, but for Platt’s very compelling intensity).

The teaching wrestles with six intentional questions:

  • What does it mean to truly be a follower of Jesus?
  • What does it means to trust Jesus with our minds?
  • Are our affections and desires really what they need to be?
  • Is total abandonment really required?
  • Are we committed to the Church as God has designed it?
  • What does it mean to make disciples who make disciples?

The Member Book is well designed.  An opening exercise replaces the more common ice-breaker questions intended to prime the conversation pump.  A combination of reflecting on the previous week’s assignment with a twist of a group project (session one’s is to come up with a group definition of “what it means to follow Christ”).

Along with the opening exercise, each session includes the session outline you’ll need to capture everything from the DVD teaching segment.  The built-in group discussion questions will take the conversation very intentionally into a deep dive into what it means to truly follow Jesus.  Application steps and scripture memory assignment finish out each session.

The Member Book also includes 5 daily lessons for each of the 6 sessions.  The daily lessons are 4 to 5 pages in length and will require a commitment of 30 to 60 minutes to complete, but will lead members deeply into what it means to follow Jesus.

An available Follow Me Church Kit, as well as Student and Preteen study materials make it possible to do Follow Me as a church-wide campaign. In addition to copies of the Student and Preteen Member books, the Follow Me Church Kit includes an administration guide, sermon outlines, and digital art files for a promotional poster, bulletin inserts, presentation slides, and more.

Do you have small groups that are asking for a real challenge?  Does your church need to take a fresh look at Jesus’ simple request to follow Him?  I believe the answer is yes to both and Follow Me is a small group study and a church-wide campaign designed to meet both needs.

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. In addition, I am the Small Group Specialist for LifeWay. 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.”

Wrestling with “Why” We Do “What” We Do

I’m re-reading Simon Sinek’s Start with Why right now.  It really has so much gold that we can talk about.  At the root of the book is the simple and profound idea that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

He uses this illustration to tease out the idea.  What he points out is that most organizations actually talk about their products or services (what they do) when they should be talking about why they do what they do.

Here’s a quote:

WHAT: Every single company and organization on the planet knows WHAT they do.

HOW: Some companies and people know HOW they do WHAT they do.

WHY: Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do.  When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money—that’s a result.  By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief.  WHY does your company exist?  WHY do you get out of bed every morning?  And WHY should anyone care?  (p. 39)

Now, I think this has profound implications for the business we’re in (you probably know that I think knowing the business we’re in is the very first thing we ought to figure out).

So…I think we all know what we do.  I’m not sure we’ve thought enough about why we do it.

Here’s another quote from the book:

When communicating from the inside out, however, the WHY is offered as the reason to buy and the WHATs serve as the tangible proof of that belief. (p. 42)

WHAT Apple makes, serve as tangible roof of what they believe.  It is that clear correlation between WHAT they do and WHY they do it that makes Apple stand out.  This is the reason we perceive Apple as being authentic.  Everything they do works to demonstrate their WHY, to challenge the status quo.  Regardless of the products they make or industry in which they operate, it is always clear that Apple ‘thinks different.’” (p. 43)

So if Apple’s WHY is to challenge the status quo, what is your WHY?

What do you think?  Want to take a shot at your “why”? Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

By the way, I’ve linked to his TED video in the past.  Easily one of the most fascinating talks I’ve ever heard.  And if you haven’t read Start with Why…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.”

4 Important Innovations in Small Group Ministry

I’ve been a student of small group ministry and ministries for almost 25 years.  I’ve read everything I could find.  Found ways to ask a lot of questions.  Even cultivated my own set of confidential informants (okay, that’s not really what they were, but you get the idea).

Let’s just say I have been a student and I’m still learning.

Here are what I think are 4 of the most important innovations in small group ministry:

  1. Events that form and launch new groups.  The Small Group Connection, designed to sort out people by affinity and help them choose a leader from amongst themselves, and Group Link, designed to help unconnected people form a group around a pre-qualified leader are both examples events that form and launch new groups.  North Point’s Access Group strategy is a variation of this innovation.  6 to 8 weeks instead of a one time event, it is a step that leads toward grouplife.  See also Distinctives of the Three Types of Small Group Connecting Events and Three Important Distinctives of North Point’s Access Group Strategy.
  2. Church-wide campaigns like 40 Days of Purpose allow churches to set in motion an alignment between the weekend message and a small group curriculum and encourage everyone to join in.  See also The Exponential Power of a Church-Wide Campaign and Church-Wide Campaigns.
  3. The HOST strategy allows senior pastors to recruit people who have a HEART for unconnected people to OPEN their homes for six weeks, SERVE some simple refreshments, and TELL a few of their friends.  The grab-and-go strategy is a version of HOST that takes the concept even further, often enlisting another 5 to 10% more hosts.  See also HOST: What Does It Mean? and Add 5 to 10% More Hosts with this Jedi Move.
  4. Video based curriculum.  First developed as VHS and later DVD, video based curriculum allows ordinary people to say “yes” to hosting or leading a group.  It doesn’t require a teacher.  While new groups won’t always need video based curriculum (they’ll develop the confidence to meet without it), it is a great advantage in starting new groups.  An important wrinkle in video based curriculum is the ability to stream video to a computer or other device.  This will allow an even larger number of groups to access video based content.  See also Update: Now Even More to Choose from at RightNow Media.

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

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. In addition, RightNow.org is a regular sponsor of MarkHowellLive.com. 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.”

Update: Even More to Choose from at RightNow Media

Looking for a new study for your small group or Bible study?  Need it tonight?  Want to check out a larger selection than you can find at your local bookstore?  Want to actually preview the study?  Want to make this service available to every staff person, every youth teacher, every  small group leader and Bible study teacher, all of your women’s study leaders, all of your men’s study leaders in your congregation?

You need to take a look at RightNow Media.  Now with over 2000 video studies, it’s even more like Netflix.  You can stream the video content right to any of your devices (computer, iPad, iPhone, or Android).  You can download a pdf copy of the curriculum or order it online (in most cases for purchase).

I bought an inexpensive HDMI cable and an adapter for my iPhone and was watching a study on my 42″ flatscreen in minutes.  This weekend I bought an Apple TV ($99 at BestBuy.com) and was streaming directly in minutes.  Very cool!

Depending on the size of your congregation, the current* monthly pricing ranges from $49.99 (for churches under 100) to $299.99 (for churches over 3000).

Want to take a test drive?  You can sign up for a free 30 day trial right here.

I took a look at RightNow Media in August, 2012 and was very impressed by the service.  You can read my original review right here.

*This is a special price.  The regular pricing ranges from $69.99 to $399.99 per month.

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. In addition, RightNow.org is a regular sponsor of MarkHowellLive.com. 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.”

4 Key Traits Shared by the Most Effective Small Group Ministries

I’ve been a student of small group ministry and ministries for almost 25 years.  I’ve read everything I could find.  Found ways to ask a lot of questions.  Even cultivated my own set of confidential informants (okay, that’s not really what they were, but you get the idea).

Let’s just say I have been a student and I’m still learning.

Along the way I’ve carefully noted the distinctives of the various strategies and models.  Come to conclusions about their advantages and disadvantages.

I’ve also noticed that the most effective small group ministries share four key traits.

  1. They are championed by the senior pastor.  It’s interesting to note that Steve Gladen and Bill Willits have played key roles in building the two largest small group ministries in the country but are rarely, if ever, seen in the weekend services at Saddleback and North Point.  See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.
  2. Small groups are offered as the way you get connected and the way you grow spiritually.  They’re not promoted or described as one of several options.  See also A Plated Meal Leads to a Church OF Groups and 7 GroupLife Deal-Breakers…and the Workarounds You Need to Know.
  3. Carefully designed on-ramps make it easy for unconnected people to join new groups.  Saddleback’s annual church-wide campaign complemented by periodic small group connections identifies new leaders and connects a growing number every year.  North Point’s Group Link strategy coupled with their Access Group concept provide 4 to 5 opportunities every year to join a new group.  See also  Making GroupLife On-Ramps Easy, Obvious, and Strategic.
  4. Leaders are mentored and cared for through a customized approach.  Neither organization offers a one-size-fits-all coaching concept.  Both provide the level of care needed by an ever expanding network of small group leaders.  See also Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Coaching Strategy and When Coaching Philosophies Collide: How Can Both Be Right?

By the way, Saddleback and North Point are the two ministries I’ve referenced, but Willow Creek was a great example of these same four traits in the ’90s when they were the premier example of an effective small group ministry.  Think that’s a coincidence?

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

New from Jen Hatmaker: The 7 Experiment: Staging Your Own Mutiny Against Excess

Spent some time with a new study from LifeWay today.  Based on her 2011 book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess,  The 7 Experiment by Jen Hatmaker is a 9 session DVD-driven study that posits a counter-cultural message: It’s not about what you own…it’s about what owns you.

Wrestling with a challenging set of topics, this is a study that will be right up the alley of groups that need to be called to a new level of activism.  Not in any way an intellectual project, The 7 Experiment is all about introspection and thoughtful self-awareness with a major twist of application.

Along with an introduction and a wrap-up session, the 7 topics are:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Possessions
  • Media
  • Waste
  • Spending
  • Stress

Hatmaker, along with her husband Brandon, is a co-founder of Austin New Church and a popular speaker and author.  The DVD sessions feature Jen Hatmaker along with personal stories from many of the non-profit partners of Austin New Church.  At 11 t0 16 minutes the DVD segments are pitched just right.  Short enough to grab and hold your attention; Long enough to flesh out the concept.

At 189 pages the workbook is content rich.  Designed with a Threads feel, the reading commitment will challenge group members that are looking for a show-up unprepared Bible study.  Instead, each session in the The 7 Experiment includes 15 to 20 pages of reading with the discussion questions interspersed throughout.  Can a member participate without reading the section?  Yes, but many of the questions are built on an understanding of the session content.

The upside of The 7 Experiment is that it is one of a very small number of studies that even begin to help groups wrestle with this set of topics.  The downside?  I think if there is a downside it is that there is a lot of reading.  The content is very, very good.  It flows well.  It has a very personal feel.  It guides into a much needed discussion.  There’s just a lot to read.

This is a study that will absolutely grab the imagination of certain groups.  For others, it will be a challenge for a variety of reasons.  Still, if you’re looking for a study that will help your members grapple with the stranglehold of excess, you need to take a look at The 7 Experiment.  The payoff is more than worth the investment.

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. In addition, I am the Small Group Specialist for LifeWay. 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.”

What to Do When Precedent and the Status Quo Stand in the Way

Pardon the interruption.  This post may not seem to about launching, building or sustaining a small group ministry, but trust me, it has everything to do with it.  Bear with me and I think you’ll come away with what you need for the day.

One of the books that has influenced me the most over the last several years is Scott Belsky’s Making Ideas Happen.  I wasn’t alone.  When it came out in mid 2010 it was on lots of recommended lists.  If you haven’t caught on yet, it would be a great addition to your current stack.

Scott Belsky is the founder of an interesting company called Behance and blogs at 99u (one of the touchstone ideas in Belsky’s work is the Thomas Edison quote that “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”)

In a recent blog post on strategy he pointed out that most successful organizations become efficient at the business of usual and “the more efficient we are, the more difficult it is to change the steps we take every day.”  And I think for many of us, this is what is actually happening.  Our organizations have policies and budgets and a calendar and the procedures for getting new programs added to the calendar.

With me?

Belsky went on to point out that “it is hard to take new steps because each one defies some rule or precedent for how we make day-to-day decisions.”  Uh oh.  He’s been to our organizations!

What I loved in the article was his prescription for what to do when precedent and the status quo stands in the way:

  • Eliminate the bias towards “precedent” when you’re building something new. New strategy warrants unprecedented action.”  That’s a helpful line to have in mind as you’re working with your leadership team.  Don’t you think?
  • Don’t let the new steps you must take be overridden by legal, branding, impatience, or other logistics. While it may seem easy to give in on the little details, any little turn off the road points you in a new direction. Only thing that should override strategy is better strategy.”  Again…oh my.  Most of us face death by a thousand little cuts.
  • Keep reiterating “why” you’re pursuing change, and the consequences for not changing. Sometimes, especially in established businesses, the consequences of not changing are more motivating than the goals.”  This is right at the heart at where many of our ministries are right now.  Don’t stop.  Be kind and gentle and don’t stop.  Reiterate the why.

We now return you to your previously scheduled programming.

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

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. In addition, I am the Small Group Specialist for LifeWay. 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.”

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