5 Seriously Wrong Questions about Small Group Ministry

wrong questionsI love a great question.  I actually look for them and even write them down when I hear them or copy them when I read them.  See also, Quotebook: Never Stop Questioning.

But there are some questions that are absolutely the wrong question and they lead to the wrong answer.  See also, The Right Answer to the Wrong Question.

Here are a few of my favorite frequently asked wrong questions:

  1. Why can’t we find enough qualified leaders to connect the people who sign up to join a group?  The short answer?  You are probably using an old school system that depends on apprenticing, signing up potential leaders to training courses, or pleading with obviously qualified members to leave the group they love and start a new one.  What’s the right question?  What system(s) eliminate this issue?  Taking my cue from the Andy Stanley line that your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results that you are currently experiencing, I can say with certainty that the design of the system you are using is the issue.  See also, Top 5 Keys to Starting New Groups. Lots of New Groups and My Top 3 Ninja Ideas for Recruiting Small Group Leaders.
  2. What is the best way to “vet” new small group leaders?  Can you see where this question leads?  The question assumes that “vetting” must be done and that there is a better outcome if you do it the right way.  See that?  Actually, vetting isn’t a bad thing to do, but the search for a best way to vet new small group leaders is based on the notion that safer leaders lead to better groups with fewer issues.  In my experience, focusing on vetting produces fewer groups.  Better to focus on ways to make it easier for new leaders to invite their friends and build their own groups.  What’s the right question?  Is our system designed to make it easy to begin and nearly automatic to step into a leader development pathway?  See also, Evaluate Your Small Group Ministry with My 10 Signature Point Checklist.
  3. Since coaching doesn’t work…how else can we support and develop small group leaders?  My answer?  Coaching is not the issue.  It does work and is still the best way to support and develop new small group leaders.  If you’re trying to retroactively assign coaches to existing small group leaders, you should expect something like the results of a bad organ transplant.  Rejection.  What’s the right question?  How can we build an effective coaching structure that identifies, recruits and develops the kind of coaches that can do to and for our leaders what we want leaders to do to and for our members?  See also, How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.
  4. How can we reinforce struggling small groups?  This is a seriously wrong question because it assumes that you should do something out-of-the-ordinary to prop up group leaders and their groups when they struggle (most commonly this is about “not enough members).  Artificially resuscitating struggling groups almost always leads to a lifelong dependency for new members.  What’s the right question?   How can we build a small group culture where it is easy to take a test-drive as a host, celebrating those who try, while allowing struggling groups to end with grace (and find a group to join)?  See also, FAQ: How Can We Help Groups that Are Struggling to Add New Members?
  5. How can I prevent heresy in our small groups?  This question is most commonly asked by detractors of a lower bar of leadership, but is still asked by those with a heightened interest in control.  It’s been said that “you can have growth or you can have control, and you have to decide how much of each you want.”  In my mind, the explanation of the Church in the 1st century is not control.  What’s the right question?  How can I provide a pathway for group leaders that will keep them focused on the right destination?  See also, Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway.

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

Image by Brett Farmiloe

Please Don’t Miss This Resource! Life As We Know It

HostBox_WhiteBGI’ve been getting to know a fascinating new study developed by Spread Truth called Life As We Know It.  If you’ve been along for much of the journey here, you know I review a lot of small group studies.  I have to say Life As We Know It is easily one of the most intriguing new small group experiences I’ve seen in several years.

Don’t miss the special promotion below!

The powerful idea that makes this study so interesting is that everybody has a story.  Further, “sharing stories is foundational to community and the meaningful relationships we all long for.”

Because Life As We Know It is not a Bible study, it is well-suited for use with neighbors, friends and co-workers as well as small groups and ministry teams.  In my mind, the fact that it is designed to “facilitate gatherings where the art of storytelling is practiced and deeper relationships are forged” is one of the genius elements of the experience.

There are a number of very cool aspects that will make this an easy invite.  From the simple invitations to the Story Books and Questions in a Box, the materials have a very good feel.  The four sessions in the Story Book are designed to produce an engaging conversation.  I really like the simple design.  Not too slick, the Story Books keep the focus on interaction.  The Host Box includes a set of conversation starting questions (a free app is also available at questionsinabox.com).

I really can imagine Life As We Know It being a key to building relationships in all kinds of places and and all kinds of groups.  Not the usual prefab Bible study, some host training could be an advantage, but not essential.  Keeping in mind that simply getting to know the stories of neighbors, co-workers, friends and family will open the door to entirely new experiences…I’m loving thinking about the doors of opportunity this study will open.

Take Advantage of This Special Promotion!

Want to get the feel of the material?  The folks at Spread Truth have a great promotion going for the first 250 customers.  A free Host Box (a $35 value)!  Use the Coupon Code: FreeHostBox at checkout.  Shipping is not included (should be about $6).  Offer expires 4/30/14.  Take advantage of this special offer right here.

LifeAsWeKnow.It from spreadtruth on Vimeo.

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 may 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.”

Quotebook: Never Stop Questioning

I’ve written many times about the power of a great question.  Here are two of my favorite posts: Supercharge Your Ministry Impact with These 5 Questions and Ministry in a Fog? Here are 6 Critical Questions That Create Clarity.

Here is what Albert Einstein thought about questions:

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein

When was the last time you asked a great question?

Do You Know the 5 Keys to Unlocking Small Group Ministry Impact?

Having trouble figuring out how to unlock small group ministry impact?  Maybe you’re just beginning to think about prioritizing small group ministry.  Maybe you tried once and couldn’t get it off the ground.  Or maybe you’ve tried multiple times to launch small group ministry and just can’t figure out how to make it work.

No matter what your experience has been, there are at least 5 very important keys to unlocking small group ministry impact.

5 Keys to unlocking small group ministry impact:

  1. Increase ministry acceptance by leveraging the influence of your senior pastor.  Face it.  Ministry impact almost never develops momentum without the endorsement of your senior pastor.  Further, in most churches only those ministries championed by the senior pastor will attain enduring significance.  See also, 5 Things Senior Pastors Need to Know about Small Group Ministry.
  2. Decrease competition by streamlining the belong and become menu.  This is an essential ingredient.  Until you’ve narrowed the focus and streamlined your menu, you shouldn’t be surprised when your people can’t figure out their next step.  It has been demonstrated conclusively that the more choices on the menu, the fewer purchases or selections are made.  See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #2: A Bloated Belong and Become Menu and Is An Artificial Barrier Limiting Growth in Your Small Group Ministry?
  3. Increase awareness by increasing the frequency of promotion.  Keep in mind that unconnected people are often infrequent attenders.  If you’re only occasionally talking about the importance of being connected in a small group, you shouldn’t be surprised if more than 50% of your unconnected adults never really understand the importance of a small group or know about the next connecting opportunity.  Why You Must Make the HOST Ask Several Weeks in a Row.
  4. Decrease hesitation by eliminating inhibitors.  An inhibitor is anything that causes alarm bells to go off inside the heads of unconnected adults.  Lifetime commitments (anything longer than 6 weeks), topics that appeal only to seasoned Christians, and fears about the kind of people who will be in the group are just three of a number of damaging inhibitors.  If you want to make it easy for unconnected people to say yes to a small group, you must eliminate inhibitors.  See also, 5 things You Need to Know about Connecting Unconnected People and Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer?
  5. Increase response by creating great first steps out of the auditorium.  Another very important key, many unconnected people stretched far out of the their comfort zone just to step into your auditorium.  Some drove by your location for several years before they got up the nerve to attend one of your services.  Others actually made it to your parking lot more than once before they ever got out of their cars.  If you want to connect these people, creating great first steps out of your auditorium is essential.  See also, How Would You Rate the First Steps Out of Your Auditorium? and How to Calm an Unconnected Person’s Second Greatest Fear

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

The Question Everyone Ought to Be Asking

As you know…there are no problem-free strategies or solutions.  Every strategy, every solution comes with a set of problems.  Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  See also, 5 Strategic Flaws That Cripple Ministry Impact.

With me?

Once you come to the conclusion that there are no problem-free strategies or solutions, the very next step is to begin determining goals and objectives based on your mission (or the business you are in).  Once you’ve set goals and objectives based on your mission, it’s time to determine the best way to accomplish your goals and objectives.  This is about the model or the program you will choose to use.  See also, Supercharge Your Ministry with These 5 Questions.

What is the best way to _____________?  Fill in the blank with whatever your goal or objective is.  For example:

  • What is the best way to connect everyone to a small group?
  • What is the best way to help everyone find a way to serve that fits their unique shape?
  • What is the best way to help everyone overcome the me-first self-centered view that is so common?
  • Etc.

What is the best way to ____________?

Have you learned to ask this question?  Or are you still stuck with legacy models and strategies?  You know what I mean by legacy models, right?  Think about the programs you’re still using that were installed in another era.  Good examples might be Wednesday or Sunday night programing.  Others would be Monday night visitation and Sunday morning programs that are designed to disciple or connect adults (but in many cases are really smaller versions of the weekend service).

Nothing Wrong with Legacy

Listen, there is rarely anything inherently wrong with a legacy model or strategy.  Asking what is the best way to __________? simply uncovers…wait for it…the best way to ___________.  And that is the point.  Right?

Why Don’t We Ask the Question?

What is the best way to ___________?

Why don’t we ask the question?  Too often we don’t ask the question because:

Have You Asked the Question?

Have you asked the question?  Why not?  Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Top 10 Reasons Leprechauns Rarely Join a Small Group

Threave Castle

Courtesy Steven Lewis

Today bein’ St. Patrick’s Day ‘n all, I thought it might be somthin’ fine to talk about some of the reasons Leprechauns rarely join a small group.

  1. Who really wants to share the pot of gold?  Very few leprechauns are others-centered.
  2. Much too busy.  Most leprechauns spend all of their time making shoes.  What leprechaun actually has the time to hang out on a regular basis?
  3. Lucky Charms may be magically delicious, but they’re almost never the snack of choice in a small group.
  4. One exception to the rule seems to be found in Darby O’Gill and the Little People (although the leprechaun king’s group was really more of a mid-size group).
  5. Leprechauns are very picky about who they will hang out with.  Everyone knows that a leprechaun would rather climb a tree than spend time with strangers.  See also, The Leprechaun in Mobile, Alabama.  HT Huffington Post.
  6. Apparently when leprechaun’s are interested in a small group they will only join a men’s small group…since there are no female leprechauns.  The one exception is when Jennifer Aniston is the leader of a co-ed group.  See also, Jennifer Aniston’s Big Screen Debut.
  7. It ain’t easy being a Notre Dame fan.  Just imagine being the mascot!
  8. They know we’ve all had it up to here with practical jokers.  Although many of us enjoy playing practical jokes…few of us enjoy having them played on us.  It’s hard to build true community when your car is not where you left it every time your group meets.
  9. Turns out a leprechaun’s greatest fear isn’t public speaking.  It’s being held captive…in your living room!
  10. Your church’s ban on drinking alcohol during small group meetings.  Just ain’t working for the lil guy in the green coat (Thanks to Thom Emery for #10). 

Have one to add?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.


Dilbert on Hiring the Right People

Sometimes you just have to laugh.  Or you need to laugh.  Either way…this is a funny one.

mental problems

Would You Rather: Connect More People or Eliminate Risk?

If you had to choose, would you rather connect more people or eliminate risk?

Don’t you hate a proposition like that?  But if you think about it, it’s really the premise behind the childhood game.  Two choices.  Choose which of the choices you’d rather make.  See also, Would You Rather: Connect More People or Make More Disciples?

Important to understand though, that this is a real choice that all of us make.  In this case the real question is would you rather connect more people (by lowering the bar in terms of what it takes to lead a group) or connect fewer people (as a result of a higher bar of leadership without the risk that some of some percentage of group leaders not being up to the highest standards)?

Fun to think about, right?  Actually, all of make this choice or one like it all the time.  You may not spell it out this way, but you still make this choice.

How would you answer the question?  Would you rather connect more people or eliminate risk?

Here’s how I answer: I’d rather connect more people knowing that for every 100 groups I start I may have two led by ax murderers and another two who end up doing The Secret.  If 96 out of 100 don’t have issues like that, aren’t I way ahead?  Haven’t I just connected something like 960 people?

When I make this choice, three factors enter into the equation for me:

  1. I like connecting 960 people.  See also, Leader Qualification: Raising the Bar, Lowering the Bar or Open Bar?
  2. I want to do what I can to protect the 40 who end up with the ax murderers and Oprah fans.
  3. I am certain that unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at my church again.  See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting People?

What do you think?  How do you land on this question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Amazed and Confused: A Great New Book (and Study) by Heather Zempel

amazed and confusedI might as well get this out of the way.  You are going to want your own copy of Amazed and Confused.  In my experience, it really doesn’t matter what Heather Zempel is writing about or talking about…I want to read it again or hear it again.  That’s just always been my experience.  And this time is no exception.  Beyond that, you’re going to think of small groups that really need to do this study!

Heather Zempel is the discipleship pastor at National Community Church in Washington DC where she oversees small groups, directs leadership development training and serves on the weekend teaching team.  With a background that includes a masters degree in biological engineering and a stint as a policy consultant on energy and the environment in the United States Senate, her writing and teaching is always packed with incredibly memorable examples.

Amazed and Confused: When God’s Actions Collide with Our Expectations is a fascinating look at the Old Testament book of Habakkuk.  If you find it hard to believe that an exploration of Habakkuk could be fascinating, you are not alone.  One of the more minor minor prophets, I didn’t know a lot about him or his season as a prophet when I cracked open the book.  Now?  Amazed and Confused opened my eyes to some powerful truths about God.  I think more importantly, I discovered a story that the people in our small groups need to know.

An important aspect of Amazed and Confused is that every chapter ends with a great set of small group discussion questions.  Heather’s writing style is very engaging, so group members will find themselves pulled along.  And the questions are the sort that an experienced curriculum writer would design.  Very well done!

When I opened the book, I thought what I would enjoy most about the book was the way profound truths were unveiled, illustrated with classically memorable Zempel tales (there was a doozy involving a sinkhole).  What I ended up appreciating the most?  Without a doubt, what I appreciated the most was the sense that I had just heard the story of Habakkuk from someone who knew him cover to cover.

Whether you’re just looking for a book that will encourage you personally, or you’re on the lookout for a book study that your small groups would find helpful and engaging, I highly recommend Amazed and Confused.  I loved it and I think you will too!

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 may receive an affiliate commission. In addition, I am a 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.”

A Smörgåsbord of Destinations vs Sequential and Tailored Next Steps

2615802457_48ec34f708_zHow would you describe your church?  How would you describe the collection of ministries of your church?  Particularly your ministries and programs designed to meet the needs of adults?

I’m always looking for ways to better describe a phenomenon that occurs naturally in churches everywhere.  I sometimes refer to this phenomenon as the Smörgåsbord of Destinations.  Can you see already what I’m talking about?  Or do you need a little help?  See also, A “Plated” Meal Leads to a Church OF Groups.

A smörgåsbord of destinations occurs when ministries and programs are encouraged (or allowed) even though they aren’t a step that leads anywhere you want people to go.  For example, you have difficulty saying no so you make space available for a class that is an opportunity for adults to learn more about the Bible.  Not bad unless the class becomes more like a club for sponges that never get squeezed out (i.e., no one is really applying what they’re learning…they’re just learning).

Or maybe you made space available for a marriage 101 class that over time became an opportunity for marriage groupies to hang out and study the latest marriage curriculum.  Not really an opportunity to go out and share what they’re learning.  More about benefitting from than contributing to.  And to top it off, it often comes at the expense of leading a group or being a member in a group.

A smörgåsbord of destinations.

Sequential and Tailored Next Steps

Contrast the smörgåsbord idea with a set of sequential and tailored next steps.  They lead in the direction you want everyone to go.  They lead only in the direction you want everyone to go.

These next steps are designed to pull unconnected people from the anonymity of the auditorium into a next step that is specifically tailored with them in mind.  And, the objective of the careful design is to also provide another next step that is easy, obvious and strategic.  See also, Create Connecting Steps that Are Easy, Obvious, and Strategic and How Would You Rate the First Steps Out of Your Auditorium?

A commitment to sequential and tailored next steps makes it necessary to say no to any activity or program that can’t clearly articulate who it is for.  It also makes it necessary to say no to any activity or program that can’t identify its own next step.

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

Image by Hotel Montecatini Terme