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Add “Thanks for the Feedback” To Your Must-Read List

thanks for the feedbackIf you haven’t picked up Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, now is the time. In my mind, Sheila Heen gave one of the best talks at the most recent Global Leadership Summit, and it was based on the learnings found in this book.

As I listened to Heen’s talk at the Summit, I found myself again and again thinking, “This is actually a key to discipleship.” In the days since the conference I’ve become even more convinced that becoming a mature follower of Jesus has everything to do with learning to seek out feedback and receive it well.

While it doesn’t read like a research based book, it certainly is written from deep experience, the result of ten years of “working with businesses, nonprofits, governments, and families to determine what helps us learn and what gets in our way.”

Working my way through the book I discovered it is jam packed with insight and highly teachable and very practical skills. The practices and techniques presented in Thanks for the Feedback can easily be packaged and delivered as a series of skill-training breakouts or team development exercises.

The set up is very good, first recognizing and identifying the things that get in the way of hearing and benefitting from feedback. Learning about the three triggers (truth triggers, relationship triggers, and identity triggers) that block feedback is eye-opening and provides key insights, making the practices and techniques understandable and why-didn’t-I-think-of-this obvious.

Thanks for the Feedback is packed with great take-aways and very actionable. My copy is highlighted and bookmarked and I am already looking for opportunities to implement what I’ve learned here.

Whether you want to build a great team or organization or simply become a better disciple, you need to pick up a copy of Thanks for the Feedback. I believe this is a must-read book for all of us.

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. I am also 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.”

Thinking Thursday: How Far Can Curiosity Take You?

james cameronJames Cameron’s big-budget (and even bigger-grossing) films create unreal worlds all their own. In this personal talk, he reveals his childhood fascination with the fantastic — from reading science fiction to deep-sea diving — and how it ultimately drove the success of his blockbuster hits “Aliens,” “The Terminator,” “Titanic” and “Avatar.”

Can’t see the video? You can watch it right here.

Every week I choose a video that I think you need to see and believe will inspire some new thinking. You can find the rest of the collection right here.

Quotebook: Receiving Feedback and Effective Discipleship

feedbackYou may have never thought of discipleship quite this way, but effective discipleship really has to do with the disciple’s ability to receive feedback. This important idea switched on for me at the Global Leadership Summit listening to Sheila Heen talk about feedback (you can read my key takeaways from her talk right here).

As Dallas Willard pointed out, “a mature disciple is one who effortlessly does what Jesus would do if Jesus were him.” And how will a mature disciple learn to do what Jesus would do if Jesus were him? Isn’t the answer “feedback”?

“It doesn’t matter how much authority or power a feedback giver has; the receivers are in control of what they do and don’t let in, how they make sense of what they’re hearing, and whether they choose to change.” Thanks for the Feedback, p. 5

Image by Ken Bosma

How Do You Measure Up to the 5 Intangibles of Leadership?

bill hybelsIn the days and weeks following the Global Leadership Summit it’s pretty common for me to work my way back through my notes and begin reading the books I bought.

This morning I spent some time thinking about Bill Hybels’ talk. He set up his talk by pointing out that “we define leadership as moving people from here to there.” He said, “leadership is not about presiding over something, protecting a position or pontificating about how smart you are. Leadership is about movement.”

He went on to identify the 5 intangibles of leadership.

Based on a book by Ed Davis, here are the intangibles identified by Hybels:

  1. Grit: “Grit is passion and perseverance over the long haul.” “Grit can be developed, but its archenemy is ease.”  “We must assign ourselves difficult tasks to grow grit.  Gritty organizations are unstoppable.”
  2. Self-awareness: Statistics show that every leader has 3.4 blindspots. A blindspot is something someone believes they do well, but everyone else knows they do not. Who can help you become aware of your own blindspots? Your direct supervisor and everyone who works with you.
  3. Resourcefulness: Hybels pointed out that organizations that grow resourcefulness among their senior leadership teams grow 25% more than their competitors. Resourceful people are quick learners, endlessly curious, enthusiastic experimenters and collaborators.
  4. Self-sacrificing love: “Self-sacrificing love has always been and will always be at the absolute core of leadership.” “The quality of your own loving will set the tone for your whole organization.”
  5. Sense of meaning: Hybels referred to Simon Sinek’s TED talk and book Start with Why and stated that it is “absolutely essential to know and be driven by your ‘white hot why.'”

As I re-read my notes today and attempt to evaluate my own leadership I’m realizing again that I have a lot of work to do. I’m asking questions like:

  • Do I have grit? How can I grow in my own grittiness? How can I lead my team to grow in grit?
  • Am I self-aware? What are my blindspots? Who can provide the feedback I need?
  • Am I resourceful? How can I grow in resourcefulness? How can I help my team grow in resourcefulness?
  • Is self-sacrificing love a characteristic of my own leadership? Or am I really just out for myself?
  • Do I have sense-of-meaning in my leadership? Does my team know what my “white hot why” is?

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

My notes on Hybels’ session are the frantic scribbles of one desperate to glean everything possible from a powerful talk. You can find many more quotes in this post by Brian Dodd and this one at

5 Simple Mistakes That Sink Small Group Ministries

15556193740_f18ec95fa6_cFiguring out why small group ministries fail is not complicated. There is a short list of simple mistakes that sink small group ministries.

5 Simple Mistakes that Sink Small Group Ministries

  1. Allowing the senior pastor to delegate the role of small group champion. It may seem logical to delegate the role of small group champion to the small group pastor. After all, why have a small group pastor if not to be the champion? This simple mistake may seem logical, but when this is allowed to happen you announce to everyone that being involved in a small group is an add-on activity. You also fail to take advantage of the most influential voice in the church. See also, Rethinking the Role of the Small Group Pastor and Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.
  2. Adding members to existing groups instead of starting new groups. It seems like the right thing to do, doesn’t it? After all, don’t you have a commitment to help small group leaders succeed? Why shouldn’t you provide a steady stream of new members to existing groups? There are at least two very good reasons. First, prioritizing launching new groups is a key to building a thriving small group ministry. Second, it is actually counter productive to add new members to existing groups. Once a group has been meeting longer than about three months it becomes increasingly more difficult for a new member to break through the nearly impermeable membrane that forms. Only the most brazen extroverts,  experienced party crashers, and friends of current members succeed. Everyone else finds breaking into the clique too difficult. See also, Top 5 Ways to Start New Groups. Lots of New Groups and Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs Starting New Groups.
  3. Starting new groups without providing a coach. While building an effective coaching structure is definitely a challenging part of building a thriving small group ministry, providing someone with experience to walk alongside every new leader is an important key to sustaining the new groups you launch. Failing to provide a coach to guide every new leader is a simple mistake that sinks many small group ministries. You can start as many new groups as you’d like, but if you can’t sustain a high percentage of what you start your ministry will not grow. See also, 5 Steps to Sustaining the New Groups You Launch.
  4. Calling everything a small group. In order to invite unconnected people to something more than an opportunity to develop friendships, what you invite them to must be something that provides the essential ingredients of life-change. Unless everything you call a small group provides the essential ingredients of life-change, you will often send unconnected people in the wrong direction, connecting them to programs that detour them from where they need to go. See also, Groups of All Kinds and the Essential Ingredients of Life-Change.
  5. Promoting small groups on an annual basis. If the annual emphasis for small group ministry (alongside the annual emphasis for volunteering, student ministry, children’s ministry, foreign missions, local outreach, etc.) is the only time you talk about or promote the importance of being connected to a group, you will never build a thriving small group ministry. In fact, one of the most important reasons explaining Saddleback and North Point’s success at connecting such high percentages of their adult attendance to groups is that they never stop talking about small groups. See also, Top 10 Reasons Saddleback Has Connected Over 130% in Small Groups.

Recognize any of these mistakes in your own small group ministry?

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

Image by ierdnall

Great New Study for Women: Seamless: Understanding the Bible as One Complete Story

Had an opportunity to preview a new study from Angie Smith. Seamless: Understanding the Bible as One Complete Story is a 7 session Bible study for women that “shows how the whole Bible–from Genesis through Revelation–connects as one beautiful seamless thread.” Angie Smith is the best-selling author of Mended, I Will Carry You and What Women Fear. Because of her background, she comes at the story of the Bible in a way that women who are new to Bible study will find very compelling.

DVD-driven, Seamless features the teaching of Angie Smith. The sessions are short, ranging from 11 to 16 minutes in length. Very conversational, her speaking style will grab your members’ attention from the opening moments.

The Bible Study book includes what you’d expect in a DVD-driven study. A section designed to help members review last week’s homework and questions that will help them talk about what they learned in the video. What may set this study apart is the care taken at setting up even the newest to the Bible members to gain a new understanding of the seamless story of the Bible. Each week has five days of homework and there’s enough there to take participants 30 to 60 minutes to complete. The writing is very engaging (sprinkled with trivia and fun facts) and will help along new members while keeping seasoned veterans engaged.

I don’t know about you, but I am constantly on the lookout for studies that will appeal to unconnected women who aren’t already part of a small group or Bible study. To qualify, the speaker on the video has to come across like someone a normal person can hang out with at a Starbucks. To qualify, the writing has to be understandable (without an interpreter) and engaging, pulling the member further into the content. Seamless qualifies. I loved it and I think your members will too.

Thinking Thursday: What All Great Design Companies Know

robert brunnerWe can learn a lot by listening to design experts talk about the care behind the design process at companies like Apple and BMW.  In this 99U talk, designer Robert Brunner deconstructs his creative process revealing the stories behind products like Beats by Dre headphones and the Polaroid Cube.

Can’t see the video? You can click here to watch it.

Every week I choose a video that I think you need to see and believe will inspire some new thinking. You can find the rest of the collection right here.

Growth or Control? Which Do You Really Want?

limitless growthI often get a good conversation going when I write about the small group connection strategy or the HOST strategy (two small group strategies that seem to include high risk). Comments always include things like, “How do you know the people who are hosting a group aren’t ax murderers and adulterers?” Or, “How can you be sure the people who are chosen to lead the connection group are people your elders would approve as leaders?”

In reply, I’ve often said, “There is no problem-free small group model, system or strategy. Every small group strategy comes with a set of problems. Wise leaders choose the set of problems they’d rather have.”

The truth is, every strategy that seems safe also come with a set of problems. Problems included in safe strategies include things like:

  • Can’t find enough qualified leaders
  • Aren’t multiplying new groups fast enough
  • Difficult to match members with available groups

See also, Breaking: No Problem-Free System, Model, or Strategy.

My suggestion? Know that you can program for growth or control…but not both. If you’re stuck, if your small group ministry isn’t thriving, it is most likely because you’ve designed a system that feels safe and you haven’t acknowledged the fact that the factors you believe guarantee safety are actually obstacle that prevent growth.

I love this line from David Chrzan*, “You can have growth or you can have control. And you have to decide how much of each you want.”

Are you so focused on safety that you’ve programmed out exponential growth?

Image by Stathis Stavrianos

*I’ve also heard this line associated with Rick Warren.

Frequently Asked Questions about Small Group Connections

pointing connectionI get asked a lot of questions about the ins and outs of small group connections.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions:

  1. How many unconnected people do you need in order to hold a successful small group connection? I have successfully connected people with as few as 20 to 30 and as many as 350 in a single room. The more people you have, the better the affinity you can manufacture. The smaller the attendance, the more likely it becomes that you’ll end up with groups that don’t have enough in common to stick.
  2. What do you do if you don’t have enough people to form a good group for everyone at the connection? There are definitely times when there won’t be enough people to form all the groups you hope to form. For example, you might have enough couples and enough women to form couples’ groups and women’s groups, but only have 2 men show up. What do I do? We are always ready to call an audible and promise to do everything possible to connect everyone with the best match possible within 48 hours. That usually means an already existing men’s group. When we’ve done everything possible and there still isn’t a match, we call the person back and do our best to find a way to connect them.
  3. What happens if the group just doesn’t pick a leader or picks more than one? What they are being guided to choose is the “person they’d be willing to follow for a 6-week test-drive.” When you carefully follow the strategy it will almost always produce more than one leader from every group. In rare instances, it will only produce one leader. When the group is unanimous in their selection, something has almost always gone wrong.
  4. What happens if the group picks someone who is not a good choice? When the strategy is carefully followed, the group will almost always choose the best candidate(s). The connection strategy is designed to help each group choose the best potential leader(s). They might not meet the standards you have for a small group leader.  You might think of it as choosing the best candidate relative to the other members of the group. It is very common for the group’s selection to be considered a potential leader subject to a set of next steps (i.e., fill out a questionnaire, meet with a coach during the first 6 weeks, attend a leaders’ orientation, etc.).
  5. What happens when the chosen leader doesn’t want to be the leader? This does happen every once in a while. But since every group almost always chooses 2 (or more) leaders, there is almost always a fall back option. And on those rare occasions when things just go awry, you can always call an audible and ask “who would like to host the first meeting?”
  6. Doesn’t the small group connection strategy feel like a bait-and-switch to the people chosen as leaders? When I gather the newly chosen leaders for a brief standup meeting at the end of the connection event, I always ask two questions. First, I ask, “How many of you came tonight expecting to end up as the leader of a group?” There are always one or two people who raise their hands. Second, I ask, “How many of you feel a little bit like you got tricked? You came expecting to be in a group and you ended up the leader?” And there are almost always several who raise their hands. Which brings me to the main purpose for the leaders standup meeting at the end of the connection. I spend the last few minutes reminding them that there are no good stories in the Bible, Old Testament or New, of people volunteering to be a leader. All of the stories are about people being chosen. You’ll find a very complete example of how I talk about this in Here’s How I Lead a Small Group Connection.
  7. Are small group leaders of already existing groups (looking for a few new members) allowed to use the connection to fish for new members? No. The purpose of a small group connection is to identify new leaders and launch new groups. If you’re looking for a way to add members to existing groups, consider holding a small group fair. See also, Distinctives of the Three Types of Connecting Events.

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

Image by Gabe Austin

How Can I Find More Leaders!?

haystackSmall group pastors fall into one of three categories. Most of us can always use more small group leaders. Many of us are actively looking for more leaders. And some of us are desperately looking for more.

If finding new small group leaders is like looking for a needle in a haystack, you’ll want to take advantage of what I think are the three best ways to find new small group leaders. I’ll share the three methods in a moment, but first I want to point out two important assumptions that make these ideas very potent.

  1. Get over the idea that the best candidates are people you know.  As your church grows it becomes increasingly less likely that your pastor and staff will know everyone.  This makes any leader identification strategy that depends on the personal knowledge of staff doomed to fail.
  2. The most productive strategies will be focused on the edges.  There is nothing wrong with insisting that every leader have an apprentice.  It is a good strategy.  It is a biblical strategy.  It just has limited potential in most churches.  In most churches the largest number of potential group leaders are not currently in a group.  In addition, the least connected people in your congregation are often the most connected in the community.

You can read 8 Secrets for Discovering an Unlimited Number of Leaders for more, but can you see why you need to understand these two when it comes to finding more leaders?

Three Best Methods for Finding New Leaders

With that, here are what I think are the three best methods for finding new small group leaders:

Church-Wide Campaign

Launch a church-wide campaign with the HOST strategy. The very best way to recruit small group leaders is to do a church-wide campaign on a great topic and leverage your senior pastor’s influence to recruit people to host a group. The topic you choose for your campaign is very important. The topic determines who will say yes to hosting and who will say yes to joining.  I’ve written extensively on this topic.  It is not hard, but it does require the cooperation of your senior pastor.  Trust me.  If you select the right campaign, it becomes easy to recruit hosts.  And now with Saddleback’s latest game-changing way of inviting people to host a group, it is even easier and more productive. See How to Make the HOST Ask: The 2012 Version, Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again, and 10 Simple Steps to a Great Church-Wide Campaign.

Small Group Connection

Hold a small group connection. Another great way to identify new small group leaders is to hold an event and let the design of the event itself do the heavy lifting. The small group connection process actually helps group members choose leaders at every table. This is not GroupLink. You don’t need preselected leaders to do it.

When I discovered the Small Group Connection event back in 2000, I was very skeptical.  VERY skeptical.  I became a believer after my very first event.  I’ve written a very detailed 5 part article on How to Launch New Small Groups Using a Small Group Connection.  I’ve recently written a very detailed explanation of how I lead a small group connection. Between the two, you will learn everything you need to know.  The key to this idea is that the event is designed to identify leaders in a way that nothing I’ve ever tried can beat.

Small Group Vacation

Encourage your small groups to take a small group vacation. Can’t see yourself pulling off idea #1 or 2?  Leveraging your senior pastor’s influence to challenge your existing groups to consider taking a small group vacation is another great way to identify some fantastic new leaders.   The plan is really very simple.  Choose a great small group study.  Ask your existing small groups to consider not meeting together as a group for the 6 weeks of the study you choose.  Instead, ask group members to pair up with another couple or 2 or 3 others and help launch a new group.  When the study is over…they can go back to their original group if they’d like.  Their commitment is only for the 6 weeks.  Time after time I’ve found that once group members experience what it’s like to be used by God to help connect a few more…they often choose not to go back to their original group.  See also, Take a Small Group Vacation.

Image by John Pavelka


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