Pushing Boundary-Free GroupLife

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New from LifeWay: Disciples Path is a Series You Need to See

disciples-path-beginningI spent some time with a new resource from LifeWay that I think you’re going to want to know about. Disciples Path is a 6 study journey (a one-year intentional plan for discipleship, specifically designed to make disciples who make disciples).

“Created by disciple-makers for disciple-makers, fourteen disciple-making church leaders were brought together to think through how to instill biblical understandings, principles, and practices of discipleship with the end goal of making disciples who make disciples (from the introduction).”

Four discipleship distinctives are incorporated into the finished product. The Disciples Path is progressive (it takes you somewhere); it is relational (it is a journey taken alongside a disciple-maker); it is disciplined (what happens between meetings is more important than what happens in them); and it is replicable (the person who has been discipled then uses the series to disciple another).

Truly designed as a journey, “each session of the journey offers a mix of group discussion, personal study, and practical application.” Each session begins with group discussion, engaging the Bible through both story and teaching. An individual discovery section includes content for individual use during the time between group gatherings (incorporating worship, personal study and application.

I like the design of the group discussion material. A combination of reading and questions for discussion, it should produce a good conversation that prepares the individual or group for application. The content assumes very little prior Bible knowledge and is well-written, making it easy to use regardless of background.

The weekly activities are enough to require commitment and discipline, but not so much as to be oppressive. Along with a daily Bible reading plan, additional activities are to be selected from a checklist by the disciple and discipler to “match personal preferences and available time (an interesting idea).”

You can learn more and sign up for a free preview right here.

I like the format and plan and can see it being used in a variety of situations and settings. The writing and design definitely make Disciples Path accessible regardless of spiritual background. While there is challenge built into the content and pace, it isn’t overwhelming. Enough to require commitment. Not so much as to be a deterrent.

If you’re looking for a discipleship toolkit, spend some time with Disciples Path. I found it to be really engaging and well-designed. 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. 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.”

Trending Now? “Come Over” vs “Meet Me” or “Come with Me”

meet-meTrending Now? “Come Over” vs “Meet Me” or “Come with Me”

As America shifts ever more to a post-Christian country, the invite to “meet me at my church” or “come with me to my church” will become less common and the invite to “come over to my house” or “meet me at Starbucks” will become more common.

Are you seeing this happen where you are?

In The Top 10 Signs You’re Prioritizing the Right Things in Small Group Ministry I included #6:

6. Your groups are inviting and including friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members. Far beyond holy huddles, your groups are truly inclusive outposts in the community.

How would you evaluate that practice in your small group ministry? Is it happening? To what extent is it happening?

recent Barna Group study indicated that “from 2013 to 2015 the percentage of Americans who qualify as ‘post-Christian’ rose by 7 percentage points.” As I reflected on the findings of the study I observed that “if the majority of your small groups never connect anyone who doesn’t already attend a Christian church, the fastest growing segment of your community is unreachable.”

Further Reading

Image by Franz Jachim

Top 10 Signs You’re Prioritizing the Right Things in Your Small Group Ministry

prioritiesTop 10 Signs You’re Prioritizing the Right Things in Your Small Group Ministry

Ever wonder if you are headed in the right direction with your small group ministry? If what you’re doing is the right thing? Or if what you’re focusing on is making a difference?

Can we know whether we’re focusing on the right things?

I believe we can. And I believe it is possible to measure outcomes to check progress; that much like looking for certain milestones or markers on a long journey, we can be on the lookout for signs we are still headed in the right direction.

Here are the top 10 signs you’re prioritizing the right things:

  1. Your true percentage connected is growing every year. You’re not treading water. If your church is growing your percentage connected is keeping up or gaining. If your church attendance is steady your percentage connected is growing. See also, What Percentage of Your Adults Are Actually Connected?
  2. Being a participating member of a group is becoming a real expectation. Modeled by staff and leadership, it is becoming surprising to discover regular worship attenders who aren’t involved in a group.
  3. Your number of leaders is growing every year. You’re not just replacing leaders who move away or need to take a break. You’re adding new leaders on a regular basis.
  4. Your group leaders are growing in their leadership. Far more than hosts who convene meetings or facilitators who lead discussions, your leaders are becoming true shepherds who do the right things TO and FOR their members. See also, 8 Commitments for Small Group Leaders and What Can I Require of My Small Group Leaders.
  5. Your number of groups is growing every year. Your groups aren’t just growing to accommodate friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members of their members. Your total number of groups is growing and increasing the connecting and caring reach and capacity of your ministry. See also, Are You Prioritizing the Launch of New Groups?
  6. Your groups are inviting and including friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members. Far beyond holy huddles, your groups are truly inclusive outposts in the community.
  7. Your coaching structure is delivering on its promise. New group leaders are receiving experienced guidance. All leaders feel cared for as a result of a healthy span of care. See also, 6 Characteristics of an Effective Small Group Coach.
  8. Your coaches feel like their contribution is essential and that they are valued contributors. They feel they are being shepherded and cared for; that someone is doing TO and FOR them the kinds of things that help them grow in their own relationship with Jesus. See also, Model What You Want to Happen at the Member Level.
  9. Group members are becoming better disciples. Far beyond simply belonging to a group, group members are steadily becoming more like Jesus. See also, 8 Things I Know for Sure about Making Disciples in Groups.
  10. Life-change stories are powerful and abundant. You don’t have to go on a hunt for stories. They’re already being told by group leaders and coaches. The stories being told are powerful examples of authentic life-change. See also, Skill Training: Design Your Group Meeting for Life-Change.

What do you think?  Are you prioritizing the right things? Want to suggest another priority? You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Image by Peter Reed

Are You Prioritizing the Launch of New Groups?


Are You Prioritizing the Launch of New Groups?

When you think about the last year (or two), how much emphasis have you placed on launching new groups? What percentage of your energy has gone to launching new groups (versus maintaining existing groups)? How much of your time has gone to sustaining the new groups you’ve launched (versus maintaining existing groups)?

You may not see this right away, but if you’re spending more time maintaining existing groups than launching new groups…you are almost always treading water.

Is your percentage connected growing?

When I talk with small group pastors and they tell me they are having trouble growing their percentage connected, it is almost always because they are spending more time and energy on maintaining existing groups than launching new groups.

Is your total number of groups growing?

When I talk with small group pastors and they tell me they are having trouble growing their number of groups, it is almost always because they are prioritizing their existing groups rather than the launch of new groups.

Is your total number connected growing?

When I talk with small group pastors and they tell me their number connected is flatlined, it is almost always because they are prioritizing their existing groups instead of launching new groups.

Bottom Line:

Unless all three numbers are growing…you’re treading water. Treading water is a good thing when the alternative is going under. Treading water is not a good thing when unconnected people are facing closing windows. Remember, unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again. Unconnected people are one tough thing away from not being at your church. Loss of a job.  Divorce or separation.  A devastating diagnosis.  A child in trouble.

Unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again. Loss of a job.  Divorce or separation.  A devastating diagnosis.  A child in trouble. One tough thing.

Are you treading water? At whose expense are you treading water?

Further Reading:

Image by Scott Hughes

Friday’s List | December 2

fridays-listFriday’s List: December 2

I’ve been meaning to do this for quite awhile. I’m asked for recommendations all the time. I’ll be posting a short list every Friday.

Here are the things I’m reading, listening to, loving and wrestling with:

Here’s what I’m reading right now:

Craziness, Consumerism and Making Christmas Awesome by Brandon Cox. Great read.

5 Things The Decline Of Radio And TV Can Tell Us About The Future Of The Church by Carey Nieuwhof. Don’t miss this one.

7 Skills that Are Hard to Learn but Pay Off Forever by Travis Bradberry. This is a great read and very helpful for goals setting for the New Year. HT Tim Stevens (and if you’re not subscribed to Tim’s blog you’re missing out.

How Your Control Freak Tendencies Stunt Your Church’s Growth by Carey Nieuwhof. Very important post.

Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways byBill Taylor,  This is a read and then read again kind of book.

Here’s what I’m listening to:

How To Build A Leadership Development Pipeline with Eric Geiger & Kevin Peck on the Vanderbloemen Leadership Podcast  [Podcast]

How to Be Simply Brilliant with Bill Taylor on the Accidental Creative Podcast. Bill Taylor is one of my favorite authors. The Accidental Creative Podcasts is one of my favorite listens every week.

Tim Ferriss on Finding and Focusing on What Truly Matters on the Rainmaker FM podcast. Tim’s an interesting guy and may not be your cup of tea…but I learn a lot by listening to him think out loud.

Quote I’m wrestling with:

“What would have to be true for that approach to work?”  Or, “What would have to be true for the idea on the table to be a fantastic option?” I love these two questions from Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management (p. 12, The Design of Business).

My own post I hope you’re reading:

Ranking the Most Powerful Strategies for Launching New Groups:  This thinking comes up over and over again in conversations with readers and consulting clients.

great-questions“What would have to be true for that approach to work?”  Or, “for the idea on the table to be a fantastic option?”

I love these two questions from Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management (p. 12, The Design of Business).

Here are some additional posts that might be helpful:

Image by Eric

How to Answer the Questions of Unconnected People

question-raised-handFirst News flash: Joining a small group is a foreign concept to most unconnected people. With the exception of currently unconnected people who have been in a group before, everyone with no experience hears “small group” and either wonders what you’re talking about and why it is so important or has a wide range of common misconceptions.

Second News Flash: Unconnected people are unsure about joining a small group. They also have many questions about coming to a small group connection!

Three Important Things You Can Do

There are three important things you can do to help unconnected people understand small groups and small group connections:

  1. Testimonies (both live and video) from people who got connected to a small group. Whether it’s a new laundry detergent, a new treatment for hair loss, or a dating service like eHarmony, the testimonials of satisfied customers are often the most powerful persuasion to try something new. See also, How to Develop Video or Live Testimony that Recruits Hosts or Members.
  2. Website and print content. Along with live or video testimonials from satisfied customers, well-written web or print content can help unconnected people brave uncharted waters.
  3. Easy access FAQs (frequently asked questions). Web or print FAQs can provide “risk-free” answers to common questions. Click here to download an example FAQ for a small group connection.

Further Reading:

Image by U.S. Department of Agriculture

Ranking the Most Powerful Strategies for Launching New Groups

launchingWhether I’m buying a TV or choosing between phone plans, I like to see a side by side comparison. Don’t you? Or how about a list that ranks products according to their performance?

The top 8 ways to launch new groups (according to their performance):

Please keep a few things in mind as you look over the list today.

  • First, this list is based on my opinion. You may have a different opinion. I just ask that you read through my rationale to fully understand how I ranked the strategies this way.
  • Second, I’ve based my ranking on average results (not exceptions to the average). You may know of a church that has exceptional results.
  • Third, I’ve left a few strategies out that are really more add-on in nature.  Since they’re not stand-alone strategies, I’ve listed them below.
  • Fourth, this is about launching new groups. Not adding to existing groups.

Here’s the list ranked from lowest potential to highest potential to launch new groups:

8. Apprenticing: Apprenticing is an important leadership development strategy. Every leader should be apprenticing. Although “results may vary” apprenticing only rarely results in a new group every 12 to 18 months. Far more commonly, apprenticing strategies produce co-leaders of existing groups. See also, True or False: Leaders with Apprentices Leads to More New Groups?

7. Free Market/Semester-System: Free-market run in the classic sense involves the production of a catalog of available groups every semester and either 2 or 3 opportunities to select a group to join for the upcoming semester. Operators of free market systems rarely report an overabundance of new leaders or new groups. Rather, new leaders more commonly replace retiring leaders (or those “taking a break”). See also, An Analysis of the Free Market Small Group Strategy.

6. Sermon-Based/Semester-System: Sermon-based systems have a slight advantage over free-market in that it is generally part of the culture of the church (a la North Coast) and “everyone is doing it.” Still, new leaders more commonly replace retiring leaders (or those “taking a break”). See also, An Analysis of the Sermon-Based Small Group Strategy.

5. Book Club (that leads to off-campus): Choosing the right book offers a larger sign-up. This strategy often leads to large numbers of unconnected people participating. As it is not promoted as a way to join a group, it also leads to connecting unconnected people into table groups that often decide to stay together and continue meeting. See also, Two Big Opportunities That Will Connect More People This Spring.

4. Short-Term On-Campus (that leads to off-campus): This strategy has more potential than the book club because it most commonly offers a slate of options to choose from (i.e. Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, The New Rules for Sex and Dating, Authentic Manhood, etc.). Marketed well and run correctly, this strategy consistently leads to new groups that continue meeting off-campus. See also, North Point Increases GroupLife Participation by Adding an Easier Next Step.

3. GroupLink: North Point’s popular strategy can lead to new groups with new leaders, but is primarily a strategy that enables pre-approved leaders to fill their groups with unconnected people. When there are not enough pre-approved leaders a secondary practice kicks in and groups are formed with the expectation that a leader will be identified (as part of the process) from amongst the group. See also, North Point’s Small Group System.

2. Small Group Connection: Saddleback’s small group connection strategy builds leader identification into the event itself. Every group formed is a new group with a new leader. See also, How to Launch New Groups Using a Small Group Connection – 2016.

1. Church-Wide Campaign: Well-executed church-wide campaigns leverage the HOST strategy (or the “if you have a couple friends” variation) to form new groups. Existing groups can be encourage to “take a small group vacation” and can multiply to form additional new groups. Leveraging the power of the senior pastor’s influence can lead to waves of unconnected people responding to the challenge of joining a six-week group (that can and often does choose to continue). See also, The Exponential Power of a Church-Wide Campaign and 10 Simple Steps to a Great Church-Wide Campaign.

Add-on strategies:

Further Reading:

Image by Stuart Rankin

5 of the Best Studies for Small Group Connections

5-of-the-best-studies-for-small-group-connectionsI’m often asked “what are the best studies for small group connections?” This is a great question and actually a very important question.

Choosing the right study is important because the topic often determines who will say “yes” to joining the group.

I’ve written previously on the topic of how to choose the right study for small group connections. In that article I listed the four characteristics of studies that will connect unconnected people.

When I use those four characteristics to develop a list of the best studies for small group connections, I come up with this list:

Community: Starting Well in Your Groupcommunity starting well is the study used by North Point for groups launched at Group Link. It’s important to note that Community is not a Bible study.  Instead, it really is a guided conversation designed to help the members of your new group show up, join in, and be real.  Every session includes an introduction and short reading assignment to be read as preparation.  A skillfully designed set of discussion questions will help group members share their story in a way that will help them talk about things that help knit hearts together.

What on Earth Am I Here For?what on earth am i here for is the new name for the study that anchors 40 Days of Purpose. You might think, “Wait, that’s been around too long” or “wouldn’t the people we’re trying to connect have already done it?” but in reality, most of the people you are trying to connect will not have participated in the study previously. And the topic is spot on when you’re looking for one with broad appeal.

followFollow: No Experience Necessary is DVD-driven and each of the sessions is a 17 to 22 minute clip from an Andy Stanley message.  One of the most compelling communicators in America, this is must see TV.  Never flashy or fancy, Stanley is known for his ability to draw out life-changing truth and deliver it in a way that is both inspiring and very memorable.  Follow is an excellent example of his pattern of taking difficult or challenging ideas and presenting them in a way that leads to application.

wiser-togetherWiser Together: Learning to Live Together “challenges you and your small group to make doing life together a priority, exploring from the book of Proverbs the inseparable connection between experiencing community and growing in wisdom.” Featuring teaching by Bill Hybels, the founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, the sessions are classic examples of his style.  Each segment is a manageable length, the average time is 13 to 18 minutes.

relatableRelatable: Making Relationships Work is the newest study from Louie Giglio, senior pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and founder of Passion Conferences. DVD-driven,  Relatable is a 6 session study that features Giglio teaching live from a message series at Passion City Church in early 2015. The video sessions are excerpted from full messages and average 18 to 23 minutes long. A powerful speaker, Giglio has no trouble holding your members attention. Spoiler Alert: There are a number of moments when God’s presence in the room is palpable.

Certainly, these aren’t the only studies that will work well with a small group connection. In my mind they are among the very best because they fit the four characteristics of studies that will connect unconnected people.

Take Advantage of My Black Friday LONG Weekend Sale!


Take Advantage of My Black Friday LONG Weekend Sale!

This is a once a year thing and it’s happening right now!

Wednesday, November 23rd through Monday, November 28th at 9:00 p.m. PST you can get some great deals on many of my most popular mini-courses, coaching call packages, GroupLife Southwest 2017, and even my 2017 Coaching Network!

Enter RIGHT HERE to see what I’m offering!

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