New from North Point: [7] Seven Questions that Rattle in the Minds of Most Men

seven questions 2[7] Seven Questions that Rattle in the Minds of Most Men is a powerful new study based on a 7 week study that has been offered at North Point over the last several years.  Now available from North Point Ministries, this is a resource you need to be aware of.

Developed as a way to help men explore God’s design for manhood, [7] invites men to “live free and lead well.”  Now available as a 7 session, DVD-driven study.  The video sessions are short, just 7 to 8 minutes (perfect for today’s attention span) and feature John Woodall, North Point’s Director of Men’s Groups.

The participant guide is really well thought out as an introductory study for men.  No preparation necessary, the study is easy to use as a first step out of the auditorium.
Although the 7 questions are very basic and you may have read in other books and resources over the years, it is a very provocative set.  They may seem elementary, but there are some powerful discussions wrapped up right here.  What are they?

  1. Where Am I?
  2. What’s My Story?
  3. Who Am I?
  4. Why Am I Here?
  5. Where Am I Going?
  6. What About Women?
  7. Who Can I Trust?

Although [7] is very intuitively designed, a helpful leader resource is available at with both video coaching from John Woodall and an online leader notes.

If you’re looking for an idea that will pull unconnected men into community, I think you’re going to discover that [7] Seven Questions that Rattle in the Minds of Most Men is a great new addition.  I really like this study and I think you will too.

20 Frequently Asked Questions about Small Group Coaching

Do you have a question or two about small group coaching?  Maybe you’re nostril deep in the swamp of trying to build an effective coaching structure.  Maybe you’ve just run into a snag.  And maybe you’ve given up altogether.

If you’re trying to build an effective coaching structure, don’t give up!  Remember, whatever you want to happen in the lives of your the members in your groups has to happen in your leaders’ lives first.  And that almost always means…you need to build an effective coaching structure.

Here are 20 frequently asked questions…and the articles I’ve written to answer them.

  1. Who makes a good small group coach?  6 Essential Characteristics of an Effective Small Group Coach.
  2. What are the basic ideas in small group coaching?  7 Core Ideas in Small Group Coaching.
  3. How can I diagnose the coaches in my coaching structure?  Diagnosis: The Coaches in Your System.
  4. I can’t find enough coaches.  Should I lower my standards a little?  Recruiting Coaches: When Not to Compromise.
  5. How can we recruit enough coaches to care for the new hosts we add with a church-wide campaign?  Recruiting additional coaches for church-wide campaigns.
  6. How do I build an effective coaching structure?  How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.
  7. How many small group leaders can be cared for by a coach.  Span of Care.
  8. Do you have a job description for a small group coach?  Small Group Coach Job Description.
  9. What does a coach actually do?  FAQ: How Much of Coaching Is about Technique?
  10. What kind of structure should we be trying to build?  What does small group coaching look like in your preferred future?
  11. What is the end in mind for small group coaching?  Imagine If Your Coaching Structure Was Like This.
  12. How do I establish coaching for existing small group leaders?  How to Implement Coaching for Existing Leaders and How to Add Value to Experienced Small Group Leaders.
  13. What do I do when my leaders don’t want a coach?  What to Do When Your Leaders Don’t Want a Coach?
  14. What causes small group coaching to fail?  5 Assumptions that Set Small Group Coaching Up to #FAIL.
  15. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned about coaching?  5 Things I Wish I Had Known about Small Group Coaching.
  16. How can I develop the coaches in my system?  7 Practices for Discipling and Developing Your Coaches.
  17. What is Saddleback’s plan for small group coaching?  Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway.
  18. What should I do about coaches that don’t do what’s needed?  What To Do about Underperforming Coaches?
  19. What are the best books on small group coaching?  Resources that Equip Coaches.
  20. Where do you find coaches?  Where Can I Find New Coaches?

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

Here are 6 Great Examples of a HOST Ask

If you’ve been along for very much of this conversation, you know that I believe the most exponential way to launch small groups is with a church-wide campaign that utilizes a HOST ask strategy (an open invitation from the senior pastor to host a small group).  There are lots of ways to launch groups.  I have no doubt this is the most potent strategy.

I’ve written about making the HOST ask many times.  When to make the ask.  How to set it up.  How many times to do it.  How to take advantage of testimony to make it even more powerful.  See also, How to Make the HOST Ask: The 2012 Version, Why You Must Make the HOST Ask Several Times in a Row, and 6 Ways to Help Your Senior Pastor Make the HOST Ask.

And I’m often asked if there are some good examples of pastors making the HOST ask.  I took the time this week to gather up 6 that offer good variety and great examples.

Here are 6 examples of a HOST ask:

The first few listed here are well worth spending some time with.

These next 3 are from Preparing for Transformation (3 examples from Rick Warren’s Saddleback series just before the launch of 50 Days of Transformation).  Without a doubt, Rick Warren and Saddleback Church are the masters of this strategy.  These 3 messages are worth watching in their entirety.  You’ll get a good feel for how it works at the church that has leveraged this strategy to connect thousands more adults in groups than they have at their weekend services.

  • How God Changes Us (this is week one of the series just before 50 Days of Transformation. The ask happens at about 42:00 minutes in)
  • 5 Habits of Healthy People (this is week two of the series just before 50 Days of Transformation.  The ask happens at about 57:00 minutes in but there are several setups along the way).
  • Your Life Support System (this is week three of the series of the series just before 50 Days of Transformation.  This whole message is really an ask.  The most pointed section begins about 58 minutes in).

I hope you’ve found this post helpful and I’d love to know of any other great examples you come across.

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

Quotebook: Making Choices Deliberately

essentialismI’m reading a powerful new book called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.  This paragraph caught my attention in the first few minutes and I immediately thought about our many discussions about the intentional design of next steps.  I also thought about the buffet vs plated meal challenge that faces many, many churches.

“The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default.  Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the nonessentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage.  In other words, Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making the execution of those things almost effortless (p. 7, Essentialism).”

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.”

5 Ways Senior Pastors Can Affirm the Value of Small Group Leaders

In yesterday’s post I wrote that a very important thing a small group leader needs to know is that they are appreciated by their senior pastor.  Can it happen in churches of all sizes?  Absolutely.  Whether your church is small, medium or large, your senior pastor can do a short list of things that will affirm the value of small group leaders.

Here are 5 ways senior pastors can affirm the value of small group leaders:

  1. Talk about the value of small group leaders in their weekend messages.  This may seem like a small thing, but choosing to make heroes out of small group leaders goes a long way toward affirming their value.  Sharing stories about their essential role helps them know they are valued.  See also, Life-Change at the Member Level Begins with You and The Role of the Senior Pastor.
  2. Be present at small group leader rallies and training gatherings.  Merely being present at training gatherings demonstrates appreciation and affirms value.  Opening the training with a brief word of encouragement speaks loudly.  When the session is followed by warm handshakes and pats on the back, you have a recipe for affirmation.  See also, Steve Gladen on the Power of HOST Gatherings.
  3. Welcome new small group HOSTs at their orientation.  The time to begin affirming the important step of becoming a small group leader is at the moment of the first step.  Sending a personalized email to everyone who signs up to host a group takes only a few minutes to set up.  Making a brief appearance at new HOST orientations (could be a 2 minute welcome) will go a long way towards establishing the value of small group leaders.  See also, HOST Orientations that Launch Groups.
  4. Greet small group leaders warmly with a high five or a hug.  In smaller churches it may be easy to know personally all of the small group leaders.  In larger congregations it may be the simple request at leader trainings and orientations to “be sure and introduce yourself the next time you see me (i.e., “Hi Pastor Mark, I’m Bob Smith and I lead a small group here”).”
  5. Ask small group leaders about their group.  Showing interest communicates loudly about their value.  Simply asking, “What’s the best thing happening in your small group?” or “What’s the most challenging thing about your group?” provides leaders a brief opportunity to talk about their group.  More importantly, a pattern of brief conversations affords the senior pastor a window into the life of the congregation’s optimal environments of life-change.

You can read about the other 9 things every small group leader needs to know right here.

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

10 Things Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know

There are a few things every small group needs to know.  Battle hardened veterans and wet-behind-the-ears alike, every small group leader needs to know these things.

10 things every small group leader needs to know

  1. Their senior pastor appreciates them.  This is a very, very important thing for a small group leader to know.  It ought to be communicated over and over again.  Senior pastors who understand this and act on it are able to build enduring armies of small group leaders.  See also, The Role of the Senior Pastor and 5 Ways Senior Pastors Can Affirm the Value of Small Group Leaders.
  2. Who cares for them.  Carl George expressed the truth of Exodus 18 this way: “Everyone needs to be cared for by someone but nobody can care for more than (about) ten.”  Every small group leader needs to know experientially that someone cares for them.  If all they know is that someone “is over them” organizationally, you cannot expect their members to feel cared for either.  See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #5: A Leadership Development Disconnect.
  3. They belong.  I believe this is an essential ingredient if you want to build a thriving small group ministry.  Creating a sense of family and an esprit de corps isn’t automatic.  It must be created and passed on.  See also, Life-Change at the Member Level.
  4. How to take their next step.  This may not be known at the very beginning but must be an early learning.  In order for every small group leader to know this it must be built in at the earliest opportunity.  See also, From Here to There: The Preferred Future for Small Group Leaders.
  5. How to use the study.  Especially in systems and strategies that make it possible for anyone to invite their friends and lead their own group, knowing how to use the study must be basic instruction.  Although launching studies ought to be nearly just-add-water, this little bit of coaching will help new leaders (and new groups) have a better experience.
  6. What to do when they don’t know the answer or what to do.  This ought to be basic training for all leaders.  If you don’t know the answer or what to do, simply say, “I’m not sure, but I know who I can ask.  Let me find out and get back to you tomorrow.”
  7. How to fill their own group.  Every small group leader should be trained to fill their own group.  Setting up the expectation that someone else will find members for their group (often the small group pastor) is a recipe for trouble and should be avoided at all costs.  See also, Skill Training: Top 10 Ways to Find New Group Members
  8. How to share the load.  Every small group leader (no matter what you call them) should know from the very beginning that recruiting a co-leader is step #1.  They should also know that inviting group members to take turns facilitating, opening their homes for meetings, signing up to bring a snack, and keeping track of the prayer list are normal activities.  See also, Skill Training: Rotating HOST Homes.
  9. How to help their members belong.  Every small group leader needs to know how to help their members develop a sense of family and belonging.  This rarely happens without an intentional effort.  This skill must be part of a leader’s normal expectations.  See also, Do Your Small Groups Cultivate This Powerful Ingredient?
  10. How to help their members take their next step.  In order for a small group to truly be the optimal environment for life-change, the leader plays an essential role.  Few small group leaders will intuitively play this part.  Almost all group leaders can be trained to “do to and for their members what is being done to and for them.”  Caught, not taught, helping their members take next steps is the essence of the leader role.  See also, 8 Habits of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader and Skill Training: Equip Leaders to Help Members Take Their Next Step.

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

Top 10 Posts of August, 2014

Miss a day?  Here are my top 10 posts of August, 2014.  Can you spot the theme?

  1. How to Launch Small Groups Using a Small Group Connection
  2. New to Small Group Ministry? Start Here
  3. How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure
  4. Habits of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader
  5. HOST: What Does It Mean?
  6. How to Choose a Small Group System or Strategy
  7. If I Was Starting Today
  8. 5 Things Every New Small Group Pastor Needs to Know on Day 1
  9. 5 Totally Obvious Reasons Small Group Ministries Fail
  10. Need a Funny Video to Promote Small Groups? Check Out The Bible Study

Skill Training: 5 Simple Steps to Starting a New Group

You’ve been thinking about starting a new small group.  Whether you’re a veteran small group leader or this is your very first group, there are a few things to keep in mind.  What you do first determines so much about how things end up.

Want to get your new group off to a great start?

Here are 5 simple steps to starting a new group:

  1. Recruit a co-leader (who is not your spouse).  This is very important!  Don’t try to do this on your own.  Think about who you’d most like to share this experience with…and invite them to help.  Don’t compromise.  The right person is not an in name only kind of co-leader.  They’ll really be in it with you.  You need someone who is both enjoyable and can help share the load.
  2. Choose a day and time that really works for both you and your co-leader.  You will be tempted to begin inviting right away and then figure out the best time for everyone.  Do not do that!  The easiest thing to do is compromise and agree to meet when it’s not the best time for you.  If the day and time don’t work for you, it will be very difficult to stay with it.  Far better to pick the best time for you and your co-leader.
  3. Choose a small group study that meets the needs and peaks the interests of the people you hope to connect.  The study you choose will play a big role in who will say “yes” to joining your new group.  Be sure you’re paying attention to the real needs and actual interests of your potential members.  See also, Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer?
  4. Make a list of friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members you would like to invite.  Sometimes it helps to think about groups of people that you already hang out with (i.e., the softball team, the bunco group, the other parents on the T-Ball team, etc.).
  5. Host a casual get-together as your first gathering.  Nothing lowers defenses like a casual get-together.  Whether you fire up the grill, order pizza from a great pizza joint or invite everyone to bring their favorite dessert, it’s just easier to meet a few new friends while you’re holding a fork or a spoon.  See also, Skill Training: 10 Keys to a Great 1st Meeting and The ABCs of a Great Start.

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

7 Signs Your Small Group Ministry Has a Bad Design

If it’s true that “your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing (Andy Stanley),” the corollary is that if you don’t like the results you are currently experiencing, you need to acknowledge that you have a bad design and change it.  After all, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (Albert Einstein).”

Let me say that again.  If you don’t like the results you are currently experiencing, you need to acknowledge that you have a bad design and change it.

Here are 7 signs you have a bad design for small group ministry:

  1. Your percentage connected is flatlined.  Whether your weekend attendance is increasing or not, a flatlined percentage connected (the percentage of your adults who are connected in a group) indicates that your small group system is inadequately designed.  See also, Breaking the Mythical 150% Participation Barrier and The Catch a Moving Train Scenario.
  2. You have trouble finding enough leaders.  This is a common symptom of designs that depend on selecting new leaders from the usual suspects.  Once your congregation is larger than about 250 adults it will become increasingly common that your senior pastor and platform staff will be recognized at the grocery store and restaurants by people they don’t know.  When this happens your strategy must be able to recruit from the adults you do not know because some of the highest capacity potential leaders will be unknown.  This phenomenon is what makes the HOST strategy and the Small Group Connection strategy so effective.
  3. You have leaders ready but not enough interest to fill their groups.  This is often an indication that there are too many options on the belonging and becoming menu (i.e., Sunday school, discipleship training, Precepts, off campus small groups, etc.).  It can also be an indication that your congregation sees the weekend service as everything they need.  See also, Small Group Roadblock #2: A Bloated Belong and Become Menu and Determining the Minimum Required and Recommended Dose.
  4. Your coaching structure does not work.  This is a common symptom of bad small group ministry design.  The wrong people or the wrong job description can both play a part in the implications of a bad design.  See also, How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.
  5. Your senior pastor is reluctant to champion the importance of community.  Although there are several other reasons a senior pastor may be reluctant to be the small group champion, a common reason is they don’t see your system as effective.  See also, 5 things Senior Pastors Need to Know about Small Group Ministry.
  6. Your small groups deliver a sense of belonging but rarely produce becoming.  Small group strategies that make it easy to connect but aren’t designed to make disciples are poorly designed.  See also, 5 Keys to Building Small Group Ministry at the Corner of Becoming and Belonging and Would You Rather: Connect More People or Make More Disciples?
  7. Only a small percentage of your new groups continue meeting after they’re launched.  This design flaw is a leading indicator for flatlined percentage connected.  Strategies that struggle to launch and sustain new groups need an immediate overhaul.  See also, 5 Keys to Sustaining New Groups.

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

Quotebook: Self-Awareness

How aware are you of your own tendencies?  Are you aware of those times when your own preconceived ideas and certainties serve as a blockade to anything unfamiliar or different?  I love this line from Ed Catmull, current president of Pixar.

“There is nothing quite as effective, when it comes to shutting down alternative viewpoints, as being convinced that you are right.”  Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.

When I read this and allow it to penetrate my own prejudices I remember my own resistance to ideas like the small group connection, video curriculum and the HOST strategy.

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