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Redeemed: Grace to Live Every Day Better than Before

redeemedI spent some time this week with a new study from Angela Thomas-Pharr and LifeWay that I think you may want to take a look at. Redeemed: Grace to Live Every Day Better Than Before explores the practical side of redemption and what it means to experience the grace to live every day better than before.

DVD-driven, Redeemed is a 7 session study featuring the teaching of Angela Thomas-Pharr. Angela is a Bible teacher, national speaker, and best-selling author of books and Bible studies. Each video segment is about 35 minutes in length and carried off well by Thomas’ spunky southern accent and vibe.

The Bible study book includes several of the normal ingredients. A video-viewing guide (to help members keep up with the teaching on the video), discussion questions (found in the Leader Guide portion of the member book), and daily homework (a 40 days of prayer experience). The discussion questions are written to help members wrestle with what they’re learning. The daily homework is designed to take members deeply into the Book of Psalms and pray consistently for 40 days.

If you’re looking for a Bible study that will help your members develop their prayer life and experience the kind of genuine change God wants for all of us, Redeemed is a study you ought to take a look at. Although this topic may not attract everyone, those who do participate will have the kind of life-changing experience they need to have to truly become the people God made them to be.

4 Essentials of Execution: Plan, Rehearse, Evaluate, and Adjust

essentials of execution4 Essentials of Execution: Plan, Rehearse, Evaluate, and Adjust

And…we’re off. We’re now two weekends into our fall launch.

The way our strategy is designed we will focus exclusively on casting vision for the series (Finding Your Way Back to God) and recruiting hosts for the first three weekends. By hosts, we mean people who respond to the specially designed ask: “If you have a couple friends you’d like to do the study with… (i.e., the study that goes along with the series).” See also, Why You Must Make the HOST Ask Three Weekends in a Row and Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again.

So far, our results are underwhelming. We saw improvement in the second weekend as we tightened up the ask (both our service host and teaching pastor pulled closer to the script) and more effectively cast vision for the series (the ‘why’). But there remains room for further improvement.

And we will continue to tweak and massage the launch until we work it into the right language, the right feel.

Which brings me to a short, but critical, explanation of the ingredients that go into a well executed small group launch.

4 Essentials of Execution:

  1. Plan. The best planning clarifies the win, makes clear what you are trying to do and removes the guesswork. Paint the bullseye before you shoot the arrow. For me, planning includes writing the script for the specific lines I want our communicators to us.
  2. Rehearse. Just prior to pulling the trigger it is a good idea to remind all players about their lines. Ideally, this is not improv. You think about this nearly year-round. Many of the other players (i.e., your senior pastor, your communication director, etc.) only think about a small group launch or church-wide campaign when it is rolling.
  3. Evaluate. Every move should be evaluated immediately (i.e., if you have two services you should be evaluating immediately after the first service). “How close was that to the script?” “Was that really what we planned?” “What were the results from that ‘ask’?” Remember, “Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.” If you don’t like the results from the first service…don’t assume the results were a fluke. They were generated by the execution of your design (or a deviation from the design).
  4. Adjust. If the results you achieve are not what you hoped for or expect, you must adjust what you are doing. As Albert Einstein shrewdly noted, “The definition of insanity is to do the same thing again and again and expect different results.” If you want different results, you must adjust the execution of your strategy.

We have our third move next weekend. I’ll keep you posted as we adjust (in hopes of a greater response, so we can connect a larger number of unconnected people).

Further Reading:

Image by Jeff Archer

How to Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry (My Next Mini-Course)

Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group MinistryHow to Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry

Coming to the conclusion that you might need a new design for your small group ministry?  Concerned that there may be something (or a collection of factors) preventing you from taking your small group ministry where you need to go?

You’re Invited!

I want to invite you to join me for my new 4 session mini-course: How to Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry.  Much more than an update, this mini-course is based on my most requested and most popular workshop, it draws more positive comments and rave reviews than anything else I talk about.

Here’s what you’ll gain:

  • An accurate diagnosis of your current situation (limiting factors, barriers, untapped resources and advantages)
  • The tools that will help you identify future opportunities with the most upside.
  • Resources that help you craft a preferred future that will help your ministry move in the right direction
  • The strategies that will help you move in the direction of your preferred future and stay on course.

What’s Included:

  1. Four 75 minute sessions (60 minutes of content + 15 minutes Q&A)
  2. Downloadable outlines (allowing you to capture every detail)
  3. Each session is packed with actionable takeaways
  4. All sessions are downloadable to share with your team
  5. Password-protected site with additional supporting resources.
  6. 100% money back guarantee.  If you’re not completely satisfied…I’ll refund your money.
  7. Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $125)
  8. Questions?  Email Me for information.

When, Where and Other Details:

  • The first session is on Thursday, September 8th at 11:00 a.m. pacific.
  • Sessions 2 thru 4 are on September 15th, September 22nd and September 29th..
  • Regular pricing: $49.95
  • Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $125)
  • Questions?  Email Me for information.

Registration Options (pulldown)

What If Narrowing Your Focus Is THE Missing Piece?

narrow white noiseI’ve suggested MANY times that the most important ministry book you could read is Seven Practices of Effective Ministry. In fact, I’ve suggested it so many times that I’m actually disappointed in you if you haven’t read it multiple times. It is the best explanation for the way to do effective ministry. I really do believe that.

Which leads me to today’s post.

Have you ever wondered if there actually was a single most important missing piece to your strategy?

Think about this Andy Stanley line:

“Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.”

Is that phrase locked squarely in your mind?

Now think about this, what if you have everything right in your design except one thing? Could that one thing cause your results to still miss the mark? To keep you from achieving the win that you’ve clarified?

What do you think? Could getting everything right except one thing cause you to miss the mark?

Spoiler Alert: I believe your design only has to miss one thing in order to significantly alter your results.

That’s right. If your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing…only one element of the design needs to be off.

8 Key Design Elements to a Successful Church-Wide Campaign:

For example, if I were to list the major design elements to a successful church-wide campaign, the list would include the following:

  1. The topic (or specific study chosen).
  2. The timing of the weekend message series.
  3. Isolating a single message for each weekend in the weeks leading up to the campaign.
  4. The senior pastor’s involvement as champion in promoting the campaign.
  5. The message series that leads up to the campaign.
  6. A clear distinction between the host ask and the group member ask.
  7. Connecting every new group leader with a coach.
  8. Choosing the follow up study in advance and promoting it skillfully to new group leaders and members.

What if you only missed one design element?

I believe you only have to miss one design element to end up with significantly reduced results.

Choose the wrong topic, you’re toast because the topic determines who will say yes to hosting and who say yes to joining a groups.

Chose the wrong timing for the series and clearly your results will be different.

Choose the wrong person to champion the campaign (anyone other than the senior pastor) and your results wlll be significantly reduced.

Choose the wrong message series leading up to the campaign and your host and member asks will seem forced.

Fail to differentiate between the host ask and the member ask and you will severely compromise the number of hosts you recruit.

Fail to connect every new leader with a coach or fail to choose the right follow up series and you will sustain far fewer new groups.

Note: For most of my readers, especially those who have completed How to Maximize YOUR Church-Wide Campaign, this is all old news.

Special Note: Fail to isolate a single message, to narrow the focus, to a single objective and the whole thing can be drowned out by the white noise of too many opportunities.

The Most Overlooked Design Element?

I believe the most overlooked design element is the failure to isolate a single message, to narrow the focus, to a single objective. When too many things, too many options, are being promoted at the same time, the whole thing can be drowned out by the white noise of too many opportunities.

When you attempt to promote more than one thing at a time, your people hear noise. They do not hear options. They hear noise.

If you want to connect beyond the usual suspects, you must narrow the focus to the single message you want them to hear. When you don’t do that, it is a design problem Your design problem.

P.S. If you haven’t read Seven Practices of Effective Ministry you can order it right here (and join the smart set).

Further Reading:

Image by Andrew Kimmel

How Does Your Fall Ministry Season Look from Here?

fall leavesHow Does Your Fall Ministry Season Look from Here?

Fall. I don’t know about you, but here in Las Vegas I’m looking forward to fall. Temperatures begin to cool off (we’ll soon have daytime temps under 100!) and the plans we’ve made for our fall ministry season will be in full swing!

If your church is like most churches, the fall ministry season is an important part of your annual strategy. As school begins and summer vacations come to an end there is often an attendance bump. In some communities the end of summer and the beginning of fall is accompanied by the largest number of new attendees as new residents begin to look for a church.

If your church is like my church, your fall ministry season hasn’t kicked off yet, but it’s just about to begin. Here at Canyon Ridge we’re one week in to a six week onramp to our fall groups launch.

We’re definitely close enough to the fall to see how it’s shaping up and make a few last minute tweaks to our strategy.

How Does Your Fall Ministry Season Look from Here?

Are you ready? Do your plans look like they’re going to produce?

Or do you think you might need a slight adjustment?

If you think you might need a little help or a few ideas that might help your fall ministry season, here are a few articles:

Can I help you?

I regularly coach churches on preparing for church-wide campaigns and growth initiatives. While I am sometimes available for an onsite consultation, I can also schedule a series of video conference calls to guide your team through the process.  Email Me for more information.

Image by Eren

Quotebook: Bill Hybels on Leadership Development Plans

emerging leaders“A leadership development plan has to address these three phases: Identifying emerging leaders. Investing in the development of emerging leaders. Entrusting responsibility to emerging leaders.” Courageous Leadership, Bill Hybels

The most important role of our Groups Team is to identify, recruit and develop high capacity leaders of leaders.

Further Reading:

Image by Fiona Shields

7 Traits of Healthy Small Group Ministries

traits droop7 Traits of Healthy Small Group Ministries

Sometimes you can just look at something and tell that it’s healthy. Other times you’ve got to do some diagnostic poking around.

How can you tell if your small group ministry is healthy? There are a number of observable traits that indicate health.

7 Traits of Healthy Small Group Ministries

Healthy small groups ministries…

  1. Have a growing total number of groups. There is an ebb and flow to all organisms and organizations. There are always things beginning and ending. It is the nature of nature. But healthy things grow and healthy small group ministries have a growing total number of groups. See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs Start New Groups.
  2. Have a growing total number of members. Satisfied customers tell stories about how a product or service has changed their lives. The product of a healthy small group is changed lives. Changed lives are naturally appealing and attractive. Doesn’t it stand to reason that a healthy small group ministry will have a growing number of members?
  3. Have an increasing percentage connected. Your percentage connected (number of adults in groups divided by the average number of adults in worship) is an important indicator to watch. If you believe that the optimal environment for life-change is a circle, your percentage connected is ultimately what determines whether you’re gaining ground or losing ground. For example, your average adult attendance in worship climbs by 10%, you might still be losing ground in terms of percentage connected even if you add 10 new groups and 100 more people in groups. See also, What Percentage of Your Adults are Actually Connected?
  4. Have a decreasing average age of groups. If you are starting new groups (and sustaining the new groups you launch) on a regular basis, the average age of your groups (when did your group begin meeting?) should be decreasing. If the average age of your groups is increasing or remaining the same, it is an indication that you are not succeeding at launching enough new groups (and sometimes allowing zombie groups to die). See also, Can You Tell If Your Group Might be a Zombie?
  5. Have more leaders in development than they have groups. Formal or informal, identified on an org chart or just known within every group, healthy small group ministries have more leaders in development than they currently have groups. Every healthy small group will have a kind of shared leadership. Whether formalized with an apprenticing strategy or purely an organic reality (every group with 7 or more members subgroups for discussion and prayer), there are always potential and additional leaders in the development pipeline. See also, The Best Training for Small Group Leaders.
  6. Have appropriate spans of care. Everyone needs to be cared for by someone and no one can take care of more than (about) 10. Healthy small group ministries have structures in place that provide care for leaders (and leaders of leaders). The structures in place in healthy small group ministries provide appropriate spans of care, not requiring anyone (the small group pastor) to care for number beyond their capacity. See also, Life-Change at the Member Level.
  7. Help members belong and become. Healthy small groups and small group ministries help members connect and grow. Unhealthy is either/or. Healthy is both. An important trait of healthy small group ministries is that it is easy to belong and an ordinary experience to become more and more like Jesus. See also, 5 Keys to Building Small Group Ministries at the Corner of “Belonging and Becoming”

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

Image by ecks ecks

Who Designs Your Next Steps? Starry-Eyed Dreamers or Steely-Eyed Pragmatists?

next stepsWho Designs Your Next Steps? Starry-Eyed Dreamers or Steely-Eyed Pragmatists?

Who designs your next steps? Starry-eyed dreamers or steely-eyed pragmatists?

It makes a difference, you know.

Starry-eyed dreamers often put steps in place that Carl Lewis* wouldn’t attempt. Steely-eyed pragmatists can sometimes design steps that are dismissed by dreamers as lacking challenge.

While next steps should be easy, obvious, and strategic…reasonable and doable are clearly in the eye of the beholder. [Click to Tweet]

If you want to design and offer next steps for everyone and first steps for their friends…you must keep the needs, interests, and maturity of the step taker in mind. The real test is not what seems reasonable or doable to the designer.

Not sure whether your next steps are designed correctly? Results are the true test. “Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing (Andy Stanley).” Not getting the results you hoped for? The design of your next steps determines everything.

Further Reading:

*Lewis’ world record long jump at 8.79 meters (28.83 feet) has stood since the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.


4 Ingredients of an Effective “Ask” (that Recruits Small Group Members)

4 Ingredients of an Effective -Ask-4 Ingredients of an Effective “Ask” (that Recruits Small Group Members)

I’m regularly asked, “What is the best way to get the most people involved in our upcoming church-wide campaign?”

To answer that question, I wrote what became one of my most popular articles, 5 Keys to Getting Everyone Involved in a Church-Wide Campaign. I won’t go into all 5 keys here, but I will remind you that getting everyone involved begins with your senior pastor.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Getting everyone involved begins with your senior pastor.  There’s no getting around this.  Connecting everyone involves your senior pastor talking about the importance of being in a group every week.  When you’re launching a church-wide campaign, be sure your pastor is emphasizing the importance of “being part of a group that’s using the curriculum that goes along with the weekend message.”  See also Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups

Getting everyone involved begins with your senior pastor. And that begs the question, “What, exactly, does my senior pastor need to say to be most effective?” If getting everyone involved begins with your senior pastor, what does your senior pastor need to say to be most effective?

“What, exactly, does my senior pastor need to say to be most effective?”

Making the small group ask really involves two separate asks:

Here are what I think are the key ingredients of an effective “ask” that recruits small group members.

4 Ingredients of an Effective “Ask” (that recruits small group members):

There are 4 very important ingredients:

  1. Appropriate Urgency: If there is ever a place for passion it is in this ask. An effective ask always conveys a sense of urgency. There may be a place for blandly reporting the facts. It is not here. Certainly, there are senior pastors whose speaking style is even and rarely passionate. This is the moment for them to work to communicate urgency. See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Unconnected People?
  2. Skillful Placement: Certainly the best time for the senior pastor to make the ask is during the sermon. Announcements and pre-service slides are helpful, but if you want to leverage the influence of the most influential person in your congregation, the time to do that is in the sermon. It also matters where the ask is placed within the sermon. In my opinion, the best time for the ask to happen is when the sermon naturally leads to an opportunity for a response. Obviously, some sermon topics lend themselves more naturally to an opportunity for this kind of response (and ultimately, this should be a factor in the selection of topics for the weeks leading up to a church-wide campaign).
  3. Visionary Language: Again, there may be times for bland reporting of the facts and details (when and where the small group connection is, childcare is offered, how to pick up your study guide, etc.). The ask is NOT the time for facts! It is the single best opportunity to cast vision about the potential impact of joining a small group.
  4. Action Step: When you make the ask, always ask for a response. “Fill out this card (hold it up) and drop it in the offering in a few minutes.” Too often, senior pastors include the other three ingredients and neglect asking for a response.

Very Important:

You must make the ask several weeks in a row. Don’t miss this. Unconnected people are infrequent attenders. They rarely attend two weeks in a row. See also, Why You Must Make the HOST Ask Three Weeks in a Row.

Here is an example ask:

“I believe the message series we’re launching on September 18th is going to have a powerful impact on us. As your pastor, I want to challenge you to make three important commitments as we begin this series.

First, I want to challenge you to be here every week for this series.

Second, I want to challenge you to join a small group that is using the study that goes along with what I’ll be preaching. It’s a 7 week commitment. Joining a small group will help you take these important promises and principles deep into your life.

Third, I want to challenge you to read the daily devotional.

Listen, we believe Transformed is going to have a powerful impact on our lives. People will be talking about what happened here in the fall of 2016 for a long time. People will be talking about how their lives changed, their marriages were restored, their families got on the right track. You don’t want to get to November and realize you should have joined a small group.

If you’re not yet in a small group, I want to challenge you to sign up for our small group connection and get connected. In your bulletin is an insert…it looks like this (hold it up). Fill this out and drop it in the offering in a few minutes. Joining one of these 7 week groups is so important. Please don’t miss this.”

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

New from Louie Giglio | relat(able): Making Relationships Work

relatableI spent some time this week with a new study you’re probably going to want to know about. Relatable: Making Relationships Work is the newest study from Louie Giglio and when I read the title and a little bit of a description I knew I needed to take a look at it. Why? Because there are very few people with more experience talking about relationships.

Not familiar with Louie Giglio? He is the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and founder of Passion Conferences—a global movement of college-aged people living for the fame of Jesus Christ. A dynamic and effective communicator, Louie holds a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Shelley, live in Atlanta.

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.

The study guide is well written and includes a mix of the expected with a twist of the unexpected. Every session opens with a short examination of a scripture passage designed to set up the topic. Every session also includes a video viewing guide (designed to help you capture insights from the video), a very engaging set of group discussion questions, and a unique section called Becoming Relat(able). This section features a very creative set of activities designed to produce a very powerful experience for participants.

The study guide also includes a weekly between sessions study that features a love yourself exercise and a love your neighbor exercise.

Finally, the study guide includes a short leader guide designed to help leaders anticipate some of the creative details of every session.

I’m really glad I got a look at Relatable.  If you’re looking for a study that will help your group members look at relationships the way God intended them to be, take the time to review this one. Just like me you’ll be adding it to your recommended list.

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.”
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