Quotebook: What Disciples Learn

I was working my way through an article by Dallas Willard and was stopped in my tracks by this:

“As a disciple I am learning from Jesus to live my life as he would live my life if he were I.  I am not necessarily learning to do everything he did, of course; but I am learning how to do everything I do in the manner and from the source from which he did all that he did.”  Dallas Willard, Living a Transformed Life Adequate to Our Calling

What do you think?  How does that line up with your course description?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

How Do You Best Utilize Gifted Teachers in a Church OF Small Groups?

How do you best utilize gifted teachers in a church of small groups?  That was the question recently over in the Small Group Ministry Practitioners Facebook group.  See also, A Church WITH Groups vs a Church OF Groups: What’s the Difference?

That’s my paraphrase.  The actual question was:

How do you best utilize people with teaching gifts in a church of small groups? My small group director and I were just talking about this, in light of the fact that we recently lost a gifted teacher because there was no place (i.e. Sunday School) for her to use her teaching gifts on a regular basis. Thoughts?

Before I even get into it, let me say that there was a great discussion about it in the Small Group Ministry Practitioners group.  Quite a few very insightful comments.  I chimed in a little, but need to give a more organized response.

Here’s my take:

First of all, we’d need to have a shared understanding of the terms “teaching gifts” and “gifted teacher.”  Since teaching is included in everyone’s list of spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and 1 Peter 4) we probably all are using the term in a similar fashion.  Whether one has a teaching gift or is a gifted teacher has less to do with self-assessment and more to do with the observations of others and fruit.  I’ve known many who think of themselves as gifted teachers who aren’t and a number who would never think of themselves as a teacher (gifted or otherwise) and clearly communicate God’s word whenever they open their mouths.

Second, the optimum environment for life-change is in a small group.  In the words of Andy Stanley, “At the end of the day, circles are better than rows.”  Does that mean there’s no place for teaching?  Absolutely not.  It might mean there are fewer opportunities for people who like to invite listeners to pull up a chair and enjoy a smaller version of the weekend service.  But it doesn’t mean there’s no place for gifted teachers.  See also, Quotebook: Life-Change, Circles and Rows and Andy Stanley on Creating a Culture That’s All About Circles.

Third, there are many ways people with teaching gifts can be used in a church of small groups.

  • As small group leaders who introduce the topic each week, setting up group members with a good understanding of the background and key concept of the study (much like the teaching portion on a DVD).
  • As part of a team that provides video teaching to introduce the small group topic each week.
  • Master teachers for the large group segment of an on-campus women’s or men’s study (followed by small group segment led by table leaders).
  • As master teachers for small group leader training.
  • As up-front communicators for the large-group component of the short-term on campus options that North Point is using as a first step out of the auditorium.

Can you utilize gifted teachers in a church of small groups?  Absolutely.  How do you best utilize them?  Wisely.  Gifted is in the eye of the beholder.  The proof is in teaching that transforms (as opposed to informs).  And if there was ever a time to insist on faithful, available and teachable as pre-qualifiers…it might be on this issue.

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

New from Andy Stanley: Christian: It’s Not What You Think

christianHad a chance this week to review Andy Stanley’s newest DVD-driven study, Christian: It’s Not What You Think.  Wow!  So good.  Based on a series that North Point did about this time last year, this 8 week series will be a great study for many groups.

Stanley’s central idea is that the words used today to describe Christians often bear no resemblance to what Jesus wanted His followers to be known for.  If you’re at all like me, you’ll find yourself shaking your head in agreement and recognizing the disparities in the same moment.  Compelling and convicting.

The DVD segments are excerpts from Stanley’s messages and average 15 minutes in length.  Just about right for most attention spans.  The teaching on this topic is very compelling and crystal clear.  Right out of the New Testament, Stanley is a spell-binding communicator as he takes some of the most familiar passages and puts small group members right in the front row for the conversation.

The Participant’s Guide includes everything you need to unpack the profound set of ideas that form the basis of this series:

  • A well-designed discussion starter helps the group take a first look at the topic.
  • A video overview and a section for taking notes enables a look ahead at the teaching to come and a place to jot down key ideas.
  • A great set of discussion questions that will help group members dig deep into the content.
  • Mileposts keep your members focused on the central truths.
  • Moving Forward and Changing Your Mind provide direction for next steps.
  • 5 short devotional segments help set up the next session.

You’ll find a leader’s guide on the DVD along with a selection of promotional resources (bulletin inserts, postcard templates, poster and powerpoint slide), but take it from me, the teaching is presented so clearly there really is none needed.  The selected passages that form the basis for the study will be eye-opening for many group members who have never really wrestled with these ideas.

Back when this series was being given at North Point, I downloaded these messages and listened to them multiple times.  I shared it with many of my friends.  When I saw that they’d taken the content and created an 8 week small group curriculum, I was so excited for you!  This is a powerful study.  Your small group members need this content.  I love Christian and I think you will too!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. In addition, I am 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.”

What Does Small Group Coaching Look Like in Your Preferred Future?

coaching preferred futureIf you’ve been following the conversation here, you know that we’re always talking about the preferred future.  Always.  Right?  Don’t believe me?  Look at all the articles that have preferred future in the title!

We ask, what will the leaders be like in the preferred future in order to provide group members the experience they need?  What must the coaches be like in the preferred future in order to deliver the right experience to group leaders?

Why?  We’re looking ahead to the preferred future because knowing where you are going gives definition to the path that leads to there.

Andy Stanley said, “Path, not intent, determines destination.”  Another way of looking at the same equation would be to say, “Once you know the destination, the path that leads to there becomes increasingly clear.

The picture in the upper left of this post is from some work that we did this week clarifying the preferred future for coaching in our system.

Here are the unrefined characteristics that we noted:

  • There is a span of care of 1 to 10 up and down (in other words, coaches will have up to 10 people they’re caring for and coaches will be cared for by someone who has no more than 10 in their huddle).
  • Coaches have a high-level commitment to Canyon Ridge (CRCC) and grouplife.
  • Coaches should be identifying coaching candidates and replicating themselves.
  • Coaches will have regular and individual contact with their huddle (up and down).
  • Coaches need to be becoming a God-first man or woman and modeling a God-first life.
  • Coaches will make sure their huddle feels connected, cared for, and urged to grow.
  • Etc.

Will it be easy to get there?  Nope.  Does it look a little daunting?  Yep.  Is that the reason so many small group ministries give up?  Absolutely.  But guess what.  Whatever you want to happen in the lives of your members must happen first in the lives of your leaders.  And…your leaders never have that experience without a coach or mentor modeling it for them.

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

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Could Your Group Host an Easter Party?

I’ve been saying for a number of years that in post-Christian America it becomes more likely every day that the easier first step is “come on over.”  Although research still is cited that indicates a significant percentage of people will attend if you invite them to come to a service, we are clearly in a different era now than we were just 10 years ago (see Connecting the Widening 60% (Who Are Unreachable by the Attractional Model).

So…what now?  Is there an easier invite than, “Come with me to one of our Easter services?”

I believe that there is.  I believe the easier invite is, “Come on over!  We’re having our friends over for an Easter party.  We’re having our own Easter egg hunt.  We’re having a great meal.  And we’re watching the Saddleback Easter service online (or fill in the blank with your own online service or the flavor that matches your persuasion).”

Here’s a video that Saddleback is using to spread the idea.  Just imagine if half of their over 6000 small groups acted on the idea?  What if half of your groups acted on the idea?

Here’s a video that Saddleback has just posted for their small group hosts:

Can’t see the video?  You can watch it right here.  Saddleback is providing a little extra help right here.

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

Essential Ingredient #1: Infused with God’s Word

I recently posted a list of 10 key ingredients for life-change.  Are these the only 10?  Probably not.  But I can tell you this…I really do believe there are essential ingredients if you want life-change to occur and you’d be off target if you thought these were optional ingredients.

Is there an order of priority?  Is there a recipe or a mix (like 10% this and 13% that)?  I don’t know.  But I do know this.  You’re not ending up with life-change if you omit the Bible.  You’re not ending up with life-change if your meetings aren’t infused with God’s word.

The Bible as an essential ingredient:

I’m sure of that.  There is no doubt in my mind that the Bible is an essential ingredient.

Does that mean that groups that use only the Bible (no study guide or DVD) have a lock on infusion?  No.  Your meetings can be just as infused if you’re using a flavor of the month DVD-driven study with scripture built-in.  By the way, the fact that you’re working your way through a book of the Bible shouldn’t necessarily be confused with a meeting that is infused with God’s word.  In my mind, infusion means that when you leave the study you’re stepping in the direction of being more like Jesus (as opposed to simply knowing more about Jesus).

Does that mean that groups that only meet to share a meal and fellowship can’t be infused with God’s word?  Nope.  A wise and skillful leader can easily integrate plenty of biblical references, principles, encouragement and challenge, all in the middle of a meal.

Is there value in reading a book together (perhaps the latest Francis Chan or Matt Chandler or Craig Groeschel)?  Sure.  But what produces life-change is when biblical truth moves from the print on the page to the daily life of the member.  Life-change happens when biblical truth moves from information to transformation.

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

Wonderstruck: A New DVD-Driven Study from Margaret Feinberg

Wonderstruck DVDSeveral months ago I reviewed Margaret Feinberg’s latest book, Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God.  A popular speaker at conferences like Catalyst, RightNow, and Thrive, as well as one of the most creative and engaging authors I know, I was really excited to see the DVD-driven study that now accompanies the book.

Trust me…I was not disappointed!  This seven session study is literally packed with great insights into the wonder of God.  Although the DVD sessions average a little over twenty minutes, there’s little chance of attention deficit.  Filmed on location in the stunning beauty of the Canadian rockies, the backdrop is visually spectacular.  As well, I’m not sure I’ve ever listened to anyone else more descriptive than Feinberg and it’s very much like listening to a very good storyteller.

The member book provides everything you need in order to squeeze every last drop of inspiration from the study.  Built-in experiential exercises begin every session.  Skillfully selected discussion questions guide the group through a discussion.  Infused with scripture, your group will be exposed to the wonder of God’s presence, the provision of rest, the wonder of prayer, friendship and forgiveness.

Along with the session guide, the member book also includes daily devotional homework (5 days a week).  Not an afterthought, these daily exercises will help renew your member’s sense of wonder.  An included journal section provides a place for daily observations about the wonder of God.  Group sessions two through seven include an opportunity to talk about learnings and insights from the daily homework.

Although the leader’s guide in the member book is very basic, each of the DVD sessions include a short video leader lifter.  In addition, the simple structure of each session makes this a very easy study to facilitate.

Feeling a little stale?  Kind of dry?  Need a wonder infusion?  You’ll want to take a look at Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God.  I found myself drawn in again and again, captivated by the video and awakening to the wonder of God.  I like this study and I think you will too.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. In addition, I am 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.”

Something to Chew On: Making Choices vs Having Options

What do you believe about the upside of having options?  I am loving Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works, a new book by A.G. Lafley and Roger Martin.  Here’s a great line from A.G. Lafley, former CEO of Proctor and Gamble:

“In my now forty-plus years in business, I have found that most leaders do not like to make choices.  They’d rather keep their options open.  Choices force their hands, pin them down, and generate an uncomfortable degree of personal risk.

“In effect, by thinking about options instead of choices and failing to define winning robustly, these leaders choose to play but not to win.”  A.G. Lafley, (p. 48, Playing to Win)

This has everything to do with a plated meal as opposed to a buffet.  It’s all about thinking steps, not programs.  And it’s about designing next steps that are easy, obvious and strategic.

Skill Training: Top 10 Ideas for a Great First Meeting

Any time you’re starting a new small group, a great first meeting is very important.  I include these ideas on a simple handout inside every new leader packet.

  1. Be sure and refer to the ABCs of a Great Start for Your Connection Group for important tips on making sure your group members come to the meeting.
  2. Plenty of food goes a long way in making your first meeting a relaxed time together.  But…make it easy for everyone to bring something.  You might be tempted to supply it all, but don’t.  Asking each person to bring something to the first meeting helps ensure turnout.
  3. Encourage everyone to come a little early and plan on “grabbing a bite together.”  There isn’t a one-size-fits-all prescription, but allow at least 30 minutes hangout and eat together time (i.e., if you’re meeting begins at 7:00 p.m., plan on hanging out until 7:30 p.m.).
  4. It’s a good idea to have an icebreaker or two in your pocket for the hangout time.  While it definitely helps to have a plate with food on it and a cup with something to drink in it, it’s still a little unnerving for many to have first conversations.  Here are a few “while we’re eating questions”:  (a) Where did you grow up?  (b) Are you from this area?  (c) If you could live anywhere, where would you live?  Why?
  5. Give everyone a 5 minute warning that “we’re about to move into the living room and get started.”  When you get settled, let everyone know that “we’re just going to use tonight as a way of getting to know each other a little better.”
  6. This is a great time to ask a few “get-to-know-me” questions: (a) Would you describe yourself as more of an extrovert or an introvert?  Give an example.  (b) Would you describe yourself as a structured, “just settle it” kind of person?  Or more of a play it by ear type?  (c) Are you a hugger?  Or a non-hugger?
  7. How about a little more info:  (a) What motivated you to sign up for this group?  (b) What are you most hopeful you’ll gain as a result of being in the group?  (b) What are you most afraid of (in terms of the group)?
  8. This is a great time to talk over the Life Group Agreement.  No commitments required.  Nobody’s signing anything.  Just a good way to get values and expectations on the table.  Simply read over the values and reconfirm expectations.
  9. Distribute copies of the study you will begin at your next meeting.  Collect any payment that your group members have ready.  Ask any who were unprepared to bring payment next time (Important: If there is anyone in your group that cannot afford to pay, we have a way to help).
  10. Pray to close the meeting.  Make it really simple.  Ask, “Is there anything we can be praying about for you personally?  There may be times when we pray for those who aren’t part of the group, but today, let’s keep prayer requests focused on just group members.”  Write down any prayer requests.  Close with a very simple prayer.