Top 10 Posts of September, 2013

Miss a day?  Here are my top 10 posts of September, 2013.  Again last month there were 4 posts from the current month.  Amazing when there are over 1100 articles to choose from!

I also had visitors from 79 countries around the world!  Thanks for stopping by!  By the way, if you aren’t following me on Twitter or Facebook, I’m hand selecting archive posts everyday and sending them out via social media.

  1. 6 Communication Mistakes that Limit Ministry Effectiveness (September 2013)
  2. How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection (May 2008)
  3. Why You Must Make the HOST Ask Several Weeks in a Row (August 2011)
  4. The Teeny Tiny Detail at the Bottom of This Saddleback Page (February 2012)
  5. Skill Training: 10 Keys to a Great 1st Meeting (September 2013)
  6. New from Beth Moore: The Law of Love: Lessons from the Pages of Deuteronomy (August 2012)
  7. 5 GroupLife Dots You May Not Be Connecting (September 2013)
  8. 5 Commitments that Propel and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry (September 2013)
  9. A “Plated Meal” Leads to a Church OF Groups (August 2010)
  10. Skill Training: Using a Small Group Agreement (November 2009)

Don’t Miss Pete Wilson’s Latest: Let Hope In

let hope inThere are some books you hear about early and you just know they’re going to be very important.  Pete Wilson’s newest is that kind of book.  Let Hope In: 4 Choices That Will Change Your Life Forever is just about perfectly timed to have a very big impact (be sure and take a look at the church-wide campaign option).

Wilson, the lead pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, is both a gifted writer and an insightful anthropologist/sociologist; like one of the men of Issachar, able to understand the times.  Although deeply biblical, Let Hope In wrestles with a topic and presents it in a way that is cross-cultural and will inspire and move both Christ followers and their neighbors.

Written in an easy, conversational style, Let Hope In is a book that will end up being read by many.  Pete’s personal stories and examples build a kind of familiarity that leave you with the sense that you’re really just talking with a friend, listening to his wisdom as he lays out a life-altering point of view; a very wise pathway.

The four choices are powerfully simple and absolutely transformational:

  • Choosing to transform instead of transfer
  • Choosing to be okay with not being okay
  • Choosing to trust rather than please
  • Choosing to free people rather than hurt them

Like Pete’s other books (Plan B and Empty Promises), Let Hope In is both deeply personal and aggravatingly practical.  It is the kind of book that is a page-turner.  You’ll be quickly caught up in the stories and freshly rendered biblical accounts.  Let Hope In is also the kind of book that leads you over and over again to now obvious conclusions.  The four choices lead to “the grace of release from where you have been so you can receive what God has for you now.”

Let Hope In is a powerful book.  I think it’s going to be the book that many, many people point to as the instrument God used to give them hope for the very first time.  I’m thinking about who I know that need to read it.  I’m rereading it already.  It’s that kind of book.

P.S. Making Let Hope In a great church-wide campaign option, a six-session DVD-enhanced study based on Let Hope In releases in December, 2013.  You can learn about it right here.

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. In addition, I am a 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.”

Connect with Your Neighbors This Fall: Top 10 Ideas for Small Groups

It doesn’t take much imagination to find ways for small group members to connect with their neighbors.  Sometimes all it takes is a crisp fall morning or a spooky October evening.

Here are my top 10 ideas:

  1. Movie night outside for kids and families.  Easy to do with a video projector.  Pick the right movie, circle up the lawn chairs, and bring on the popcorn.
  2. Drop in for waffles and bacon on a Saturday morning.  Again, everyone’s kids will love this idea.  3 or 4 waffle irons make it easy.  Add-ins like blueberries, chocolate chips, and pecans make it fun (and tasty!).
  3. Invite neighbors over for a potluck theme dinner night (Italian, Mexican, etc.).  Go all out with music and decorations.  Make it fun and it will be easy to connect.
  4. Garage sale for a local cause.  Gather up your merchandise.  Pick out a great local cause or charity.  Be ready to talk about why you’re doing it.
  5. Pull a fire pit or chiminea onto your front porch or driveway.  Bring out the patio furniture.  Be ready to offer a warm cup of cider and a s’more to neighbors passing by.
  6. Join in the fun to offer some safe Halloween fun.  No tracts.  Just the best candy and the friendliest people on the block.
  7. Chili cook off.  No better time to host a chili cook off complete with judges, prizes and Tums.
  8. Block party cookout.  Roll the grills into the cul de sac and bring out the lawn chairs.  Do it right it might turn into an annual event!
  9. The Big Game on the big screen.  Plan a party for the day of the biggest college game in your area.  Think Super Bowl party with local flair.  Make it fun for the whole family.
  10. Game night with pizazz.  Whether your game of choice is bunco or pictionary, there’s a way to do that’s even more fun.  Think tournament.  Have goofy prizes for the winners.  Mr. Microphone adds another level of enthusiasm.

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

Insight: Identify and Overemphasize Your Most Catalytic Activities

I need to ask you two questions today:

  1. Which of your activities (or outcomes) make the greatest difference in your area of ministry?
  2. Which of your activities (or outcomes) have a disproportionate return…way bigger than the investment?

I want you to take an hour today and think about these two questions.  Don’t put this off.  If you can’t take an hour today, put this assignment in tomorrow’s calendar.  Fit it in wherever you can; as soon as you can.  It might be the most important thing you do this year.

Albert Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”  I’m saying your clarity on the answers to these two questions is the difference between hearing “well done” and something else.

One of the most influential books I’ve read in the last 10 years is called Who: The A Method of Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street.  There’s a ton of great ideas in Who but the part that had me riveted is the part about developing a scorecard.  Not a job description.  A scorecard.  A scorecard “describes the mission for the position, outcomes that must be accomplished, and competencies that fit with both the culture of the company and the role.”

  • the mission for the position
  • outcomes that must be accomplished (typically 3 to 8 outcomes)
  • competencies that fit the culture of the company and the role

If I drill in just a little further into the idea of a scorecard, I find that it is a living document.  That is, it isn’t a set-in-stone document (like a job description usually is).  It changes, particularly as outcomes are accomplished.  Examples of outcomes might be:

  • Identify, recruit and install 5 new coaches by June 30.
  • Meet individually with every coach in the coaching structure at least once every two months.
  • Increase the total number of adults in groups by 35% by October 15, 2014.

Can you see how identifying a set of outcomes might help steer the course for the members of a team?  Can you see how certain of the outcomes might benefit from greater attention or have a disproportionate return?

See also, 6 Keys to Accelerating Small Group Ministry Growth and Impact.

Back to today’s two questions:

  1. Which of your activities (or outcomes) make the greatest difference in your area of ministry?
  2. Which of your activities (or outcomes) have a disproportionate return…way bigger than the investment?

Let me suggest something to you.  Not everything you do, not everything you spend time on, has an equal return.  If you can figure out the answers to today’s questions…you’ll be ahead.  If you focus your time on the activities that have the greatest payoff…you’ll be way ahead.

And while I’m on the subject, Who: The A Method of Hiring is packed with lots of very good ideas that will have an impact on your ministry if you apply them.  Hope this helps you today!

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

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.”

Teacher, Leader, Shepherd, Host: What’s in a Name?

What do you call your small group leaders?  Better yet, what do they do?  Are they teachers…in any sense of the word?  Leaders…where are they leading?  Shepherds…in what way?  Hosts…and nothing more?

Seems that no matter where you turn there is discussion of some kind.  Here’s Thom Rainer’s 8 Commitments for Bible Study Leaders (clearly takes the teacher position).  This Thursday The Village Church’s Trevor Joy takes the shepherd angle on the Small Group Network GroupTalk call.  There’s no shortage of debate between leader and host.

Teacher, leader, shepherd, host.  What’s in a name?  In my world (and I hope yours), it’s less about the name and more about who they need to be and what they need to do.  And honestly, it’s more about who they need to be becoming and what they need to be experiencing.

Here’s what I mean:

First, a small group leader is not primarily a teacher unless you consider a person a step or two ahead to be more than one beggar showing another beggar where to get food.  I’m thinking they are really more of a guide.  And not even a tour guide who has been there many times.  Certainly not a travel agent (who has never been there, but knows a lot about it).

The provision in James 3:1?  What about the challenge in Hebrews 5:12?  Trust me, I am a lot more influenced by what Paul has to say in Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Second, a small group leader is more than a host…although they may begin that way.  This is the genius of the host strategy.  HOST makes it easy to take a first step and nearly automatic to continue developing into a shepherd.  They don’t need to be Jesus Jr. already.  Who knows how many of the right people, the men and women that God has been sending in response to the Matthew 9 prayer, have been overlooked or excluded because they weren’t known or didn’t measure up to what insiders viewed as essential?  See also, HOST: What Does It Mean?

Third, being a small group leader doesn’t require the spiritual gift of leadership.  Any of several spiritual gifts can hold a group together.  You’ve seen it.  I have too.  It could be the gift of mercy, or hospitality, or teaching, or leadership…or any of several other spiritual gifts.  The group will have a different feel, but it can still function and have quite an impact.

Fourth, an effective small group leader is ultimately most like a shepherd.  If it is true that whatever you want to happen in the lives of your small group members must be experienced first by their small group leader…then you better tailor your coaching strategy to deliver the experience you want to propagate.  Further, you better tailor your small group leader expectations to develop the kind of small group leaders that can follow Paul’s lead and simply say, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV  See also, Five GroupLife Dots You May Not Be Connecting and Small Group Leader Expectations: What Should They Be?

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

Join My 2014 Small Group Ministry Coaching Network

Looking for an opportunity to grow in your ability to connect beyond usual suspects? I want to invite you to join my 2014 Small Group Ministry Coaching Network; an experience designed to give you the tools and strategies you need in order to build a small group ministry that works in the 21st century.

The coaching network program will expose you to a new perspective. While it makes sense to many that in order to get different results you need to do different things…it’s not always clear what those different things might be. The coaching network program is designed around the idea that different, not better, leads to the kind of strategy that connects beyond the usual suspects.

My 2014 Small Group Ministry Coaching Network begins in January and I’ve just opened up applications. You can find out all about it right here. I’m hoping you’ll come along!

Dilbert on Problem Solving

I’ve said for years that since there is no problem free, wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  Dilbert has figured out an ingenious way to eliminate certain possible solutions.
eliminate the choices idiots make

Must Have Resource: Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change

influencerI don’t know if you caught Joseph Grenny’s session at Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit…but his book Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change ought to move straight to the top of your reading list.

I was intrigued during Grenny’s talk.  I downloaded the audio and listened to the session again right after the Summit.  Captivated by the idea that something in the research could help our work in connecting unconnected people…I downloaded the book.  And I was not disappointed!  Influencer is a gold mine!

I love this line from chapter one:

“At the end of the day, what qualifies people to be called ‘leaders’ is their capacity to influence others to change their behavior in order to achieve important results (p. 6).”

I don’t know about you, but I have a non-stop desire to figure out even better ways to influence people to get connected, to step into leadership, to become a disciple and to disciple others.  What if the learnings of this team of social scientists could help me do that?

Influencer consists of two parts.  The first part of the book focuses on the three keys that all successful influencers adhere to and that we can use for our benefit:

  • Focus and measure develops clarity about the result we seek.
  • Find vital behaviors helps identify high leverage behaviors that drive results.
  • Engage all six sources of influence to overdetermine change.

The second part of the book focuses on the six sources of influence.  Packed with real life examples and full of very practical application, Influencer is both an easy read and a book that is going to end up having a huge impact on the design of our strategies.  The very first source of influence provides a great example:

Personal motivation answers the question: “Is the vital behavior intrinsically pleasurable or painful?”  Further, “can you help others want to do something they currently don’t want to do?  Is it possible to help others learn to love what they presently hate?”

When I read this set-up, I couldn’t put the book down.  This was a section that had me from the first line.  The best part about this chapter (and the other five) was it included of very practical principles, applications and takeaways that are sure to end up in what we do.  The “act like an influencer” segments along with the summary makes this a very practical book.

Most of the books and resources I review here are clearly ministry related.  I’m so excited about the potential of Influencer because it promises to help rearrange what’s possible as we work to connect people.  I’m sure I’ll be writing more about what we’re learning.  In the meantime, you might want to pick up your copy of Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change.

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.”

New is Easy. Right is Hard.

I am a fan of the next thing.  I am always on the lookout for the new idea that opens up opportunities (to connect more people, to identify more leaders, etc.).  I am on the lookout for what’s next.  You should be too!

And…at the same time…I am a realist.  I know for sure that my “ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results I am currently experiencing.”  I consider the “results I am currently experiencing” to be the facts in evidence.  Results are not a fluke.  Results are based on the design.  I look at outcomes through that lens.  And you should too.  See also, Five GroupLife Dots You May Not Be Connecting.

This week I read an interesting article about the three most important players at Apple since the death of Steve Jobs.  I was caught by a line from Craig Federighi, Apple’s VP of software engineering, given in response to a comment by Jonathan Ive, Apple Senior VP of Design.  Describing the way innovation happens at Apple, Ive said, “We go back again and again until something is just right.”  See also, Apple’s Most Important Introductions (HT Lifehacker).

Federighi’s line?  “New is easy.  Right is hard.”

I like that line.  It describes very well the way I feel about the search for what is next.  I never want to do the next thing just to do a new thing.  I want to keep working at an idea until it is right.  Not in the search for problem-free.  In the search for an idea that extends and expands capabilities.  See also, The Pursuit of Problem-Free.

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

5 Compromises That Derail Small Group Ministry

derailI wrote last week about the 5 Commitments that Propel and Sustain Small Group Ministry.  Hopefully, that helped confirm that you’re on the right track or set your sights on a modified course.  Today I want to walk you through what I believe are the 5 main compromises that derail small group ministry.

Here they are:

  1. Delegating the small group champion role to the small group pastor.  By now, this should be crystal clear.  If you want to build a thriving small group ministry, the role of champion cannot be delegated.  In order to build a thriving small group ministry you must have full senior pastor engagement in the role of champion.  They are the most influential person in the church almost 100% of the time.  Failure to step fully into the role of champion will derail small group ministry every time.  See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.
  2. Making a short-term commitment to a long-term project.  Building a thriving small group ministry is a long-term project.  It takes year in, year out commitment.  It’s easy to attend conferences, read books, and even hire consultants.  It is much harder and it takes great determination to arrive at the preferred future.  Selling or buying the notion that burst of energy for one or two years will get it done leads to the mistaken belief that “small groups just don’t work here.”  See also, The Unexpected Twist in Saddleback’s Exponential Growth Formula and Wash, Rinse, Repeat and the Long Run.
  3. Shrinking back from prioritizing steps that lead to grouplife.  If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.  One of the most significant challenges facing churches desiring to build small group ministry is prioritizing one ministry over the rest of the ministries (i.e., Precepts, Discipleship Ministry, etc.).  Expecting unconnected people to choose from a menu is a poor strategy and will lead to a train wreck every time.  See also, A “Plated Meal” Leads to a Church OF Groups and 5 Ways Your Small Group Ministry Is Being Throttled.
  4. Condoning a “next year will be better/different” mentality.  Recognizing that some adults in your congregation don’t have another year to wait is absolutely essential.  The reality that unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again ought to be always on your mind.  If you want to stay on track you must push forward.  It will almost never be better or different next year.  Instead, 5 or 10 years from now you’ll still be agonizing over the need for a way to connect and disciple the unconnected men and women in your congregation.  See also, It’s Not the Right Time. Connecting the Fifth Dot.
  5. Failing to invest in leadership development.  Perfecting the ability to launch new groups without a strategy to invest in the development of new leaders is a recipe for groups that begin but don’t sustain.  Since you can only expect the members of groups to experience what their leaders experience first, you must know that failure to invest in leadership development guarantees a very undesirable situation for group members.  See also, Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway and Budgeting for the Preferred Future.

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

Image by Douglas County