Top 10 Posts of April, 2013

Miss a day or two?  Here are my top 10 posts of April, 2013:

  1. Top 10 Things I Need to Know about Discipleship (September, 2012)
  2. New from Beth Moore | The Law of Love: Lessons from the Pages of Deuteronomy (August, 2012)
  3. Skill Training: Design Your Group Meeting for Life Change (March, 2013)
  4. 10 Commandments of Small Group Ministry (April, 2013)
  5. Skill Training: 10 Steps to Help New Members Connect (April, 2013)
  6. How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection (May, 2008)
  7. 10 Essential Small Group Leader Skills (June, 2010)
  8. Breaking: North Point Increases GroupLife Participation by Adding an Easier Next Step (November, 2012)
  9. Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups (August, 2010)
  10. What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting People (June, 2012)

 

Don’t Miss this Great Resource: The Art of Neighboring

art of neighboringI’ve been working my way through The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door.  Written by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon, The Art of Neighboring was prompted by a joint church movement developed in Denver in response to a comment made by Arvada, Colorado mayor Bob Frie.  When asked, “How can we as churches best work together to serve the city?” Frie said,

“The majority of the issues that our city is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors.”

Can you imagine being in that meeting?  What would you have said in response to the mayor?  It must have been quite a moment when after the mayor left, Pathak blurted out, “Am I the only one here who is a little embarrassed?  I mean, here we are asking the mayor how we can best serve the city, and he basically tells us that it would be great if we could just get our people to obey the second half of the Great Commandment.”

What was born of that comment was a very intentional effort that impacted a city.  Seriously…what a concept!

The Art of Neighboring is an easy read and at the same time very inspiring.  Packed with stories and great application of scripture, you’ll also find plenty of practical ideas and the learnings that underpin what could be a movement in your city too.

A study guide is included in the book, making The Art of Neighboring a resource that could be used by groups looking for ways to serve together. Each chapter of the book is supported with an accompanying set of study questions.

I have to tell you…I love The Art of Neighboring and the idea of a community of great neighbors!  I want to encourage you to check it out.  And don’t miss the website: www.artofneighboring.com.  Very good stuff and just might impact your city!

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.”

Don’t Miss the FREE Webinar: Why Aren’t More People in Your Groups?

You want in on the latest right?  Don’t miss an important FREE webinar on Wednesday, May 8th at Noon (CST).  Here’s what I know:

Can’t see the video? You can watch it right here.

5 Things You Need to Know about Connecting Unconnected People

There are a few things I know about connecting unconnected people.  And let me tell you something.  While there are definitely exceptions to just about every rule…if you can think of examples counter to these five you are thinking of exceptions.  Build your ministry off the rule and not the exception.

I’ve said many times that 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.

Here are 5 more things you need to know about connecting unconnected people:

  1. Unconnected people have different appetites and rarely respond to menu items that appeal to the core and committed.  If you’re finding it hard to connect beyond the usual suspects, you might need to take a careful look at the topics of studies you’re offering.  See also, How to Choose Curriculum That Launches Groups and Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer.
  2. Unconnected people are wary of long commitments.  When you promote a short-term study that’s 13 weeks (Financial Peace, Experiencing God, some Beth Moore studies), you need to know that unconnected people hear “lifetime commitment.”  What’s the right length?  I’ve found that 6 weeks is just about ideal.  Lyman Coleman has said many times that 6 weeks is short enough to commit to and long enough to help people begin to feel connected.  Lyman’s right.
  3. Unconnected people respond to test-drives and putting toes-in-the-water.  In addition to offering shorter short-term opportunities, making it clear that it’s “just a test-drive” helps unconnected people feel more comfortable putting their toe in the water.  If they know they can have a taste and opt out if it’s not for them, they’ll be much more likely to give it a try.  Language is so important.  The power of the right words cannot be overstated.
  4. Unconnected people connect easiest when the first step out of the auditorium is familiar.  Listen to very many new attendees at your church and you’ll often learn that just getting up the nerve to come to a weekend service was a real challenge.  I’ve talked with many who’ve told me they drove by many times before they ever pulled into the parking lot.  I’ve had a number tell me they made it to the parking lot more than once and couldn’t get out of their cars.  Want these same people to join a small group?  Better give them a way to attend an on-campus study or small group connection as their first step.  See also, How to Calm an Unconnected Person’s Second Greatest Fear.
  5. Unconnected people attend less frequently than connected people.  Have a connecting opportunity coming up?  If you want unconnected people to hear about it, you better keep in mind that promoting the event several weeks in a row is essential.  See also, Why You Must Make the HOST Ask Several Weeks in a Row.

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

This Question Might Be Step One

Ever been in the middle of a conversation and hear something that sort’ve stops time?  Almost like an E.F. Hutton moment?

I had a moment like that last week in Atlanta at a gathering of some of grouplife’s sharpest leaders*.  Couldn’t tell you with certainty what the exact topic was, but all of a sudden someone said, “We’re asking ‘what are the things we’re doing that contradict our intentions?’”

Did you hear that?  Here it is again:

What are the things we’re doing that contradict our intentions?

Now, admittedly, you have to understand what your intentions actually are.  But think about the power of this question!  Once you know what your intentions are (what business are you in, who is your customer, and what are you going to call success), asking this powerful question will help identify what ought to be on your stop doing list.

Example:

One of the major initiatives we’re working on right now is to identify programs that have taken on the characteristics of a destination and primarily serve alumni.  Once identified, we want to do one of two things:

  • redesign them so that they function as steps that lead to grouplife
  • replace them with steps that lead to grouplife

Problem-free?  Nope.  Constant clarification of intention.  Lots of conversation.  Relentless vision casting.  Challenging decisions.

Is it worth it?  Absolutely.

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

*Trust me…I’m pretty sure I was invited as a blogger/witness!

Review: How Can I Know: Answers to Life’s 7 Most Important Questions

How Can I KnowHad a chance over the weekend to preview How Can I Know: Answers to Life’s 7 Most Important Questions. a new DVD-driven study from LifeWay by Robert Jeffress.  Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas is the author of multiple books and the host of the radio and television program “Pathway to Victory.”

Filmed live on location in the worship center at First Baptist, Dallas, each session is 40 to 45 minutes in length.  Packed with very good content, the teaching style will be very familiar for some group members and will take a little getting used to for others.  Need a sample?  You can hear the first message right here on iTunes.

The 7 questions answered in the series are:

  • How Can I Know There Is a God?
  • How Can I Know the Bible Is True?
  • How Can I Know Christianity Is the Right Religion?
  • How Can I Know God Is Good with All the Suffering in the World?
  • How Can I Know How to Forgive Someone Who Has Hurt Me?
  • How Can I Know God’s Forgiveness When I’ve Failed?
  • How Can I Know I’m Going to Heaven When I Die?

The member book provides a viewer guide that will help members take notes on important principles for later discussion as well as a simple set of group discussion questions to help begin to apply the teaching.  The member book also includes a fairly robust set of daily lessons designed to help members really dig in to the big idea for the week.  Averaging 5 to 6 pages in length daily, this will take some commitment to complete along with the payoff of in-depth exploration.

Have members that would benefit from additional content?  A companion paperback edition of Jeffress’s book by the same title is available and included in the leader kit.

How Can I Know is not without its challenges.  For many groups the DVD segments are just too long at 40+ minutes.  For others the more formal teaching style will be difficult to embrace.  Still, the content is very good and will be quite helpful to many.  If you’re looking for a study that answers these questions, you’ll want to take a look at How Can I Know.

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.”

Dilbert on Values

Ever had the values conversation?  I bet you don’t have this one on your list:

we need values

Raw Material + Process = End Product

It’s been a long time since I actually worked an algebraic equation.  I’m guessing it’s the same for you.  Still, I’m working on an insight that is helping me form theory and practice for an essential question in grouplife…and a kind of equation is proving helpful for me.

Here’s the equation: Raw Material + Process = End Product.

Here’s a little definition:

  • Raw Material: the people who are part of your congregation and crowd.
  • Process: The strategies you are using to develop the people.
  • End Product: What you are producing in the lives of the people.

With me so far?  Let me tease out the concept just a little with an example:

Church A has a working attractional concept that attracts a mix of non-users (unchurched unbelievers) and transfer growth.  That’s their raw material.

Their process includes an engaging weekend service with topical series (based largely on felt needs) and contemporary music designed to attract and bring back the mix they’ve targeted (non-users and transfer growth).  While there are exceptions, the mix they’re attracting regularly invite their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to a service that seems to be designed for them.   In addition, they talk about the importance of groups all the time and make it easy to join or host a group.  Groups are designed to generate relationships and conversations that help spiritual next steps happen.  There are also on-campus events designed to make it easy to get connected, but every on-campus event (or class) is designed to lead to grouplife.

The end product they’re designed to produce is a fully devoted follower of Christ (you might have another term but you get the idea).

Initial Takeaways:

  • The effectiveness of the process must be evaluated in light of the end product being produced, both quality and quantity.
  • Keep in mind that “your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you’re currently experiencing.” Andy Stanley
  • The end product you are producing is not a coincidence.  It is the result of the effects of the process on the raw materials you have.
  • If you’re not happy with the end product (results), you need to address the design (process).

Full disclosure: my equation and thinking is a work in progress.  What I know for sure is that you can tinker with the raw product you have to work with by adjusting some major elements.  You can also make changes to the process that will affect the end product.  What you can’t do is dismiss the impact of your process on the end product you are currently producing.

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

Quotebook: Easy First Steps

I hear this (or something like it) a lot.

“We don’t want to just connect people.  We want to help more of our adults become disciples who make disciples.  We know what we want to end up with.  We’re just finding it hard to get the majority of our adults to answer the call and make the commitments they need to make.”

Ever heard that?  Ever said that?

Listen.  I want that too!  But, when I hear that line, I’m reminded again how important it is that we never forget that most of the adults in our sheepfolds aren’t looking for the thrill that comes in being a disciple.  They’re not.

What most of the unconnected adults in our sheepfolds are looking for is the sense that they matter, the sense that they’re known, the sense that they belong.

If we want to help more of the adults in our sheepfolds become disciples who make disciples, we’ve got to design first steps that are easy, obvious and strategic.  They need to be doable.  They need to be blatant.  And they need to lead in the right direction.

The first order of business?  Design first steps that are easy.  The most important thing that for us to remember is that if we want people to arrive at the destination of a disciple who makes disciples…they’ve got to move from where they are.

Legendary Sunday school teacher Henrietta Mears said, “It is difficult to steer a parked car, so get moving.”

Don’t forget this.  Ever.

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

GroupLife Agnostics and the Adjacent Possible

This might seem like a stretch today, but I really want you to come along with me for just a few minutes.  I want to talk with you about grouplife agnostics and the adjacent possible.

With me?  Here goes.

First a couple definitions:

GroupLife Agnostics: I use this term to describe small group ministry practitioners whose worldview keeps them from seeing anything other than the way they’ve seen grouplife work or the reality they are comfortable with.  For example, they’ve only seen an apprentice leader become a leader and because they’ve never seen it any other way, they can’t even imagine another scenario.

Adjacent Possible: A theory developed by scientist Stuart Kauffman, “The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways the present can reinvent itself (p. 31, Where Good Ideas Come From).”  See Where Do You Want to Go with Your Small Group Ministry.

Second, a little meat to chew on:

One of my favorite Frederick Buechner quotes is from Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC.  Describing an agnostic, Buechner writes:

An agnostic is somebody who doesn’t know for sure whether there really is a God.  That is some  people all of the time and all people some of the time.

There are some agnostics who don’t know simply because they’ve never taken pains to try to find out–like the bear who didn’t know what was on the other side of the mountain.

There are other agnostics who have taken many pains.  They have climbed over the mountain, and what do you think they saw?  Only the other side of the mountain.  At least that was all they could be sure of.  That faint glimmer on the far horizon could have been just Disneyland.

So…it follows that a grouplife agnostic might have just never taken pains to find out if there’s another way.  Or, they might have taken great pains and just can’t see it.  Instead…they wonder if that faint glimmer might just be Disneyland.

An application.

Somewhere, just on the edges of the present state of your small group ministry, there is an idea that might open the door to an entirely different outcome.  It is the adjacent possible.  It is where grouplink and the small group connection were found.  It is where video driven curriculum was found (by the way, it is also where easy-t0-use curriculum was found by Lyman Coleman).  It is where the church-wide campaign and the HOST strategy were discovered.

The adjacent possible.  You can ignore it.  You can overlook it.  You can even call it a pipe dream.  But if you want in on all that’s possible, you’ve got to be willing to work close the edges.

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 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.”