All Pro Dad: 7 Essentials to Be a Hero to Your Kids

all pro dadHad an opportunity to preview a new study from LifeWay this week. Mark Merrill’s All Pro Dad: Seven Essentials to Be a Hero to Your Kids (featuring Tony Dungy) is an 8 session study for men.  Based on Merrill’s 2012 book by the same title, there are some very appealing aspects to this study.

First, the study is anchored by an 8 session DVD that includes teaching by Mark Merrill and an interview format with Tony Dungy, former coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts.  As the NFL’s first African-American coach to win the Superbowl and owner of the NFL record for consecutive playoff appearances by a head coach, Dungy is a well known sports personality and will be a draw for many men.

The DVD segments are just the right length for men, averaging 6 to 7 minutes.  Fairly engaging, I think men will find themselves pulled in as Merrill and Dungy talk about the seven essentials of being a hero to their kids.

The member book provides both a discussion guide for the session (group training) and a set of short, engaging assignments to be experienced during the following week (home training).  As much as I think the DVD is well designed for the attention spans of many men, I think the member book is even better.  The group training discussion questions are well written and will take even a new group in a great direction.  The home training activities are really well thought out and will produce some great interaction at home.

The Leader Kit comes with a CD-ROM that includes a leader’s guide and parenting tools for dads, along with publicity tools for churches that would like to use All Pro Dad as a campaign.

If you’re looking for an engaging study for men, I think you need to take a look at All Pro Dad.  Right up the alley for many men, this study will be an appealing opportunity that will get some great conversations going.

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.”

Quotebook: The Key to Long-Term (Ministry) Success

You know this…but I thought this was a good quote for your notebook.  This is a very Peter Drucker/Joseph Schumpeter concept, the gist of which is that you can’t continue to succeed without being willing to abandon yesterday’s winning products or programs (in the pursuit of tomorrow’s winning products or programs).

“The key to long-term success is a willingness to disrupt your own comfort for the sake of continued growth.”  Todd Henry, Die Empty

For more on this idea, see Purposeful Abandonment: a Prerequisite to Innovation and The Innovator’s Guide to Growth.

By the way, Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Everyday is a great read.  If you’re in a creative enterprise, this is a must read!

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.”

Three Moves You Can Make That Sound Crazy But Pay Off Big Time

There are certain moves you can make that sound crazy, but pay off big time!  They actually have a disproportionately big return for the amount of effort expended.  They aren’t necessarily easy moves, but none of them are very difficult.

Here are three moves you can make:

  1. Plan a small group connection event that launches new groups.  Many churches use a small group fair to allow existing groups an opportunity to add new members.  A small group connection is a very different idea.  The genius of a connection is that it is designed to gather unconnected people at an event, sort them into tables by affinity (life-stage, geography, etc.) and then give each table an opportunity to choose a test-drive leader from amongst themselves.  Sounds crazy.  Pays off big time.  See also, How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection and Distinctives of the Three Types of Small Group Connecting Events.
  2. Challenge your best small groups to consider taking a small group vacation.  The small group vacation idea is a genius move.  Essentially, you’re just asking whole groups to consider taking a 6 week break from their own group to help jump start 2 or more new groups.  Since you’re not asking them to do anything permanent (you always assure them they can come back to their own group), it is a great way to expose additional potential leaders from your best groups to the joy of leading a group themselves.  The very first time I tried it, I had two groups of 20+ people agree to take a vacation and both groups started 7 new groups.  At the end of the 6 weeks…both groups had launched 6 new groups that decided to stay together!  We went from two groups to 14.  We also went from 40+ people connected to over 120!  Sounds crazy.  Pays off big time.  See also, Take a Small Group Vacation!
  3. Recruit a few test-drive coaches.  Know you need to add additional coaches in order to take care of your newest small group leaders but not sure where to find the coaches you need?  Consider asking a few of your highest capacity small group leaders to take a brand new leader or two under their wings for the next 10 to 13 weeks.  It’s not a permanent responsibility.  It’s a short term ask.  And it’s not an overwhelming responsibility.  It’s just checking in each week by phone or in person and having a conversation about how it’s going.  It is a fantastic way to find out which of your existing group leaders might be pre-wired to make an even greater contribution.  Sounds crazy.  Pays off big time.  See also, Recruiting Additional Coaches for Church-Wide Campaigns.

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

Small Group Ministry Roadblock #2: A Bloated Belong and Become Menu

bloated menuYesterday we began a detailed look at what I believe are the top 5 small group ministry roadblocks; the things that stand in the way of a truly thriving small group ministry.  We began with a look at roadblock #1: a doubtful or conflicted senior pastor.  See also, 10 Powerful Benefits of a Thriving Small Group Ministry.

Today I want to point out what I believe is another powerful roadblock: a bloated belong and become menu.  There are a few important aspects:

  • Instead of a single way to get connected, there are 4 or 5 (or even more).
  • Instead of a single delivery system for both connecting people and making disciples, there are two or more separate pathways.
  • When I take a look at your website, it’s hard to choose between an off-campus couples small group, an on-campus Precepts Bible study, and a missional community.
  • When I stop by your guest information center, I find myself lost in the panels of the trifold brochure, unable to decide which option would be best for me (especially when I factor in the time commitments, cost to register, and childcare availability.

Sound familiar?  Why is this a roadblock?  It turns out that too many choices is demotivating.  Trust me…you might be the kind of person that really enjoys a wide selection, but it has been conclusively demonstrated that narrowing the available options actually increases the likelihood of choosing.  See also, Is An Artificial Barrier Limiting Growth in Your Small Group Ministry.

Solution: Limit the number of items on the menu.  If you have 5 options, trim the list to 2 or 3.  Can’t make that move?  Limit promotion during prime connecting season to the single best option and reformat the others to function as additional steps in the path (as opposed to making a Luby’s style cafeteria approach the standard).

Solution: Redesign available menu options to function as both connecting and discipleship opportunities.  Eliminate either/or options.  Highlight both/and options.

Easy?  No.  Actually packed with high risk operations.  Still, at the end of the day a very productive operation and removing roadblock #2 well worth the struggle.  It won’t happen easily or overnight, but the steady and gradual repurposing of the menu is an essential step.

You can read about roadblock #3 right here.

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

Image by TakoChen

Small Group Ministry Roadblock #1

roadblockI’ve been thinking lately about the biggest roadblocks to small group ministry; the things that stand in the way of a truly thriving small group ministry.  See also, 10 Powerful Benefits of a Thriving Small Group Ministry.

Here are what I believe are the top 5 roadblocks:

  1. A doubtful or conflicted senior pastor.
  2. A bloated belong and become menu.
  3. Indecision about the best next step.
  4. A myopic understanding of the culture.
  5. A leadership development disconnect

Roadblock #1: a doubtful or conflicted senior pastor

As I’ve said many times, building a thriving small group ministry absolutely depends on a senior pastor who is the champion, the face of grouplife.  In every church where small group ministry thrives, the senior pastor is the main spokesperson.  In nearly every instance where small group ministry struggles or fails, the senior pastor is doubtful about the essential role of life-on-life ministry or conflicted about the best way to connect and disciple people.

Doubtful about the essential role of life-on-life: Sometimes a senior pastor has never really thought about the way life-change really happens.  Taking for granted that the weekend message or the weekend worship service provides 100% of the minimum requirements for spiritual growth turns a blind eye to the one-anothers of the Bible.  See also, The Primary Activity of the Early Church.

Solution: Admittedly, this is a very tough sell.  What’s the work-around?  I think part of it is to simply live it yourself and constantly tell stories of authentic life-change as they happen.  There’s no substitute for you modeling the real thing.  It does help in some instances to point out the personal stories of high-profile pastors like Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, and Bill Hybels.  You need to do that carefully and with wisdom.  It is compelling evidence when you hear or read the personal accounts of some of America’s most highly regarded preachers talk about the power of life-on-life.  FYI: I am working on a post with quotes from many prominent senior pastors about the essential aspect of life-on-life.

Conflicted about the best way to connect and disciple people:

Sometimes a senior pastor has come to conclusion that life-change happens with some blend of weekend service and a life-on-life ingredient…but is conflicted about the best way to connect and disciple people.  When that happens a senior pastor will almost always see the need to equally promote all of the available options (i.e., on-campus classes like Precepts or Bible Study Fellowship, specialized and intensive discipleship programs like MasterLife, the Real Life Discipleship Manual or a homegrown option, etc.).

Solution: I think some combination of a discussion about the degree of difficulty in choosing from too large a menu and an awareness of the precarious position of unconnected people will help.  Not easy, but any means, but a necessary discussion.  See also, Supercharge Your Ministry with These 5 Questions, How to Make Next Steps Easier to Choose, and What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting Unconnected People?

The other 4 roadblocks (and solutions)?  You can read about roadblock #2 right here.  Be sure you’re signed up for my blog to get the latest.  You can do that right here.

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

Image by Scazon

Top 10 Posts of December 2013

Miss a day?  Here are my top 10 posts of December, 2013.  Breaking a string that goes back several months, only one of December’s top 10 posts was written in December of 2013.  The other nine?  They are from the archives and generated new interest when another post referred to them.  Additionally, I tweet 3 or 4 different posts from the archives almost every day.  If you’re not following me on Twitter, you can do that right here.

  1. Top 5 January/February Church-Wide Campaigns for 2014 (October, 2013)
  2. 10 Ideas that Have Shaped My Philosophy of Ministry (December, 2012)
  3. How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection (May, 2008)
  4. Supercharge Your Ministry Impact with These 5 Questions (January, 2013)
  5. Essential Ingredients for Life-Change (September, 2009)
  6. How to Connect People No One Else is Connecting (May, 2010)
  7. Think Steps, Not Programs (March, 2011)
  8. Reading List for Christmas 2013 (December, 2013)
  9. The Pursuit of Problem-Free (January, 2009)
  10. Clue #2 When Designing Your Small Group System (February, 2011)

Dilbert on Being Wise as a Serpent

Sometimes you need to be wise as a serpent…in order to get your way:

wise as serpents

Here Are My Small Group Ministry Resolutions for 2014

You may not need to get in shape or pay down your credit cards, but you probably ought to be making some small group ministry resolutions for 2014.  Do you have yours figured out?

Because you’re part of the tribe here, you know you’ll have to do something different if you want to end up in a different place.  And you know that your current ministry design determines your results.  See also, The Perils of the Well-Worn Path and Different, Not Better, Will Connect the Widening 60%.

Here are my small group ministry resolutions for 2014:

  • Recognize that if we want to connect people no one else is connecting we’ll need to do things no one else is doing.  Some things are just self-evident.  Isn’t this one of them?  Isn’t it obvious that if what you’re already doing is sufficient…it would have already connected everybody?  See also, How to Connect People No One Else Is Connecting.
  • Create even easier first steps out of the auditorium that lead to toe-in-the-water opportunities for community. We saw the wisdom of this idea in 2013.  For people who freely admit that it took them a long time to finally come to our church, we must anticipate that it will be very difficult for them to ever try out a small group that meets in a stranger’s living room.  See also, Design Your Connection Strategy with Unconnected People In Mind.
  • Increase our commitment to make it easy to take first steps into hosting a small group and nearly automatic to take the steps that lead to becoming an authentic shepherd.  We must be committed to both parts of the equation.  Easy to begin.  Nearly automatic to develop as a shepherd leader.  See also, Teacher, Leader, Shepherd, Host: What’s In a Name?
  • Increase our commitment to identifying, recruiting and developing high capacity leaders of leaders.  We know that whatever we want to happen in the lives of group members must happen first in the lives of group leaders.  How will that happen if we aren’t investing in leaders of leaders?  Whether we call them coaches, mentors, or community leaders…this is an essential ingredient to true small group ministry success.  See also, 5 Assumptions that Set Small Group Coaching Up to #Fail.
  • Invest ourselves in the mission of making disciples who make disciples.  It’s about curriculum.  It’s about the group environment itself.  And it’s about doing the right things to and for our small group leaders (and coaches).  It is not about hoping it happens or wishful thinking.  It’s about a path, not an intent.  See also, Four Leading Indicators of Small Group Ministries That Make Disciples.
  • Make a habit of asking, “How might we….?”  We must learn to ask great questions as we’re doing what we’re doing.  Clearly, the best way to do almost everything we want to do…hasn’t been discovered!  See also, Supercharge Your Ministry with These 5 Questions.

What will your small group ministry resolutions be?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Here’s a Sample Recommended Study List

An important resource for your small group leaders is a recommended or approved study list.  Having a recommended list will help in several ways:

  • Gives leaders an easy way to find their next study
  • Makes recommending a next study easy
  • Encourages your groups to use studies that are consistent with your theology
  • Emphasizes important concepts and practices

A sample recommended study list could be as simple as this:

Getting Started

Topical Studies

Bible Book Studies

Men’s Studies

Women’s Studies

 

Evaluate Your Small Group Ministry with My Signature 10 Point Checklist

Everyone knows that before you take your car on a road trip…you really should do more than fill up the gas tank.  You might check the tire pressure and take it in for an oil change.  You might decide it’s time for new windshield wipers or even a new set of tires.

Getting ready for the next leg in your small group ministry adventure?  Maybe it’s time you took your ministry through my signature 10 point checklist!

  1. Review your small group ministry’s present state.  There are a number of ways you can think about the way things are right now.  An accurate understanding of where you are right now is essential no matter where you want to go.  See also, Diagnosing a Small Group Ministry and The Four Helpful Lists by Tom Paterson.
  2. Review (or create) your end in mind for your ideal small group.  What kinds of groups do you want for every member of a group?  Are there certain activities and habits?  Are there certain experiences?  What do you want it to feel like to be part of a small group in your system?  See also, The End in Mind for My Ideal Small Group.
  3. Review (or create) your preferred future for the kind of small group leader you dream of producing.  Spend some time thinking about the kind of leaders you will need to have in order to create the micro-environments that actually encourage life-change.  See also, From Here to There: The Preferred Future for Small Group Leaders.
  4. Review (or create) your annual grouplife calendar.  Have you planned to take advantage of the best opportunities to connect unconnected people?  Have you built in the steps that will allow you to maximize impact?  Or have you compromised and compressed timelines in a way that will lessen impact?  See also, How to Build an Annual GroupLife Calendar.
  5. Evaluate your current coaching team.  Do you have high-capacity, hundred and sixty-fold players on the team?  Or have you compromised and added thirty-fold players who struggle to accomplish their mission?  Have you settled for warm-and-willing when hot-and-qualified is needed?  See also, Diagnosis: The Coaches in Your System.
  6. Evaluate your current plan to develop the coaches on your team.  Remember, whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your groups must happen first in the lives of your small group leaders.  If that’s true, then whatever you want to happen in the lives of your leaders must happen first in the lives of your coaches.  Can you see where this is going?  Assuming that your coaches will develop themselves is short sighted and compromises the integrity of your system.  See also, 7 Practices for Developing and Discipling Coaches.
  7. Evaluate (or create) your plan to develop your existing small group leaders.  I am a fan of a very low entry bar of leadership…but the word “entry” is a very important word.  I also know that lowering the bar and recruiting HOSTs won’t often put shepherds into the system.  It will usually put people who are willing to open up their home.  If you want to make it easy to begin as a host, you’ve got to make it nearly automatic that new hosts step onto a leader development conveyor belt that moves them in the direction you want them to go.  Don’t have the conveyor belt?  Now’s the time to build it!  See also, Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway.
  8. Evaluate your existing leaders in search of potential coaches.  Look over your list for high capacity leaders who may be able to put their toe in the water of caring for another new leader or two.  Your best coaching candidates are almost always leading their own group and doing a great job.  Inviting them to test-drive the coaching role by helping mentor a new leader or two is a great way to let them put a toe-in-the-water.  See also, What If Your Coaching Structure Looked Like This?
  9. Take a careful look at the next connecting event you’ve got planned.  Will you take advantage of the next optimum time to connect people?  Do you have several weeks of promotion built in?  Have you designed the event to appeal to unconnected people?  Have you chosen a study that will peak the interest of unconnected people?  Have you already chosen a great follow-up study?  See also, 6 Essential Components of a Small Group Launch.
  10. Evaluate (or create) your recommended study list.  One of the most helpful tools you can provide for small group leaders is a recommended study list.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate.  It can begin as simply as a top 10 list.  It can exist as a page on your website or a simple handout that you keep updated.

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