Pushing Boundary-Free GroupLife

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Missed It by That Much!

maxwellsmart_missed_it_by_that_muchGet Smart was one of our favorite television shows when I was in elementary school.  Maxwell Smart, agent 86, was always almost getting it right and saying, “Missed it by that much.”

He came very close to getting it right, or at least in his mind he was very close.

It was a great show. We loved it. It was very funny.

I thought about Maxwell Smart saying “missed it by that much” today as I listened to several small group leaders describe the small group connection event where they were chosen as leaders. I have to admit I cringed a little as they described things that weren’t part of the original design of the strategy.

What occurred to me is that least little deviation from the design of a strategy can take you quite a distance from the intended outcome. Just little tiny deviations. Worse, what might seem like a small deviation may actually be a very significant strategic departure. Like when I discovered a former consulting church had “tweaked” the small group connection strategy and were essentially calling a group fair a connection.  Instead of starting new groups they were simply adding new members to existing groups.

Missed it by that much! Adding members to existing groups treads water. Starting new groups is the best way to grow the total number of people connected. See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs Start New Groups.

There are a number of strategic elements that only have to be tweaked slightly to lead to a much different and far less powerful outcome. If you’re finding a strategy is just not working (or just not working anymore), you may need to go back and look again at the original design. It could be that your tweaks have caused you to “miss it by that much.” See also, 5 Totally Obvious Reasons Small Group Ministries Fail and 5 Obscure but Important Reasons Small Group Ministries Fail.

7 Skills Every Small Group Pastor Needs

sevenWhat skills must every small group pastor have in their skill set? I’ve written about the 5 habits I’d look for if I was hiring a small group pastor.  This is really a different thing. There is a set of skills every small group pastor must have in their skill set.

7 Skills Every Small Group Pastor Needs

  • Relationship Builder: This is really not a position for monks or hermits. A small group pastor need not be a raging extrovert, but they do need to be a relationship builder (which may be true of both introverts and extroverts).  The task of building a thriving small group ministry cannot be done alone. It takes an army and a master relationship builder in the lead role is a powerful advantage.
  • Identifier of High Capacity Leaders: In order to build a thriving small group ministry you must have an effective coaching structure. Once you have more than 10 groups, caring for small group leaders will become increasingly difficult without engaging a growing band of high capacity leaders (who can each care for 5 to 10 small group leaders). Span of care issues keep many small group ministries from thriving. Identifying high capacity leaders is a full time job in a thriving small group ministry and can only rarely be delegated. See also, 6 Essential Characteristics of an Effective Small Group Coach.
  • Recruiter of High Capacity Leaders: It is not enough to be able to spot high capacity leaders; recruiting them is an essential skill. Skillful recruiting can be developed and there is an art to it. It is my conviction that high capacity leaders are always busy people, wear many hats and will only occasionally volunteer for your ministry. If you want to build an effective small group coaching structure, you must become a skillful recruiter. See also, How to Recruit a Small Group Coach: My Secret Formula.
  • Developer of Leaders: Although some leader development may be delegated, there is no avoiding the need for this skill. Because whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your groups must happen first in the lives of the leaders of your groups (and because this informs what you must do to and for (and with) your coaches), some of the most important leader development must be done by the small group pastor. Small group pastors without this skill will struggle to build an effective coaching structure. See also, The One Thing Every Small Group Pastor Must Do for Small Group Leaders and Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Small Group Leaders.
  • Strategic Thinker: You may have your doubts that this skill is essential, but I am convinced that the most effective small group pastors think strategically and in fact are students of the craft. Next steps for everyone and first steps for their friends that are easy, obvious and strategic isn’t a naturally occurring phenomenon. To the contrary, a crowded belong and become menu is the ministry equivalent of the second law of thermodynamics (In an isolated system, natural processes are spontaneous when they lead to an increase in disorder, or entropy).
  • Story Teller and Hero Maker: In many cases, the small group pastor has the greatest potential to know the best stories about life-change and be close enough to the action to identify the heroic actions of ordinary people. When the small group pastor is skilled at identifying great stories and making heroes and willing to pass those along to the senior pastor on a regular basis…you have the recipe for a powerful collaboration.  See also, 5 Keys to Starting New Groups. Lots of New Groups and 5 Things Every New Small Group Pastor Needs to Know on Day 1.
  • Behind the Scenes Producer: If the senior pastor must be the small group champion (and this is the case in all thriving small group ministries), the small group pastor must be a skilled behind the scenes producer. The role of a Hollywood movie producer might provide clarifying insight. “He shepherds the production from start to finish. In a typical arrangement, the producer develops an idea or script with a writer and secures the necessary rights. He often hires the director, supervises casting, and assembles a crew. Additionally, the producer oversees the budget and then coordinates the postproduction work—everything from editing, to commissioning music, to encouraging the film’s stars to plug the movie on talk shows.” The key? The producer plays a critical role but is almost entirely behind the scenes…until they accept the Oscar. See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.

Image by Melanie Hughes

Dallas Willard on the Greatest Issue Facing the World

earchThink about the implications of this sentence from Dallas Willard’s The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings on Discipleship:

“The greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as ‘Christians’ will become disciples – students, apprentices, practitioners – of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner of human existence.”

How might we embed this understanding in our leadership development experiences? What would have to be true about our small group systems if we want every member of our groups to become this kind of disciple?

Image by charamelody

Thinking Thursday: Got a Wicked Problem? First, Tell Me How You Make Toast

tom wujecMaking toast doesn’t sound very complicated — until someone asks you to draw the process, step by step. Tom Wujec loves asking people and teams to draw how they make toast, because the process reveals unexpected truths about how we can solve our biggest, most complicated problems at work. Learn how to run this exercise yourself, and hear Wujec’s surprising insights from watching thousands of people draw toast.

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

Image by TED

Ready to Maximize Your Fall Campaign?

mark_largerIf you want to maximize the impact of your next church-wide campaign, why not take advantage of my experience?  After all, in the last decade I’ve…

        • Led several of the fastest growing churches in America through the campaign process
  • Consulted with some of the largest churches and led them through the campaign process
  • Provided coaching for thousands of 40 Days of Purpose churches while part of the Lifetogether team

There’s a reason I have several of the highest ranked pages when you search for church-wide campaign information.  I know what I’m talking about!  More importantly, I can help you plan and launch a powerful campaign that leverages my experience, your passion for your church, and the absolute latest in campaign strategies.[quote]

What would it be worth?

So here’s my question: What would it be worth to have an experienced guide help you maximize the impact of a church-wide campaign? What if you could double or triple the number of adults in groups? What if your campaign helped you reach the neighborhoods around your church? What if you could find another wave of leaders that have been there waiting to be asked?

Church-Wide Campaign Coaching Includes

  • Assessment and Evaluation: Every church is different.  Every community is different.  Choosing the right campaign, fine-tuning the preparation stage and designing the launch sequence is all about understanding your church and your community.  I’ll help you select the right campaign for your church.
  • Preparation: Do the right things in advance and the campaign gathers momentum.  Do the right things in the wrong sequence and it sputters.  I’ll help you take the right first steps.
  • Designing the Launch Sequence: Inserting specific ingredients into the countdown, the intentional selection of one weekend over another, and knowing when to begin to invite members are just three key design elements.  I’ll help you fine-tune your launch sequence for maximum impact.
  • Countdown to Liftoff:  A careful eye and a steady hand makes a difference when you’re watching a complex control panel.  As you’re moving toward the beginning of the weekend series and small group study, it pays to have experience.  I’ll watch the control panel with you and help you make any necessary adjustments.
  • Liftoff and Flight Path: What you do in weeks 3 and 4 determine sustainability.  I’ll help you stay on course.
  • Sustaining Orbit: The 6 weeks of the campaign itself is really only the beginning.  Or at least it should be.  A church-wide campaign ought to do more than provide a memory.  It ought to lead to a new trajectory.  I’ll help you capitalize on a beginning that leads to new opportunities.

Thinking ahead about an upcoming church-wide campaign?  Let me help you get ready, launch big and sustain momentum long after the dust clears. Contact me about a consulting relationship with your church.

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5 Important Trends in Small Group Ministry

Important TrendsBack in 2011 I wrote about what I felt were the current trends in small group ministry. It’s been over 4 years and definitely time to update the list of current trends.  As you’ll see, some of the trends have continued to strengthen while others are emerging.  I should point out that just because a trend is gaining strength does not necessarily indicate that it is the best way to accomplish the goal.

5 Important Trends in Small Group Ministry

Here are what I believe are 5 of the most important trends in small group ministry:

  • Intentional discipleship groups, clusters, and triads. Books such as Transformational Discipleship by Eric Geiger, Michael Kelley, and Philip Nation along with Jim Putman’s Discipleshift and Robby Gallaty’s Growing Up have strengthened the trend of churches focusing on discipleship as a separate endeavor, at times competing with small group ministry. See also, Would You Rather: Connect More People or Make More Disciples?
  • Church-wide campaigns remain a strong trend with Saddleback leading the way with an annual spiritual growth emphasis.  Along with a number of off-the-shelf campaigns developed in churches like, Cross Point and Woodlands Church, a growing number of churches are developing their own curriculum using services like Lifetogether and LifeWay’s  See also, 7 Powerful Benefits of a Church-Wide Campaign.
  • If you have a couple friends…you can start your own group.” Whether a strategy within a church-wide campaign strategy or just another angle for starting new groups, the change in thinking from groups of ten to groups of a few friends is a very important trend in small group ministry.  It may seem to be an asterisk, but I believe it is the most significant reason that Saddleback had over 8400 groups meeting during their Transformed campaign.  See also, Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again.
  • In what may lead to a group, building intentional relationships with neighbors, friends, co-workers and family and using a home (or even a third place like a coffee shop) as a hub is a strong trend.  Proposed in books like The Next Christians, and strengthened in resources like The Art of Neighboring and Life As We Know It, “come over to hang out” is becoming a much easier invitation than “come with me to church.”  This trend becomes more and more important as we slip further into the 21st Century.  See also, 5 New Assumptions as I Step Further into the 21st Century.
  • Churches like Willow Creek and Cherry Hills Community Church are using a section leader strategy to build mid-size community environments right where people sit during the weekend service. Banking on a team of high capacity part-time staff (10 hour a week employees), the essence of the strategy is for the section leader to “own a section” of the auditorium, helping regular attendees begin to feel known. “You get the best of the small church feel—you walk in, people start knowing your name, they’re saving you seats, shaking hands, you’re doing a potluck once a month or so. You feel known. You don’t have to be best friends though. You can build relationships at the acquaintance level. Then over the course of time, you’ve got a set of acquaintances and from there, we equip you to form small groups (from Mid-Size Strategy at Cherry Hills).”

Have you picked up on a trend I’m missing? What are you seeing that might be significant? Use the comment section to add your two cents.You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Image by Patrick Denker

Are You a Leader? Or a Functionary?

leader or functionaryOne of my objectives at Canyon Ridge is the development of a robust leadership culture. That objective informs the way we identify, recruit and develop coaches. It also gives focus to the development of our leadership pathway.

The pursuit of the development of a robust leadership culture has added a theme to my reading this year. Two great additions to my reading list have been John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and A Year with Peter Drucker: 52 Weeks of Coaching for Leadership Effectiveness.

Last week, a line from A Year with Peter Drucker grabbed my attention and won’t let go.

“A focus on mission and purpose and the creation of trust are among the key differences between effective leaders and functionaries.”

I think what caught hold of my attention was the importance of the creation of trust. Drucker went on to define trust as “the conviction that a leader means what she says. It is a belief in integrity. A leader’s actions and a leader’s professed beliefs must be congruent. Effective leadership…is not based on being clever; it is based primarily on being consistent.”

Oh my. I believe most of us are focused on mission and purpose. We as a tribe are quite passionate about connecting unconnected people and making disciples. But are we as focused on the creation of trust? Am I?

What if the creation of trust is the key differentiator between a leader and a functionary?

See also, Laying the Foundation for a Leadership Culture and My Most Intriguing and Haunting Takeaway from re:group.

Image by Alden Chadwick

Dilbert on How a Small Group Connection Really Works

Sometimes you just need to laugh.


Thinking Thursday: Why Veterans Miss War

sebastian jungerCivilians don’t miss war. But soldiers often do. Journalist Sebastian Junger shares his experience embedded with American soldiers at Restrepo, an outpost in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley that saw heavy combat. Giving a look at the “altered state of mind” that comes with war, he shows how combat gives soldiers an intense experience of connection. In the end, could it actually be “the opposite of war” that soldiers miss?

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

Investing in Your Own Personal Growth

growth redwoodsI am convinced that whatever we want to happen in the lives of the members of our groups must happen first in the lives of our leaders. If you’ve been along for much of this conversation, you’ve already heard this. I suppose you might even be sick of hearing about it (hopefully not).

I’m also convinced that this principle extends upstream to indicate that whatever you want to happen in the lives of your leaders must happen first in the lives of your coaches and ultimately, what is happening in the life of the small group pastor makes possible the kinds of life-changing experiences happening at the member level.  See also, The Most Important Contribution of the Small Group Pastor and Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Your Leaders.

If it’s true that what happens in the life of the small group pastor ultimately impacts and affects what happens at the member level of our groups…it makes sense that we would pay attention to our own personal growth. That’s why I was very pleased to see 5 questions on our new staff evaluation tool at Canyon Ridge.

Grow Up

  • What is filling you up spiritually?
  • What’s God up to in your life right now?
  • How have you connected with God in the last 30 days?
  • What personal development targets are you aiming at in the next 90 days?
  • What are you doing right now to grow in your work related skills?

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

Image by Francis Eatherington

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