Pushing Boundary-Free GroupLife

Page 40 of 203

Is It Time for a Course Correction?

course correctionOn a coaching call yesterday I realized that one of my coaching clients was doing several of the things they were doing in a slightly different way than I do them.  That is, the strategies they were using were close, but not quite, to what they needed to be doing.

Close…but missed it by this much! [Cue Maxwell Smart]

Something in our conversation reminded me of the Apollo 13 launch on April 11th, 1970 where an oxygen tank exploded 2 days into the mission causing the mission to be aborted.  The next several days were touch and go as several adjustments and heroic actions adjusted the course and ultimately brought the astronauts safely home on April 17th, 1970.  At one point, had they not made a slight adjustment they would have missed the earth by 80 miles on their re-entry attempt.

So my question for you today is this: Is it time for a course correction?  What are you doing that is just slightly off course?  What strategy are you using that is just slightly off, but will miss the target by 80 miles?  The reason we loved the Apollo 13 movie is that it was a true story that had a fantastic ending (while the tragedies of Apollo 1 and Challenger were still very fresh).

Is it time for a course correction?  Is a little diagnosis in order?  How much would it be worth?

What if I help you course correct and help you get where you want to go?

If you’d like a little help you can set up a coaching call right here. It’s easy to set up. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind. It will lead to clarity on your next steps or your money back. And I’m a lot of fun to talk to!

Image by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

FAQ: When Should We Launch Small Groups in Our Church Plant?

FAQI get a lot of questions.  Here’s one I’ve gotten before and never answered on the blog:

We launched our church in 2013 and have about 50 adults attending regularly.  About 40% of them are connected in church groups like choir and ushering. Do you suggest we start small groups or wait until we raise the adult worship attendance.

Great question, don’t you think?  Many of you may have an opinion and I’d bet a fair number of you have actual experience in a church plant. I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

When Should We Launch Small Groups in Our Church Plant?

Keep in mind that there are several different strategies and if you ask around, you’ll probably get several different answers.  I think there are two main ideas:

  • Wait until you’re large enough. Kerrick Thomas, Nelson Searcy’s Executive Pastor, recommends that you wait until you have over 100 adults attending before beginning small groups.  You can read his rationale right here.
  • Start small groups before you launch worship. Eric Metcalf, Leadership Director at the New Thing Network and a Pastor at Community Christian Church, begins building small groups first and later launches a worship service.  You can read about this method right here.

I’ve seen it work both ways and I’ve also seen it work to launch small groups at nearly the same time as the public worship service.  An important factor may be what you recognize as the purpose of a small group.  For example, if almost anyone can pick up a small group host kit and invite a couple of their friends to join them for a study, wouldn’t that be an excellent way to speed up outreach?  On the other hand, if you’re counting on your small group leaders to help establish a brand new culture, you’ll want to be extra careful about which leaders and groups you send new members to.

Personally, my small group strategy is designed to leverage the outreach potential found in unconnected people whose closest connections are with neighbors, friends, co-workers and family.  Rather than wait for my weekend adult attendance to reach a minimum size of 100, I’d look for ways to help foster a growing number of outsider focused groups.  See also, 7 Assumptions that Shape My Small Group Strategy.

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

Image by PhotoSteve101

Top 10 Posts on Connecting Unconnected People

Keep It Shut: A New DVD-Driven Study from Karen Ehman

keep it shutSpent some time this week with a new six session study from Karen Ehman and Proverbs 31 Ministries.  Keep It Shut: What to Say, When to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All “challenges women to dig deep into what the Bible says about the ways we use our words–both in person and online–and when we should should just keep our lips zipped.”

DVD-driven, each session features Karen Ehman’s teaching, as well as a short vignette with Melissa Taylor (Proverbs 31 Ministries Director of Online Bible Studies).  Ehman is a storyteller and the sessions are engaging.  At an average length of 18 to 23 minutes, they will hold the attention of Bible study members.  The video sessions were filmed in front of a small group of women, providing the feeling of interaction that energizes a gifted communicator.

The study guide includes a video viewing guide (to help highlight a few key points in the teaching and take notes).  Each session also includes a well-written set of discussion questions to be discussed as a group and also in smaller group clusters.  A between sessions study is also included to help maximize the impact.  The between sessions study includes a suggested reading plan to guide participants through the book by the same title that accompanies the study.

Keep It Shut is a study that will be an easy addition to your recommended list.  Karen Ehman’s teaching style helps make a challenging topic easy to swallow and will provoke many great conversations.

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.”

Thinking Thursday: How Art, Technology and Design Inform Creative Leaders

john maedaJohn Maeda, former President of the Rhode Island School of Design, delivers a funny and charming talk that spans a lifetime of work in art, design and technology, concluding with a picture of creative leadership in the future. Watch for demos of Maeda’s earliest work — and even a computer made of people.

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

Do You Know What Business You Are Really In?

FactoryPeter Drucker was known for asking great questions.  I love his line that “the important and difficult job is never to find the right answers, it is to find the right question.  For there are few things as useless–if not dangerous–as the right answer to the wrong question (The Practice of Management).”

“What business are you in?” is one of my favorite Drucker questions.  Reflecting about the power of this both simple and profound question, Drucker wrote, “That the question is so rarely asked—at least in a clear and sharp form—and so rarely given adequate study and thought, is perhaps the most important single cause of business failure.”

Clearly, Drucker believed that knowing what business you are in is very important.  Do you?  Have you ever sat down and puzzled through a defining statement about the business you are in?  I’ve written about this many times.  I’ve even posted a few examples.  But I’m wondering if you’ve ever figured out for yourself, for your own ministry, what business you are in?

You may believe you are in the connecting business and all you are doing or the main thing you are doing is connecting people.  Or you may believe you are in the disciple-making business.  Alternatively, you might have decided you are in the life-change business or the transformation business.

Doing the hard work of figuring out the answer to the question is critical but only rarely done.  And that’s unfortunate because until you find this answer you can’t answer the next question.  What’s the next question?  “How’s business?”  See also, If I Was Starting Today, The First Question Every Small Group Pastor Must Answer and Clue #4 When Designing Your Small Group System.

Image by Daniel Foster

What to Do If You Discover You Have a Bad Disciple-Making Strategy

StrategyYesterday I posted 5 Signs You May Have a Bad Disciple-Making Strategy.  And of course, I immediately had questions about what to do if you discover that you have a bad disciple-making strategy.  Maybe you wondered the same thing!

Here’s my recommendation:

Rethink your design

If you discover that you have a bad disciple-making design (based on your results), then it’s time to rethink the way you are making disciples.

3 foundational assumptions

  1. It is what it is.  In the words of Andy Stanley, “Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.”  Your results are not a fluke.  They are directly related to the design.  Don’t like your results?  Change the design and remember that design incorporates just about everything (i.e., the way you recruit and train leaders, the way it’s promoted, the way you actually make disciples, any and all structure that plays a part, etc.).
  2. What got you here won’t get you there.  Albert Einstein noted that “the significant problems that we face will not be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”  Translation?  Your current strategy or design might very well have been effective at an earlier date.  Times change. Organizations become more complex over time. What works in one season won’t necessarily always work.  Getting to there will almost always require more than a tweak.
  3. There is no problem-free.  Every system, solution or strategy comes with a set of problems and there are no exceptions.  There is no problem-free.  Wise leaders simply make a list of the problems that come with each strategy and choose the set of problems they would rather have.

10 principles that will guide the work that is ahead.

  1. Begin with the end in mind.  Describing in vivid detail a picture of the preferred future is essential.  Make no compromise and take no shortcut.  As the Cheshire Cat said to Alice, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
  2. Diagnose the present with uncompromising honesty.  If you begin with the end in mind, brutal honesty about the here and now is another essential.  See also, Brutal Honesty about Your Present.
  3. Clarify what you will call a win.  According to Peter Drucker, very few things are as important as determining what you will call success.  See also, Clarifying the Win in Your Small Group Ministry.
  4. Think steps, not programs.  Design easy, obvious and strategic steps that lead to the preferred future and only to the preferred future.  See also, Think Steps, Not Programs.
  5. Narrow the focus (to eliminate all but the best steps).  There is no room for turning a blind eye to the inadequacies of yesterday’s solutions.  See also, Small Group Roadblock #2: A Bloated Belong and Become Menu.
  6. Allocate resources to the critical growth path.  Choosing a preferred future is one thing.  Allocating finite resources to get to the preferred future is what demonstrates conviction.  Budget, key staff and volunteers, space, promotional bandwidth, and senior pastor attention are just a few of the most important resources.  See also, Budgeting for the Preferred Future.
  7. Commit to the long haul.  The journey to build a thriving small group ministry is not a short sprint.  It is a marathon.  If you want to arrive at the finish line, you must commit to the long haul.  See also, Wash, Rinse, Repeat and the Long Run.
  8. Keep one eye on the preferred future.  Maintaining focus on the end in mind, using preferred future language to cast vision for the promised land is a non-negotiable.  It will be tempting along the way to settle for something less than a thriving small group ministry.  Only by rehearsing again and again what it will be like will the steadfast pursuit continue.
  9. Keep the other eye on the very next milestone.  Milestones that are clearly visible in the near future enable your team to stay focused and encouraged.  Milestones could be quantitative (a number of groups or a percentage connected statistic).  Milestones can also be qualitative with a little effort (capturing life-change stories or monitoring feedback cards).  The objectives that must be accomplished to reach the next milestone are the kind of things that keep teams focused.  See also, Are We There Yet? Milestones that Lead to the Preferred Future.
  10. Celebration is expected.  A culture of celebration is a must have.  Celebrate milestones reached and wins experienced.

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

Image by Keith Williams

5 Signs You May Have a Bad Disciple-Making Strategy

signsYou may want to argue with me, but I think there are certain signs that indicate clearly whether you have a bad disciple-making strategy.  With me?  Isn’t obvious that certain results or a lack of results would indicate a bad disciple-making strategy?  Remember, “your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.”  If you don’t like the results, you must change the design.

I love this line from Winston Churchill.  “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”  If you don’t like your results, change the strategy.

See where I’m going?  Can you go there?  Here are five signs you may have a bad disciple-making design:

5 Signs You Have a Bad Disciple-Making Design

  1. You don’t have enough adults being discipled.  You pray for it.  You talk about it.  You promote it.  But it just doesn’t happen.  Sign-ups for your disciple-making effort fall far short of projections and expectations, and another season comes and goes.  Doesn’t the number of people entering the pipeline determine the number coming out?  See also, Would You Rather: Connect More People or Make More Disciples?
  2. You have plenty of adults being discipled…but you are rarely producing disciple makers.  Real disciples make disciples.  If all you’re making is more knowledgable consumers, you have a bad disciple-making strategy.  You can have a steady stream of people completing the curriculum, but if you rarely see disciples become disciple-makers it is time to take a serious look at your results.  See also, 4 Leading Indicators of Small Group Ministries that Make Disciples and Lagging Indicators of Small Group Ministries that Make Disciples.
  3. You have plenty of adults who have been discipled…but you still never have enough people serving.  Results are the true test.  If your strategy is making disciples you will be producing a steady stream of other-centered men and women.  Rather than a shortage of volunteers, you will have a surplus.  It will become easier and easier to fill ministry positions with volunteers who are fruitful and fulfilled, obviously in the right seats on the bus.
  4. You have plenty of adults who have been discipled…but you aren’t developing a culture of generosity.  Struggling to grow your annual budget?  There may be no clearer indication that you have a bad strategy for making disciples.  If your disciple-making design isn’t producing a culture of generosity, shouldn’t very loud alarm bells be going off?
  5. You have plenty of adults who have been through your discipleship pathway…but what you are producing barely resembles Jesus.  If you’re graduating men and women in number from your discipleship pathway, but your graduates aren’t really exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit or ending up fully mature in Christ, isn’t that an indication that your strategy is ineffective?  If your pathway graduates are still drinking milk and not ready for meat, isn’t that a signal that you’re producing something less than complete?

See also, 6 Essential Questions about Making Disciples and Small Group MinistryHow to Make Disciples in Small Groups and 5 Essential Ingredients of Groups that Make Disciples.

What do you do if you see these signs?  I detail what to do if you discover a bad disciple-making strategy right here.

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

Image by Peter Nijenhuis

Ready to Launch: A New Study on Jesus-Centered Parenting

ready to launchHad an opportunity this week to preview a new study from J.D. and Veronica Greear.  J.D. Greear is the lead pastor of Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Summit Church has been one of Outreach magazines top 25 fastest growing churches in America for several years running.  Ready to Launch: Jesus-Centered Parenting in a Child-Centered World is a 7 session study based on Psalm 127 that might be a great fit for your recommended list.

DVD-driven, Ready to Launch features teaching by J.D. and Veronica Greear.  The video sessions are 13 to 17 minutes in length and have the feel of being in a small group listening to two Christian parents talking about a how they raise their children according to scripture, preparing them for God’s mission.  I like the blend of J.D.’s lean forward intensity and Veronica’s more conversational tone.  The video sessions easily hold attention and the Greears are very relatable.

The member book includes a number of basic features:

  • A section for taking notes on the video teaching
  • A smartly written set of discussion questions that will help your group members dig into the Bible for clear understanding
  • A wrap-up section that summarizes the teaching
  • A prayer section that will guide your group to pray with and for each other

Each session in the member book also includes a family action plan activity, designed to help your members put into action what they’ve learned.  Each session also includes two devotions designed to help your members continue to reflect on what they’ve learned.

If you’re looking for a practical and biblically-based study on parenting, you’ll want to take a look at Ready to Launch.  I like this study and I think your groups 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 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.”

Thinking Thursday: Listen, Learn…Then Lead

stanley mcchrystalFour-star general Stanley McChrystal shares what he learned about leadership over his decades in the military. How can you build a sense of shared purpose among people of many ages and skill sets? By listening and learning — and addressing the possibility of failure.

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

« Older posts Newer posts »