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.

“Mark Howell fuses a heart for relationships and a mind for strategy like few can. His focus on group ministry makes him a valuable asset to church leadership generally and a great advisor to churches individually.” Will Mancini, Founder of Auxano, Author of Church Unique

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

Crowd-to-Core: An Essential Understanding at the Heart of My Strategy

circles crowd to coreI’ve written previously about ten ideas that have shaped my philosophy of ministry.  One of those ten ideas can be summed up in the phrase crowd-to-core.  What does crowd-to-core mean? Essentially, it means that instead of pouring everything into the most committed members with the expectation (or hope) that they will then go out and win others or disciple others (core to crowd), crowd to core focuses on building next steps that will help the crowd take steps and move toward Christ, toward the core.  See also Next Steps for Everyone…and First Steps for Their Friends.

This is Purpose Driven Church terminology. Based on Rick Warren’s concentric circles (community, crowd, congregation, committed, and core), it is easy to see how it works conceptually. I describe our strategy by saying we want to provide next steps for every Ridger and first steps for their friends.

Crowd-to-core is the opposite of a core-to-crowd strategy. If you’ve ever heard someone talk about discipling or investing in the core and committed (in anticipation of them investing in their friends), you’ve been listening to core-to-crowd strategy.  In some ways crowd-to-core versus core-to-crowd is a key difference between cell group philosophy and a number of small group strategies.

Core-to-crowd sounds good. It is often characterized as Jesus’ strategy (i.e., He invested in His disciples and they invested in the next generation, etc.). And while some of what Jesus did can be interpreted as core-to-crowd, it isn’t the best explanation for Jesus’ pattern of ministry to the crowd or His frequent challenge to the crowd to act on what they had heard (i.e., “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”). Crowd-to-core is actually a better explanation for what happened at Pentecost (and indeed much of what happened in the Book of Acts).

And it’s not that a degree of core-to-crowd doesn’t happen. It simply isn’t the foundation upon which the primary ministry strategy is built.  As a crowd-to-core strategy and philosophy is established, it is only a matter of time until the next steps you’ve designed lead sequentially to the congregation, committed and core. What are some of the next steps you develop for members of the core and committed and congregation? Developing mission ownership and activating ones gift-based, passion-driven ministry.

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

Image by Sérgio Bernardino

4 Bogeys* That Might Not Be on Your Radar…Yet

radarHave you ever said, “I’m not sure how I missed that!” Or maybe, “That caught all of us by surprise!” If you’ve said anything like that, you’re in good company.

Life has a way of encouraging preoccupation with that which is urgent, often at the expense of those things that are truly important. And sometimes that unnoticed blip on the screen turns out to be very significant.

To an air traffic controller a bogey is an unidentified aircraft; a suspicious blip on a radar screen. They don’t know what it is or whether it is friend or foe.

For my purposes, I’m defining a bogey as something more than suspicious and probably something quite deadly. See what you think.

Here are 4 bogeys* that might not be on your radar…yet:

  1. Belonging trumps believing and becoming. All three are important, but, although there are exceptions, belonging is a much higher motivation for most people. That said, it is more effective to make it easy to connect to a small group and build discipleship (becoming like Jesus) into the group experience than the other way around. If you’ve missed this bogey, you may have implemented a strategy that repeatedly hopes against all odds to leverage a lower motivation (becoming) as first step. For first steps to be effective, they must be easy, obvious and strategic. First steps can be clearly marked (obvious) and strategic (only leading where you want people to go), but unless they are easy (come and see vs come and die), they will only rarely be taken. See also, Would You Rather: Connect Unconnected People or Make More Disciples? and Create Connecting Steps that Are Easy, Obvious and Strategic.
  2. Until the why is clearly communicated, what is unfamiliar and how is irrelevant to unconnected people. You may have designed genius communication methods that clearly explain how to get connected.  You may have worked diligently to develop steps that are easy, obvious and strategic. But until you’ve made it easy to understand why doing life in community is so important, you will struggle to break through the most basic of barriers. Only after you’ve clearly and compellingly communicated the why will unconnected people see the essential qualities of what you are asking them to do. And only then will how to do it become relevant. Far too many of us are starting the conversation with how to get connected, overlooking the need to articulate what a small group is and never getting around to crafting a compelling why. See also, How Great Leaders Inspire Action.
  3. Discipling and developing small group leaders is an essential activity, not a nice extra. This is why an effective small group coaching structure is not something you build later. You must acknowledge that “whatever you want to happen at the member level, will have to happen to the leader first.” That makes discipling and developing small group leaders an essential activity. See also, Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Leaders.
  4. Guiding the selection of study material is responsible, not intrusive. Responsible parents make certain choices for their children. Parents may go above and beyond to prepare meals that are nutritious and appealing, but knowing the importance of a nutritious diet, they don’t delegate meal planning to their children. In the same way, guiding the selection of study material is the activity of responsible small group point people. If you are providing little or no guidance you should not expect to produce mature disciples. See also, Small Group Ministry Myth #2: Effective at Connecting and Ineffective at Discipling and Small Group Ministry Myth #3: Leaders and Members Know Best What to Study.

Image by Official U.S. Navy Page

Hebrews: Don’t Miss This Timely Bible Book Study

hebrews etbSpent some time this week with a new study from LifeWay’s Explore the Bible series. Hebrews is a 13 week study, divided into two study guides: Chapters 1-7 “introduces the Book of Hebrews and gives encouragement and hope to believers.” Chapters 8-13 “helps believers understand how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise of a New Covenant.”

The Explore the Bible series provides “deep, book-by-book study. Each study focuses on one book of the Bible (or section of a book) and features questions designed to encourage group discussion. These studies encourage transformational encounters with Scripture that help participants know the Word in a personal and meaningful way. And because the Word equips us “for every good work,” as Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3, these studies help adults understand how to live it out in their own life context (from the website).”

Why study the book of Hebrews? (from the website):

  • It was written to a persecuted people.
  • It was written for a church struggling to remain passionate about the gospel.
  • It elevates the superiority of Christ.
  • It reminds struggling believers that they have an advocate and brother in Jesus.
  • It urges believers to endure in the faith until Christ returns because He is returning.

A good leader’s guide is included in the member book. Each session features a creative activity designed to generate good discussion, along with questions that will help your members understand the context, explore the text and obey the text.

The Hebrews study is being featured as a special emphasis this fall by LifeWay. The emphasis includes free additional resources that will enable your church to use Hebrews as a church-wide study.  You can find out more about the emphasis right here.

I like the Hebrews study because the issues of the 1st Century world correspond so directly with those of the 21st Century. If you’re looking for a study that will help your members find hope in the middle of the 21st Century, be sure and take a look at Hebrews.

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: The Power of Time Off

stefan sagameisterEvery seven years, designer Stefan Sagmeister closes his New York studio for a yearlong sabbatical to rejuvenate and refresh their creative outlook. He explains the often overlooked value of time off and shows the innovative projects inspired by his time in Bali.

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

Image by Bret Hartman

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