5 Common Mistakes of Rookie Small Group Pastors

“That was a rookie mistake.”

Ever heard that?  Ever said it to yourself?  Probably all of us have been there and done that.

Here are 5 of the most common mistakes of rookie small group pastors:

  1. Trying to take care of too many small group leaders.  This is a very common mistake and reflects a lack of understanding of span of care.  Caring for too many can only do two things: burn out the caregiver or provide inadequate and watered down care.  See also, Span of Care and How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.
  2. Propping up existing groups instead of starting new groups.  It happens to all of us and if we let it, it will happen over and over.  “We are down to three couples…if you could send us a couple more it would be helpful.”  This is a losing proposition.  Far better to prioritize new groups and teach existing group leaders how to be on the lookout for new members.  See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs. Start New Groups and Great Question: How Do I Train Leaders to Add New Members?
  3. Not saying “no” to unfit “leaders”.  Although unfit can cover a lot of ground, the version that catches many rookie small group pastors are the people who want to be a leader but couldn’t build their own group if their life depended on it.  They need to be given 10 members and then don’t have what’s necessary to hold the group together.  Learning to say “no” often begins with learning to ask, “Do you already have a few people you can invite?”  Seasoned small group pastors learn to be wary of the “leaders” who can’t build their own group.
  4. Allowing their senior pastor to delegate the small group champion role.  This mistake has deadly implications.  It’s never good when the most influential person in the congregation (the senior pastor) delegates the champion role to the small group pastor.  Rookie small group pastors often have a very hard time helping their senior pastor see the opportunity that exists when the champion role is played by the right person.  See also, Your Senior Pastor As Small Group Champion Leads to a Church of Groups.
  5. Missing the opportunity to partner with their senior pastor.  Related to mistake #4, there is a tremendous opportunity for impact when a small group pastor learns how to help the senior pastor champion small group ministry.  See also, 6 Ways to Help Your Senior Pastor Make the Small Group Ask.

Here’s an important note.  All of us make these mistakes at one time or another.  The key is to learn from our mistakes and not make them again!

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

5 Things To Do in June to Maximize Small Group Ministry This Fall

You can’t wait until the end of the summer to prepare for the fall ministry season.  Have you figured this out yet?  Most likely you’re on to this fact of life…but even if you are, you might need an idea or two about how to prepare and what to focus on.  See also, What To Do Before You Plan Another Church-Wide Campaign.

(Ready for my July List?  Click here to see what’s next.)

Here are 5 things I believe must be done in June:

  1. Meet with your senior pastor to clarify involvement and fine-tune where necessary.  It really doesn’t matter what strategy you’re using this fall to launch new groups, you need your pastor in the game.  Integrating the HOST ask into their sermon is essential.  Leveraging their influence at a HOST gathering is a huge opportunity.  Casting the vision for everyone to be involved in a group is something that only your pastor can do.  June is the time to confirm and clarify involvement (before vacations and/or study breaks).  See also, 6 Ways to Help Your Senior Pastor Make the Small Group Ask.
  2. Make sure your existing small group leaders are aware of the fall plans.  “Why are we just hearing about this now!”  “We’re three weeks into a 12 week study and won’t be able to participate in the church-wide campaign.”  All of us have heard these excuses for remaining on the sidelines.  Sometimes they’re legitimate and sometimes they’re just excuses.  Either way, making your existing group leaders aware of fall plans is not hard and will pay off.  Tip: It’s a good idea to communicate in a way that requires a response and follow up to confirm.
  3. Identify, recruit and begin training the coaches you’ll need for the new groups you hope to launch this fall.  We have conclusively demonstrated that the addition of a coach dramatically increases the likelihood that a new small group survives.  It is one of the two most important factors in sustaining new groups.  It takes the right kind of person and June is the time to engage them.  See also, Recruiting Additional Coaches for Church-Wide Campaigns.
  4. Identify and recruit the testimonies you’ll need to encourage potential leaders and members to say “yes” to a six-week test-drive.  This is a secret weapon that is often overlooked.  Take advantage of the tremendous power of personal story by finding HOSTs and group members who had life-changing experiences.  Add this powerful element to the HOST Ask and maximize the response.  Whether the testimonies are video or live the impact will be well worth the effort.  See also, Take Advantage of Testimony to Recruit HOSTs.
  5. Plan the communication and promotional pieces you will need for the fall launch.  Whether your church has a dedicated “director of communications” or you are the de facto director (or anything in between), now is absolutely the time to plan and coordinate all of the pieces you will need this fall.  That might include promotional copy for the website, e-newsletter and bulletin; inserts for HOST and member sign-ups; FAQs, invitations, and more.  The earlier you can have this conversation and the further ahead you can get the better.

(Ready for my July List?  Click here to see what’s next.)

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

Leading Missional Communities: A Must-Read Resource

leading missional communities croppedSpent some time with the newest book from Mike Breen and the 3DM team this week.  Leading Missional Communities was released last fall and is the fourth and final book of their current series (includes Building a Discipling Culture, Multiplying Missional Leaders, and Leading Kingdom Movements).  I really like the way the ideas of Building a Discipling Culture and Multiplying Missional Leaders are integrated into the fabric of Leading Missional Communities.  These books are clearly part of a larger tapestry.

Taking the concept far beyond launching, Leading Missional Communities is designed to explain “how to lead [missional communities] well so they become a reproducing hotbed for discipleship and mission in churches.”  Part one builds on a collection of four foundational principles:

  • MCs are Communities of Discipleship (building a discipling culture at the core).
  • MCs are Communities of Good News (embodying and proclaiming the gospel).
  • MCs find the Person of Peace (noticing where God is already at work).
  • MC is cultivating a commitment to the organized and the organic elements of the community’s life together

Part two gets right into the nitty gritty about leading a missional community.  Covering important aspects like vision and prayer as well as growing and multiplying, there is the distinct feel of walking side by side with a wise and knowledgeable guide.  The examples given are so helpful.  There truly is the sense that this is not theory, but recollection of actual events.

Part three digs into some very practical tips about life in missional communities.  The top ten reasons missional communities fail as well as the answers to many frequently asked questions provide a great overview of some of the biggest challenges (what to do about children, what about pastoral care, how do we handle conflict, etc.).

The appendices are packed with a ton of great material.  More about building a discipling culture, how to start a pilot missional community, what to do about existing or current programs, and a lengthy treatment of missional communities and church planting are included and really adds to the value of the resource.

As we slip further into the 21st century I am more convinced every day that we are rapidly approaching the time when it will be much easier to say “come on over to my house” or “meet me at Starbucks or the pub” than “come with me to church.”  Leading Missional Communities is a must read if you want to be prepared for what’s coming.  I highly recommend this book and this series.

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. I am also 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.”

Don’t Miss This Resource: Autopsy of a Deceased Church

autopsy of a deceased churchHad an opportunity this week to spend some time with Autopsy of a Deceased Church,  Thom Rainer’s latest book.  Prior to his work as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, he led The Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period.

Thom Rainer is a very respected researcher and a keen observer of church health.  He’s also the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches and Simple Church.

Using the format of last year’s best-seller I Am a Church Member, Autopsy of a Deceased Church is a very easy read with a powerful message.  With an estimated 100,000 churches showing the signs of decline toward death, this is a book that’s going to help more than a few pastors and church leaders.

There are several things to love about Autopsy of a Deceased Church.  First, it is the kind of book that can be passed out to staff and key leaders that they will actually read.  Just 102 pages, it is easy reading.

Second, it is packed with insight and will grab the attention of teams from the opening pages.  Many of the symptoms identified will  keep church leaders up at night.  Some of what Rainer points out will finally cause some to act and their action will be just in time.

Third, each chapter includes a set of provocative questions that should get the attention of teams.  I can imagine the discussions these questions will produce!  Along with the set of questions, every chapter includes a prayer commitment.

If you’re committed to the health of your church, Autopsy of a Deceased Church is a book you’ll want to pick up.  I can see it having a very strong impact on the kinds of church leaders who truly care enough about their church to act on wise counsel.

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. I am also 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 Vision Clarity

Sometimes we just need to laugh…or cry.  Either way, this one will resonate with lots of us!vision clarity

Ready to Take Your Ministry to the Next Level? Join My Fall 2014 Coaching Network

Looking for an opportunity to grow in your ability to connect beyond usual suspects? I want to invite you to join my Fall 2014 Small Group Ministry Coaching Network; an experience designed to give you the tools and strategies you need in order to build a small group ministry that works in the 21st century.

The coaching network program will expose you to a new perspective. While it makes sense to many that in order to get different results you need to do different things…it’s not always clear what those different things might be. The coaching network program is designed around the idea that different, not better, leads to the kind of strategy that connects beyond the usual suspects.

My Fall 2014 Small Group Ministry Coaching Network begins in September (with a bonus call on August 14th) and I’ve just opened up applications. You can find out all about it right here. I’m hoping you’ll come along!

5 New Assumptions As I Step Further into the 21st Century

I asked you recently if it was time for you to take a fresh look at your assumptions.  I really do believe we are irresponsible when we just continue down a well-worn path expecting to arrive at a new destination.  And yet, that is what many of us do.

Because I am more and more convinced that we are now just a short step or two from a dramatically different and increasingly post-Christian era in the West, I wanted to give you a look at what I found when I re-examined my own assumptions.

Here are 5 of my new assumptions:

  1. It will become increasingly harder to say “come with me to church” and increasingly easier to say “meet me at Starbucks (or the pub).”  There are places in the world where this is already true and there are definitely cities in the U.S. where this is already true.  The time may not have arrived in your community where it is true…but it will.  We need to begin building a “meet me” philosophy of ministry.  See also, 5 Essential Practices of a 21st Century Small Group Ministry.
  2. Every biblical reference or allusion is obscure to almost everyone.  As messages and small group curriculum is developed, it must be understood that most of the people in the auditorium and most of the people in the living room have never heard the story we are telling.  When we reference biblical concepts like communion or Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, we must never forget that what we take for granted is a complete mystery to many of the people in the room.  See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #4: A Myopic Understanding of the Culture.
  3. Leader training will be accessed on a “need-to-know” basis and distributed on a “just-in-time” basis.  Gone are the days of advance training in preparation for an assignment.  Now arriving are the days of leader training that takes advantage of 24/7 delivery made possible by the internet, and streaming content.
  4. Leader development and encouragement will be decentralized.  Churches everywhere are discovering that the pace of life is making centralized gatherings more difficult to demand and less productive to implement.  Far easier to instill and more productive are decentralized gatherings at the local coffee shop or for that matter, in the living room or kitchen.  See also, 7 Decisions that Predetermine Small Group Ministry Impact.
  5. The speed of change is accelerating.  Gone are the days of change as something that will happen someday.  Gone are the days when a change is followed by a decade or multiple decades of the status quo.  Still, more often than not the pace of change on the outside is greater than the pace of change on the inside.  And that leads to a perilous disconnect.  See also, The Perils of the Inside-Outside Disconnect.

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

FAQ: School Starts in August. Shouldn’t Our Fall Campaign Launch in August?

I get a lot of questions.  This question is high on the list of frequently asked questions (FAQs).

The Question:

School starts in mid August in our community.  Shouldn’t our fall church-wide campaign launch when school starts?

Assumptions that drive the question:

  • An attendance surge often coincides with school starting.  “Our congregation is back after taking vacations in June and July.”
  • People often report being too busy to join a group in late September.  “They’ve already arranged their family calendars and commitments before a late September launch of a church-wide campaign.”

My Answer: You probably should not launch in August.  At least not without wrestling through several major questions.  Here are the 4 questions that must be answered:

When will you promote your church-wide campaign?  The most effective campaigns are well promoted.  For example, although Saddleback’s fall campaigns typically begin in late September or early October, it’s not unusual for Rick Warren to begin talking about their fall campaign in late spring.  A successful mid August campaign would need to begin promotion no later than late May or early June.  See also, When Is the Best Time to Launch a Church-Wide Campaign?

Who will lead the new groups you hope to launch?  The most impactful campaigns engage a wave of new small group leaders.  Rather than being content to tap the usual suspects, the HOST strategy is implemented specifically to offer potential leaders an opportunity to put their toes in the water.  A successful mid August campaign would need to begin recruiting group leaders no later than early July.

Who do you hope to connect?  Church-wide campaigns offer the very best opportunity to connect the largest number of unconnected people…provided the campaign is well planned and strategically implemented.  Unconnected people are infrequent attenders and may be attending for the first time in many weeks right when your campaign is launching.  A successful mid August campaign would need to take the traits of unconnected people into consideration.  See also, 5 Things You Need to Know about Connecting Unconnected People.

What is the purpose of your church-wide campaign?  This is a critical question.  Campaigns can unify churches, deepen the prayer life of members, and make stronger disciples.  They can also reach the friends, neighbors, co-workers and family of hosts who invite them to join their group.

  • Note: Attempting to do “all of the above” is a recipe that leads to ineffective campaigns.  Far better to develop a clear objective and design everything around it.
  • Note: Churches that have a clear understanding of their objective (i.e., what they will call success) have the best opportunity to succeed.

My Takeaway: Although I am regularly asked this question, I sincerely believe it is best to follow my 10 Simple Steps to a Great Church-Wide Campaign.

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

Don’t Miss Matt Chandler’s Newest Study: Recovering Redemption

recovering redemptionHad the opportunity to take a look at Matt Chandler’s newest study this week.  Chandler, lead pastor at The Village Church in Dallas, Texas, is one of America’s most popular preachers.  He is the author of a number of books and a regular contributor of Bible study  curriculum.  In Recovering Redemption: How Christ Changes Everything Chandler “gets to root of brokenness and our destructive patterns of behavior.”

Recovering Redemption is a 12 session DVD-driven study.  The video segments are classic Chandler.  28 to 36 minutes each, this is weekend sermon footage recorded live at The Village Church in 2013.  Chandler is a powerful speaker in the way few preachers are and these messages are no exception.  The DVD also includes several personal stories of redemption.

The Recovering Redemption study is designed to include three important components.

  • Attend each group experience (where you’ll watch the video, complete the viewing guide and participate in the group discussions).
  • Complete the content in the member book
  • Read Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer’s book Recovering Redemption

The member book (also referred to as the Bible study workbook) includes:

  • A video viewing guide that is designed to help members focus attention on the teaching, capture important ideas, and take notes.
  • Discussion questions for each session that will guide your conversation about the video and also about learnings in the weekly Bible study.
  • Each week includes three personal Bible studies that will take members deep into the topic.

A companion book by the same title is available to be read alongside the study.  Cowritten by Chandler and Michael Snetzer (a groups pastor at The Village Church), is very readable.  Written in an almost conversational style and packed with stories and illustrations that make the concept leap off the page, the book will help members take the message even further.

Recovering Redemption is an extremely powerful study.  If you’ve never heard Matt Chandler, you’re in for a kind of treat.  Although deeply theological, his messages always break through my personal bias toward seeker sensitive in the first few minutes and I find myself listening intently, caught off guard and fully immersed in what God’s word has to say to me.

I begin my review of every Matt Chandler study with my own bias completely in control and within minutes find myself thinking about all of the small groups that really need this study.  Recovering Redemption is a must add to your recommended list.  I highly recommend it.

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.”

Connecting Millennials: What Are You Doing That’s Working?

What are you doing to connect Millennials?  You know the generation, right?  Sometimes referred to as “Generation Y”.  Everyone seems to have their own idea about the actual years included in the generation, but if we say they were born between 1982 and 2004, they are roughly 10 to 32 years old today.  And by the way…there are over 80 million of them in the U.S. alone.

It helps me to think about the Millennial generation in two main brackets: 16-24 and 25 to 34.  Can you picture them?

You can learn a lot about them from Barna’s Millenials Project.  For example,

“The first factor that will engage Millennials at church is as simple as it is integral: relationships. When comparing twentysomethings who remained active in their faith beyond high school and twenty-somethings who dropped out of church, the Barna study uncovered a significant difference between the two. Those who stay were twice as likely to have a close personal friendship with an adult inside the church (59% of those who stayed report such a friendship versus 31% among those who are no longer active). The same pattern is evident among more intentional relationships such as mentoring—28% of Millennials who stay had an adult mentor at the church other than their pastor, compared to 11% of dropouts who say the same.”  5 Reasons Millennials Stay Connected to the Church

But…my question today is what are you doing to connect them?

What is working?  Have a question?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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