Our church is doing a church-wide initiative where we are serving in our “Judea.”
Taken from Acts 1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Judea would’ve been within a 20-mile range of Jerusalem. So Jesus was commanding them to bear witness not just in their own hometown (Jerusalem), and not forget about the surrounding community.
We’re taking Jesus up on that.
Here’s a video that our team at Long Hollow put together. It happens to be my personal small group. I love these guys!
What is your small group doing to serve your “Judea”?
At Long Hollow, we primarily plug people into small groups in two different ways:
- Connection Events
- Sermon Alignment
We ust finished with our latest sermon alignment, where we launched short-term small groups around our Sunday morning sermon series. We chose a series, and crafted it in such a way that it was accessible for a wide variety of spiritual maturities. It was incredibly effective for us, as we launched groups across our campuses, connecting bucketfuls of folks who hadn’t previously been connected.
If you’ve ever tried to line up a sermon series with your small groups in a way that was productive, though, and plan this all out far enough in advance to get the whole series printed and produced before you start the series, you know how much of a logistical challenge this is. From working with the teaching team to get the sermon series info, to crafting content that’s engaging, to producing videos that go along with the series, it’s a lot of work.
I’ve got a way to help one of the biggest steps for you.
We used Lifeway’s Discipleship in Context to help us produce the content. And they were incredibly easy to work with.
I sat down with their team, and laid out the whole series for him. I told them conceptually where the series was going, where each individual week would go, Scriptures that our team was wrestling through, and the general flow (introduction questions, sermon recap, application questions) we were looking for. They produced exactly what we were looking for. They hit it perfectly on the head.
I also told him how we needed a “leader’s guide” so that our leaders could be one step ahead of the folks in their group. They went over and above, including an easy-to-follow Bible commentary for leaders.
On top of it all, it was incredibly cost-effective.
I talked with a company recently that wanted to do everything for us…branding, printing, and video production. And they wanted to charge us tens of thousands of dollars.
I chuckled when they told me that, knowing that we could never afford that.
Thankfully, the Discipleship in Context guys know that churches can’t afford prices like that. And though they don’t do the videos, they’ll produce content that’s crafted in your church’s language, tailored to your exact sermon series.
We were thrilled with the product we got from them (you can click HERE to see it all). Absolutely thrilled. And I guarantee you we’ll use them in the future to help us craft the content for our groups and the alignment series we launch.
I think you should use them, too.
Here’s a video further explaining the Discipleship in Context team’s work:
Welp, here it is. Summer. The time for vacations, baseball tournaments, camps, and fireworks. Time for the pools to open and the schools to close. Crank up the lawnmower, fire up the grill, and…
…prepare for everyone’s normal schedule to be completely jacked up.
And if you’re a small group leader, you know exactly how difficult this can be. Tuesday nights were wonderful, until little Johnny started baseball. Thursday mornings were perfect, until Laura’s two kids weren’t in school throughout the summer. Thursday evenings worked for everybody…until, for 6 weeks straight, someone was on vacation.
Before the summer hits, you and your small group need to have a plan. Be ready for the chaos that is June and July so that when it drops, your group survives.
To help you out, I thought I’d give you some tips. Depending on whether you want to destroy your group or not, choose which list fits you best.
6 easy ways to destroy community over the summer
1. Meet every week at the same time.
A rule’s a rule, am I right? These people signed the small group covenant. If they can’t abide by it now, then kick ‘em out.
2. Just stop meeting.
After all, if you can’t meet every week, what’s the point? These people should be more committed.
3. Send angry tweets at the people who don’t show up every week.
Because nothing’s better than a good ole public defamation.
4. Assume that the people in your group that don’t show up every week have no commitment to the group.
Also, assume that they don’t really love Jesus. Be sure to include them in your “they really must need our prayer” list.
5. Petition your church council to remove them as members if they don’t show up every week.
6. Since your schedule is out of the norm, bar anyone else from meeting.
And if they decide to meet, let your pastor know that they’re probably conspiring against him.
1 easy way to flourish this summer
1. Be flexible.
Schedule’s are going to be crazy in June and July. So be flexible. If someone can’t show up, let them off the hook. Even before they ask. Don’t make people feel guilty for missing small group in the summer. Help them find time to value their family, and to value the vacation time they’re going to take from work.
Here are some practical ideas for your group.
5 practical ideas to help you be flexible:
Vary your meetings times: Meet 3 times in June and once in July. Or have a June party and a July party. Or meet the first 2 weeks in June and the first 2 weeks in July.
Include the kids: Choose activities where kids could be welcome.
Throw two parties: Have a party in June and a party in July.
Travel somewhere together: Go get ice cream. Or go on a hike. Or eat ice cream while you’re hiking.
Connect regularly: As a leader, be sure to individually connect multiple times with each of your group members, so they know you haven’t given up on them amidst the chaos of summer.
Don’t give up meeting together completely, and lose the sense of community that you’ve built as a small group. 2 months is a long time to go without connecting.
Just be sure to build flexibility in.
* this post was originally published at Lifeway’s Bible Study Insider blog.
I read books outside the scope of my niche. I hope you do, too.
Reading books that speak in to areas where you’re not zoned in help stretch you in new ways, applying new truths to your well-worn paths. Not everything in these books will be applicable to you. Not everything will even be relevant. But at the end of the day, truth is truth. And truth is applicable across disciplines.
Business books help me think critically about the “system” of church. About how to spur on growth and change. About how to create systems that maintain growth over time.
John talks a lot about “branding,” much outside of the context of ministry. So let me give you 3 ways to process this book.
1. Brand = your local church.
What helps your “brand” of church stand out from other “good” things a person could be doing on a Sunday morning? What is it that motivates them to consistently worship with you, instead of skipping out? YES, if someone doesn’t consistently show up for worship (or small group) it’s a spiritual growth issue. But let’s craft our message in such a way that the image (or “brand”) of our churches doesn’t get in the way of the Gospel.
John consistently makes the connection between “trust” and “sales.” If you trust a brand, you’re more likely to buy from that brand. We in churches aren’t in a completely different field. We just happen to have the best product in the world: Jesus! The more trust we develop with our congregations, the more likely we are to close a sale.*
2. Brand = the ministry you’re a part of.
What is it that helps your ministry stand out from everything else? What helps your “brand” of small groups stand out from the noises of life that distract on a weeknight, like going to a movie or watching TV? What helps your “brand” of student ministry encourage students to forego other activities in favor of linking arms with other students on Wednesday nights.
3. Brand = professional.
Feel free to read the book as it was originally intended, and think through your life in the marketplace. Process it through the lens of your company. Or even your personal “brand” online and in your community.
I spoke with John, and he’s generously chosen to give a personally signed copy away. Just enter the contest here, and I’ll choose a winner on Friday, May 3, by 5:00 pm central time. Just fill in your information below and you’ll be officially entered. I’ll ship the book out next week.
Below each quote, I’ve included the question I’m personally wrestling with.
15 quotes from Brand Against the Machine
1. “Branding is about emotion, and emotion turns prospects into buyers.”
How am I stirring people’s emotions to help them “buy” into the idea I’m selling?
2. “People are willing to spend more money on a brand they trust. Do I want to drink a nice cold Kountry Mist or a Mountain Dew? Kountry Mist is a generic brand of Mountain Dew, and I have zero trust in that brand. Just because it’s cheaper doesn’t mean I’m gonna have a sip. Plus, it’s annoying when brands get too cute with the spelling of their name. Spelling country with a K makes me worry about their education. It isn’t kool.”
Am I developing trust and innovating? Or just stealing from pop culture?
3. “Branding is not just about being seen as better than the competition. It’s about being seen as the only solution to your audience’s problem.”
What problem in people’s lives am I helping them solve through this idea? Am I communicating that through my pitch?
4. “You are your brand.”
Am I representing the church, and the ministry I lead, well in every avenue of life in-person and online?
5. “You may have an incredible product or service, and I truly hope that you do. But having a great product or service isn’t going to be enough. If no one knows you exist, the best product in the world isn’t going to save you. It’s estimated that 1 to 5 percent of people who come in contact with your brand will become clients. Are you coming in contact with enough people?”
Am I getting my message in front of enough eyes? Am I prepared for the vast amount of people I come in contact with to say, “No” to my pitch (to lead a small group, join a small group, or take the next step of faith?)
6. “When your message is focused and directed toward a certain group of people, those people respond. They respond because they realize it’s for them. That’s the kind of attention you want. With the attention of the right people and by taking care of those people, you can start to build trust and a loyal audience. You’ll never be all things to everyone, so don’t even try.”
Who is my “target audience” and are all of our communication pushes directed towards helping them move forward in faith? Or am I trying to be “all things to everyone?”
7. “Offer prospects a better product or service than everyone else. The most important element of branding is positioning.”
How am I positioning the ministry I lead as something that’s better than what culture promises them is best for their life? I.e., why is joining a small group worth bending your life around?
8. “Branding is all about emotion. Most marketing campaigns are lacking both emotion and passion. There’s nothing for people to get attached to. In fact, people rarely if ever feel an attachment to an individual marketing campaign, but they do feel an attachment with certain brands.”
How are we “branding” small groups? Are we using emotion (stories of life change) to drive our campaigns? Do people feel an attachment with groups?
9. “Fans are very attracted to a strong stance on something.”
Is our ministry positioned as something you “can’t live without?” What is it in their lives that’s missing without the element of healthy community?
10. “No one wants your product. They want their problem solved.”
What problem are we solving in people’s lives? Are we leading our promotions with that?
11. “The better you know your customers, the better you can create valuable content and products for them. There is no point in guessing, and making assumptions about your audience is extremely dangerous.”
How am I getting to know the people I lead at an even deeper level?
12. “You are your bigest advantage in business. What you sell may not be one of a kind, but you are. You create the value for people, not your business name or fancy logo.”
Every church in town has the same Gospel message. Every small group at our church has the same end-goal in mind. What separates one from the other is our beautiful uniqueness…are we embracing that?
13. “One of the main reasons people don’t visit a new church is because they don’t know what to expect. They don’t know which doors to go in. They don’t know how to dress. People are always afraid of looking stupid. A church could ease these fears by posting a simple video on their website with a tour of the church and what to do and where to go, starting from when they pull into the parking lot. Video can take the unknown element out of the equation for prospects.”
Are we overcoming fears through how we promote small group life?
14. “Price often gets the blame when a product fails. Although price could certainly be the culprit, most of the time it is not. The problem is that consumers failed to see the value in it. When selling your product or service, focus on value, not price.”
Are we selling the value of small groups well? So that people understand that the price (giving up a night of the week, finding childcare, forming new relationships) is worth the value?
15. “Your fans want to be a part of something that is fun, exciting, and has a real sense of community.”
Are we having fun? Or just doing a job?
The book is full of even more nuggets, but this blog post is already too long. Honestly, if you’ve made it this far, I’m impressed.
You can pick up a copy of the book for yourself HERE.
*In no way am I discounting the work of the Holy Spirit to awaken the heart. I just want to posture myself, and our ministry, to be most ready for His work.
In 2007 we held our first small group conference. Each year we rolled with the methodology to get the best training to those that needed it the best way possible. Three years ago, due to economic strain that was impacting churches, we delivered our first virtual conference. The results were huge. Our big learning was what we thought individuals would flock to for this conference experience. In actuality, they proved to be the minority. 80% of those attending actually watch the conference in community—at their church…no surprise for those who thrive and live community! Three years later our latest tweek on the theTwelve.com is here and this is my top 12 reasons for not missing theTwelve.com:
We typically choose training (especially as it relates to small groups) based on where our church is developmentally and what our church is. A typical concern in any conference is:
- Will it meet my needs? Because my church isn’t a mega church…
- What if my church isn’t a pure small group church?
12 Reasons You Have to Watch the Twelve
1. Do your own conference!
The Twelve is designed for churches of any size. The principles can be used by a church of 100, because that’s exactly what I did before I was part of a mega church! Also it doesn’t matter if you are Sunday school driven, small group driven, cell church driven, house church driven, etc. The concepts work! Why? Because they are biblical!
2. Ten incredible plenary speakers and 70 leading small group and Sunday school voices give their best tips and tactics to build a healthy church!
Here are the plenary speakers who happen to be Senior Pastors and community driven.
Plenary speakers at The Twelve Conference:
- Rick Warren
- Steven Furtick
- Bill Hybels
- Craig Groeschel
- Miles McPherson
- Brian Houston
- Wayne Cordeiro
- John Ortberg
- Joni Eareckson Tada
- Chip Ingram
Have you heard of any of these people? You might just want to join in, not even to mention the 70+ small group and Sunday school voices!
3. One week, two conferences.
In this powerful week your Small Group Point Person and/or Sunday School Coordinator can get trained Tuesday through Thursday AND THEN the following Saturday your small group leaders and Sunday school teachers can get trained. All this happens April 9 to 11 and April 13, 2013.
4. No travel and hotel.
The beauty about this training event is that there is no travel expenses! No airplane flights to get and no gasoline costs….we come to you! The same goes for hotel costs. Why sleep in a strange room when you can stay in the comfort of your bed! Matter of fact, watch it in your pajamas!
5. Low cost!
We have gone out of our way to make this the most affordable experience for you and your church. To further make that point, go to http://bit.ly/prdiscount and pick the code that serves your church the best!
6. 60 Days of on-demand!
Now you can not only go back and see the track you purchased, you can go back and review it again if you missed anything. Add the that if you are watching the 12, you get 30 additional trainings. If you are watch the 12+, you get 40 ten minute trainings that your leaders can benefit from. It’s like getting another conference…just because!
7. Train either Small Group Types and/or Sunday School types!
This conference has opportunities for both mutual teaching times and specialized training for the type of leader you have coming. Be sure to check out the 12+ experience!
8. We start at 8:30 your time!
No matter where you are on the planet, theTwelve experience starts at 8:30 for worship and 9 for the conference time! So no more figuring out based on PST (Pacific Standard Time or Pastor Steve Time), it’s all on your time, making the experience best for your people!
9. Give it forward!
Share your Twelve experience with those in your community! We offer a license so you can give to those who couldn’t do what you do! Join the over 300 churches already hosting theTwelve in their area to bless others! Don’t be selfish, give to those in your area and build a greater community! Host this Twelve conference at your church!
10. 10,000 just like you can’t be wrong!
Around the planet we are excited to reach so many from the benefit of technology. What so many are using for harm, we embrace technology to serve the Kingdom. Join in on the fun!
Meet others like you in your area or online. Discover what others have found out—we are better together! Why do ministry alone? Network at this conference and through the Small Group Network!
12. If they think it’s great, shouldn’t you?!?
These ministries are joining theTwelve to support you: Harper Collins Publishing-Zondervan, World Vison, NavPress, Churchteams, smallgroups.com (Christianity Today), smallgroups.net, Small Group Network, LifeWay Bible Study Tools for Life, LifeWay Ministry Grid, Church Community Builder, Love One Another Book, Awaken Movement and Elexio. If they think it’s worthwhile, shouldn’t you?
Hope to see you at The Twelve. Don’t forget to see the special discount just for you!
I love Sunday morning corporate worship. It energizes me to worship with other believers, and be challenged by good, solid preaching.
But corporate gatherings alone will dry me up, spiritually. I need small group life.
You do, too.
Why Small Groups are Vital to Your Spiritual Growth
1. It’s too easy to hide in a large gathering.
It’s tougher to hide in a small group.
2. It’s too easy to be passive during a sermon.
Wallflowers don’t last long in a small group.
3. There is little to no accountability.
Follow-through is much easier in a small group.
4. We’re prone to think we matter too little.
Small groups remind us that we are loved.
5. We’re prone to think we matter too much.
Small groups remind us that others have problems, too.
6. We’re prone to think, “they need to hear this.”
Small groups challenge us to personally apply Truth.
7. We’re prone to think, “this is only for me…”
Small groups keep us from cycling into destructive self-pity and loathing.
8. When we cry, there’s nobody to ask us, “What’s going on?”
Small groups don’t let tears go unchecked.
9. No food is allowed in most worship gatherings. #Lame.
We eat well in our small group.
10. “Be quiet while the pastor is preaching!”
Small group gives you time to have deep, life-stirring conversations with people.
11. Convictions go unchecked.
When the Spirit moves in small group, you’ve got time to slow down.
12. Specific needs go un-prayed for.
Small groups pray for the specific needs of their group members.
13. There’s no time for questions.
Small groups ask hard questions and allow for discovery.
Are you in a small group? Has it helped you grow spiritually?
Let me list my parenting resume
- I’ve been a parent now for over 4 years.
- I’ve read a lot of parenting books.
- I’ve listened to a lot of parenting sermons.
- I’ve preached about parenting issues.
- I’ve blogged about being a parent.
Which means I have it all figured out.
Come on, you know that once you’ve written a blog about parenting, you’ve got it all figured out.
In my vast years of experience, I’ve noticed a lot of parenting nuggets being thrown around. And I’ve noticed a lot of things that aren’t shared as nuggets as much as they’re just lived out in the moment.
Things get out of hand, and go sideways in a restaurant, and you default to a certain behavior, whether in the moment you believe that’s what’s best for your child or not. Right?
You don’t really think that yelling back at your child in Wal Mart is what’s best for him, you, or the rest of Wal Mart, do you? You don’t really think that giving in to your child’s temper tantrum is what’s best, do you? But in order to save face, and just “get through” the moment, we make decisions and base our actions on more immediate gratification.
I’ve seen some pretty bad decisions that have been made in the heat of the moment. I’ve committed lots of these. And I’ve noticed a few things that you and I should avoid.
9 Parenting Tips to Avoid
1. Count to 3.
“Timmy, listen to daddy. I’m going to count to 3, and you have to _____. 1…2…2.5…2.75…2.85…2.94…” Don’t expect obedience the first time you ask for it. Give your child a chance to disobey you for a little while longer.
Delayed obedience is disobedience.
2. Always let them decide.
They’re a child. They decide what’s best for themselves. Eating a candy bar before bed? Yes! Oh, you don’t want to go eat there for dinner, like mommy and daddy do? Ok! You want to stay up late because you just don’t want to go to bed? Sure! Thanks for letting me know, you little ball of wisdom!
Children need your wisdom. And they need to know you’re the parent, not them. As a parent, God’s called you to be an authority in your child’s life.
3. Let your world revolve around them.
Get in as many “activities” as possible, because that’s what’s best for your children and your family. Always be doing something. And during the “off” seasons, find something to fill your time. Because “resting” (the Bible calls this “Sabbath”) is something we do when we die.
If you let them, children will make your world completely circle theirs. This isn’t healthy. Good parents help their family find balance between doing and being.
4. Don’t have a discipline plan.
Don’t plan for discipline…because that’s no fun! Just try to figure out in the moment what you’ll do. That way, if you’re really angry, you’ll
do something stupid always do the right thing.
Plan out how you’ll discipline. Don’t make it an “in the moment” thing, or you’ll end up disciplining in a way that you regret. Godly discipline is loving, and for our good. (Hebrews 12:5-11)
5. Don’t make them go to church.
What kind of parent would you be if you forced your child to do what you know is best for them? You haven’t been called to shape the way your children grow and mature. Come on…do you even love your child?
Set corporate worship, and healthy relationships, as a weekly standard for your family, because you know you need it…not necessarily because you always wake up every Sunday eager to go. Do what’s best, not just what “feels” right at the time.
6. Always be firm.
Don’t ever let up on your kids. Because if you do, they’ll get out of hand. No grace. No mercy.
Model for your children what the grace of God looks like. Sometimes, when they’ve disobeyed, show them grace, and explain the radical grace of God to them. Don’t exasperate your children. (Ephesians 6:4)
7. Don’t ever play.
You’re the parent. They’re the child. They need to understand that distinction. Don’t ever get on the ground and play with them. Don’t show them your weaknesses. And for goodness sake, don’t ever have fun.
If you don’t play with your child, you rob them of a beautiful gift. And you paint a picture of a boring God to them.
8. When you don’t know what to do, let Google be your guide.
Not sure what to do in this parenting situation? Google it! There’s so much great advice that will always point your children to Jesus, and help your family grow. Use Google, and Google alone.
Always be wary of what you read on the internet. Find a parent (or two or three) and ask them to speak in to your life as a parent. Surround yourself with people wiser than you, and bounce ideas off of them, growing from their wisdom and experience.
9. As long as they’re not bothering me…
They’re watching something that may be a bit inappropriate for their age? Playing with something they shouldn’t? Spending too long on Facebook? Well, at least they’re out of your hair for a couple of hours.
Do. Not. Disengage. Know what is influencing your child. Set boundaries, and stick to them. Media shapes your children’s minds in powerful ways.
Anything you’d add?