Archives For fun

I’m taking a break from my blog between Christmas and New Year’s. I’m re-posting a couple of your favorites (based on clicks) and a couple of my own favorite posts from 2011. I hope you enjoy! I’ll be interacting in the comments section, so if you comment, I’ll respond. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!


If you’re looking for a small group, you probably wouldn’t like mine.

photo credit: iStockPhoto user Digital Skillet

Why you won’t like my small group

  • Nobody’s perfect. Our group is rather messy…in fact, much messier than I ever thought it would be. If your life is clean and put together, and messiness frustrates you, you’ll hate our group.
  • We celebrate small steps, not just the ‘huge’ ones. And small steps may seem insignificant to you, so if you’re not willing to get excited over a step towards Jesus (no matter how seemingly insignificant), you’ll not feel at home with us.
  • There’s no teacher. Just a facilitator. And the facilitator doesn’t have all of the answers, so if it’s merely answers you’re looking for, mosey on.
  • We talk about challenging stuff. And I don’t mean that we debate obscure theological dogma. I mean that we work to apply the Scriptures to our lives. If you love a great, obscure theological debate, you may not enjoy our group.
  • We expect full participation. Nobody in our group is lazy. In one way or another, every member participates, and is vital to the success of the group as a whole. If you want to be a lazy sponge, don’t join us.
  • We know each other’s stories. No hiding in our group. Our group kicked off its first month by encouraging everybody in the group to share their faith story. Comfortable? Nope. This group’s not for you.
  • We’re transparent. Mere platitudes aren’t acceptable. If all of your answers start with, “Someone once said…” instead of, “I am dealing with…” then you’ll never be comfortable in our small group.
  • We’re diverse. If you’re looking for people that are just like you, who look, smell, act, read the same books, live on the same side of town, have the same number of kids…keep moving. You’re not going to find that here.
  • Our group is going to end soon, and I’m going to ask each group member to take a step of faith and lead a new group…each one of them. No moss will be gathering with us. If you like moss, find another group.
  • We serve together. Don’t want to serve? That’s fine. Just don’t get frustrated with us when we ask you to join us in making a difference in our community.
  • We have fun. Every week. We laugh so hard that we snort. We play games, share stories, and study the Bible…all while having fun. I wrote more extensively about the importance of having fun in small groups HERE. If you don’t like having fun, you’re an old codger. And old codgers don’t last long in our group.

* image credit: iStockPhoto user Digital Skillet

 

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image credit: creation swap user Matt Gruber

Lots of small groups take the Christmas season off. And that’s fine.

But if you’re one of the groups that really loves Jesus, you’re not taking the season off. You’re soldiering through like the little drummer boy who could. Massive traveling, family celebrating, and time off of work won’t slow you and your group down!

If you’re one of the groups that’s meeting throughout the month of December, you may be wondering what you can do that’s a little outside of the norm. I’ve got some suggestions.

15 Christmas Ideas for your Small Group

Fellowship:

Don’t feel bad about wanting to have fun together as a group this Christmas season. Having fun together is very biblical.

  •  Go caroling.
  • White elephant gift exchange. See explanation HERE.
  • Ornament exchange.
  • Pot luck with your favorite Christmas dish.
  • “Favorite book” exchange.
  • Celebrate with a gift exchange mid-January. That way, you can get gifts on sale, and extend the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Jesus would probably have loved a good sale. Am I right?!?

 Serving

  • Email your pastor for families in need, and serve them food and gifts.
  • Contact your local public school system and tell them you’d like to sponsor ___ families with food and gifts this Christmas. Ask them to connect you with the families.
  • Contact your local Salvation Army and sign up to ring the bell.
  • Write letters to soldiers who are deployed, if you live in a military town.
  • Bless your pastor. Examples: a gift card to Amazon, a night away for him and his wife, or a gift card to a nice local restaurant.

Worship/study

 Is your small group meeting for the Christmas season?

* image credit: creation swap user Matt Gruber

 

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How do you build enjoyment into your small group?

photo by iStockPhoto.com/nano

Because if you’ve ever been a part of a small group that’s boring, you know that humor, laughter, and fun don’t happen naturally. And what one person find amusing, another can find offensive. Fortunately, although the presence of humor and fun can’t be guaranteed, group leaders can help ensure there’s freedom and space to pursue it.

5 Easy Ways to make your small group fun

1. Don’t plan to start on time.

If you start right off the bat with the study questions, you show quickly that you don’t prioritize your group members as individuals. You only prioritize getting through the curriculum. Plan on a casual start to your group each week. My group builds in 30 minutes (at least) each week before we start the study.

2. Include food!

There’s something about food that seems to break down walls of resistance. Eating with your group around a table (or, if you prefer, standing up while eating snacks) helps to build a tight-knit community.

3. End on time, but don’t end on time.

When you finish with the study questions and close in prayer, make sure to be done in time for group members to hang around and enjoy each other’s company each week.

4. Plan for some fun.

Maybe your group needs to put down the book one night and just do a good old fashioned pot luck. Or game night. Or go bowling. Or go hang out at the park. Or grill out. Or have a chili cook-off. These events can lead to a much richer study time when you pick the books back up. Also, plan it during the time you normally gather for small group; this way, you can reasonably assume your group members have blocked off that time each week.

5. Plan extra-group activities.

Pick a random Friday night and have a girls’ night out. If you have children, have the dads gather to offer childcare for the night. Then switch for the next week. Or go on a camping trip. Or go to the lake. Or go out to eat on Sunday after church.

If you truly desire to build a community of people who love and care for each other, will go to bat for each other, and consistently encourage each other—find a way to have some fun. You’ll find yourself eagerly anticipating your meeting time together each week. You’ll be less likely to burn out. And your group will find a renewed energy each week.

They can thank me later.

If I haven’t yet, allow me to convince you why it’s vital for the health of your small group to incorporate “fun” into its life.  Read my thoughts HERE.

*I originally published this for smallgroups.com

 

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Dear Small-Group Pastor,

I just want to take a minute to say that we’re all proud of the way you’ve done your research and found the most biblical curriculum. You’ve trained your small-group leaders to have airtight, foolproof theology. They can move from a discussion on the Nephilim to ecclesiology, then weave in a bit of distinction between Calvinism, the resurrection, and eschatology.

You’ve taught your group leaders how to facilitate a discussion, minister to the EGRs, fill the empty chair, raise up apprentice leaders, and plant new groups. You’ve helped groups become more “missional” by consistently serving their neighborhoods and communities. Group members are working to baptize and make disciples of all nations, starting with their families and neighbors.

But one thing is missing. Small groups aren’t fun. Sometimes they’re boring, actually. Sometimes people only come because they feel like they are supposed to.

So here’s my plea to you, small-group champion: incorporate fun, life, and humor into the small groups at your church.

Why to Focus on Fun

1. If it’s not fun, people won’t come back.

It’s possible to get more information in a more convenient time in a more convenient way through many other means. Podcasts, books, blogs, and forums offer information and discussion environments at any time of the day, every day of the year. What separates small groups from each of these environments is the relationship, face-to-face aspect. Make sure you maximize this!

2. If there’s no fun, it’s not reflective of real life.

If your group is intensely serious, it can drain the life right out of people. We’re only wired to take so much seriousness. And often, our work environments give us plenty of seriousness.

3. If there’s no laughter, people are missing out on great medicine.

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). Maybe what hurting people need isn’t more medicine, but a healthy small group. They need to laugh together so hard that they snort. They need to laugh at themselves. They need to laugh at a corny joke. Because God has wired us to receive healing through laughter. I’m not sure how it works, but after a difficult day at work—with the kids, with finances, with in-laws—laughing helps to melt away stress and anxiety, bringing healing to your aching bones.

4. Have you ever belly-laughed?

Seriously, there’s not much that’s more redemptive than belly-laughing with someone in your small group. If you’ve laughed that way, from your gut, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, then I sincerely weep for you. Join my small group, please—we’ll show you how to do it.

5. When we have fun together, we show others that we serve a good God.

Check this out: “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them'” (Psalm 126:2). Did you catch that? When our mouths are filled with laughter, others are convinced that God has done great things among us. Could the flip-side be true? If our mouths aren’t filled with laughter, could people become convinced that the God we serve isn’t good? That he doesn’t take delight in loving is people? That the God we give witness to is ultimately boring, and the eternity with him that we say will be wonderful is painted as dull and lifeless?

6. Laughter builds community.

Laughing together can help your group bond in a rich way very quickly. Don’t neglect times of fun and laughing. Relish those times together. Jokes that carry from week to week, laughing at random things, and having fun together help set the stage for deep discussions, building trust among those in your group.

Convinced?

Have you ever been a part of a boring small group?

*I originally published this for smallgroups.com

 

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If you’re looking for a small group, you probably wouldn’t like mine.

Why you won’t like my small group

  • Nobody’s perfect. Our group is rather messy…in fact, much messier than I ever thought it would be.  If your life is clean and put together, and messiness frustrates you, you’ll hate our group.
  • We celebrate small steps, not just the ‘huge’ ones. And small steps may seem insignificant to you, so if you’re not willing to get excited over a step towards Jesus (no matter how seemingly insignificant), you’ll not feel at home with us.
  • There’s no teacher. Just a facilitator.  And the facilitator doesn’t have all of the answers, so if it’s merely answers you’re looking for, mosey on.
  • We talk about challenging stuff. And I don’t mean that we debate obscure theological dogma.  I mean that we work to apply the Scriptures to our lives.  If you love a great, obscure theological debate, you may not enjoy our group.
  • We expect full participation. Nobody in our group is lazy.  In one way or another, every member participates, and is vital to the success of the group as a whole.  If you want to be a lazy sponge, don’t join us.
  • We know each other’s stories. No hiding in our group.  Our group kicked off its first month by encouraging everybody in the group to share their faith story.  Comfortable?  Nope.  This group’s not for you.
  • We’re transparent. Mere platitudes aren’t acceptable.  If all of your answers start with, “Someone once said…” instead of, “I am dealing with…” then you’ll never be comfortable in our small group.
  • We’re diverse. If you’re looking for people that are just like you, who look, smell, act, read the same books, live on the same side of town, have the same number of kids…keep moving.  You’re not going to find that here.
  • Our group is going to end soon, and I’m going to ask each group member to take a step of faith and lead a new group…each one of them. No moss will be gathering with us.  If you like moss, find another group.
  • We serve together. Don’t want to serve?  That’s fine.  Just don’t get frustrated with us when we ask you to join us in making a difference in our community.
  • We have fun. Every week.  We laugh so hard that we snort.  We play games, share stories, and study the Bible…all while having fun.  I wrote more extensively about the importance of having fun in small groups HERE.  If you don’t like having fun, you’re an old codger.  And old codgers don’t last long in our group.

Based on the reasons above, would you want to join my small group?

 

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A Healthy Small Group…

Ben Reed —  March 30, 2010 — 4 Comments

I recently said this on Twitter:

So many problems in life could be solved by a healthy small group.

The responses I received really made me think about what components go into producing a “healthy” small group.

A “healthy” small group is one that accomplishes “the win” for your system.  Which means that a healthy group at our church may look a little different than the one at your church.  And that’s ok.  Step 1 is defining “the win.”

But there are certain things that “winning groups” do, right?  Do you encourage those things?

Here are a few that I’ve come up with for our system.

A healthy small group…

…stirs your heart to action.

…helps remind you who you are in Christ.

…helps you realize the all-encompassing nature of the Gospel.

…pursues unity.

…is full of people taking steps of faith…together.

…helps you realize the fullness of Grace.

…helps remind you that the troubles in this life will one day be over.

doesn’t wait until the group meeting to speak encouragement to one another.

…shares group responsibilities with each other.

…relies on each other when needs arise.

…isn’t satisfied with surface-level prayer requests.

…serves others.

…serves each other.

…has fun together.

…laughs together.

…gives people safe space to explore their faith.

…is a safe space for non-believers.

What would you add to the list?

 

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Why groups fail

Ben Reed —  February 24, 2010 — 7 Comments

Two days ago (see post HERE), I made a “sexy” statement:

Small groups are dead.

But, like I said, I don’t believe it.  I believe that small groups are alive and well in many churches in America and throughout the world.

Are small groups dead?  I don’t think so.

I believe that some small groups are dead…and maybe one of those small groups is yours.  But I don’t think that small groups are on their way out.

It’s like me saying, “The Cincinnati Reds had an awful season…so Major League Baseball is dead.”

Or…let’s take it a step further.

“The Cincinnati Reds are an awful franchise…so Major League Baseball is dead.”

Both conclusions are a leap.  Just because the Reds are abysmal doesn’t mean that the MLB is a goner.  There are many great teams, making plenty of money, winning plenty of games, and growing plenty of fans.

The Reds need to make some changes.  But they, as a team, don’t discount the MLB.

However, some small groups are dead.  In fact, you might be in one right now that’s dead.

Why do some small groups fail?

1. Lack of commitment. Some people think they want to be a part of a small group.  But in reality, they don’t.  They’re not really ready to make the commitment necessary to truly be a part of a small group.  Whether they’re not really ready to give up a night of their week, or not really ready to be open and honest, or not really ready to participate in the discussion, or not really ready to make an investment in someone else’s life…the truth is, they’re not really ready for small group.  And a group with uncommitted group members quickly dries up.

2. The gap theory. When there’s too large of a gap between when a small group launches, and when they meet for the first time, vital energy is lost.  When there is more than a 3 week gap, most groups will have a tough time ever getting off of the ground.

3. Relationships don’t form. I give a group 8 weeks.  If after that amount of time, there’s no “gelling” going on, you can just about guarantee that the group is either going to eek along for the rest of its life or die a quick death.  You can have the greatest small group leader of all time facilitating the discussion…but if the relationships don’t form, get ready to throw in the towel.

4. Time. Some groups need to start over.  They’ve been together so long that the relationships are at a level of comfort that’s not conducive to growth.  In our context, we’ve found that time period to be around 15-18 months.  At that point, it’s time for the group to multiply and start new groups.

5. Lack of vision. If the group doesn’t know how to measure success, they will constantly feel like they’re in a state of failure.  But with a healthy vision, an expectation of what a group “win” looks like, groups can aim for, and accomplish, the goal.

6. Lack of fun. If a group only studies the lesson every week, it’s going to crumble.  I tell our group leaders that if they don’t actively try to make their group fun, people won’t come back.  Boring groups aren’t very attractive.  Just like a boring version of Christianity isn’t very attractive.  Christians can, and should, have fun…what better place to do that than in a small group environment?

7. Lack of serving others. A group should focus on itself.  If relationships aren’t built among group members, the group will remain shallow and fake.  But if they only focus on building relationships with themselves, they get, in a sense, fat.  Serving others is like spiritual exercise…putting our faith in action.  I love this quote by Reid Smith

Christians on mission are sacrificial by nature. It’s why mission is important to group life & the Church!

Have you been a part of a small group failure?  What led to its death?

 

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Small Group Success

Ben Reed —  July 20, 2009 — 32 Comments

I’m a small groups pastor, and part of my job is training up new small group leaders.  In addition to philosophical/theological/boring stuff that I talk about in new leader trainings, I give practical advice to help them make their small group a success (I know, I know, some of you would argue that good theology is always practical…don’t get all up in arms about my wording…you know what I mean).  Lots of this I learn because I lead a small group myself, and see group dynamics in action every week.  Part of this I learn through reading books.  Part I learn through reading blogs.  But this time, I want to learn from you.

Have you ever been in a small group?  How about a Sunday School class?  How about a Bible study with at least a few other people?  Still no?  Have you ever been a part of a group of guys from the office, just sitting around and talking?  (If you cannot answer “yes” to any of these questions, please close down your computer and get a real friend…j/k)  If so, you can help me out.

What makes a small group successful? We may all define the “win” differently based on our context and goals, but what is it that helps you to acheive the goals you are setting out to accomplish?  What can/should a small group leader do in order to be the best small group leader God is calling them to be?  Leave a comment and let me know two things that you have learned from being a part of a small group.  Your two answers won’t be comprehensive, but that’s ok.  Here are mine:

1. Make your small group “fun.”  If it’s not fun, people won’t come back.  You may have the most Biblical discussion that has ever happened in the history of the church, but if it’s boring, you’ll lose people the following week.

2. Open a discussion.  Give people a chance to voice objections, concerns, questions, and life experiences (and actually listen to their answers).  They’re a part of the story, too, you know?!?

Those are my two.  What do you think?

 

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