Archives For small group

photo credit: iStockPhoto user Digital Skillet

photo credit: iStockPhoto user Digital Skillet

Getting your small group to like you isn’t something you may have explicitly set out to do. If you did, you’re pretty self-centered. And there’s a great chance that nobody really likes you.

There. I said it.

While you may not have set that out as a written goal though, it’s on the back of your mind whether you’re a leader or a group member. Don’t lie. You want to be liked. And that’s not a terrible thing. If you didn’t care what others thought of you, you’d probably be a jerk. Caring what others think (while not being dominated by that) shapes our responses, and helps us become more loving and generous. If you didn’t care what others thought of you, you’d dress like a slob and never shower. So please, please keep caring.

If people genuinely don’t like you, and you’re a representation of Christ for them, then there’s a great chance you’re acting as a barrier for them to enjoying Jesus. It would be wise for us to not be a barrier.

How to you get your small group to like you? Well you can start by taking a shower before group. Then, let’s get to the more important things.

How to get your group to like you

Listen intently.

Listen way more than you talk. When you think you’ve listened too much, you’ve just started the process.

Share your story.

You’ve got a story of loss. Victory. Defeat. One that makes much of God, and His power to change your heart and shape your journey. Share that. It’s a gift.

Be authentic.

Nobody likes a fake leader. We all want to know that the person we’re following is the person we think we’re following. Be real and open and honest with your struggles and victories.

Be consistent.

Show up and engage. Week after week after week. On the weeks that you feel like going, show up. On the weeks that you don’t feel like going, show up. On the weeks when you’re too busy, show up. Consistency builds trust.

Go over and above.

Have coffee with a group member outside of your group’s meeting time. Invite a couple over to your house for dinner. Text them when you know they’re going to have a difficult day. Reach beyond the “normal” and “expected.”

Love unexpectedly.

Call on their birthday. Offer to watch their kids so they can go on a date night. Buy them a book that’s made a difference in your life.

Give grace when it’s not deserved.

I know, I know…grace “deserved” isn’t really grace. But there are times when you give grace and it’s expected. But when it’s not deserved in the least. When it hasn’t been earned. When everybody in the room expects you to go 100% truth in the moment…go 100% grace.

Learn their kids’ names.

Do this one today.

Remember their birthdays and anniversaries.

Go ahead and plug them into your calendar now, and set yourself a reminder. Trust me…they’ll notice this.

Share a well-timed truth.

Don’t just sit in your big comfy chair and drop theological bombs on your group. Listen well, and share a well-timed, well-pointed, well-applied truth. One that’s informed in the moment, and that walks the nuances of a deep relationship.

Give your resources.

You can’t give everything to everybody. But you can give significant, needed resources, to your group members. In a way that’s much faster, more efficient, than applying for aid from government, or even parachurch, organizations.

Be yourself.

If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re contemplative, be contemplative. If you’re patient, be patient. If you’re the life of a party, be the life of the party. If you’re an intellectual, be an intellectual. Be the you God created you to be.

Anything else that you do that engages your group to enjoy being around you?

 

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We all have an opinion on small group life. Some of us lean towards “small groups are amazing.” Some of lean towards “small groups are just plain difficult. And awkward.” Rarely is someone neutral when it comes to intentionally building spiritually-formative relationships with others.

I’ve been a part of life-giving small groups that I long to gather with week in and week out. Ones where I leave with more of Jesus than when I came. I’ve also been a part of groups that seem to suck the life right out of me. Ones where I give, but get nothing in return. (I think that has to do most prominently with small group dominators, but that’s another post for another day)

iStockPhoto, user: Noriko Cooper

iStockPhoto, user: Noriko Cooper

Healthy small groups teach us more than they often set out to teach. We are molded and changed in so many ways, because God uses others in mighty ways to make us more like Jesus. In fact, you can’t be like Jesus without others. It’s impossible. You can’t serve others, love others, be generous with one another, or accomplish any of the “one another” commands in Scripture by yourself.

9 unintended benefits of small group life

1. Not everybody thinks like you do, and that’s ok. (Tweet that)

Sometimes, our pride needs a swift body check. We need to run after a fly ball in center field and crash into the wall. We think we’re the only ones with a corner on the “right” answers, and we need subtle, and not-so-subtle, reminders that there are other ways to think.

2. Not everybody thinks like you do, and you can still love them them. 

Loving those who can, and will, love us back is barely love. Loving those who think and act differently than we do is more challenging, and takes more faith. It’s more risky and more difficult. Just because someone thinks differently doesn’t mean you can’t go out of your way to love them. Hanging around people that think like you do is more dangerous than living life with different people that stretch you.

3. Jesus followers can have fun. (Tweet that)

Maybe this post was written just so you’d read this benefit. If you’re a Jesus follower, please don’t check your humor and love of laughter, fun, and general frivolity at the door. After all, a cheerful heart is good medicine. (Proverbs 17:22)

4. People desperately need you.

You have gifts. You have a story. You have experiences. You have a living, breathing, active relationship with Jesus. And other people need you. God has created us to work interdependently, and though you may not have been valued for your contribution to the Church in the past, small group highlights the value you bring to the table. (1 Corinthians 4:12-31)

5. You desperately need people.

You may have gifts, but you don’t have them all. It becomes quickly and readily apparent in group life that others are wired and strengthened differently than you. Which is beautiful! No longer do you have to be all things to all people. You can be the you God created you to be, and lean in on others as they’re being who God created them to be.

6. Prayer works

Don’t believe me? Try it. Try asking for prayer. Try praying for someone else. God uses the prayers of the righteous to accomplish His work. (James 5:16)

7. The bible is living and active.

As you’re discussing the Scriptures week in and week out, you’ll find God speaking right into your story, as if the Bible were written just for you, where you’re at in life. He’ll speak through others in your group, using the Scriptures as the Truth you need to think, and live, differently. (Hebrews 4:12)

8. Confession brings healing. (Tweet that)

The more comfortable you grow with your group, the more you’ll be willing to be open and honest with your faults. As you confess, you’ll find healing. (James 5:16)

9. Dirty hands clean your heart. (Tweet that)

The more you love people, the dirtier your hands get. The more deeply you love others, the more likely it is you’ll get burned. Serving people well necessitates getting messy. Because people are messy. And the more you love, serve, and give generously of yourself, the more you begin to look like Jesus.

Are you in a group? Any other unintended benefits you’ve found?

 

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I never wear my shoes in the house. Shoes bring in dirt.

On top of that, I’m more comfortable without them on. My at-home routine when I finish the day is to take my shoes off and put them in the basket beside the front door. After that, I feel like I can relax.

I don’t choose to take my shoes off because I feel like I have to. Or because my wife expects it. Or because it’s something I’ve done since I was a child. I do it simply so I can relax.

Small group time

Just a few weeks ago, we started a small group in our home. When I came in that Tuesday evening before people started arriving, I continued my normal routine. I took my shoes off, placed them in the basket, and started getting our house ready.

30 minutes before we started, I got my shoes back out of the basket. I put them back on my feet, tied them, and wore them until everyone in our small group had gone home for the night.

Then I went back through my routine. I took my shoes off, placed them in the basket, and sat down on the couch.

I didn’t accidentally wear my shoes during small group. I didn’t forget to take them off. And I’m not self-conscious about the smell of my feet. (though you may be conscious about the smell of my feet, I’m not. :-) )

I wore my shoes to help people feel welcomed.

Many people don’t like to take off their shoes in others’ houses because

  • they’re self-conscious about the smell of their feet
  • they have dirty socks
  • they didn’t cut their toenails
  • they’re worried about the dirt in someone else’s house
  • they don’t take their shoes off in their own house
  • they feel more relaxed with their shoes on
  • their feet are cold

And if they feel like they have to take their shoes off, they’ll either:

a. Not. And feel guilty.

b. Take them off. And resent you for it.

So I chose to wear my shoes, and help people feel comfortable coming just as they are. Not having to bend to the rules of our family, or change their routine to fit our culture. I wanted them to feel like their wasn’t a hurdle they had to jump over, that they don’t have to at their own house, to engage in our group.

If keeping my shoes on helps someone feel more comfortable, welcomed, and loved, I’ll wear my shoes every week.(Tweet that) Small group is a blend of cultures, values, and traditions. Some people value keeping their shoes on.

If you want to love people well, go out of your way to serve them. (Tweet that) Surprise and delight. Make the best coffee in town. Let them sit on the couch nobody else gets to sit on. Let them eat off of the forks you reserve for special guests. Kindle the fire if it’s cold. Crank up the A/C if it’s hot. Open your home, open your life, and open your heart-shaping, will-bending, costly generosity (Re: Luke 14:12-14).

And if you want to create a culture that values people right where they are in life, let it start with your shoes. (Tweet that)

How do you creatively welcome people into your life?

The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. – Acts 28:2

 

 

 

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Engage_Banner

I’ve been a part of a handful of projects with Lifeway, but none that I’ve been as excited about as this one.

I was one of 4 authors to collaborate on a small group book/study called Engage: A Practical Guide to Evangelism, and I love how it all came together.

Here’s the overview:

____________________________

The simple truth of the gospel does not change. And while this truth is timeless, we must always evaluate the presentation of that truth to make sure it’s connecting in a culturally relevant way. Engage is a practical study examining the act of sharing your faith. Engage: A Practical Guide to Evangelism answers questions like, How do you begin a conversation about Jesus? What if they have questions you’re not sure how to answer? What do you say if they respond positively or if they reject God’s message?

Engage is a small group study that helps you:

  • Discern the full meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ
  • Understand why all Christians are called to share the good news
  • Prepare for spiritual attacks against the gospel
  • Have tangible ideas for how to share your faith with those who don’t believe in Jesus.
____________________________

Here are a few quotes from the book…written in a way that’s easily shareable on Twitter or Facebook, if you’d like.

Twitter

  • Sharing our faith requires reminders of the beauty and depth of the gospel. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Jesus lived the perfect life I should’ve lived and died the death I had been condemned to die. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • We can approach God with boldness because He sees us according to the accomplishments of Christ #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • You can never earn the title “Christian”—Jesus earned it in our place & gave it to us as a gift #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • We’re accepted before God not because of what we do but because of what Jesus has done. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • What’s inside of our hearts gushes out and compels us to action. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Evangelism is seeing Jesus as our greatest delight and the ultimate lover of our souls. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Loving God & loving others is the fuel that propels gospel proclamation & disciple making. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Sharing your faith is much less complicated than we often make it. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA (via @BenReed)

Facebook

  • Unbelievers are looking for real answers not easy ones. They’re wanting to see that men and women of faith struggle with questions, too. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • The gospel of Jesus is the announcement that Jesus is Lord and has won a great victory on our behalf. The gospel is not a command that we should do better so that God will accept us, but the announcement that Jesus has paid the full penalty for our sin. No longer do we need to live in fear. The battle has been won on our behalf—we need only to believe and receive it. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • The gospel isn’t just the “beginning point” of Christianity, a prayer you pray to begin your Christian life, or the diving board off of which you jump into the pool of Christianity. The gospel is the pool in which you swim, day by day. Once you’ve believe the gospel, the way you grow in Christ is by going deeper into the gospel. You become more aware of how gracious He is and how incredible is the gift He has given you in Christ. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • The world needs to know who Jesus really is and what the benefits are of putting faith in Him. Jesus gave us the responsibility to make those truths known. The potential impact of obedience to that calling is world-changing. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • We not only need the gospel to cover our sinfulness and to guarantee a glorious eternity; we need the gospel for everything! From the most mundane activities of our day-to-day lives to the “big ticket item” decisions that pivot the trajectory of our lives—the gospel should infuse all of it. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • For an unbeliever, we can’t support the legitimacy of the Bible solely on its own word. We have to look at history, at the present day, and even within ourselves to see that God’s Word is true and can be trusted. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Your story is compelling. Riveting. Life-changing (assuming you actually have been changed). And sharing your faith involves sharing your story. Be honest, transparent, and vulnerable. People will connect with your brokenness more quickly and fully than they ever will your “awesomeness.” Share the mistakes God’s redeeming you from, the sin you’re done with, the bigger picture He’s inviting you into, and the ways His grace is sufficient and His love is captivating. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Sharing your faith is much less complicated than we often make it. But it’s also much more difficult. Much more engaging. Much more demanding of your time and effort. Much more challenging of your life. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
You can pick up your copy HERE.
 

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Small Groups3

image credit: CreationSwap user George Webster

You don’t want your small group to fail. That’s not why you got into this. You want your group to succeed. You want people to grow and thrive in your group.

You want your group to be the one that people can’t wait to show up to. The one they talk to their friends about. The one that, in 10 years, they look back on and say, “That group changed my life.”

You don’t want people to dread your small group every week. To feel like they just have to come. To view it as a waste of time. To be the group of which they say, “Don’t join a small group. Mine is terrible.”

There’s a certain amount of your group’s success that you can’t control. God’s going to choose to bless or not. He’s going to sovereignly inspire group members to engage…or not. His hand of favor will be there…or not.

But there are statements you can make, personally, that will inevitably tank your group. That will guarantee you’ll get nothing out of it, and that you’ll create a terrible experience for the rest of your group. Statements that will destroy community rather than foster it.

9 Statements that will destroy your group

1. They need community more than I do. I’m just doing this for them.

You need healthy, authentic community as much as anyone does. You’re never above it, because God’s created you to live dependent on others.

2. They need to hear this.

Be careful that as you’re preparing for your small group that you don’t work your way through the material making notes about who in your group needs to hear a given truth…an not including your own name. Pride comes before the fall, my friend. (Proverbs 16:18)

3. I don’t have anything to give.

There may be weeks occasionally that you are empty and dry. But God’s given you gifts that are perfectly suited to lead your group. Don’t spit on God’s grace in your life by feigning a false, self-deprecating humility.

4. I don’t have time for this.

You are busy. So am I. You and I don’t have time to avoid community. The busier we are, the more we need others speaking truth and hope into our lives. When you say this, you place yourself over and above your group members, pridefully believing your life is more important than theirs.

5. Someone else will call them.

Don’t assume that someone else is going to call and encourage your group members. Or visit them in the hospital. Or call them after a new job interview. Or text them after a test. They’re not going to. You need to do the work of shepherding that’s vital for a group leader.

6. What they need is a ‘perfect’ leader. I probably shouldn’t confess my sins here.

Perfection in a small group leader isn’t what’s needed. And in fact, group members will connect with you more over your struggles and difficult times than they ever will with you through your victories. Be open and honest when you mess up.

7. Because I’m the leader I should probably talk more.

No. No. No. The best group leaders listen way more than they talk. Listening, and giving an appropriate (rather than a forced, canned, expected) response is much more honoring, respectful, and helpful. “To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.” – Proverbs 18:13

8. Curriculum? Pssht! I got this!

Don’t think that curriculum is evil. It’s not. It provides a backdrop for your group to have a conversation about truth. It’s not the end-all-be-all for your group. But it helps keep you on track and moving forward. Don’t think you’re “too good” for a focused study.

9. Evangelism? Nope.

Stop it. Quit thinking too narrowly about the Gospel. Too weakly about it. Too shallowly about the power of the Gospel to change lives. Stop it.

What other statements would you include that would destroy a small group?

 

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My Judea

Ben Reed —  July 10, 2013 — 2 Comments

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”?

 

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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.

 

160345112-1-1024x768

Photo courtesy, iStockPhoto

 

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.

 

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IMG_4048

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?

 

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Craveable

Ben Reed —  February 7, 2013 — Leave a comment

Is your life as a follower of Jesus ‘Craveable’?

How about your small group?

How about your church? Is it craveable?

Watch this video, then pick up the new book by my friend Artie Davis.

 

Pick up your copy HERE!

 

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