Measuring new small group health

When a group leader launches a new small group, they’re curious. They want to know if they’re going to have a successful group. They don’t know if their group is going to stick, if people will come back, or if they’ll take steps of faith together.

How do you know if your new small group is going to “work”? How do you know if they’re going to stick together and grow and have dynamic stories of life change?

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image credit: iStockPhoto user Daft_Lion_Studio

Is it that you have solid biblical discussions right off the bat?

Is it that for the first few weeks everybody shows up?

Is it that they’ve already started talking about the group serving together?

Is it just that sense of “peace,” that fluffy feeling in your stomach, that you sometimes get?

I submit something different. I saw the #1 marker of success in the small group that my wife and I lead, and I saw it last night. How do I know we’re going to have a successful group?

They stayed at our house until almost 11:00.

And we started at 6:30.

Relationally, we’ve already made deep connections. When we say, “Amen,” we’re not done. Our group isn’t defined by our study alone. Our group isn’t defined by the fact that we meet on Tuesday nights. Our group isn’t defined by our life stage or our kids’ ages. Our group is defined by significant relationships, built around the stories God has written with our lives and the story He’s writing with us together as a group.

We’ve built authentic community quickly. It just took us a few weeks, but God’s woven us together beautifully. We’ve made a priority out of getting to know each other at a level deeper than the surface. And it’s working. Late into the night every Tuesday night.

If your group hangs around after you say, “Amen,” you’re doing something right.

Without significant relationships, your group won’t last. Mark my word.

 

Friday Favorites (3/9/12)

Here are some of my favorites from around the web this week:

It only grows in secret – Justin and Trisha Davis

The power of temptation is not in it’s ability to cause us to sin; its in its ability to keep us quiet. This is a powerful post.

 

If you want to attract leaders – Ron Edmondson

We’ve got a ton of leaders at Grace Community Church. Here are some of the keys that have gotten us there, from one of our pastors, Ron Edmondson.

 

Top tips for building relationships with volunteers – North Point Community Church

Some of the team from North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA, share tips on building relationships with volunteers they lead.

 

When Bible study becomes idolatry – Allen White

Can studying the Bible really become idolatry? Allen White thinks so.

 

Small Group show – Steve Gladen and Brett Eastman

This is really a great resource for small group point people. On this episode, they cover 10 good ideas for utilizing Easter as a catalyst for small group growth.

 

Recruiting volunteers – Brandon Reed

The first thing you need to understand is that it’s better to put someone in a role than it is to just plug a hole. My brother, Brandon Reed, does a great job explaining the difference in recruiting volunteers and simply filling a hole.

You come across anything noteworthy this week?

 

#2 in 2011: Why you wouldn’t like my small group

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

 

Pursuing God’s Love

My friend, Margaret Feinberg (on Twitter HERE or Facebook HERE), just launched a new 6-week DVD Bible study series called “Pursuing God” with Zondervan. The first two titles are Pursuing God’s Beauty: Stories from the Gospel of John and Pursuing God’s Love: Stories from the Book of Genesis. Instead of me giving my thoughts on the study, I thought you might like to hear directly from Margaret.

Ben: Where did you come up with the idea for this series?

Margaret: I reached a place in my own spiritual life where I felt disconnected from God. I decided to return to the foundations of my faith by reading through the Book of Genesis. Something sparked as I studied, and so I continued reading and rereading for more than 18 months.

During that time, I kept hearing a reverberation in conversations with people around the country who were looking for a Bible study that wasn’t topical but rather based on a book of the Bible—allowing them to really dive deeper into the Scripture. But they admitted that either they or some of the members of their small groups don’t have time to tackle an hour of homework a night. So I began to develop a study that created an equal playing field for the veteran believer who had time to do 30-minutes of homework a night and the young mom who barely has time to take shower. Both can engage in this study—whether or not they’ve done the homework that week—and explore the Scripture together. The study encourages participants to not only grow deeper in relationship with God but with each other as they discuss and share life together.

Ben: What are some of the unique features that make these resources different from every other resource available for small groups?

Margaret: Pursuing God’s Beauty: Stories from the Gospel of John and Pursuing God’s Love: Stories from the Book of Genesis are six-session DVD Bible studies with each session averaging 18 minutes in length—leaving plenty of time for discussion and digging deeper into the Scripture and topics covered. Pursuing God’s Beauty is filmed in an artist’s loft with an artist painting in the background—the picture complete with the final session. Pursuing God’s Beauty is filmed outdoors in Colorado with rock climbers in the background. Each lesson features icebreaker questions as well as experiential activities, and five after-hours studies each week are provided in the participant’s guide for those who want to dive deeper into the Scripture at home.

Ben: What is it that you hope people would get out of these studies?

Margaret: Studying the Bible is more than something for ‘religious’ people and is more than something done in isolation. Through these studies, we’re reminded the Bible was meant to be discussed in community, and its stories are powerful enough to speak to each one of us—wherever we are and whatever our circumstances might be.

Ben: Why did you select Genesis as one of the book of the Bible to dive into?

Margaret: It’s amazing to think that everything we see and encounter in our world today—whether in a place like this with breathtaking views or in a more urban context all began in Genesis.

I love this book of the Bible, because Genesis is the story of our beginnings. In fact, the first word of the Bible in Hebrew is beresheet meaning “in the beginning”. This is the story of our origins, where we began, the formation of our cosmos and humanity. It is also the story of alienation from God, from each other, and from the creation. It’s is also the story of his loving initiative to redeem the world back to himself.

The Genesis story matters because in order to understand where we are today, we must go back to the beginning. The past helps us understand our present and illuminates our future.

Ben: In studying the Gospel of John, you invite readers to explore the beauty of God. Unpack that a little for us.

Margaret: Ultimately, you and I were designed to be captivated by God’s beauty. And when we pursue His beauty—we can’t help but find ourselves on a journey… to know more about God, His character, attributes, ways and work, in our world. And the miracle of this journey is that along the way we find breathtaking portraits of salvation, redemption, and restoration.

Perhaps no book of the Bible paints a clearer picture of this then the Gospel of John. Throughout the Gospel of John, the beauty of God radiates in the person of Jesus Christ—the one in whom God displayed his whole heart for the world to see. It’s within the person of Jesus that we find the invisible attributes of God being made visible, on display like the fine pieces of artwork in this gallery—to be enjoyed, celebrated, and reflected upon.

For more info, check out PursuingGodBibleStudy.com.

I’ll be giving away one copy of each of these studies. To be eligible to win, leave a comment, ReTweet, or share on Facebook. Make sure you tag me so I can add you to the drawing! Drawing will be held on Friday, September 23rd, at 9:00 pm.

 

 

 

5 Non-Negotiables for New Small Groups

iStockPhoto, user: Noriko Cooper

In the last week, I’ve had multiple pastors ask this question. Maybe it’s one you’re asking, too.

How do I structure my first small group meeting?

I think that pastors are asking it for a couple of reasons:

1. They don’t have small groups in their local church.

They’re trying to get groups off of the ground, and don’t have a template for how a group should launch.

2. They have small groups in their local church, but they want to ensure, as much as possible, that their personal small group succeeds.

I get that. You’re the pastor, and if your group “fails,” it reflects badly on you, who point people to the life-changing power of community. If your group “fails,” does “community” really work? (hint: the answer is that yes, it does still work…but you may just need to think critically about the dynamics of a small group)

The way that you structure your first few meetings will set the tone for the rest of your group’s life. Getting off to a slow start is a massive hindrance to success because relationships aren’t well-formed, group becomes “difficult” for people to attend, and most won’t see it as worth the trouble.

There are a few key principles to keep in mind as you launch your group. Whether that’s a singles group, a couples group, or anything in between, keeping these in mind is important to your group’s short-term and long-term success.

5 Non-Negotiables in Launching Your Small Group

1. Know what the “win” is for your group.

If you don’t know what you’re aiming for, you’ll never know if you hit it. Define the “win” for your group, and keep those front and center as you launch. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter tremendously (obviously within biblical parameters) what that win is…just that you define it. Define that win and go hard after it. *If you don’t know what the win is for your group, have a conversation with your groups pastor…if you don’t have a groups pastor, talk with your lead pastor for direction.

2. Incorporate “fun” into your group.

You may lead a phenomenal Bible study…but if people don’t feel like they’re having “fun,” they won’t come back. Don’t believe me? No problem…just test it out. Don’t laugh or play a game or have any fun, and see if people come back. After you’ve tried that, and your group has dissolved to 1, come on back and read this again. The reality is that people can get great Bible studies anywhere: podcasts, books, blogs, and forums. They can’t get a real, authentic, enjoyable relationship with people from a podcast, though. I’ve written about this more extensively HERE and HERE.

3. Incorporate “serving” into your group.

If you don’t launch with a focus on serving together, your group won’t naturally gravitate towards it. You have to build this as a value into your group. Whether your goal is once/week, once/month, or once/quarter, set some goals and offer some ideas for the group to chew on. Maybe it’ll be a ministry you believe in. Maybe it’s something in your neighborhood. Maybe it’s something that someone else in the group is passionate about. That’s not as important as building in the idea of serving your community.

4. Share your faith story.

Sharing your faith story, and encouraging others to do the same, is essential to building healthy community. If, in the first 8 weeks of your group, you haven’t done this, your group will feel stale and cold. Lecturers have no need to share their story…but small group leaders do! This is a vital step to building authentic community.

5. Share responsibility.

Don’t hoard the responsibilities you’ve been entrusted with in leading your group. It’s important that everything gets done, but you don’t need to do everything. In fact, if you do everything, you’ll burnout. You’ll also not equip others to lead and use their gifts and resources, which should be a role of all group leaders…equipping others to do the work of the ministry by fleshing out their gifts.

When you’re ready to launch your group, keep these 5 non-negotiables handy.

Question: Do you lead a small group? What am I missing? Anything you would add?

*photo credit: iStockPhoto, Digital Skillet

 

The commitment

I have a small group that I am a part of that meets every week.  And I’m going to have to miss it soon.

I’m going out of town, and there’s no way I can make it back in time.  And that really bothers me.  Even though it’s only the 3rd time I’ve missed the group in 2 years.

Because I made a commitment to the group.

When I joined, I committed to being there every week.  The people in my group aren’t imposing any guilt on me for missing.  They’re not upset.  The group will carry on without me, no problem.  Somebody else will lead the discussion that night.  Somebody else will take up the prayer requests.  Somebody else will make sure the group keeps moving forward.  The group isn’t dependent on me.

But I’m bummed I can’t be there.

I’m missing out on

  • a dynamic discussion
  • a broken-hearted request
  • a cry for help
  • an opportunity to praise God for His goodness
  • a belly laugh
  • a good meal
  • catching up on life
  • sharing my own difficulties
  • sharing my own triumphs
  • doing life with friends
  • praying for a friend
  • being prayed over

You may not like my small group (I wrote about it HERE).  But I do.  These guys challenge, encourage, and equip me to do what God’s calling me to do.  Their influence in my life is beyond measuring.

To get the most out of your small group, you’ve got to make a significant commitment. Otherwise, a small group is just a Bible study.  A group of acquaintances.  An I-have-to-go-to-that-again? meeting.  A burden.  A time-waster.  Something that takes you away from what you really want to do.  A place of forced community.

Make the commitment to the folks in your small group.  They’ll be glad you did.

And so will you.

Have you ever made the level of commitment necessary to really invest in a small group?

Have you ever seen someone not make that commitment, and burn out quickly?

 

Concrete, alignment series

We at Grace Community Church launched a series called Concrete yesterday.  We’re doing it as an alignment with our small groups, launching new groups whose goal is to engage people in authentic community for the 5 weeks of this series.

We’ve produced a DVD and small group study guide for our groups to track along with our Sunday sermons.

We do these alignments during series where you would feel comfortable inviting your friends and neighbors. And we construct our small group discussion guide so that if you have people you’ve invited who are far from God come into your home to do this study with you, they’re able to track along with the discussion, add in their own personal experience, and take a step of faith…whatever that looks like for them.

Who are small groups for?

Our small groups aren’t just for the mature.  But they’re also not just for those new to faith.

They’re for everyone. Because we feel that everyone needs the opportunity to discuss the Scriptures, process life, and build relationships…in an environment that’s safe to explore faith.

For this alignment study, we’ve chosen topics that are accessible and challenging to people wherever they are in their spiritual journey.  We’ll be exploring foundational issues, challenging people to take a step towards God in their prayer life, commitment to the local church, giving, reading their Bible, and sharing their faith.

If you care to join us, we’d love to have you!  Click HERE for access to the podcast and small group study guide from week 1.

The rest of the study guide (link to weeks 1-5) can be found online HERE.

Click HERE for a pdf version of our study guide from week 1.

If you’re joining us, please leave a comment and let us know!

 

You probably wouldn’t like my small group

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?

 

A “Deep” Bible study

Can you tell me which small group has a “deep” Bible study?

Ever been asked that question?  Ever asked it yourself?

I’m asked the question all of the time.

But instead of posting my thoughts, I’d like to hear from you, so leave a comment below.

What does it take for a “regular” Bible study to turn into a “deep” Bible study?  What goes into making small group time a “deep” Bible study?

I’ll post my thoughts later.  But for now, I’d like your input.