Tag: conference

ReGroup: an interview with North Point’s Bill Willits

I attended ReGroup last year. It was the first year for North Point in Atlanta, GA, to put on a conference dedicated solely to small groups. To be honest with you, it was one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended. It was so phenomenal that I’m going back this year, too. (October 21-22)

*Keep reading…promo code below.

North Point peeled back the curtain on what they do…and why they do it. They were generous, sharing the secrets they’ve learned over the last 17 years of ministry. I have been leading small groups for years, and I walked away with boatloads of ideas that I could implement. On top of that, the North Point team were incredibly gracious hosts. I really felt like an honored guest.

Which is 100% a byproduct of my friend, Bill Willits, executive director of environments at North Point, and small groups afficionado.

I sat down with Bill recently because I wanted you to hear from him why their conference this year is a must-go.

I tried to find a good picture of Bill, but they all made him look old and crotchety. Sorry. 🙂


1. Why did you guys decide to do a conference?

It wasn’t an easy decision to make because, first and foremost, we’re a local church. Our first priority is to do groups, not organize conferences about them. But the time was right. There are lots of conferences out there, but there seemed to be a void when it came to groups ministry. More than that, most conference presenters are thought leaders in their fields. While that is valuable, we think there’s something special about a conference for people doing ministry by people doing ministry.

We had a hunch that other ministries would benefit from what our Groups team has to share. We also knew that our Groups team would benefit from the opportunity to rub elbows with other folks from all over the world doing groups ministry. So, re:group was born.


2. Who would be the “perfect” person to come to re:group?

Re:group is for anyone who is trying to grow or start a groups ministry, as well as anyone just thinking about starting a groups ministry. Because we’re focused on how community is essential to life change, the conference can benefit a groups ministry of any size or at any stage.


3. What benefit will someone get out of attending?

While we’ll spend some time talking about the whys of groups ministry, most of the conference is about the hows. Anyone invested in small groups is going to come away from re:group with a lot of practical information about how to do what they do even better.


4. Why should someone choose this conference over any other given conference?

You know, we’re going to share what we’ve learned about doing groups ministry over the years, but re:group isn’t about North Point speaking from on high. We’re still figuring things out. We still have a ton to learn. Re:group is a conference where attendees can learn from us and from one another, while we learn from them. It’s just a great opportunity for ministry leaders from all kinds of backgrounds to come together and share their wisdom, knowledge, and experience.


Plus, Buckhead Church is a great venue for a conference and we’re going to have a lot of fun.


5. Why attend this conference and not just read your book, Creating Community?

First of all, we’ve learned and changed a lot since the book was published. The vision, mission, and values of our ministry haven’t changed but our model and programming have certainly matured. But more than that, one of the things that most excites me about re:group is the opportunity for attendees to interact with our Groups staff. They’re really great folks and they have a ton of accumulated knowledge and wisdom about creating a small groups ministry. Yes, read the book. But don’t miss the chance to connect with an amazing group of people who live and breath groups and who have helped us adapt, chance, and mature our groups strategy.


6. What area(s) of ministry will you be highlighting?

Between the main sessions and the breakouts, we’ll cover a lot of ground—getting people into groups, eliminating barriers to community, building effective ministry teams and strategies, and even measuring how well you’re achieving your ministry goals.


7. If someone comes to the conference, and uses the code (whatever discount code we’re going to use for my blog readers), can they stay at your house during the conference and have you cook us breakfast, Bill?

You really don’t want to eat my cooking. Seriously. And you’re a goofball.


Just for the readers of this blog, and just until Monday, September 16th, they’re extending the early bird rate. Just enter the promo code: BenReedPromo. Original, right?

$179 is a steal. You’ll walk away with information worth well, well more than that.

Register HERE for the conference on October 21-22.

Will I see you there?


Planning for growth


image credit: Creation Swap user Cody Davenport

If you’re someone that’s content to take life slowly and easily, I’d frustrate you. I never find myself “content” with the status quo.

It’s this time of year that I start dreaming about the Fall. Summer’s in full swing, and I’m looking for what’s next. Where I need to grow. What I need to change. What I need to start doing. What I need to stop doing.

What book I need to read. What podcast I need to start listening to. What coffee shop I need to visit.

As a pastor, I’m always thinking this direction as well. I’m constantly looking for what’s next, because I’m never satisfied with where we’re at. “Good enough” doesn’t whet my whistle. Nor does “okay” or “average” or “decent” or “pretty good.”

So if you want to grow spiritually, you’ll have to plan for it. Here are a few things I’m looking towards, that will help me continue to grow. Your list may be different. But it’s time, now, to start making that list out.*

The Fall season can be a great time of growth, but you’ve got to plan now.


I’ve always got a book or seven in my hand. I intake vast amounts of content through books and articles. They help me stretch and grow. Here are a few that are on tap for me leading into the Fall.


For me, writing helps flesh my thoughts out like nothing else. I extrovert my thoughts to make sense of them, so writing becomes an outlet for what God’s showing me. Some of that makes it on this blog. Some of that will make its way into my upcoming book on small group life. But I’ve got to write to grow.

I’m going to write 1500 words/week throughout the 3 months of Fall. Which equates to 18,000 words. It’ll be good for my heart.


It’s important for me to get out of my normal environment if I’m going to grow. Conferences provide that opportunity for me this Fall, and I’m headed to Atlanta for the ReGroup conference. I’m pretty stoked to be going back again this year. It’s a time of refreshment and strategic planning for me. The team at North Point is spot on.

What’s your plan for growth this Fall?

 * For continued spiritual growth, I’m assuming the normal disciplines of the Christian life: reading Scripture, prayer, corporate worship, small group community, confession, repentance, etc. I’ll not quit these, and neither should you. This is my outside-of-the-normal ‘things’ list. I’m also assuming you know that it’s God that produces the growth. I’m just positioning myself for the maximum potential.


Measuring what matters in small groups

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I attended the ReGroup conference at North Point this year. I decided to post some of the notes. To see all of them, click HERE.


How do we know if our ministries are working? Is it stories or is it statistics? Yes. Stories and statistics are not mutually exclusive. The measurements that we track help us tell the story of our ministry…about what has happened, what is happening, or what will happen. They help us know if we are “winning.” Measurements matter, so we measure what matters.

I. Where stories and statistics intersect

A. “Story” people and “statistics” people

  1. Stories engage the heart
  2. Statistics engage the head.
B. As a church, we are both organism and organization.
  1. Organism without organization is chaos
  2. Organization without organism is lifeless

II. Involve the right people

A. Establishing measurements must be a collaborative effort.

B. Establishing measurements requires diverse perspectives.

  1. Ministry involvement offers the perspective of ownership.
  2. Manager involvement offers the perspective of oversight.

III. Leverage best practices

A. Tie to the strategic

  1. Vision (life is better connected, which is why they measure “connection”), mission (to lead people into a growing relationship with Christ, which is why they send out a survey 2x/year to people in groups), and strategy (to create environments where people can grow, which is why they track the number of groups and the number of people in groups) must drive all measurements
  2. For each area of the organization, measurements must be developed around a clear win and critical factors of success. They measure 4 things: group participation, leader apprentice (for future growth), leader retention, and leader training
B. Tips on the tactical
  1. If you can’t or won’t change something, then don’t ask for feedback
  2. When relevant, use rations 100% of the time. This makes it easy to compare over time.
  3. Track over time to establish targets. You have got to have trends.
  4. Don’t marry your metrics.

IV. Follow up the right way

A. We don’t make decisions based on measurements alone.
B. We do…
  1. Open conversations. We believe the best, and don’t assume the worst.
  2. Start explorations
  3. Plan ahead…use numbers to look forward
  4. Benchmark standards
  5. Celebrate success. Don’t just focus on gaps.


The church is people and every one of them has a story. Our measurements must always be complemented with the stories of the people they represent. But stories, like numbers, can be manipulated. Therefore, it is not one or the other. We must walk the path between the ditches of the lifeless, organization-only mentality and the chaotic, organism-only approach. This is wise and skillful leadership; this is where sustainable growth is found. What you manage shows what you value.


Serving as a small group

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I attended the ReGroup conference at North Point this year. I decided to post some of the notes. To see all of them, click HERE.


It’s clear in Scripture that God’s heart tips toward the orphan, the widow, the poor, the imprisoned, and the brokenhearted. But how – with the urgency of our weekly responsibilities – do we ensure that serving our community and showing compassion to those in need are priorities? And how do we make it simple for our groups? We will share how we’re learning to make this an integral part of our ministry.

I. How are compassion and service integrated into your church’s strategy?

A. We must manage the tension between serving as a ministry (what we do) and service as a value (how we do it).

  1. When serving becomes a ministry, we are learning to make it simple.
  2. When service is a value, we are making it a priority.
B. To gain long-term traction…
  1. Service must be anchored in the strategic language of your church. (at North Point, they often say, “Relationships fuel service and serving fuels relationships)
  2. You must have a mechanism for mobilizing people to serve.

II. What is the role of compassion and service in groups?

A. We must manage the tension between mobilizing groups to serve and equipping groups for effective service.
B. When we mobilize and equip, people will do good well.
C. We want to move people from awareness to engagement to identity. (see groupleaders.org/berich for an example of what they’re doing this season.)

III. How will you make serving a priority in your groups?

A. We must manage the tension between finding engaging service opportunities and meeting the real needs of our communities.
B. We partner; we don’t pioneer. To non-profits they say: We need you, and you need us.
  1. This allows us to leverage our resources to help our partners go further, faster.
  2. Partnering instead of pioneering multiplies our influence in the community.


Our mission is to point people to the One who transforms, and it is the most important mision in the world. Service is a catalyst to this transformation, and the transformation is multiplied when we serve in and as a community. As a result, it is incumbent upon us to equip and mobilize groups to serve in astrategic and helpful ways – to make it simple and make it a priority.

Fall conference opportunity

Worship Facilities Conference and Expo (WFX) is a team of people passionate about helping and serving churches. Their mission is to equip church leadership teams on the tools and technologies they need to support their individual ministry calling. They do things through a combination of education events and media products.

One of the major things that they do is host conferences, and the lineup of speakers for their Atlanta conference this year looks strong. Check it out HERE.

They’ve got a couple of conferences coming up. I’d love to be able to attend, but I’m not going to be able to. WFX has graciously donated 2 tickets to any of their upcoming conferences (in Atlanta, St. Louis, Pittsburg, or Boston) to one person on this blog.

Check out their site, and if you’re interested in going, just leave a comment below with your email address. I’ll contact the winner directly, with instructions on getting those two tickets to you.



Exponential conference, a giveaway

It’s been a while since I’ve given anything away here on the blog. So it’s about time I changed that.

I’m giving away 2 simulcast tickets (you can watch it at any point from your computer, alone or with a team) to this year’s Exponential Conference.

Want to skip the contest and just buy your simulcast ticket? You can do so HERE.

I’m a part of a church plant, Grace Community Church, so the Exponential Conference is especially intriguing to me. Since I couldn’t make it to this year’s event in Orlando, FL, I’m especially excited to be able to watch the simulcast and process it with my team.

The Exponential Conference has become the largest gathering of church planting leaders in North America each year with nearly 5,000 attendees. Exponential champions healthy, reproducing-faith communities by inspiring, encouraging and equipping church planting leaders. From leaders considering church planting to seasoned veterans, the conference’s 100+ national speakers, 100+ workshops, and 15+ tracks provide some of the best church planting training available. For the first time ever, the 5 Main Stage Sessions and 4 Family Track Sessions from an Exponential Conference will be made available via live Simulcast.

The emphasis of the 5 Main Sessions are:

  • Sifted for a Purpose
  • Sifted in our Calling
  • Sifted in our Purity
  • Sifted in our Relationships
  • Sifted for Multiplication

The emphasis of the 4 Family Track Sessions are:

  •  Avoiding Blowing Up and Burning Out (Jud and Lori Wilhite)
  • How to Disciple Your Children (Mark Batterson)
  • Raising Pastor’s Kids (Bill Hybels and Shauna (Hybels) Niequist)
  • Battle Lines: Family and the Ministry (Darrin and Amie Patrick)

Although the conference is designed for church planting leaders, the content and theme will be a blessing to any leader serving the local church.

“Sifted”, the theme of Exponential 2012, highlights the importance of the spiritual, physical, and emotional health of the leader as a vital component in catalyzing leaders who reproduce. Where most resources focus on the “doing” of models, approaches and innovations, “Sifted” focuses on the “being” and health of church leaders. The conference seeks to help leaders embrace their unique story of sifting.

If you’d like to buy a ticket to the event, you can do so HERE.

I’m giving away 2 free simulcast tickets to the conference, for you and/or your team to watch together.

Just enter the giveaway below!

Contest ends Friday, June 1st, at noon central.




Conference essentials

When I go to conferences, I have a few things that are essential for me as I attend.

1. iPhone – I will take most of my notes on this.  I use Evernote, which syncs with my computer automatically.  That way, I can take notes, and have them stored, not having to worry about transferring them from my phone.  And to keep everybody updated in real time, I use Hootsuite.

2. Backpack – With all of the S.W.A.G. (stuff we all get) at conferences, I don’t want to carry them in my hands.  And a shoulder bag is just too cumbersome to navigate the crowds.  A backpack is a must.

3. Laptop – I enjoy processing my thoughts out loud…which means that, to blog, I’ve got to have my computer.

4. Moleskine – Batteries don’t last forever.  And sometimes, electronic devices open up too slowly.  Enter the good ole fashioned pen and paper.  And I’ve found nothing better than a Moleskine.

5. The Sharpie Pen Gotta have something to write with.

What are your conference essentials?


Outside the Box

I don’t know about you, but I tend to box myself in.  I find something that works, then stick with that plan 100% until I have completely run it into the ground.

And that’s not a good thing.

When it comes to serving in ministry, “boxes” are helpful, but should constantly be evaluated…and burned if necessary.

That’s why I’m offering, for free, a leadership training event called “Outside the Box.”  I’ve created the event to help us think outside of the normal way of operating.  To not accept mediocre.  To push for excellence.  And to not rely on yesterday’s ideas to accomplish today’s problems.  Because yesterday’s ideas worked really well….yesterday.

In order to continue to grow as a ministry at Grace Community Church, we need to think outside the box.

Especially when it comes to the idea of being missional.

Here is the lineup of speakers:

Kenny York – Kenny is launching a new ministry in Clarksville to minister to the homeless.  Instead of asking the homeless to come to a centralized location…he’s going to them, bringing hot meals to where they are.  You can read more about Manna Cafe Ministries HERE.

Ryan Chappalear – Ryan is Founder/International Director of Africa for Jesus.  Ryan, and the way he has led AFJ to plant churches and train local pastors in Africa, has changed the way I think about international missions.  You can read about the ministry that Ryan leads HERE.

Rick Howerton – Rick is one of the premier leaders in the small-group movement. Having facilitated an untold number of small-group journeys over the last 17 years, his passion is contagious. This guy honestly believes that small groups can and will change the world!  He blogs HERE.

This event is designed for our small group leaders (and volunteers) at Grace Community Church.  If you lead a small group but you don’t go to Grace, we’d still love to have you!  Just call the church office at 931-647-6800 and ask for Ben Reed.

Hope to see you there!


The Summit

I asked this question on Twitter:

I was hoping to get a list of the conferences that people I know and trust are attending.  I did.  And the list was huge.  It included men’s conferences, pastor’s conferences, conferences close by, and others far away.  Some designed to equip you to be a better leader.  Others focused on spiritual growth.  Some were for men with funny accents.  Others for pastors whose last name ended in “Q.”  And still others designed for pastors whose wives graduated from a state university 2 years prior to their husband graduating from seminary.  And, I’m sure, all great conferences in their own right.

But a couple of people mentioned The Summit conference.  They said that small group experts were gathering together to talk through small group-related topics.  Since I’m involved in small groups ministry, I checked into it.

For budget reasons, I pick and choose the conferences that I attend with much discretion.

For ministry-related reasons, I pick and choose the conferences that I attend with much discretion.

For conferences-mean-I-get-further-behind-with-regular-work reasons, I pick and choose the conferences that I attend with much discretion.

For I-love-my-family-and-don’t-want-to-do-a-ton-of-traveling-if-I-can-help-it reasons, I pick and choose the conferences that I attend with much discretion.

I think that The Summit answers all of these reasons.

The Summit is:

  • Free – can’t beat that!
  • Online – watch it from your couch.  Your office.  Your phone.  Your friend’s phone.  Your friend’s couch.
  • 1 1/2 hours – I like things that are short and to the point.  Give me what I need to know and send me on my way.
  • 10 small group ministry experts – this is literally the “Who’s Who” of small group guys.  You may not have known that a “Who’s Who of small group guys” list existed, but it does…and it includes these guys:
  1. Lyman Coleman
  2. Steve Gladen
  3. Randall Neighbour
  4. Bill Donahue
  5. Carl George
  6. Rick Howerton
  7. Bill Search
  8. Reid Smith
  9. Greg Bowman
  10. Eddie Mosley

Quote from The Summit site:

These men represent decades of experience with small groups including the six basic types: free market, closed, open, organic, multi-group, and cell church. We’ll use a question-and-answer format to tap into their collective knowledge and give you real-world answers to your small group challenges.

Sign up HERE for the event that happens on Thursday, February 18th, from 10:30-12:00 CST.

I’ll be watching.  What about you?


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