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?
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.
My wife and I had a conversation with a young married couple about sex a few weeks ago.
It was incredibly refreshing. We could be open and honest with them, and help them take steps forward in their marriage.
Church leaders should talk with people more about sex, in a positive light.*
Most of the “sex talks” that happen with church leaders are
- a premarital conversation that goes something like this:
Don’t have sex.Quit having sex. Wait for a few more months.
- a sermon series in the student ministry that lasts for 8 months. Think I’m joking? I’m not…I ran into a student pastor who said he’d been preaching on sex for 8 months with his students. “I think we’re just about done” he said. “I bet they’ve been done listening to you talk about it for about 8 months, because that’s way too long for students to hear their 50-somethings youth pastor talk about sex” I replied…in my head, of course.
- an awkwardly timed, not-so-funny joke in a sermon on Sunday morning. Either you think, “Can I laugh at that in church?” or “Can I laugh at that, just to make my pastor feel better? That wasn’t funny…”
Church leaders should have more frank conversations about sex. Not in a “sex is dirty” kind of way, and not in a way that’s constantly condemning the bad things about sex. But in a way that helps a couple honor God with this area of their life.
Culture teaches us a lot about sex, most of which is glamorized, made out to be some sort of physical-only act that’s super easy for a couple to enjoy together.
It Ain’t That Easy
If you’ve been married long at all, you know that sex isn’t easy to get “right” (meaning something that’s mutually enjoying and honoring to God). More often than not, especially in the first few years of married life, sex is frustrating for husbands and wives. It’s not the beautiful act that God intended, but a point of contention. Instead of an act of union and love, it drives a wedge dissatisfaction.
And sex is so, so important to a marriage. It’ll bring a marriage down in a heartbeat if it’s not addressed. We’d be foolish to assume that all couples just know how to flourish in this area of their lives. Understanding your spouse is something that takes time…it’s not an intuitions you’re born with. As quickly as it can bring a marriage down, it can also help a marriage turn a corner. God intended sex to be an emotional, physical, and spiritual act. It’s intended to be a deeply satisfying intimacy for which no other act can substitute. (don’t believe me? Try reading Song of Solomon and not blushing)
A Little More Conversation, A Little More Action
So go ahead. Ask the awkward question to someone you have a close relationship with:
How’s your sex life?
You’ll get them snickering like middle school girls. But you’ll also open up the opportunity for a beautiful conversation.
And if you’re not having good sex, it may be time to ask for some advice.
Drink water from your own cistern, And fresh water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? Let them be yours alone, And not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love (Proverbs 5:15-19).
*Talking about sex isn’t just relegated to church leaders…all followers of Jesus should make it a point to talk openly and honestly about this issue. Church leaders especially. This blog just tends to be read by a majority of people who are, at one level or another, leaders in their local church.
* image credit; Creative Commons user Marc Wathieu, edits mine
* catch up with the “this is awkward” series HERE.
I recently got an invitation to attend a lunch with other like-minded leaders in Nashville. I was invited by the organizer of the event, because apparently “this is an event you’ll like.”
And I said, “I’ll be there.”
Was the exact same DM (that’s twitter shorthand for a message sent directly to you) sent to (probably) hundreds of other guys? Yep.
Was it really just a way of getting a bunch of leaders in the same room to promote what they wanted to talk about? Yeah. (I know, I know…you told us it wasn’t…but be honest)
If I’d gotten the exact same DM from the sponsoring company, would I have gone? Not a chance. *(this is an important marketing tip for churches and businesses. If I receive an invitation from your corporate account, 99 times out of 100 I’ll ignore it. Send it from your personal account and it’ll get at least a second look)
But do you know why I went?
Because I got a personal invite from a real person.
I felt needed. I felt valued. I felt that this event would be worth my time and effort to attend.
If the parent company had sent the DM, it would’ve felt pushy. But coming from the person, it felt…personal.
Instead of sending out fliers for your next church event, encourage people to personally ask their friends.
Instead of buying a spot on a billboard to promote your event, encourage word-of-mouth.
Instead of blasting a mass email, encourage people to invite a few of their closest friends on Facebook.
“Personal” is a stronger, more meaningful “ask” than the mass appeal.
Question: Would you be more likely to attend an event if personally invited by someone you trust?
If you’re in the business of leading people, you must also be in the business of building relationships.
If you’re not, you can forget about having any significant level of influence.
Yesterday, I had a cup of coffee from a Chemex. You know how long it took between the time I ordered it and the time I took my first sip?
Nearly 12 minutes.
Was I frustrated?
Not a bit.
It was a perfect cup of coffee. Perfect. It was clean, smooth, and a bit chocolatey. Its roasty-ness wasn’t overwhelming, but its flavors deep and rich.
With the Chemex, you don’t just hit a button and watch the magic happen. You have to stand beside it the whole time it’s brewing, continuing to add more water at just the right time. Then wait for the percolation to happen. Then add more water (with a very specific type of kettle) to the areas that are dry, starting with the center and moving out towards the edge. Until finally, after all of the water has percolated through and the brewing process is complete, you get a decanter full of perfection. The cup of coffee that comes from the Chemex is truly a work of art.
And relationships are no different.
We’d like to think that relationships are microwavable. Quick, easy, and cheap. But they’re far from it.
Truths about Significant Relationships
Relationships take time, effort, and expense.
They take constant care and attention. Don’t walk away, or you’ll miss that key opportunity, that key moment that the next step forward is contingent upon.
Each relationship is different.
Building relationships is not a one-size-fits-all model. Just as each Chemex cup takes a slightly different amount of time to brew, depending on the grind of the coffee, the speed at which you pour the water, and the temperature of the water, so each relationship takes a different amount of effort, time, and care.
You can’t have significant relationships with a vast number of people.
There’s just too much expense involved. It’s not possible to give of yourself enough to have deep, significant relationships with significant numbers of people.
Relational investments take cultivation to grow.
Don’t expect to hit a button, wave your magic wand, and voila! Cultivating important relationships is hard work. You’ll have to let other things slide. Other commitments, responsibilities, emails, phone calls, and things less important.
It is worth the wait.
If you’ll give a relationship the time and effort it needs, you’ll be surprised the mutual benefits that will follow.
If you lose sight of the end goal, you’ll get frustrated.
You’ll get burned, feel like it’s too big an investment, and feel the tension to just move on. Like this is a hopeless cause that’s benefiting nobody. Offering grace, mercy, love, and hope isn’t something you do because you are looking for immediate results.
“Love is patient…Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7)
For any leader, creating trust is essential.
Merriam-Webster.com defines “trust” as “reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something : one in which confidence is placed.” So creating that trust in relationships formed is crucial for the growth of the organization that you lead. And when it comes to social media, trust is absolutely crucial. Since you’re one voice among millions, you get one shot with potential followers. One eye-grabbing tweet. One game-changing blog post. And if you don’t capture people there, you’ve likely lost them forever. Hate it if you want, but that’s the game.
Without trust, people won’t follow you. Well…they’ll follow you for a little while. But positional leadership will only get you so far. With trust, you can develop healthy, robust communities.
5 ways to create trust online
- Consistency – I’ve given up on trying to figure out which posts are going to do well and which aren’t. I’ve resorted to this: post consistently. I’m bound to strike a nerve with someone at some point.
- Quality – Add value, create discussion, spark interest, share an idea, encourage change, or share your story. If it’s anything less, then why post?
- Honesty – people are looking for transparency and relate-ability…not just someone who has got it all together. Don’t just tweet the good things…tweet the bad ideas, the failed initiatives, and ways you’ve struggled.
- Generosity – it’s not just all about you, promoting your stuff, making a name for yourself. It’s also not just about giving products away. Give away ideas, encouragement, and insights.
- Uniqueness – if you start something new, then you are, by nature, unique in that area. If you’re jumping into an existing area, let your platform set you apart from the rest of the pack. Your story’s not the same, your passions aren’t the same, your job’s not the same, and your family’s not the same. Don’t try to be me, and I won’t try to be you.
Trust is essential in building any relationship. Social media is no different.
What am I missing? How do you build trust? Jump in the conversation HERE!
I love being a dad.
It’s not easy, by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s good.
And one thing that we as a family love is laughing together. And one way I personally promote that is by tickling my son. It makes both of us laugh hysterically.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tickled a 2-year old, but it’s pretty funny. It’s hard not to laugh along with them.
And I noticed this the other day: my son starts laughing before I even tickle him.
I just curl up my hand, like I’m going to tickle him…and just get it close to his belly, and he starts to cringe up in laughter. And it’s not one of those courtesy chuckles. It’s an all-body laughter.
The anticipation plays into his overall tickle experience.
And I’m convinced that Sunday mornings are similar.
From week to week, we should be building anticipation as to what’s coming next time. Whether that’s through
- sermon series
- serving opportunities
- small group/Sunday alignment
- emails saying, “Get ready…”
- social media connections
- website resources
- mixing things up on Sundays so people really don’t know exactly what to expect
- building relationships that encourage continued gathering with other believers
We should be thinking, “What’s encouraging our folks to come back next week?”* Is there a reason for a newcomer (who may or may not be a follower of Christ) to return? How are you communicating to them that coming back next week is vital? Are you following up throughout the week?
If you believe that the message you’re presenting is valuable, why would you not create tension and anticipation for what’s coming next?
TV shows do it. Movies do it. Radio talk shows create it. Teachers create it. Guys who want a second date build it.
If you want a second round with a visitor, you’ve got to build anticipation.
How are you building anticipation?
Should we build anticipation, or should the message simply speak for itself, standing alone?
*Before you leave theologically charged comments, let it be known…I believe that God is the one who draws and changes hearts. He is the Motivator. It’s his kindness that leads us to repentance. I just don’t want anything to get in the way of that, if I can help it.
We’re working to create a different kind of leadership culture at Grace Community Church.
Our staff doesn’t function like many other staffs, even though we are one of the most understaffed church staffs that I know. And though we’re busier than ever preparing to launch a new campus (details HERE), it feels like the right kind of busy. Here’s what our pastors do, that other pastors and leaders may not do.
- Answer phones. We don’t have a receptionist. If you call 931-647-6800, you’re going to immediately hear from one of our pastors. But please don’t try it just for fun…I’m busy today. And if you leave a message, our system emails us immediately so we can follow back up with you quickly. Because we value resources, and don’t want to spend money on someone whose primary responsibility is something less than shepherding.
- Are highly accessible. You can reach our staff members by Facebook, Twitter, Email, or cell phone. Because we care about building relationships with those we’re seeking to minister among.
- Set up on Sunday mornings. Our pastors are there as early as any volunteers, setting up tables, speakers, coffee, and banners. Because we don’t want to ask our volunteers to do something that we aren’t willing to do.
- Answer our emails quickly. Because we value promptness, and strive for excellence in our communication.
- Book our own schedules. If we’re traveling to a conference, or scheduling a lunch meeting, we do that ourselves. Because we hire pastors on our staff, not just administrative assistants.
Is this the right way to assemble a staff of leaders? Is it biblical? Is it the only way? I don’t know. But I do know that this is what we do, and it’s working well for us.
Difficulties and Rewards
Because we’re so accessible, more people feel the freedom to email and call us about random events in life at random parts of the day. Which I think is pretty awesome.
Because we hire capable shepherd leaders, our staff is stretched pretty thin doing the work of ministry. Which I think is pretty awesome.
Because we setup on Sunday mornings, we’re physically and spiritually drained by Sunday afternoon. Which I think is pretty awesome.
Because we value promptness in communication, people have begun to communicate more, and more often. Which I think is pretty awesome.
You can assemble your leadership staff differently if you want. And I won’t fault you for it. But I’m thrilled to serve here at Grace.