Tag: steve gladen

A change for the Reed family

When God calls, you’ve got to go.

Well, I guess you don’t have to go. But to not go would be disobedience, and that’s not a choice I’m ready to commit to. So my family and I…we are going. With buckets full of bittersweet joy.

At the end of the month, I will be joining the Saddleback Community Church staff on the groups team!

This is a very bittersweet move for us. We’re leaving behind so many great relationships at Long Hollow. And beyond that, all of our family connections are here in the middle Tennessee area. We’re leaving what we know, who we love, and where we naturally find comfort. We’re leaving behind a culture that’s woven into our DNA. We’re leaving behind our Tennessee roots.

But to be joining Saddleback, and the work God’s already doing through them in both Southern California and around the world, is for us a step towards something that we feel like God’s been preparing us for for a long time.

We never saw our road at Long Hollow as just preparing grounds. We never treated it as such, either. We poured every ounce of our hearts, our lives, our energy, our minds, our bodies, our ideas, our love, our pain, our laughs, our screams, and our tears into the mission God called us to at Long Hollow. We never felt called through Long Hollow. We felt called to Long Hollow.

But at the end of the day, aren’t all experiences training grounds for what’s next? Doesn’t God always use people and places, whether good or bad, to shape our hearts for the next step? Don’t all things work to make us more like Jesus? (Romans 8:28-29)

So we’re moving. With as much excitement as we have fear. With as much eager anticipation as we have sadness.

With boldness we are taking a courageous step of faith.



Sermon-driven small groups

Our small groups at Grace Community Church recently transitioned their discussion/study time from a curriculum to being based on, and driven by, the Sunday morning sermon.

I recently had the chance to sit down with my good friends, Brett Eastman and Steve Gladen, and talk through how we go about producing our curriculum every week, and a couple of reasons why we made the switch. Brett and Steve produce The Small Group Show, a series of videos designed to resource and encourage small groups pastors and leaders.

Here’s the interview I did with them.



Are you a part of a sermon-driven small group, or a curriculum-driven one?


My top 3 books for 2011

image credit: Creation Swap user Jamie Current

I’ve read a lot in 2011. And there are three books that rose to the top for me.

1. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

This is an old book, but it’s still unbelievably applicable today. Because relationships are still vital to whatever you do, whether that’s at work, home, or church. This book oozes practical wisdom.

2. Small Groups with Purpose: How to Create Healthy Communities, by Steve Gladen (blog)

I know, it’s niche. But it’s good. If you’re overseeing small groups, this book is gold for you. Steve has laid out the method that Saddleback Church has pioneered in launching thousands of small groups. And he’s broken it down where churches who are much smaller can learn from the principles that Saddleback has used.

3. Sticky Teams, by Larry Osborne

Our staff read through this book together and it was so, so good. Osborne packs this book full of the wisdom he’s learned in leading his teams of staff members at North Coast Church. If you’re a team leader, or plan on being one, especially in the church, this is a must-read.


Have you read a must-read this year?


 * image credit: Creation Swap user Jamie Current


Join me and talk small groups


I enjoy conferences. I think that they help leaders tremendously. I’ve written before about why I go and what I take.


Conferences get you out of your normal environment. They introduce you to new ideas from thought leaders that are in related, but not identical fields, and they give you a chance to dream. But you know what the biggest problem with conferences is?

They’re expensive.

  • Gas (or airline)
  • Food
  • Hotel
  • Time away from family
  • Ticket for the conference

I’m excited to tell you about an opportunity to attend a conference on the cheap.

The 12 Conference:

  • It’s online, so no travel expenses
  • The individual ticket is $45 ($195 for a site license)…that’s cheap!
  • You get to hear from trusted leaders from around the country
  • It’s not just a Saddleback thing. Check out the list of speakers HERE.
  • You can bring your whole team for $195!
  • You can invite other churches to be a part of the event with you, for just $600.  This would be a great way to include other churches and ministries.
  • You’ll have access to the notes and videos for 30 days on demand.
  • Interact with other attendees at the conference. 12 is being driven by interaction, not just information. When you sign up, you’ll be grouped together with other churches that are similar in size, and throughout the sessions, the speakers will give you a chance to interact with each other based on the session you’re in. It will feel like you’re attending a live conference.
  • 2 days, 3 tracks, 8 sessions, 36 speakers…tons of content.

If you’re attending, let me know…because I’ll be there, too. I’m leading a handful of sessions.

The conference happens “live” on September 14-15.  Register HERE.

But even if I weren’t, this is a conference I’d be a part of.

I love this line that’s a part of the promo for the conference:

We are not in the business of producing conferences.  We are in the business of equipping leaders to do Kingdom work.

You in?



Don’t overlook the young guys

This is a series of posts where small group experts share how group life has impacted them personally.  The entire series can be found HERE.
Steve Gladen is the Pastor of Small Group Community at Saddleback Church. He oversees the strategic launch and development of their 3,500 adult small groups. His new book, Small Groups with Purpose, comes out in June 2011.  You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.


Flashback with me to 1977. While most of the living population was born, probably the readers of this blog weren’t born (as painful as that is to say). I was a junior in high school. I was also a new follower of Christ. What was high school like for me? Was I an ESPN 150 Top Pick?

Not even close.

Getting ready to attend my first prom?

No again.

I was actually a late bloomer in many ways. A scholar?

Nope. I had to struggle just to get C’s and B’s. Luckily, gym class was always there to pull up my GPA!

But, surely, I was a sought-after young Christian leader, right?

Not even close.

When I think of what phrase might best describe me during this time, it is “in the background.” I was not a part of the in-crowd, the Who’s Who, the pretty people, or those who were invited to parties. And, worse yet, I had no ideas or the plans for the future. I was clueless. My dad was in business, so I had a vague notion that I would head down that path too. And that pretty much summed up my goals at the time. I enjoyed my life and basically just took it one day at a time.

The Story Begins

Enter a man named Ron Swiger. Ron was an adult in my church who took me under his wing without me ever realizing he was doing it. Our church didn’t have small groups, but they did have Sunday School and a Bus Ministry (Google it – it was a phenomenon in the 1970’s). That Sunday School functioned much like a small group. The Bus Ministry included serving and evangelism. Although the methodologies I use today are different, I realize, now, what a powerful role Ron played in my life.

Ron made sure I was involved and gave me a place to belong. He asked me to be an assistant in the Bus Ministry on his bus. He spent time with me. He did ministry in such a way that I wanted to be like him. He was also my Sunday School teacher. He was far ahead of his time and was a master at promoting growth in his students. He taught me to pray. He challenged me to give back to God. He taught the Bible in a relevant way.

Most importantly, he modeled what he taught. That Sunday School class was probably the best disguised small group of the day. We didn’t just learn biblical facts, we learned how to live life together. We had parties, interacted with the greater church, did outreach events together, and learned to challenge each other to deal with the dark areas of our heart.

Were we perfect?  No. Did I apply everything I learned to my life?  No. But did that class make an impact in my life? Yes!

A growing seed

When Ron stepped out of the role as my mentor, another man stepped in, Bill Brown.  God used him to build on the foundation Ron had started.  During those years of high school, despite my clueless nature, a seed was planted for ministry.  That seed would not bloom for almost 8 years, but it was still firmly planted.  And I owe a lot to those two men and others who had community with me.

What’s the moral of the story? When you look across the horizon of your church, you might not see the next young leader. You might just see a bunch of “clueless” people.

But don’t overlook them.

Because two guys were willing to pour into my life, I am where I am today. Community is where people are shaped for the future. Be willing to shape those God has put before you – not the ones you want to shape.

Has anyone invested in you?

Are you investing in the next generation?



Building Biblical Community

Congrats to Tiffany Malloy for winning this prize pack!

I review small group curriculum.  A lot.  Some of it’s good.  Some of it I wish I had never wasted my time looking over.

But I’ve just stumbled on a great study from Lifway.  Which, to be honest, is shocking to me.  Lifeway has been putting out Sunday School curriculum for years in the form of quarterly material that you subscribe to.  And I had no interest in figuring out how to fit Sunday School curricula into our small groups system.  They’ve found a format that works for small groups, and brought together a couple of small group veterans (Steve Gladen and Bill Donahue) to help facilitate the DVD portion of the material.

If you want a chance to win a free copy of the material, keep reading!

What I like about Building Biblical Community

  • It starts by encouraging everybody to share their story. I believe that this is foundational to healthy, biblical community.  Without knowing people’s stories, it takes much longer to build authentic relationships.  Without sharing your own, it’s easy to hide.  Sharing your story, and understanding what expectations you (and the group as a whole) are bringing to the table help launch the group on the right foot.
  • There’s real interaction with Scripture. There’s no question that this is truly a Bible study.  Discussion is encouraged around the meaning of the text, both historically and practically.  And there is a distinct push for you to incorporate Scripture into your everyday life, asking questions that prompt you to integrate the Gospel into the normal flow of your day.  And I agree with Spence Shelton, that a Building Biblical Community, vol II focusing further on applying the Gospel to community life could be a great follow-up resource.
  • There are short, daily devotionals for in-between the week’s meetings. And these are built on the previous week’s discussions, which means that they’re not vital to the following week’s discussion.  So the homework is important, but if you don’t get to finish it, you won’t be lost in the following week’s discussion.
  • It’s simple. It’s often easier to say more, citing more Scriptures, and asking more questions than it is to say less.  Thankfully, Lifeway didn’t take the easy way out.
  • It’s short. It’s only 4 weeks.  I’ve found that longer studies seem to grow stale because they take so long to finish.  And, like I said HERE, change (even when it’s something as small as your group’s curriculum) feels like progress.
  • It’s a great overview of group life. It hits on each of the major areas of healthy small groups without spending too much time on any one category.  Here are the 4 sessions: Becoming a Celebrating Community, Becoming a Learning Community, Becoming a Loving Community, Becoming a Serving Community.
  • The leader notes are in the back. It saves money from having to buy another book.  Last time I checked…that was a good thing.  And leader notes give the group facilitator hints on how to continue the discussion, helping them feel even more comfortable in the role God has called them to.

How I’m going to use the study

  • New small groups.
  • Small groups that are restarting.

I don’t quickly put a curriculum into our regular flow of recommended curricula at Grace Community Church, where I’m on staff.  But this one’s going in the rotation immediately.

If you’d like a chance to win a free copy of this material (I’ll be giving it away on Friday, 2-11-2011), all you have to do is

1. ReTweet (or share on Facebook) this post.

2. Leave a comment below, telling us why you’d like to win.


Bears, Bulls, and small groups

This is going to be a great resource when it’s released, but until then, you’ll have to simply enjoy a new clip.  It will be released in January 2011 by Lifeway Christian Resources, and will be called Building Biblical Community.

Here,  Steve Gladen and Bill Donahue give an example of how to not listen well.  Then give a brief example and explanation of how we should listen well.



Meaningless Talk

My friends Steve Gladen and Bill Donahue talk about the fact that healthy, Biblical community is not full of meaningless talk.

Or, as Bill calls it here, vain janglings.  To which Steve, like the rest of the world, says, “What?!?”


The Summit video

I had a chance to watch The Summit live, but many people didn’t have that opportunity.  So, Lifeway has made the video available for you to watch.  And, just like the conference, this video is FREE.

I blogged the event, including highlights from the entire week while the small group experts were in Nashville, at Rick Howerton’s new blog.  Click HERE to see his blog, and my notes.

I’ve posted the video of the event below.

The Summit: A Convergence of Small Group Experts from LifeWay Productions on Vimeo.

What were your takeaways from the event?  Was it worth your time?


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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