Leaders move without the ball

In basketball, there’s a concept that’s vital. And it’s something that’s rarely seen by the person unless they’re watching intently. The casual basketball viewer won’t see it, because the casual viewer watches the ball. The ball is where the action happens. Scoring, passing, steals, and blocks all happen AT the ball.

But what happens away from the ball is often just as important.

image credit: UKSports.com

image credit: UKSports.com

 

It’s a concept called “moving without the ball.” It’s pretty self-explanatory, but just for the sake of clarity allow me to explain in further details.

Moving without the ball means you move even when you don’t have the ball, with the express purpose of creating the next play, receiving the next pass, gaining the next rebound, or blocking the next shot. IF you don’t move without the ball, you’ll be caught in the wrong position at the wrong time. Or, said more accurately, you won’t be in the right position at the right time if you don’t move when you don’t control the ball.

If you don’t move without the ball

  • You’ll never get open
  • You’ll never score
  • You’ll be out of position when the time is right
  • You won’t be ready to steal
  • You’ll get left behind
  • You’ll constantly be wondering where the action is happening
  • You’ll not be in the action of the game

In a 48 minute game of basketball, the game is dominated by moving without the ball. To a casual observer, the person moving without the ball looks goofy, like they don’t know what they’re doing. Like the game is happening in spite of them. But the casual observer doesn’t know just how important it is to position yourself to be ready.

Moving without the ball isn’t sexy. But it’s vital.

The same is true in ministry.

Moving without the ministry ball

There are times when you, in your role, have “the ball.” These are the busy seasons of ministry, when the spotlight is on. For me, this happens during small group signups and launches. It happens during our church-wide alignments. During these seasons, it’s all-hands-on-deck for our team.

But for the most part, I don’t have the ball. It’s apparent “down time.” And if I don’t move, plan, strategize, recruit, train, and mobilize, when the ball’s passed to me I’ll be caught flat-footed. I’ll be left behind. The infrastructure won’t be ready, the plan won’t be in place, and my heart won’t be in the place it needs to be.

That’s why the casual church observer thinks pastors just work one day/week. Because our “time with the ball” seems like a waste of time. All the casual church observer sees is the time when we’re in the spotlight, highlighting our ministry, getting people into serving and growing, preaching, teaching, and executing. They don’t always realize that executing at the right time in the right way is loaded with lots of “moving without the ball” times.

If I don’t work to prepare myself spiritually, either, I’ll be dead in the water. I’ve got to spend time allowing God to refresh, recharge, and equip me for the work ahead.

That’s why I read books, meet with other pastors, and go to conferences like Re:Group (which is a must-attend event, by the way. To get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the healthiest small groups ministry will help you strategize, and become better in your local context).

Moving without the ball isn’t sexy. But it’s vital.

Strategize, shift, train, recruit, and prepare. Because the ball’s coming your way.

 

Developing a Small Groups Strategy

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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.

Introduction

There is a road map you can follow when developing your small group ministry. In this breakout, we’ll talk about the key principles that form the framework of our small group strategy. And we’ll discuss how you can contextualize them to your adult ministry, regardless of the size.

I. Some contextual thoughts for developing a small groups strategy

A. Leading a small group is to developing a groups strategy as driving a car is to building a car. A car and a groups’ strategy are both systems. 

B. Every system is built of essential components.

  1. If you leave out an essential component, your system won’t work.
  2. If you don’t know what the essential components are, you won’t know why your system down’t work.
  3. For every essential component, there is a steering question to ask and a guiding principle to consider.
  • When you have better questions, you get better ideas.
  • When you have better ideas, you get better solutions.

C. The goal for today is to further your ability to develop and implement an effective groups strategy. 

D. We will achieve the goal through two tactics:

  1. Introduce the five essential components of a small groups strategy.
  2. Illustrate an expression of these components using the example of our model

II. The Five components of an effective small group strategy

A. Point leadership

  1.  Steering question: Who is empowered, responsible, and accountable for the success of our groups system?
  2. Our answer:
  3. Guiding principle: “First who, then what.” – Jim Collins, Good to Great

B. Establish clear wins

  1. Steering question: How is our groups’ strategy helping us accomplish our vision?
  2. Our answer: intimacy with God, community with insiders, influence with outsiders. Closeness and intimacy (closed model), vs connecting people quickly (open model)
  3. Guiding principle: Life change happens best in the context of a small group. People love to win!

C. Coaching structure

  1. Steering question: How are we providing real-time, tactical support to group leaders?
  2. Our answer: coaching provides vision, orientation, direction, and support.
  3. Guiding principle: coached leaders go further, faster

D. Leader development

  1. Steering question: How are we equipping leaders with the knowledge they need?
  2. Our answer: community group leader orientation, coaches meetings, early gathering, theopraxis
  3. Guiding principle: Teach less for more.

E. Assimilation Solution

  1. Steering question: How are we forming groups?
  2. Our answer: Group Link in January and August. At Athens church, they appoint people to small groups
  3. Guiding principle: Think steps, now programs.

Conclusion:

  1.  There is no such thing as “the thing,” that silver bullet that solves all small group problems.
  2. The strategy will only be as strong as the weakest component.
  3. The expressions may not be infinitely scalable; the questions are.
  4. Ask and answer these questions continuously.

 

 

Strategic Changes

 

*credit, iStockPhoto user 06Photo

Chip and Dan Heath, in their book Switch, referred to the idea of “scripting the step” as you’re walking yourself, or anybody, through the difficult process of change.

We (at Grace Community Church) made some strategic, but very practical, changes to help people “script the step,” and more easily move towards authentic, Gospel-centered community  in small groups. I wrote about some changes we made, and they’re over on Mark Howell’s blog today.

Head on over and check it out HERE.

And while you’re at it, track along with Mark on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Building a better Airline

I recently flew Delta Airlines, and noticed a promo sign that said this:

Building a Better Airline, not just a bigger one

Say what you want about Delta, but this (relatively) new initiative is a strong one. In an industry marked by frustration over lost baggage, TSA joys, and cancelled flights, Delta is trying to give the customer a better experience.  They’re trying to build a better airline.

There are two key words here in their new strategy, “Building a Better Airline, not just a bigger one” that I think church leaders could learn from.

How can churches build better, not just bigger?

1. A Better experience

Delta is looking to build their company on standards and procedures that set them apart from everyone else.  They’re changing things up and implementing new ideas that position them as the leaders in their industry because the services and conveniences they offer serve their customers more efficiently, effectively, and liberally.  Case-in-point: there’s a TV on the back of each headrest.  And they offer lots of free programming.

If you’re a part of a local church and you’re not thinking, “How can we serve our congregation and our community more efficiently, effectively, and liberally?” then you’re not asking the right questions.  You’re not wrestling through the right things.

2. A “bigger” company

Notice one word: “not just a bigger one.”  They are looking to build a bigger company, it’s just not the only thing they’re looking to do.  See, there’s nothing wrong with growth.  In fact, if they weren’t looking to build a bigger company, I’d wonder why they’re even in business.  Individuals (or groups) launch a business to see it grow, no?

Should churches be any different? *

We want our churches to grow numerically, right?  If not, why do we even exist?  Of what value is the Great Commission?  Why would the Bible include numbers when it referred to the early, New Testament church in the book of Acts, where God was adding thousands daily?  If numbers didn’t matter, why include them?

Numbers aren’t just blind figures.

They’re people.  They represent a person who is far from the Lord.  One who needs to hear the Gospel.  One who needs Hope.  One who needs encouragement.  One who needs to understand God’s grace.

“Numbers” aren’t our motivating factor…but sharing the Gospel and making disciples of people (in an increasing number) is our motivation.  So numbers do matter. **

How is your local church working to offer a “better” experience for “customers”?

Do the numbers really matter?

* I understand that the strategy of some churches is to send people out, and keep the numbers on their campus lower.  This is a viable strategy…but one in which these churches still should value numbers.

** This is a Ron Edmondson-ism.

 

The anticipation

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.

 

 

 

Summer Reading List 2010

The difficult part for me about putting out a reading list is that these are books I haven’t read before.  So…don’t look at these books necessarily as the best books out there.  They may be way off base with certain things.  But I expect to be stretched.

Have you put your summer reading list together yet?