On our way home from a long trip the other day, my son asked if he could “watch the map” on my phone and help tell us how to get home. Since I knew the way, I obliged. He feels like a big boy when he can tell me which direction I need to turn.
Or…maybe he likes telling me what to do.
Either way, he enjoys it, and on a long trip, having him occupied is a fine thing.
When I hear the GPS lady barking orders, I’ll ask Rex, “What did she say? Left? Right? How many more miles?” Most of the time, he gets it right. He repeats whatever she says. It’s kind of fun.
As we were coming to a fork in the interstate, I heard her say something, but I couldn’t quite make it out. So I asked Rex for clarification.
“Which direction did she say, buddy?”
“In 2 miles ahead on Interstate 24 go left…or right.”
“Which one was it?”
“No, which direction?”
“No, buddy. Left or right?”
“Yep. Left or right.”
That little detail would make the difference in us getting home. Or getting to another state. In his mind, “left or right” was adequate. But more work needed to be done. That distinction made all of the difference in the world, even though every other part of what he said was right on point.
You’ve got inside of you an idea that will shatter expectations and hopes. That will set your organization, your church, your small group, your family, your team, or your non-profit absolutely to the next level of success.
But there’s one pesky little detail that you’re overlooking. One thing that will derail success. One tiny pebble on your track that needs to be moved before you can go forward.
Maybe it’s a hint of pride in your own heart.
Maybe it’s someone that needs to be clued in to the change that’s about to go down.
Maybe it’s a scheduling detail that you need to work through.
Maybe it’s a board member that needs to…
Maybe it’s a timing issue you need to revisit.
Maybe it’s a conversation you need to make.
Maybe it’s a phone call you need to follow up with.
Maybe it’s an agenda that needs to be tweaked.
Maybe you need to share ownership.
Maybe you need to change direction mid-stream.
What detail do you need to shore up?
The success or failure of your idea may very well depend on your combing over things one more time.
Measure twice. Cut once.
If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame. – Proverbs 18:13
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?
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.
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?
Given that there are over 133 million blogs, and that 1 in 5 update their blog daily, it’s apparent that many, many people throughout the world like blogging as well. I’m guessing you’re one of them.
And I think I just might have an idea why.
10 Reasons Why Bloggers love Blogging
1. The immediacy of the feedback. Within 30 minutes, you can get Retweeted. Mentioned. Get a Facebook “like.” Facebook comments. Comments on your blog. Replies to comments on your blog…all of which immediately tell you whether your post was a success or a flop.
2. The quickness of publishing. Have an idea? Watch a video? A quote move you? Throw it up on the blog…right now. No need to wait on a publisher to review and edit. No need to wait on a webmaster to get back in front of their desk to push your post live. You can publish right now.
3. The freedom. Since it’s your blog, you can publish what you want, when you want, how often you want, with the consistency and length you want. You can include pictures, videos, and links…or not. Your choice.
4. The design. What you write can look cool on a page. That’s motivating.
5. The platform. Many of us don’t have the chance to communicate with mass numbers of people every week. Yet God has gifted us to do so. Blogs give us that chance.
6. Work out our thoughts publicly. Instead of sitting in your office and stewing over thoughts and ideas on your own, blogging gives you a chance to work those thoughts out loud. And I, for one, find great value in extroverting my ideas.
7. The interaction. Iron sharpens iron. I think somebody said that.
8. Global reach. Instead of just sharpening your iron in a conversation with one or two friends, blogs give you the chance to sharpen it with hundreds, or even thousands, of people around the world.
9. Sharing. So much of the value of social media is found in sharing ideas, insights, and wisdom with others. Successful bloggers give away more than they ever get.
10. The challenge. Blogging isn’t easy. Condensing the content. Focusing it. Consistently posting high quality content. It’s a challenge, but one that bloggers love.
I haven’t run into many people who say, “I want my small group to tank. I want to lead my folks off of a spiritual cliff so that they’re further from God than they were before they even met me.”
Quite the contrary.
Most people want their group to succeed. They want to grow spiritually, and help others grow as well. They want to have vibrant meetings that challenge people’s faith and encourage them to love God and others more. They want to help foster healthy marriages and strong, God-honoring parenting. They don’t want the group meeting to be a drag on anyone. Rather, they long for everyone in the group to look forward to the meeting because they’re building healthy relationships with those in the group.
These people are willing to do what it takes to craft a successful group…they’re just not always sure what they should be doing to make that happen.
This week on Twitter and Facebook, I’ve been talking about what good small groups (and good small group leaders) should be in the business of doing. Here are my thoughts.
Good small groups
Communicate with each other more than once/week
Are filled with admittedly broken people
Embrace those far from Christ
Don’t just talk about the Gospel. They apply it.
Serve their community as much as they serve one another.
Don’t avoid difficult relational issues. They work through them.
Looks a lot like a healthy church.
Good small group leaders
Embrace the messiness of relationships
Are quick to offer grace because they’ve been given so much [grace]
Ask for help
Look a lot like good pastors.
Are patient with group members who are difficult to love.
What else do you think good small groups should be doing?
What else do you think good small group leaders should be doing?
How do you measure the success of what you do in social media?
Is it by the number of people who follow you?
Number of clicks on your blog?
Number of Retweets?
Offline conversations spurred?
For me, I measure success by interaction. Which explains why I end so many blog posts with a question. And why I pose so many (seemingly random) Twitter and Facebook questions, also. Because I want to spark discussion. Encourage you to think and interact. Cause you to laugh. Help you look at life differently.
I measuring success by looking at social engagement, not simply the number of followers that I amass. Because I could have thousands and thousands of people reading my blog, but if nobody interacts, I would consider my work unsuccessful.
Would you rather have 10,000 followers, with very little interaction…or 100 followers that think, dream, discuss, disagree, and take the conversation further?
I’m preparing to perform a wedding ceremony today. I get more nervous doing a wedding than I do preaching a normal, full-length sermon. I guess the reason is that if I mess up a wedding…well…let’s pray that never happens.
Very few, if any, weddings are complete without a goof-up, or two, or three. On our wedding day, my keys were lost (notice I didn’t say that I lost my keys…I still think it was a conspiracy against me!), the groomsmen showed up 1 hour late for pictures, it took way too long for the wedding party to make it to the reception, and it rained, which meant that our reception had to be inside (the building could hold about half of the amount of people we crammed into it). You know what, though? At the end of the day, we were married. And I guess that’s my point.
Mistakes are bound to happen. Details will be forgotten. The pastor may even mess up. But for all you brides (and maybe even grooms), breathe a sigh of relief. The goal is marriage. And as long as that’s accomplished, the day can be counted successful.