There are several obvious ‘givens’ when becoming a SG leader:

be a Christ follower, lead Bible study, host a meeting often, be nice, pray, …but what about the “Wow, I never thought about that” practical things we need to know.  Here are five which we feel need to constantly be communicated to help keep the Small Group alive and  focused:

1. What is success?  We talk often about the three objectives of our small group ministry: Care, Community and Foundational Bible study.  Small Groups at Lifepoint are the place to be cared for and care for others.  This is the place we can get to know each other and build a feeling of community where we can grow to be transparent and accountable. These help make the foundational Bible study more personal and teachable.

2. What am I doing?  You are a disciple who is making disciples.  To help you in that we have developed a Christ Centered Journey map which shows the stages of a person’s spiritual walk with books, practices, and scripture to enable growth at each stage. Here is the Christ Centered Journey outline.

3. How do I evaluate our group’s growth? LifePoint’s Grouplife wrote a Small Group Health Survey a few years ago and encourage every small group to take the survey at least once, preferably twice, a year.  The survey is based on our 5 Expectations which LifePoint partners with every member/attendee to help experience transformation. This survey shows the weak areas of health for the group and directs the leader to our resource center for their next study.  Other tools we have used are Lifeway’s Spiritual Growth Assessment and the Transformational Discipleship Assessment is also available.

4. What is my role? You are a shepherd (1 Kings 22:17) who needs to calendar ahead. Our experience shows that many groups suffer by not planning.  They wake up Friday and text/email group members asking if they would like to meet Sunday.  That is too late! Don’t plan by the week, plan by the month.  Plan your Bible study times, party/events and service opportunities for the next month, now.  People can usually rearrange their schedules to give priority to small group if they have enough notice.  To shepherd you need to pray for each member of your group, by name, often.  One practice we have is “2 minutes a day and pray on the way.”  Shepherds not only pray for members, they help each other live out the Bible as they guide them on the Christ Centered Journey.

5. How do share what God is doing in our Group?  Sharing stories is vitally important to small group life and community.  Lifepoint’s Groups shares stories via the weekly Communication Report which allows for stories, attendance, service projects and prayer requests…weekly.  Our staff hear how God is at work in our community and leaders are reminded to stay focused on the goal. (See #1 above)

What foundational principles would you add?

Once a month I will have a guest blogger, one of LifePoint’s Small Group Leaders (Shepherds) share their story in hopes of encouraging and inspiring you.  This month’s story is from Peyton & Elizabeth, a couple who were new to our area but quickly discovered the value of a Small Group Family.

“When we joined our first small group, we were new to the area and knew no one. While we wanted to learn and grow closer to God, we really wanted to meet new friends. We were those very selfish, self-centered small group members for a year or so. We showed up when we wanted and when it was convenient for us. After about two years, God, through Eddie, pushed us out to start our own group. This was totally new ground and territory for us. Not only would this require a new level of commitment, we didn’t feel equipped shepherd people closer to God. Through much prayer and study, we made it through and have since been leading small groups for 6 years.

We learned that small group and community are so much more than we ever thought it to be. We have learned that we aren’t just part of a small group to learn and grow closer to God, but we are also there to serve our Small Group family. We serve them by sharing with them our walk with the Lord, spending time with them, celebrating in their joys, mourning in their sorrows, babysitting their kids, and helping in whatever way we are needed. We realize that our time isn’t our own. We are here to serve others and to share what we’ve learned so that others might be encouraged and know that they are not alone on this journey.

Our heart breaks for our small group now as we constantly pray for them. We have challenged our group that the members really should be our best friends, the people we walk the deepest with and not just people you meet with every other Sunday to talk about God. We want to be pouring in to each other and meeting the needs of our group without even having anyone ask. We want to be that close to be able to anticipate each others’ needs. For us, this means we hang out other than just our “small group” time. We need this time to really dig deeper and find out about each others’ walk.

Leading a group of course grows my husband and me also. We are held accountable to be in the Word daily. We have to be examples of servant-leaders, and we have to be honest about our sin and struggles.

Being part of a small group and a small group leader has grown us tremendously and God has blessed us with another family through it because our small group truly feels like family.”

Over the last 18 months we have been praying, reading, researching how Small Groups can increase their impact as a catalyst for disciple making.  Our groups have been very successful as community builders, care givers, party goers and foundational Bible study discussions.  We have been blessed with hundreds of people getting connected and doing life together.  But our team has become more burdened with the disciple making command found in Matthew 28:19-20.

So our GroupLife team began to re-think, re-write and implement some practices in July 2013 that we are seeing making a difference in the life of some of our groups.

1.  We changed from a pure HOST model of small group leadership to a Shepherding model with an intentional disciple making element. (Shepherding map here http://lifepointchurch.org/journey). We still call from the stage for people who are interested in leading a small group in our next campaign.  However, instead of this being a Sunday or two before the campaign begins, we actually schedule this “mass call” five weeks prior.  Anyone interested in learning more about leading  a group is invited to Leadership Camp.

2. We now require a potential Small Group Leader to attend Leadership Camp, six hours of discipleship and development.  We were worried about the length of this course, but after 2 seasons it has proven very productive.  Half of Camp covers “How to grow as a disciple and shepherd others on their journey”.  The other half, what potential leaders are really looking for, focuses on “Small Group Leader helps”.

3. We intentionally write into all of our studies a gender-based meeting within every 6-week study.  For the studies our groups use which we did not write, we remind leaders to plan ahead for a gender-based session a minimum of once every six weeks.  Stories from Small Group Leaders and participants over the last nine months have proven this to be helpful in increasing discussion, transparency and disciple making.  Some groups have chosen to have these gender-based discussions more often, some even dividing the gender group meeting nights and couples – once a month.

So, where have I been?  Continuing to learn, test, change, grow…be stretched by God.

Stay tuned for weekly stories from Small Group Leaders, Leadership Development processes which focus more on the person than the task, Sending Small Groups that impact their communities.

 

What do you do to love your neighbor as yourself? For many this may seem like a chore, others may see it as a normal daily life activity. Most of us are so busy, how could we have time to think of serving others? I was taught that it does not have to that difficult!

My mother-in-law taught me a lot over the years. One of the life-lessons she taught me was how to love our neighbors daily, in the natural course of life. When she bought groceries she would pick up an extra can of food. When she bought linens, she would grab an extra set of towels. And of course the baby gifts would pile up too, by purchasing a teether, rattle or package of diapers when they were on sale. She would store these items in the front bedroom closet. On almost every visit Mamaw would tell us to get something out of the “front bedroom closet” and take it to someone she knew. At her funeral I mentioned how most everyone present had received something from the “front bedroom closet.” Several people smiled and agreed they had been the recipient of item or two over the years.

What an example this became for our family.  We are always looking for opportunities to love our neighbors and this practice makes it a normal part of our life.

Where is your “front bedroom closet”? Can you pick up an extra item or two today as you stop by the store?  What could you do today to “love your neighbor as yourself?

Through out my tenure as GroupLife Pastor at Lifepoint Church we have continually had spring and fall sermon series campaigns (February – March; August- September).  This started in 2003 with Purpose Driven Life.  Each campaign brought the opportunity to start new small groups which opens up many opportunities for people to connect to a small group.  Before each campaign we conduct some form of GroupLink . (See Grouplink Again! and Grouplink @ Lifepoint )

As I personally meet with every small group leader in our Sunday morning Huddles this spring (see “My new practice to Disciple leaders“) I am learning a lot.  As leaders  share about their small groups a couple of common themes are surfacing:

-The 3-year mark: This is a stat that may not be limited to Lifepoint.  In the last 8 years we have discovered if a small group does not take on a high-level, ongoing service or add/send out people, then they will begin to implode.  So we have began to take action by discussion options with groups as they near 2.5 years of life together.

-Most Leaders remember what the sermon series was when they started their small group.  Sermon series are opportunities that we cannot ignore.  Can you remember what the sermon series was in January at your church?  Weekly leaders are discussing the series when their group started, what led to them deciding to start a group and many even remember the length of the series.

Why are sermon series so memorable for Leaders?

1. People want to join something new: the start of a new sermon series is a great time to start new groups.  It is a life-transforming decision for an individual for someone become a small group leader. Their lives are impacted heavily by moving from a spectator/member to leader/spiritual guide.  This makes for a life-long memory for the leader and possibly for the people who join their group.

2. Church united around common subject: There is a unique power and unity built when the church becomes focused for a short time on a sermon series which includes daily devotionals, small group studies and service opportunities.

3. Life-change has a beginning point: When leaders are enlisted for a new series they do not realize all that God has planned.  But a few years later that decision to become a leader and start a new group is identified as a clear moment of transformation beginning in their life.

I encourage you to work with your pastor to help plan life-changing sermon series opportunities.  Check out some of these:  Purpose Drive Life, Radical, Explicit Gospel

Several years ago Randy Frazee and Rick Howerton launched my family and me into a lifestyle of making room for neighbors.  That lifestyle continues today and we continue to see the multiplications as neighbors repeat the practice.

It all began with a 42 inch picket fence.  Randy, in his book The Connecting Church, encourages the readers to not build privacy fences, build 42 inch picket fences so you can talk over them to your neighbors.  I even joke that 42 inch tall fence is perfect height to lean on as you talk. Fortunately when we moved into our neighborhood, both our neighbors had 42 inch sectional fences.

For the first couple of years I would make time for neighbors by talking to them over the backyard fence.  Many times I would lean on their fences and chat. This investment over time developed into a deep friendship. The couple joined our small group.  We ate meals together.  We helped each other with projects, doctor visits, service to other neighbors, and a lot of laughter about what God had done through our relationship that started by leaning on a backyard fence.

The time came when our neighbors had to move.  It was a very sad day for us.  But we trusted God in what he was doing in all of our lives.  They moved into an apartment in a much larger city, where they knew no one.

About a year after moving I received a call from them.  We caught up on old times and laughed about the projects and ‘trouble’ we used to get into. Then my friend mentioned our backyard conversations and how I leaned on his fence as we talked about projects, life, family and God.  He complained how he thought I had wore the paint off his rail fence by standing there so many times as we talked.  He then said “You know, I am doing that same thing with a guy who is far from Christ right here in our apartment building, except I am using a truck fender since we do not have a fence.”  We both laughed out loud.

God had used a fence and many conversations over time to draw an entire family to him.  Now he was multiplying that practice to the next recipient hours away from where it started.

Spring is near! Beautiful weather invites you to come lean on a fence.


I am a “get it done” kind of guy.  If you have ever been around me you know how hyper and focused on the goal I can be. This is how I work and play.  People will not invite me to fish or play basketball because of the danger to those around.  A friend uses the phrase “Go. Go. Go.- Do. Do. Do” to describe me.

Recently on a mission experience this caught up with me.  We were installing cook stoves in huts in the Mayan Village.  DSCN1053Our team of 6 was trained on the first install, then we took off.  Because of the language barrier we had to have Mayan to Spanish then Spanish to English translators. This really slowed down the install and increased the amount of people in the hut.  As we would install the cook stoves, more and more Mayans would gather around to watch, averaging about 25 people in the small space.

I realized we could split the team up and accomplish the (our) goal much quicker.  So I began to quickly help our team complete the first install and then hurried off with two other team members to the next install.  Leaving part of our team and the translators behind to finish talking and cleaning up.

As the team joined us at the second install, the missionary/translator pulled me to the side and basically said:  “Hey Eddie, if you would slow down we would have more time to tell them about Jesus.  This is the only chance I will have to spend quality time in their hut with such a large number of their family and friends.”  I looked at Doug (missionary/translator), but all I could hear was God yelling  “Be still and know that I am God.” (I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!)” Psalm 46:10

Do you often miss opportunities because you will not slow down?  Will not be quiet? Will not take time to notice the real reason you have a goal to accomplish?  I have to pause, take a deep breath, get comfortable with silence, remember it is about people-not a goal,..even when I lead my small group, train other leaders, coach baseball or drive on the interstate!

This week as you lead, coach, work, and drive, try putting into practice Psalm 46:10.  Slow down, be quiet, be still. Don’t miss opportunities.

The spring campaign is almost over.  The devotionals and weekly discussion guides provided by the church are nearing the last weeks.  Members of your group are probably wondering what is next and I know you the leader are beginning to think about the future.  Here are three things you need to be considering and planning to discuss in the last two weeks of the campaign:

1. Party/Celebration: take a week off of the study and live out what you have learned about God and each other.  Celebrate by going bowling, skating, surfing, eating ice cream, cook out, etc.  Sit back and enjoy time to just talk about life and families.

2. Next study: Consider the discipleship needs of your group.  As the leader you have the opportunity to be the spiritual guide for each person in the group.  Ask God to show you the direction for each person the group.  Find commonalities in their journeys and choose a study that will help the group.  (For those unique cases, you might consider spending one-on-one time with them.)  LifePoint has a Small Group Health Survey that better enables a leader to discover needs and suggested resources.

3. Covenant/List of Agreements:  Before you launch into another study, be sure you discuss the ground-rules. By whatever name, discussing these can make a huge difference in your future.  Let the members of the group speak into this covenant and add or delete items that are necessary to keep the group on track.  Here is a sample covenant from LifePoint GroupLife

Now get the group to plan that party!

 

 

 

 

First, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ec 1:9)  But there is always something new to us.  For me and the Small Group Leaders at LifePoint, the following process is new.  We have been blessed with a growing number of new leaders and participants.  Every six months we conduct a connection event where potential and new leaders are given a chance to lead and disciple others.  For years we have had the infrastructure of Coordinators and Coaches who were tasked with discovering, discipling, and developing leaders.  This is a major undertaking and has proven challenging due to time, relationships and information on how to disciple.  So we went back to the drawing board on the basic commission and command: Matthew 28:19-10…”Go and make disciples” and Mark 12:31 “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

First, we listed all our small group leaders into four categories based on years of service and their experiences.  (Don’t over analyze this part.) Then we made a list of 6-8 leaders, one or two from each of the four categories, and invited them to a meeting in my office on Sunday morning. My plan was to meet with every leader in a huddle over the next 10 weeks.

Our first huddle was a men’s huddle.  I planned only two guiding requests and a lot of listening.  The first request: “Tell us about your small group.”  This took 30 minutes with each of the leaders telling exciting or apologizing stories of their group’s life. Most felt they were inadequate or had been failing in their leadership.  Some of this was based on not completing a study in time, not doing enough service projects or not adding enough people to their group.  I did not speak to these issues, but let the next person proceed in sharing his group’s story.

We refilled our coffee and grabbed a donut then asked the second request: “Tell us about one of the biggest discipleship moments in your life.”  I could see the shock, the mind searching, the heart racing on each of their faces.  What kind of question is that?  Oh, I have so many.  What?
The next 40 minutes guys shared from their past, about people in their life, about decisions (good and bad) they had made.  Half the group cried either from their own story or a brother’s story.  We celebrated what God had done in our lives and challenged each other to keep the focus on this kind of SG leading that leads to life change…not the attendance, service projects or curriculum.  That will all happen if we are discipling people.

I have asked one person from each of the huddles to lead the next meeting with this same group.  One of our questions will be “What have you done since our last meeting to disciple people?” 

(For those of you like me who just can’t stay away from numbers, I am happy to report that after three huddles we have an average of 79% attendance.  That is better than any other “training” event we have conducted.)

How can you create a new look, a new focus, a new gathering to help focus your leaders on discipleship?

Now is the time to prepare for an Easter Egg Hunt as an opportunity to get to know your neighbors and have a fun-safe event for the kids,.  The steps to hosting an Easter Egg Hunt for your neighborhood are simple.   Our neighborhood of 200 homes can host an Easter Egg Hunt for less than $100.

First, consider the streets around you.  What do you call “your neighborhood”?  For some it may be as simple as the houses that are inside your subdivision, clearly defined by only one or two entrances.  For others it may be a community identified by a common name or region.  Either way, identify the area you want to invite.

Second, invite some neighbors to be part of the core group that will help you host the hunt.  For us, this is our neighborhood Small Group.  To discover other church attenders who live near you, ask your church  office if they can send you a list of other church attenders who live near you.  You then can call and ask them to help.  Get together with these people and decide on who can bring coffee, get prizes, set up tables, and bring eggs for the egg toss. (in Middle TN it is usually too cold for donuts).

Third, design a flyer (or email if you have a directory of your neighborhood), copy, and have core team distribute to homes.  The flyer will need to have:
Event title        Hosted by/for
Time            Location
Date            Age Divisions (Birth-3 yrs; 4-6 yrs; 6-9yrs)
**Egg toss following hunt for ages 10 –up.
“We are asking each family to bring a dozen or two plastic eggs filled with individually wrapped candy.  We can stuff the eggs for you if you do not have time.  Please drop off all eggs by (Friday night date) at (addresses of two core team members).  You can help us hide eggs on Saturday morning.   There will be prize eggs for each division.
If you will be blocking off any streets, please include this on the flyer and the times the street will be blocked.  People will still complain, but at least you tried to explain ahead of time.

Always start 10 to 15 minutes after advertised time.  In 10 years of hosting Easter Egg Hunts I have learned that there are ALWAYS two or three families that are late.  And for Easter Egg Hunts you only have about four minutes before all the eggs are gone.  ☺

Fourth
, core team will meet on Friday night to stuff eggs.  Saturday morning, hide eggs, set up prize table (usually 5 prizes <animals, coloring books, crayons, chocolate bunny> per division; however the last few years so many people have helped in collecting prizes that we have a prize for every participant), rope off division areas, (we use wooden stakes and caution tape), and keep kids out of hiding areas until 10 minutes after start time.  Some of the core team will manage the hunt while others work the crowd.  Many parents will stand around, drink coffee and introduce themselves to their neighbors while the kids hunt eggs.  This is the time for some of your core team to be meeting others, listening for stories and discern next steps in the relationships with neighbors.

Fifth, encourage everyone to attend the next event, gather names of people who would like to help with next event and then clean up.
The entire event is about an hour and a half.  Our work begins at 10am to hide eggs and set up tables.  Easter Egg Hunt will be at 11:00am.  Then we clean up and take down tables and go home by 11:30am.
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**The egg toss consist of real eggs and teams of two players of any age old enough to catch and throw.  The two players line up across from each other approximately five feet. One has an egg that he/she tosses underhand to the other player.  The receiving player must catch the egg without it breaking.  Take two steps back and repeat toss in the opposite direction.  Be sure to not catch the egg over your head or in front of your face or a messing cleanup will be the result.  The team who can toss and catch the egg without breaking it is the winner.  Kids (and some parents) will continue to play this until all the eggs are broken.  We usually provide two dozen eggs for this game.

Happy hunting.

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I am on staff at LifePoint Church as the Executive Director of GroupLife. While I get to serve with a great team and help lead a great church, the opinions and views shared here are not necessarily the views of LifePoint Church or other staff. You have been warned...
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