All of us know the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20: Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” MSG

Yet, requests come in from all over the nation for a disciple making plan.  Various churches have offered their own plan to make disciples who make disciples.  You may have even tried several books or even written your own plan.  But many of us still struggle with a clear process to help fellow believers along the maturity process of discipleship.  Well, I have another great option for you to consider: Disciples Path.

What do you look for when considering a guide to help you make disciples?  The Beginning, First Steps for New Disciples (the first of the 6-book series) is a great foundation for you and the 3 or 4 people with whom you are beginning a discipling journey.

Here are three of the criteria I used to evaluate a disciple making guide:

1. We know that one of the biggest transformers of a life for Christ is spending time with God in His Word. So the first thing I look for in a resource on disciple making is something that pushes me to have a quiet time/devotional/daily time in the Word.  The Beginning has emphasized this time by giving you personal worship, personal study and application sections each week for your own use between meetings.

2. Next I look for a guide/help in having a discussion in a community of 3 or 4.  I am not looking for a curriculum with a lesson to be taught but a discussion to be shared.  The Beginning has helpful guides for you and your friends to pray together, read and discuss the Bible.  These guides serve as launching points for deeper conversation.

3. Let’s do this: I am an active (some say hyper) person who does not like to just sit and talk about something.  I am usually the first one out of the room to go do ‘it’.  In one of my early church staff roles I had a deacon who said in almost every meeting, “Men, let’s put feet on these prayers.”  I guess this stuck. The Beginning (and all 6 books in the Disciples Path series) has application suggestions.  You will walk away from the group discussion with a plan to put into practice what you have discussed.

The key to a disciple making resource is to use it. So let’s get started!

“This six book/discussion guides were created by experienced disciple makers across the nation, it is an intentional path of transformational discipleship. While most small-group studies facilitate transformation through relationship and information, these disciple-making resources do it through the principles of modeling, practicing, and multiplying.”
For more on Disciples Path click HERE 

 

-Sharing Christ with 6 different teams (35 man rosters) in 5 different cities.

-Watching my son read scripture and share about how spending time in God’s Word changes our lives.

-Getting to take grounders, give away equipment, and pray in two languages.

-Leading our 16 yr old left-fielder to Christ…who said “I have never had a conversation with anyone about becoming a Christ-follower.”

-Hearing your son and other players say the biggest highlight of the week was spending time at an orphanage playing, singing and sharing with the kids.

-Using our passion (love for baseball) for God in another country.

We know that two of the biggest transformers of a life for Christ are in spending time with God daily in His Word and going on a multi-day mission trip. Both of these allow you the opportunity to build a deeper relationship with our Creator. Both are centered on dependence on God and His Word as he communicates with us. These two things deepen our knowledge of Him and our faith in Him.

This would describe our fall break for 2014 and many of you helped send us. My son & I were invited to go on this SCORE International baseball mission trip to the Dominican Republic by a fellow lover of baseball and Christ. We prepared, prayed, packed and thought about the impact we would have on the players and coaches. Our Coach’s comment on the last day sums up what really happened:

“What we did for them is so temporary, but what it did to my (our) heart is permanent.” Coach Mike Bartlett @mbartlett24

What is your passion? What are you doing to lead your family to share Christ? When can you take your first or next mission trip?

PS: you may need to have your Passport in hand so when God offers you are ready: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english.html

 

 

We start new groups with anyone, anytime, anywhere. We use various connection methods from cookouts in neighborhoods to GroupLink events at church.  When you start a group with people who do not know each other very well it can be difficult to get to know each other quickly.  Here is one groups story on how they shared with each other beyond the formal meeting time in order to care, build community and practice foundational Biblical instructions (Acts 2:42-47)

As we closed our first meeting time, We pass out one index card to each couple to write down their prayer requests for the week, it can be one or it could be 10. We then took those index cards and swapped them between couples. We ask that each couple to take their index card they received & pray for that family for the week along with our group as a whole.We then do the same process the following week & made sure each couple gets someone different the next week.  Now, we still do prayer requests with the group when desired, however, we feel this way, we are helping our group learn to pray for each other & get to know the needs of one another.  

So far, this has been a hit in our group & the fact that we are writing them down, we can reflect back at them and see God at work through our prayers that were on the index cards! So it really has a lot of excitement that goes along with it as well as confirmation in knowing Prayer is Powerful!

What are you doing to help group members get to know each other?  Many times it is the time between the meetings (time thinking and praying for the group) that creates the deepest community.  In the end it is about relationships.  Deeper relationships make way for transparency. Transparency makes way for discipleship.  How are your relationships going?

Our intention was not to lead a small group or even be a part of one. But it all started when my husband and I taught a series on Marriage in our Sunday School Class.

 

We were very vulnerable and open with the class.  Although the intention of the series was to end after four weeks, at the end of the last session I was approached by several of the ladies of the class who were interested in meeting with me on a regular basis. Then my husband was approached by four of the husbands interested in the same thing.  We prayed about it and started meeting a few weeks later.  It took the guys a little longer to get started, 1 1/2 years to be exact.  We  took a very serious role in mentoring these couples that the Lord had brought across our path.  Time went by and what started out as a mentoring-teaching role, turned into friendship which now is family.

After 2 years of gender-based meetings,  we decided to merge our individual groups and meet as couples.  We have been going through struggles in our walk with Christ, job losses, new jobs, moves, births, deaths of parents, everyday ordinary things, marriage issues and  personal struggles with sin.  We shared our past struggles and victories with each other.    We have been there to cry, pray, study the Word together, serve together  and rejoice with each other.  We learn from each other and we are there to hold each other accountable. We found ourselves being involved in each others lives on a much deeper level. Our responsibility is to share what God has done in our lives with others.

 

Let me get personal:  I want to be careful not to paint a perfect picture of 5 couples getting together and that everything is wonderful.  We have  issues with commitment.   I don’t know what the answer is to fix this problem, because the bottom line is that it is an individual heart issue.  It is the same problem that makes people only come to church when they feel like it.  A friend of mine used to tell his kids that there are only two times that you need to go to church, when you feel like it and when you don’t.  I love that!  The truth is that we let things get in our way of doing what we know God wants us to do, whether it is to attend weekly Worship, read His Word  or to be faithful in your commitment to your Small Group.  We are all selfish and struggle with our own desires to do our own thing.

The answer is to stop looking at ourselves and focus on Jesus.  It is not about us, it is about allowing God to use us, for His purpose.   Our journey here on this Earth as Christ followers is to use this vapor of a life to glorify Him, to share with others what He has done and to let the gentle workings of His Holy Spirit make us more like His precious Son everyday.  While we are all on this journey with our group,  we just keep on keeping on.  We do have a strong base of 6 and when the others come,  we love them, embrace them and we  are all still there for them. Part of what I have learned as a leader through this struggle is  being able to realize that everyone is in a different place on their journey.  Not everyone feels like I do.  As a leader I have to be able to let go of my expectations of what commitment means to me and that I think it should mean the same to you.  We  have had to learn to accept that and to understand that God is still doing something.  Just because I can’t see it or don’t understand it, does not mean that He is not working.  God is always working, and sometimes He uses the small community of a group of people to do it.

“As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”  Prov. 27:17.

You have probably been on or at least entertained the thought of taking a mission trip.  At Lifepoint we call them ‘experiences’ instead of trips.  That is because a trip implies a start and end date.  Experiences implies a potential life-changing event that can have a lasting impact in what you do when you return.

So why do we spend our vacations, our money, take shots, pills and a week packing for a journey to another city, state or country?  What was the goal of the mission experience in which you participated?  In the years of participating and now leading mission experiences God has shown me several benefits and experienced several stories that have developed my thoughts on mission experiences.

1. For Them:  we go to a country to help with medical issues, construction, education, training, evangelism, etc.  Our focus and conversation is on the people who live where we are going.  This can go to extreme in some cases (which I am not promoting!) where we even print shirts say “saving _______” fill in with country or area you are serving.  We have to be careful in what we communicate. But the goal of helping others is a valid reason to considering going on a mission experience.

2.  For Us: After several mission experiences with various people I began to realize the impact these trips have on the individuals that go.  We will never be the same.  Our worldview just “expanded past the PlayStation and iPhone” as the 13 yr old shared in her story upon the return from Haiti.  God uses this time to expand our faith, grow our relationship with him and draw us closer to the Christ-Centered life to which He is calling all of us.  In the Christ Centered Journey research we discovered a vast gap between Growing and Maturing stages.  The top two answers on how people overcame this gap were: 1. a crisis, which we can’t create in a life. 2. a mission trip, which we can easily calendar and organize.  LifePoint’s purpose statement is to Point People to a Christ-Centered Life.  Mission experiences are one of the major element in that process.

3. The Ministry: We know nothing unites a group like a common enemy or a common project.  So what better way to unite your group and/or ministry division than a mission trip?  The rally cry of a group taking on the work to organize and participate in a mission experience is like no other.  The faith element of being on a trip where you have to trust God for your meals, safety, team unity, etc will grow this team tremendously.  They will never be the same.  This has the potential to change an entire ministry, your church, your group, your community. Nothing unites or builds community like a common project or common enemy or common MISSION EXPERIENCE!

So, now you know why am I so passionate about taking and/or leading mission experiences and expecting EVERY LifePoint small group leader to participate in one before January 2016?  What trip will you plan, take, lead in the next 18 months?

Here are some choices for you.

Here is your Passport application.

This month’s guest blogger shares his about his journey from attendee to leader.  He is writing from a different angle of leadership, leading a ministry at the church.

I used to be one of those back row Baptists who showed up at church on Sundays when it was convenient.  I’d wander in, shake a hand or two, sit through the sermon daydreaming about whatever crossed my mind and then head back out.  I had been a Christ follower for years, but grew up in a small town church where worship was more of a social gathering than a worship experience. I assumed this was “right.”

At some point I felt God talking to me, leading me to do something more.  He continued to show and tell me “Hey, I am so much more than an hour on Sunday mornings.” I bet you have been at this point in your life as a Christ follower too.  I  looked for ways that I could grow in my faith, to be a better Christ follower and disciple.  The obvious choice was one that God asks/tells all of us to do, serve.  There are many opportunities to serve, especially at Lifepoint.

I signed up to serve in the First Impressions ministry.  I started the way many of the folks in this ministry started, I wandered up to some guy who looked like he was in charge and asked “What can I do to get involved?”  This was a leap of faith for me as I had NEVER served in the church in any way.

This has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.  I lead a great group of volunteers who are passionate about Christ and helping others.  It seems like a simple ministry: smiling, saying hello, opening a door,  giving bulletins, or giving a tour to a visitor may all sound quite easy, actually it is.  But, one thing I know, it has brought me closer to Christ! Serving people and making them feel welcome in the church building is one of the first steps in helping the unchurched get connected and that brings me and my team great joy.

I encourage you to get involved in a service opportunity, whether it is serving at Lifepoint, serving your community, or serving one another.  The sense of community and accountability that you gain when you serve with others is one of God’s greatest gifts.  Take that leap of faith and do like I did, find someone who looks like they might be in charge and ask “What can I do to get involved?”

 

This is a three-part series that shares ideas on how to accomplish the foundations of small group ministry.  Not to be too simple, but help ground us in the basic starting blocks for a ministry that helps move people on the journey of being a Christ follower.

1. Connect: LifePoint Adults, Connection Events, Campaigns.  You can find out more about Connect here.

2. Grow: Spiritual Health Survey, Christ Centered Journey, Gender-based Huddles

3. Live Sent: Test Drives, Service opportunities, Mission experiences  (For more on the LifePoint Living Sent journey read The Sending Church, Pat Hood)

Live Sent: How are you using the influence, the talent, the time, the things God has given you…to help others realize His presence and grow in a relationship with Him?  It may start with serving at your local church, finding a need in your neighborhood and meeting it or traveling to another city, state or country on a special mission experience.  But how to you start living sent?

  • Test Drives: This is your opportunity to spend 15 minutes in an overview tour of an on-campus ministry that you are interested in serving.  If you like to work with sound, lights or production, take a Test Drive of Worship Arts ministry.  If after the 15 minute overview you like what you see, your heart beats a little faster for the excitement of serving in that area, we invite you to stay for a worship experience to see options for where you might serve.  We do test drives in all our ministries to help people discover a place to live sent on campus.  You can sign up for a test drive at LifePoint here.

 

  • Service Opportunities: Work with your staff and local agencies for opportunities to serve others locally.  Volunteer as a group or individual to minister to others.  A guiding statement around LifePoint is “The more we grow, the more we serve. The more we serve, the more we grow.” Kyle Goen.  Watch for needs in your neighborhood or city for which you could rally a group of people to help serve.  Check out this list for ideas for your group, your church or your family.

 

  • Mission Experience: We have discovered a major spiritual transformation experience is going on a mission trip. After reviewing the Christ Centered Journey with several of our leaders, it became more clear that some were living a transformed life in the Maturing and Christ Centered stages.  We asked several of these leaders what was the biggest catalyst that moved them forward on the journey.  Immediately they referred to a mission trip where God had clearly shown them, challenged them, gave them a vision of what life in Christ could look like.  It was not the trip location or project necessarily, but the chance to be set apart for a week dedicating all your energy and time to serving Him.  The relationship has a chance to grow deeper and more personal.  The communication and faith increase at a rapid level when on a mission experience.  Here are  some of LifePoint’s opportunities for you to live sent.

What can you do to help people around you live sent?

 

 

This is a three-part series that shares ideas on how to accomplish the foundations of small group ministry.  Not to be too simple, but help ground us in the basic starting blocks for a ministry that helps move people on the journey of being a Christ follower.

1. Connect: LifePoint Adults, Connection Events, Campaigns.  You can find out more about Connect here.

2. Grow: Spiritual Health Survey, Christ Centered Journey, Gender-based Huddles

3. Live Sent: Test Drives, Service opportunities, Mission experiences  (For more on the LifePoint Living Sent Journey read The Sending Church, Pat Hood)

GROW:  Research shows a vast increase spiritual transformation in those who spend time with God in his word at least 4 days a week.  (Transformational Groups, Stetzer & Geiger)

So how do we know people in our ministry, our small group, our family are growing in Christ.  Well of course the words they use, how they spend their time, what they do with their finances and maybe how they use their gifts and talents.  But is there more? Is there a way to check my own growth on a regular basis?

  • Spiritual Health Survey: We have an on-line spiritual health survey in which we can check our growth on the 5 Characteristics of a Disciple for LifePoint Church.  This survey is notall inclusive, nor are the 5 Characteristics.  But this gives each of us a starting point to keep us on the tracks to becoming disciples.  Twice a year every small group is asked to
    • take the survey here
    • discuss the results
    • decide on a personal or group plan using one (or more) of the options from the Next Steps page.

 

  • Christ Centered Journey: Being a Small Group Leader is more than planning where and when we will meet next; or even which study we will choose, filling out an attendance report or worrying about childcare.  (In fact, if you are spending your time doing any of these you need to read about sharing the load here).   A Small Group Leader’s job centers around helping those around you grow in their relationship with Christ and each other…as they help you in those same endeavors.  We do not arrive at this spiritual shepherd level over night, it takes time to grow. (Read more about our progression as a small group leader here).                                                                                                               As you consider your leadership or participant role in spiritual growth, review the Christ Centered Journey here.  Determine where you think you are and make a decision to spend time this week with God and his word to determine your next step.

 

  • Gender based Huddles:  We are experiencing the value of gender-based relationships or huddles.  Huddles are groups of 3-5 people of the same gender spending extra time together each week or bi-weekly.  Before you jump off the deep end and say “I don’t have time for that” consider how much time you are already spending with the guys in your group.  If you are in a small group chances are you are already doing the time part of a huddle.  Why not add some intentionality to that time.  Add a key question or discussion topic to your cookout or golf game.  Have a “ladies night out” with a disciple making principle as the topic of discussion.

In a more formal process for one-on-one disciple making become a shepherd to those in your group.  Individually meet with the same gender once a week as you shepherd them through the Next Step they have chosen from the survey results.

Growth takes effort.  Growth takes time.  Growth takes more than a single element. Growth needs to be an intentional focus of your life.  What is your next step?

 

 

 

1. Connect: LifePoint Adults, Connection Events, Campaigns

2. Grow: Spiritual Health Survey, Christ Centered Journey, Gender-based Huddles

3. Live Sent: Test Drives, Service opportunities, Mission experiences

 

 

CONNECT:

  • “LifePoint Adults” area: ALl of LPA areaLifepoint Adults is the place for information on small groups, adult ministries, leader resources and Christ Centered Journey resources.  On average we have the opportunity to talk with four new families a week seeking to connect to a small group.  Volunteers work the area on a rotation basis, with help from SG Leaders who are looking to add people to their groups. People who we are unable to connect immediately are invited to attend “Connections Class.”  Connections is an opportunity for you to study God’s Word with other adults at LifePoint Church while building relationships in hopes of starting a SG.  The class itself varies in size and content from week to week but the overall purpose remains the same, connect people to God, His Word and each other.

 

  • Connection Events: This is our version of GroupLink . Each fall and spring we display the open and new small groups in our main foyer.  People looking to connect to a group can browse the listings, talk with leaders and GroupLife team members to discuss group options.  Then attend an event in which they choose which group to commit to a group for six weeks as well as conduct the first session of our 6-week study.

 

  • Create New Groups for Campaigns:  “People like to connect to something new,” @reidsmith.  In order to focus the entire church on community & Bible study, twice a year we launch new groups via a Sermon & Small Group Campaign.  Promotion begins about 6-8 weeks prior to the launch with a call from stage for new small group leaders with our Pastor’s question:  “Are you interested in being interested in starting a small group?” @pathood  Next, we offer a 6-week Leadership Camp for training on meetings and disciple making. (Various ideas exist on how much training to do before starting a group.  Adapt this information to your situation.  See Epiphany: Progression of a Small Group Leader for our experience.)  Here is a brief video on our Camp: Develop Your Leaders

In the end we focus on building relationships, whether it is getting connected at Connection event, via LifePoint Adults or joining a new group in a Campaign.  Relationships are the key to transparency, which comes from time together and building trust.  And transparency is key in making disciples.

My husband and I started attending Lifepoint in 2010.  At the time, we were not yet married and he had been going to Men’s Fraternity and to church on Sunday.  He was not at all convinced he needed a small group to get more connected.  When I joined him at the church in the spring of 2010, there were several things we were living through that kept us from immediately joining a small group.
As we worshiped each week, I knew this was the place that God wanted me (and Bryan) to get connected deeper, He wants us to live in relationship with Him and others who follow Him.  In the late winter of 2010 I convinced Bryan to go to a on campus group class that was going to be discussing REAL Marriage – after-all, we were getting married in a couple of months.  We joined this 6 week class, led by our Marriage and Family Pastor and his wife.  While there, we met a great couple and really hit it off with them.  We had a great experience in this group setting so Bryan was open to joining the Connections Small Group that met each week on campus.  Yeah! I was thrilled to get more involved in the church, meet more people and really strengthen my (fairly) new walk with Christ.
We went to our first Connections Small Group and who was also in there? Our friends we met in the marriage group!  That made it seem all the more right that we were where we were suppose to be.  We continued attending the Connections group for the remainder of 2011.  When the church announced they were doing GroupLink to start new small groups, Bryan and I thought this was the perfect time to leave Connections (Connections purpose is to make connections then start a small group) and be part of another small group.  Apparently our friends were wanting the same thing and one Sunday when Bryan and I were out of town, they volunteered us to not only start, but LEAD a small group! (Note to self, don’t miss a Sunday because you may just get volun-TOLD to do something).
We were completely OK with taking on a group in our home, although we were both a little nervous.  We had not been part of an off-sight: small group, we were NOT well versed in the Bible, we were in the INFANT stage of our walk, what if we didn’t lead people correctly?  What if they knew more about the Bible than we did?  What if…..ANYTHING?  Satan really tried to convince me that we were NOT leader material.  Well, Satan did not win.  We started our small group in February of 2012.  The church wide campaign made it quite easy to lead as they provided study material and our Pastor was preaching the series on Sunday.
Here we are, 2 1/2 years later. 4 families sharing life – the good, the bad and the ugly.  I love my group like family.  We laugh, we cry, we challenge and above all we love!  We have seen growth and will be sending out one of our friends to start their own small group this year.  While this is so bitter sweet because this is the couple we bonded with from the very beginning, it is awesome to see how God has used this family to do GREAT things in our church and for His Kingdom!  I could not be more proud to have been able to witness this transformation.
Small group is amazing,  It is a way to connect, to grow, to live, to care and to serve.  It has had its struggles but the rewards are great.  If your not in a small group, will you consider joining one?  You will not be sorry.  We weren’t.

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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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