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.

After directing Sermon based Small Group campaigns for many years I have discovered there are foundational questions we need to answer each year.   This may be your first campaign or tenth, either way, here are some foundational questions you need to answer for each campaign.

1.   What is the goal (hope to accomplish) of conducting this campaign?  It happened a few years ago in our evaluation meeting of the 6-week campaign.  As we sat in staff meeting discussing the campaign no one had any excitement about what had just consumed hours and weeks of our energy.  There was not a clear answer as to what we accomplished in the campaign.  Then someone asked: “What was our goal for this campaign?”  No one had an answer. As Zig Ziglar said “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

2. What is success for the Small Group Leader?  Is it to baptize a member of the group; grow the group larger than any other small group;  enter into a disciple making relationship with a member, start a church; have stories of life change; build community; etc?  All of these are grand endeavors, but clarifying the win for the leader will give them something at which to aim.  Our on-going success goals for a small group can be found at lifepointchurch.org/groups

3. How will we connect the unconnected to a group?  There are a lot of ways to conduct a Connection event and we try something new at least every 3 years.  We help potential leaders think about this question on our “Leader Interest Application.” We help leaders think about the unconnected at the time they express interest in leading a group.  A couple of months before the campaign we begin to promote the connection event to existing leaders to encourage co-leaders to start a group and how they will add to their group. Each potential leader should be able to think of at least 2 couples they would like to invite to their new group.

4. How will we prepare and/or train the leaders for this campaign? This has become a passion of mine as I have watched various methods of preparation succeed in different ways.  One thing I know, the energy and effort I give to preparing leaders before the campaign has never been wasted.  We have given books away to every leader, had Facebook chat sessions, shot videos, used RightNow Media trainings,  brought in speakers/trainers for certain resources and conducted Launch Lunches weeks prior to campaign.  We are currently using a 6-week development process that covers making disciples and leading a group.  This process overlaps our connection event which has encouraged many new leaders after the big event.

5. What do we do after the campaign is over? I learned this one in 2003 but have to remind myself and our team every campaign.  In 2003 our church did the Purpose Driven Life campaign, 40 Days of Purpose.  While this campaign was life-changing for many as well as community-building for the entire church, we did not plan for day 41.  When the campaign ended everyone looked around and asked What’s next? We did not have suggested small group studies nor a daily devotional plan.  We had not taught people how to develop their own devotional methods, resources to use or how to discover service opportunities on their own.  Now, one of our key questions to ask as we plan every campaign is What do we plan to do on day 41?

What more Small Group leadership help?  Check out questions like these and other helpful thought provoking stories in Connecting in Communities, Understanding the Dynamics of Small Groups.

My wife and I started our group 4 years ago. We had lots of expectations and hope that God would speak through us and use us to his glory. We started with 4 family’s and lots of kids. Lots!!! As seasons changed so did the group. One family left and we picked up 2 more. Through more seasons, I wondered what God was doing and if this group was the right fit and if we were growing spiritually.

Next thing I know we added another entire group. That made 6 family’s including us in our group. It was crazy. Two of the families were from California. It just so happens that my oldest daughter lives in California and that helped open some doors for conversion and broke down some barriers.

Another year went by and a new season for our group.  One family moved back to California and we were down to 5 couples. That’s about the time the doors flow wide open. We were able to do life outside of church and go canoeing or just hang-out with ‘church’ not being the only focus. We also began serving in the homeless ministry, “Room in the Inn” and the “Journey Home Charities”.  We learned “Nothing unites a group like a common enemy or common project.” (see “Common Enemies”)

After another year went by, my wife Brandie and I hit a rough spot in our marriage. God opened my eyes even more and giving up on my selfish ways and striving for more of him. I gave all of it to God and let him lead us. Since then we had a young couple with a passion for kids, leave and start serving in church with the kids ministry. Another couple stepped out of our group and started their own small group, which has added other couples and done well. So then we were down to 3 family’s total.

More quiet than ever, I keep praying for direction and what we could do to continue this journey. The guys began to have lunch together and even attended the Mighty Men Conference. The ladies were connecting during the week as well. Things were going great. We saw God move in our group as I had the honor of  baptizing one of the ladies in our group. From there I thought wow, it’s ‘ok’ to be small.

In January the church launched the sermon & small group series “New.”  I challenged every one in our group about being new this year and how we could grow in our faith. Well things did change. We had another couple called to lead a “New” group. They attended Leadership Camp, wondering if anyone would even join their group.  At GroupLink 2 family’s joined their group and a new group was formed out of our group.

God is amazing in the changes he has done in all of our lives through these seasons. But through group we have not only grown as a family, but as a “Large Faith Family” as well. Now we are back down to 2 couples. The journey continues and what God has in store for the next season, who knows. But for his glory, I know it will be another great year!!

As we continue to learn about small groups (SG) and discipleship we continue to make new discoveries.  Here is a recent learning about the progression of SG Leaders:

HOSTs: This model worked great for us when we were trying to start as many community groups as possible via a church-wide campaigns.   We realized we needed to help hundreds of adults get connected as soon as possible.  The Grouplink connect event was well attended with 87% of new groups continuing after the campaign.  However, we quickly realized that it would take a lot of training and development to get HOSTs to the leadership level our church expected.  This model launched us into several groups as we began a SG Ministry.  Today many of those groups which started from a HOST led group are still doing life together  .

Facilitator: Once the HOSTs had some experience under their belt (6 months plus) they began to operate in the Facilitator model.  They knew enough to allow others to talk and guide the discussions.  They listen to the group voice its’ needs and look for curriculum or projects to help fill that void.  The Facilitator model is not where our leaders hang out long though.  They either resort back to the DVD driven small group and serve as a HOST or they quickly move to the Teacher Model.

Teacher:  The Teacher Model has impacted almost all of us in some way.  We can quickly name our greatest teacher…they cared, enjoyed the material as well as the student, and were always prepared for class.  Small Group leaders move to this model as they gain knowledge and receive more training.

But the teacher model can also be a dangerous leader model in which to camp.  Left to itself, as David Francis states in “3 Roles to Guiding Groups” states:  “the teacher gets in the rut of doing the same thing each time the group gathers, get to know the Word but fail to know group members, and prefer standing before a large group rather than sitting among the group.” One reason Small Groups were added at LifePoint was to build community.  As God continued to bless LifePoint with new people, we needed people to serve, space for kids to meet…but most importantly Community.

Leader: We try to train the leaders to move beyond just getting through the material as the Teacher model might lean (Connecting in Communities, pg 49) and move into a Leader model.  Leaders share the load, visit hospitals, guide service and sometimes are moved to have the hard conversations of accountability and encouragement.  They see their group as a family or team which they guide as a group toward spiritual maturity.

Shepherd: Our new paradigm for small group ministry is moving us to seeing SG leaders as Shepherds.  Unlike the Leader, the shepherd takes on the role of an individual coach, helping each member take their next step on the Christ Centered Journey.  They use individual surveys, Christ Centered Journey map, suggested resources, books, websites and ‘coffee’ to disciple each person in their group.  As the disciple grows, they become more missional in their world view and some feel the need to be sent out to start groups or lead ministries.

Each of these models of leadership are found throughout our SG Ministry.  Each of them has a purpose and a time to be used.  Study your groups, discover which model is working best and train others toward that model.  But continue to learn as the need for a certain model will arise or a combination may be needed.

 

This month’s guest blogger, Milt, has been a leader at our church for several years.  We have been emphasizing the shepherding role of leadership in recent months.  You could replace “leader” with “shepherd” in most places in this blog and gain the realization of what LifePoint Small Groups are about.  As you read this listen to the heart of this shepherd and realize the bigger purpose about which he feels strongly.

All of us are leaders, every single one of us lead someone.  It may be in our workplace, it may be at home, it may be at church; but all of us have leadership responsibilities and burdens.  It’s not “Are we a leader?” The question is “What kind of leader are we?”   Think of what that means; someone’s direction in some area of their life is being impacted by you!  Your family, your friends, your co-workers, Do you really want that burden?  How heavy is that?  Whether you want it or not, it’s reality.

At the end of the day(s) everyone is responsible for their own decisions. I am not going to be held accountable for the decisions someone else may or may not have made in their life, but I am going to be called into account for the stewardship of the influence that God gave me.  I have a choice to use my influence for God, or to use it for what I want.  So that means that “What I do matters!” I had better choose wisely because there are consequences that echo throughout eternity that come with my action or inaction.

Jesus said this in Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (NIV)  It’s not so I can get some glory and everyone can say, “Oh he is such a good teacher, or he is such a good leader” or anything like.  It is so God get’s the praise!

People matter to God, so they should matter to me.

Here is the bottom line, I believe that the Bible teaches that what we believe and what we do matters.  We are not in some play in which the script has already been written and we are just playing our part.  God is big enough to be in control (sovereign) and yet give us the choice to follow Him and give ourselves to Him.  God’s will, will be done and he knows what we will do, but we are not robots.

We need to choose to use the influence that He has given us to impact the world around us whether we lead an organization, a small group, our family or our co-workers.

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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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