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.
How can I be intentional about building deeper relationships with friends this summer? The flowers are all in bloom, the allergy season has passed, the temperature rises and grilling out seems to be the natural thing to do. This summer why not be intentional about building relationships with friends and neighbors. I’m not talking about trying to build more relationships with new people. Focus on the social circles your already run in…teams, neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc. Take one night a week or a couple of nights a month this summer and invite some friends over and use that deck, patio, pool, swing that you worked so hard to get.
Here’s three thoughts on being intentional:
1. Invites: who should you invite? I would start with a group of people who are my friends but may not know each other. Invite four or five couples and ask each one to bring their favorite dessert and drink. You can provide the main course to grill along chips or veggies.
2. Gas, plastic ware & decorations: Don’t forget to check the grill gas and have plenty of plastic ware on hand. Maybe decorate the backyard with colorful balloons, tiki torches, fresh-cut flowers or your favorite decor from Better Homes and Garden.
Ok, so all that sounds simple, I know. But this next step is what makes the evening intentional.
3. Ice breaker Questions: plan to have a couple of questions you would like for people to answer. My favorites are the ones that share something about the person’s childhood, home life, dreams and/or passions. Remember to sprinkle in spiritual language in your conversation.
Sample ice breaker questions: (not for cookouts only :-) )
-When you were a child, what was your favorite room in your house? Why?
-What would be your dream vacation and why?
-Who was your best friend growing up? What was unique about them?
-If you were rich, what do you think you would do with all your time?
Each Summer Lifepoint Church encourages families to intentionally invest in their neighborhoods. Sometimes this is walking the streets, lending a hand, borrowing tools, or cooking out together. At least once a summer we help them throw Block Parties for fun and relationship building. Here are three steps we encourage people to take to have a great experience.
1. Develop a team, don’t do this alone! Several reasons this is #1: it sounds overwhelming to take on such a party by yourself so we eliminate that right up front. Talk with a couple of other families (from your church or not) and develop a team to manage the party. Why? Because
-You will need families in charge of various items below.
-You will encourager more people to attend by including more people in the planning. -You will still have energy to get out of bed the day after the party.
2. inflatables, donuts eating contest, music, etc: this is where the creative minds on the team really get excited. For larger neighborhoods, find out if there is a Home Owners Association (HOA) if so, is there a socials budget? For smaller gatherings, have team decide on activities, food, timing and entertainment. Then assign each family some of these responsibilities. We have 1 or 2 inflatables to keep kids and younger minded dads busy. Someone is brings chips and grills hotdogs. The party couple seems to always end up running the games and contests.
3. Email list: I don’t like to have a bunch of people together and not get their name or a way to communicate with them again. So have a sign up sheet so they can get info about other neighborhood events, needs, emergencies, information, etc. Keep the communication going because it is a part of building relationships.
Good luck! And please share your Block Party story with me via comments on this blog.
Helpful resource for being Intentional in your neighborhood: Making Room for Neighbors by Max Lucado & Randy Frazee
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 Jon, a man who learned from his Mother’s example how to invest in people.
As a young adult, there seemed to be a trend where churches moved out of the traditional Sunday School’s into meeting at a person’s home. For years my Mom had been bringing people to her home after church each Sunday evening for dinner and playing cards. They visited together and enjoyed being around one another. In hind site, these were also the folks that seemed to join forces when someone in their community was in need and they came to their aid.
Several years later I came to LifePoint Church from a traditional Baptist church, but knew of their increasing movement to small groups. After watching my mom’s example, I thought it would be a great thing to lead a group in my home. I invited a few people whom I saw a lot around the baseball fields and were also attending LifePoint. One couple we invited, the husband was not a believer nor attending church, but his wife was. On the way home from our third Small Group meeting, the husband told his wife ” I have learned more about the bible in the last three weeks than all my times in church.” He added that he was liking this atmosphere. A few weeks later, he began to inquire about our church services and said he might show up one Sunday.
After investing in our relationship for five years, from his first time in a small group to regular church attendance. From a guy I knew at the baseball field to a friend I have shared many back porch discussions with…this gentleman has surrendered his life to the Lord and I had the honor to baptize him.
Small group for us is a great way to introduce friends and neighbors to Christ in a non-intimidating way. We open the Word and begin sharpen each other, serve together on projects around the city, and we simply do life together. We all need the large corporate worship setting, but getting down to the details in a small group is life-changing as we have witnessed in my own group. Thanks Mom for the example.
What example are you setting for your kids?
If you have been tracking the theme moving across the southeast you will know this study is timely. Discussions on “what I wanted or expected God to do and what actually happened” are commonplace around small groups and churches right now. So you may want to consider this new study that I had the joy reading through last week.
This title says it all, Amazed and Confused, a new study from Heather Zempel. Whether you have grown up in a church or just stopped by this read because of the title, we all have experienced the amazement and confusions of life. But when our expectations of what we think God “should do” don’t align with God’s actions, we walk away amazed and confused.
In this study, of an often overlooked book, Heather helps us understand the Bible’s design, ask tough questions and then we walk out in the end with hope.
A great personal read or better yet a book to journey through with your friends and neighborhoods. A catchy title for you, yet one that will invite people far from God to discuss learn to rely on God’s wisdom. Grab your Bible and spend a few minutes each week learning from God via one of His minor prophets of the Old Testament.
Bottom line, “We are reminded that God calls us not according to our gifts, abilities, vision, great ideas or education. He calls according to His purpose.” Heather Zempel, Amazed and Confused.
Think about the many social circles you run in: family, work, sports, hobbies and community.
Are you intentional about listening?
Are you intentional about sprinkling your conversations with spiritual language?
Are you intentional about discovering where people are in their relationship with Christ?
This summer I plan to be intentional about all three of these questions. Over the last few years I have slowed down in what I try to accomplish in a meeting, a day, a community project, and at home. Not because I am getting older. Nor is it because I want to be lazy. It is so I can be intentional, so I can listen and share more about life and eternity.
This was a hard lesson learned while on a mission trip to southern Mexico. We were there to install wood cook-stoves in Mayan Village huts. We were told there were 50 stoves in the warehouse, so I took that as our goal for the week (silly American). After watching the missionary install two stoves, my teammate and I took off on our own to install as many as we could on the first day. Halfway through the fourth installation the missionary walked in and said “Eddie, if you would slow down a little I might have time to tell the hut owners about Jesus.” I stopped dead in my tracks. I had missed the intentionality of which we were there for…not stoves, but THE story!
Can you identify a couple or two that you would enjoy cooking out with? What about a co-worker or someone on your kid’s sports team? It may be a neighbor whom God has placed on your heart who you already spend time with, but lack intentionality. How could you use three months of your life to be intentional for God in one of your circles?
I challenge you to consider being intentional about listening, deepening the relationship you already have with them and sprinkling your conversations with spiritual language. Take time to listen. Offer encouragement to them.
For helpful idea s on how to sprinkle your conversation with spiritual language see:
Just Walk Across the Room by Bill Hybels.