(This is a excerpt from an open letter sent to the parents of Stewarts Creek High School Baseball parents. The responses were so surprising I felt like I should share with a larger audience. Feel free to adapt to your parenting situation.)

Thankful for the Red Hawks baseball family. My son has played on a few different teams in his life, but the ones that had the most impact in preparing him to be a dependable friend and man of character are the teams that were/are more like family.

This is more than “my son making the baseball team”! This is the opportunity to develop future leaders of our community and country. The opportunity to learn how individuals become a team to fight together for a common goal. The opportunity to show our sons how much we love them and are proud of their efforts to go out for something…compete…and make the team. The opportunity to support them in their efforts.

This is an opportunity to influence, at a deep level, our boys one last time…before that dreaded (or longed for…in some cases) graduation day. That day when they will leave the nest and carry our names into the world.

Ask yourself: Have I made my son proud to carry my name? Does he feel I care about him and his desires? Does he know my cheering at the game, working the Concession Stand, driving him around to sell fundraising cards, and buying him a Gatorade…is because I am proud of him? As we kick off the 2016 season Monday night be sure he does.




This question comes to our office every month via texts, emails, phone calls or drop in visits.  If you know LifePoint you know that we love to try new things, spend time living in the Research and Development department, and correlate the findings into a plan that we will pilot or beta test. The following list is not all-inclusive or permanent, but some of these practices may help your ministry.

Our Small Group Leaders (SGL) have developed along with LifePoint to the point they are not fearful of or avoid training and development.  We started years ago with the HOST style of leadership where the SGL operated the DVD for the weekly study and kept conversation going around the material presented on that DVD.  We did a poor job training these HOSTs once we had them in place to lead a group and our groups were not producing the disciples we desired.

Leadership Camp (see info-mercial for Leadership Camp) .  We have designed this six-week training on Sunday mornings on most of our campuses throughout the year.  The six weeks include 3-weeks on what it means to be a disciple and 3 weeks on how to lead a small group. If you use the HOST model, please learn from our mistakes.  I would encourage you to design and calendar in a few training sessions before you launch new groups. (Planned by semester)

Huddles: Three times a year I am able to meet with every Small Group leader, whether they lead on or off campus.  This happens via Huddles in my office on Sunday mornings during one of our worship hours.  We invite 8 Leaders, by gender, to come together for an hour, three times a year. Each Huddle has basically 2 questions: how’s your family, how’s your small group. This has been the most productive leadership time for Huddles and Coaches/Directors. (Planned by semester)

SG Luncheons: Three times a year every Small Group Leader and their co-leader are invited to a luncheon right after church services.  Luncheons include stories, giveaways, training principle, vision casting, lunch and free childcare.  We hold these meetings to 1 hour!  (planned one year out)

One-on-one Lunches: I cannot think of one single thing that has helped in leadership development more than a personal lunch with one leader/couple.  This focused time to be transparent, answer questions, deal with issues, etc has really reaped great dividends for our ministry. (Planned weekly)

Weekly Reports: Your Data Base is very important in keeping up with what is going on in the group.  This goes way beyond attendance. We use Church Teams (@churchteams) which automatically sends an email to the Leader or Reporter the day after their scheduled meeting.  It may take a few months to help transition the leader from just attendance mode, but it is worth the effort.  Look for activities, study material, prayer request and then attendance.  Make a mental note and respond to every report with a personal message.  (If you have over 10 groups, you may consider adding a coaching structure to your ministry).

Retreat/Banquet: Leader development & celebration in which we offer skill development for our team as well celebrating the team.  This is usually a special location that our team would not normally go to or a special guest speaker about whom the team would be excited.  (Planned 4-6 months in advance)

What does your leadership development structure look like?
How far out do you plan these opportunities?
Who could help you plan, prepare and carry out one of these (Share the Load)?

As we launch into the fall, many ministries will have their training and kick-off events.  One of the things I have discovered is the heavy emphasis on doing things right and not necessarily doing the right things.  We train on proper procedures, communication, and process.  But we sometimes forget or assume the obvious concerning the bigger picture.

Barna Research has discovered there seems to be a disconnect for most Americans between serving the community and helping individuals find their way to God through Christ.  Ministry related goals–such as teaching the Bible, introducing people to Christ, and bringing people to salvation–are infrequently viewed as a primary ways to serve the community.  Even among many churchgoers, contributing positively to the community is perceived to be the result of offering the right mix of public service programs.

Let me challenge you to consider the right things as you plan on doing things right.  Each of our adult ministries (MOPS, Softball, Fishing, Men’s, Women’s, etc) train to do things right…set up, requests, posters, communication, teaching, etc…but all of them also know the value in knowing about the bigger purpose of LifePoint: Pointing People to a Christ Centered Life.  We include in the design and training of ministries and events on the right things, and for LifePoint that is he Christ Centered Journey.  http://lifepointchurch.org/smyrna-journey

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
Stephen R. Covey


This summer LifePoint Church will be encouraging you to Live Sent by being active in your neighborhood.  Here is how my story of living sent began.

I had always looked up to a friend of mine who seemed to know everyone on his street.  He had the ability to connect with people very easily.  He suggested I read Randy Frazee’s book The Connecting Church and that’s when I began to Live Sent as he had been doing. My family and I started getting to know our neighbors. Over the years it has become second nature to not only know my neighbors, share ministry opportunities and do life together with my neighbors, but teach others how easy it is to be a loving neighbor.

Over a three-year period in my previous neighborhood, we saw a man and son baptized, another couple come to Christ, a man far from God cry over his excitement as he was baptized.  A marriage on the rocks was salvaged and became a shining light to others.  We even rallied for service projects for others in the community as well as shared items, recipes and swimming pools.

We hosted a block party, it was a cook-out at the Commons Area.  We just put a flyer on everyone’s door inviting them to the cookout and to bring hotdogs, drinks and ‘fixins’ for their family.  We provided grills and tables. Nearly 100 people attended, met new neighbors and shared life stories about the neighborhood.  We even rented an inflatable for the kids.  We are now planning a July 4th event and possibly a camp-out. (Luke 5:29)

We met new people and started a small group. As we planned this cookout we discovered neighbors who also attended LifePoint church.  We asked them to help with the party and then invited them to join our small group.  It is so much fun to be able to walk to small group.  To see others in your small group on an almost daily basis.  Now when we pray for our neighbors, we actually know their name and some of the issues for which to pray. (Acts 2:42-47)

For some, their neighborhood may be the ball fields, tennis courts, fishing zone, boat, etc; you define your own neighborhood. Begin by walking your neighborhood and praying for homes and families.  Watch for God at work as you begin to build relationships with neighbors.  Here Here are our top 10 ideas on ways to connect with your neighbors this summer. (Acts 1:8)

  • June 3 Movie on the Lawn & Walk neighborhood & pray for each home.
  • June 10 Host cookout for neighbors, Help neighbor with yard work
  • June 17 Dessert Party for neighbors
  • June 24 while on vacation “pay it forward” by paying for people behind you
  • July 1 4th of July Cookout
  • July 8 Give out Capri Suns at pool, host a Block Party
  • July 15 Organize summer potluck street parties.
  • July 22 Have watermelon, coffee or dessert with friends
  • July 29 Neighborhood Back-to-school campout, Pray for others in the stands at a sporting event
  • August 5 Deliver flowers in pots to friends as prayer notice

Why not help your neighborhood?  The eternal destiny of your neighborhoods can be affected by doing life together.  Now is the time to begin planning your next opportunity by getting a few neighbors together and hosting a cookout or neighborhood project.

For more resources on Living Sent in your neighborhood check out
101 Ways to Reach Your Community, Steve Sjogren
Field Guide to Neighborhood Outreach, Group Publishing

UPDATE:  One family took us seriously!  Sunday’s Live Sent event included a movie by the pool.


This week’s blog is from a couple who started a Small Group via a Connections class.  Their journey is much like many leaders as they continue to watch for God’s direction as they lead a group.

I have no idea how you evaluate your success as a leader.  For us, it has been a constant evaluation.  Our small group was big, then small, then big then small, see a pattern?  When I was asked to write this blog I pondered these questions:
1. You can’t help but wonder is there some activities that I can do to keep members coming? We did the picnic at the lake… But group members moved and some found other groups they liked to try out or went back to their previous small group.
2. So, then we thought, are we not engaging the small group enough, with the right studies?  We asked for their input on study choices and talked to other group leaders.
3. Then we wondered if we had not mastered the scriptures enough to engage our members?
Well it all began at home for us, our children began seeking God and had many questions, a family member of another belief began placing her practices and beliefs on my children, this of course concerned me.  I did not want my children to be as lost and alone as we were years ago.  My husband began seeking answers in the bible and became over time totally immersed in the word, which was a beautiful transformation from my view.  It took me a little while to come around and surrender my mind, body and soul to Jesus.
When we were all on board we began a Bible study at home, my husband, myself and our 3 children. I guess you could say this was our first small group.  The scripture in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 reviled to us that we needed to share our testimony and surround ourselves with other Christ followers so we began searching for a church.  Instead of walking into several churches we searched online and boy was that scary. When we came to Lifepoint it was at first very overwhelming for us all, and that was just walking through the doors.  Once we got the kids situated and we found our seats and began to listen to the Pastor it was amazing how we discovered that there really are more believers out there!
We walked the halls of the church for a few weeks, dropping our kids off in their departments and attending worship.  Then we meet a kind man with a kind face and a gentle spirit.  He led us to Connections (an on-campus class designed to help new comers get connected with LifePoint and other attenders for the purpose of forming small groups).  We stayed in Connections for about 6 months and in that time we developed relationships with people with whom we just clicked with.  We launched our new small group with a handful of Christ followers that were eager to learn more about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  Our group has met every Sunday since.  I hear many groups that use books and videos for their studies, which is great.  However, we tend to stay focused on one book, the Bible, as our guide and resource.
Our group grew closer together, then one couple left, then another…then new couples came aboard. This just goes to show that whatever walk in life you are in there’s always a place you can come in and continue your journey as a Christ follower.  As disciples of Christ, we continue to love on those that walk in and take their next step towards a Christ Centered Life.   We will always welcome the newcomers and check up on those moving on.  Staying connected on your Christ centered journey is vital.  Our group has learned to help each other on this journey, through the tough times as well as good times.

The questions of evaluation will always be there, but that is not a bad thing.  Continually striving to be the best leader, taking advantage of training, and seeking God’s direction as a leader has helped us answer these three questions.  I pray this story will help you on your journey as a leader.

This wasn’t my first rodeo. I had been a couple’s small group leader at Lifepoint Church years ago and decided to take the plunge again. Given the fact that I had done it before, I thought doing it again would be fairly simple. Last time around, there was no training to attend. We just started leading. Honestly, I kind of liked that level of independence.

My wife and I enrolled in Leadership Camp together (she is leading a ladies group) with other prospective small group leaders, some of which had lead before, like me. We went through 6 weeks of structured but informal discussions on the nuances of leading a group. The ages of the attendees ranged from late twenties to sixties. What an incredible experience! Any time you get a chance to discuss scenarios that may come up with others who may or may not have experienced them, take advantage of it. I picked up on a lot of things that helped me today, as well as several things not to do. 🙂

Leadership Camp was finished, and I was fired up about my new small group-to-be. Then Connections Event came along. This event is designed to give people interested in small groups a chance to basically “speed-date” with several small groups. The leaders have tables set up to display their interests and communicate aspects of their group to prospective members like location, age, married or single, kids, is childcare available, etc. I was excited and interested to see who would like to be a part of my new group.

One problem, no one signed up. I netted ZERO!

I was about to be reminded of the fact that God’s timing and mine aren’t always the same. We went almost two months with no one showing real interest. We had a few couples here and there tell church staff they were interested, so staff members passed their information along to me. After phone conversations with 3 or 4 couples……nothing.

I started to question whether God really wanted me to lead a small group. It was something I had prayed about a lot, and felt lead to do it. But now I was second guessing His intentions.

About 2 months after the Connection Event, Eddie sent me one couple, then another, then another. Now we are 3 months after the Event. We have 5 regular couples in our group, ages ranging from early twenties to late thirties. We all have kids ranging from 8 weeks old to 15 years old. We have done two service projects and are 4 chapters into a book study on Psalm 23. We’ve also had a couple social events that have been loads of fun. New friendships are being formed and we are able to support each other when needs arise. We have formed an incredible prayer team for each other, as well.

We have actually had another unchurched couple, who is neighbors with one of our members, show interest in our group and church. This couple has seen our group interact like great friends in social settings, even though we haven’t know each other for more than a couple of months. They say they don’t know what causes that, but they want it. Maybe God delayed our group to meet His timing in their lives.

I’m sure I’m not the only leader out there whose group trajectory hasn’t been quite what they planned. If that is you, be patient. Don’t try to fix it (as so many of us guys tend to do). Leading a group is not a task that you finish, it is a process. Don’t try to do God’s job! Let Him do it through you. His timing surpasses anything we can understand. It’s not His first rodeo either.

After many years in small group ministry, leading a small group, working with small group leaders and tracking the journey of hundreds of small groups, we have discovered that there are two clear killers of small groups.  Practicing either one of these will cause stress on group members and eventually destroy the group.

1. Gossip:  Relationships are one of the keys to a great small group.  For the group to become transparent, relationships have to be built.  However, when someone breaks the written (or in some cases the unwritten) agreement of “What happens in SG, stays in SG” confidentiality, transparency is squelched.  The length of time it will take to seriously damage or kill the group depends on the degree of the gossip, the subject or comments made through sharing personal information outside the group.

This is one of the subjects that should be discussed early on in the life of the group and when a new-comer joins the group.  Whether you have a written, voted on, signed Covenant or just a list of agreements by which you will life together, CONFIDENTIALITY must be discussed!

2. Lack of planning: Not all of us are organized and detailed.  Many of us carry a smart-phone which contains a calendar.  Our lives are busy and most families plan for things outside of work and/or family more than one day in advance.  (I did not want to push for too many days in advance :-))   So when the text comes during the Sunday morning worship service from your small group leader that “We want to have small group tonight, who wants to host?” it is too late.  Or when some individuals in the group begin to email “When are we meeting again?” it usually means we have not planned very well.

This is not an instant killer, but over time, repeated offenses will result in no-shows, drop-outs and the death of the group.  While it is not a subject on most Covenant lists, it is a vitally important task that you may want to delegate.  If you are not planning over 2 weeks in advance (we suggest 2 months planning for the summer) you may be putting undue stress on the group members.

Take time in your next small group to mention these two killers.  Don’t let them sneak into your group’s life and destroy the trust and relationships.

“Leading a small group is more like gardening than being a mechanic” Greg Bowman

Knowing your group’s objectives, goals and purpose is essential to leading successfully.  If your church has not clarified those for you, gather your group together and discuss goals and make a plan for 2015.

We have determined three objectives for our groups: Community, Care, Foundational Bible study.

1. Develop Community:

“Nothing unites a group
(builds community)
like a common project or common enemy.”

Here are a few things we emphasize groups have on their calendars in order to help build community:
Party monthly: Each group should have a “party monthly” where we can just be real.  We suggest one of these per quarter be intentionally for inviting our unconnected friends.
Mission trip: If a common project unites the group, then plan for a mission trip every few years.
Serve together: How fast can you rally your group to serve someone outside the group? Build an atmosphere of “serving is normal” so that it is not a scheduled event but a lifestyle/’groupstyle.’  (A common enemy is something like a crisis, someone in the group gets cancer.)
Leave time after the meeting for chat time! Community is built through conversations, not lectures.
Plan ahead increases participation

2. Care for people:

Care builds relationships.
Relationships increase transparency.

Transparency makes way for discipleship.

If you are leading a small group, it probably has a lot to do with God directing you to lead, shepherd, care and disciple people.  One way we see spiritual growth happening is via “Relationships and Conversations” You disciple people because you care about them. To care for people means listening, spending time with and even serving together.
How are you doing on these?    With whom in your group do you have neither of these?

3. Conduct Foundational Bible Study:

“Bible study at least twice a month, party once
a service project every month.”

“A. Study the Bible for yourself, but not just by yourself
B. Never engage the text without encountering the author
C. Read the Bible for transformation, not just information.”
Leading Life-Changing Small Groups, Bill Donahue

4. Continue to develop your Leadership:

“If you are interested in being interested…”
the you should naturally be interested in
constantly developing in your leadership abilities.

Check out this Youtube video for our Leadership Camp experience:

-Take advantage of training and developing opportunities
-Take advantage of free books
-Take advantage of leadership development opportunities at your church.

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



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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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