You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Church Growth’ category.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am sure you have heard about launching campaigns: sermon series and small group studies that are aligned.  (Some churches actually include their students and kids ministries in this alignment.)  Some of the benefit from these campaigns is the strength the church gains as ‘explorers’ and ‘followers’ journey together over these few weeks.  Campaigns also serve as a time to help more people connect to a small group.  It is much easier for people to join a Small Group/Bible Study Group/Class when it is just starting than to join one that has been together for a while.

I am happy to report that at LifePoint we now have campaigns two times a year for five to six weeks.  Our campaigns include discussion guides for groups, suggested service opportunities and, in my opinion most importantly, daily devotionals.   Our Pastor is great about encouraging people to get connected with others for these few weeks to discuss the sermon and life.  We add to our on-campus class options by including a couple of “Connections” classes.  These are mid-size groups offered on Sunday and Wednesday with the focus being relational Bible Study around the campaign.

LEARNED: Daily devotionals are key to helping people establish an on-going relationship with God.  This is not the end-all-be-all of your discipleship journey.  BUT, the relationship with God is key to transformation of our lives.  Having a loving and caring small group who helps us stay in the Word daily by discussing the devotionals and concentrating on the same subject for six weeks will move us several steps on our journey to be more like Christ. Relationships grow deeper as we spend more time together…with our group….with God.

LEARNED: Another learning is documented on our campaign check-list, do not offer too many questions or pages in the Discussion Guide for groups.  One small group leader said “If I have to say ‘now on to number 2’ we’re probably not having small group.” Getting through a list of academic questions is not the goal in campaigns, it is to have open discussion that leads to transparency and deeper relationships with God and each other.

We launch our spring campaign this Sunday (February 17, 2013) “Beyond Sunday.”  You can watch the sermons here.

You can download the discussion guides and daily devotionals here.

How did your last connection event go? In addition to all the new small groups that you started new leaders discovered and and many people connected what else did you learn?

We have been doing some kind of connection event since January 2006.  Each time we will see many families connected to a small group as well as several new groups start.  But we also learned that of those who sign up to join a certain group, approximately 30% of them will never show up at a home for group. This was an alarming discovery.  Several options may contribute to this stat: only one spouse participates in the GroupLink event; the apprentice is representing the leader at the GroupLink table; participants are unfamiliar with the community; the wife fears ‘cats’ or any other host home situations that she is not aware of, etc.

We make slight adjustments to each new connection even with major adjustments coming each year to GroupLink.  So, with this new info, we decided to talk with other Small Group Pastors and came up with another adaptation (NOT Adoption) of a plan.    In analyzing the no-show stats, Ben Reed (blogs here) and I came up with a combination event.  This year we will help those who sign up at the ‘job-fair’ type GroupLInk event on Sunday mornings by hosting a GroupLink party on Sunday evening at the church.

This event will last a couple of hours and look a lot like a Small Group home experience, but on neutral turf, familiar for everyone.  This will give people the time to get to know each other and increase the relationship and ask the questions which concerns them.   We will have Bible study questions to discuss as well.  Then near the end we will allow them to plan the location and time for their next meeting.

again I have to say stay tuned….for we are all on a journey.

 

 

 

You probably noticed I had a major gap in blogging dates.  Well there are  3 big reasons:

1. Graduation: no not mine, but my oldest son graduated from high school in May.  I was able to help him “make wise choices” (our on-going parental coaching phrase) by offering a trip to Montana with me instead of a Panama City trip with his friends.  He actually took me up on it.  We spent the week fly-fishing and riding four-wheelers through the Rockies with our friend Joe Windham.  Graham said it was the best trip of his life. Making memories!

2. Baseball summer tour: My youngest son has played for years on a travel baseball team.  You probably have heard of them…thru previous blogs…the Smyrna Bugs.  The team received the invitation letter to the July 25 week of Cooperstown Dreams Park World Series. In preparation for that Gresham played as many tournaments as he possibly could.  In addition to the Middle TN tournaments, the big tours included playing at the Disney/ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando and South Haven Baseball Complex in Mississippi with the Tennessee Knights baseball team.  Then it was off to Cooperstown by way of a Cleveland Indians game and Niagara Falls.  We joined 104 teams there and played seven games going 5-2 for the week.  We finished in the top 20 and had the week of a life-time.  We concluded our vacation as a family by touring Boston, Fenway Park and a Red Sox game.  Making memories!

3. Evaluation: The remainder of the gap I would have to say was due to very in-depth, serious evaluation of LifePoint’s Small Group Ministry (GroupLife).  In the spring each staff member was asked to work through Real Life Discipleship Training Manual (Jim Putman) with five of their ministry’s Coaches or volunteers.  The hope was that at the end of the twelve weeks, each of the five would take five others through the material.  Approximately 135 people completed the material in the spring.  From that almost half of them committed to taking five of their friends, small group or volunteers through the material in the fall.

This brought on a needed evaluation of our ministry from the phrase found in Jim Putman’s ministry and resource: “Making disciples who make disciples.”  So are we? That is what we spent our time doing this fall.  I have to be honest, when you are in the middle of looking internal so deeply, there is not much room, time, energy or excitement about looking outward (blogging).  So what did I spend my time doing?

I spent September thru December reading: Missional Small Groups, Missiorelate, A Different Kind of Tribe, Tangible Kingdom, Building a Discipleship Culture, Leading Small Groups with Purpose, Small Groups with Purpose, Launching Missional Communities and CommunityI read various blogs on a regular basis as well.

I contacted people in the Small Group Network resulting in hours of conversation learning and sharing about small group ministry.  (Read more about or join the SGN here.)

Now we are conducting interviews and Focus Groups with LifePointers to learn more and share our proposal for the next phase of LifePoint Small Group ministry.  I plan to keep you updated on the future, as for now…that is where I have been.

Stay tuned…..

 

What doses ‘called’ mean?

We were having breakfast discussing his small group when he made a strong statement. He had every reason to feel good about his small group.  The weekly communication report often had a story of life change, of someone stepping up to serve, offer to lead, fix a meal, making a commitment to the group-their family-Christ. But he was holding back in our conversation. I could tell something was bugging him
Then he made this statement, “I think I may be called to full-time vocational ministry.”
That is a phrase that I am excited to say I have heard more than once recently.  It is a confusing statement when you make it for the first time, not really knowing what “called” means or implies for your future.

We discussed why he felt that way.  I also shared from some of his recent reports stories that reinforced his thought and the need to take the next step toward full time ministry.
Then we began to discuss strategy for the next steps he needs to take on this journey.

First, was to read Jeff Iorg’s book Is God Calling Me?: Answering the Question Every Leader Believer Asks  Jeff defines ‘called’ and helps the reader know how to discern ministry as well as recognize ministry roles in which you are already serving.

The second book is Mentor: How Along-the-Way Discipleship Will Change Your Life by Chuck Lawless.  Chuck helps you identify people in your life that helped you become who you are today.  Then he walks you through opportunities to be mentored and mentor others.

These two books and weekly or monthly meetings to discuss the next steps and the discoveries from God using these two books have helped people with whom I am meeting/walking.  The call to vocational ministry is never easy.  But with resources and relationships, it can be fun and stretch our faith.

Who are you mentoring or walking with through the call to vocational ministry?

Today we launched out on a new era at LifePoint Church.  Each of our staff are taking on the call to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) by living out the call of Matthew 4:19 esv:  “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  Over the next 12 weeks, each staff person will be discipling 5 people from their ministry area.  By discipling we specifically mean walking weekly with the 5 through the Real Life Discipleship Training Manual.  You may ask: “New era? Shouldn’t you have been discipling all along?”  Well yes we have, but never with this much intentionality!

To help you do the same, here are 5 easy steps:

1.  Identify:  prayerfully identify five people God is leading you to disciple; (help become more like Christ tomorrow than they are today.) You know God is also working in their lives to prepare them, so why not ask Him who you are supposed to be walking with?

2. Enlist: Talk with each of the five individually and invite them to be part of your group.  Clearly explain what is expected.  When I asked men to join my group I also clearly explained that this was a weekly meeting for an hour, daily reading from the Bible and a manual and they would be asked to repeat this process with 5 people in the next six months.  A couple of them were very hesitant to respond, which led me to allow them to not participate.  The five I am meeting with (2 car salesmen, 1 police officer, 1 shoe salesman, 1 rock star) immediately said ‘Yes, count me in’ which told me they were feeling the need to be committed.

3. Meet: Spend the next Xnumber of weeks meeting, discussing, challenging, praying, learning, reading, growing, etc.  We meet for a planned one hour a week, same time, day and location each week.  However, we also allow God to continue the meeting or conversation as long and as often as He chooses.

4.Grow: Listen as your group shares what God is doing in their lives and share what He is doing in your life right now.  Over the course of these weeks make notes of issues, prayer requests, challenges, fears…watch (and share) what God is doing in and through the stories.  Point out the growth of each other as celebration of what God is doing. Did I mention “listen”?  This is very important when helping people grow as a disciple.  It is not allow about bestowing knowledge to them, but about hearing how God is growing them.  Dallas Willard in The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings on Discipleship gives a wonderful definition of a disciple: “A disciple is a learner, a student, an apprentice—a practitioner, even if only a beginner. … Disciples of Jesus are people who do not just profess certain views as their own but apply their growing understanding of life in the Kingdom of the Heavens to every aspect of their life on earth.”

5. Challenge: Each week I challenge our group to ‘watch for God at work and join Him’ (Experiencing God). Each week I also explain how they will be asked to lead 5 through this material in the next 6 months.  We are not meeting/walking through this growth for ourselves, but as Luke 6 shows us, for those around us. Then is what it means to be a true disciple, when we use our energy, resources, life to make disciples.

For more on Discipleship see:

Downstream, by Barry Sneed  http://blogs.navpress.com/barrysneed/My-Blog

As you know by now, a lot of my learning, training, discussing comes over a meal.  While having lunch with George, a small group leader who started a group last spring, I learned five things.

We were discussing the community that exists in his group and all the individuals in the group.  He knew each of their ‘storys’ and the potential that each one possessed.  Life issues kept some from ‘perfect attendance’ or taking turns leading the group.  Family situations prevented others from hosting or serving on a project at this time.  But he KNEW each person’s situation.

After we completed the discussion of each family, we moved on to: “What’s next?”  He quickly explained how they had taken the Small Group/Disciple’s Health Survey and discovered their weakness was in the disciple’s characteristic of ‘Influence.’  He had picked a resource for the group and calendared with members the dates of their next four gatherings.

This led them to a service project as a group which led some of the group to participate in a missions experience in Haiti.  Group members either went on the experience, were prayer warriors for the experience, collected supplies and gifts, provided rides to/from airport and even served as dog-sitters for the week.  Upon returning from the experience the group gathered and shared what God had done through their availability and unity as a small group.

George then shared about who he saw stepping up as potential leaders.  He then asked for ideas on how to develop his apprentice and we discussed next steps for his already well thought out plans.

Here are some of the things which we could all learn from George:

1.  He had a heart for people. He really wanted to see his SG members be more like Christ next year than today.

2. He knew how to pray for his SG members.  Because he spent time with people and listened.

3.  He knew the characteristics of a Disciple (survey). How can I pray for each person and their Christ-likeness?

4. He knew the activities that could help them move on their spiritual journey.  Activities, Mission experiences and how to involve the entire group in a project or experience.

5. He knew who to spend extra time with for future leaders.  And then developed a plan for the next 8 months.

You too may learn some things from George.  Be sure to share your stories with others to help them grow.

What is your 2012 plan for your family?  For your career?  For your home?  For your Small Group?

I realize it is January 3, 2012, but the fall is coming.  Fall is a natural growth time for people’s lives, families and careers.  Most of us don’t even think that far ahead, much less plan that far ahead.  Our family has a list of “would you rathers…?” which list all the things we need to fix, buy, do or visit in 2012.  We discussed as a family which ones are needs, priorities or just fun things we want to do in the coming year.  We laughed, argued, debated and even strategized how to accomplish what we would like to see happen in 2012.  I know what your thinking…Eddie made his family do that?  Yea, I am a little OCD.  🙂  But life takes planning…plus I have a high school senior living at my house.

I discovered others plan ahead also.  While having lunch with a Small Group Leader I heard how he had conducted the Small Group Health Survey with his group.  The results helped him know what studies to choose and how to lead the group toward their next step on the Christ Centered Journey.

He has a plan for each potential leader and for each person in his group to help them grow in their relationship with Christ and, at the same time, ask them to help him grow on his journey.

The survey and journey have led him to review the curriculum guide and choose studies that will challenge he and his group in the coming year.  Then for the fall he is planning for his community and several new families to be influenced by his group through service (members using their gifts), through invitation (members will be praying for friends and family through the spring) through new groups (members step out to be leaders in fall campaign) through generosity (group will be sponsoring projects/trips in fall).

What plans do you have for your family? For your career? For your small group?  Now is the time to look into 2012 and discover where God is leading.

“My group is excited about growing in Christ.  I have 3 apprentice couples in my group who lead on a rotation basis.” As we talked he explained that, based on the Disciple’s Health Survey, his group was really weak on what LifePoint calls “Influence” toward their unconnected/unchurched friends.  Influence means investing time and prayer in your friends, neighbors and co-workers and letting our relationship with Jesus become part of the conversations often.

How can you increase the intentionality of your group on influence?  Here is an 8 month plan we put together to grow and/or start another small group.

1. Prayer time:  Ask your group often about their relationships with the unchurched. We suggest mentioning names or situations during prayer time in each small group gathering.  This will keep the important subject in the minds of your group, as well as give your group a chance to celebrate what God is doing in and through the lives of group members and friends. (Start January 8th)

2. Throw a party:  one of the clear expectations for every group is to have a party every month.  If you are in the on-campus/Sunday School model, this is called the monthly social.  I have watched my parents for 30 years use this event to grow the community in their class.  Move beyond just the community in your group by once a quarter focusing this party on your friends who are far from Christ.  They get to see your group in a casual atmosphere and having discussions about real life issues. (Super Bowl Feb 5?)

3. Summer time outings: Summer time gives you more opportunities to do life together.  As you plan your monthly parties in June, July and August, remember to invite your friends to build more community with the group in preparation for the fall campaign. (Ice Cream, boat outings, cookouts)

4. Invite to Campaign:  Each couple should invite one or two couples to the 4, 6 or 8 week church-wide campaign in the fall.  Some people become very hesitant at this point because the new couples may not be church attendees.  This is not about church attendance at this point, your focus is to build a relationship with them and connect them to other Christ-followers.  Church attendance will eventually come as God continues to work in their lives.  Let the couples know this is a short campaign, at the end of which they can decide if they would like to continue or not.

5. Start new groups:  If all the couples decide to continue with small group, consider starting a new small group or two.  The group in this illustration will be apprenticing 2 couples and 2 co-leaders from January to August.  If the group feels they are too large to experience quality community or cannot subgroup in the same house, then they will be ready to launch out with new groups.

You have 3 weeks to get ready for a new year.  What effort will you give toward growing your group?

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Disclaimer

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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