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Small Groups, or groups with any desire to grow, have to share the load. One of the foundational multiplication processes for group growth is through apprenticing, sharing the load of leadership and learning about leading. However, the word “apprenticing” has lost much of the meaning in daily practices. To be more clear in our training we have now started calling this position Co-leader.

Most Small Group Ministries offer a couple of new group launches each year. These launches are a time for people to sign-up/join a small group for a particular sermon/study series or become part of the group for on-going Bible study. The more new groups a ministry can offer each year, the larger the number of adults that will be in Bible study each year. On average, a new group can add ten new adults to Bible study. If your church is averaging 300 in worship, launching 3 groups may be a great target for January. You could possibly see 30 adults added to Bible study. While that is easy math, finding those leaders can be very time consuming and frustrating. But if your current groups have co-leaders who have been given a chance to lead, learn and pray for their unchurched friends, and desiring to connect those friends in Bible study…tapping them on the shoulder about leading a new group could make the enlistment process a lot more simple.

Our training is much more intentional about the leader enlisting a co-leader during the beginning of our pre-launch training efforts. Just imagine if a potential new group leader walked up to you Sunday and said “I want to start a small group in my neighborhood. I have enlisted 3 other couples who will help start it with me and one of them said they would be my co-leader.” Do you think this would make a difference in our jobs as small group pastors and point people?
Would it make a difference in  our ministries?
Would it make a difference in our neighborhoods?

Building a culture that will make it normal to enlist your own co-leader and a few friends to help you start a group will benefit much more than just your group launch number.

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August has passed. This is one of the key months of the year that most Small Group Ministries try to launch several new small groups and hope to add many new people to Bible study and community. So what do we do now? Among the tasks of getting reporting systems smoothed out and working properly, adding names to the database, visiting groups and meeting with group leaders to solve surprises and hear God stories….we start more groups.

I had rather work in God’s timing than try to convince him to work in mine. By that I mean it is difficult to enlist and train leaders during the summer. But in order to be ready for the August launch that is required. Church-wide series/campaigns are still the best way to connect the most people, and August is the “return to church” season. So we can’t do without the seasonal launch, but I encourage you to not stop there.

This week I met with a guy who feels he needs to start a small group in his neighborhood.  His comments opened with: “You know we wave as we leave in the morning. But we don’t know each other and we live within walking distance of each other.”  Then we discussed the opportunity to start a group and he asked, “When should I start?”  I told him whenever he could have a cookout and invite his neighbors…and his family could be there.(Of course I will get him with other leaders and meet with him for training and support.)

Sometimes, we make starting a group more difficult than it has to be. A simple way to add people to new groups is have the leader invite 4-6 couples they know. Start with a cookout/BBQ/bonfire.  Introduce people to each other, discuss life and family. Talk about the struggles, fears, hopes, excitements and how your faith has helped you through life thus far. Share how getting together is a good thing. Talk about starting a weekly/bi-weekly get-together to discuss these things. Offer invites to individuals/couples to come to your next get-together, date, time, location and what to bring.

These steps could be the first step to starting a new group anytime of the year. I can’t wait to see what God does in my friends neighborhood through his obedience to the call to start a new group.

 

In April 2018 I changed jobs to become the Adult Groups Minister at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, TN. A church I have followed and known well over the years, or so I thought. This blog clarifies what Granny told us all many years ago, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

I assumed Brentwood to be a very driven church as it ministers in a very driven community. What I discovered: a very encouraging Pastor, church, staff, and attendees. Through my transition of beginning a new role in a new office at a new church I have discovered what I believed to be true not to be the case.  The dress code, the time clock, the performance test, the hurried pace I expected were all proven wrong within the first few weeks. High expectations of quality service, dedication, care, compassion, encouragement, spiritual pursuit, and prayer…of course are at Brentwood Church.

Both my parents passed away over the last 4 months. The members, staff and Pastor have prayed with me, sent cards, flowers, calls, stopped by my office, and forced me to be out of the office more than I could have dreamed.  My grieving has been made easier through the care and compassion of Brentwood Baptist Church! The hurried pace of life is slowed with Soul-Care days, Chapel services, Deacon visits for encouragement and prayer, a nurture team with handwritten cards coming in daily, and flowers being delivered to my office…all contribute to the holistic view of Brentwood’s care and compassion over performance and are supported by statements such as:  “A better Eddie is a better Brentwood.” “If your hurting, we hurt, and you cannot be healthy for the ministry or Kingdom. We are here to help keep your soul focused on Jesus.” “We want you serving out of your overflow relationship and love for Jesus.”

The fresh views a move makes available to you, whether that be a church, a community, or a life-stage change, help paint a clearer picture of the phrase “when you get to know them.” The phrase “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” may apply to your life too.
Have you gotten to know your neighbors?
What about the other parents on the team?
The new guy at work?

I am thankful for Brentwood Baptist, especially during this time in my life and transitions of life. Don’t depend (or wait) on God to move you to a new town, new job, new stage in life to give you fresh views of the life you have. Start today to see your role with a fresh view.

(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

10  WAYS to LIVE SENT THIS SUMMER (SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF POST)

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.

movieonlawn

You have probably heard some of this before.  You may have seen Steve Gladen talk about his street in a conference.  Maybe you read Randy Frazee’s book The Connecting Church. You may have bought the book 101 Ways to Reach Your Community by Steve Sjogren.  But still wonder how to impact your neighbors with Christ’s love.

Here are three easy steps to get started impacting your neighbors this spring.

1. Draw your streets: What would you consider your neighborhood?  Do you already have friends on your street?  If you have a dog or like to walk for exercise, the spring time is a great opportunity to walk the streets of your neighborhood.  As your walking notice every house, car, swing set, pool, etc.  Pray for the family who lives there and watch for opportunities to build a relationship with your neighbors.  When you return home, draw your streets and place a square marking each home.

2. Place name on each house:  Begin to place a name on each home and how you can pray for them.  You may have noticed a swing set, pray for their children; you noticed a business sign on a truck in their driveway, pray for their business.  It won’t be long before you begin to build relationships and get to know a few neighbors by name.  You may realize that you attend the same church.

3. Plan parties: Have a dessert party in your home for your new neighbor friends. At this party, plan neighborhood parties that this group can host.  Here are a few we have hosted: cookout, bonfire, can collection event for local food pantry, wiffle ball  tournament, flower sharing event…the list is endless on ideas for parties for your neighborhood.

The parties will be opportunities to build relationships with more neighbors.  Through these relationships you will be able to impact your neighborhood by discovering needs, services, common interests, etc.  These relationships will not end with the event but open the door for you to be able to share Christ with your neighbors.

Easter is coming soon.  it has been one of the best opportunities for our neighborhood to come together.  We host a 2 hour Easter Egg Hunt (actually hunt is about 10 minutes) in which eggs, prizes and leader are all from our neighborhood.  We divide the hunt by age divisions, even leaving time for the parents to participate in an egg toss.

This maybe your first step to impacting your neighborhood.

I met Zech 2 years ago in Haiti.  He was on staff at the Chadasha Guest House as the security guard.  He was very quiet and never really close to any of us.  Zech would stay in the front room or hang out near the gate of the property. When our LifePoint team would travel through out Port-au=Prince, he would ride along for our protection.  At that time Zech was not a Christ-follower nor did he know much English. I guess that is why he did not interact, but just tagged along with us.

Since that first trip Zech has continued to be security for the Guest House as well as on travels around the city.  He has walked with visitation teams, waited around with doctors and nurses at the clinic, played with the children at the Children’s home, and walked the Tent Cities with mission teams from the United States.  Zech did not say a much on our initial mission trips. His common pose for pictures, if you could catch a photo of him,  was to ‘never smile’

In spring of 2010 Zech gave his life to Christ.  He began to work on his English speaking and study God’s Word.  He gathered 4 other English speaking Haitians around him and continued to grow in Christ and English.  In 2011 he began to get involved with leaders of Chadasha in a discipleship Bible study each week.   He challenged the other Haitian guys to be dedicated to the study.

I cannot tell you the shock I had when I once again traveled to Haiti last week, Zech met me at the front door of the Guest House.  He smiled and said ‘Welcome’ in his unique Haitian-English accent.  That was not the only surprise I received during the week.  Each morning our team would visit people who lived closed to the church we were serving.  Zech was one of the team leaders and interpreters. On more than one occasion Zech would take the lead on witnessing and challenging people to give their life to Christ or ‘get back in church’. Our team watched as he lead one lady to Christ right on her front porch.

It has been 2 years since my first introduction to Zech. Yet it feels like a life-time of difference this young man in Christ has experienced.  He has thrown himself at the feet of Jesus, learning everything he can about Christ and his Word.  His weekly discipleship group has grown from not having Bibles to caring, quoting and living out Christ.

Last week our team witnessed a new step in Zech’s spiritual walk.  He met a lady while visiting with our team who was paralyzed.  Zech felt led to make a difference in more than just praying with her.  When he returned to the Guest House he called his discipleship group together and challenged them to make a difference in people’s lives.  He was going to give monthly to a fund and then share it with people who had special needs.  He challenged his group to match his monthly gift.  In a country where $3 a day is a good, solid salary, Zech is giving 14% of his income to others, over his tithe to the church.

Zech moved from tagging along to taking the lead!

Here Zech is presenting the money he and his discipleship group raised to help handicap adults in Haiti. (and holding true to his pose of ‘never smile’)


Zech’s reply when asked “What is wrong with this lady?”

“well, she’s my sister in Jesus Christ she’s paralyzed she don’t have anyone to taking care of her and her family but now God gonna taking care of her and her family.

Zech’s life is a challenge to me to live for Christ at another level.  Tagging along as a Christ follower is not sufficient.  It is time for me (and maybe you) to take the lead in serving and sharing Christ.

(You can friend Zech on Facebook at Henry Ezechiel)

You have been praying for your unconnected friends and neighbors.  You worry about the spiritual condition of those around you.  You have found the security that comes from being in a Small Group and you want others to experience this same thing. Here are six reasons that you can discuss with your friends and neighbors on why they should be in a small group:

  1. Understand the Bible better through group discussion as you apply the Bible to your own personal situations.
  2. Develop close relationships with other believers who will walk beside you in your journey as a Christ follower.
  3. Find answers to the needs in your life through group prayer.
  4. Get support in times of crisis or major changes from people who really care for you.
  5. Demonstrate to your lost friends the love of Christ in a non-church setting.
  6. Move from being a spectator to a participant by using your gifts and talents as you serve others.

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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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