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What are you intentional about? -Being on time? – Eating healthy? -Exercise? -Landscape being perfect? -Having on the correct shoes? -Spending time with the kids?-Having the most recent release of the Iphone? -Improving your golf game? -Investing in your IRA?

Whatever it is, I bet you enjoy it, spend time weekly or at least monthly working on it.  There may be times when you take time off of work to focus on it.  You will read books, watch videos, talk to others who are doing it better than you.  What is it?

Let me suggest an area that each of us need to be intentional about: apprenticing.  You know your role in society, in God’s Kingdom, in your neighborhood, at your school.   A way to help more people as well as the next generation is to share what you have learned with others.

At LifePoint GroupLife we have spent the last 45 days trying to discover the key to doubling the size of our small group ministry.  We have been blessed to have many people to step up and host their friends, neighbors and co-workers in a small group.  Each of them has learned what it means to help each other become more like Christ next week than they are this week. They: 1. understand the Bible better through these group discussions. 2. Develop close relationships with other believers. 3. Find answers to the needs in their lives. 4. Get support in times of crisis. 5. Demonstrate to others the love of Christ. 6. Discover how to move from a spectator to a participant by using their gifts and passions to serve others.

The opportunity is ours.  Intentionality on our part could change a persons future.   Each of us has friends, neighbors and co-workers who do not have the chance to share their burdens, understand the Bible better or find answers to their needs in life.  So about what are you going to be intentional this week?

The 11U travel baseball team, Smyrna Bugs, began their sixth season this past weekend.  With the fields finally being dry enough to play, the Bugs entered Saturday excited and ready for spring.  Sadness was felt by the Bugs as we found out Justin would remain on the disabled-list through the weekend awaiting an MRI on Monday.

It was a learning day for the team.  Saturday’s opponents were as eager to get a win as were the Bugs.  They split the pool play going …5-1 and 4-5 against a couple of tough competitors from Kentucky. This landed the Bugs a 9:45am start time on Sunday, requiring two wins to make it to the big game.

Sunday was windy, cold and threatening rain.  The Bugs took the field with Patrick pitching.  Patrick went all 6 innings getting a 8-2 win over the Southern KY Sluggers.  Steven hit his first home run of the season in this game.

Then we faced the KY Bearcats who brought the heat on the mound with a kid who pitched in the upper 50s.  Gresham took the mound for the Bugs going 5 innings giving up only 1 run.  Dylan finished out the allowing only 2 runs.  A few key hits on top of a couple of walks and ANOTHER home run by Steven led the Bugs to a 6-3 victory and on the Championship game.

The Championship game would see the Bugs facing the Nashville Knights.  Aaron took the mound and pitched a great game.  His first five innings he threw twice as many strikes as balls and equally dominated the game. Hits were hard to come by for the Bugs as the Knights pitcher appeared to be throwing close to 60mph.  The Bugs ‘rallied’ for 1 hit and 1 walk and no runs for a loss.

Although we walked away with a 2nd place trophy and medals.  Seeing the ball carry to the fence by the stronger hitters and the pitches increasing to the speed-limit of metro Nashville made the weekend less than a total loss.  We learned Steven can hit home runs and our pitchers are strong enough to compete this year.  We learned Brandon could catch 3 games in one day, throw out runners and still be able to walk to the parking lot.

It looks like a highly competitive year again for the Smyrna Bugs.  Stay tuned as we share our sports lives and growth as individuals and as a team this year.

LifePoint church is a multi-campus church with campuses around the world. Each campus is working to start small groups, some beginning even before the launch of a worship environment.  As I work with the Small Group Coordinators of each campus, I am learning and building strategy to start and multiply small groups.  Each campus has unique situations and cultures and the learnings from each are being shared with all campuses,  helping to design our foundational processes in the future.
We are seeing three seasons develop as we try to build small groups from outside and inside the church.  We cannot limit God’s activity to only  those who show up on Sunday.  Daily God is giving us the chance to connect with people with whom he desires a relationship,  let’s help each other not miss these opportunities.

3 Seasons of developing a Small Group:
1. Relational season: who are the people you like to hang out with? neighbors, ball team, singers, boaters, skateboarders, etc. These are the people who make up your relational season.  1. I had 75 adults attend an Easter Egg Hunt.  2. I skateboard with 15 guys every week.
2. Potential season: seeking God’s movement in the lives of people who are in your relational season. 1. Out of the 75, it seemed that 12 families might have potential to discuss “God things”  2. Three of the guys mentioned God this week as we riding our skateboards.
3. Small Group season: over time this season develops out of the potential season participants.  There is no time limit on something like this.  People move at a different pace, but we can’t wait on all of them.  1. Of the 12 families only 8 would attend a cookout (BBQ) at my house.  And only 7 would commit to a meal every other week to discuss parenting. BUT, we had a small group! Over 2 years another family made the move to join our small group.  2. I now meet with the three guys weekly to discuss God stories and issues in their lives.

This process can be implemented anywhere because it is about life, not a church program.  The key is ‘progression of intentionality’ that we are building relationships and watching for God at work  Loving and helping others does not have to end, the friendship and relationships can grow and deepen as you begin to do life together.

Five members of Lifepoint Church traveled to Haiti last week for a mission trip to do leadership training. Billy Crain, Brent Holman, Elizabeth  and Peyton Bullen and I all set off early Saturday morning not knowing what God had in store for us. Our purpose was to train leaders of FBC Pernier AND BE FLEXIBLE!  If you have ever been on a mission trip you understand the seriousness of that word.

Mornings were filled with great food, a balcony with a beautiful view, cold showers,  and plenty of quite time to talk with God about all your about to face during the day.

Each day was filled with service opportunities and surprises.  Sunday worship was lively and full of volume as the people sang to the top of their lungs tunes that we all knew, but words we did not understand. Most of us were moved to tears by the intense worship and I realized God is God no matter what or where you are. Monday through Thursday we helped furnish a children’s home, conducting a mobile clinic, visiting in homes of church members who lived on the mountain and then a day at the orphanage.

The Children’s Home will house 20 kids when it opens in March. The mobile clinic was in one of the 84 Tent Cities.  It is very intimidating to be somewhere that does not a sense of personal space, you don’t speak the language, and the need is so great. The orphanage houses 47 children, 30 of which are up for adoption. The free school inside the orphanage has an enrollment of 114 children.

Each evening we conducted leadership training at the church. We used Jesus on Leadership by Gene Wilkes which helps people discover their: Spiritual Gifts, Experiences, Relational Style (personality), Vocational Skills and Enthusiasm (passion).  The theme that arose each night was the lack of apprenticing.  Even the translators had trouble finding a word to use to describe the process of ‘teaching someone what you know so they can do what you do and multiply yourself.’ The practice of apprenticing future leaders is non-existent in the language and lives of the people. I wonder if some of our teams in America have trouble with the practice or even using the word apprenticing?

Our week ended with the Pastor of FBC saying “Marvelous.  This is Marvelous. This is an answer to prayer!”  We will be sending three more teams this year, each continuing the teaching and modeling of apprenticing. The goal is for each current leader to have multiplied themselves by June through apprenticing .

What about your church, do you have a word for apprenticing?  Do you practice apprenticing and teach the practice to those around you.  We must develop the next generation of leaders by sharing what we know.

(For more pointed leadership development discussion see the blog post “I got it covered” from February 1.)

I was invited to attend a conference led by a leading and growing church from Idaho.  Really? Idaho? A leading and growing church in Idaho? This was too good to be true.  I had to meet the staff of such a church, so I hopped a plane and headed to the conference.

What I experienced was a former wrestling coach continuing his coaching, but for the Kingdom rather than a high school.  Jim Putman and his team taught and trained participants in what they call “Real Life Discipleship.” A process that he has designed that is simple, clear and reproducible. The training was very informational as well as inspiring.  Jim and his team sent us home with a new excitement for a clear direction for our churches.

From that conference in August 2010 (combined with the information from Willow Creek REVEAL conference) we have designed LifePoint’s discipleship pathway called the “Christ Centered Journey.”

Quoting Jason Stewart, Exec Pastor of Worship Programing, “One of the effective ways to move people to a devoted Christ-follower with their life centered on Christ, is communicating the reality that a life headed in the direction of Christ is a journey full of adventure with many steps, big and small. Specifically, we have crafted a communication tool called the Christ-centered Journey that gives definition to the common phases we all walk through in our Journey; helping guide people’s next steps in their faith journey.”

The Christ Centered Journey can be reviewed on LifePoint’s website.

What map, direction, communication tool do you have for people in your life?  Your church?  Your organization? If you are ready to begin on a design, get this book Real Life Discipleship.

Continuing my thoughts on how to ‘make’ a Disciple from Monday’s Blog.

There are a lot of people around LifePoint who have tickets to Titans, Braves, Vandy, Predators and Tennessee games.  Sometimes they offer these tickets to me because they know I love sports. I also get opportunities to speak or attend special conferences or events.  For all of these I am so appreciative.

One of the unwritten policies I have for my life and ministry is to always take someone with me when I go to games or conferences, hospital visits or meetings.  Obviously some of these happen during work hours and people are not always available. However, very few people will turn down a trip to a ball game or out of town conference, even if it is with me.  🙂

I am continually surprised at the amount of discipling that takes place in my car as people ride with me.  Even when my sons ride with me, teachable moments are numerous.  Conversations (either on my phone as they listen or between the three of us) really make an impact on the them, the next generation, and remind me that I represent Christ in all my conversation.

I have a couple of questions for you:

-Who is riding with you? What is your next trip that you need to take someone with you? child/potential leader/coach

-What questions are you asking as you fly/drive to your destination? football/struggles/wonders or dreams you have

For Small Group Pastors and Point People: The Small Group Network serves as a great opportunity to disciple other SG Pastors and your team.  Their motto: So no one stands alone.  Check them out, you may want to join this free network.

Can you believe how a simple word change can make a difference in the way we look at things?  The these two words have a tremendous different impact on our intentionality for life, ministry, family and discipleship.

In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus instructs us to “go and make disciples.”  Heather Zempel called to our attention the simple mistake we often make of changing ‘make’ to ‘find.’  She was speaking at the GroupLife South 2010 Conference hosted by Dave Treat and Friendship UMC.  This command requires intentionality, prayer, and some time.  And the outcome is much more productive when we ‘make’ disciples than just sitting around trying ‘find’ them.

At LifePoint every 6, 12, and 18 months we ask group leaders if they have an apprentice.  Is this apprentice ready to step out and lead a group of their friends through Bible study and service? The most common response is “I haven’t found one yet.”  This word change could change the next generation!

All of this leads to the next question “How do I make a disciple?” There are various answers, but in response to the apprentice question we apply the following practices in ‘making’ disciples.

-Begin by praying daily, by name for them.

-Ask them to serve alongside you as you serve others.

-Take them with you when you meet with others.

-Discuss upcoming Small Group study and share your notes with them.

-Let them lead a part of the next SG meeting.

For a formal training plan, Steve Gladen has put together a plan we also use called Crawl, Walk, Run.  Crawl =pre-enlisting him/her to lead a sentence/question in the next study.  Walk= discuss him/her before the next meeting an entire section of the study which they will lead.  Run=helping them prepare and lead the entire next study (while you are on vacation or attend the meeting to encourage them along.)

Find or Make?  What is your next step?


Number one discussion or question for most of our Small Groups is about childcare.  Here is LifePoint’s best answer for childcare. We encourage groups to enlist a student from our church to keep the kids for one hour of Bible Study. This process not only helps with babysitting, but also helps to disciple the next generation by sending them to our largest student event each year.

My story:  I asked our Student Minister to give me the names of junior or senior high girls who attend LP AND would be attending our student camp.  I contacted them one by one asking if they would be interested in going to camp for free.  Of course, they said ‘yes.’ Then I said our Small Group would take care of that if they would babysit one hour two or three times a month for our Small Group Bible Study time.  Now all I have to do is text them the time and address of our meeting and everyone leaves happy.

At other times we have just paid $5 per family (no matter the number of kids) for the one hour.  This has worked well for over two years now.

We only have the Bible Study for one hour, although our SG time is about two hours.  The kids and babysitter are highly encouraged to eat and hangout with us for the other hour.  We get to know our babysitter better.  She gets to hear adults converse about life, God, work and family.  We also get to hear about her life and camp experience, for which we paid.

To increase the quality of childcare we enlisted the University of Tennessee Extension Services to lead a training class on babysitting.  The participants walked away with a certificate and a backpack full of ideas for their babysitting careers.

Contact your church leadership about some names of people who can babysit for your group.  Build a relationship with the next generation that goes beyond just keeping your kids out of trouble for the hour, help disciple the next generation.

When I hear a small group leader say “I don’t know my Coach” I feel like we have missed the entire purpose of a Coach.   Part of the cause of this is in  enlistment and job description/clarifications of the Coach.  Sometimes we promote people past their passion or level of qualifications.  A great small group Leader who can multiply does not always make a great Coach. I worked for a large company several years ago and had this very discussion.  Just because I am good at my current level does not mean I will be efficient at the next level.  Nor should I have to move to the next level to be rewarded for my excellent work at my current level.

Clarify what you want people to do before you enlist them.  Then allow them some room to be entrepreneurial in the role.  If it is passion that got them here, passion will drive them to improve the position and their performance.

Here are some of our expectations for coaches that have helped us have success:

1. Develop Relationships With Small Group Leaders

  • Meet face to face at least once a quarter
  • Personal contact with leader (phone call/ email) weekly.
  • PRAY for Leaders and groups

2. Listen for Stories of how God is moving in the Group and/or concerns about a group, its leaders/members.

  • Ask questions of how the Leader is doing, how is group doing, and how are members doing.
  • Read GroupFinder Communication report each week watching for notes or chronic absentees and the apprentice.
  • Ask “What God is doing in them and in their group?”

3. Share stories/concerns with GroupLife Staff

  • Refer groups with issues to Coordinator or GroupLife Staff
  • Share moments, situations or service projects where God moved in groups
  • Help recruit small group leaders for video and blog articles to share their story.

Hope these help you clarify some of the expectations with your leadership organization.

There is an abundance of Small Group information, practices, patterns and processes.  It seems easy for a church to find a book or a practice and copy it…and then stops learning.  Here are five steps I recently took a church through that transitioned their thinking about Small groups.

The church was very new, had two small groups and was struggling to grow more groups.  After a few hours of conversation here are the steps we planned:

1. We defined Small Groups in a fresh way: Objectives need to be clear for success to be experienced in group life. Discipleship, Community and Service are the objectives for LP small groups.  This helps keep our focus off of when and where groups meet as well as what they study; allowing the group to live out these objectives like a family instead of an academic group. Define small groups by they church’s direction and design the processes that make groups more easily accessible.

2. We freed up leadership: Discussing the Pastor’s sermons was the ‘curriculum’ expectation for group leaders.  It is difficult to replicate this level of leader, one who can lead a discussion about a Pastor’s sermon.  It is very intimidating for most church attenders to be asked to write a couple of questions during the sermon, then lead discussion with other adults. We added the opportunity for groups to choose their study based on objectives and expectations, using Bible study curriculum or DVD led studies.  This opened up the leadership opportunity to many new people.

3. We looked outside the walls of the church: Up to this point, small groups had only targeted those who attended the church. However, when discussing relationships that could lead to small groups, each attendee had been building relationships with neighbors, sports parents and school leaders. By the end of our meeting we had discovered potentially 7 new small group leaders based on relationships.

4. We calendared Host orientation for all new leaders: We added requiring an interview and orientation for all small group leaders.  This helps each new leader know the goal, how to enlist their friends/neighbors on their own to establish a core group, and learn how to lead a small group.  This also gave us a chance to get to know the new leaders, know how to pray for them and know when to check on them.

5. We offered a connection event after worship on Sunday morning: In order to give those attending the church an opportunity to join a group, we conducted a connection event on Sunday morning following the worship service.  The groups were highlighted in the bulletin and had a display area to share about their interests and where they would be meeting.  People could talk with the leaders and decide which group they would like to join.

As you begin to look for opportunities to grow more small groups, look around the church.  Who has been building relationships with people outside the church?  Who might be able to pull a group of people together for a small group?

Maybe these five steps will make leading a small group in your church more desirable and successful.

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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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