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How To: Plan an Impactful Church-Wide Study for Fall

There’s something about the blistering heat of mid-summer that makes me think about planning for autumn. Stay with me, here: I step outside into what I can only describe as “sunburn as I walk to the car” weather and yearn for the crispness of fall, which makes me think about my church’s vision for the back-to-school season.

This reminds me that now is the ideal time to plan an impactful church-wide study to bring your congregation renewal and growth for the fall. I’ve seen the effect a powerful study can have on a church during the transitional time between summer breaks and the winter holidays—here’s how you can use this time to prepare for a successful Autumn Church-Wide Study:

1. Have a vision.
How do you want to implement the study? Do you have small groups that need to be rallied after a summer off? Do you want to begin a small group ministry with this study as the catalyst? (If so, check out our Small Group Ministry Resources.) Do you want to invite the communities surrounding the church to join in the study? Having answers to those questions will help you create your big-picture vision for the next few months.

2. Build a team.
Once you have your vision, consider the church members who will be the best leaders to make the vision bear fruit. These may not always be your “go-to” leaders. If you want different results than those of previous church ventures, a different team may be what you need. Be judicious and prayerful in your choices.

3. Set the goals and objectives with your team.
Once you have the team God designates for you, share your vision with them together. Begin to brainstorm on the goals that, when met, will result in the vision being fulfilled. Make a step-by-step plan to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

4. Develop a leadership structure to mobilize the entire congregation.
Each member of your team should create their own team to mobilize and involve your church members. These tend to be the most necessary teams to create a strong, successful church-wide fall study: Prayer team, Communication Team, Small Group Coaching Team, Administration Team, and a Worship Planning Team.

5. Give yourself time to mobilize the congregation.
There’s a reason why you want to begin NOW, instead of in a few weeks. It takes time to build the right team, plan your strategy, and mobilize the congregation. An ideal timeline looks something like this:

  • 8-10 weeks out build the leadership team
  • 6-8 weeks out recruit your small group hosts and leaders
  • 2-4 weeks out recruit participants.

But even if you don’t have this much time, start NOW for the groups you want to launch at the end of September. The Spirit-Filled Life is the ideal Autumn Church-Wide Studypreview a sample today, or order your Campaign Kit to get your study off the ground!

The Power of Alignment: Preparing for an Unforgettable Lent

This blog series explores the impact and long-term growth your church can experience through an intentionally aligned, church-wide small group study. Today’s post focuses on the impact of aligning every part of a church’s Lenten programming to engage a congregation in every way. This is the first post from the series: The Power of Alignment in Your Church.

The goal of alignment is simple: engage a flock of growing parishioners to do more than just attend services, instead energizing the church through their deepening spiritual passion and unity. By aligning your congregation with Individual, Group, and Service participation, you encourage different levels of connection that lead your church closer to the throne of Grace.

But what, exactly, does that alignment look like? Here’s a sample of a Day in the Life of an aligned church:

Daily Devotion: If each member is reading The Crucified Life as a personal daily devotional, they’re already engaging on a personal level with the idea of picking up their Cross and following Christ. Here’s an example: Day 8 of The Crucified Life

Small Groups: Each weekly meeting of a Small Group will act as a hub for discussion and engagement regarding the daily devotions. As the small groups are meeting, God will be doing amazing work in the lives of the members of your congregation; that work must find expression and manifest corporately in word and sacrament, in spirit and truth. Ultimately, this campaign is about transitioning people–getting them connected to God through connection with each other. This transition is accomplished through the use of small groups following the model of Acts 2:46-47:

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Youth Engagement: This plan is one that engages every member of your congregation, including young people. With The Cross Walk, the youth of your church can connect with their family members and friends as they, too, learn to walk in the way of the Cross with lessons that mirror the adult ministry. Take a look at the second week’s lessons to see the similarities across the board with the other content: Week 2 of The Cross Walk.

Weekend Services: The worship services during the campaign are powerful times that can harmonize the many elements of the campign and underscore the curriculum in a memorable manner. Through the use of several tools designed specifically for The Crucified Life campaign, your services will become the time when the power of alignment is on full display, synthesizing the entire campaign for your congregation.

Guarding the Faith

“O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’ for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.” – 1 Timothy 6:20-21

 

Paul’s final charge to Timothy is to “guard the deposit entrusted to you” (6:20). As a minister of the Gospel, Timothy is being sent into a battle on the front lines for the very Gospel itself. He needs strong encouragement to see the importance of the task and ministry with which he has been entrusted.

The need for Paul’s letter was occasioned for two main reasons: geography and time. First, Paul was simply not able to be in more than one place at a time. The delegation of leadership to others was an essential task for Paul if there was to be a geographically broad gospel movement. As Paul traveled on his missionary journeys moving from region to region, city to city, town to town, many new congregations were planted. New leadership had to be developed in each region, city, and town. Coordination and support of those various congregations also became mission-critical for the gospel.

The second issue was related to time. Paul was always keenly aware that his days of “fruitful ministry” were numbered. The issue of succession was critically important to Paul as he empowered Timothy to lead and then to identify and empower more leaders for the churches.

In this way, we see the first examples of succession and delegation at work in the church in the personal and pastoral relationship between Timothy and Paul. For Paul, the issue is not merely the passing of a torch humanly speaking, but for him it was critically important that the content and character of the gospel be guarded in order that it may be passed on faithfully to the next generation of leaders.

As each generation considers its own faith, it must also keep in mind the needs of the next generation of believers. We are given a sacred trust in the gospel of Jesus Christ, guarding the faith carefully so that it can be passed on.

In what ways are you delegating, passing on, and guarding the faith which has been entrusted to you?

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This post originally appeared on The Bible Challenge.

What is the Christian Life Trilogy, Anyway? (part 2)

This post is the second in a two-part series on the basic tenets of The Christian Life Trilogy for those who wonder about, or want to share information about the Trilogy with their friends, neighbors, or church leaders. See part one here: What is the Christian Life Trilogy, Anyway? (part 1)

The first series of the trilogy, The Crucified Life, begins the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and calls the corporate body back to the central purpose of Lent, to pick up our cross and follow Jesus as His disciples. The teaching and reflections invite us into the daily process of dying to self in order that we might fellowship in His sufferings of Good Friday and thereby attain the joy of Easter–unity with the Christ in His glorious resurrection.

But our new life doesn’t end there. In many churches, Easter Day is a glorious celebration of worship; yet mysteriously the church goes right back to the normal routine just as things are about to get exciting! Easter is meant to be more than one day–it is meant to be an entire season of hope and renewal. That’s why the second book in the series, The Resurrected Life, explores how everything changes in the light of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus says, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

The activating and energizing power behind both the Crucified and Resurrected Life is the Holy Spirit of God. The Spirit-Filled Life, the third in The Christian Life Trilogy, explores the activity of the Holy Spirit calling us to Christ, gifting us for service, and pouring out the love of God in our hearts that we might carry that love to the world. Discover what it means to “walk in the Spirit” on a daily basis.

Our hope and prayer for you and your congregation is that these materials would be used by God to bring the life of Christ to your church in an exciting new way. As you gather in small groups and in corporate worship, may the dynamism of the living God stir your hearts with His truth, fill you with hope, and equip you with power. We invite you on this unique walk through the Christian journey, from Crucified to Resurrected to Spirit-Filled Life!

Take the first step and preview the Trilogy today.

 

What is the Christian Life Trilogy, Anyway? (part 1)

This post is the first in a two-part series on the basic tenets of The Christian Life Trilogy for those who wonder about, or want to share information about the Trilogy with their friends, neighbors, or church leaders. 

The ebb and flow of the Christian life is a rhythm of God’s people moving back and forth from small group gatherings of fellowship, prayer, and study to larger group gatherings of corporate worship and celebration. All of the great missionary expansions of the Gospel involved just such movement–from small groups of Christians meeting together for mutual support, learning, and prayer to the larger corporate gatherings of praise and exhortation. Consider the example of the early church, recorded in Acts 2:42-47:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Notice the spiritual and numberical growth the early church experienced as a result of their mutual support and devotion. When Christians share their lives together with one another, the Lord Jesus manifests His presence among them–God is glorified.

In many ways, the small group meeting and the large gatherings on Sunday are interdependent, mutually beneficial to one another. The small group held in isolation from larger corporate worship can become isolated, unholy in its pursuits, and misguided by personalities and the whims of a few. In the same way, the large group gathering gains its passion and dynamism from the energy, accountability, and love fueled by small groups.

Bring the two together in a congregation and the Lord will add day by day those who are being saved–new life, new creation!

The Christian Life Trilogy seeks to foster the small group life of a congregation, but always with the aim and end of gathering the whole family back together in larger corporate worship and celebration. In this way, the series hopes to encourage a return to the things of first importance in the church–communal life and the heart of the message of the Church: Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. Therefore, we undertake this journey, following His command together to “remember His death, proclaim His resurrection, and await His coming in glory.”

The structure of the series reflects the pattern and heart of the Christian life. Every year, we calendar our lives around Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost, recognizing that Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension form the heart of Christian belief and reveal the heartbeat of God for the people of God.

Preview the Christian Life Trilogy today!

Read Part 2 here.

 

Implement a Small Group Study on Christian Life – Church-Wide Impact

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous posts in the series below the video.

I really hope you’ve gotten a better sense of how you want to implement The Christian Life Trilogy for your own congregation this Lent! The last video in this series is quite possibly the most impactful:

Ready to take your next steps? Order your Church-Wide Study Campaign Kit right here! It’s worth it to start planning today. To see the rest of the videos in this training series, click on the links below:

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

Implement a Small Group Study on Christian Life – Training Hosts

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous posts in the series below the video.

After you find your hosts, they need some support before they step out as leaders on their leg of the campaign! This video is all about getting them ready:

We have amazing resources to pass along to your hosts, as well, from our Small Group Host Webinar Series.

A reminder: it’s definitely helpful to have The Christian Life Trilogy campaign materials in hand as you prepare. You can order a Church-Wide Study Campaign Kit right here! It’s worth it to start planning today. To see the rest of the videos in this training series, click on the links below:

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

Implement a Small Group Study on Christian Life – Plan The Campaign

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous posts in the series below the video.

Once you have the leadership team God ordains, it’s time to plan out the campaign! Here’s how you and your team can begin to plan and prepare for a Lenten study series that is unforgettable:

A reminder: it’s definitely helpful to have The Christian Life Trilogy campaign materials in hand as you prepare. You can order a Church-Wide Study Campaign Kit right here! It’s worth it to start planning today. To see the rest of the videos in this training series, click on the links below:

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

Implement a Small Group Study on Christian Life – Recruit Hosts

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous post in the series below the video.

Are these videos fanning a flame in you to make the most of the season of Lent? Next up, author and pastor Rev. Charlie Holt shares how to spark that same desire in others as you find hosts for your small groups:

If you’re feeling less-than-confident about this step, take a look at some of our Small Group resources! 

Implement a Small Group Study on The Christian Life – Build a Team

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous posts in the series below the video.

Are you ready to grow your congregation in size and Spirit? The next step is to build a strong team. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, explains how:

See the other training videos in the series below:

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

Implement A Small Group Study On Christian Life – First Things First

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series! 

Learn how to energize your congregation and leverage their spiritual gifts for a church-wide study that is life-changing and faith-affirming!

What do you think? Have anything to add? Tell us in the Comments!

To see the rest of the series, check out the links below!

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

 

Implement a Small Group Study on Christian Life – Exponential Thinking

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous post in the series below the video.

You’ve made the choice to align your vision with the heart of the Lord for your church. Where do you go from here? Do you “go big?” See how to take the next step into exponential thinking in the next piece of this series:

Ready to take the next step? See where we’ve been and where to go from here with all the videos in this series:

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

What Are Christians To Do?

Like many of you, I am deeply grieved by the continuing tension in our nation—shootings involving police and race in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, protests around the country, and more violence targeting the police in Dallas and other areas. All of this follows the recent mass shooting in my own city of Orlando. What is happening to our nation, and what are we as Christians to do?

A Christian citizen of the United States can’t help but feel discouraged.

The Scriptures describe how, in the last days, there will be an unholy trinity that takes the form of a seductive harlot, a politically appealing anti-Christ, and a violent beast. Throughout the history of the church, people have believed these three entities to be manifest in various people and movements. What is important is, until Jesus returns, there will be an ever-present manifestation of evil in various worldly forms. Behind all of it is the evil one himself, Satan. I believe our country is being stirred up by this evil one.

We know from Scripture that these sinister powers and principalities cause tremendous distress for the people of God and the people of the world. We also know that they are defeated foes! The promise of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that the days of evil are numbered. They will come to an end.

In the meantime, what are the people of God to do?

The answer is simple: Go on being faithful—endure. Do not allow intimidation, discouragement, despair, or weariness to keep you from maintaining a vigilant zeal in the Lord. The Gospel of Jesus remains this world’s only hope. We are the stewards of that message of eternal life and peace.

Now, more than ever, the people of our nation are open to solutions other than the ones the world has to offer. Let us be diligent and sober-minded in prayer. Be quick to give a reason for the hope that you have in Jesus. Enlist in the fight with the weapons of the Spirit. Pray for our nation. Repent of your own sin and anger.

The founders of the United States knew that for freedom to flourish in this government they devised for us, two other pillars also were necessary: virtue and faith. These three “goods” are interrelated and interdependent. All three are under assault today from every side. We need to rekindle them.

We rekindle faith and virtue by standing firm in the Gospel. The only thing that will reconcile the divisions in our nation is the Gospel of peace. There is no black or white, male or female, nor any other political or human division at the foot of the Cross. Jesus died for sinners, all of us. Faith in that radical grace has the power to dissolve anger, heal hurts, forgive wrongs, purify sin, and reconcile enemies. When faith and virtue are rekindled, real freedom for all can thrive.

We need spiritual renewal, revival, and reform in the United States of America. Pray for it. Work for it. Yearn for it. The work that we are doing as the body of Christ is mission critical. Commit yourself to standing strong as a representative of Christ’s freedom, virtue, and faith, no matter what the enemy does in this world.

4 Ways to Use the Summer Slowdown to Your Advantage!

Not five minutes ago I heard from yet another Pastor: “It is impossible to get ahold of people or work with them during the summer!” We’ve all been on both sides of the issue: either our summers are filled with activities and we can’t find a spare moment to respond to an email or return a phone call, or we’re sitting patiently behind a screen, hoping that an empty inbox will suddenly fill with responses we’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for.

Church leaders tend to be in the latter category during the summer months, and it offers a unique opportunity to prepare for the year ahead. Here are some of the best things that one can to do set your church up for success as the summer winds down and your congregation blasts into autumn full steam ahead:

  1. Plan for the next school year calendar.
    Sit down with your Education Directors to brainstorm and think through a plan for the Fall. How can you use the back-to-school season to increase numbers—are your youth programs encouraging students to bring new friends and their families? Consider and plan to create some ideal solutions that will help you leverage Christmas and the New Year to accelerate into the spring (Lent and Easter Seasons). Does your attendance tend to wax or wane during those months? How can you plan ahead to keep numbers steadily increasing this season?
  1. Plan for your autumn church-wide study.
    The fall is an ideal time to do a church-wide program, as well. To implement a program with success, you have to plan now. Begin thinking about strategy and budget, and create a leadership team. Build the overall launch team over the course of the summer and start to build a communication plan toward a fall launch. The Spirit-Filled Life is a perfect fall church-wide study!
  1. Minister to your key leaders.
    You’re probably not the only leader in your church experiencing a Summer Slowdown. Now is the perfect time to schedule some one-on-ones with your leadership team. Take stock of what is working, what isn’t, and what you both want to work on for the next year. Set goals, strategize, and give them time to feel valued and refreshed.
  1. Schedule in some fun!
    Have a social event to strengthen your leadership team. The summer shouldn’t simply be a time for planning and introspection. Be sure that everyone relaxes a bit before you all go back to work in the fall.

How are you using the Summer Slowdown to your advantage? Tell us in the comments!

Divide to Multiply: How to Turn One Powerful Small Group Into Many

The Kingdom of God spreads through multiplication, and it is effective to be intentional about using your small group ministry to multiply the power of God to build His Kingdom. When you have a powerful small group that is changing lives and impacting people, it may be a good idea to consider splitting the group into two (or more) groups in order to multiply that effect. This goes against the nature of many people, who think “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but we urge you to consider this concept.

Positives and Negatives

There are some really powerful reasons to consider dividing up groups:

  • More groups are available to members of the community or church.
  • It helps to develop new leaders, who might not have otherwise had the courage or opportunity to step up.
  • It keeps groups small, which is best for the sense of closeness and community (8-12 people is ideal) – more than that, it’s time to divide.
  • It helps to guard against exclusivity. A group that is together for a long time without bringing in new members can become inward-focused and self-centered, rather than outwardly focused on building the Kingdom.
  • New friends and new relationships are built.
  • Personal growth is enhanced. When we get settled into a long-time group, we often find ourselves in a comfort zone and not challenged to grow. Being willing to sacrifice comfort and accept new challenges will enhance our opportunities to grow.
  • New enthusiasm is introduced. People who are beginning something new often have a fresh enthusiasm that long-timers have forgotten. Bringing in new people can keep your mindset open and fresh.
  • It’s a new opportunity to reach people who desperately want/need a group. There might be people in your church/community who are in deep need of a Christian community who just need an opportunity to join a group of people who will encourage their faith.
  • It’s biblical! Christ Himself used this model with His disciples. They moved from disciples to apostles, who grew their own ministries and spread His Kingdom all across the world!

It’s also important for leaders to be aware of potential negatives to splitting. There will be resistance from members who are happy and comfortable in the current small group. Some very entrenched groups might resent being forced to change, so a leader has to be prayerful and wise about how hard to push the group to split. New groups will very likely not be as good as the old group was, at least in the beginning. Members have to be prepared for there to be a transition period that might be difficult or uncomfortable.

How to Successfully Divide and Multiply

Once you decide to move forward with splitting a group, here are the steps for making it as successful as possible.

  1. Cast the vision early – it’s important to affect the larger body of Christ.
  2. Select an apprentice or two and give them opportunity to grow as a leader. Encourage them to be preparing to start their own group. Start them small with simple tasks and then grow their responsibilities as they’re ready.
  3. If possible, pre-determine the mission of the NEW group and talk through it with existing group members. This may uncover some common denominators among existing group members that a new group can be based on – a shared experience or goal rather than just location or life stage.
  4. Ask for volunteers to serve as host early on – either occasionally or on a regular basis. This will expose people to various leadership tasks and help build confidence in their ability to lead.
  5. Determine who will go where. Create 2 groups out of the current members – some staying and some members going with the new leader. Alternatively, the existing leaders can leave to start a brand new group and put a new leader in place, or several groups can break off and all begin new groups. These conversations can be awkward and result in hurt feelings. Encourage everyone to be open and honest, be filled with grace, and remember that the purpose is to build the Kingdom.
  6. Count down. Don’t wait until the last minute – encourage group members to pray about the possibilities. It also gives members time to embrace the idea of dividing as you are likely to have push back on this concept.
  7. Celebrate the new groups and keep casting the vision!

Making the Decision to Divide

How does a group leader know when it’s time to divide and multiply? It may be time to divide when:

  • You sense there is a leader in the making
  • Discussion with your members sounds positive
  • You have prayed about it and feel that it’s time to move ahead
  • Your group has been together more than 18 months

Timing is everything. Don’t divide in the Spring. Stay together through the Summer; share some great memories and divide in the Fall.

Conclusion

The ultimate goal of small groups is enabling life change through discipleship in community. After a group finds success and does well, it’s time to start thinking about how to expand the group’s impact. One powerful way to do that is to break up the group. That might sound counter-intuitive, but dividing a group can make room for more people to join, be affected, and multiply the number of lives changed. Dividing to multiply may not make sense in math class, but it’s magic in small group ministry. Boldly move forward and see how God will multiply your groups for His Kingdom!

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Watch a 50-minute recorded webinar presenting this material:

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