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Life Change at the Member Level Begins with Me (& You)

By Mark Howell,  Small Group Expert

The optimal environment for life change is a small group.

We’ve all heard that line for years. Most of us have said that line so frequently that it is now an automatic response when we hear a counter opinion.  And yet…is it really true? And if it is true, is it a given? Or does something have to happen to cause the life change? If it is true, what are the conditions that make it true?

These are your questions too, right? If you’re the small group expert at your place, aren’t these questions at least bubbling up from time to time when it’s really quiet in your office? I know this has been a steady inner dialogue for me over the last years.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that the optimal delivery system for life change is a small group. You can read a little more right here about what I think. I just have gotten to the point where I’m very pragmatic about the steps that lead to life change. See…I’ve found that it’s not automatic. There are some ingredients that must be present to produce life change. You know it too. Here’s one of the most important ingredients:

Whatever you want to happen at the member level, must be part of the experience of the leader. Another way that I say it is that “whatever you want to happen at the member level you have to do to and for the leader of the group.”

Here’s what I mean. If you want the members of your groups to feel cared for, then the leader of the group will have to know how to care for them and actually do that. After all, a person can only give away what they already have. Does that make sense?

Here’s another. If you want your members to experience loving accountability, then the leader of the group will have to know how to do that and actually do it. How will that happen? The leader will have to be experiencing that in their own life.

Are you tracking? It’s a no-brainer, right? Makes sense, doesn’t it? Whatever you want to happen at the member level, you have to do to and for the leader of the group. The leader can only give away what they have.

And what follows naturally is this question: How will the leaders of your groups experience what you want them to be able to give away? My contention?  Somehow you will have to do to and for your leaders whatever you want them to provide to the members of your groups. End of story.

How will that happen? Because of the limitations imposed by span of care realities, in most cases you will not be able to personally provide that to all of your group leaders. After all, “everyone needs to be cared for by someone, no one can care for more than about 10.”

The obvious answer to this dilemma is some kind of coaching or mentoring solution. In that obvious answer is a whole series of posts. But here’s the point for starters. Whatever you want to happen at the member level must begin in you. Ultimately, it begins with you. If you’re running on fumes, if you’re only what you need to be on the very surface of your life, that’s what you’ll have to give away. And that my friends is at the core of the life change question.

Reprinted with permission by MarkHowellLive.com

Mark is the Pastor of  Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada.  He’s also the founder of SmallGroupResources.net, offering consulting and coaching services that help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries.

Connecting The Invitation & The Response

By Allen White, Small Group Guru and Church Coach

What if the difference between success and failure lies in the few steps between the sanctuary and the lobby? That’s what I witnessed about a year ago. The much beloved responsefounding pastor of a multi-site, megachurch invited his congregation to open their homes and invite their friends to join them for a six week study the church had produced. The curriculum was awesome. The pastor did the teaching. The topic was relevant. It was a sure thing, but don’t be so sure.

At the close of the service, the pastor made an impassioned appeal for his members to take the next step and start their own group. But, it wasn’t just one next step, it was 20-30 next steps out to the lobby. That evening a crowd of 1,000 adults netted 18 groups. All of our hearts sank.

The pastor had said the right words. He was presenting the right offering at the right time. The church was familiar with small groups. Why the poor result?

Over the years, I’ve seen great messaging become ineffective simply by the distance between the invitation and the response. The best curriculum, the strongest leadership or even the most carefully crafted appeal can all unravel in a matter of minutes if the wrong step is given in recruiting group leaders. A few simple nuances can net a profound effect.

At that church, we made a quick change. Rather than prospective group hosts responding by signing up in the church lobby after the service, the new next step involved no steps at all. The response was simply to take out a card and sign up right there in the service. The cards were collected at the end of the service. The result went from 18 groups to 248 groups in less than 24 hours. The final result over the next three weeks was 1,100 new groups across all of their campuses.

I am convinced most people only think about church when they are sitting in church. Any effort to send people to the lobby or God forbid send them home to sign up on a website simply does not work. By the time well intended church members hit the threshold on Sunday morning, their stomachs have raced to lunch and their minds have raced to evacuating the premises as soon as possible. The moment has gone.

The closer you connect the invitation to the response, the better the response. If the invitation is made in a service, then collect the response in a service. If the same invitation is made by a video email at midweek, then collect the response in the email. By simply providing a link in the email, a willing member can click the link and sign up to start a group right on the spot.

In a perfect world, church members would go home, login to the church’s website, and sign up electronically. No fuss. No sign up cards. No data entry. Simple. That world does not exist. To send someone from the service to the lobby or to their computer to sign up is equal to making no invitation at all. The reverse is also true. To send an email midweek asking for a response the following Sunday is just wasted megabits.

Think like the people who sit in your rows.

  • What’s available to them in their row?
  • Is there a response card or do you create a card?
  • Do they have a pen?
  • Who will collect the cards? Are they placed in the offering, collected at the end of the service, or handed to an usher on the way out?
  • Maybe pen and paper doesn’t cut it. What else do they have? What about their cellphones? Can they send a text to a designated number (not yours!)?
  • When you send an email invitaiton, can they fill out a survey or a web form?

Missed opportunities occur when you can’t adequately collect the response. These thoughts may seem elementary. They may seem unnecessary. You may feel you are getting a good enough result from how your collecting responses now. Or are you?

Reposted from AllenWhite.org with permission.

Allen White has devoted the last 25+ years to helping people find Christ, make meaningful connections, grow in their faith, and find fulfillment in ministry. He has successfully launched hundreds of groups as an Associate Pastor.  Additionally, he  works with Brett Eastman and Lifetogether, coaching hundreds of churches of all sizes and denominations over the last 10 years. He has a B.A. in Biblical Studies and Missions and a M.Div.in Christian Education. He and his family live in Greenville, SC.

10 Assumptions That Shape My Small Group Ministry

By Mark Howell,  Pastor & Small Group Expert

We’ve talked many times about assumptions. If you’ve been along for much of this adventure, you’ve probably read more than your share of articles on assumptions. If the idea of assumptions is unfamiliar to you, I’ve linked to a few of my favorites below.

I’m thinking about my assumptions about small group ministry today because of a question a reader asked me recently. Their question was so obviously the wrong question that it caused to me to wonder why in the world they are doing what they’re doing.

You can ask the wrong question, you know. Albert Einstein famously said,

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.

Identifying the right question is a critical skill. And that caused me to reflect on my assumptions.

Here is a list of my assumptions (about small group ministry):

1. There is no problem-free solution.

Early on I looked for problem-free strategies. Eventually I realized there are no problem-free strategies. Every strategy, system and model comes with a unique set of problems. Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  See also, The Pursuit of Problem-Free.

2. Unconnected people are one tough thing away from not being at our church.

Every delay at connecting them puts many of them in jeopardy. Putting off the connecting opportunity in order to line up some timing issue increases the likelihood that for certain unconnected people the window will close. See also,What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting People?

3. The optimal environment for life-change is a small group.

know this. And you know this. That’s why we believe small groups must be prioritized. Circles, not rows are where life-change happens. See also,Essential Ingredients for Life-Change.

4. Joining a group in a stranger’s living room is the second scariest move (preceded only by coming to church for the first time).

This makes a safe and familiar on-campus first step out of the auditorium a key to connecting people. See also, How to Calm an Unconnected Person’s Second Greatest Fear.

5. The people with the most connections inside the church have the fewest connections outside the church.

Conversely, the people with the least connections inside the church have the most connections outside the church. This is an understanding that makesHOST a great idea. See also, Exponential Outreach.

6. Every group of ten has a relative shepherd(and most adults can quickly identify the person they’d be willing to follow).

In a Malcolm Gladwell sense, everyone can see very quickly who the leader should be. See also, How to Connect People No One Else is Connecting.

7. The leader of a group only needs to be a step or two ahead of group members.

Even Jesus didn’t look for Jesus Jr.  See also, Top 5 Signs Your Church Really Wants to Be a Church OF Groups.

8. I need to make it as easy as possible to begin “leading” and nearly automatic that the new “leader” step onto the leadership development conveyor belt.

I’ve longed believed the first part of this assumption. The second part is a more recent add-on that is a critical understanding. See also, Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Leadership Development Pathway.

9. Whatever we want the members of a group to experience, the leader has to experience first.

This makes coaching or mentoring an essential ingredient for any small group strategy. Coaching is only initially about teaching technique. It is primarily about doing TO and FOR the leaders whatever you want the leaders to do TO and FOR their members. See also, The End in Mind for an Effective Coaching Structure.

10. Prioritizing the launch of new groups connects the largest number of unconnected people.

Prioritizing the needs of existing groups connects the fewest unconnected people. See also, Are You Prioritizing the Launch of New Groups?

What question was so obviously the wrong question?

The essence of the question was, “Have you written anything on how to best connect people with (existing) leaders? One of my greatest issues right now is connecting people on a Sunday with (existing) leaders.”
What makes that the wrong question? Easy. Emphasizing connecting unconnected people with existing leaders (who already have groups), leads to connecting the fewest unconnected people. Prioritizing the launch of new groups (via a small group connection,  GroupLink, etc.) leads to the connecting the largest number of unconnected people.

Reprinted with permission by MarkHowellLive.com

Mark is the Pastor of  Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada.  He’s also the founder of SmallGroupResources.net, offering consulting and coaching services that help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries.

5 of the Best Practices of Thriving Small Group Ministries

By Mark Howell,  Pastor & Small Group Expert

BEST PRACTICES: “A procedure that has been shown by research and experience to produce optimal results and that is established or proposed as a standard suitable for widespread adoption.” Webster

You can learn a lot by studying the best practices of thriving small group ministries. You can improve your results by adopting the best practices of thriving small group ministries. Occasionally, you can improve your results by adapting the best practices of thriving small group ministries to fit your context. I say occasionally because adapting most commonly strips away the design elements that produce the results you hope to attain.


Note: In the spirit of “there’s an upside and a downside to everything,” you will never produce break-the-mold innovation by emulating perfectly a best practice.


5 of the best practices of thriving small group ministries:

The senior pastor is the champion.

You shouldn’t be surprised to learn this. It is just the way it is. There is a reason the two most thriving small group ministries are Saddleback and North Point. Rick Warren and Andy Stanley figured out a long time ago that people do what the most influential person in the organization promotes.

Another important element of this best practice? The average attenders of Saddleback and North Point couldn’t pick Steve Gladen and Bill Willits out of a line-up because they lead their small group ministries from behind the scenes. Small group leaders and coaches know them. But the public face of the small group ministry is the senior pastor.

Think about it: Is your senior pastor the champion? Or does someone else play that role?

 

Thriving small group ministries are promoted year-round

Do you have an annual small group push? Maybe at the end of September? Or in early January? You need to know that thriving small group ministries are year-round endeavors. They are promoted 52 weeks a year. There may be times of greater emphasis, but highlighting group engagement is never out of season.

Thriving small group ministries are always looking ahead to the next opportunity to connect to a group. They are also highlighted year-round in the language of message illustrations and stories of life-change.

Churches with thriving small group ministries rarely miss the opportunity to reference the prominent role of small groups in their strategy. Don’t believe me? Try listening for the drumbeat in a North Point or Saddleback weekend service.

Think about it: Does your church promote small groups year-round? Or is there a groups campaign every year?

 

Churches with thriving small group ministries ministries clarify what is most important

They may have more on their menu than small groups, but there is no mystery or confusion about what is most important. If you have any doubt, a quick look at the websites of churches with thriving small group ministries will confirm this. A look at their weekend service program and verbiage from the stage will provide conclusive evidence.

Emphasizing the importance and priority of small groups forces deemphasis of anything and everything else (that might cause confusion about first steps or next steps.

“Should I do this? Or this?” is an uncommon question in churches with thriving small group ministries.

Think about it: How clear is the importance and priority of small groups in your church?

 

Thriving small group ministries are budget priorities

Want to build a thriving small group ministry? Take a look at your church’s general budget. Can you tell from the budget that small group ministry is important?

The budgets of churches with thriving small group ministries are powerful indicators. And it is very important to note that their small group ministry budget explains their results (as opposed to their results being rewarded with budget increases).

Think about it: Does your staffing structure (which is a function of the budget) indicate that small group ministry is important? Or does your staffing structure indicate something else is really more important?

Does your website indicate small group ministry is important? Is it easy to find out about the next connecting opportunity or learn about small group involvement?

Does your on-campus promotion (signage, kiosk, welcome center, first step experience, etc.) indicate small group ministry is important? Is it clear to unconnected attenders?

Does your facility reservation and availability indicate small group ministry is important?

Thriving small group ministries deliver a robust experience

Getting connected and doing life together may be the beginning, but it is not the destination. Making better disciples, life-change, becoming like Jesus, doing what Jesus would do, is the end in mind.

Thriving small group ministries deliver a robust experience. Far beyond closing the back door, small groups are designed to help group members become steadily more like Jesus, experiencing (and practicing) the one-anothers as a way of life.

Think about it: Do examples of groups that “get it” stand out? Are they commonplace (happening all the time)? Or extraordinary (the rare, out-of-the-ordinary group)?

Reprinted with permission by MarkHowellLive.com

Mark is the Pastor of  Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada.  He’s also the founder of SmallGroupResources.net, offering consulting and coaching services that help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries.

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.

 

The Crucified Life Quick Launch: A Crash Course to a Holy Lent

The Crucified Life

The Crucified Life is a seven week study focusing on the Seven Last Words of Jesus. The study is intended to begin a process that leads to surrender to the Lord, leading to a closer relationship with the Lord. The Crucified Life is meant to bring forward and answer questions of the importance of Lent. As you navigate through The Crucified Life, you will gain more insight into why we go through the practice of Lent and how Lent brings us closer to the Lord, by celebrating His death and resurrection. Find out what it means to walk in The Crucified Life this Lenten Season, and watch the below video to learn how to lead your congregation through this study together.
In this post we are sharing a summary of the webinar video below on quick launching a church-wide small group Bible study. The Rev. Charlie Holt, along with The Rev. Allen White and Theresa Summerlin, walked through everything you need to know about launching a church-wide campaign, specifically with using The Crucified Life materials for Lent. In the webinar the team talked with people who are starting a small group, answering questions that arise from experience and planning.  If you have questions about starting your small group and preparing your congregation for a transformational Lent, start by checking out the video!

Watch the video below:

The role of the Senior Pastor in The Crucified Life is to align the congregation to the Holy Season. If your Senior Pastor is not on board with the alignment, reach out to Fr. Holt here and he will gladly speak with you and your pastor on the increased congregational engagement and other benefits of church-wide study.

Applying The Crucified Life as a Church-Wide Study

The Sunday before Ash Wednesday, also known as Forgiveness Sunday, is when to launch The Crucified Life. This is the first time your small groups meet for this study. On this Sunday, as a church-wide study, the sermon should focus on forgiveness. Then, the following Sunday would be Salvation Sunday, focusing on the Thief on the Cross passage, and the sermon will be on the theme of salvation. Each theme from the Daily Devotional books could be a theme for a sermon. Reinforcing a theme from the video teaching could be another source of inspiration. Or even preaching on a topic that you feel was missing from the teaching, to broaden the discussion and truly connect with each week’s study.

Make Good Friday the culmination of The Crucified Life study—end with a powerful transition into the resurrection and The Resurrected Life.

Good Friday Sin Box:

Make a box with a slot in the top out of cardboard. Setup a large cross and beneath it place the Sin Box. Have the congregation write down the things that were stirred up through the course of The Crucified Life and put them in the Sin Box. In this way we give our sins to Jesus and lay them at the Foot of the Cross. Then burn the box as the new fire for the Easter Vigil Service.

Recruiting the Hosts

We all have a small group! If your congregation is uncomfortable hosting and inviting people they don’t really know into their home, then have them start with family and friends. Getting to know the Lord with family and friends will create deeper more meaningful bonds with each other. Another great way of supporting groups is rotating hosting locations, whether in different host homes or going to a coffee shop. This will help remove some burden from a single person, and create opportunities for more hosts to discover themselves.

For the next two Sundays, work hard on recruiting hosts, then the two Sundays before Ash Wednesday should have a focus on recruiting participants. Help connect hosts and participants that are missing that connection or don’t know as many people in the congregation. One fun and different way to make new groups, from The Rev. Allen White, would be to challenge the people of previous small groups to give up their group for Lent to form new groups. As he says, it’s not a typical thing to give up, but it is a great way to create new connections in your congregation.

The church staff and leadership might often want to be in a group together, but have them break out and create groups as mentorships. Using church staff to get groups started is another great way to find hosts to get small groups off the ground, and from there groups can grow.

Host Sign-Up Form

Have ushers hand out this sign-up form and pick them up during offering. This direct ask is a fast and successful way to collect interested hosts!

Goals are Great!

The key is having a goal! If you don’t make a goal, you won’t hit one. Set a goal for the number of hosts and the number of participants. Even if you don’t hit the goal, you might get close and you will have something to aim for in the future.

The Crucified Life small group study can be a powerful tool for making Lent meaningful in your congregation, and this is the outline of how you can get it done. For more help launching your small group study, check out our blogs on Small Group Bible Study and It’s Importance in Early Christianity and TodayAligning Your Church and Planning for Small Group Study, and Let’s Do Lent: Transforming Lives with Small Group Ministry.

 

Let’s Do Lent: Transforming Lives with Small Group Ministry

The Steps to a More Impactful Lent!

The Rev. Charlie Holt
The Rev. Charlie Holt

See the original post from our 2015 posting of our webinar: Let’s Do Lent: Transforming Lives with Small Group Ministry

The Rev. Allen White
The Rev. Allen White

Author of “Exponential Groups: Unleashing Your Church’s Potential,” the Rev. Allen White joined the Rev. Charlie Holt for this webinar entitled “Let’s Do Lent: Transforming Lives with Small Group Ministry.” Allen is an expert in small group optimization. Our focus is on the steps to a more impactful Lent!

Watch the video below:

Purchase your small group campaign kit today

What’s Our Vision?

A Church-Wide Small Group Campaign

In the webinar, The Rev. Allen White and The Rev. Charlie Holt explain what it looks like to have a church-wide campaign and address the keys to a successful church-wide campaign. And of course, we hope you take interest in our small group curriculum, The Christian Life Trilogy, which is designed to align the heart of the Gospel with the heart of the church year.

What is the Key?

Aligning the Hearts of the Church, Christian Faith and Our Church Year

Why Is Alignment Important?

The importance of alignment is taking what you learn on a Sunday into the week. Most people will forget the message of the pastor in the first 24 or 48 hours. Often by Tuesday, the lessons of the Scripture will be lost. By tying the small group Bible study into the Sunday worship, we are once again exposing ourselves to the topics that will enrich our lives, as well as giving us the opportunity to discuss with others and identify practical applications of these lessons. This builds the momentum of the transformation.

What Are the Benefits of Alignment?

Your church becomes unified when everybody is learning and expanding on the same topics, at the same time. The greatest benefit of alignment is growth. This is best done in small groups, so each person has the chance to speak up, ask questions, and truly engage with the Scripture. This growth springs from the interaction and deeper discussion. Small groups create an opportunity for more people to participate. Gathering together as a small group of friends adds to the ability to grow as disciples, in and out of the Church.

Fr. Holt took the opportunity to grow his congregation one Lenten Season. Rather than having a speaker host a teaching during the week, his church studied The Crucified Life. On a typical night with a host speaker (a great one at that), the Wednesday night attendance would reach a maximum of 100 participants. However, when they did a small group campaign studying The Crucified Life, they had 40 groups meeting around the city, with 400 participants! That is even more than Sunday attendance! Small groups get more people involved and more people to become disciples of the Lord.

Small groups can meet any time, this is much more practical to increase participation. You can meet anywhere, Fr. White even had a small group that met on a commuter train. Finding a time for a small group to meet that fits the schedule of 10 or so people is much easier than a church-hosted mid-week teaching that must fit the schedule of the whole congregation.

Setting God-Sized Goals

What Goals to Set?

The first time starting a church-wide campaign, you want to see about 50% of your people connected in groups. These are your early adopters, the people that could end up becoming part of your leadership team in future small group campaigns. The next campaign season should build another 25%, and then it will grow from there.

Shared Experiences

Those who begin a small group campaign together will continue to grow together through this experience and build in discipleship. These people who study together become friends, involving each other in social activities and outings, as well as service ministry. “It’s easier for people to cross the threshold of a home than it is to cross the threshold of a church,” says Fr. Holt. A small group is a great way for new people to become more spiritual. It is less overwhelming to first join a small group before attending a church worship. Gathering with friends is a perfect way to introduce new people to a relationship with God through this friendship.

Preparing and Planning: Key Considerations

Time

How much time does it take to plan a church-wide campaign? Six to 10 weeks ahead of time is a great place to start. Bible Study Media recommends following these three phases:

  1. Recruit leadership team – one month to build your team
  2. Recruit small group hosts – one month to recruit hosts
  3. Recruit participants to be in the groups – one month to gain members

This can be condensed into a shorter timeline, but this order is what we’ve found to be the most successful in the implementation of The Christian Life Trilogy. The key is to build your leadership team and a group of hosts, then give people enough time to arrange their schedule to become participating members of a small group.

Building Our Community

Who Makes a Small Group Campaign Champion?

Find one person to be a coordinator, maintaining administrative duties; this is the Campaign Champion. This person keeps everything going, working with the pastor and beyond. The Campaign Champion should be organized, detail oriented, interested in people, and have a fire for the vision of the campaign. They should push the timeline toward success!

The Leadership Team’s Role

Prayer Team Coordinator

Communications

Promotions

Staff Coordinator

Administrative Support

Mature Believers

Spiritual Gifts of Your Small Group Leaders

small group host possess main spiritual gifts

Building a leadership team is very important to the success of your church-wide campaign, no matter the size of your church. When you have a group of leaders that is already excited and sees the vision, getting the ball rolling on the campaign will be much easier. And hopefully, the people on the leadership team will host a group, which means from the start you have 3 or 4 small groups ready to be established.

One thing about small groups that is so wonderful is you really get to see people use their gifts. These are the spiritual gifts that God has given them. The gifts of a great small group host are warmth, leadership, ability to delegate, and charisma, but they don’t have to lead the discussion every week. If you have the strength to gather a group, you have the strength to keep that group alive. The best small group host is not one who teaches, but one who offers hospitality.

Remember to always set God-sized goals for discipleship. The best way to create a small group campaign is to start with the leadership, the people that will help carry the vision to reality. When finding hosts, keep in mind that the perfect host is one who enjoys bringing people together to grow as a group. The greatest gift of all is watching as your small groups grow with transformation. Learn more about starting a church-wide small group campaign with The Christian Life Trilogy!

Learn More!

At Bible Study Media, our mission is to faithfully spread the message of the Bible. We are happy to answer any questions you might have about Christian formation and Bible study curricula; please reach out to us here. We will continue to produce information on starting your own Bible study groups, so stay tuned!

Learn more about small group campaigns

Aligning Your Church and Planning for Small Group Study

We recently held the first webinar of this season’s series, “The Keys to a Successful Small Group Campaign.” In the first webinar, “What is a Christian Life Trilogy Campaign & What Does Small Group Bible Study Look Like?” author of the Christian Life Trilogy, The Rev. Charlie Holt discussed the importance of aligning a whole church with small group Bible study and how to plan for a small group campaign. To check out the video of the webinar, click here!

What do we mean by alignment?

A church-wide study, bringing into union all the different ministries and life of the church. The Crucified Life, The Resurrected Life and The Spirit-Filled Life are written to correlate with the Lenten Season, which is before Easter Day, then Easter Season, and then after Pentecost Day, which is 50 days after Easter.

Why is alignment important?

If we do this study in alignment with the regular pattern of the Christian year, it makes tremendous sense to the people who are going through the study. Allowing for deeper exploration and discussion of themes touched on in large group gatherings. Also, by following the Christian year, there is an opportunity for the whole congregation to work through the heart of the Gospel together at the heart of the Church year.

small group Bible study

3 Steps to Building Our Community

Obtaining 100% congregational involvement and building small groups require planning. Now is the time to begin planning for a Lenten campaign and study! Think about this in three ways:

1.       Build Your Leadership Team

Build the team that would focus on doing The Christian Life Trilogy as a church-wide study. Set your goals and make your plans.

2.       Recruit Small Group Hosts and Facilitators – H. O. S. T.

Use this acronym when deciding the right hosts and facilitators to recruit for your small groups:

Heart for other people

Open your home

Serve something simple

Tell a few friends!

3.       Invite Small Group Members

Have the hosts encourage and invite friends from the different parts of their life to join the small group discipleship. Remember that everyone already has small groups in their lives, people with whom they would like to spend more time and become greater disciples of the Lord.

Small Group Bible StudyYour Launch Timeline

Follow this timeline to plan your campaign. This is the optimum timeline to organize and plan for a launch date on Forgiveness Sunday, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday.

Leadership Team: November – December

Build your leadership team, and have meetings with this team. Make sure your leadership team is your “A-Team.” If you are working toward 100% congregational involvement, put your best people on this projects. The leadership team should be very involved and invested in the life of the church, and a voice of the church.

  • Senior Pastor/Leadership Onboarding
    • Campaign Director
    • Prayer team coordinator
    • Small Group team coordinator
    • Communications team coordinator
  • Set God-sized Goals and Plan
Small Group Hosts: December – January

One thing you can do is use Christmas Eve to recruit hosts and members. Promote your small groups while you promote your Christmas Eve service. This is the perfect time to give people a next step in growing their relationship with God. This will help grow your church’s membership involvement throughout the year.

  • Order Curriculum
  • Sneak Peek for Existing Hosts
Small Group Members: January – February

Having a connection event to help small group hosts to recruit their small group participants. This gives your whole church an opportunity to participate without leaving anyone out.

  • Build Anticipation Christmas Eve!
  • Connection Event
LAUNCH DATE:

Forgiveness Sunday, February 11, 2018

 

Creating Your Goal and Making it Exponential!

small group Bible study

As a leadership team, setting goals are important to get 100% involvement. When you are considering how many small group hosts you need, be sure to consider the number of groups you will need. Start by considering how many people come to church on a Sunday. If you have 100 people on average for weekend attendance, divide that by 10 people in each small group, and you would need to have 10 small groups with 10 group hosts. Even for small churches it is very accessible when you look at it this way.

Experienced in small group ministry and instructing how to create successful small group ministries, Rick Warren says, “You can structure for control or for growth but you can’t do both.” One reason people don’t like to use small group campaigns is because they fear the loss of control. They want to manage the environment by keeping things at the church location and having one teacher. Doing small groups you lose this ability to control by inviting lots of people to get involved. You don’t know where those small groups are going to be, but the more people that get involved, the more growth you will see. Making small groups worth the loss of control.

small group Bible study

Pastor or Priest Engagement

If you are going to have a church-wide campaign, it is critically important to receive the support of the senior pastor, priest, or rector of the church. If you need help with getting your pastor interested in small group Bible study, Rev. Holt is happy to help. Please feel free to reach out to him, and he will work with you and your pastor to discuss engagement. Contact Rev. Holt Here.

What is your pastor interested in?

Having a hard time getting your pastor onboard for your envisioned campaign? Sometimes there are barriers. When you are casting vision to your pastor, think about the things they are interested in.

  • Increased connection (Pastoral/Fellowship need)
  • Increased spiritual growth (Discipleship need)
  • Increased attendance (Worship need)
  • Increased serving (Ministry need)
  • Increased giving (Stewardship need)

All are results of SMALL GROUPS!

How Do I Reach My God-Sized Goal?

  • Plan a Launch: Crucified Life in Lent 2018
  • Recruit Your Campaign Team – NOW
  • Set Your Goal – with your leadership team
  • Recruit your Small Group Hosts – Dec/Jan
  • Connect Your Congregation into Groups – Jan/Feb
  • Coach Your Hosts for Success – Ongoing

If you would like to join in our next webinar of the series, to pose your questions and receive feedback, register here:
small group Bible study webinar series

Remember we want to help you strive in your study of the Lord. Bible Study Media is here to guide you to a successful church-wide campaign. If you have any questions or concerns about getting your small group campaign off the ground, please reach out to us. Learn more about the themes of study in The Christian Life Trilogy from our recent post: The Things of First Importance.

small group Bible study

The Things of First Importance

We recently held the first webinar of this season’s series, “The Keys to a Successful Small Group Campaign.” The first webinar is titled, “What is a Christian Life Trilogy Campaign & What Does Small Group Bible Study Look Like?” In the webinar, The Rev. Charlie Holt, author of the Christian Life Trilogy, discussed the importance of small group Bible study and how The Christian Life Trilogy will aid in transformation, growth and friendship. To check out the video of the webinar, click here!

1 Corinthians 15:1-4

small group Bible study

The things of first importance are the foundation of The Christian Life Trilogy, following the Heart of the Gospel. Paul tells us that the most important news is the death of Jesus Christ and His rising to new life. The pattern of the Christian life is one of dying to self with Jesus, in order that we might be raised by him and filled with the Holy Spirit. The Christian Life Trilogy is a transformational process focusing on the things of most importance.

The Heart of the Gospel:
  • Jesus Crucified
  • Jesus Resurrected
  • Jesus Ascension and Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

Small Group Bible Study

The Crucified Life

Luke 9:23

small group Bible study

Our call to discipleship is to walk the way of the Cross, which means dying to self. This is the place it must begin, as dark as it might seem. You cannot be reborn until you have taken up the cross and died to self with Jesus.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” We resist change, because it involves losing something, but change also brings growth and new beginning. “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort,” Dr. Brené Brown says. “You cannot have both.” The Christian life is not going to be a comfortable life, it will involve change and aspects of ourselves that will be lost. But we will work to become the new thing that God would have us to become.

7 Words from the Cross

The seven last words of Jesus are the process that leads us to surrendering our lives to Jesus. Through the seven weeks of The Crucified Life you will better understand this process. Beginning with forgiveness, we will study through salvation, the relationships we all have, the distress of temptations of our flesh nature, with abandonment we think about external problems, challenges and suffering in life. Ultimately, we move to a place where we are working toward surrendering our lives to God, leading to the finish line of triumph.

Forgiveness
Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
Salvation
Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.
Relationship
Woman, behold your son. Behold your mother.
Distress
I thirst.
Abandonment
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Reunion
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.
Triumph
It is finished.

 

The Resurrected Life

Revelation 21:5

small group Bible study

The other side of transformation is the Lord making all things new. The Risen Lord can make all things new once we have surrendered our lives to God, as he did for us. To surrender, we must overcome our worldly doubts and fears. We must let go and allow God to lead us in this new life.

Making All Things New

What becomes new with the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? He wants to give us a new life, a new temple, a new body, a new covenant, a new creation, a new day. We experience these themes as we work through the scripture study each week. Gaining understanding of what becomes new and how this newness applies to our lives as we follow Jesus in The Resurrected Life.

All Things New
Overcome Doubt and Fear
New Life
Letting Go and Letting God
New Temple
Inviting God’s Presence
New Body
Manifesting Jesus
New Covenant
Experiencing Resurrection Power
New Creation
Stewarding the Good News
New Day
Living in the “Now” but “Not Yet”

 

The Spirit-Filled Life

Ephesians 3:14-19

small group Bible study

All the Fullness of God

Ultimately, the plan of God is that we might be filled with the fullness of God through the Holy Spirit. So, what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? This begins with the baptism through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, after which we are adopted as children of God. The Holy Spirit works in our lives and our hearts to transform us internally, like a butterfly from a caterpillar. Manifesting the fruit of God through love, joy, peace, patience and kindness. The Holy Spirit equips us with the gifts we use in the service of God’s kingdom. The Spirit of God empowers us to do amazing things, with more power than we have on our own. And through this learning and growth we become God’s anointed Christian people.

We have had over 200 congregations in 8 different countries go through these studies. One thing we hear the most is that The Spirit-Filled Life is their favorite study, of course it is! This is the study in which we are fully engaging in the Christian Life and closest to the fullness of God. But you cannot get to The Spirit-Filled Life unless you walk the way of the cross and experience that ever important death of self.

Baptized
The Outpouring of the Spirit
Adopted
The Calling of the Spirit
Transformed
The Fruit of the Spirit
Equipped
The Gift of the Spirit
Empowered
The Work of the Spirit
Anointed
The Mission of the Spirit

If you want to be part of the upcoming webinars of this series, please register here:


small group Bible study webinar series

Now that you have learned more about the themes of The Christian Life Trilogy, try a free sample to get a taste of the transformation. If you haven’t already, check out our recent post about small group study in early Christianity and the benefits of developing small groups: here. Next, we will go over the importance of church-wide study and how to plan your small group campaign. If you have more questions about The Christian Life Trilogy, please get in touch.

small group Bible study

 

Small Group Bible Study and It’s Importance in Early Christianity and Today

Last week began the first webinar of this season’s series, “The Keys to a Successful Small Group Campaign.” Author of the Christian Life Trilogy, The Rev. Charlie Holt discussed “What is a Christian Life Trilogy Campaign & What Does Small Group Bible Study Look Like?” In the webinar Rev. Holt talked about the importance of small group Bible study throughout scripture and early Christianity, and how it helps us further our transformation. To check out the video of the webinar, click here!

Acts 2:42-47

Acts 2:42-47

These were the practices of the early Christians, the people who had just devoted their lives to Jesus. As a new church they were committed to:

  • Spending time together, devoting themselves the apostles’ teaching in the study of the scriptures.
  • Fellowship, gathering together.
  • Breaking bread together, meeting in each other’s homes to share in communion.
  • Prayer!

Small Group Bible Study

A main observance in the early church was to congregate in the temple courts and then gather in small groups, in homes to continue in the fellowship of the Lord. Early Christians used these small group gatherings to praise God and enjoy each other’s presence. A critical component since the beginning of the founding of the church. And as they did that, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved!”

We all have a small group!

We all have a small group

Friends, Family, Fellowship, Fun, and Firm!

Who are people you would love to spend a little more time with, in your home, reflecting on the Christian Faith and Christian Life and do life together with. Maybe you could list out the people you would like to bring together. We all have people we would like to know better, and spend more time with. Gathering to study scripture is a great way to deepen relationships with each other and God. You might be surprised how much a small group can build into a great bond.

Story of Mary and Martha

Open your home to Jesus and Small Group Bible Study

Martha opened her home to Jesus, in the same way we would open our homes to a small group Bible study. Martha was frustrated with her sister, Mary, because she wasn’t helping her to prepare. However, Mary was focusing the thing we should all focus on in small group study, listening to and learning from the Lord. We can get wrapped up in the details and preparations, becoming distracted from our discipleship. We think we must entertain the people we wish to gather with, this can be discouraging and cause us to refuse to open our homes.  You need not “entertain,” for everyone who has joined you wants to learn more from the scriptures, grow through discussion, and spend time together. If you get too distracted, it will take away from the growth you and your group can achieve together. Remember to keep things simple, prepare lightly, and focus on the fellowship and study. When Rev. Holt and his wife host small group studies, they will often present water and maybe a simple tray of cheese and crackers. This is all you need to prepare your home for a wonderful study among people who share the same love for Christ.

The Great Commision

Matthew 28:18-20

Make disciples of all nations

Jesus tells us to make disciples of all nations, which is part of the reason it is so important to have small group study. This is the way Jesus built his following, he gathered a group of 12 people, spent time with them, did life with them, and over time they were able to learn and grow through him. He invites us to use the same model. And as we do this, He promises to be with us, always.

Why We Need Small Groups

Creating small groups, outside of large group gatherings, helps to build discipleship and greater connection with the Body of Christ. Small groups lead to intimate discussion and deeper fellowship, as we get to know one another. As a church gets bigger, you must get small. Meeting in homes is a great way to do that!

What is the Benefit of Small Group Bible Study?

transformational small group Bible study

Small groups lead to transformation. Building intimate friendships, learning about faith, becoming a people of prayer and study, and connecting to God.

  • Increased participation and connection with one another.
  • Increase in spiritual growth. Friendships grow as we begin to speak love and truths to one another.
  • Increase attendance. You start to look forward to worshipping in a large group, even more, with the friends you’ve made in a small group.
  • Increase in serving. Small groups create an outlet for ministry, planning and serving the community together.
  • Increase in giving. Teaches us how to be unselfish people, leading to a more generous life modeled through transformation with the help of your small group friendships.

If you want to be involved in the next webinar of the series, register here

small group Bible study webinar series

We will be following this blog with two new updates related to the webinar. Next we will cover “The Things of First Importance,” this will go into further detail about the themes of The Christian Life Trilogy and the transformation brought on by the in-depth study. Followed by “Aligning Your Church and Planning for Small Group Study,” where we will help you understand the importance of aligning the study of your church and how to organize your small group campaign in time for the Lenten Season. If you have more questions about the benefits and purpose of small group Bible study, please reach out to us.

Learn more about small group campaigns

The Spirit-Filled Life Daily Devotional

We at Bible Study Media want you to experience the glory of the Holy Spirit. Reverend Charlie Holt created the The Spirit-Filled Life to invite others to come under the Kingdom of God by first being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. During this six-week study, you will explore how God’s will for you is to baptize, adopt, transform, equip, empower, and anoint you by, with, in, and through the Holy Spirit.

Read the first day’s study of The Spirit-Filled Life and remember: When God calls us to wait and simply trust without knowing what’s next, prayer is always a good choice. So devote yourself to prayer; pray for patience and wait upon to Lord.

Excerpt from Day 1 Devotional
Setting the Stage

READ ACTS 1:12-26

Have you received your gift yet?

That may sound like copy from an infomercial, but I’m actually talking about something very real and very important—the gift Jesus Christ promised His followers. You will remember that after Jesus rose from the grave, He astonished His disciples by appearing to them over a period of forty days in various places. Then, on the fortieth day, He assembled His disciples atop the Mount of Olives and instructed them to go to Jerusalem and wait. What were they were supposed to wait for? The outpouring of the Holy Spirit!

As Jesus explained to them, “…John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5).

But before we talk about the Spirit’s momentous arrival on the Day of Pentecost, I want to set the stage for you.

The first time we read about baptism in the New Testament is actually when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist (“John, the Baptizer”) before He began His earthly ministry. At this moment, when Jesus was talking with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, He was assuring them that they, too, would be baptized, only with the Holy Spirit.

The disciples responded to Jesus’ words with a question, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).

At first, this question seems rather “off-topic,” no? In one sense, it definitely was. But in another, it was perfectly natural. Jesus had just proven Himself the Son of God by rising from the dead. The disciples were excited. Jesus was back, alive! But no sooner was He back than He was talking about going away again. They were not so excited about this. And they were confused.

If Jesus really was planning to leave again, they wanted to know one important thing first: Did He plan to reunite the kingdom of Israel before He went? Would He restore their nation to the center of world power and domination as they’d been hoping? Jesus answered this way:

“It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed
by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy
Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem
and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Acts 1:7-8

Imagine the bewilderment of the disciples! Jesus refused to tell them anything about restoring the kingdom to Israel. Instead, He uttered some mysterious words about being baptized by the Spirit. Then He promptly disappeared into the clouds. “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).

To add to the confusion, two men dressed in white appeared beside the disciples and asked, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Wow. That’s a lot to take in. So, what did the disciples do?

They returned to Jerusalem. Makes sense. They went back to their base, and to where Jesus had directed them to go. What did they do when they got there? “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:14).

So far, so good. The disciples obeyed Jesus by going back to Jerusalem and devoting themselves to prayer. When God calls us to wait and simply trust without knowing what’s next, prayer is always a good choice.

But then, all that waiting and praying started to get old. Sound familiar? Peter—the disciple known for his impetuous spirit—wanted to do something, not just sit around and pray. What did Peter suggest?

Well, you will remember that the disciples were now down to eleven after the suicide of Judas. Don’t we need twelve? thought Peter. So he convinced the others that they needed to replace Judas and fill the empty spot.

They found some good men, cast some lots, and came up with Matthias as the “replacement” disciple. Now, here’s a question: When did Jesus ask the disciples to replace Judas?

He didn’t.

I think the reason this story of Matthias is included in Scripture is to caution us about taking things into our own hands when the Lord’s timing seems a bit slow for us. We rush ahead instead of waiting on God’s guidance and provision. You see, there actually was a replacement disciple—but it wasn’t Matthias.

Interestingly, we never hear of Matthias again in the Scriptures. Who do we read about instead, throughout the entire book of Acts? Who became the famous apostle who wrote much of the rest of the New Testament? The Apostle Paul. Isn’t that interesting? The disciples used a game of luck, casting lots to choose Matthias, when God had somebody waiting in the wings, soon to be called through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes we jump into a decision when the answer is soon to be presented to us. I’ve done that many times. Have you? We try to solve our own problems when the Lord has a solution, and if we just wait a little bit longer, we will discover it!

The Spirit-Filled Life

Quiz: Are You Cut Out To Be a Small Group Host?

One of the top comments Church Leaders hear when encouraging church members to be small group leaders is: “Are you sure I’m who you want? I don’t think I’d be good at this at all.” The answer lies within the results of this simple quiz you can take (or send to your parishioners) to help potential Small Group Leaders discern if they’d be successful in the role.

So… are you cut out to be a Small Group host? Take this quiz to find out:

  1. Do you care about others?
  2. Do you have/know of a space where a group of people could meet in front of a television?
  3. Do you have access to water and snacks?
  4. Can you turn on a DVD player and press ‘play’?

If you answered “yes” to these questions… then you meet the four HOST qualifications:

H – Heart for others
O – Open your home
S – Serve basic refreshments
T – Turn on your DVD player

Many potential hosts are concerned about the things that Martha would’ve been concerned about in Luke 1o:

“My home isn’t tidy enough!”
“I’ll need to make a big meal for everyone!”
“I won’t have enough help!”

Jesus answers all of those fears: My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her(Luke 10:41-42, NLT).

As a Small Group Host, your ultimate job is the same as the one the Lord designed for both Mary and Martha: humbly provide a place for all (yourself included) to sit at the feet of Jesus in a spirit of worship and learning.

If you’re still not sure, consider this: Jesus entered the world in a barn. He sat upon a donkey as He entered Jerusalem. He always valued relational communion with God and community over pomp and grandeur. Why should your Small Group be any different?

Knowing all this, here’s your Pop Quiz Bonus Question: Is He calling you?

If you’ve decided to host a Small Group, but aren’t sure where to go next, check out our library of Small Group Leader Webinars, or see if The Christian Life Trilogy might be the perfect study to begin with your Small Group!

Small Group Host Webinar Series

Whether you’ve been a Small Group Leader for years or are still considering whether or not hosting a Small Group is right for you, our Webinar Series on hosting small groups will have something that will make you look at the role in a new way. Below, find links to summaries and videos of all the webinars we conducted last year in order to help hosts and leaders make the most of their groups.

Topic 1: Why are Small Groups Important? How Can I be a Great Leader?

Topic 2: Growing Your Small Group

Topic 3: 8 Goals to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Small Group

Topic 4: 5 Key Elements of a Healthy Small Group

Topic 5: Top 5 Small Group Challenges (And How to Solve Them)

Topic 6: Divide to Multiply: How to Turn One Powerful Group Into Many

What’s next? 
Looking for a study to keep your group members engaged? The Christian Life Trilogy has 20 weeks of consecutive studies and Small Group material to help members connect with each other and grow deeper in relationship with the Lord. 

How An All-Inclusive Study Benefits Your Church

It happens in every church—different ministries send members in different directions over time. While the youth may have one focus during Sunday school and another on Wednesday evenings, the adults could be deep in a sermon series as well as their own small group studies throughout the week. On the surface, we accept that this is “just the way it is” …but what if the routine was disrupted? An all-inclusive church-wide study might be just how God plans to bring your congregation closer together—here’s how:

1. It helps the congregation focus.

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 12:12

As members of the Body of Christ, we’re all pulled in different directions, as our God-given gifts lead us. It’s wonderful, but just as we each need to allow our physical bodies to come to complete peace and healing from time to time, the Body of Christ needs to do the same. An all-inclusive church-wide study provides just such an opportunity—each spiritual gift can have a place in the planning and execution of the study, but each member of a church ought to participate, as well, providing a spiritually reviving experience for the entire church family.

2. It brings the entire church into a discussion of faith.

Cross-generational spiritual conversation is often lost in today’s culture. The advent of technology has been a blessing (providing the ability to reading the Bible from an app and then sharing the Word with thousands of people across social media channels), but it’s also led to a tendency to draw inward instead of connecting with those (physically) around us. This phenomenon isn’t isolated to younger generations, either—we all feel the pull of the smartphone glow from time to time—but an all-inclusive church-wide study helps to provide the foundation for intergenerational reconnection. The opportunity for children and adults to study the same topics (at levels that match their maturity) is one that fosters discussion, bonding, and spiritual growth among the entire Body of Christ.

3. It concentrates energy and time around key learnings.

While there is a time for multiple studies to take place within a church, a continuous segmentation can lead to a church body that is not fully connected or focused. Multiple competing efforts can diffuse enthusiasm (instead of inspiring it). An all-inclusive church-wide study provides an opportunity for the entire congregation to be on the same page and can lead to more overall support, participation, and excitement for the study.

See how you can engage your entire church with an all-inclusive study today–preview The Crucified Life and The Cross Walk to learn how they can be the right fit for your congregation!

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.

Beginning or Improving Your Small Group Ministry: Catalyze a Movement

In addition to discipleship and personal life transformation, launching a small group movement can build an increased sense of community among your congregation. Starting a small group movement can jump-start the sense of connection between church members. As a result, you can more effectively reach your community through the now deeper-connected members of your church. We recommend the following progression for accomplishing just that:

1. First, connect your church members to small groups. Launching new groups and connecting your church members to these small groups is a high priority. One way to get more new groups to begin meeting is through a campaign–aligning a church-wide curriculum with the weekly sermons and encouraging participation in the study. The alignment provides incentive for the congregation to study the Senior Pastor’s message more fully in their small groups and Sunday School classes. It provides an opportunity for the Senior Pastor to ask for people to host a new small group or lead a Sunday School class so that everyone can get connected. New group hosts and leaders can attract unconnected people they already know to be a part of their group–their family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and others they meet on occasion.

2. Second, connect church attendees to small groups. Here, church attendees who are unconnected to others in the church can get connected. New group hosts and Sunday School leaders are recruited from the church membership to form new groups that will include people who respond to the “ask” during the weekly sermon–the “ask” for who would like to be part of a Small Group. Members of existing small groups can launch their own group for the Christian Life Trilogy.

3. Finally, connect your small groups to the community. New groups and current groups are encouraged to reach out to people outside the church in their neighborhoods, workplaces, etc. that they may or may not know well. New small group hosts are encouraged to hold a social event with a few family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, or other to pray about who they can ask to join their group, making lists, writing postcards, or calling with a personal invitation to join the group.

Ready to take the next step and lead your small group movement to the foot of the cross? Join thousands of others in picking up your cross and following Jesus into a Resurrected and Spirit-Filled life  with the Christian Life Trilogy. Order your Campaign Kit today or click the link below to read an excerpt!

Preview the Christian Life Trilogy!

Small Groups and Casting Vision

God is at work around our country through the small group movement, sending a wave of spiritual renewal to the local church. He is using Small Group Ministry to grow His people and equip them to do the work of the kingdom both within the church and in the world around us.

The key to all of this is vision casting. Almost every church wants to grow in numbers and reach out to its community. Vision casting is explaining the dream of Jesus Christ, that every sheep would have a shepherd, meaning that every believer would be connected to another so that the Body of Christ can fulfill its purpose.

Vision casting is also giving your church body easy tools by which they can accomplish this. A Small Group Ministry campaign can do all of this at once. Additionally, such a campaign has some amazing fringe benefits, like growth in church attendance and giving, as well as building an effective network through which the Senior Pastor and staff can communicated to their church body.

These fringe benefits help reluctant pastors, staff, and leadership see the value and purpose of being a church of small groups, not a church with small groups.

Ready to take the next step and align your congregation so that each member can fulfill their role within the body of Christ toward a common goal of furthering the Kingdom? Get your Christian Life Trilogy Campaign Kit today and start planning!

The Power of Alignment in Your Church

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 three ways the power of alignment will influence your congregation’s participation and experience.

Coordinating and aligning the elements of the Christian Life Trilogy will impact and produce the kind of spiritual growth that will move your congregation from spectators to active participators in the Body of Christ. Imagine for a moment the impact on your church if every person lived in alignment with God’s will in the areas of serving, growing, and even giving. What if your congregation–leadership to occasional worshipper–lived in powerful community with their small group or Sunday School class? What is, as groups, people began to experience the power of God in their lives as an entire congregation? By making the most of the following three campaign components, you will see the power of God working in your church. These components build from micro to macro, from a narrow scope to the broadest.

1. Individual Participation

This is the real heart of the campaign, and it is the element that will produce the greatest spiritual growth among the members of your congregation. The goal is to get people to read a daily devotional and reflect on God’s Word and consider His will for their lives daily throughout the bampign. By participating in this campaign, each person will be challenged to grow spiritually and experience God’s plan for living a transformed life.

2. Group Participation

A powerful element of the campign is getting people to explore and experience God’s will and their Christian faith in true biblical community. We provide you with curriculum to be used in small groups or Sunday School classes for adults. Individuals bonded to a smaller community of believers within your congregation will enjoy the benefits of sharing life, spiritual growth, and accountability for that growth. These small group experiences are vital to ensuring the greatest personal spiritual growth as well as a commitment to ongoing growth as a community within your congregation.

3. Service Participation

The services that take place during The Christian Life Trilogy journey include Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost. These services offer opportunities for the Senior Pastor and worship planning team to further explore the lessons of the small group curriculum for your congregation.

Are you ready to see how the power of alignment can provide an opportunity to experience God moving in your church? Preview The Christian Life Trilogy or Get your Campaign Kit today and start being intentional in seeking God’s will in 2017 and beyond!

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 – 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 

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 

 

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!

———————-

Watch a 50-minute recorded webinar presenting this material:

Top 5 Small Group Challenges (and How to Solve Them)

As many positive things as we have to say about small groups, a group will always have its challenges. A wise leader will help its group navigate through these challenges. Here are our suggestions:

Challenge 1: Lack of Commitment

Life is just so busy!! This is the #1 challenge that small group ministries face. People sign up to join a group, but then they never show up.

Solutions:

  • Start with a shorter term commitment – 3 or 6 weeks. After the original length of commitment is finished, groups can reevaluate and see who wants to continue and how.
  • Use a group covenant. Have group members sign a commitment acknowledging the expectation that group members are expected to attend every meeting barring unforeseen circumstances. Make these expectations clear from the very first meeting.
  • Do a church-wide study so that all groups are using the same material. The fear of being the only person to not know about the material is a good motivator to keep people participating.

*Tip: Make sure to give plenty of notice to groups that you are planning on launching a church-wide campaign so that they can be mentally prepared to commit for the series.*

 

Challenge 2: Lack of Openness

Many groups feel a lack of authenticity in fellowship or communication. There is almost always at least one member who just rubs others the wrong way, which can be a real barrier to the sense of community in a group.

Solutions:

  • Make sure to give your group social time to break the ice and get to know each other before expecting them to jump right in to deep material. Plan ahead so that your first meeting or two are just get-to-know-you events.
  • Check your leadership. How do you model openness? The leader begins by modeling how they want the other group members to be.
  • Frankly address the issue of diverse personalities and backgrounds in the group. Talk about how the group’s diversity is an opportunity to show Christ’s love or to love as Christ would!
  • Refocus the group on the reasons you meet.
  • Privately speak to any group members who are monopolizing the group or causing difficulties to relationships in the group. Make sure to come from a place of love.

*Tip: Strategize a plan with a co-leader to have a code for redirecting a discussion when one member is monopolizing or taking it the wrong direction. Maybe you can say, “Wow, that’s really interesting,” which will be code for your co-leader to call on another member and ask for their opinion.*

 

Challenge 3: Exclusivity

Some groups can begin to feel like a clique where newcomers are not welcome. This is especially common in groups who know each other well or have been together for a long time. It can be difficult to convince people to be willing to risk changing a comfortable group by adding new members.

Solutions:

  • Revisit the goals of the group from the covenant made at the beginning. If seeing lives changed in following Christ is one of our goals, then how are we doing that? And why wouldn’t we want to spread that effect to other people?
  • Define what openness and outreach means for your group either currently or in the future.
  • Consider the idea of dividing to multiply. The group might need to split into two (or more) groups in order to multiply the positive effect to even more lives.
  • Find a service project as a group. Even closed groups need to impact the world around them.

*Tip: The Empty Chair can be a good concept for reinforcing the idea that there’s always room for more people. Make sure that at every meeting, there is one extra chair in the circle that stays empty. That Empty Chair is for the next person your group can positively impact.*

 

Challenge 4: Choosing Materials

It can be challenging to select materials that will benefit everyone in the group. Individual preferences and needs can make it difficult.

Solutions:

  • Let the leader just choose the material, and group members can take it or leave it.
  • Determine the goals of your group and then choose the study based on that.
  • Participate in a church-wide study so that there is no discussion on what material to do.

 

Challenge 5: Disintegration

If people aren’t showing up or are showing up late and unprepared, your group is in trouble. Sometimes groups just fall apart. It happens!

Solutions:

  • Don’t take it personally. Don’t let it discourage you.
  • Talk about it openly with your group – don’t wait. Discuss what’s going on as soon as you see signs of trouble. Ask your group members what is going on and what can be changed to make it work.
  • Take the lead on next steps – lay out a plan to get back on track. Maybe have an “official reconstituting” of your group.
  • If the group does dissolve, take what you learned and take it with you into your next group. Don’t give up!

 

Bonus Challenge: Scheduling

Families with children and lots of activities often have a very difficult time coordinating calendars and making a regular schedule. Many groups don’t get off the ground because the members can’t coordinate a time to meet.

Solutions:

  • Set a definite regular meeting time, and those who can make it will be there. Your group will get used to making those times available on their calendar, and those who can never make it will find another group.
  • Offer suggestions for childcare. Maybe a group can pool money to hire a sitter for their kids. Larger churches can choose one night of the week to offer childcare at the church so that groups can meet.
  • Consider making a closed Facebook Group just for your group so that members can stay connected even if they can’t make it to the meetings.
  • Don’t feel pressure to have huge groups. Maybe just two couples meet together regularly. “Where two or more are gathered…” Groups really find great intimacy and depth when they are smaller.

 

Every group, even the best groups, will have challenges – sometimes severe! Prayer and intentional leadership can get your group through challenges stronger than ever.

To watch a 50-minute webinar that presents the above ideas and more, see the video below:

5 Key Elements of a Healthy Small Group

Small groups have the power to change lives. A small group that is healthy and focused can be even more effective. So what are the most important aspects that you as a leader can emphasize in order to make the most of your small group to deeply impact both the lives of the members and to spread its good effects far outside the group itself?

1. Scripture

The unity of a small group is founded on its agreement in the Bible. Having access to the Word of God is a privilege, and the unity of a small group can help its members to embrace it as a personal letter from God. Small groups can be a safe place for those who are unfamiliar with the Scriptures to be able to cultivate a desire to learn and grow in the Truth. (See 2 Peter 3:18.) It is the responsibility of the group leader to make sure the group stays a safe and encouraging place for that, and also that the group remains focused on God’s Truth. It’s how we know Christ, learn God’s plan, and remember God’s promises – all essential for life in Christ.

2. Prayer

Prayer invites God into the happenings of the group and helps them be confident that God is with them. Just like those who are inexperienced in the Scriptures, there may also be members of your group who are inexperienced with prayer. The group leader can make the group a safe place for members to learn about the power of prayer and become comfortable and gain confidence in approaching God through prayer, both personally and corporately. Prayer will help group members let go of their worries and anxieties, and praying for/with each other will be valuable in growing community.

*Tip: In a new group of people who don’t know each other or of new believers who may not be comfortable with prayer, the group leader can come with pre-written prayers and just ask various members to read them out loud. That will help them get used to the concept of praying out loud without being anxious about what to say.

 

3. Sharing

Sharing personal stories and experiences are what separate a small group from a Bible study. Sharing promotes community, which can be a slow thing to build. Being vulnerable with each other really helps grow the group in affection, understanding, and dependence on each other, and it also helps promote praying for each other and actively caring for each other. It’s important to let details emerge organically, though, rather than forcing people to share. Different personalities will have different willingness to share different levels. Be flexible with what you expect from your members.

*Tip: To help reluctant members figure out what to share, tell them think of these three faith stages: 1. What life was like before you came to faith, 2. The turning point in your life, 3. How faith has made a difference to you.

 

4. Contributing

Each member should contribute to the upkeep of the group. One person cannot do all of the necessary tasks to keep a group healthy and functioning. They will burn out fast, and the rest of the group will not be as engaged because they have no responsibilities. Lean into each member’s spiritual gifts, and help them grow in confidence in serving the Lord by what they contribute to their small group.

  • Hosting
  • Communication and organization
  • Refreshments
  • Facilitating discussion
  • Keeping prayer list
  • Co-leading
*Tip: Keep in mind the story of Mary & Martha (Luke 10:38-42). The “Marthas” are the ones who are most likely to volunteer to serve the group, but they are also most likely to get overwhelmed and burn out! Help the “Marthas” divide their responsibilities so that everyone contributes.

 

5. Serving

Serving allows the group’s mindset to expand outside the limits of the meetings. Serving together builds comradery and special bonds between group members, and it also gives group members an opportunity to live out the application of what they have learned in Scripture and their study materials. Be consistent with keeping up your service projects, and make sure to emphasize with your group the purposes of serving – developing compassion, obeying Christ, and growing spiritually.

*Tip: Have the group pray together about what service projects to participate in, and continually be emphasizing that service in the prayer time at your meetings. It will help keep your group members’ hearts and minds engaged in serving Christ through the project.

 

An intentional group leader who stays focused can really help make their group a powerful place for transformation of the members’ lives and of the community surrounding the group.

Watch a video of a webinar where all these elements are taught below:

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