Return of the Small Group Leadership Blog!

Reader, forgive me. It’s been 7 months since my last blog post.

(If you grew up Catholic, as I did, I’m sure that first line has a familiar ring to it.)

So . . . where have I been? As I wrote in a blog post back in June 2017, I became editor of Christian Standard magazine a little more than a year and a half ago. I love that ministry and the way God is using it to serve leaders and churches around the world. But I’ve missed my interaction with small group leaders and pastors here. I still lead small group training sessions in churches occasionally on weekends, and I love that more than almost anything else I do, but I’ve been focusing most of my time and energy on the magazine and its ministry.

I just wanted to let you know I’m planning to return to blogging here on at least a somewhat regular basis. I’d love to get questions from readers of this blog; I’ll try to respond via a post as soon as possible. I’ll also share some of the “best of” materials from my books and other resources.

Meanwhile, I’d like to let you know about an exciting new move we’ve made with our magazines. Christian Standard Media just launched what may be considered one of the most exciting endeavors in our 152-year history. Christian Standard and The Lookout are now available digitally for FREE!

Simply go to each of our magazine’s websites, www.christianstandard.com and www.lookoutmag.com, enter your name and email address when prompted, and you’re in. You can then flip through and read the full magazine with all the stories, pictures, etc. on your computer, tablet, or phone. This isn’t just a three-month offer; we will not come back later and ask you to pay to continue your subscription. And you can be assured we won’t fill your email inbox with a bunch of junk mail; we’ll use your email address primarily to let you know when the next issue of our magazines are available on our websites. I hope you’ll join us!

And don’t forget, please send me your small group and discipleship questions! Click to comment below.

 

 

 

Small Group Leader Summit – January 20

I am privileged to lead the Small Group Leader Summit Saturday, January 20, from 9 AM to noon.

The event will be held at First Church, Burlington, Kentucky, 6080 Camp Ernst Road, in Burlington, Kentucky 41005.

SESSION 1: “Things Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know”: I will focus this session on how to avoid leader burnout, toward which small group leaders are often prone, and how to guide your group as a healthy, overflowing leader. (Some of the content for this session comes from my books The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership, chapters 1 and 2 of Small Group Vital Signs, and World’s Greatest Small Group.)

SESSION 2: “Mike’s Newest and Best Ideas for Small Group Leaders”: I’ll zero in on how to really disciple people effectively in a small group. This topic is, by a wide margin, the most-requested subject of small group leaders and point people (as it should be!).

This event is for new or experienced small group leaders, co-leaders, apprentices, core team members, ministry point people, and anyone interested in stepping up to lead a group in the new year. We want this to be a catalytic event to help leaders see beyond what they are presently doing, to help leaders who have hit a wall in their group, to teach leaders new strategies and tactics to use in their groups, and to show leaders how they can be used by God in new ways to carry out his mission in 2018.

For more information or to register, contact Kristen Flick at First Christian Church, Burlington, Kentucky, at 859.980.0250 or kflick@firstchurch.me.

 

BIG Discounts for SMALL Group Leaders

World's Greatest Small Group CoverBetween now and August 31, you can take advantage of discount prices when you purchase World’s Greatest Small Group for your small group leaders.

  • 25% off when you buy 1-19 copies.
  • 40% off when you buy 20+ copies.

Go here for more details.

Michael Keaton – Small Groups Pastor, Crossroads Church, Newnan, Georgia – is using World’s Greatest Small Group to train small group leaders.

Michael gives some reasons he is using World’s Greatest Small Group:

“I wanted to give my small group leaders a resource to read. As I considered the Fall ministry plan it seemed like a good fit to get the book at the beginning of our semester when we launch groups.

“Our plan is to give the book to leaders and then bring in Michael C. Mack for a talk a few months later. It will be a great intro.

“At first, the title caught my eye, but then as I read I realized Mack had a similar heartbeat, and I loved that. We are big on making disciples. I especially loved his emphasis on the leader’s spiritual vitality. That was huge to me and I connected to that and it is a similar heartbeat of mine.

“I loved the chapter on shepherding. The book was a great option because of its simplicity, length, topic, readability, fit with our focus, and it deals with practical advice and teaching on leading a small group.”

How Can My Group(s) Do What Jesus’ Group Did? (Is That Even Possible?)

World's Greatest Small Group CoverThe back cover of World’s Greatest Small Group features this audacious claim:

Your small group can do what Jesus’ did: Change the World!

I wouldn’t make such a claim if I didn’t believe it’s possible. But I believe not only that it’s possible, but that it’s exactly what Jesus wants to happen. It’s what he said will happen. It’s what he is still waiting to happen.

Some people may believe it could never happen today—that attaining to being the “World’s Greatest Small Group” is an unattainable dream, or, worse, presumptuous. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Why I wrote World’s Greatest Small Group

I can think of three key reasons why I wrote this book:

God has given me a passion for ordinary people who sense a call to lead.

To be more precise, I’m passionate about these leaders’ hearts, which has overflowed into much of the things I’ve written over the years: books like Leading from the Heart, Small Group Vital Signs, and The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership. Chapter 2 of Small Group Vital Signs was titled, “A Healthy Group Has a Healthy, Overflowing Leader.” In World’s Greatest Small Group, I expand on that chapter, discussing the 7 powerful traits of Jesus as he led his group, the same traits in which leaders today can develop.

I truly believe that ordinary people can courageously lead extraordinary small groups.

This is the mission of my ministry, Small Group Leadership, and I believe my call is to help equip ordinary people to do that. This book came out of that core value. Of course, the value comes from the disciples (followers) Jesus chose to be his apostles (those who were sent; that is, leaders). The religious rulers considered them “unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4:13). A closer translation is that they were unlearned or unlettered idiots (idiōtēs in Greek). In other words, these trained religious elite believed that these ordinary folks who worked in ordinary jobs were unqualified, that they didn’t know enough or hadn’t studied under the right Rabbi.

I’m glad these “ordinary” men boldly, courageously ignored the commands and threats of the self-righteous establishment. God does extraordinary things through ordinary people who have “been with Jesus,” who abide in him and then overflow into the lives of others. Ordinary Christ followers are a kingdom of priests. We are his ambassadors. We are all ministers of reconciliation. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness! I want “ordinary,” called Christ followers to understand their identities and mission.

I believe that Jesus’ words in John 14:12 are literal and true.

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus said to his followers, “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

This is not just some unattainable dream of Jesus. It’s much more than a motivational speech to move his disciples into action. It’s not a visionary, pie-in-the-sky picture of a preferred future for the Church. It is Jesus’ plan. It points to his method for carrying out his plan: us. Who is Jesus talking about when he says, “whoever believes in me”? Us! Ordinary followers of Jesus! They (we) can do, will do, even greater things than Jesus did. That’s remarkable, but Jesus meant this literally and it is true—because while he is now at the right hand of the Father, through his Spirit, he has not left us. He is with us to help us carry out the mission he has given us to the very end of the age!

I believe that Jesus' words in John 14:12 are literal and true. Click To Tweet

Jesus’ group often looked like a dysfunctional mess. I talk about that in Chapter 7. Yet those ordinary, unschooled, imperfect, weak people went out with God’s power and changed the world! In some ways, because they took the message from Jerusalem and Judea to the ends of the known world, they did even greater works than Jesus, but the fact is, Jesus was working through them the whole time. And he can do the same with us today. He can and will do “even greater things” if we allow him to work in and through us. That’s what these 7 powerful traits of a life-changing leader are all about.

Each chapter of World’s Greatest Small Group focuses on one leadership attribute we see in Jesus and that each of us can develop as well. I show how Jesus lived out that leadership trait as he led his group and I then show leaders today how they can grow in that trait themselves. I demonstrate how it lives itself out as ordinary people boldly lead their small groups to do the extraordinary things that God wants them to do.

By the way, I am speaking on these topics as I help equip leaders in churches through leader retreats, seminars, and workshops. Please let me know if you’re interested in discussing the possibility of helping equip your leaders!

Get your copy or copies now! Here are two special offers.

To find out more about the book, and to get a COUPON CODE worth 20% off the retail price, click here!

Small Group Leader TOOLBOX coverPurchase your book before March 15 and get a FREE COPY of my eBook, Small Group Leader TOOLBOX, a $12.95 value.

Here’s how:

  1. Purchase World’s Greatest Small Groups from one of these online retailers: CreateSpace (use coupon code TKBFSKKR to get your 20% discount) or Amazon (print or Kindle versions, no additional discount) by March 15.
  2. Email (or forward) your receipt to mike[AT]smallgroupleadership.com (replace [AT] with @) no later than March 15.

I will then send you login instructions and a special 100% off coupon code for Small Group Leader TOOLBOX.

If you lead the small group ministry in your church . . .

Help get this book into the hands of ordinary small group hosts, facilitators, leaders, teachers, etc.!

If you would like to purchase 20 or more copies for your leaders, please contact me directly, before you make your purchase, and I will do two things for you:

  1. To help you save money, I will provide you with a special 30% off coupon code.
  2. I will give you a FREE one-hour block of coaching or consulting.

CONTACT ME HERE before you make your purchase, and let me know you are planning to purchase 20 or more copies.

Questions or other thoughts on this post or on the book? Scroll down and comment!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Interview: Leadership Expert Deborah Ike on Leading Healthy Small Groups

I recently met Deborah Ike, who works with church leaders to help them grow their churches and create a life with healthy margins. She is the author of two books, Volunteer Management Toolkit-Church Edition and Protect the Vision: A Practical Guide to Church Risk Management, both available on her website: Velocity Ministry Management. After reading this interview, go check out her site and ministry for church leaders.

Here’s our interview:

Michael Mack: I became familiar with and interested in your ministry through a tweet in which you mentioned burnout, which is also a favorite topic of mine. How did you first get interested in that topic?

Deborah Ike: I became interested in the issue from my own experience burning out and in talking with others who’ve had similar experiences. It breaks my heart to see people with incredible vision and love for Christ who lose their passion for ministry because they’ve been trying to do too much, too fast. After all, we are still human and have physical limitations. We need rest, sleep, and even play. Our culture focuses on quick results and we can get sucked into that mindset. Instead, we need to focus on staying in ministry for the long haul. That won’t happen if we burn ourselves out. I’ve learned many lessons the hard way and now help church leaders focus on what matters most so they can grow their church and lead a healthy life with more margin.

Michael: You write a lot about recruiting volunteers. What three best practices would you provide to small group ministry leaders about finding and asking people to lead a group?

Deborah: #1 – Clarify expectations about the role.

If you invite someone to lead a small group but only provide vague information about what that role looks like and what you expect a small group leader to do, you’ll have a tough time getting anyone to say yes. A potential small group leader needs to know what he/she is signing up to do. They’ll want to know things like, How often should we meet? Do you provide a study guide or any outlines for what to discuss at our meetings? How would people join the group? Where do we meet? What resources are available if a member of the group has a question or issue we don’t know how to address?

#2 – Look for people already leading.

You have leaders in your church—you may need to look a bit more closely. Who holds a leadership role at work? Who has served at various church events and did a great job? Ask around and listen for what names come up most often. Those are the people you should start talking to about leading a group.

#3 – Provide support.

When you talk with someone about leading a small group, make sure he/she knows you’ll be available to answer questions and/or provide direction as needed.

Michael: A healthy small group is a team that works together to carry out the mission God gave them. You write and speak on the topic of teamwork. What are a couple teamwork principles that small groups could use to grow in this area?

Deborah: Communication is key in any group setting. This includes learning the personalities and communication preferences of each team member. When we focus on communicating with each individual in a way he/she is best able to receive, we avoid potential conflict from misunderstandings and have more productive conversations overall.

Also, don’t be serious all the time. Yes, it’s great to have deep discussions about faith. However, it’s also really helpful to just have fun together, too. Make ice cream sundaes, go bowling, play a board game, etc. Those moments break the ice, help you see another aspect of each other’s personality, and will help your group grow closer together. People are more willing to engage in challenging topics when they trust and know the rest of the group. Having fun together is a great way to start building that trust.

Michael: What’s your favorite thing to do to unwind (and avoid burnout)?

Deborah: I’ve found exercise to be a great way to reduce stress. In fact, I have my best workouts after a challenging day! A tough workout releases endorphins, loosens up tense muscles, and makes me feel better overall.

Michael: Thanks, Deborah, for your great insights from a fresh perspective on leading healthy, growing small groups. And thanks for using your passion for God’s church!

QUESTION: What is the biggest takeaway for you as a leader from Deborah Ike’s interview? Please click the Comments box, below, to join the conversation!

The Best Small Group Coaching Resources

Every small group needs a coach to be healthy, grow, bear fruit, and eventually reproduce themselves.

I have tried every coaching model and system I could find, and I made up some of my own along the way. Several times I totally eliminated my whole coaching structure and started over with something new. All I wanted was something that actually worked with voluntary leaders and didn’t take up most of my time.

Along the way I’ve found 5 great resources I’ve used together to develop and lead a working coaching strategy. Here they are and how I used them. (I’ve linked each of these resources—the first four to Amazon—so you can check them out or purchase them yourself.)

Coaching Life-Changing Small Group Leaders: A Comprehensive Guide for Developing Leaders of Groups and Teams

By Bill Donahue and Greg Bowman

I used this book as a resource for training the coaches under my care and I also gave it to directors who also oversaw coaches. It’s the most comprehensive of the coaching resources and will provide you plenty of material for developing your coaches, continually training them, and resourcing them.

A Pocket Guide to Coaching Small Groups: Befriending Leaders and Helping Groups Produce Fruit

By Randall G. Neighbour

I bought these little books by the dozens and gave one to each coach. This book is (intentionally) concise, an easy read, simple to implement, and Christ-centered. Because of the book’s size, readability, and practicality, I knew I could get my coaches to read it, and when they did, they took more ownership in the process.

 

How to Be a Great Cell Group Coach: Practical Insight for Supporting and Mentoring Cell Group Leaders

By Joel Comiskey

I’ve used this book as an additional resource for equipping and continuing to develop my coaches. I used many of the very practical strategies, ideas, and tips throughout the book, conveniently placed in call-out boxes on almost every page. I’ve also quoted Comiskey quite a bit from this book. Often, when I’d meet with my coaches—either together in coach clinics or one on one—I’d use material from Comiskey’s book.

 

Ordering Your Private World

By Gordon MacDonold

Why is this book on a list with coaching resources? Because I gave one to each of my coaches. I considered this a big investment in these vital people in our small group ministry. This book was life-changing for me and I knew it could be the same for them. Truth is, if the private worlds of my coaches were disordered, I couldn’t expect much from them in coaching our leaders and groups. My prayer and plan was that upon reading this book, my coaches would begin to naturally overflow God’s wisdom and power out of a well-ordered heart. I also used parts of this book in my one-on-one meetings with coaches.

 

Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Coaching Strategy: PART 1 / PART 2

As I was experimenting with different strategies, I realized—and even wrote about the fact—that different leaders needed different types and levels of coaching. (Some leaders thought they didn’t need any coaching at all, but I still wanted to care for and support them.) About that same time I came across two short articles on ChurchLeaders.com in which Mark Howell interviewed Steve Gladen about his coaching strategy at Saddleback. From these articles, I then developed a system that really worked for us. It looked like this:

PROACTIVE CARE

New Leaders/Groups or Unhealthy Leaders/Groups: Priority Care
(Ratio – ~1-3 leaders : 1 Coach)
New Leaders are full of questions and unsure of themselves; Unhealthy groups are off track in one or more of our 7 Vital Signs of a Healthy Group and need help getting back to health – Stay in close contact and give all the support they need: meet with leader, visit group, phone calls, emails, etc.

Seasoned Leaders/Groups: Personal Care
(~3-5 : 1)
Excited, ready for direction and encouragement, good enough to be dangerous! – Coach them how to be a healthy, Christ-centered, disciple-making group.

 

REACTIVE CARE

Veteran Leaders/Groups: Phone Care
(~10-15 : 1)
Know what they are doing but not immune to conflicts and issues – Touch base regularly though email, phone calls, texts, or Facebook; let the leader tell you which.

Stubborn Leaders/Groups: Supportive Care
(~25-30 : 1. We asked some older folks who had been in groups to keep in touch with them.)
Been at this for a while; they may say they don’t need to be coached, but still want to know where to go when issues arise – Leave them alone for the most part; leave a voice mail about once a month and offer prayer for them.

6 Must-Read Books for Small Group Ministry Leaders

I teach a “Small Group Ministry & Discipling” seminary class at Cincinnati Christian University that is designed for students who have an interest in starting or further developing a small group ministry in a local congregation. I selected the required textbooks for these leaders and emerging leaders to give them a mixture of adaptable philosophy, biblical values for discipleship in community, and  practical “how-to-do-it” resources.

Before sharing the books I use, it’s important to share my objectives for this course:

As a result of this course, students will . . .

  • be able to internalize the importance of effective small group ministry in the local church
  • understand the biblical basis for discipleship in small groups
  • understand the process and system for establishing and executing an effective disciple-making small group ministry in the life of a local church
  • be able to discover, develop, and deploy leaders so as to execute their ministries through effective volunteer leadership
  • be able to launch (or relaunch) and operate a life-changing small group ministry in a local church

I share those objectives because I believe those are important for any and every small group ministry leader. With that in mind, I highly recommend these resources for you. I include my own book first because it provides the principles and values I believe in for healthy, overflowing small group ministry.

  1. Small Group Vital Signs: Seven Indicators of Health That Make Groups Flourish, Michael Mack. Houston, TX: TOUCH Publications, 2012.
    ISBN 978-0-9825352-5-7.
  2. MissioRelate: Becoming a Church of Missional Small Groups, M. Scott Boren. Houston, TX: TOUCH Publications, Inc., 2011. ISBN 978-0-9825352-4-0.
  3. Building a Life-Changing Small Group Ministry: A Strategic Guide for Leading Group Life in Your Church, Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012. ISBN 978-0-310-33126-1.

I tell students that if they have read any of the previous texts within the last two years, to substitute the following:

  1. A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small-Group Dynamic, Rick Howerton. NavPress, 2012. ISBN: 13-978-1-61747-995-3.
  2. Real-Life Discipleship: Building Churches That Make Disciples, Jim Putman. NavPress, 2010. ISBN: 13-978-1-61521-560-7.
  3. Small Groups with Purpose: How to Create Healthy Communities, Steve Gladen. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-8010-1379-9.

 

QUESTION: What other books or other resources have you found that are “must-reads” for small group ministry leaders? Please share yours using the Comment button below.

Small Group Coaching & the 10-20-70 Model

As I coach and consult with small group point leaders and churches, I’m finding that coaching leaders is (still) a struggle for many. At the same time, I partner with several organizations that deal with coaching business leaders, and I’m applying what I’m learning in that environment to small group and church ministry.

Over the next several posts, I’ll share a few of the things I’m learning. Today, I want to discuss the 10-20-70 model of leadership development and how it relates to coaching.

I work in collaboration with with a worldwide organization called Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching. It’s founder, Marshall Goldsmith, recently shared a brief (less than a minute and a half) video about this 10-20-70 model and how it relates to business coaching, which you can watch here.

In the 10-20-70 model (often referred to as the 70-20-10 model for learning and development),

  • 10% of real leadership equipping happens in formal, content-centered settings (usually upfront)
  • 20% occurs as a person interacts with others (coaching)
  • 70% comes from job-related experience

My experience leading volunteers in churches, especially in small group ministries, bears this out. And yet, in the past, anyway, many leaders have put more emphasis on up-front content-centered training than the other two areas. Experience, however, points to on-the-job experience being the best trainer. That’s why Jesus carried out his ministry as he did, I suspect, sending out the newly chosen apostles soon after choosing them as such.

Let’s look at the numbers (and bear in mind that these numbers are not precise; I’m sure the percentages vary from one situation to another). What’s the best way for small group point leaders to utilize each of these areas? Here are my suggestions from my experience and research:

10% “Formal” Equipping — I think this must include some amount of vision casting and focus on the mission of the groups. Leaders need to be able to answer the why and what questions. That’s why Jesus told the disciples up-front why he was calling them and what they would become. It’s why Jesus reiterated the vision and mission before his ascension.

I would seek to answer these basic questions in this part of the training:

  • What is a small group at our church?
  • Why do we need them?
  • What is the goal?
  • What is a leader (or host or facilitator, etc.)?
  • Why is this role important?
  • How do we do groups? (These are your small group values.)

The other part of this equipping must be some kind of basic primer on how to lead a group. This can be done via online videos, for instance, but new leaders need to know at least the fundamentals of how a healthy group operates.

20% Coaching — As Goldsmith points out, this is the vital bridge between the other two types of leadership development. The coach:

  1. reminds and helps the new leader apply the upfront equipping
  2. ensures that the leader really is continuing to learn from the on-the-job experience

The coach uses good questions to accomplish #2, asking both general and some specific questions about the people, the meetings, the outcomes, etc. (I’ll talk in future posts about who these coaches are and what their roles are.)

70% OTJ Experience — Of course, this experience can be provided through intentional apprenticeship, sharing leadership as part of a Core Team, or in a Turbo Group (a group in which everyone is considered a leader-in-training and an intentional plan is in place for them to get experience and then step out to launch their own groups). I’ve used all of these.

I’ve spoken with point leaders who are using a different strategy, and I’m waiting to see how it works. Groups are started with a Host, with a very intentional track to become a Facilitator and then a Shepherd-Leader (think of this as a leadership ladder). The on-the-job experience (just-in-time training) is placed up-front and the experience is made safer by providing every resource these hosts need to succeed. They are also provided some sort of coaching (huddles, for instance) and, along the way, some content-centered training.

The important thing to note, I believe, is how vital the coaching element is to make this succeed. In forthcoming posts I’ll discuss some creative coaching ideas and seek to make coaching more simple and yet more effective than you ever thought it could be.

More About Coaching and Equipping

Jesus’ Leadership Order

Jesus started his church by calling a few normal, workaday guys to follow him, and then he made a remarkable statement. He told these unschooled, unspectacular, blue-collar guys that he’d turn them into leaders who would make an eternal difference in people’s lives (see Matt. 4:18-20) and ultimately the world.

Jesus reiterated the point sometime later when he called together a bunch of the folks he had asked to follow him and asked 12 of them to take their following to the next level. He called these disciples to be a part of a select small group of “apostles,” men who would be enlivened, equipped, empowered, and entrusted to lead his church (Mark 6:13).

That’s what Jesus does, still, today. He takes regular, ordinary men and women and calls them; first as followers and then as sent leaders. It’s always in that order.

Someone who cannot be a humble follower should never become a leader. 

By following the Master Leader, you learn how to lead and how not to lead. As you spend time with him, you see his heart for people and you catch hold of that great compassion. As you abide with him, he pours his love and power and grace into you so that you can then overflow that same love, power, and grace into those around you.

In other words, following Jesus forges you into a leader. 

The anvil of real Christian leadership is a follower of Jesus who becomes more and more like Him.

Before you lead your small group this week, be sure to be a follower first. Spend time with Jesus and allow him to saturate your mind and heart with his love and wisdom. This may sound odd, but don’t pray—at least not in the way you usually think of prayer, as uttering so many words. Just sit with Jesus and enjoy his presence. Ask him to lead you. Then let him.

 Read More on this Topic

 

Schedule a 20-minute Discovery Call / Free Consultation with Mike