Small Group Leader TIPS of the Week: Feb. 20-24, 2017

It’s Friday! That means we’re sharing our Small Group Leader TIPS of the week as Tweeted, posted on our Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and posted on LinkedIn. Use these tips in your ministry!

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C.J. Stephens on Prayer in Group Life

CJ StephensToday’s guest blogger is C.J. Stephens, Small Groups Minister at Northeast Christian Church. Because I lead a Northeast small group, I receive C.J.’s monthly newsletter called “Leader Connect.” This past month, C.J. wrote about prayer in groups, an important topic for leaders, and I thought he hit the nail on the head. 

GUEST POST by C.J. Stephens, Small Groups Minister at Northeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky

One of the most difficult, yet rewarding parts of group life is prayer.

It’s something that is incredibly difficult for some of our people. Maybe you’re one of those people.  Some of us have never learned to pray. Some of us make it harder on ourselves than we need to. And most of all, we don’t know how to incorporate it into our group time in a healthy way.

What is Prayer?

For me, this has been a question that I’ve been asking myself as I’m raising my kids. Right now we have our kids say prayers before bed and before meals. However, like most parents I’m struggling with the concept of teaching them what prayer really is. As I was thinking about this, I was reminded of what some friends of mine use when they are teaching their children. When it is meal time, they simply say “OK, it’s time to talk to God.”

It’s really that simple. Prayer is really just talking to God. When I’m discussing these things with people in groups, that’s the way I try to frame it. God knows everything about you, but He wants you to talk to Him. He wants to know what is on your heart and your mind. He wants to hear from you.

It's really that simple. Prayer is really just talking to God. Click To Tweet

For some of us, this is tough. So many people I know are honesty afraid to be too frank with God. They don’t want to upset Him, I guess. But the Bible is full of all kinds of prayers. Some are prayers of thankfulness. Some are prayers asking God for something. Some are prayers of anger or lament. God knows your heart. He simply wants to hear from you.

How Does Prayer Fit into My Group? 

So how does this fit into my group? How does prayer affect group life?

In most of our groups, we have a time for prayer requests. As you are well aware, this can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes people in your group honestly share their hearts with the others in the group. It can be a time where people really grow closer to each other. It can be a time for vulnerability and leaning one another.  That’s the point to prayer time in group.

However, you also know that it can be a time for endless requests. It can seem like a litany of dismay coming from the people in your group. It can also honestly just go too long. That’s the downside.

Despite all of that, I am a big believer in corporate prayer in your group. I think that the benefits can far outweigh the negatives. Where else do our people have the opportunity to share the difficult and challenging things in their life with people who care for them? Where else will you find out about the things the people in your group have weighing on them.

That being said, there are opportunities for improvement. If you find that this time if beginning to be stale or rote, change it up. Ask everyone for the top issue you can pray for. Do a popcorn style prayer where you pray as a group and challenge your people to say a short request. Do prayer time at a different time in your group. Sometimes putting as the first thing you do can shorten it up.

I would also suggest changing who is doing the praying. As the group leader, it is often your role to get things rolling. However, if everyone knows they are in a safe environment, they should feel comfortable to pray. If you want someone else to pray, I’d suggest talking to them ahead of time and getting their permission. No one likes to be put on the spot!

If everyone knows they are in a safe environment, they should feel comfortable to pray. Click To Tweet

Lastly, I want to encourage you to be in prayer for your group members in between your meetings. Sometimes this is something that we let go by the wayside as leaders. However, praying for your group between sessions can be powerful. Take some time during your week to pray for them and their family. I’m a big believer in the power of prayer. This can draw you together and strengthen your group.

“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.”  – Oswald Chambers

Join the discussion about this post. What would you add to C.J.’s suggestions on improving group prayer? What has worked for your group? What other questions or comments do you have about this? Scroll down and click to comment!


Small Group Leader TIPS of the Week: Dec. 26-30, 2016

Here are the Small Group Leader TIPS for the last week as Tweeted, posted on our Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and posted on LinkedIn.

This week’s TIPS come from my new book, Small Group Leader TOOLBOX.

Question: What TIP for leading a healthy small group would you share with other leaders? Scroll down and comment below! 

Read All Small Group Leadership TIPS here!


Small Group Leader TIPS of the Week: Nov. 28 – Dec. 2, 2016

Here are the Small Group Leader TIPS for the last week as Tweeted, posted on our Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and posted on LinkedIn.

This week’s TIPS focus on facilitating discussion and prayer.

QUESTION: What’s YOUR best tip for facilitating discussion or prayer in a small group meeting? Please comment below.

Read All Small Group Leadership TIPS here!



How a Healthy Small Group Prays: 5 Simple, Christ-Centered Practices

“How can I get people in my group to pray out loud?”

“What can we do to go deeper in our prayer time?”

“How do I keep our group engaged during prayer time? We spend more time sharing requests and stories than actually praying!”

As I train and coach leaders, many of the questions I receive focus on small group prayer. Several years ago, I was leading a group and tried something new. I had been studying what makes a small group “Christ-centered,” the first vital sign of a healthy small group (from my book, Small Group Vital Signs). One of the things I realized was that you can tell how Christ-centered a group is by how they pray.

You can tell how Christ-centered a group is by how they pray. Click To Tweet

  • Does your group take prayer requests and then pray then back to God as if He isn’t present?
  • Do people give answers or fix?

These activities make it clear whose power the group members are most reliant on. If you know God is present with you and his power is with you when you meet, how would you pray differently than you do now?

Here’s what I did to make our group prayer time more Christ-centered and healthy.

  1. As we enter into our prayer time, I remind group members that as we meet together in Jesus’ name, he really is there with us.
  2. I often remind them of Matthew 18:20 or 1 John 1:3, for instance. I read one of these verses and discuss the implications for our prayer time.
  3. I remind the group that as we share our prayer requests with one another, God is listening, so we don’t need to repeat our prayer requests back to him as if he didn’t hear them the first time!
  4. This simplifies prayer for many people and, at the same time, it makes it much more awesome (literally!).
  5. I ask people to share what’s on their minds and hearts with us and Jesus at the same time. If they prefer to share their request as a prayer, that is, directed to Jesus, that’s fine. The rest of the group will listen in. If they prefer to share it with group members, that’s OK, too. Jesus is present and is listening.

Maybe we get too caught up in “saying a prayer” and putting it into the right format with the right words rather than simply having a conversation with one another and Jesus. Perhaps people don’t pray aloud because they think they’ll get it wrong.

Talking to Jesus and one another should be the most natural thing Christ followers do in community. Make your prayer time Christ-centered!

QUESTION: If you know God is present with you and his power is with you when you meet, how would you pray differently than you do now? Comment below!


Small Group Leadership TIPS of the Weeks for April 11-22, 2016

Oops! I’m not sure how it happened, but last week’s TIPS never actually posted. So guess what? It’s BONUS WEEK! You get two week’s of Small Group Leader TIPS s Tweeted, posted on the Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and posted on LinkedIn for the price of 1!

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Monday, 4/11: Whenever you see a mbr display the use of a spiritual gift, point it out, affirm it, and encourage more of it.
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Tuesday, 4/12:  Jesus won’t force his way into your group, but he is standing at the door knocking. #openthedoor
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Wednesday, 4/13: Remind your group that you exist for the people who are not yet “in.” Break the holy huddle. #mission
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Thursday, 4/14: If you want to be a spiritual leader, 1st live by the Spirit. Let him lead every part of your life. #Gal5
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Friday, 4/15: To paraphrase +Josh Hunt, Never try to lead people you have not prayed for. #prayer
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 – – – – – – – THIS WEEK – – – – – – –

Monday, 4/18: Don’t usurp all responsibility 4 group’s spir growth. You plant/water, but only God can make ppl grow. #1Cor3
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Tuesday, 4/19: If your church doesn’t provide coaches, find one yourself. Ldrs become grt thru consistent coaching.
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Wednesday, 4/20: If you are an experienced grp leader, coach someone else. It will make them and you better leaders.
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Thursday, 4/21: Take your SG Min Point Leader out for a meal and pay. Thank, encourage, and promise to support and pray.
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Friday, 4/22: Surprise a struggling member w/ flowers, card, or other gift just to say you’re thinking abt them and praying.
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Small Group Leadership TIPS of the Week: March 21-25, 2016

Small Group Leadership TIPS of the past week as Tweeted, posted on the Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and posted on LinkedIn.

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This week’s Small Group Leader TIPS focus on #mission and particularly inviting people to your small group.

Monday, 3/21: Dedicate part of every meeting to talking abt and praying for ppl who are not yet in your group. #mission

Tuesday, 3/22: Clarify the difference between your #mission, to go + make disciples, and the means: community, study, etc.

Wednesday, 3/23: At services & events, see ppl as Jesus would, w/ compassion, as sheep w/o a shepherd. Act accordingly. #mission

Thursday, 3/24: Sit with & talk to ppl at church services you don’t know or are new. Look 4 opps to invite to group. #mission

Friday, 3/25: How you and your SG prays shows your priorities. Is it just abt you or lost, harassed + helpless ppl? #mission

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5 Vital Secrets for Getting Your Group to Invite Others

How do you get small group members to invite people to their groups?

I spoke at +Greenwood Christian Church this past Saturday, particularly on the topic of moving small groups from good (comfortable, focused mostly internally) to great (costly, missional). We spent time talking about the importance of members inviting people into their groups as part of carrying out Christ’s mission of going and making disciples.

I’m following up with leaders from that workshop (and addressing any other small group leaders who want to make a difference) with 5 specific principles you can use to help your group members, even the shyest ones, invite people to your group. I’ll follow up this post with other posts to provide more ideas and to discuss the ramifications of this.

  1. The Leader Must Go First! Don’t go to your group with the ideas below until you have done these things yourself. As a leader, you must first be an example, a model, for those entrusted to you (1 Pet. 5:3).
  2. Don’t Do Anything Else Until You’ve Spent Time with God. Every strategy you use, every word you say, everything you do must flow out of your relationship with God. Be like Jesus who often withdrew to out of the way places to spend time with his heavenly Father (Lk. 5:16) and did nothing on his own but only what the Father showed him to do (John 5:19; 7:16; 8:28). Remember that God is already working in people’s lives and hearts, so partner with him (John 6:44). When you spend time with God, he will pour into you everything you need and overflow out of you into the lives of others (John 15:1-17).
  3. Lead with the Same Love, Tenderness, and Compassion as Jesus (Phil. 2:1-2). How do you see other people as you go through your day? How do you respond to people who attend church services or other events? When Jesus saw crowds of people he responded with compassion. He saw them as harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matt. 9:36). “Be like-minded, having the same love” (Phil. 2:2).


  4. Change the Way You Think About Weekend Services and Other Church Events. You attend worship services to praise God, receive vision, and be equipped for your mission as a Christ follower. Those are all great things. But add one more vital element. Instead of sitting with your usual friends in your usual seats, make yourself available for God to use you to reach out to people who are like sheep without a shepherd. Prayerfully look for new people or people sitting by themselves and ask if you can sit next to them. Look for opportunities to talk and get to know one another and possibly invite them to your group. Trust that God will lead you to the right people and that he is already working in their lives. You may be amazed at how he works in and through you as his ambassador.
  5. Change the Way You Think About “Ordinary” Days. When you are regularly abiding in Christ, he will overflow out of you into the people who are around you during your “ordinary” days. He’ll make your days extraordinary in ways you can’t even imagine, if you let him. Ask God whom he wants to love and care for through you. Ask him to give you opportunities to invite people you interact with (people he has put on your path) to your small group. Keep your eyes open for how God is working and your heart compassionate for those harassed and helpless people who surround you each day. God will do abundantly more than you can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within you (Eph. 3:20)!


“We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.” -1 John 1:3-4, NLT 



Rock ‘n Roll Advice to Get Your Small Group Back Where You Belong

Maybe you’ve never considered this, but Rock n’ Roll has provided small group leaders with quite a bit of wisdom. Over the last week, I’ve been posting #rocknrollwisdom as my Small Group Leadership TIPS of the week on Twitter, my Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and LinkedIn. The genesis of all real wisdom comes from the Creator, who uses all kinds of means to get our attention.

How many R&R titles can you find?

Many groups have forgotten The Heart of the Matter. They Come Together for fellowship and to Read the Book, and that’s Fine as Fine Can Be, yet God is simply a Spirit in the Sky, and Jesus is Just Alright. They may say I’m a Believer, but the Lost? Dream On! Love your neighbor? “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” they ask. When a visitor happens to show up, their attitudes are, “Hey You, Don’t Stand So Close to Me!” Ain’t It a Shame? Yes, It’s a Plain Shame!

God Only Knows what he can do in and through your group, so Don’t Stop Believin’ in him. Say a Little Prayer and tell God, “I’ll lead this group Anyway You Want It.” In fact, instead of leading under your own Authority and Power, lead as if you’re Livin’ on a Prayer.

Small Group Leaders, it’s time to Shake It Up! Yes, continue to Faithfully Shower the People You Love with Love. But Let Your Love Flow to people outside your little group as well. Invite new people to your group. Tell them, “You can Come as You Are, yes Just the Way You Are,” and then Let ‘Em In and welcome them with Open Arms.

Now here’s a little Caution when you tell your group there’s Gonna Be Some Changes Made … Changes in Latitudes (because you’ll need to Get Off your comfy couches to actually do what the Bible says) and mostly Changes in Attitudes. Be the Leader of the Band, the Leader of the Pack, and tell your group members to Walk This Way. It may not be Easy, but Keep on Rollin’ with the Changes and Don’t Look Back. It may Feel Like the First Time you’ve actually lived as a group on God’s mission!

Make Christ’s mission to Go Now and reach lost and Lonely People Urgent for your group. It’s really A Matter of Trust for the people in your group, so Don’t Fear the Reaper. Remind your group that with God, Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now. No Way. Ain’t No Stopping Us Now! So until you’re climbing that Stairway to Heaven and Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, Keep the Fire. Yes. Keep the Fire Burnin’ over the Long Run!

As Always, Always and Forever, Love is the Answer. When Times Gettin’ Tougher than Tough, remember, you gotta have Faith. It may be true that You Can’t Always Get What You Want, but if you try sometimes well you might find you get what you need.

Keep on Rockin’!

I’m sure I’ve missed a few pieces of #RocknRollWisdom. Add yours in the comments!

More Posts on Getting on God’s Mission as a Group

Three Facts American Small Groups Can Learn From The Best Practices of Other Countries – Part 2: Guest Post by Ralph W. Neighbour

Yesterday, we began a three-part series by guest blogger, Dr. +Ralph NeighbourPlease see that post before reading this one. 



“As you look around right now, wouldn’t you say that in about four months it will be time to harvest? Well, I’m telling you to open your eyes and take a good look at what’s right in front of you” (John 4:35).
The core values of overseas groups are:


  1. Every believer is a priest. A priest is a connecting link between Christ and a person who needs His presence.
  2. Every small group is a priesthood.
    They are to practice “prophesying” as defined in 1 Cor. 14:3 and 14:24, ff.
  3. Every small group has a special mission field that must be exposed to Christ.


I have observed that a universal contrast between American churches and overseas churches who have cell/small groups is their core values.
In America, small groups seem to exist as “holding tanks” for congregations who are not equipping, nor expecting, each member to be a priest empowered by Christ and to reveal Him in their communities. There is a fuzziness about the purpose of groups. Some are for “discipleship” or “Bible study” or to keep members “involved,” but few have an awareness that their primary task is to be used by Christ to harvest unbelievers.
Overseas, groups are formed on a conviction that all believers function as priests, that all groups contain Christ’s presence and power and that Christ dwells in His new body to draw all men to the Cross. He does this by energizing the body members to edify, exhort, and console one another. The observation of this by searching unbelievers reveals His presence, leading to repentance and salvation. Thus growth takes place as new believers are added to the groups.
There is a great sensitivity overseas to the responsibility of each believer to see his relatives and friends as a personal mission field, and the total of these persons connected to the group, as their “mission field.” Each group will list the total number of unbelievers and focus on how to jointly connect to them. Half nights of prayer for them are common. Group meetings will be planned to invite them as guests, where they are allowed to observe the members ministering spiritual gifts to one another. As the guests begin to share their own burdens, they are embraced in love as they surrender to Christ’s Lordship.
Thus, the stark contrast between American groups and overseas groups is the intentional ministry of the second group. They see themselves as vessels containing the Godhead, accepting the responsibility of exposing Him to guests by manifesting ministry gifts to one another.
Spending at least equal time being in the households of the unbelievers as spent in group meetings will take place in certain seasons of the group’s calendar, leading to a harvest point for the entire congregation. 
This is the third fact we shall discuss in Part 3, tomorrow.