Leadership TIPS of the Week: October 9-13, 2017

Where do these daily leadership tips come from? They are definitely not of my own imagination. They usually come to me as I spend time with God each day in his Word and in prayer. More times than not they seem like “interruptions” in my time with the Father. But I see them more as an overflow of abiding in him. As I spend time with him, he pours his love and power and goodness and wisdom into me—and that has nothing to do with me. Then I simply share—overflow—what I’m hearing from him in these tips. They also come from the time I spend reading books, articles, blog posts, etc. Great leaders inspire me, and I enjoy reading about their lives. I sometimes put their ideas into my own words as shaped by God’s Word.

Here’s what I posted this past week on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Please share them with your friends!

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Safe or Dangerous?

One morning on the Christian radio station I usually listen to, a local pastor of the “church of the week” talked about the nature of the church. He said the teens from his congregation had written essays about the church, and all of them used the word safe in their descriptions. The pastor went on to say that this is an accurate portrayal of the church.

What do you think? Does safe describe the heart of Christ’s church?

Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective. We do want people to feel like the church, and every small group within it, is a safe place. They will be accepted for who they are and where they are in life. They will not be attacked or abused.

On the other hand, God’s Word portrays a church that is dangerous. It’s in a war for the eternal destinies of humankind. It’s a place of surrender and sacrifice. Peace comes in the midst of all this, as we put our trust in Christ. We are eternally safe because of his suffering, but we are on the front lines of a battle every day.

I think that is the gist of what Jesus was trying to teach his followers in Matthew 10, when he sent out the twelve to do ministry. He told them, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).

That does not sound very safe to me! It has always fascinated me that in this passage Jesus says he did not come to bring peace, and yet he is the Prince of Peace. He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

Perhaps Jesus’ words in John 14:27 hold the secret for great small groups. The world defines peace as safety from trouble, but Christians know that in this world there will be trouble. Jesus has overcome the world, however. While difficulties and hardships will come, we do not have to let our hearts be troubled. As Christians, we do not need to seek safety and comfort. That is not the purpose of Christ-centered, kingdom-minded small groups. We seek the mind of Christ—his purpose, will, and peace in the midst of whatever may come our way.

As Christians, we have peace because we have Christ. He gives us life to the full in the midst of troubles.

-Michael C. Mack, World’s Greatest Small Group

Leadership TIPS of the Week: October 2-6, 2017

John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Leaders are continuous learners, which is why I share these leadership TIPS each weekday. Here’s what I posted this past week on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Please share them with your friends!

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Life in all its fullness

Life to the full, the abundant life, more and better life than you’ve ever dreamed of, everything you need. These are the ways different Bible versions say the same thing.

You cannot lead a small group to experience the fullness of God’s love and grace unless you are experiencing it yourself. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus presents three ways to respond to his offer of abundant life:

  1. Come to me … and I will give you rest.

Life to the full comes only through Jesus. Your response to him is to seek God and stay connected to him.

When you come to Jesus, as his first disciples did, you give your life to him, commit to following him, and let him mold you into what he wants you to be. When you come to him, he gives you rest, especially from legalism—following all the rules to be right with God. The abundant life is far more than living a holy and blameless life. The Pharisees worked hard at living like that, but their lives were empty. They were living religious, rule-keeping lives, but not full lives. When your life is empty—when you have not invited Jesus to take up residence in your life—you are in danger of having all kinds of other things—evil things—come in and take up residence. Being religious will not fill you up. It will leave you only empty and vulnerable. Only Jesus has the power to really fill you—to give you life to the full.

  1. Take my yoke upon you.

This next step, as you become more mature, is the place of surrender to God. It is not only accepting Jesus as your Savior so you have peace and security about eternal life. This place of surrender is about knowing him as leader of your life and living in surrender to his ways and his will. This is the place of service, using the gifts God has given you to administer his grace in its various forms (1 Peter 4:10). Remember that the “yoke” Jesus gives you always fits perfectly!

The abundant life is not the same as the “good life” that so many people run after. It is not necessarily a life free from pain, sadness, difficulties, or the other burdens people face every day. Jesus does not give us these difficult burdens, but he also does not always take away the difficulties and challenges we face in life.

The apostle Paul described how to live life to the full in Philippians 4:11-12, when he talked about learning the secret of being content, regardless of the circumstances. The abundant life is a life of joy—a joy that can be possessed regardless of the circumstances. It is a life of rest from burdens—a rest that only Jesus can give you. It is a life of freedom—freedom from the burdensome, ill-fitting yoke of rule-keeping.

That reminds me of a story I read about a man who was released from jail at 12:01 a.m. At 12:09 a.m. he was spotted climbing over a chain link fence, back onto the jail grounds, and attempting to pass a cigarette to an inmate through a steel grate covering a window. At 12:10 a.m. the man was back in custody, charged with illegal entry into a prison facility and disorderly conduct. True story! Can you identify at all with this stupid criminal? The apostle Paul wrote about all of us:

Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. … I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace (Galatians 5:1-4, The Message).

What do you allow to take away your freedom? It’s probably not circumcision, as it was for Paul’s friends. You may not literally be breaking into jail, like our stupid criminal, but all of us, at one time or another, give up the freedom Jesus has given us, choosing to live as a prisoner.

I want to encourage you, leader to leader—don’t return to the prison cell of living by a list of do’s and don’ts. As a spiritual leader, you are a model of the type of life God wants everyone to live. The Judaizers (those who taught that believers needed to become Jews first by being circumcised in order to become Christians) were spiritual leaders who were not only living as prisoners themselves, they were trying to lead other Christians back into bondage. Be careful, then, not to be like these “agitators,” as Paul called them (Galatians 5:12). Rather, live your life in freedom in Christ!

In Matthew 13, Jesus told his small group a story about a farmer scattering seed on different types of soils. The seed is the Good News of the life Jesus came to give. But many things can keep you from living that life: obstacles, strongholds, worries, busyness, misdirection, and confusion between the “good life” and the abundant life. Jesus gives it freely, but you cannot always receive it. Your heart has to be fertile—ready to receive the good seed God wants to plant there.

Jesus reminds us often in the gospels about the costs involved in coming to him. These involve the possibility of losing your family members, finances, job, position in life, maybe even life itself. How can these “yokes” be easy and not burdensome? Only by putting your total trust in Jesus and learning from him how to live.

  1. Learn from me.

Part of the ongoing process of experiencing more of the abundant life is to learn from Jesus how to live. He teaches you by his example, his Holy Spirit, and his Word. As you yield to his will, you learn how to live life his way.

The World’s Greatest Small Group Leader lived life to the full himself. So he is a perfect model for us. In John 4:34, Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” Part of living the abundant life is living your life for God, not yourself, doing his will and living according to the purpose he has given you.

In Matthew 24-25, Jesus emphasized and re-emphasized the need to stay alert. The abundant life is lived with a constant focus on Jesus (Colossians 3:2). It’s all too easy to shift your attention elsewhere. Jesus is encouraging and warning you to stay focused on him.

When you are seeking him and focused on him, you can live life the way he wants you to live it: abundantly … actually, superabundantly!

-Michael C. Mack, World’s Greatest Small Group

Leadership TIPS of the Week: September 25-29, 2017

It’s National Coffee Day! So, grab a cup of your favorite joe and check out our leadership TIPS of the past week. Here’s what I posted on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Please share them with your friends!

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Leadership TIPS of the Week: September 18-22, 2017

Thank goodness it’s Friday, the day I share all the leadership TIPS I posted this past week on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Please share them with your friends!

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Teamwork Drills

I have loved coaching kid’s sports teams, especially basketball. One of the most rewarding parts of coaching for me is taking a rag-tag group of kids who don’t know one another at the beginning of a season and turning them into a team—a team that works together as one, each using his unique abilities for the good of the whole. A team that wins because five are better than one. It takes a lot of effort to build this teamwork—lots of drills and time spent together, both in and outside of practices and games. I love the way Coach John Wooden said it years ago, and I still share this quote with my teams: “It takes 10 hands to score a basket.”

Building a productive team as a small group is much the same. It takes intentional effort, both inside and outside group meeting times. It takes team-building drills such as these:

  • Go on a camping or hiking trip together and give each person a specific assignment.
  • Play a game such a volleyball, paintball, or a role-playing game against another group.
  • Participate in a shared work experience or serving opportunity.
  • Identify a common “enemy” or challenge together.

Guide Them to Authentic Community

One of the first things you do as a leader is build relationships with the members of the group. This should begin way before the first meeting.

Finding Your Group

If you are just getting started and do not have group members yet, start with prayer. Ask God to show you exactly who he wants in your group. Then keep your eyes open to whom he will send. It’s highly likely—but not absolute—that these will be people already in your circle, people you already know. They may be friends, neighbors, co-workers, people you serve with or otherwise know from church, for instance.

To keep your eyes open for whom God sends, ask him for the spiritual eyes to see. In John 1:47-49, when Jesus saw Nathanael approaching him, he said, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” This surprised Nathanael: “How do you know me?” he asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” How did Jesus “see” Nathanael, whom he had never met? He had been praying that the Father would make known to him those whom the Father was going to give him out of the world (John 17:6).

Several years ago, I started a new “turbo group” (a small group that lasts about three to twenty-four months in which every member is a leader-in-training and will begin a new group at the conclusion of the group). When I first began planning it, I knew that the selection of this group would be critical to the future of our small group ministry. So I decided not to “recruit” the group or even make a list of names. Instead, I prayed every day that God would bring them. Because I believed these would be future leaders in our small group ministry, I did what the World’s Greatest Small Group Leader said to do: “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:38). I also asked for God to give me the eyes to see them when they came.

Larry walked in the front door of our office building one day and asked to see the small group minister. I reluctantly set aside my turbo group planning and went out to meet him, a bit dismayed by the unannounced intrusion into my work—I thought the visitor was a salesperson. I soon discovered that Larry and his wife Glenda had been led to Christ by Ralph Neighbour, one of the pioneers of small group ministry. Larry and Glenda had spent years in ministry themselves, and had recently moved to Louisville, looking for a church where they could be involved. Larry wanted to get back to his passion for discipleship in small groups.

I had known Chris and Tiffany for several years. Chris works on our backstage crew and has a huge servant’s heart. I saw Chris standing around one Sunday morning before the service. It seemed odd to me that he apparently had nothing to do. Something inside me told me to go over and talk to him. I obeyed, but had no idea why. On my walk over, God told me—and it was extremely clear—to ask Chris to be in the group. I stopped for a moment in the middle of our lobby. Chris is a successful home builder in our area, but I had not yet considered him as a potential small group leader. Finally, I obeyed, told Chris about the group, and invited him. I expected him to say he’d have to think about it, but he immediately said, “Yeah! I’m in!” He went on to tell me that he and Tiffany had just talked and then prayed about getting into a small group the night before.

The stories about how each of the other members came and how I knew them are also unique and amazing. Each one is a testimony to the fact that God is the Chief Shepherd and the Lord of the Harvest!

-Michael C. Mack, World’s Greatest Small Group

Leadership TIPS of the Week: September 11-15, 2017

My mission is to help equip ordinary people to lead extraordinary churches, groups, classes, ministries, businesses, teams, families . . . whatever you lead! To that end, I share these leadership TIPS each weekday on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Then I compile each week’s TIPS from Twitter here on Fridays. Please share them with your friends. I’ve made it easy for you!

BONUS TIPS

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Appointed, Not Recruited

Leading a small group (or anything else in the church) comes out of an assignment or appointment from God. This is critical and foundational to Christian leadership. When someone recruits you to a job that you are not called to, it’s easy to throw in the towel when the going gets tough.

Are you a small group leader because someone recruited you, because there’s a shortage of leaders, or because you have been called by God?

Let me be clear: You may have been recruited, even out of a sense of need, by someone in your church: a pastor, ministry point leader, coach, or the leader of your group, for instance. That does not mean you have not also been called. God often—actually, usually—uses other people as his ambassadors to call us into his service. You may have been primarily called as a small group host or facilitator, but now I’m talking to you about being a leader, and maybe you’re thinking, Not so fast! I’m not a leader, just a host or facilitator.

Please let me encourage you.

First, don’t underestimate yourself. The best leaders are often, at first, anyway, reluctant leaders. Humility is a vital trait of a godly leader.

Second, and I’ve said this before, it’s not about you anyway! The best leaders are people who are simply willing to let God use them. God takes ordinary people and does extraordinary things through them.

Third, simply start where you are, in whatever role God has called you to, and be ready to grow into what God is making you into. Remember what Jesus told some guys who started as fishermen: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!”

It comes down to this: You assume the role of a leader “not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be” (1 Peter 5:2). What’s important is your willingness to let God use you as he wants for his kingdom work.

-Michael C. Mack, World’s Greatest Small Group

Leadership TIPS of the Week: September 4-8, 2017

I share these leadership TIPS each weekday on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to help equip ordinary people to lead extraordinary churches, groups, classes, ministries, businesses, teams, families . . . whatever you lead! Then I compile each week’s TIPS here on Fridays. Please share them with your friends. I’ve made it easy for you!

Read all our Leadership TIPS. Just click here!