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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10 Stupid Things That Are Keeping Your Small Group from Growing

Geoff Surratt, director of Exponential, wrote a book titled Ten Stupid Things That Keep Churches from Growing. Great title, so I, ummm, borrowed it. Here are what I believe are the top 10 stupid things that prevent groups from growing or doing anything truly worthwhile.

  1. Consuming. Groups who focus all their attention on themselves grow … fat. But they don’t grow up. They are consumer groups who, like Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, swell up into something completely useless, to be rolled away by Oompa-Loompas. Healthy groups focus on others, which leads not only to the Golden Ticket, but to real maturity.
  2. Concentrating on study and knowledge.  Yeah, it’s ironic that this is a stupid thing that keeps groups from growing, but it’s actually true. The apostle Paul said, “Knowledge puffs up (there’s Violet again), but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). James said not to just listen to God’s Word, but to actually do what it says (James 1:22).
  3. Forgetting that Jesus really is present when you meet. An unhealthy group sets its own agenda or falls into the agenda of strong or very needy group members. Healthy groups remember that Jesus is present and meet for his purposes and with his power.
  4. A meeting mentality. A great group is way more than merely a meeting. Focus on mission and ministry, not just on holding meetings.
  5. A leader who leads from knowledge, abilities, or personality. Groups that grow are led by leaders who are growing in their own relationship with Christ. This is their #1 priority. They lead out of the overflow of what God is pouring into them.
  6. Solo leadership. Groups that grow, really grow, have leaders who share leadership with a core team of a few others. These groups not only grow, they multiply more naturally.
  7. Arms-length relationships. People often get into small groups because they want friends with whom they can do this Christian life. They may not say that or even totally realize it, but that’s what they’re really looking for. When they don’t get it, they’ll go somewhere else. People grow spiritually in an an environment of real-life community [translate, “friends”]. Groups grow when groups are friends, not just acquaintances
  8. No ownership. In stagnant groups, people show up empty handed and leave without contributing anything to the rest of the group. In a healthy group, everyone participates and contributes. Group members use their gifts and involve their passions. Each person has a role in the functioning of the group.
  9. No plans or goals. Dormant groups live by default rather than design. They live in reactive rather than proactive mode. An assessment of the groups at our church showed conclusively that when groups know who they are, what they are about, and where they are going, they grow spiritually and numerically.  If your longest range plans are who is bringing what kind of cookies to next week’s meeting, you’re probably stuck, and that’s stupid.
  10. Taking Yourselves Way Too Seriously. Nobody wants to come–or keep coming–to your humdrum small group. Loosen up. Laugh together. Play some music and have a dance off. Change the regular order of your meeting agenda–or just throw out the agenda. Be creative.
That’s my 10. What stupid things that keep groups from growing would you add? Scroll down to comment!

16 Small Group Roles: How to Share Ownership and Grow

One of the best ways to make your small group more healthy and exciting is to share ownership with everyone. 

Sharing ownership impacts your group in the following ways: (1) more consistency of attendance and participation, (2) more involvement in the discipleship process, (3) opportunities to recognize and utilize our own spiritual gifts and talents, (4) more opportunity to be involved in what we’re passionate about, (5) development of a true team as a group as everyone uses his or her own gifts, (6) less stress on the leader to do everything, which leads to (7) less leader burnout and (8) more opportunity to develop future leaders. 

Below are some small group roles. I’m sure there are plenty more than the roles I list below, so I’m looking forward to what you suggest!

  • Study Champion: Facilitates study time; helps group decide on what to study
  • Serve Champion: Helps plan serving opportunities with group
  • Outreach Champion: Helps group reach out to and pray for friends who do not have a relationship with Christ
  • Inreach Champion: Keeps group focused on themselves rather than anyone else outside the group. Has strong belief that the group revolves around him and his needs
  • Worship Champion: May lead worship in group, whether it involves singing, or other forms of worship
  • Social Champion: Helps plan group social activities
  • Prayer Champion: Leads prayer times, may keep prayer journal
  • Doomsday Champion: Makes plans for the whole group for all end-of-the-world scenarios. Spiritual gift: prophesy (she says). Knows the book of Revelation forward and backward. Has seen the movie 2012 twelve times.
  • Host(ess)/Hospitality Champion: Hosts group or helps plan who hosts
  • Food Champion: Helps plan anything dealing with food
  • Timekeeper: Helps group stay on track with time
  • Topper: Role is to top anyone else’s story or prayer request (reference: Dilbert)
  • Information Champion: Keeps group information up-to-date. Communicates with the Small Groups Ministry Office about the group. (This person is probably administrative and enjoys using the web; i.e. Facebook)
  • American Idol Champion: Keeps the group up-to-date weekly on what is happening on his or her favorite reality TV shows, sometimes interrupting worship or Bible study to do so. Does not get along well with Worship or Study Champions or Timekeeper.
  • Group Communication Champion: Communicates with the group about meetings, etc. (This person may enjoy using email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Coffee Champion: Makes sure coffee is brewed at each meeting. Is usually a “coffee snob.” Helps keep group awake during Study Champion’s less-exciting lessons.
OK, maybe these are not all real group roles. And maybe you have a few of you own. Please share them by commenting below! 
A PDF of my official list I’ve used in my church ministry can be downloaded from HERE. (Scroll down to the FREE Downloads section and click on “Share_Ownership.pdf.”) Feel free to make copies of that list to utilize in your small group. 


Are You Building Walls or People?

Are you being a good steward of your small group?

I’ve written about this before in reference to how you are discipling and shepherding the group God has put under your care (1 Peter 5:2). That’s vital to leading a healthy small group. But there’s even more to it than that.

How are you using all the gifts and abilities and passions of the people in your small group (or your family, ministry, church, business …)?

Today I went back and looked again at Nehemiah 3, which tells about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem under Nehemiah’s leadership. This whole chapter is a list of all the groups and individuals who worked on the walls and the gates. Nehemiah demonstrated his leadership by his ability to get people involved in the work. We do not know exactly how he “recruited” all these people, but we can see that he inspired them by the meaningfulness of the work. He got a wide variety of people involved: men and women, people of all ages, people who had a variety of skills and experiences. He involved priests and other religious and civic leaders. Nehemiah had a strategy: he had people working specific parts of the wall and gates, often right in front of their own homes. This was wise stewardship of their time, but it also gave them ownership of their parts of the wall.

Nehemiah had a task of building a wall, but his most important responsibility was to build up the people in the process. 

If the walls of Jerusalem were that important, how much more significant is the work we do of making disciples of all nations?

Are you using the gifts and abilities and passions of the people in your small group, or are you trying to do all the work yourself?

How are you building up the people in your group, family, ministry, church, business?

Lessons from Lynyrd Skynyrd & Mother Teresa

I’m conflicted.

I was talking yesterday with a fellow Louisville groups minister and writer, and he kidded me about my new author’s page on Facebook (and yes, I did just link to it so you can check it out!).

When I was thinking about adding this page on Facebook, I admit I was very conflicted. I want to be a humble man of God. I try to be. But I’m not always very good at it. Lots of room to grow here. I love the song by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Simple Man,” written from the perspective of a mother talking to her son. Here is part of the song (the complete lyrics can be found here):

And be a simple kind of man
Be something you love and understand
Baby be a simple kind of man
Oh, won’t you do this for me son if you can?

Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold
All that you need is in your soul
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try
All that I want for you my son is to be satisfied

I want to be that simple kind of man, the kind of man who works not to satisfy myself, but the God who created me for his purpose.

I explained to a friend that it’s like Mother Teresa said, “I’m just a little pencil (or maybe a laptop?) in the hand of a writing God.” I thank him for giving me a gift to share.

Today, Bernice posted a question on the page asking me a valid question: “Is this a money maker or what is your purpose, just curious??” I’m glad she asked. Here’s my response:

My heart is for God to use me to help leaders. The way I feel called to do that is partially through my writing, and I would like to let more people know about it. I don’t want to self-promote, and I’m not getting rich through the sales of books I’ve written. But when you write, you hope and pray God will use it to have as widespread effect as it can.

I want to honor God through what I do and I hope and pray that God will use my life to somehow advance his purposes in his kingdom.

God has created me with a two-fold passion for small groups and leadership, and he’s given me a love for writing. I want to be a good steward of what he’s given me. I don’t want to be a “self-promoter.” I fight the urge to do that. And, to be truthful, I do feel some pride well up when any worldly success comes. It’s almost like I want to prove myself to my dad (who passed from this life 11 years ago): “See, dad! I’m a success.” That feeling comes from a black part of my heart that I ask God to continue to heal.

Now I know that by putting up my own author’s page on Facebook, I risk looking arrogant. My intention may be misunderstood. God knows my heart. He’ll eventually judge my intentions. So I took a risk. Now I’m explaining it (probably over-explaining it!). I guess I’m sharing this because I do care about what my friends think in a (hopefully) positive way. I want you to know my true heart. I want you to see what’s on the other side of the page.

My hope is that I someday get to hear my Heavenly Father say, “Well done!” My prayer is simply that all the attention and glory goes to him, not me. He deserves it. I don’t. He’s worthy of it. I’m not. If I’m going to be an author or a leader or anything, I want to first be a man after his heart.

How is God using you today to send his love letter to the world?

Small Group Superhero!

Today at Northeast, Bob Cherry stepped out on stage wearing a red cape, playing the part of “Super Pastor.”  He shared how, early in his ministry, he did everything around the church: preaching, teaching, visiting, writing and printing the bulletin, roofing, and so on. He then taught us about the Old Testament role of the priests, who acted as mediators between God and man, and discussed how many churches still work from this Old Testament model in which the priest (or pastor or minister) is expected to and actually does almost everything.

The problem, of course, is that this model is totally foreign to the model and teaching of the New Testament. In the New Testament church, everyone is a super hero. Everyone has a part to play in Christ’s Body. We are all priests (1 Peter 2:9). Most of us who have been around the church for awhile know this. We’ve read passages like Ephesians 2:8-10; 4:1-16, 1 Cor. 12, and Romans 12. We know it, but do we really live it?

Each member of your small group is a super hero! Each one has been given super powers called spiritual gifts. Each one should have an important role to play in the group. Each one is a priest.

Do you see your small group this way? Is everyone empowered to use their gifts to serve others in the group in their own unique ways? Does each person have a role that matches up with their gifts, passions, and skills?

I visit a lot of small groups and I see a lot of super hero small group leaders who somehow have come to believe they must do everything in order for the group to thrive. I talk to some of them and they tell me things like, “Well, they’re just not ready yet to share leadership in the group.” My question: Why is that? Why have you not developed them and empowered them? Why don’t you believe in them?

Leaders who do everything for the group enable the other group members to sit and do nothing. They send a clear message that says, You can’t … You’re not able. But a leader’s main responsibility is to say, “You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. You can do it! Give it a try! This is a safe place to step out of your comfort zone. I’m behind you!” People will grow when they are in this kind of environment. People do not grow when they are always playing it safe inside their comfort zones. People don’t grow with super hero small group leaders!

Discuss this with your group! You can hand out a list of possible roles for your group, discuss what gifts and talents are involved in each one, and let group members take ownership of at least one. You can download the form from HERE.

It’s time to take off the cape and get everyone involved. This will change your group! (It can also change your church and the world.)

God’s Calling or Spiritual Gifts: Which Comes First?

Which comes first, God’s calling or knowing your spiritual gift?

The way most churches approach this today, discovering your spiritual gifts comes first, and then you decide where to serve based on that information. It’s my opinion that that’s 180 degrees off the mark, and this has a profound effect on our churches.

God told Moses to appear before Pharaoh. Moses argued and protested over and over, and finally pleaded, “O Lord, I’m just not a good speaker. I never have been, and I’m not now, even after you have spoken to me. I’m clumsy with words” (Exodus 4:10). In other words, “God, that’s not my spiritual gift.”

I love God’s response: “Who makes mouths? Who makes people so they can speak or not speak, hear or not hear, see or not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, and do as I have told you. I will help you speak well, and I will tell you what to say” (vv. 11, 12). In other words, “Go and obey. I’ll provide the gifts to do what I’ve called you to do!”

I’ve read and studied all the “gifts” passages in the New Testament and I see several threads weaved through all of them:

  1. God calls us; spiritual gifts are meaningless outside of his calling on our lives (Ephesians 4:1; Romans 12:1-2).
  2. God gives us spiritual gifts so that we can serve others (1 Peter 4:10; Ephesians 4:12; 1 Corinthians 12:7).
  3. Spiritual gifts are always discussed within the context of unity, humility, and partnership within Christ’s body (Romans 12:3-5; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 12-27; Ephesians 4:2-6, 16; 1 Peter 4:8).
  4. The environment where spiritual gifts operate is in Christian community. The context of every spiritual gifts passage is how Christ’s body works together in community.
  5. The purpose of spiritual gifts is to build up Christ’s body, the church, so that he will receive all the glory (Ephesians 4:12; 1 Peter 4:11).

As far as I know, spiritual gifts tests are a very recent invention. For thousands of years, Christ followers have discovered their gifts in community as God called people to serve. Gifts are discovered, understood, and then used — all in authentic community where we encourage one another, speak the truth in love, spur one another on to love and good deeds, teach and admonish one another, accept one another, carry each others’ burdens, pray for each other, and live in harmony with one another.

Perhaps the church today has needed spiritual gifts tests because we’re missing out on that kind of healthy, life-changing, biblical community. What do you think?