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.

 

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!

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Business Books Every Ministry Leader Should Read

I asked Christian leaders across the U.S. to recommend a book written primarily for business leaders that they’ve found helpful in their ministry leadership. The first 10 of these were originally published in the September 2016 issue of the Christian Standard in my monthly “Best Practices” column. (See the original article HERE.) I’ve added 5 more and included all 15 here:

The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, by Steven B. Sample. “It helped me think past the clichés of leadership to practices that reflect what I think is a leader’s honest self-evaluation before God.”
–Jon Weatherly, Professor of New Testament, Dean of the School of Bible and Theology at Johnson University

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, by Patrick Lencioni. “So much good stuff about why effective teams matter.”
–Monica Roberts, Executive Director of the Healing Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny. “Great book on how to navigate conflict without burning bridges.”
–Chuck Faber, Academic Dean and Professor of Theology and New Testament at Boise Bible College

Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, and others.
–Josh Hunt, Author, Sunday School Trainer, and Pastor at Salem (New Mexico) Baptist Church

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. “Excellent overview of the management mindset needed to develop and maintain a culture of ongoing evaluation and improvement.”
–Bruce Stoker, Senior Minister at Athens (Ohio) Church of Christ

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, by Malcom Gladwell.
–Gary David Holt, Minister at Arlington (Indiana) Christian Church

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. “Two Navy Seals write about leadership, change, and responsibility.”
–Mark LaGrone, Minister of Discipleship and Small Groups at Collierville (Tennessee) First Baptist Church

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek. “His presentation on the topic is one of the top 10 Ted Talks, but I still recommend reading the book.”
–Brad Himes, Adjunct Instructor at Eastern Illinois University and Involvement Director at Broadway Christian Church, Mattoon, Illinois

Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, by Carmine Gallo. “It reinvigorated my passion for preaching and the power of the spoken word.”
—Dave Stone, senior pastor at Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky

The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations, by Barry Posner and James M. Kouzes. “This book is backed by research and has more than 25 years of proven success.”
–Mark A. Watkins, Coach and Mentor

Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration, by Warren Bennis. “Opened my eyes to how great teams of people accomplish extraordinary things when they have clarity and commitment.”
–Brian Jones, Christ’s Church of the Valley, Royersford, Pennsylvania

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins. “I’ve applied many principles from this book about how to make small groups and ministry great rather than settling for good enough.”
–Michael C. Mack, writer, trainer, and coach at Small Group Leadership

The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea, by Bob Burg and John David Mann. It stresses generosity and teaches the value of one another.
—Dave Stone, senior pastor at Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, by The Arbinger Institute. “It opened my eyes to ways we justify our own failings and blame others.” (Michael’s Note: I add my recommendation of this book. It’s helped me not only in my ministry but in all of my relationships.)
–Ken Harrah, Founder, Memory Ministries

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, by Seth Godin.
–James E. Snapp, Minister at Curtisville Christian Church, Elwood, Indiana

QUESTIONS: Which of these books would you recommend? What business books would you add to this list? Please click the comment box, below, to jump into the discussion.

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

Top 10 Websites for Small Group Leaders – 2016

Here are the 10 best websites for small group leaders and ministry point leaders as judged solely by me, Michael Mack. Part of the mission of Small Group Leadership is to resource leaders—or, in this case, point you to some of the best resources—to help you carry out the mission God has given you. I not only use all these sites to varying degrees, I’m also involved in some of them, which I’ll note, below. Take that statement as my full disclosure.

These sites are divided into two categories: ministry organizations and individuals. The order in each category isn’t that important; what is critical, I believe, is that you discover and utilize great resources that help you lead well.

So here we go: the 2016 Best Websites for Small Group Leaders.

1-5: Ministry Organizations

 

SmallGroups.com

SmallGroups.com

Yes, I founded this ministry way back in 1995, using a dial-up modem out of our basement in Cincinnati. Today it’s owned and operated by Christianity Today, and it’s come a long way! My guess is that this site has more available for leaders than any other, and it’s also very easy to navigate and utilize.

Many of the articles on this site are free, or you can download some of the training tools, Bible studies, or videos a la carte at a starting price of $4.95 each. You can also get an individual or multi-user subscription.

Facebook  Twitter  YouTube

Small Group Network

Small Group Network

Steve Gladen, Global Pastor of Small Groups at Saddleback Church since 1998, founded the Small Group Network to help Small Group Point People discover answers to their questions. This truly is a network of small group point leaders from around the world who provide one another with encouragement and support. One of the key ways this network works is through local huddles of point leaders to share ideas, resources, and to build relationships. The site also provides a blog written by various members of the SGN team, a small groups job board, and a schedule of Small Group Network events.

If you are the point leader of small groups in your church, the Small Group Network should be one of your most-clicked bookmarks. Be sure to register and jump into all the encouragement and support.

Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  YouTube

Small Group Churches

http://www.smallgroupchurches.com/

The mission of Small Group Churches is to be an influential small group community, linking pastors and leaders to like-minded resources, events and organizations. Andrew Mason, the small groups pastor at Real Life Church in Northern California, founded this online community of leaders. I, along with Steve Gladen and Scott Boren, join Mason on the SGC team. The site includes relevant articles and a blog, but the two best things about this site are the videos (which you’ll notice first at the top of the homepage) and the forum. Mason boasts (in a good way) that Small Group Churches is the “#1 self-hosted online forum for Small Group point people, pastors and leaders.” The site says, “We are not THE resource for everything small groups, but we believe we can help you find the resource(s) you need.” The forum makes this site unique and very useful for leaders looking for answers to small group questions.

Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn  YouTube

Joel Comiskey Group

http://www.joelcomiskeygroup.com/

Joel Comiskey is recognized around the world as a leading authority on the cell church. His ministry, Joel Comiskey Group is “dedicated to helping complete the great commission in this century by providing resources and coaching to plant new cell churches and transition existing churches to cell-based ministry.” Even if you’re not a cell church, however, this site has lots of great resources, a well-written blog written by various leaders, and a bookstore that includes many of Comiskey’s 28 books primarily focused on life-giving small groups (cell groups).

Facebook  Twitter

SmallGroup.com

http://home.smallgroup.com/

Not to be confused with SmallGroups.com, this site, developed by LifeWay, provides Bible studies that can be customized for your church or group. This is a fee-based site that charges based on the number of groups using the membership. The pricing currently starts (accessed 4/27/16) at $199.95/ year for one group and goes up to $5,999.95/year for 100+ groups. (Monthly memberships are also available.) You can check out the program with a free trial on the site. One of the neat features is that if you can’t find a study that works, you can request a study on the text or topic they haven’t covered and they’ll write it for no additional charge.

Facebook  Twitter

6-10: Individuals/Bloggers

 

Allen White’s Blog

http://allenwhite.org/

Allen White has been involved in small group ministry for more than 25 years in churches and as a coach/consultant working with hundreds of churches (he must have started when he was 10). The site’s tagline says it all: “Taking the Guesswork Out of Groups.”™  The blog posts are excellent and are geared mostly toward small group point leaders. Allen often interviews point leaders and others in his “5.5 Questions” feature. (See the one he did with me here.) The site also includes Allen’s courses, info on his coaching ministry, and his small group webinars.

Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn  Instagram

Jim Egli

http://jimegli.com/

Jim Egli is the Leadership Pastor at Vineyard Church in Urbana, Illinois. He’s also one of my favorite authors of books on small group leadership. Jim’s blogs challenge me to think beyond the normal small group/discipleship/evangelism boxes, so I try to read everything he writes. Besides the blog, you’ll find lots of great small group, discipleship, and multisite resources. But one of my favorite parts of this site (actually, it’s on a separate site) is his Small Group Icebreakers, categorized into Light, Moderate, or Deep.

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Dr. Bill Donahue

http://drbilldonahue.com/

Bill Donahue is simply someone you want to follow if you’re involved in small group ministry. Leadership is often defined as influence, and if that’s true, Donahue is the epitome of a godly leader. His vision is to “resourcing life-changing leaders for world-changing influence.” I first met him when he was Director of Leader Development and Small Groups at the Willow Creek Association and Church and today he’s a popular conference speaker, prolific author, and leadership consultant. His site includes his blog, his books and other resources, videos, and more. The only knock I have on the site is that as I write this today, the blog has not been updated for six months. Still, the resources and past posts are worth the time to read.

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Scott Boren: The Relational Mission

http://scottboren.blogspot.com/

Scott Boren and I have been ministry partners for years. We’ve edited each others’ books, often seek each other’s advice, and have similar convictions about the church, groups, discipleship, etc. I had the students of my Small Groups & Discipleship class at Cincinnati Christian University read his book, MissioRelate mostly to challenge their thinking and help them catch a new vision. Boren is the author of I-don’t-know-how-many books on groups, all worth the read. He blogs on the topics of and often includes adaptations from the books.

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Mark Howell: MarkHowellLive.com / SmallGroupResources.net

http://www.markhowelllive.com/

Mark Howell is a prolific blogger who has probably forgotten more about small group ministry than most of us have ever known. He’s so prolific, in fact, it takes two websites to contain all the good material! He is the Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, and has more than 25 years of small group ministry experience in several churches and as a consultant and coach with a wide variety of churches. Be sure to check out the Services tab on his site to see the types of helps he offers to churches and leaders.

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What small group sites did I miss? Please comment below, and I’ll consider them for the next list!

Related Posts

Why a Small Group Director / Minister Brings in an “Expert” Trainer

Kathy Stahlhut
Kathy Stahlhut

GUEST BLOG by Kathy Stahlhut,  Director of Small Groups at Greenwood (Indiana) Christian Church.

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At Greenwood Christian, we are constantly striving to improve our small group leader training. We know that with good coaching, leaders function at their highest capacity. As directors or ministers of small groups, we can only do so much. For a boost, at least once a year, we try to bring in an expert on the development of small groups.

This year, Mike was our guest speaker, and he really challenged our leaders to become more outwardly focused. He emphasized how our personal mission should simply overflow out of our relationship with God. He talked about the importance of spending time with our Savior so our hearts could more reflect His. He taught us how to keep the group intentionally open to new people focusing on Matt 9:13 (The Mssg.), “I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” It’s what needed to be taught, but by someone other than me. I’m so thankful that Mike has stepped into the role of super coach or consultant. We need people like this to speak into our groups the hard things we can’t always say.

In return, our leaders really enjoyed it! Thanks, Mike. Here are a few comments:

“I loved it! It gave the leader practical ways of improving their group: have a plan, purpose, logistics, etc.; he gave ways to challenge us: using the six count, watching for ah-ha moments, etc.; and emphasizing the importance of prayer: writing names of lost friends on index cards and praying for them weekly.”

“It was an excellent training. Mike was a great speaker and discussion facilitator. He was able to help us think deeply about the mission and vision of our LifeGroups, while keeping us biblically focused.” 


GCC_Room“Mike’s training was excellent. He presents in a way that makes application in our LifeGroups easy. I will be incorporating a couple of ideas for group this week.”

“Mike’s experience with and passion for small groups were evident right from the beginning. He led us through very interactive exercises that allowed me to think about how I would integrate the concepts into my own group as we went along. I appreciate Mike’s ability to relate to us as group leaders and illustrate stories and information to help us better relate to our group members.”

GCC_Teaching

“I enjoyed Mike’s emphasis on being a group where members invite people in. This is something the leader must keep in focus for the group so they may follow the Great Commission. I would like to hear him expand on the leader’s job to facilitate vs. teach. He emphasizes facilitating a discussion, not teaching a lesson. However, there will be situations where someone misinterprets Scripture (Misinterpreting 1 Corinthians 10:13 to say “God will not give you more than you can handle”) and the leader should know how to teach and correct (2 Tim. 3:16) so the truth of Scripture can be applied among the group.”

MORE ON THIS TOPIC

5 Ways to SERVE Your Leaders Well
10 Stupid Things That Are Keeping Your Small Group from Growing
What Every Small Group Leader Needs from their Small Group Pastor

The Differences Between a Teacher and a Facilitator… And Why This Matters

GUEST POST by Rick Howerton, Discipleship & Small Group Specialist at LifeWay. Read Rick’s Blog.

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Because the Bible is getting its rightful place in group life again, sometimes the term, “teacher,” is being used to describe the person leading the group’s Bible study time.

If you’ve been around the small group world long, you know that the term “facilitator” is used most often.

When considering the terminology being used, a few super important questions come to mind.

  1. Are we just splitting hairs if we are concerned with this?
  2. Will honing in on one term or the other affect the way we do Bible study?

These are great questions that need to be answered. But first … the differences between the two terms:

  • The term teacher describes someone espousing information while everyone else listens to them “teaching.” At least in the Western culture.
  • The term facilitator describes someone who is spearheading a conversation between those gathered.

 

  • The term teacher is most often used when a group is seated in rows looking at the person standing before them.
  • The term facilitator is most often used when a group is seated in circles looking into each other’s eyes.

 

  • The term teacher insinuates that the group is there to gain head knowledge.
  • The term facilitator intimates that the group is there to discuss the thoughts of the heart.

 

  • The term teacher declares that groups of any size, even groups of thousands, can hear the teaching.
  • The term facilitator asserts that only a group of 12 or less will effectively engage in a transformational conversational Bible study.

Using the right term for the experience you’re creating does make a difference for the following reasons:

  1. The person leading the Bible study will be confused concerning what they are to do if the wrong term is used.
  2. The person who is leading the Bible study time will be confused concerning what they’re ultimately trying to accomplish if the wrong term is used.
  3. The group members will be confused concerning their role during the Bible study time if the incorrect term is being used.
  4. The way the group leader prepares for the gathering will be misunderstood if the incorrect term is used.
  5. The people who are invited to join the group will be frustrated at the first gathering they attend and may bail if they thought they were coming to a conversational Bible study only to find out that they were actually coming to hear someone teach the Bible.

Please know that both teaching the Bible and facilitating a transformational conversational Bible study are effective means of learning Scripture. But, the terms we use really do make a difference.

MORE POSTS ON FACILITATING DISCUSSION

When to “Call” on Individuals in a Small Group Meeting
Dilbert on Facilitating Group Discussion
Top 10 Ways to Stifle Discussion in Your Small Group

5 Ways to SERVE Your Leaders Well

Yesterday I wrote about what leaders really need from us as leaders of leaders. Today, let’s get more practical.

What do leaders really need? I developed a simple acrostic to help me and other leaders of leaders remember what is really important. It’s the responsibility of every leader of leaders—whether that’s a pastor, other ministry staff person, or volunteer coach—to provide these 5 things consistently.

Support – Leaders need prayer support and they need to know that they are being cared for. Every leader needs to have a shepherd who prays for them daily and is always available – through a phone call, email, or visit – for any kind of support needed. Shepherds never call meetings with their leaders or demand anything from them. They are there to serve the leaders.
Encouragement – Leaders need lots of encouragement to keep going, no matter what. A leader of leaders can schedule luncheons throughout the city several times a year just to encourage leaders in their ministry. But encouragement is a lot more than lunch. I’ve found that, no matter how many leaders we have in our ministry, I must work very hard at developing and sustaining relationships with them. No, it’s not easy with so many leaders. But when you don’t have a heavy structure to maintain and a layer of coaches to work with, you’ll have considerably more time.
Resources – Leaders need for us to provide good resources for them. That means curriculum, of course, but it also means a variety of other resources that will help them do their ministry well. Many churches provide these resources through their website. However you avail them, resources are important.
Validation – Leaders need to know they are valued. Many churches validate only what is programmed by the church. Try to validate anything and everything that is ministry in community. That means getting out of the typical churchy boxes that institutional ministries often find themselves in.
Equipping – Leaders need good training, both upfront – before they begin to lead – and ongoing. Provide both and do everything you possibly can to provide the best, most creative, most dynamic, training you can. Provide food at events. Provide childcare when you can. Make the times convenient. If someone can’t come to “your” training event, take it to them, in their home, to their workplace, in a special session with a few leaders at church – whatever. Do everything you can to remove obstacles to equipping leaders. You’re in your role to serve them.
What do leaders really need? Yes, they need love, relationships, freedom, … but the way to provide these things is by serving them. Maybe that’s the thing there’s really too little of!

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More Posts for Leaders of Leaders

Ralph W. Neighbour: What We Can Learn from this Pioneer in the Groups Movement
Lyman Coleman: Small Groups Are Much More Than an Assimilation Strategy
The Missing Ingredient in American Churches and Groups

What Every Small Group Leader Needs from their Small Group Pastor

I’ve made it a regular, ongoing practice in my ministry to ask the leaders under my care, “What do you need? How can we help you most in your ministry?” If I were to sum up their typical response in one line, it would sound something like an old Carpenter’s song:

“What a leader needs now … is love, sweet love.”
No matter how much I do, how many classes I teach, how many awards I give, what structure I have in place, they need love more than anything else from me. “It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of!”
Small group ministry is by nature a relational ministry. So I believe the support system / structure / leadership community – whatever you want to call it – ought to be intensely relational in nature as well.
I have the privilege of consulting with church leaders and coaching small group champions in churches. I also often lead training seminars in churches all over the U.S. and other countries as well. It’s fascinating for me to be the outsider looking in at how a ministry and leadership development and support are organized.
Back when I was just starting to get involved in small group ministry 25 years ago, many church-growth gurus who had studied the phenomenal growth of churches in America and other countries were writing books and conducting seminars to help churches build organizational systems and strategies to bring about that kind of growth through groups here in the United States. Churches, searching for some way to jumpstart growth and get their hands around the concept of small groups, bought the books and seminars and bought into the principles whole hog.
Here’s what I believe happened over time: small groups became another program in many local churches. We’ve taken a very simple, natural, relational concept, and we’ve institutionalized it. Perhaps we need to deinstitutionalize small groups and, at the same time, esteem and value natural, relational, creative ministry that can happen when we give people the freedom and support to do it.
So let’s get back to my original question: What do leaders really need?
First, they need freedom to do the ministry that God puts on their hearts. One of the jobs of a small group pastor is to create an environment where people sense that they have that kind of freedom. Freedom to be creative. Freedom to experiment. Freedom to fail. For this to happen in the church, you have to release control. Surrender the need to manage everything that happens. Ephesians 4 tells us that Christ is the Head of the Body, not you or me (v. 15). Your responsibility is to “equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (v. 12, NLT).
Second, people need equipping to carry out their ministries successfully (as we see in Ephesians 4). God provides them with the passion and the calling to do his work. He has called leaders of leaders to train them to carry it out.
Third, they need relationships in which to serve. They need a community that encourages them, validates them, keeps them accountable, keeps them going when things are tough. I played with the coaching structure at our church until I developed one that worked to provide those things for our leaders. The typical 5×5 structure wasn’t working, so I found some things that did. It was as simple as as thinking about different levels and types of leaders and then asking what type of support they needed from us. Rather than trying to fit your leaders into your coaching and support system, fit your system to your leaders. 
What do leaders really need? I developed a simple acrostic to help us remember what is really important: SERVE . . . which I’ll share in my next post.