Hi, Everyone. I’ve moved this blog to jimegli.com. My most recent blog posts are there. My goal is to continue to share insights and principles that you will find extremely helpful in your own quest to multiply the number of disciples, leaders, groups, and churches. Thanks for checking it out!
Realizing that small groups make the most difference in a church’s quantitative and qualitative growth (Schwarz, Natural Church Development, p. 32), Dwight Marable and I have done extensive research to discover the key ingredients for small group health and growth. Statistical analysis of over 3000 small group leaders in more than 200 churches revealed these surprising results about small group leadership.
- Unseen behaviors make the most difference.￼ The highest correlations to small group health and growth related to the prayer life of the leader. If you want a healthy, growing group you need to pray. So… Consistently take time with God. As you do, pray for your friends that need Jesus, your small group, and your small group members.
- Preparing your heart is far more important than preparing your notes. We asked leaders how much time they spend preparing their small group lesson and how much time they spend praying for their meeting. Lesson prep showed zero correlation to small group growth. However, prayer for their meetings revealed an extremely strong correlation to small group growth! The lesson? Pray! Depend more on God than yourself. Preparing your heart and praying for your members and your meeting are far more important than preparing your notes. Try it! This week take less time preparing your lesson and more time praying and asking God to move in your meeting. I think you will immediately see a significant difference. Read the rest of this entry
What do I mean when I say that we know this objectively and subjectively? Objectively, we can see that there is a significant negative correlation between seminary education and both church health and church growth. (Christian Schwarz, Natural Church Development, p. 23)
When I say that we know subjectively that seminary education is ineffective, I mean that leaders and lay people—like your uncle Harry—have been complaining about the impact of seminary education upon young pastors for years.
Why are seminaries often ineffective in preparing leaders? There are four reasons.
In a nutshell: seminary education often fails to adequately equip high impact leaders because Read the rest of this entry
- Worship Space. Obviously, you need space for worship services when you launch. We have always started every campus with two services. This helps us maximize space and gives people more options for both worship and serving. We are working in rural Illinois and tend to see about 300 at our launch Sunday which quickly levels off to about 200. Then we grow from there. So we look for room for those numbers.
- Children’s Ministry Space. Almost as important as worship space is ample room for quality children’s ministry and nursery. This is important at any church or campus but it’s especially important Read the rest of this entry
First, let me explain that I used to love doing one-on-one discipleship and I did it for years. I’ve taught on how to do it across the United States and in other countries. I even co-authored a great one-on-one discipleship book that has sold over 100,000 copies and been translated into a few other languages. (I’m not slamming this as an outsider!)
But then something unexpected happened. I invited a friend of mine named Mark into a one-on-one discipleship relationship. We met for coffee at Barnes and Noble’s and began working through the book Beginning the Journey which Ralph Neighbour and I wrote. It was going great and we were both enjoying it and he said, “Could I invite my friend Brian to join us? He could really use this.” I said, “Sure.” So the next week Brian joined us. Brian loved it and asked if he could invite someone else.
Before I knew it, my one-on-one relationship with Mark had morphed into a mini-group of four and I was startled by how much better everything went. Interaction improved, encouragement multiplied, and learning went to a new level. The group which had been great, got even better. I’m a slow learner and it took me a while to figure it out, but about ten years ago I ditched one-on-one discipleship to do small discipleship groups and have never looked back. Here are three reasons why you should do the same:
Even great small groups like yours can easily get into a rut where things are too predictable and routine. If your group is in this situation now and you need to mix things up to create more fun, outreach and relationship, here are three things you can do to get out or stay out of a small group rut:
- Party! Everyone, including small groups, loves to party! Every month or two you should do something just for fun. The possibilities are endless. Do a game night or picnic. Or go bowling, mini-golfing or to a ball game together. One thing to keep in mind is Read the rest of this entry
Like many of you, I’ve sat in countless leadership meetings. So often at these meetings we are trying to figure out the state of our church and ministries and then come up with plans for improving them.
Someone at the meeting might say something like, “Our youth ministry is a mess.” That might be an accurate statement, or it could just be that that person’s teenage daughter is mad about something right now. Perhaps her experience is representative of other teens, but maybe it’s not. Sometimes we say something like, “People are complaining about the worship.” But it really just means, “My wife thinks the volume is too loud.” Our discussions are sincere, but we often lack clarity because our perspectives are subjective so our decisions are based on guesswork.
Over the years our church has used different tools to measure and improve our church health. There are three that we have found most helpful and used repeatedly.
Over the past 35 years I have used lots of great books and curriculum in leading small groups and discipleship groups—some of them written by me. Thinking of all of the good material I have used, my favorite small group curriculum now is The Good & Beautiful God, by James Bryan Smith.
My friend small group author Greg Bowman commended the book to me several years ago. Based on Greg’s enthusiastic recommendation I picked up the book and started to read it. As I started into it for some reason I thought, “What’s so great about this?”, and I didn’t make it past the first chapter. Then last year our senior pastors, Hap & Di Leman, gave me and all of our senior leadership team a copy of the book and worked through it with us chapter by chapter over coffee on Wednesday mornings. The book thrilled me and was tremendously helpful in accelerating my spiritual journey.
More recently I went through the book with four other guys in a men’s discipleship group early on Wednesday mornings. The biblical principles in the book again were life changing for me and them. As one of the guys expressed, Read the rest of this entry
In the last four years our church has launched four new campuses in outlying county seats here in east central Illinois. When we launch a new campus, our goal is to launch strong. We want momentum and a large enough core of people to sustain the key ministries of the church with workers and to give the new campus financial strength. To gather an initial crowd we have used direct mail each time to help us get the word out about the new church we are starting.
If you are launching a new campus or planting a new church, I recommend that you also use (or at least seriously consider!) direct mail. Here are four key principles that have made it work for us.
- Plan far ahead. Doing a direct mail campaign takes work, money, and planning. As soon as you set a launch date you need to put this on your timeline and get the right people involved. We have always used a local direct mail company to help us do our direct mail campaign. This enables us to work face-to-face with experts and has also saved us money over using large, national direct mail companies. Read the rest of this entry
In the last four years our church has launched four new campuses in other cities. Each time we have launched with two Sunday morning services, and I foresee us doing two services every time we start a new campus.
There are three reasons why we do this and why your church should consider this, too.
First, it saves money and space. If you launch a campus with two services, you can get by with renting a smaller space. A primary cost to launching a new campus is renting (or buying) a space and getting it renovated and ready for your purposes. This costs you both money and volunteer hours. By doing two services, you can get by with half the space for both adult worship and children’s ministry, significantly reducing your costs. Besides saving on rental and renovation expenses, you also decrease costs because Read the rest of this entry