Category Archives: Outreach

3 Ways to Get Your Small Group Out of Its Rut

boringEven 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:

  1. 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

Four Great Guides for Your Multisite Journey

There are just four books written on doing multisite church. I have benefitted immensely from all of them and commend them to you as four excellent guides for your multisite journey. To succeed with multisite there’s a lot you need to learn, and these books are a great starting point. Here they are:

  1. The Multi-site Church Revolution, by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird (Zondervan, 2006). This is the original book on MS and it’s still the one I recommend as people’s first read. It is very well-researched, well-written, and practical, and it answers the key questions that everyone has. (Geoff Surratt’s humor also makes his writing a fun read!)
  2. Multi-site Churches: Guidance for the Movement’s Next Generation, by Scott McConnell (B & H Publishing, 2009). This delightful book also is grounded in extensive research and covers the why and how of MS. I especially like

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Where Should Your Church Start a New Campus?

If your church is getting serious about using a multisite strategy to reach more people for Christ, one of the first questions you’ll probably ask is, “Where should we start a new campus?” To answer that question I am going to outline three ways churches have picked places and then I’ll tell you our church’s approach. 

  1. Opportunity-Driven. Some churches’ decision on where to start another campus has been driven by opportunities. For example, the Rocky Mountain Vineyard Church in Fort Collins, Colorado, decided to start a campus in nearby Windsor when an exceptional facility became available there. This opportunity presented the question, should we start a campus in this place and as they prayed and talked about it, they concluded, “yes.” They launched the new campus six weeks later. Opportunities come in many forms. Perhaps Read the rest of this entry

How to Launch a New Multisite Church Campus

Our church is launching its sixth campus later this month in Charleston, IL. Since we’ve done this a few times before, other churches are asking us how you launch a new multisite campus. Here’s how we do it.

  1. Identify a multisite pastor. Our church uses a very leader-centric strategy. We do not start new campuses in the most “logical” places. We do not look at which outlying towns are the largest or where we already have the most members to form a core. We look for a leader with a passion and calling for a certain place and that is where we focus. I’ll write in a future blog on how to identify the right leader. For now, I’ll just give you the key principle. The primary training ground for future campus pastors (and church planters) is leading and multiplying small groups. That is where we look for success and proven leadership.
  2. Start small groups, gather people, and pray. We want to see a few small groups in a town or area before seriously considering a new campus. We also want to see a team of people who are praying for that community and the emerging work there. Besides regular home groups we often

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10 Multisite Church Myths (and Realities)

Our church has been doing multisite (MS) ministry for a little over three years and we now have five campuses. Because we are the MS church with the most number of campuses in our denomination, we field a lot of questions from other churches and leaders. In my discussions with others I’ve realized that people have a lot of misconceptions about doing MS church. In this blog I want to correct ten common myths about doing MS church.

Myth #1: Most multisite churches use video technology every week for the Sunday sermons at their newer campuses. It’s true that a lot of MS churches rely on video technology but Leadership Network’s research shows that only 20% of MS churches use almost all video messages. 46% use almost all in-person preaching at their campuses. And the remaining 34% use a combination of video and in-person methods.

Myth #2: Multisite lowers the quality of a church’s life. Actually, the opposite is true. Our church’s experience reflects the reports of other churches. All indicators of church quality have gone up in our church—the percentage of people serving in ministries, the percentage of people in small groups, the percentage of people coming from unchurch backgrounds, the reported levels of satisfaction with worship, children’s and youth ministry, and people’s feeling of connection. We track these things very carefully in our church and have seen improvement in all the measures that we look at.

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Make Disciples Who Make Disciples

I’m a small group enthusiast and always will be, but the longer I have done ministry the more convinced I have become that the heart of it all is making disciples who make more disciples of Jesus.

A Youthful Worship Band Leading La Viña

Last Sunday my wife Vicki and I took a group of our pastoral interns and visited a church that does an amazing job of making disciples—La Viña Communidad Cristiana of Mundelein, IL. A few years back La Viña was a small, struggling church with 45 people, 5 men, 10 women and 30 children. The pastor Homero Garcia almost quit. But inspired by Jesus’ parable of the fig tree in Luke 13:6-8, he decided to give the church one more year.

Providentially in that year, the pastor was himself discipled by a Brazilian seminary student who became a part of their church. After making prayer and discipleship central in the church, in the intervening years it has grown to become a vibrant congregation of over 500 people that has planted a half a dozen daughter churches.

What has been key to their growth? Two things: intentional life-on-life discipleship and a clear pathway for spiritual growth. Read the rest of this entry

Pray Weekly, Eat Monthly

Our small group’s outreach is going exceptionally well right now and I thought I’d share with you what seems to be working. It’s pretty simple, really. We pray weekly for our friends that need God and we do a cookout or potluck each month.

Pray weekly: This is really very simple and doesn’t take long in our weekly small group meeting. Right before our Bible discussion, I hold up a laminated 11×17 inch piece of card stock that says “Blessing List” at the top. (Click on the words “Blessing List” if you’d like to download a PDF of the list.) We have asked each person to add one friend’s name to it—someone who needs Christ and who lives near by. After I pull the list out, we talk about it briefly and I briefly pray over the list and the people on it. Another alternative is to move people into pairs and have them briefly pray for the persons that those two people have put on the list.

You might ask, “Isn’t the list awkward when you have guests?” Good question. That’s why it’s laminated. So as to not make someone feel put on the spot, we can easily erase someone’s name before pulling it out. Having it laminated also allows us move someone’s name up and down on it’s openness scale.

Several weeks ago a small group member brought an unsaved friend who’s name was not yet on the list. When my wife pulled out the list that evening, the person asked that we add her name to it and begin praying for her. Who doesn’t want blessing prayed over their life? I don’t know exactly where this guest is in her journey, she told the group, I believe in God but I haven’t been baptized. You could add my name to the list.” We put it near the top on the scale.
The other thing you discover when you use a blessing list or do some form of weekly prayer is that your members really do care about their unreached friends and family members and appreciate the chance to pray and work together to reach them.

Eat monthly: Everyone likes to eat and it’s very non-threatening for someone to come to a cookout. Last night we had a cookout and our host had invited a non-Christian friend. That person asked if she could bring some of her friends. She came and brought four other non-Christians with her! We perhaps set a record last night. There were 12 adult guests (plus a few of their children), most of them non-Christians.

So, that’s my simple advice. Pray weekly for your unbelieving friends and do something fun involving food each month.

What are your thoughts, questions and advice on small group outreach?

Starting a New Year as a Group

Last night was our first small group meeting of the new year. My wife Vicki and I wanted several things to happen as we began the new year. First, we wanted to make any adjustments that we needed to to the group. Second, we wanted small group members to step up to the plate and more actively serve in small group roles. And, finally, we wanted people to leave behind sin and resentment as they started the new year. So here’s how we did the meeting. Perhaps you’ll want to use one or several of these ideas yourself in one of your first meetings of the new year.

The icebreaker: “What was a high point of the past year for you?” Very interesting and helpful to hear people’s answers. One child reported that the low point of the past year was listening to their parents’ arguments. 😦 Children are so transparent sometimes! :-)(The parents are working on things. Their marriage is making progress but has a ways to go.)

Evaluation: I ask for suggestions from the group for the months ahead. What do people like about our group? What do we need to change? The discussion wasn’t that long but was helpful. People appreciate that our group includes the teens and kids. We talked about the need to multiply our group so that we have more kid-friendly groups in our church. Everyone wants to keep the group on Thursday evenings. We’ll also keep serving as a group in the SeniorCare nursing home ministry.

Small Group Involvement Worksheet: We passed out copies of the SG Involvement Worksheet [click on the preceding words if you want to see the worksheet] and invited people to sign up for roles or tasks that they want to try. We gave people time to fill them out and collected them right then. Every adult and teen signed up to help with at least one role or task in the group! Wow! We have new people to serve as worship leader, reporter, prayer coordinator, and kid’s ministry coordinator. Others signed up to help teach, host and bring snacks.

Forgiven and Forgiving: I explained that Communion is a wonderful thing to experience as we head into the new year because it invites us to receive God’s forgiveness anew and to forgive anyone that we are holding a grudge against. We took time in silence to let the Holy Spirit search our hearts and to bring sin and resentment to God in prayer. We took communion together and shared things that God was speaking to us. One of the teens encouraged all of us to stay open to God’s voice throughout the year not just as we start it. Then we had worship and ministry time. (The children and teens choose to stay in the meeting until ministry time. Then they headed to the basement to study and play with the Wii Fit.)

Somewhat to my surprise, based on people’s response and sharing, it appeared that the most significant part of the meeting was the emphasis on forgiving others as we enter the new year. Several people had significant hurts to release and were thankful that they could give these to God as they entered new year.

What are you doing in your group to start the new year strong? What thoughts, questions, or suggestions do you have?

Planning with Your Core

I think every healthy small group has a core of people who are closer and more committed than most of the members. Jesus’ small group did. He had twelve close followers, but if you look closely at the Gospels, sometimes he is just with his core—Peter, James, and John (i.e., Mark 5:37; 9:2; 13:3; 14:33).

Right now is a good time of year to get together to do some planning and praying with your core.

The core of our group is Vicki and me, our hosts, and our intern. Our hosts invited the core over for a cookout on Sunday to plan for the weeks and months ahead. We hung out and talked. We took time to minister to one person. We ate grilled chicken, steak, pasta salad, and cheesecake. I think I’d forgotten why we got together, but then Vicki said, “Aren’t we going to talk about small group?” So we got out a pen and paper and did some talking and planning.

We talked about what time we would meet (7:15pm this fall instead of our previous time of 7:00). We planned three regular small group meetings, one party and one outreach event for September. We decided to work with SeniorCare, our church’s nursing home ministry, again as a small group this year. We talked about distributing responsibilities better this year instead of the leaders doing too much. We talked about how different members were doing and what new people we should invite. This discussion probably only took about 30 minutes but it was extremely helpful and set the course for our group for the fall.

Who is the core of your group? Have you met with them to chart your course for the weeks and months ahead? What questions or suggestions do you have about making plans for the fall?

Pray, Invite, Eat, Repeat

How do you grow a small group? I think it comes down to four simple actions: pray, invite, eat, repeat.

One reason why I want to write on this is because growing our own small group this year took persistence in these principles. We started strong with three committed couples. Then three other individuals joined us. But those three didn’t stay past our fall Outflow series and one of the core couples moved to Italy. Someone else joined us and for what seemed like a loooong time we had five people if everyone showed up.

What do you do when you have a great group and you just need more people?

Pray. We kept asking God to send us people.

Invite. This can’t be overemphasized. Everyone needs to be in a vibrant small group. Really. Some of them don’t realize it though! Some do. So you invite lots of people. We and our host invited people at the Vineyard, our friends, and even people in the grocery store. Some people we invited repeatedly. I remember one week when we were having a potluck that Vicki and I figured if everyone came that we invited that week we would have 20 additional people. One came. Eventually, though people started visiting and some of them kept coming back.

Eat. Food is important to small groups for lots of reasons, one is for drawing people. For some reason it’s less threatening and more fun for people to visit when you are having a potluck, cookout or party. So eat often. Last month our group had a potluck. This week we are having a cookout.

Repeat. These principles work but they sometimes take time. Persistence is important. Hang in there!

If you want your small group to grow—and you do, right?—I recommend that you pray, invite, eat, and repeat.

What advice do you have for others on growing a small group?