Blog Archives

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
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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

Three Reasons Your Church Should Go Multisite

Why do multisite church? Why should your church spend the time, effort and expense to launch new campuses in new locations? I want to share three key reasons, based on our church’s experience, why you should seriously consider using a multisite strategy.

We began our multisite journey motivated by two facts. First, we learned that other churches were using multisite as an effective strategy to launch new congregations. Many people who do not want to be senior pastors or church planters have the necessary skills to be great campus pastors. So by adopting a multisite approach a greater pool of leaders is available to launch new Jesus-centered faith communities.

Second, when we surveyed our church members several years ago we discovered that 25% of our worship service attenders were driving more than 20 miles to our weekend services and that those driving these longer distances were significantly less likely to serve in a ministry, to be in a small group, and to invite unchurched friends to our services, groups or activities. This looked very dysfunctional to us because

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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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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?

Slow Growth & Fast Growth

No two small groups are the same. We multiplied our small group last month leaving our hosts and intern to lead a group in the nearby town of Mahomet while we launched a new group in our home in Champaign. Our new group is a lot different than the group we left.

We started the Mahomet group 1 1/2 years ago with three core couples. Several other individuals joined us and we had a nice sized group. But then one of the core couples moved to Italy and a several other people left the group. For a looooong time we had five people, if everyone showed up! The group grew very slowly. What do you do when you have a great group but it’s stuck or growing very slowly? For the answer to that question read my earlier blog entry “Pray, Invite, Eat, Repeat.”  I mentioned in that blog entry that we invited 20 different people to a small group potluck one week, literally everyone we could think of. Only one came. The one person that came, however, came back and became our intern in time and is doing a great job of leading the growing group that we left in Mahomet.

Our experience with the new group has been very different. In contrast to our last group, it has grown very rapidly. It’s only met for a few times and already it’s larger than our last group was when it multiplied. We’ve hardly invited anyone but the group is still taking off. This week there were 15 adults, 2 teens and 9 children, even though a few families didn’t make it!

What do you do when your small group seems to be growing too fast? Two things are pivotal. First, you get everyone involved helping. Almost immediately we passed out the helpful Small Group Involvement Sign-Up Sheet. Almost everyone signed up to help in some way. (Hint: Collect them immediately after passing them out and having people fill them out. Do not let people take them home.) Now we are focusing more on how to involve people than on doing things ourselves. This takes more thought and advance planning but it quickly makes things easier.

Second, you start investing in future leaders. We could multiply the group now if we had a prepared intern but we don’t so I’m taking more time with key people and involving them increasingly in trying out different leadership responsibilities.

It feels a little crazy, overwhelming and exciting all at once when you experience rapid growth. It’s also puzzling because for the most part we are the same leaders doing the same things as when our last group seemed stuck. But there are always other dynamics and outside factors that impact our groups that are outside our control.

Whether it’s slow growth or fast growth our goals are the same—to see a growing number of people connect to God, one another, and Jesus’ mission for their lives.

How is your group doing right now? What is the next step for you to take your group to a new level? What questions or thoughts do you have about what to do when growth is slow or when growth is fast?

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?