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
My favorite small group curriculum right now, the one I find myself recommending over and over to small group leaders, is Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. I love it. It’s a six-session DVD curriculum on how to connect with God through simple spiritual disciplines.
There are two reasons I love it so much. First, the content is great. Barton makes spiritual practices so accessible and doable. She puts the cookies on a low shelf. In my opinion, the book is kind of a “Spiritual Disciplines for Dummies,” so to speak, which I really appreciate. The second reason I like the DVD curriculum so much is that it minimizes the length of the video segments and maximizes learning and practicing the disciplines. Each session has two short video segments—the first one is on the principles or disciplines themselves and is followed by discussion. The second segment explains how to do a discipline, and then you practice it.
The exercises work! People really encounter God, which is cool and moving.
There are actually three components to the curriculum. First, there is the DVD, which is great and costs just $31.99. Second, there is a “Participant’s Guide,” Read the rest of this entry
Raising up other leaders lightens your load and multiplies your impact.
Although it tremendously eases our work load down the road, the reason why we often hesitate to invest in potential new leaders is because it increases the amount of our work this week. It’s easier right now to do things myself. It takes time to invest in others and involve them in ministry and leading. But if we don’t invest in potential leaders now, our work load will grow as our influence grows.
Jesus’ life demonstrates the power of investing time and attention in others. He poured his energy into a very unimpressive handful of people and through them changed the world. Are you following his example and strategically investing in future leaders?
You might be thinking, But how do I do this? What does this look like? Read the rest of this entry
If your church’s small group ministry is struggling, I think I know why. Based on 8 years as a full-time small group consultant, 12 years as a small group pastor, and statistical research involving the small group ministries over 200 churches, I see three key mistakes that cripple small group system growth. Do any of these apply to your church?
Problem #1: Not offering small group leader training often enough. The most common small group ministry mistake is not offering leader training frequently enough. Fortunately, this is a fairly easy problem to fix. Too many churches offer small group leader training only once or twice a year. Even in a small church, you should offer it at least three times a year. When you offer small group leader training, new leaders get trained and new groups can launch. (Blatant plug: ChurchSmart offers my excellent small group leader training DVDs for just $50.)
Problem #2: Not offering great small group leader team meetings. This problem takes two forms. First, some churches do not offer regular small group leader team meetings. Second, some churches offer them, but they are done wrong and few leaders come. You need to do great leader meetings at least quarterly. Read the rest of this entry