I continue to be astounded by the number of websites that are available to help all of us with our group ministry. Sometimes I come across one that is cool, more than amazing and very informative. And when cool, amazing, and informative all come together in one package, I'm checking that page out on a consistent basis.
Smallgroups.com has just launched her own Small Group Digizine. I had never heard the term Digizine but after checking it out… I'm hooked. Click the link below and see for yourself. This is some kinda cool and amazingly informative.
Yesterday’s blog post started a conversation about multi-generational small groups. If you had a chance to read it you saw some of my thoughts on “classes” and “multi-generational groups.” I thought you might help me process pros and cons.
If you’ve got time, give these a read and comment. I’d be grateful.
Pros of Multi-Generational Groups:
· Modeling (children watching parents do biblical community learn to do so themselves)
· Synergistic/Organic Mentoring (spiritual gifts and experiences of those in the group at work)
· Single parents can connect children to role models (of the opposite gender)
· Stage-up lifestyle learning (preschooler respects the grade schooler, grade schooler respects the pre-teen, the pre-teen respects the teenager, etc…)
· Childcare is no longer an issue
· Parents model communal spiritual disciplines for their children (prayer, studying the Bible, grieving, celebrations, partaking of the Lord’s supper, etc…)
· The nurturing of spiritual gifts at an early age
· During the rebellious stages of life teens will seek out an adult they believe in and trust
Cons/Hurdles of Multi-Generational Groups:
· Language barriers
· Adults don’t believe they can speak openly
· Moms (especially young) need a time to escape parenting responsibilities
· Meetings can be chaotic
· Discussions must be dumbed down
· Teens oftentimes feel very uncomfortable, especially in the rebellious stages
Some of you have been asking if I'd blog some of my daily tweets. For those of you who don't know, it is my goal to tweet a sentence or two that you might be able to use to promote small groups, give wisdom to church leaders, or create a conversation. Below you'll find a few past tweets. If you'd like to receive these feel free to join us. My twitter title is rickhowerton.
- Small groups are the perfect place to process God's irresistible grace and His seemingly unrealistic expectations.
- There's a difference between growing the Kingdom and building an organization.
- Being the church is easier and more exciting than doing church.
- The Christian journey is more than a relaxing stroll. It's filled with adventure, battle, beauty, anticipation and is done best in community
- Aloneness is a product of the enemy. Don’t buy it.
- The conversation that takes place around the table after a meal is food for the soul.
- The most dangerous place to go when life is caving in on you is to go it alone.
- The most valuable gift a small group leader can give the group is his\her spiritual story.
- Oftentimes hope is found in the eyes of a fellow follower of Jesus.
- Life’s journey is too beautiful, too exhilarating, too complex, too confusing to travel alone.
- Flaws are common, perfection is not. So why is there a shortage of grace?
- When Jesus becomes the centerpiece of your small group many will find a way to the table.
- Telling your story is the first step on the pathway that leads to the peace Jesus promised.
- Forgiveness is the doorway through which an awareness of the presence of God re-enters a small group.
12.04.09I spilled a cup of coffee this morning. Not just a few drops mind you, but the entire cup...in my car. This now infamous cup of coffee that I had just filled to the brim landed upside down in the passenger seat. On top of my Bible Study, the book I was reading, Manhood for Amateurs, the CD packet for Behold the Lamb of God I was listening to, a copy of the Small Group Life Ministry Manual, not to mention all over the seat. It was at the worst possible time. Kids were all packed in the car ready for school....we were even on time. And then disaster struck. I spent the next 10 minutes cleaning as best as I could, wiping down the books, CDs, and soaking up the liquid that my car seat had drank up so quickly. Can you guess what my car smells like now? Dusty, cold coffee! Yuck! So in that moment, like it or not, I was modeling for my children what to do when things go wrong. Fortunately no expletives spilled out of my mouth at the moment of impact. We even got to talk about it on the way to school. Like any good small group leader I ask them questions. "So what do you guys do when something like that happens?" And we got to talk about how we are wired, what responses are good, what are bad, and how does God prepare us and speak into these moments. It got me thinking about small group leaders and some of the small groups I've led. I'm dashing around like crazy trying to get everything ready for group. Vacuuming the living room, getting the coffee going, cookies in the oven, wiping down the counter, and it seems like a million other things at one time....and hoping that nobody shows up early! Without fail it seems something goes wrong, sometimes terribly wrong. I'm trying to empty the vacuum canister and it spills all over where I just vacuumed. I forgot to pick up some cream for the coffee and EVERYONE uses cream. There aren't enough clean cups for everyone. Someone in the group knocks over their drink. Am I the ONLY one who has experienced this stuff??? So what do I do when this happens? What do you do when things don't go right in getting ready for group, or even during group? If you find yourself in that position, here's a few ideas on how to respond:
- Take a deep breath - This may sound overly simple, but this exercise will help regulate your heartbeat, settle your anxiety and center your emotions.
- Expect groups to be messy - Just as in life, preparing for group time or even during group time, things can get messy. Recognize that this is a natural part of group life and you are not the only person this happens to. You can also have a relatively high likelihood something like this will happen again, so don't be surprised when it does.
- Trust in the Holy Spirit - Make sure you don't resign to the fear that your group meeting will not be transformational just because things aren't going seamlessly. Trust that the Holy Spirit is far more powerful than the situation at hand and doesn't depend on you or me to create the perfect environment to transform lives. In fact, if you look at your own life, it's often in the messiest of situations where God worked most powerfully to transform you. Do you think group life is so different?
- Allow yourself to be less than perfect - If you dropped the ball in some way and are less than prepared for your group, it's important to forgive yourself. Things won't improve by you constantly admonishing yourself, and it will be a barrier for the group settling into study God's Word. The same goes for any group member who may have caused a disruption. You would do well to make sure that person (and the entire group) knows that mistakes are OK, this is a safe place to be human. Remember, it's not up to you to change people's lives (see bullet point above).
- Take necessary action and move on - Do what you can in a matter of 5 minutes or less to improve the situation and then move on with the group experience. If you have a spill or a mess, spot clean and save the deep cleaning for after the meeting. If you've forgotten something for the group meeting, call a neighbor to see if you can borrow what you need or call a group member and ask if they could stop by to pick up what you need on their way to the group meeting, if time allows. The biggest thing is don't sweat the small things. The reason people are in your group is because they want to do life together with you and allow God to transform their lives through the group experience. And as good as they may be, people don't come for your chocolate chip cookies, or your Pumpkin Spice creamer.
Because we can learn from others, I'm offering a FREE Canvas DVD Kit by Pete Wilson and 9 Experience Guides ($113 value) for the person who comments with the best story of a small group meeting that went wrong and what you did. Leave your comment by December 13, 2009, and I'll announce the winner the week of the 14th.
08.24.09Serendipity Bible for Groups… The Serendipity Bible for groups has a Bible study like the one above for every passage of Scripture in the Bible.
- Small groups foster deeper honesty and transparency than any mainstream ministry utilized in the average local church.
- About transparency in small groups and how it affects the entire church… “…the honesty that naturally takes place in small groups begins to leak out into the entire church.”
- Spiritual disciplines are exercised more often when people gather in small groups because, “a small group takes our good intentions and puts them on the calendar.”
- One of the best gifts a church can give her kids is parents who are growing and that growth takes place when parents are in a healthy small group.
Covenanting in small groups is essential as it gets everyone to commit to equal levels of responsibility and activity. Some of the benefits of covenanting as described by Serendipity House are: A. It will give the group an agreed upon purpose/vision B. It is a road map to get to destination C. It is a framework for managing potential conflict D. It creates healthy boundaries to function in E. It eliminates unspoken expectations You can relieve some tension if the group in involved agreeing to it. This should be a process that follows a step by step procedure that goes something like this: Step 1: Share a completed covenant like the one above with the group. Toward the end of a group meeting give each member of the group a copy. Tell them why a covenant is necessary. Some of the important reasons for covenanting are, the group has an agreed upon purpose/vision, it is a road map to get to the destination, Christian community, it is a framework for managing potential conflict, it outlines healthy boundaries to function in, and it eliminates unspoken expectations. Ask them to look over the covenant in the upcoming week and that the entire group will agree to the covenant before it is finalized. Step 2: Discuss each aspect of the covenant. When the group members come back the next week, spend this session discussing each aspect of the covenant. Reach each point of the covenant. When someone is hesitant about a point noted in the covenant ask them what concerns them about that. Ask the group what they believe will be lost if that aspect of the group covenant is dismissed. Step 3: Work toward consensus. You may need to discuss the covenant agreement for three or four weeks before finalizing it. It may be necessary to rewrite some aspects of the covenant. That’s okay. But you don’t want to lose the parts of the covenant that will keep the group from accomplishing authentic redemptive community. These would include, Participation, Confidentiality, Support, and the Mission of the group. Step 4: All group members agree to live out the expectations of the group covenant.
07.06.09the 100 Fastest Growing Churches in the U.S. In 2008, 80% of the fastest growing churches in the country were doing small groups (a few do Sunday School as well as small groups). You got it. 80 of 100 churches on the top 100 list are small group churches. And just in case you’re thinking “it’s a southern thing,” the location of these thriving churches range from California to Arkansas to Hawaii to Virginia to Colorado to Illinois to Texas… and of this short list, all of these churches can be found at the top of the list, one of the top fifteen fastest growing churches in the U.S. Sounds to me like small groups are as effective as any model out there.
05.03.09The Community Channel hosted by the Director of Group Life at Oakbrook Community Church.
“If a group doesn’t help each other connect it will end quickly.
If a group doesn’t help each other change, it will end within a year.
If a group fails to become mission minded it might last a long time but eventually it will become very dissatisfying.”
Bill Search from his book ‘Simple Small Groups’I can relate to the above quote by Bill Search. Been there and done that. In recent months, I have been thinking a lot about the missional component of small groups because in most cases it seems to be the part of group life that gets most easily neglected. Problem is, to not prioritize ‘mission’ in group life is to disregard who and what we believe in. The body of believers has been called to serve each other and to serve others. There is no getting around it. So here is an idea for you. Not sure who came up with the idea but I think it has tons of potential. We are looking at potentially inviting all the men of our church to be a part of what we are calling a ‘Power of 10′ group. Here is a brief summary of the idea: 10 people giving $10 to meet a need. Simple as that. The rest is up to you to figure out. Actually, the rest is up to the Holy Spirit to figure out and lead you to do. My group is just getting started but let me share some initial takeaways. Our group gives $10/week so between the 10 of us that is $100/week. We pray for opportunities to serve with the resources that are available. You see where this is going? We grow spiritually as we lean into God and rely on Him to lead us. We grow relationally as we marry our resources together and serve needs that arise. We are used by God to serve those in need and draw them closer to Him. It doesn’t get any better than that! It’s been so life giving to see how God is stirring in each of my group members. They are excited about the adventure that lies ahead. Over the next 2 years, our group will contribute over $10000 to this little journey. We have talked about saving $3000 of it to send with our Haiti teams and using the rest in our community however God sees fit. The opportunities are endless, that is what makes it so exciting. Groups that last are groups that figure out a way to inspire every member of the group to begin doing exactly what it is that they feel they have been put on this planet to do. The ‘Power of 10′ is just one way to harness the potential of 10 surrendered bodies and to let God do the rest. Thanks for this one!!!