Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Grow Your Group With These 3 Principles of Healthy Communication


James wrote, "You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry."

How would your communication with others change (improve) if you allowed this piece of wisdom to drive your conversations?

I've heard it said that God designed us to communicate well by giving us two ears and one mouth. Therefore we should listen twice as much as we speak. While this may not be a theologically accurate statement, the idea of listening more than speaking carries much value.

Communication is about more than just speaking and listening though. Effective communication is about UNDERSTANDING. Listening alone is very rarely enough to gain understanding and speaking alone is rarely enough to create understanding. A third piece is not just helpful, it's necessary. Effective communication also requires asking.



LISTEN: Understanding begins with listening. It's not enough to simply "hear" what someone else is saying, I need to fully give myself to listening, not just with my ears but with my eyes and my heart and my head. Often I need to dig beneath the initial words I hear to get to the heart of what someone else is trying to say.

Watching their expressions and gestures.

Leaning in.

Noticing their breathing.

Recognizing key words or repeated words.

Establishing eye contact.

These are all critical elements of true listening and they are all tools I can use to gain understanding.

ASK: Too often, communication fails when one person listens once and assumes they've gained complete understanding. Even though you may have heard every word, and observed every piece of non-verbal communication; you still may not be interpreting another person's ideas accurately. Once you've listened, BEFORE YOU RESPOND, ask a question.

Your question may be a simple restatement of what you think you've heard.

Your question might seek clarification about something you've heard.

You might point back to a key word or expression and ask for more input about that.

Whatever question you ask, your goal should be to gain understanding. Before you ever respond to someone else, make sure you know exactly to what you are responding.

I think this is probably what James was talking about when he warned people to be SLOW TO ANGER. Poor communication often leads to anger because someone reacts before they understand. They may have misread a statement or they may be unfairly imputing a feeling or emotion onto someone else. In any of these cases a few simple questions may avoid misunderstanding and will likely steer the conversation clear of anger and hurt feelings.

OFFER: Your words are a gift. Wrap them appropriately. Spouting off the first thing that comes into your mind is almost never a good idea and almost always leads to regret and more problems.

Reuben Feffer's father only speaks one line in the entire movie, Along Came Polly. But his one line provides the life-changing advice desperately needed by Reuben's friend Sandy Lyle. Few words are almost always more helpful than many.

Proverbs 10:19 says, "Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut."

Communication requires us to speak, however it doesn't require us to speak much. Effective speech is:
  • true
  • precise
  • humble
  • kind
  • straightforward

Ineffective speech is:
  • vague
  • accusatory
  • critical
  • loud
  • misleading
Good communication takes effort and time. It doesn't happen overnight. Usually, it takes (at least) two to tango. But even if those around you aren't committed to effective communication, you can still begin taking the steps to be a VENN COMMUNICATOR.

Listen fully.

Ask repeatedly.

Offer your words when necessary.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Point One Another To The Bible As Your Source for Solving Problems


This is a small group exercise designed for brave and self-directed groups who easily engage one another in meaningful discussion. Whether you do this in a group meeting, or around a table at Starbucks, this is a chance to interact with one another about real life stuff, using the Bible as your foundation for wisdom.

To get the full value from this exercise, you must be committed to Scripture rather than your own wisdom!


Before you begin, take a moment and have each person say one encouraging thing to the person sitting to their left.

Read James 1:19 in unison. Remind the group that the three virtues identified in this verse are central to every group's growth.

Have one person read James 1:22-25. Tell the group you'll be doing an exercise which will give them all the opportunity to be a DOER instead of just a HEARER.

Take turns. Let one person share a personal struggle they are currently having. As a group, ask questions and listen closely so you can gain a full understanding of their struggle.

One at a time, let other group members share specific truth from the Bible (no opinions here, just Biblical insight) that may be applicable to the struggle. People may share promises from the Psalms, advice from Proverbs, stories that seem to be similar, words of Christ, thoughts from the epistles, etc...

Once several people have shared God's Word, move on to another person.

At the end of your time together, have everyone who participated tell the group ONE thing they are going to DO as a result of HEARING God's Word.

Pray together. Find time during the week to encourage one another.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

BUILDING A GROUP THAT LASTS: Focus your small group by making your time together a BLUR


FOCUS YOUR SMALL GROUP BY MAKING YOUR TIME TOGETHER A BLUR


Break Bread
Whether you enjoy an entire meal together or simply have popcorn and drinks, sharing food is a great way to break down barriers and promote openness. Relationships grow exponentially quicker when food is involved.

Learn About Each Other
Before you dive into Bible study or watching a video, take a few minutes to learn one another’s stories. Answering one or two questions each week leads to great discussion and can often become a powerful bonding time that everyone looks forward. Use crowd-breaker questions, or steal cards from a game like Zobmondo or Would You Rather.

Unpack God’s Word
You might watch a video, read a book together, or work your way through a section of the Bible. Whatever you are doing to promote spiritual growth, do it in a way that empowers every group member to participate and own the process. Open-ended discussion questions are usually the best way to get people egaged in the conversation.

Reach Out To Others

God did not save us into a clique. Churches and small groups should not be like luxury cruises where we just enjoy relaxing and being served. Your group should be a rescue boat, trying to save as many as possible from drowning. Ideally, everyone in the group should have friends and neighbors who need Christ and feel comfortable connecting with your group. At the very least, you should be reaching out to others in the church who have yet to be connected.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

There's Nothing Magical About Small Groups

Dr. James Scott says at his blog:

There's nothing magical about small groups!

What?!?! Seriously. Many people believe that small groups are some kind of magic bullet that can cure every ill known to man and the church. They aren't. In fact, I would go a step further and say that there is NOTHING in and of small groups themselves that makes them special. However, small groups with the right perspective can be a different story. Here's what Scott say in the rest of his post:


Simply getting a group of people to meet together regularly doesn't, by itself, transform the church, result in revival, instantly produce mature Christians, or meet the needs of those meeting together. What does make small groups vital parts of the church that impact congregations and communities is the motive of the group participants.

When Christians come together to share life as the body of Christ on earth, as the early Christians we read about in the Book of Acts did, then we see the powerful results of transformed lives and met needs. But that often is not the motive for many small groups.

Lots of groups meet to study the Bible. They greet each other warmly, open with a prayer, have a lively intellectual discussion about a passage of scripture, close with prayer, exchange additional pleasantries, and then go home until their next meeting the following week. They don't "share life."

Other groups have a greater focus on prayer. Still others spend their time discussing what it means to be a "man" or "woman," others focus on leadership topics, and some are more socially oriented. But they don't really share life together.

The missing motive?

Jesus said this in John 13:34-35, "34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

When the children of God come together to share (or unleash) the love of God, the result will be the power of God and the blessing of God displayed in and through the the lives of the lovers of God!

Small groups that impact the lives of participants, the church, communities and the world, are those groups whose primary motive is to share the love of God with each other. Other motives, such as study, prayer, leadership development, team building, etc., are best achieved when this primary motive is in place.


Source: Extraordinary Living by Dr. James Scott

Monday, February 23, 2015

Eleven Reasons Groups Fail

An article by Dennis McCallum points out eleven reasons "home groups" fail. We use the term LIFEGroups, but these eleven "reasons" provide interesting food for thought. We'll talk a little about them this Sunday at our Driver's Summit. Read the whole article by clicking here. Read the main points below:

1. They are often not based on New Testament theory

2. The wrong criteria are sometimes followed for the selection of leaders

3. Frequently, insufficient authority is given to the leaders

4. The groups may have an unhealthy inward-focus

5. There is often no provision for church discipline within the small group

6. All groups may be the same, rather than diversified and matched to their members

7. There may be no adequate equipping offered to would-be leaders

8. The church may set no multiplication goals, and may have no good plan for multiplying home groups

9. Small groups are sometimes viewed as peripheral rather than central to the life of the church

10. They are sometimes viewed as a threat by the pastor(s) of the church.

11. Home groups are often introduced in a programmatic, not a natural way.