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Showing posts from August, 2011

Giving a Good Answer is More Than Just Being Factually Accurate!

A while back, a well-known conservative Christian blog ran a series of posts entitled "Next". They were designed to be short, witty, and occasionally snarky responses to objections people raise about the church.
Often the responses were well-thought out and reflected very good answers to sometimes tough questions. However, I shuddered a little every time I read them because answers that end with, "Next!" just don't seem to reflect the type of grace I'd like them to.
If you know me well, you know that I'm not always the most gentle of people, but I feel like this is an area of my life that the Spirit has shaped over the years... which is perhaps why I'm more sensitive to this.
So I asked in the comments of one of these posts if they could show me some Proverbs (the author is absolutely brilliant in his use of Proverbs) that demonstrate this type of dialogue as appropriate. After not receiving a response, I went ahead and did a quick word search in Prov…

Connecting People to Small Groups Shouldn't Be Like E-Harmony

Right now is a time when we are helping lots of people get connected to LIFEgroups. Within the next 2-3 weeks, I hope we'll see several new groups beginning and many people getting connected to LIFEgroups. But...
Sometimes, I feel like a dating service. Seriously.
People regularly want to connect them to a LIFEgroup, or they want to know when is the next event we'll have where they can connect to a LIFEgroup (an event I think would look strangely similar to a 7th grade dance).
I don't hate this part of my job, but sometimes I wish it could just be simpler... less institutional... more organic.
Try this conversation, for instance:
Q: Do you have any friends at Calvary?
A: Yes.
Follow-Up: Are they in a LIFEgroup?

another way this might go...
Q: Do you have any friends at Calvary?
A: No.
Follow-Up: Do you have any unsaved friends?

4 Simple Methods to Help Your Group Gain a Fresh Perspective on Bible Passages

Sometimes the best way to understand what a Bible passage is saying is to approach it from several different angles. This is NOT to suggest that we can make it mean whatever is convenient for our message. Rather, when we are willing to try different perspectives, we can sometimes get past our own built-in prejudices and see the passage in a much more clear light. Here are four exercises you can do with a group to view a passage from different angles:
Have everyone rewrite the passage in their own words.

Use a whole chapter, have each person pick out their favorite verse and explain why.

Ask and answer the “who, what, why, where, when” questions about the passage.

Have different people try to boil the entire passage down to a 3-4 word statement.

9 Guiding Thoughts When Your Group Discussion Goes Off the Map

Truth we discover on our own is almost always better retained than truth which is told to us. This is not an argument against the effectiveness of a sermon (the Bible records numerous times in which the Holy Spirit worked powerfully through the preaching of a sermon), rather it is a reminder that we sometimes need to be focused on helping people discover God's truth by themselves. One of the most powerful ways to accomplish this is through asking questions.

Even if you are following a study guide that provides questions for you, sometimes it is helpful to go "off the map" in a quest to help people think more deeply through the topic. Here are some guidelines to help you as you use questions to enable growth:

1. Use questions to follow up people’s answers. (examples as follow)
“Can you give me an example or two about…?”“What do you mean by that?”“Why do you believe that?”“What is the basis for your conclusions/feelings?”“Would you explain again what you just said for us…

Six Ideas to Develop A More Comfortable Prayer Routine

Yesterday I had a short conversation with a small group leader about the occasional difficulties of prayer in the small group setting. It seems that prayer is one of those things that people are just uncomfortable doing in public. I think the most obvious solution to this is to simply be faithful and consistent with your prayer time in group and eventually people will become more comfortable. However, here are six ideas you might use to help your group view prayer a little differently, and as a result they may become more comfortable with the idea of praying out loud together:
1. Choose a country in the world and spend a week researching that country. As a group pray for the countries’ spiritual, political, social, and physical needs. Pray for the missionaries you may know of serving in that country.2. Have each person share about a person they have contact with that needs Christ. Pray specifically that God will create faith sharing opportunities with those people.3. Allow time for eve…

5 Ideas for Creating Life-Sharing Relationships

Church small groups are not designed to simply be meetings where knowledge is transferred from one person to another. They are intended to be the practical application of Jesus' command in John 13:34, a place where the one-another commands of the New Testament can be lived out.
A small group should be a community of people who have committed to share their lives with one another. In the process of sharing their lives, their unity with one another accurately represents the trinity and promotes a deeper fellowship together with Jesus Christ.
Here are a few simple thoughts about how your group can more effectively build life-sharing relationships:
1. Spending time together away from your meetings will only increase the effectiveness of your meetings.
2. Nothing says, “I’m in this with you” like providing a meal.
3. Figure out who in your group has the gift of caring, and put them in charge of your group’s care for each other!
4. Avoid too much routine. (if group participation feels like a …

14 Thoughts About Helping People Get to Know One Another

I've posted some of these ideas before, but as we head into a new fall and a time when groups are starting and re-starting, it's always useful to re-think about what it means to help people "share their lives" with one another. The first step toward life-sharing relationships is to help people simply get to know each other. With that in mind, here are 14 thoughts about helping the people in your group get to know each other better:
1. Everyone’s name should be known by everyone.
2. People will usually talk about their family and their job.
3. Everybody has a soap-box, let them get on it every so often with no consequences.
4. Talking about the different places you’ve lived is a great way to tell your life story.
5. A simple way to get to know each other: Tell your favorite vacation story.
6. Some people love to talk about themselves, and others hate it. Don’t expect equal participation.
7. Two hours spent playing table games together is one of the most useful things your gr…

10 Ways to Hinder Small Group Growth

Thanks to "Think On It Devotions" for this list about surefire ways to harm your small group:
Let fellowship take over the group.Study only video bible studies.Never read the Bible together.Don’t pray for each other.Don’t plan any service projects.As a leader, don’t prepare.Give advice and try to fix everyone without being asked to.Start late, finish late, and disregard everyone’s time.Don’t call your members during the week to encourage them.Don’t show up regularly.

Scripture, Stories, Shepherding. 3 Keys to a Transformational Small Group

This isn't my own material. I've "borrowed" it and re-purposed it to apply to small groups.
A TRANSFORMATIONAL SMALL GROUP is one that includes Scripture, stories and is led by a shepherd.SCRIPTURE: Life Change happens when we focus on Scripture. Every group must consider how they well apply Scripture to the hearts of each member. STORIES: Everyone in a group has a unique story. As leaders, the task is to draw out those stories and then help people connect with one another’s stories.SHEPHERDING: A gift for teaching is certainly important in a transformational small group; but gifted shepherds may be more important. “A shepherd will tell you who they are teaching and not what they teaching,” says David Francis. “Shepherds pray for people. Prayer is the ultimate secret weapon. As you pray for people you really get to know people.”
This is a modified reposting from an article by Melissa Lilley in which she reviews David Francis' work regarding Transformation Sunday S…

Anyone Can Lead a Small Group, Right?

Last week, I posted five times about the idea that:
Of course, I do believe that every small group leader should meet a few criteria; but my basic point was that just about anyone can lead a small group if they have the right tools. I suggested four key elements which can serve as the tools to enable someone to lead a small group. These four elements are: FoodFellowshipFaithFocusWhile each of these elements is important, and a healthy group will include all of them; they are not all created equal. A proper balance of these elements will require the small group leader to spend more of his/her time focusing on some elements than on others.
Most important to a group's health is the expansion of their faith. Therefore, the majority of the group's time and the group leader's preparation time should be devoted to this element of group life.
Fellowship is also important, as the people's relationships with those around them can often play a major role …

Anyone Can Lead a Small Group If They... FOCUS on the FUTURE

Food, Fellowship, and Faith are all elements of a healthy small group. With a little bit of work and the right tools, almost anyone can implement these three elements in their group. While some may be more gifted at group leading than others, I believe that most people can lead a small group if they are simply willing to pay attention to four elements of their group life. Over the course of this week, I've unpacked these first three elements, and today I'm going to look at the fourth.
Element #4 of a Healthy Group: FOCUS on the FUTURE.
My assumption is that the members of a healthy small group are sharing their lives outside of their normal meeting times. A healthy small group should have "extra" events that bring them together for purposes beyond studying the Bible. These events might be meals, parties, trips, or better yet service projects, or missional activities.
Taking a small amount of time on a regular basis to focus on what is coming up will enable a group to ac…

Anyone Can Lead A Small Group If They... Expand Faith

My opinion is that almost anyone can lead a small group (I do think there are some necessary qualifiers). This week, I've been suggesting some of the important elements of a healthy group. Having food and promoting fellowship are the first two elements of a healthy small group. Just about anyone can ensure that these elements are part of a group's life.
The third element of a healthy group is Expanding Faith. Essentially, this means helping the members of your group be formed to look more like Christ. This is, in my opinion, the primary purpose for your group's existence; therefore, it should be the primary focus for the small group leader.
This is the element which requires the small group leader to know himself (or herself). While some leaders are certainly capable of preparing an effective Bible study or discussion on their own, must group leaders will need help if they are to consistently lead their group in faith expanding gatherings. Fortunately, if one knows where to …

Anyone Can Lead a Small Group, If They... Promote FELLOWSHIP!

This week I've been focusing on the idea that almost anyone can lead a small group. I do think there are a few criteria that every small group leader should meet; but if someone meets those criteria, I believe they can be an effective small group leader.

Part of this belief is based on the idea that "sharing life" with other Christians should be an integral part of our DNA as Christ-followers.  Therefore, given the proper setting, these types of relationships should naturally flourish as long as we aren't quenching the life-giving aid of the Holy Spirit.

Yesterday, I wrote that anyone can lead a small group if they have food. Today, I offer you the second element of a healthy small group, FELLOWSHIP.

"Fellowship" is one of those words that really only shows up in the church setting, so it may need a little bit of defining. Essentially, when we use this word, we are speaking of the unique type of relationships that Christians can only have with other Christi…

Anyone Can Lead a Small Group, If They... Have FOOD!

Yesterday I wrote that Almost Anyone Can Be a Small Group Leader. Of course there are some qualifications that are important (see them here), but it is true that most people can be a small group leader if they can pay attention to four elements of a healthy small group.

Element #1: FOOD
The first element might seem a bit shallow, but it can be quite important. It's no accident that while He was on earth, some of Jesus' most important interactions with his followers happened over a meal. Something happens to us when we share food with other people. Acquaintances become friends and friends become soul-mates when people share meals. The most common activity when two people go on a date is to eat a meal together. Somehow, the presence of food helps us drop our inhibitions and open ourselves to those with whom we're sharing the meal.

A healthy small group doesn't always need food, but food almost always helps a group be healthy. Especially in the early days of the group, havi…

Almost Anyone Can Lead a Small Group

Not everyone can lead a small group, but almost anyone can. Of course there are a few qualifications that every small group leader should have:
They must be a follower of Christ.They should be a mature enough believer that they know their way around the Bible and can help others understand at the very least the "big story" of God's Word (creation, fall, redemption, restoration)They should be able to avoid constant awkwardness while carrying on a conversationThey should be willing to be welcoming and inclusive will all who join the group (this will likely require a bit of patience as well)They probably need to be comfortable praying aloud in public
While these may seem like a lot of qualifications, they really aren't. I would suggest that anyone who has been a Christ-follower for a year and who has actively participated in a group of some kind should be able to fulfill these standards.

That said, I think just about anyone can lead a small group. They simply need to kno…