Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Have You Noticed This Subtle Trend in the Fastest Growing Churches in the Country?

Posted by  on Jan 30, 2018 at http://www.unseminary.com/have-you-noticed-this-subtle-trend-in-the-fastest-growing-churches-in-the-country/
Have You Noticed This Subtle Trend in the Fastest Growing Churches in the Country?

Have You Noticed This Subtle Trend in the Fastest Growing Churches in the Country?

Church leaders who are wanting to make a difference in their communities are always studying what is happening at prevailing churches. I’m sure you’ve taken time to learn from the church across town that is trying some new stuff and seeing what you can apply to your church. At unSeminary, a huge part of the reason we host the podcast every week is to expose you to church leaders from growing churches.
In fact, we’ve focused on the fastest growing churches in the country because we want your church to grow more. 94% of the churches in the country are losing ground against the growth of the communities they serve. [ref] We’ve taken a keen interest in the 6% of churches that are bucking this trend and we spend a lot of time and energy talking with you about what they do because we want all of our churches to learn from them.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve noticed a subtle trend in the fastest growing churches in the country. These churches mobilize their people to get out of their seats and serve on the streets of the community. Prevailing churches take the mass engagement of people towards acts of service in their community very seriously. More than just simply “social justice”, these initiatives are getting high percentages of people directly involved in making a difference.
Rather than just a fringe dynamic in a few churches, you can see this trend in all kinds of churches that are making a huge difference. In fact, recently I just flipped through a list of the fastest growing churches in the country and did a quick dive onto their websites to see if I could find this trend, and sure enough, it just kept coming up time and again; below are some examples of what I found:

Examples of Fast Growing Churches Employing Mass Community Service Experiences

Crossroads Church in Cincinnati hosts a large-scale Thanksgiving Food Drive. Just last year, they brought in enough food for over 60,000 Thanksgiving dinners. They’ve also taken on the churchwide responsibility of sponsoring over 6,000 children in a developing country. This church has been declared to be the fastest-growing church in America for two years in a row by Outreach Magazine, which shouldn’t come as a surprise when you see a church doing so many good things in the community.
Red Rocks Church in Littleton, Colorado runs an event called Hope for the Holidays, which is essentially a gift drive and wrapping event. The church and the community wrap up and deliver thousands of gifts every year to various social service agencies in the community. The church also runs a prison ministry known as God Behind Bars in which the men of the church bring the hope of Jesus to the prisoners.
The Traders Point Church in Indianapolis, Indiana runs a special needs prom where they annually help young adults who could never go to a prom to experience one. This particular prom requires three to four volunteers for every guest that comes; it literally requires more volunteers than the number of guests in order to run smoothly. That night, you get an opportunity to see the last become the first. (Plus, it looks like so much fun… when Jesus is around there always seems to be a party close by!)
The Eastside Church in Anaheim, California is one of the fastest growing churches in the country and has even won that title for multiple years in a row. Compassion is listed at the top priority and concern on this church’s website. It’s right up there with messages and giving. In fact, this church has done so much community outreach that a documentary called Bravely Forward is now being put together to tell the story of all the various things that this church has accomplished.
The Next Level Church has locations all across New England; in a part of a world where frankly the church just doesn’t exactly grow, this church is exploding and launching new campuses all the time. They did a gas buy-down event where they offered gas for 80% of the normal price at a time when the price of gas was very high. Their lead pastor, Josh Gagnon, said, “God said it’s better to give than it is to receive,” and they realized how important something like gas can be; so, when the price was high, the church mobilized its people and its financial resources to make a difference in such a practical way.

5 Ways Large-Scale Community Service Events Help Churches Grow

  • Good Thing & God Thing // We think that Jesus calls us to serve the poor, it’s a God thing. Our community sees these events as a good thing to do; people want to make a difference. Rather than squabble over the definition, these events give us a chance to find common ground with our communities and leaders.
  • They’re Remarkable // When these events are executed well they become the sort of things that people want to talk about with their friends and family. They invite their close relatives and friends to the community to be a part of it and are excited to share the outcome once it takes place. Friends telling friends about your church is how your church will grow.
  • Volunteer Intensive // These events take a lot of people to pull off. I’ve been a part of planning and executing these events when they take literally 1,000s of people to take place smoothly. The level of vision casting, communication, and mobilization that needs to take place for these events to materialize has all kinds of spillover impacts on your church.
  • Ruckus Causing // Did you ever notice that throughout the New Testament there always seems to be some sort of ruckus following the move of God? (Water is being turned into wine, pigs are running down the hill in the lake, people going to the river en masse to be baptized, riots breaking out after preaching.) These events create some of that “positive chaos” in your city!
  • Total Focus // It takes all the creative energy of your church to implement these events. Churches’ can become “siloed” and these experiences are natural ways to break down those silos. The teamwork that’s required to pull this off ends up influencing the rest of your church and drives more growth.
Obviously, we’re called to serve the poor in our communities. The clear evidence of the New Testament is that the church is called to meet the practical needs of the last, least, and lost. In a very real way, these large-scale community service events are just living out that mandate at scale. It shouldn’t surprise us then that God seems to be blessing the churches who are engaged in what he’s called us to do from the beginning.
So, what about your church? Could this be the year you get your people out of their seats and into the streets to serve your city?

Help for Church Leaders Wanting to Engage in Mass Community Service

Are you ready to see your church impact more people than it has ever done before? Are you tired of church leadership books that are long on theory but short on practical help? Have you wanted to reach more people in your community but weren’t sure where to start? Are you worried that your church isn’t reaching its full potential? “Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems To Drive Growth at Your Church” is full of practical insights to help your church reach more people, starting today!
As a part of this book, I pulled together a discussion about how these mass community outreach events are being employed in some of the fastest growing churches in the country. I pulled this from my own experience in leading in a church that regularly does these sorts of experiences as well from my research on 200+ prevailing churches across the country. In this section, we:
  • Discuss why the shift in the broader culture away from a traditional Judeo-Christian mindset leads us to this approach as a cornerstone of community impact.
  • Take a deep dive into one of the fastest growing churches in the country and look at how they’ve leveraged this tactic for years.
  • Provide examples of other churches who are employing this approach with descriptions of what they are doing.
  • Give a framework for skeptics of this approach to think about this approach and how it might be implemented in their church.
  • Provide a quick start guide that gives an overview of your first steps towards your first event.
  • Discuss practical tips that I have learned from seeing lots of these events up close and what you need to do to maximize the “remarkability” factor.
The book launches in February 2018. However, you can read Chapter 1 now by visiting ChurchGrowthFlywheel.com and joining the interest list. You’ll get front-of-the-line access about the launch and a few other freebies along the way.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

10 Questions For Leaders To Ask Each Week

At the seminary where I teach, we are now completing end-of-the-academic year faculty evaluations. Annual evaluations like these are helpful and necessary. They push us to ask how we might improve over the next academic year.
Most leaders, though, would benefit from more regular evaluations – particularly self-evaluations. Even daily and weekly self-evaluations merit our consideration if we want to lead well, regardless of our position.
Listed here are ten questions to help you evaluate your life and leadership at the end of each week. Take some time today to do some assessment. 
  • Have I decreased, and Jesus increased during this past week? By looking at your schedule, activities, conversations, thoughts, and priorities, whose kingdom have you sought to build this week– God's or yours? 
  • What do I know about God and His Word I didn't know last week? If you've learned nothing new, it's possible that: you haven't sought God through study this week; you've studied, but it's been routine and non-transforming; you've been a Christian so long you don't think much about any needed growth; and/or, you've stopped growing. None of these possibilities should mark a godly leader.
  • Would someone want to pray like I've prayed this week? Jesus' disciples watched and listened as Jesus spent intimate time with His Father — and they in turn wanted to pray like He did. Knowing your prayer life this past week, would you be pleased for someone to model his/her prayer life after yours?
  • Would my family say they are my priority based on this week's activities? You can't answer this question, of course, on your own–but you can take the risk to ask it. How would your spouse answer this question? your children? What or who would they say is most important to you?
  • With whom did I attempt to share the gospel this week? Some evangelistic attempts do not result in your proclaiming the whole message, but we are never given permission to do less than share the Word with others. Did you at least make legitimate attempts to do so this week? Are you praying for those persons?
  • Who will walk more with Christ next week because he/she learned from me this week? This question hits at your disciple making work this week. If no one learned from you in an intentional mentoring relationship, I doubt it's because no one wanted to walk with you. More often it's because we haven't prioritized mentoring like Jesus did.
  • Did I hide anything this past week (and, more pointedly, am I hiding anything now)? The devil works in our secrets. He delights in our darkness, even when our outward Christian walk appears to be solid. Godly leaders, on the other hand, know that nothing less than honest confession and heartbroken repentance bring our sin under the light of God's forgiveness.
  • If I were to step out of my leadership role today, would the work continue well without me? You may be new in your role, but even new leaders must quickly seek to improve their organizations. If the work you lead would be seriously stymied by your departure, you may not be leading the organization well. In fact, you may be committing idolatry of the self if you are the center of the work.
  • What would my immediate reports say about my leadership this week? They hear your words, watch your reactions, and examine your life. They know when you say one thing and do another. They recognize when you lead reactively rather than proactively. Your reports can probably tell you whether you’ve been a good leader this week.
  • What are my plans for leading better next week? An evaluation without an intentional plan for improvement is an exercise in futility. What will you do differently next week? What steps will you take to improve? Who will hold you accountable to these plans?
Which question above most challenges you? What other questions might you add to this list?

Dr. Chuck Lawless is Dean and Vice-President of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, where he also serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions. In addition, he is Global Theological Education Consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Lawless is also president of the Lawless Group, a church consulting firm. He and his wife, Pam, have been married for more than 20 years, and they live in Wake Forest, NC. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on Twitter @Clawlessjr and on Facebook.com/CLawless.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

3 Phases to a Great Fundraising Campaign

by Casey Graham
The Rocket Company

Whether you’re raising money for a missions venture, a new building, land, expansion, or community outreach, you want to do it quickly and successfully. You don’t want to drag it along month after month until people are sick and tired of hearing you talk about it.

We’ve seen good campaigns. We’ve seen bad ones.

The successful ones ALWAYS point toward creating a calendar. Why? Because a calendar will set you up and propel you to raise a lot of money quickly.

  • A calendar creates comfort for you and your donors. 
  • It creates the parameters for you to take inventory of the things you need. 
  • It sets the pace for your fundraiser. 
  • It reduces stress. It breaks seemingly overwhelming tasks into manageable chunks. 
  • It helps you to spread out your passion over time, preventing you from burning out or giving up. 

When we mention “campaigns,” by the way, we’re not talking about campaigning at a presidential-election level. That’s too long of a process.

We’re talking about a clearly defined season of time designated for you to raise money. You create the start date and finish date. The first and fourth quarter. The kickoff and the final whistle. The dial and the hang-up.

Okay, you get the idea. Otherwise, you will be perpetually striving. And sadly, that almost always fails. Even if you’re in charge of raising operational expenses, salaries, or long-term financial needs, you still need to break it up into campaigns. Here’s why: without a campaign, you just come off as a money-hungry pastor. 

And you know as well as me, the world doesn’t need more of those. So, create a calendar for raising money. People understand campaigns. They know that campaigns have start and end dates, so eventually the asking-for-money will stop. Campaigns represent focused energy. But you need to take the steps to make sure the focus is maximized. Choose the start and end date to your campaign. Create a runway and a checklist. This will help you, your team, and your donors. To successfully execute a campaign, it must have three phases.

Phase One: Before the Ask 

Most people want to start raising money immediately. But you shouldn’t. Before you try to land the plane of raising money, you must prepare the runway.
  • Write out your plan Network with people 
  • Meet with your board, staff, elders, etc. 
  • Gather contact info 
  • Write ALL your communication: letters, tweets, emails, texts, etc. 
If you’re going to utilize design and technology (logos, websites, etc.), this is the time to get that stuff figured out. There is a lot of random, busywork that comes with raising money. Do that before the big ask. Because once you launch your campaign, the donors (inside your congregation and out) should be your solitary focus.

There is a lot of random, busywork that comes with raising money. Do that before the big ask. Because once you launch your campaign, the donors (inside your congregation and out) should be your solitary focus.

Phase Two: The Ask

Once you’ve prepared your runway, your vision is ready to land. Since you’ve prepped people ahead of time, they won’t be caught off guard by your ask. And they know your campaign has an ending point. Now people are ready to hear from you. Within the specified time of your campaign, create small goals.

One goal per day is a great start. For example, “I want to raise $100 by the end of day one.” Or, “By day two, we want to get to $300.” Or both. Little goals will push you along. Put pressure on yourself—do whatever it takes—to reach those small goals. Before you know it, your campaign will be over and you will have reached your big goal!

Phase Three: After the Ask 

Don’t go home yet. Your job isn’t over. In phase three, you need to park the plane at the terminal gate and take care of your passengers. This is where you send thank-you notes, update your donors on the outcome of the fundraiser, and follow through with people who mentioned giving, but didn’t.

You have to treat these people well, not just because you might want them to give again one day, but because it’s the right thing to do.

 Out of all three steps, this one may be the most important.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Harvard Business Review: The 15 Diseases of Leadership, According to Pope Francis

The 15 Diseases of Leadership, According to Pope Francis Gary Hamel APRIL 14, 2015 Pope Francis has made no secret of his intention to radically reform the administrative structures of the Catholic church, which he regards as insular, imperious, and bureaucratic. He understands that in a hyper-kinetic world, inward-looking and self-obsessed leaders are a liability. Last year, just before Christmas, the Pope addressed the leaders of the Roman Curia — the Cardinals and other officials who are charged with running the church’s byzantine network of administrative bodies. The Pope’s message to his colleagues was blunt. Leaders are susceptible to an array of debilitating maladies, including arrogance, intolerance, myopia, and pettiness. When those diseases go untreated, the organization itself is enfeebled. To have a healthy church, we need healthy leaders. Through the years, I’ve heard dozens of management experts enumerate the qualities of great leaders. Seldom, though, do they speak plainly about the “diseases” of leadership. The Pope is more forthright. He understands that as human beings we have certain proclivities — not all of them noble. Nevertheless, leaders should be held to a high standard, since their scope of influence makes their ailments particularly infectious. The Catholic Church is a bureaucracy: a hierarchy populated by good-hearted, but less-than-perfect souls. In that sense, it’s not much different than your organization. That’s why the Pope’s counsel is relevant to leaders everywhere. With that in mind, I spent a couple of hours translating the Pope’s address into something a little closer to corporate-speak. (I don’t know if there’s a prohibition on paraphrasing Papal pronouncements, but since I’m not Catholic, I’m willing to take the risk.) Herewith, then, the Pope (more or less): ____________________ The leadership team is called constantly to improve and to grow in rapport and wisdom, in order to carry out fully its mission. And yet, like any body, like any human body, it is also exposed to diseases, malfunctioning, infirmity. Here I would like to mention some of these “[leadership] diseases.” They are diseases and temptations which can dangerously weaken the effectiveness of any organization. 1. The disease of thinking we are immortal, immune, or downright indispensable, [and therefore] neglecting the need for regular check-ups. A leadership team which is not self-critical, which does not keep up with things, which does not seek to be more fit, is a sick body. A simple visit to the cemetery might help us see the names of many people who thought they were immortal, immune, and indispensable! It is the disease of those who turn into lords and masters, who think of themselves as above others and not at their service. It is the pathology of power and comes from a superiority complex, from a narcissism which passionately gazes at its own image and does not see the face of others, especially the weakest and those most in need. The antidote to this plague is humility; to say heartily, “I am merely a servant. I have only done what was my duty.” 2. Another disease is excessive busyness. It is found in those who immerse themselves in work and inevitably neglect to “rest a while.” Neglecting needed rest leads to stress and agitation. A time of rest, for those who have completed their work, is necessary, obligatory and should be taken seriously: by spending time with one’s family and respecting holidays as moments for recharging. 3. Then there is the disease of mental and [emotional] “petrification.” It is found in leaders who have a heart of stone, the “stiff-necked;” in those who in the course of time lose their interior serenity, alertness and daring, and hide under a pile of papers, turning into paper pushers and not men and women of compassion. It is dangerous to lose the human sensitivity that enables us to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice! Because as time goes on, our hearts grow hard and become incapable of loving all those around us. Being a humane leader means having the sentiments of humility and unselfishness, of detachment and generosity. 4. The disease of excessive planning and of functionalism. When a leader plans everything down to the last detail and believes that with perfect planning things will fall into place, he or she becomes an accountant or an office manager. Things need to be prepared well, but without ever falling into the temptation of trying to eliminate spontaneity and serendipity, which is always more flexible than any human planning. We contract this disease because it is easy and comfortable to settle in our own sedentary and unchanging ways. 5. The disease of poor coordination. Once leaders lose a sense of community among themselves, the body loses its harmonious functioning and its equilibrium; it then becomes an orchestra that produces noise: its members do not work together and lose the spirit of camaraderie and teamwork. When the foot says to the arm: ‘I don’t need you,’ or the hand says to the head, ‘I’m in charge,’ they create discomfort and parochialism. 6. There is also a sort of “leadership Alzheimer’s disease.” It consists in losing the memory of those who nurtured, mentored and supported us in our own journeys. We see this in those who have lost the memory of their encounters with the great leaders who inspired them; in those who are completely caught up in the present moment, in their passions, whims and obsessions; in those who build walls and routines around themselves, and thus become more and more the slaves of idols carved by their own hands. 7. The disease of rivalry and vainglory. When appearances, our perks, and our titles become the primary object in life, we forget our fundamental duty as leaders—to “do nothing from selfishness or conceit but in humility count others better than ourselves.” [As leaders, we must] look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others. 8. The disease of existential schizophrenia. This is the disease of those who live a double life, the fruit of that hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and of a progressive emotional emptiness which no [accomplishment or] title can fill. It is a disease which often strikes those who are no longer directly in touch with customers and “ordinary” employees, and restrict themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality, with concrete people. 9. The disease of gossiping, grumbling, and back-biting. This is a grave illness which begins simply, perhaps even in small talk, and takes over a person, making him become a “sower of weeds” and in many cases, a cold-blooded killer of the good name of colleagues. It is the disease of cowardly persons who lack the courage to speak out directly, but instead speak behind other people’s backs. Let us be on our guard against the terrorism of gossip! 10. The disease of idolizing superiors. This is the disease of those who court their superiors in the hope of gaining their favor. They are victims of careerism and opportunism; they honor persons [rather than the larger mission of the organization]. They think only of what they can get and not of what they should give; small-minded persons, unhappy and inspired only by their own lethal selfishness. Superiors themselves can be affected by this disease, when they try to obtain the submission, loyalty and psychological dependency of their subordinates, but the end result is unhealthy complicity. 11. The disease of indifference to others. This is where each leader thinks only of himself or herself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of [genuine] human relationships. This can happen in many ways: When the most knowledgeable person does not put that knowledge at the service of less knowledgeable colleagues, when you learn something and then keep it to yourself rather than sharing it in a helpful way with others; when out of jealousy or deceit you take joy in seeing others fall instead of helping them up and encouraging them. 12. The disease of a downcast face. You see this disease in those glum and dour persons who think that to be serious you have to put on a face of melancholy and severity, and treat others—especially those we consider our inferiors—with rigor, brusqueness and arrogance. In fact, a show of severity and sterile pessimism are frequently symptoms of fear and insecurity. A leader must make an effort to be courteous, serene, enthusiastic and joyful, a person who transmits joy everywhere he goes. A happy heart radiates an infectious joy: it is immediately evident! So a leader should never lose that joyful, humorous and even self-deprecating spirit which makes people amiable even in difficult situations. How beneficial is a good dose of humor! … 13. The disease of hoarding. This occurs when a leader tries to fill an existential void in his or her heart by accumulating material goods, not out of need but only in order to feel secure. The fact is that we are not able to bring material goods with us when we leave this life, since “the winding sheet does not have pockets” and all our treasures will never be able to fill that void; instead, they will only make it deeper and more demanding. Accumulating goods only burdens and inexorably slows down the journey! 14. The disease of closed circles, where belonging to a clique becomes more powerful than our shared identity. This disease too always begins with good intentions, but with the passing of time it enslaves its members and becomes a cancer which threatens the harmony of the organization and causes immense evil, especially to those we treat as outsiders. “Friendly fire” from our fellow soldiers, is the most insidious danger. It is the evil which strikes from within. As it says in the bible, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste.” 15. Lastly: the disease of extravagance and self-exhibition. This happens when a leader turns his or her service into power, and uses that power for material gain, or to acquire even greater power. This is the disease of persons who insatiably try to accumulate power and to this end are ready to slander, defame and discredit others; who put themselves on display to show that they are more capable than others. This disease does great harm because it leads people to justify the use of any means whatsoever to attain their goal, often in the name of justice and transparency! Here I remember a leader who used to call journalists to tell and invent private and confidential matters involving his colleagues. The only thing he was concerned about was being able to see himself on the front page, since this made him feel powerful and glamorous, while causing great harm to others and to the organization. Friends, these diseases are a danger for every leader and every organization, and they can strike at the individual and the community levels. ____________________ So, are you a healthy leader? Use the Pope’s inventory of leadership maladies to find out. Ask yourself, on a scale of 1 to 5, to what extent do I . . . Feel superior to those who work for me? Demonstrate an imbalance between work and other areas of life? Substitute formality for true human intimacy? Rely too much on plans and not enough on intuition and improvisation? Spend too little time breaking silos and building bridges? Fail to regularly acknowledge the debt I owe to my mentors and to others? Take too much satisfaction in my perks and privileges? Isolate myself from customers and first-level employees? Denigrate the motives and accomplishments of others? Exhibit or encourage undue deference and servility? Put my own success ahead of the success of others? Fail to cultivate a fun and joy-filled work environment? Exhibit selfishness when it comes to sharing rewards and praise? Encourage parochialism rather than community? Behave in ways that seem egocentric to those around me? As in all health matters, it’s good to get a second or third opinion. Ask your colleagues to score you on the same fifteen items. Don’t be surprised if they say, “Gee boss, you’re not looking too good today.” Like a battery of medical tests, these questions can help you zero in on opportunities to prevent disease and improve your health. A Papal leadership assessment may seem like a bit of a stretch. But remember: the responsibilities you hold as a leader, and the influence you have over others’ lives, can be profound. Why not turn to the Pope — a spiritual leader of leaders — for wisdom and advice? Gary Hamel is visiting professor at London Business School and cofounder of The Management Innovation Exchange. His latest book is “What Matters Now.”

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Seven Advantages of Sermon-Based Small Groups

The lecture/lab model is great for both small groups and Sunday mornings. by Larry Osborne Note: This article has been excerpted from the SmallGroups.com training tool called Sermon-Based Small Groups. At North Coast Church, where I serve as senior pastor, we've had a long and interesting journey with small groups. We had no groups when we first started out. But after a while, I began to realize that our congregation was more of a crowd than a living, breathing community. So we launched small groups, and things began to change immediately. For a number of years we hunted down the best curriculum available and provided it to our groups. They grew, and people's lives did change. But when I put together a sermon series called "The Company of the Committed"—in which I wanted to paint the picture of what a committed Christian lifestyle would look like on a day-to-day basis—we experimented with our first sermon-based groups. The response was off the charts. It was so positive that we never looked back. Over the years, I've noticed that tying the study guide to the sermon has several advantages over a curriculum-based model. Here are seven of the most powerful advantages. They Increase the Educational Impact A number of years ago, I heard about a study that Harvard conducted for one of the military branches. Apparently the military was sending people to different conferences and training sessions, and they wanted to maximize the educational impact of those sessions by figuring out what helps people learn—and most importantly, retain and apply—the information they receive. Some of the best minds at Harvard tackled this study, and they uncovered three ways to maximize the benefit of any training experience. The first was maintaining a high sense of expectation. The study showed that if people went into a training experience with high expectations, they generally learned and retained a lot more. Obviously, this one is common sense when it comes to churches. If people are coming to your church thinking, Oh, this is going to be boring, then you can probably understand why they're not retaining what you say. But here's the second ingredient. The Harvard researchers also discovered that if people took good notes during the training experience, the educational impact and the life-change upon returning home would accelerate measurably. The third key had to do with discussing the material with others. If they got together and discussed the notes—and the broader training experience as a whole—their education impact and subsequent life-change was significantly increased. . Strangely enough, those last two things are exactly what using a sermon-based small group model forces people to do. They Pull in the Marginally Interested The second advantage of sermon-based small groups is the way they can pull in the marginally interested. All churches have marginally interested people—people who come in late on a Sunday morning and slump onto a chair in the back of the sanctuary, waiting to see if a funny story or a good joke can pull them into a higher level of interest. But it's a different story when a marginally interested person enters a sanctuary full of people who will be discussing the sermon later in the week with their small group. That's because a much higher percentage of the people will be taking notes and paying close attention in order to be prepared for their small group. There's a different feeling in the air. And so that marginally interested person—who doesn't want to stand out—tends to sit up a bit straighter and pay more attention simply to fit in. I see it at North Coast all the time. And since everyone else seems to be taking notes, they start doing that, as well. They Reach More People Sermon-based small groups also help churches reach more people in another very simple way, and it has to do with weekly attendance. Everyone misses church at one point or another. But how often do those people come clamoring to the church office to get a tape or CD of the sermon they missed? It may happen sometimes, but not often. But what if those people attend a small group later in the week and have to discuss that sermon they missed? They will almost always listen online or come by and pick up a CD. And when those CDs are picked up, they are often passed on to others, shared, or given away. And so the end result is that more people end up hearing the message. They Sharpen the Church-Wide Focus In most churches, everyone listens to the same message, which does create a sense of unity. But when a church uses sermon-based small groups, everyone interacts with the same message, which really sharpens the focus. I grew up in a very different style of church. We went to church on Sunday morning and heard one subject. Then we went to Sunday school and heard another subject. Then we went back on Sunday night and heard a third subject. And then we came back for the midweek service and studied a fourth subject! I never had a clue what series we were in or what it was all about. It was just a mishmash of subjects. At North Coast, we cover less material with sermon-based groups, but our people know what we're covering. Our focus is sharper. They Mainstream New Believers In the small-groups world, it's kind of an unwritten rule that you don't put new believers in with a group of long-time Christians. The new believers get intimidated. They get swallowed up—especially by those overachievers who can pronounce all the big words and places properly. New believers often can't figure out if it's "Job" or "job." So we have to keep them away from the long-time Christians and start new-believer groups instead. But does that really make sense? Is it really the best idea to get the nursery full of little kids and then make sure no adults show up? I don't think so. And it's certainly not the best way to make sure people stick with the church and grow. But sermon-based groups give us another option. I don't watch a lot of movies, so when I come across a group of people critiquing a certain film, I generally try to stay out of their way. I get intimidated by my ignorance. But if those people are talking about a movie that I've actually taken the time to see, I'm in on the discussion. I stand my ground because I saw the film, and I have an opinion that's based on my own experience. And in our culture, everyone thinks they are an expert on what they've experienced. The same is true of new believers who participate in a sermon-based small group. When Larry Long-Timer begins to pronounce all of the difficult words and throw out quotes from John Calvin or Chuck Swindoll, the new believer is more likely to stand his ground and offer his own opinion, because he's experienced the sermon himself. He'll feel like an expert based on his own experience, even if he feels lost when it comes to the genre of the Bible. They Eliminate Idiot Questions Every small-group curriculum I have ever seen has had at least one idiot question. For instance, if we're doing a study based on 1 Timothy, and the opening verse says, " … from Paul to Timothy," and then question number one in the curriculum guide is, "Who wrote 1 Timothy?" I call that an idiot question. It bores people to death. But there's a good reason those idiot questions are in every curriculum study guide. Because without the idiot questions, you can't set the context. But when small groups are sermon-based, the context is set in the message. The sermon gets everyone on the same page. So group leaders are free to get right into the parallel passages and personal application. They Help with Leadership Recruitment If you're going to lead a group Bible study on Colossians, you need a pretty good grasp on the entire book. Otherwise you'll find yourself saying things in chapter one that don't fit with what's said in chapters two through four. You also need to understand the difference between a good question and a bad question. In addition, you'll need to bring some of your own research and ideas to the study; otherwise, you're going to be answering a lot of questions with, "I don't know." That's a pretty high bar to get over. But if you lead a sermon-based small group, all you need to be is growing spiritually, excited about God's Word, and have the ability to draw group members together and keep them together. Unlike skilled Bible teachers, I've found that these kinds of people grow on trees! In my experience with recruiting group leaders, there are not many people who can lead an inductive Bible study, but there are lots of people who can facilitate a discussion of a sermon everyone has heard. Few people can teach well, especially in our culture of mass media and heightened expectation. But God has always made sure there are enough shepherds for his flock. At North Coast, they are called small-group leaders. And when they aren't asked to do too much, they aren't too hard to find. Excerpted from the Small-Groups Starter Kit, copyright © 2008 by North Coast Church. Discuss: Which of these advantages is most appealing to our church and ministry? What weaknesses exist in our ministry that might be bolstered through sermon-based small groups? Can we identify a couple of steps we need to take in order to start a sermon-based small groups ministry (or a sermon-based option to our current ministry)? Source: http://www.smallgroups.com/articles/2008/seven-advantages-of-sermon-based-small-groups.html?paging=off

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


By Rick Richardson • December 14, 2015 (from Outreach,com) With as many as two-thirds of emerging adults (those ages 19 to 29) turning from their Christian upbringing, we are at a critical moment to understand why this is the case and to begin to reach out to these dechurched individuals in such a way as to recapture their image of the true God. A team from the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism (BGCE) journeyed to Burning Man earlier this year to learn more about this community, research the dechurched and share God’s love. Many of the 70,000 people who attend Burning Man attend the event in order to express their creativity, find community and seek spiritual encounters. Ninety percent of the people the BGCE team interviewed were from mainline Protestant and Catholic backgrounds. They are, at this point, very dechurched. Most attended church in high school and earlier, but were never captured by the church. They are not hostile, just disinterested. They are spiritual, but not religious. Here are three themes that emerged as we interviewed “Burners.” We believe these can help us better reach out to the younger, dechurched, spiritually seeking generation. 1. Many Burners are looking for the opportunity to express, in a context of radical acceptance, sides of themselves they have ignored, repressed or discounted. The church is not often perceived as a place of radical acceptance (or radical grace) toward people as they are. The church for Burners will have to practice a radical grace and acceptance that will be surprising for people who long to express “new” selves. 2. For many Burners, the good news they are longing to discover relates to achieving wholeness and expanded consciousness. They long to feel whole, connected to others and to the world. The church for Burners will have to bring the healing and transformed consciousness (mind) that Jesus so often modeled in his ministry and community. 3. Many Burners are looking for a faith that is integrated with their bodies, sexuality, minds, hearts, creativity, imaginative sides and larger social and cosmic environments. For many, the church seems more focused on managing behavior and controlling thinking through dogma. The church for Burners will have to express a positive vision for the arts, imagination, sexuality, intuition, the cosmos and the interconnectedness of all humanity. Dr. Rick Richardson is evangelism fellow at the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism and director of and professor in the M.A. in Evangelism and Leadership and the M.A. in Missional Church Movements programs at Wheaton College.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Two types of churches

One in which the clergy and staff dispenses grace to feed a hungry congregation. The second, all resources are applied to prepare a congregation to dispense grace to feed a hungry world. The Rev. Fr. Chuck Collins