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Small Group Resources

Because my commitments have me running in may different directions these days, I am unable to devote time to resourcing small group leaders like I have in the past. What I will attempt to do through this page is aggregate small group resources, tips, training, and articles from a variety of sources that I hope will be helpful. If you’ve come across a blog or resource you’ve found particularly helpful, please let me know and I’ll get it added.

Eating Well to the Glory of God

Posted by on 12:12 pm in Kingdom, Small Group Resources | Comments Off on Eating Well to the Glory of God

Eating Well to the Glory of God

In our country, there's a disconnect between eating well and having a body that is able to do what God calls us to do. We eat for enjoyment, for celebration, and even as a drug, but most of us don't consider how healthy eating affects how well we're able to fulfill our callings. Whether or not you're overweight, this is an important topic, and we can all learn how to treat our bodies better so that we can better carry out our kingdom work. This brief video from This Is Our City explains more about why we must understand this relationship between food and calling. Consider showing it to your group and discussing the implications. For a deeper discussion, use our new Bible study Body Matters. In three sessions, your group members will discuss our value in Christ, why our bodies matter to God, and how to set healthy goals to improve our...

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Reflections on Real Love

Posted by on 12:18 pm in Small Group Resources | Comments Off on Reflections on Real Love

Reflections on Real Love

I’ve been thinking a lot about biblical community lately and what it really looks like. And I keep coming back to the “one another” commands in the Bible. The writers of the New Testament really wanted Christ-followers to understand what it looks like to live life well with others. I’m thankful for great friends in my life that regularly love on me and allow me to love on them. We encourage one another, challenge one another, and carry each other’s burdens. Life lived with others truly is better. Small groups are a wonderful place for people to learn the one another commands and practice them. I purposely say “practice” because they aren’t always easy to follow. Sometimes people rub us the wrong way, or we flat out disagree, or there are personality clashes. Despite this, we’re called to love one another and live in biblical community. So this February, the month of Valentine’s Day and love, we’re taking a look at 28 different verses that talk about how we’re to relate to one another. Read the day’s verse each morning either on Twitter or Facebook. Reflect on what the verse means, how you’ve experienced it, and when it’s hard to live out that particular command. Then let us know what you think. We’re looking forward to what you have to...

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Top 10 Articles of 2013

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Top 10 Articles of 2013

With 2013 officially in the books, we're counting down the top 10 articles of the year. I'm happy that two focus on healthy leadership: "The Antidote to Burnout" and "Silence and Solitude." It seems many of you are looking to increase the health of your spiritual leadership, and that's a great thing. Other popular articles focus on the nitty gritty of leading a group like "Shake It Up!" and "Build Real Friendships in Your Group." Check out the list below and let us know your favorite articles of the year. Plus, don't miss our top three articles from previous years at the end of the article. These articles are consistently popular year after year! 1. The Antidote to Burnout Abiding in Christ is our true responsibility. By Carolyn Taketa 2. Shake It Up! Easy ways to energize your group meetings By Mark Ingmire 3. What Can I Expect from Small Groups? Walk into your new group with realistic expectations. By Mark Ingmire 4. Build Real Friendships in Your Group 7 steps to cultivate authentic relationships By Brett Eastman 5. Effective Marketing for Small-Group Ministry Four ways to get more people into small groups By Carter Moss 6. Spiritual Challenges of Emerging Adults How to minister to the unique spiritual needs of 18- to 30-year-olds By Richard R. Dunn and Jana L. Sundene 7. Silence and Solitude These spiritual disciplines supply fuel for the busy leader's soul By JoHannah Reardon 8. Dig Deep into God's Word The power of inductive Bible study for your group By Justin Marr 9. Crossing the Road to Meet the Stranger What it means to truly follow Jesus By Margot Starbuck 10. 5 Reasons Your Group Should Be More Fun Don't miss this important aspect of group life. By Ben Reed Still Popular from Previous Years Tips for Facilitating a Group Discussion Practical advice for working toward life-change, not spectacular meetings By Carter Moss How to Start a House Church Five ideas to keep in mind when you're planting something new By Larry Kreider and Floyd McClung Writing Questions That Spark Discussion Eight helpful tips for those who write their own studies By Rick...

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Wrestling and Telling

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Wrestling and Telling

Last week I was able to tune into portions of Exponential West, a conference specifically for church planters. The focus was on discipleship and was built around the five shifts laid out in DiscipleShift by Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert Coleman. Though you may not be a church planter, I imagine you're interested in discipleship. After all, that's the heart of small-group ministry. The book specifically addresses small-group leaders. And the questions raised by the speakers get into the nitty-gritty of what group leaders do. Jim Putman, for instance, asked a telling question: Do we teach people to wrestle with their faith, or just tell them what to believe? This question hits me especially hard because I've experienced both. I can distinctly remember a well-meaning youth sponsor telling me shortly after I'd started following Christ that I had to cut ties with my non-Christian friends in order to live the Christian life. Looking back, I understand why this was her advice. After all, it's a lot easier to cut ties than to deal with the mess of redefining relationships. It's a lot less risky, too, because it would eliminate the temptation to return to my old lifestyle. But it didn't change me—it simply told me something to do because, well, someone had told me to do it. On the other hand, I've had amazing men and women ask me difficult questions to help me process my situation, wrestle with difficult answers, and trust God. Through those situations, I've grown in my faith, navigated the gray areas of life, learned to listen to the Spirit, and developed a well-defined identity in Christ. As we lead discussion in our groups, it's easy to focus on the "right" answers and totally bypass the opportunities to allow our group members to wrestle with the gray and listen for God's voice. It gets us through the study/curriculum/book faster, and we feel pretty accomplished, too. Our group members learn valuable Bible knowledge, but they miss something more important: how that knowledge applies to their life. A few weeks ago, my women's group was discussing John 7 which briefly mentions the Festival of Tabernacles. One of the women asked the purpose of the festival. Another talked briefly about being in the desert for 40 years. Together, the women pieced together the story. Forty minutes later we'd talked about the use of festivals in Jewish culture, the reason only the high priest could approach God once a year, and how Jesus had changed all of that. It was a tangent to be sure. John 7 is actually about Jesus speaking with authority to the Jewish people at the festival and the fact that some believed and others didn't. But our tangent led us somewhere important when one of the women exclaimed, "Wow! God did all that so I can have a relationship with him!" The sentiment sobered the group, sending everyone into deep thought. Slowly they started to respond. And tear up. And explain that they weren't investing in that relationship like they could. It led to real prayer requests and thankfulness and ideas about how to build an authentic relationship with Jesus. It led to a shift in our hearts and minds. And it was obviously the work of the Spirit. It all started with...

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My Small Group Is Better Than Yours!

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My Small Group Is Better Than Yours!

Last night at my small group, one of the group members said we should each go around the group and say one thing we appreciate about our group. We'd been off for two weeks, and everyone was overjoyed to be back together. As we went around the circle, people shared that they loved the in-depth study, the laughter, the prayer time, and having a place to share and ask questions and know that you won't be judged. Recently, SmallGroups.com featured an article called "My Small Group Is Better than Yours!" It's got a catchy title, but it also features meaningful stories of why people love their small groups. We asked friends of SmallGroups.com through e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter, to share the things that make their group so great, and we got great responses. In all, the article shares 13 stories from 6 different states (plus, Washington, D.C.) and 3 different countries. There are stories of powerful prayer, helping adults with special needs, cooking groups, studying classic Christian books, accountability, group discernment, multigenerational groups, serving one another, family support, missional living, career building, and even exercise groups. God is working in so many ways around the world through small groups. The variety of healthy groups is astounding, and it's definitely worth celebrating. But we're not done yet. We want to hear your story. What makes your group great? Why do you keep going week after week? Share your story with us...

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New! Bible Study Basics: Philippians

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New! Bible Study Basics: Philippians

Since introducing our Bible Study Basics in July, they've quickly become some of our most popular Bible studies. So we've introduced another one this week on Philippians. Walk through all four chapters with your group by choosing interesting icebreakers and engaging questions. Plus, we've included a menu of application points to help group members apply what they've learned. The aim of all our Bible Study Basics is to get your group members into God's Word, discovering together what it says, and applying God's truth to their lives. Philippians covers topics like living a life worthy of the gospel, having the mindset of Christ, doing everything without grumbling, and more. Watch the video below to better understand our Bible Study...

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Highlights from the Global Leadership Summit

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Highlights from the Global Leadership Summit

I really enjoyed my time at the Global Leadership Summit this year, and I was busy tweeting some of my most memorable lines so you could share in the fun. After a week of processing and thinking through the information, I have to say that I learned a lot. I was so encouraged to hear powerful women speaking on important topics. And hearing from a pastor from Kenya was enlightening. I loved the different styles of teaching, even if they felt a bit jarring one right after another. Most of all, I was encouraged that so many were taking leadership development—discipleship—so seriously. It's a critical function of the church, and a main objective of small-group ministry. Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor of Willow Creek, vulnerably shared how his leadership team has been struggling to be healthy for years. But now, finally at a healthy place, he can look back and share wisdom from his mistakes. He reminded attendees that real, healthy leadership takes more courage than you think, and people are tired of gutless leaders. Instead, they want people to make real decisions and own up to mistakes. In small groups, this means leaders must be authentic with group members and not be afraid to say "I'm sorry" and "I don't know." Gen. Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State, talked a lot about leaders investing and knowing the people they oversee. After all, leaders get nowhere without willing followers—they're the ones who get the work done. Powell shared that good leaders not only know their people, they show them how their individual mission helps carry out the organization's larger mission. Then they empower their people to carry out their missions. Powell could have been a small-group coach with that kind of wisdom. Great coaches help leaders see exactly what they need to do to be successful in their role, and then empower them to lead well. Patrick Lencioni, founder and president of The Table Group, shared three reasons people are miserable in their jobs: they feel anonymous and unseen, they feel irrelevant, and they have no way to measure how well they're doing. Small-group directors, coaches, and leaders can all apply this wisdom to the people they minister to. Get to know the people in your care—their gifts, their families, their passions. Show them how they're not only relevant but important to your ministry. Explain how they are doing something no one else could do in quite the same way. Then clearly describe what is expected of them—from a coach, to a leader, to a group member. When they know what's expected, they'll be able to measure their success. Liz Wiseman, president of The Wiseman Group and WSJ bestselling author, shared incredible wisdom on being a leader that multiplies the talents, productivity, and wisdom of those around them. Even more, though, she shed light on how people with good intentions often diminish the people around them by accident. Multiplying boiled down to choosing to be a servant leader, someone who intentionally makes others great by believing in them and empowering them to do their job. Dr. Brené Brown, research professor at University of Houston, shared on the importance of vulnerability, something not often associated with leadership. She went on to say that at our core, we all...

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Take Heart

Posted by on 2:55 pm in Small Group Resources | Comments Off on Take Heart

Take Heart

Right about now, you're probably feeling a little stress. School is starting, the church calendar is ramping up, and the start of groups is right around the corner. There's so much to do in so little time. And you may begin wondering whether small groups are worth all the effort. Take heart. The ministry you do by leading a small group is incredibly important. By leading a group of people, facilitating meaningful discussion in meetings, and empowering everyone to take next steps, you are working alongside God in the mysterious work of life transformation. While it's not easy work, it's beneficial kingdom work, and the Holy Spirit guides us as we minister. Spend an extra measure of time in prayer this week, laying your fears, anxieties, and worries before God. Trust that he will work through you as you lead. For practical tips on leading a group focused on life transformation, use our newly updated Growing Small Groups Training Theme. You'll find a devotion, assessments, case studies, and how-to articles that will give you perspective and train you to lead a growing group. If you're new to leading groups or starting a new group, use The First Meeting to put you at ease as your group meets for the first time. Then share with us below: Why do you lead a small group? Your words could be exactly what another leader needs to...

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Small Groups Engaging the Community

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Small Groups Engaging the Community

Recently, Christianity Today struck up a relationship with Ed Stetzer who now writes a blog for our ministry. And I must admit, I’m thankful. I’m thankful because he’s writing about discipleship, community, and missional living—three topics that are dear to my heart and to yours. And that’s because they’re goals of small-group ministry. Last week, Stetzer posted “Four Steps to Community Engagement” and discussed how exactly churches can begin to impact their communities. Though some articles that have a specific number of steps seem to offer paltry advice, Stetzer hits the nail on the head. First of all, he writes, we must define what success will look like—and it must go beyond bodies, budgets, and buildings. We must learn to define success as transformed lives. Second, the church must do the hard work of preparing. In other words, churches must train leaders in this area, cast vision, and model how to engage the community. Third, churches must provide personal leadership to believers. And that’s where small-group leaders can have a huge impact. Once your church leaders have trained you, and you’ve caught the vision, you can explain, model, and coach the vision to your group members. In fact, that’s something you can do better with your group members than your small-group pastor can do—because you know your group members at a deeper level. It’s critical that you help the ordinary Christ-followers in your group catch the vision because it’s part of their individual mission. It’s not just something that the church as a whole does. Fourth, the church must move into the community. And not just to invite people to the church. The church must learn to celebrate the things that build and transform the community, not just those things that build the church. I’ve found that small groups really are an amazing way for the church to engage the community, because it allows smaller groups of people with similar passions and interests to engage the community in meaningful ways—ways that sometimes don’t feel as authentic or productive if the whole church is involved. One of my small groups has been developing a relationship with an elderly man who was living in run-down motel. I’m happy to report that we walked with him until he was ready to look for other living accommodations, and then we helped him find a new place to live. My other small group is regularly investing in women and children at a residential program for women who have found themselves homeless for a number of reasons. Simple gestures like making them dinner and playing games with their families are huge wins. These are just two examples of small groups engaging the community. I have no doubt that your group will do something different, something meaningful in your context. And I hope you use your imagination to dream big about what God might want you to do to engage. To find out more about helping your small group engage your community, check out our Training Tool on Missional Small Groups and this short video from Carter Moss on why small groups are perfect for community engagement. What is your group doing to engage the...

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Our Own Worst Enemy

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Our Own Worst Enemy

Recently, I saw images of signs held up at the Chicago Gay Pride Parade that apologized for the way the church has treated people in the LGBTQ community. It reminded me just how unloving the church can feel to so many. And it goes beyond sexual orientation. History has seen the church mistreating people who have been divorced, people who have had children outside of marriage, people who have voted a certain way . . . The list goes on and on. Even worse? The way we treat each other on a regular basis within the church. How many churches have split? How many people have walked away from church after burning out? How many have sworn off community because they were treated harshly? Sometimes we're our own worst enemy. And unfortunately, far too many of us have experienced that. That's why the article "We Need to Stop Eating Our Own" from Leadership Journal caught my eye. In it, Michael Cheshire, a pastor, explains how a brush with death made him realize just how uncomfortable his church had become—and how he could no longer be pastor if things didn’t change. He writes: People will fade out of a church, a club, or a movement. But people don't fade out of their friendships; friends would notice and come after them. Yes, the mass exodus from our churches is continuing and spreading. Those leaving, for the most part, are not mad at God; they're mad at his followers. Despite what you will hear from some religious leaders in today's church culture, the average Christ-follower walking out the door is not weak, unwilling to commit, or intrinsically selfish. The vast majority of these Christians are leaving for two main reasons: First, and foremost, they are tired of being treated harshly by other Christians. Second, they feel the church has lost relevance to its community and to what they are going through in their everyday lives. Often the way we treat each other within our faith communities is still stunningly poor. You don't need an in-depth study to find out why so many are leaving the church. Just have some conversations with the people who have left. Read the full article at LeadershipJournal.net and then consider what small groups—what your small group—can do to reverse this trend. How can our small groups be more loving, more authentic, and more relevant to our communities? We have an amazing opportunity in small groups to help people engage in meaningful, authentic relationships. And it starts one group at a...

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