Monthly Archives: August 2013
One of the most common questions that we get from group leaders is, “What should we study next?”. We are always happy to give them a few suggestions, but the number of studies that are available are overwhelming. In some ways that’s great, in others, not so much. Scientific studies have shown that when our brains are presented with too many options, they shut down. That’s why the burger chain, In-N-Out Burger, had been so successful. Their food is decent, but the menu is the attraction. They do burgers and fries. That’s it.
So we decided to go off on that idea and create a Curriculum Menu for our groups to follow for a year. We feel like if they pick one study from each category for a year, their group will have a full, discipleship diet. Each category has just a few choices that have been tested by our groups and proven to be solid studies.
The categories are:
A ‘La Carte
Appetizers and salads are not necessarily lighter in content than the entrees, but they are easy to manage studies to start out with a group. Most of them are DVD driven so that the leader does not have to worry about teaching each week.
Entrees cover the core fundamentals of who we are as a church – evangelism, discipleship and community.
Desserts are fun options for groups to consider through the course of a semester. Have a game night. Go out for bowling. Take your group camping over the weekend.
A ‘La Carte are studies for specific demographic groups. Men, Women, Marriage, Prep For Marriage, etc.
We feel like this is a fun tool that will help our groups along a solid path of discipleship studies. We are always looking for new ways for leaders to be able to engage their groups in meaningful conversations that lead to life change.
We are always tweaking our systems and ideas to hopefully get better, and also find easier ways for people to find community. One of the new ideas that we introduced last year was the Connect Event. Instead of having people just peruse a bunch of sign-up tables with leaders behind them, we set-up an event where they could actually experience a community group before they left the building. We felt like this might increase the stickiness of people signing up for a group and then actually showing up for the first meeting. They would already have that first meeting under their belt.
By experimenting with the Connect Event last year, we learned a couple of things:
1. Not everyone can come to one event on the same day.
2. Having the amount of people that did show up was overwhelming.
What we decided to experiment with at our Nashville campus was having identical Connect Events every night of the week that groups typically meet. For us, that is Sunday – Thursday. The idea was: if you would like to attend a group on Tuesday nights, then show up this Tuesday to meet our groups that will normally meet on that night.
As with most of our experiments, we had no idea what to expect. Would everyone still show up on Sunday night, because that’s what we did last year? Will there be nights with only a handful of people to make for a very awkward first group experience?
The final result was an overwhelming success. We ended up plugging over 400 brand new people in groups over the week, and averaged right around 100 people a night. Spreading it out over the week allowed it to be much more of a manageable experience for the leaders and hosts.
There are things that we will tweak and change next time, but I am very pleased with our early results from this experiment.
I love when I read scripture and I find something that we have made complicated, made simple. Romans 13:8-10 is a perfect example of that:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Love for one another is the only debt that we should leave open. I saw this being lived out yesterday at our Dream Center. We had the opportunity to meet Steve. Steve had been given up on by almost everyone in society. He was a drug dealer headed to a life in prison when someone decided to love him. Steve said that what the Dream Center is doing for him and others is not normal.
It should be.
I saw another example of this played out as I watched Dino Rizzo being restored back into ministry at Church Of The Highlands last week. How many pastors do we see kicked to the curb because of a mistake in life? What I saw happen as Chris Hodges showed unconditional love to another leader who has been broken is not normal.
It can be.
As the Church, we have the platform to change the status quo of how we treat the broken and forgotten. The Bible says that all commands can be summed up with grace and love. How are you going fulfill that today? What am I going to do?
Let’s change the normal.
This Sunday, we will give everyone that attends Cross Point the opportunity to join a community group. We try to make it an easy first step by actually hosting their first group meeting together at the church during a Connection Event. A lot of people are wary of making the commitment to be in a group for the first time, and that’s ok. I was too. The only people that absolutely LOVE their first experience with a group of strangers at a strange home, are the same people who talk to everyone on the elevator. They are completely oblivious to the rule that you are supposed to just stare at the numbers and keep to yourself.
Here are 5 reasons that you should take the awkward plunge into community:
1. We need people. As much as it pains some of us introverts to say it, we need other people in our lives. My wife and I have shared almost every major moment in our married lives – 2 kids, 4 houses, 3 new cities, deaths in our families, struggles in marriage, struggles with work, disappointing sports teams – with our community groups. I cannot imagine what it would be like to not. I love that we have people at our house every Thursday night to do life with.
2. We need accountability. My first year of college was rough. The kind of rough that they grow for the US Open. The major problem for me was I all of sudden had very little accountability. I didn’t feel like going class? I didn’t go. No one cared. It was awesome….right up until my first exams starting coming in. I needed accountability – quick. I found it in study groups and my future wife holding my hand through Algebra 1 (don’t judge me). We need that same kind of accountability in our spiritual life. We will not grow unless we have people around us pushing and stretching us. Iron sharpens iron.
3. We need wisdom. There is only so far that we can go on our own. To take our next spiritual step, we need someone that has gone there before us. That is why we tell potential groups leaders: you don’t need to know everything, you just need to be one step ahead. Every group will have people that are in different stages of discipleship. We need those people to help guide us to the next steps.
4. We need prayer. There are going to be times in our lives where the best thing people can do for us is pray. When I am in that season of life, I want to know that my community group has my back with God. That quick text that says, “Thanks for sharing last night, I am praying for you today.” I know that prayer works.
5. We need food. That may seem very surface, but every great list has 5 things. And I do love food. And it should be a central part of every community group. 🙂
Through the years I’ve talked with a massive number of small group leaders who believe themselves to be poor leaders. They have told me that they just don’t host a great meeting week after week after week. I then ask them to describe what, in their mind’s eye, what a transformational small group meeting looks like. When they finish their description, my response stuns them. As graciously as I possibly can I simply tell them, “Wow! You don’t really think that’s going to happen every week do you?”
Too many group leaders have set a standard that is impossible to meet. They have experienced a group meeting that astounded and excited them and then they began to believe that that should happen every week.
Some of the mistaken expectations I’ve heard from group member’s mouths are listed below.
Everyone spontaneously broke into song praising God and thanking Him for all He is doing for them.
Group members just up and started confessing their sins to one another.
Most of the group members were in tears.
We were praying for someone and they were healed right there on the spot.
When we were discussing Scripture, every person in the room was really involved, no one was sitting idly by, and no one was talking too much.
We could just feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.
When I was leading the group, the right words just came streaming from my lips. I think they were straight from God.
While all of these experiences are really special, no group leader should judge if they had a great group meeting by whether or not things of this nature occur. These are very special moments, experiences designed by and brought into your meeting by the Holy Spirit… at just the right times. Celebrate them but don’t judge the effectiveness of future meetings by whether or not you experience any of these fantastic moments.
Remember, your responsibility in making disciples is to do what Jesus told us to do… “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20) If you are creating an environment where group members are learning and living the Word of God, you’ve led a great meeting!