Monday, April 29, 2019

Leadership of Small Groups




Small Group Leadership

The most critical aspect of a successful small group ministry is the identification, training, and releasing of leaders. The leadership team of each group will normally consist of a facilitator, host or hosts, and worship leader/s. The facilitator is the team leader and will preside over the meeting.

The best facilitator is able to bring out the best in others. Facilitating a small group requires the ability to listen and acceptance of others.

Listening

Listening does not come naturally. It is a skill that is developed through practice. Making eye contact and maintaining an alert posture is helpful in our ability to listen. Listening requires the capacity to hear through many wrappings--listening beyond the outer layer of spoken words; this involves risk and courage if you are to respond worthily.

Good listeners guard against the judgment of the speaker, against labeling the speaker, and listens with openness, honesty, acceptance, and interest. They listen with expectancy so as to evoke the fullest reality and capacity of the person speaking. They listen to be involved in what the person is relating.

Acceptance

Acceptance is like fertile soil that permits a tiny seed to develop into the lovely flower it is capable of becoming, Unacceptance too often closes people up.; makes them feel defensive, produces discomfort, makes them afraid to talk or to take a look at themselves. Of all the effects of acceptance, none is as important as the inner feeling of the individual that he is loved. To accept another "as he is" is truly an act of love. To feel accepted is to feel loved.


Prerequisites for the facilitator.


  • Character: The facilitator should have a track record of displaying the "Fruit of the Spirit," faithful to the ministry, and free from personal ambition
  • Commitment: The facilitator should be in agreement with the philosophy, values, goals, style, and priorities of the church.

    New facilitators would be selected from an existing small group.

    They must be willing and able to commit to the time requirements of leading the group - both training, and ministry.

    They must have demonstrated consistent giving of time, energy and financial support to the church.
  • Gifting: Filled with the Spirit and able to teach.
  • Maturity: One seeking God, worshiping God freely, Teachable - not defensive, Loyal to the pastor and the church and its leadership.
  • Call: Senses a call from God to facilitate the group, is approved by the pastor, and affirmed during an evaluation period.


Facilitator's job description


  • Maintain a personal walk with God
  • Be commitment by consistent attendance at church meetings, monthly leadership meetings, special seminars, and further training.
  • Develop the team - Host or hostess and worship leaders. Reproduce yourself by developing new facilitators every 6 to 12 months.
  • Lead meetings: Schedule the best time to meet for the group. Maintain general outline for the meetings. Schedule time for fellowship, worship, sharing, teaching, prayer ministry, outreach activities, and fun nights and invite new people.


Monday, April 1, 2019

Small groups 3 – What should happen in your small group?

What should happen in your small group? 

It depends.........What is your principle purpose for your small groups?
  •  Developing closer relationships between church members,
  • Assimilating new people,
  • Numerical Growth'
  • Spiritual growth,
  • Equipping opportunities,
  • Developing new leadership,
  • and/or Maintaining accountability.

The format and content of your small groups will be determined by your purpose and your church’s values and priorities.

Over the years we have initiated small group ministries in several different churches - often with different values and priorities - but most of the content was consistent and based upon Acts 2:42. 

After Pentecost, the followers of “The Way” gathered together on a regular basis.

Acts 2:42 (NIV)  They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

It is always important for the meetings to begin on time and to close on time. The fastest way to kill a small group is to start late and end late. Life today is jammed with important activities and people are hesitant to commit to a new activity unless they realize its value.
  • Open on time: Group leadership generally includes the leader, hosts, and worship leaders who need to arrive early so the meeting can begin at the prescribed time whether or not anyone else is there. 
  • Closing is a little trickier. Almost always there will be ministry to individuals that cannot be stopped at the closing time. It is important that those not directly involved in ministry be released to go to another room for snacks or go home.
  • We normally started the sessions with the singing of praise and worship songs to provide a transition from a hectic worldly schedule to a more relaxed, worshipful, and spiritual mood.  
    When groups are new and people do not know each other well we have found “Ice Breakers” useful to learn more about one another. You can find any number of “Ice Breakers” in youth ministry resources. They are great to get for adults loosened up!
    It is best to break the ice after all have arrived – after the worship time.
  • Then it is time for an opening prayer.
  • Sharing of scripture: This is not a time for a lecture, sermon, or even a homily. It is important that each person has an opportunity to interact with the scripture. 
    The leader is a facilitator, rather than a teacher. As such, he/she must have an overall direction as to where he/she will guide the discussion, through questions to which others will respond.
  • Sharing of needs: At this point, everyone is encouraged to share what is going on in their lives and to share prayer needs. Be careful here, because there will always be some who feel a need to dominate this time week after week with the same issues. Leaders must understand how to handle this with grace and firmness.
  • Individual Prayer ministry. 
  • Closing prayer and dismissal
  • Snack time and fellowship after the closing. [this was optional as some would have to get home.]


Please feel free to share your comments or suggestions below!


Monday, March 25, 2019

Where are you going? Where Have you been?

If failure was not an option and money was no problem, what would you do with the rest of your life?

Deep down inside, there lies a hidden desire which is stuffed away because we are afraid to even think about it - let alone go for it. We have so suppressed it that we often do not even remember that we ever had the desire. 

We bury these desires for a number of reasons: We are convinced that it was only a childish dream, it is too incredible to even consider, or we are afraid to hope because we are might fail. We do not want to be disappointed again,. People will laugh at us. 

So we stuff the dream and convince ourselves it was mere foolishness to even hope. We say to ourself, “Get a life and find a real career.”\

The dream dims and eventually dies. It is shoved so deep that we totally forget about it and go on with our lives. 

Unfortunately, we may have missed God's purpose for our life.

That abandoned dream that you just remembered may be the Lord calling you into your destiny.

God prepared you from the very beginning. He has been steering you toward your destiny. It is God who wants to give you the desires of your heart. He is the one who put them there originally. It could prove informative to look back at your life and see how the Lord has been steering you and what He has already accomplished in you.

Landmarks

Jeremiah 31:21 (NKJV) "Set up signposts, Make landmarks; Set your heart toward the highway, The way in which you went.

The literal translation of the word “landmarks” means to pile up rocks or stones to make a landmark. After Joshua led the Hebrews across the Jordan River, the Lord commanded them to take rocks from the river and put them in a pile to commemorate that important event in their history.
Landmarks of our lives represent places we have been and the experiences we have had which have affected our lives. As we look back on our lives and identify specific events that have affected our progress, we will find signposts pointing us toward God’s purpose for our lives.
What has God been doing in your life?
Answering this question requires serious and objective analysis of your life up to now to see where the Lord has taken you.
Realize that you have been on a spiritual journey, sometimes programmed by God and sometimes going your own way. You will want to identify landmarks that show where you have traveled.

Try this Activity

Draw your spiritual timeline highlighting experiences when you felt exceptionally close to God, when you heard from Him, and the times you felt that you had a particular sense of His power.
List the period and the event. It may be helpful to find someone with whom you can share your spiritual walk.




Friday, March 8, 2019

Why your church needs small groups

Why your church needs small groups.        

Studies have shown that visitors come to your church for three main reasons:
  • A few, 6 - 8 %, just walk in because the church is in their neighborhood and it is connected to their background either denominationally or theologically.
  • Some 8 -12% have heard about the Pastor on the radio, television, or through the community.
  • But most, 70 -80 %, come because they were invited by a friend or relative.

That’s how they get in the first time. But what is it that makes them want to come back and perhaps become active members? 

Relationships! 

They either have a relationship with someone in the church or they expect to be able to develop relationships with people in the church.
Then, after they are in the church for about six months, they may question their commitment: 
  • Am I needed? 
  • Can I make friends? 
  • Where do I fit in?

Then after they have been there a year they might ask a different set of questions:
  • Is my work appreciated? 
  • Are my friends in church as good as my friends in the world? 
  • Does the church fit my needs?

Small groups provide the means to respond to these concerns and even avoid them entirely. 
The normal person can know about 70 people on a social level.  It is possible to be close friends with up to about 14 - 17 people.  And we can be deeply close with only a few. 

There are three primary levels of personal relationships;
  • community,
  • social
  • and intimate. 

Notice that Jesus had three deeply close disciples, twelve that He knew intimately, seventy that were part of His ministry team, and hundreds of followers. 

Community

Community gives us an identity and the realization there are others like us. It provides opportunities to be with others who share our interests.  Communities are usually established based upon a common background. 

If our church commitment never moves beyond community it is unlikely that relationships with fellow church members will ever grow beyond a casual nod once a week on Sunday morning.

Social

The second level of relationship is social and is generally made up of groups of people who are socially acquainted.  Each person knows everyone else, generally by name.  It is almost impossible for an outsider not to be immediately identified.  

In churches, social relationships are encouraged through Sunday school classes, Men's and Women's fellowships, the choir, committee meetings and social events such as potlucks, bowling or softball.  Any newcomer who is willing has the opportunity to enter into the group and get acquainted.  These groups actually become small congregations and are useful in satisfying the need for assimilating new members into the body. 

For many of us, our life is filled with social obligations.  We spend time running from one event to another from one meeting to the next.  We run to choir practice, to Boy Scouts, to Little League practice, to the neighbor’s party, etc.  

But even with all these activities, people are still lonely.  So they sign up for new activities hoping that will satisfy their loneliness.  Yet the more social events they attend, the lonelier they become.

Intimacy

Years ago the need for intimacy was satisfied by the extended family, those close friends and family members with whom we had developed trust and confidence.  

Today with our transient, fast-paced and troubled society, families are spread across the country, people are too busy to really get to know their neighbors and too fearful in some areas to go outside. 

As a result, the lack of intimate loving relationships has become one of the chief contributors to problems of sexual immorality, mental health and substance abuse as people search the wrong places for meaningful and loving relationships. 

To paraphrase Jesus, "the greatest commandment is to love God completely, and your neighbor as you love yourself. This implies intimate, honest and safe relationships.

We are called into relationship with God and relationship with others. Both relationships must be more than a superficial, social relationship. The relationships need to be loving and above all trusting where we can be honest, objective and fearless.  It is impossible to develop these deep relationships in large groups.  That is why social activities generally fail in drawing people close together.  

Small groups provide the opportunity for people to develop intimate, trusting, and honest relationships, vertical with God and horizontal with others.

They provide the glue that will hold a body together.

Send us your comments. 




Monday, February 25, 2019

Is Your Gospel Really Good News?

An ancient Greek myth describes runner, Pheidippides, making the twenty-five-mile jaunt from Marathon to Athens with the message of Athenian victory over the Persian forces of Darius I. As the runner Lay breathless at the gates of the city, and breathed his last, he gasped these words - "nenik─ôkamen!"

The battle is over and we won.” 
This was the birth of the marathon run - not only an Olympic event but races in every major city around the world. 

The first marathoner was also one of the first evangelists. He brought the gospel to Athens - the good news of the Greek victory.

Four hundred years later Jesus, walked into Nazareth, Capernaum, and other cities of Galilee with the same message. The battle has been won, the enemy is defeated, the kingdom of God is near.  People from all over flocked to hear him teach and proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

Less than four later, Jesus was crucified, was resurrected, and ascended into heaven. He had told His followers to stay in Jerusalem until they received the Promise of the Father - The Holy Spirit. Obediently, they huddled together and prayed in an upper room in Jerusalem during the Jewish feast of Pentecost. Suddenly they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Jewish pilgrims from all over the Roman Empire were in Jerusalem and they were confused when they saw Jesus' followers acting strangely. So Peter got up and explained what had just happened.

“These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” [Acts 2:15-21 (NIV)] 

38  Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [Acts 2:38 (NKJV)]

As a result of Peter’s proclamation, three thousand people repented and were baptized.

Today we timidly try to share the Gospel with our neighbor and it becomes such a difficult task that we keep putting it off and putting it off. Then our neighbor dies and we condemn ourselves because we were never able to talk to him about Jesus.

Or we build up our courage and arm ourselves with Biblical apologetics so we can answer our neighbor’s questions about creation and why there evil in the world. Then we get in his face and tell him he will rot in hell if he doesn’t accept Jesus. 

Pardon me, but that isn’t good news.

My wife and I were on Interstate 5 on our way from our home near Seattle to San Diego for a conference. As we approached Bakersfield, a troubling thought came to my mind. “What really is the Gospel? What is the Good News?”

The word Gospel means “Good News” but most of the time we don’t treat it as good news we treat it more as a spiritual discipline. We typically prepare our little spiel, memorize the four spiritual laws, the Roman Road, and several pertinent scriptures and set out to meet someone at Wally World or Micky D’s.

When the Greek evangelist left Marathon for Athens, he was bubbling over with excitement and enthusiasm because of the message of victory he was carrying. As he fell at the feet of the crowd in Athens, he wasn’t concerned whether they would receive his message. With his last breath, he joyfully gasped out the news that Athens was safe, the enemy had been defeated.

When Jesus walked victoriously into the streets of Capernaum, He carried the Good News that the Kingdom of God was near.  He was not concerned whether anyone would reject Him.  Many did, but it did not reduce His enthusiasm for His Good News. When speaking to Jews from all over the world, Peter was not afraid of what the Pharisees and Romans might think of his Good News. And that former Christian basher, Paul, went throughout Asia and Europe proclaiming the Gospel to the Gentiles while being run out of town, beaten and stoned, and given up for dead. It did not keep him from sharing the Good News. 

Why do we hesitate?

I believe that there are two reasons which are probably a condemnation of the church today. 

  1. Many do not truly understand or believe the Good News.  
  2. Most people believe that when they die, they will go to heaven because they tried hard to live a good life. 

The Good News is summed up by Peter's message at Pentecost.
  • The battle has been won. 
  • The enemy has been defeated. 
  • The church has the life and power of Christ through the Holy Spirit. 
  • Christ will return for His church.

Repent and be baptized, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit!




Monday, February 18, 2019

Why Small Groups?


Small group meetings have become kind of a "Thing" in churches today. 

Everybody seems to be doing them. But why? What is are their purpose?

If you ask pastors and lay leaders why they have small groups they will give you some mumble jumble about fellowship, church growth, or discipleship. But - in many cases - the real reason a church decides to start a small group ministry is that they have seen successful churches with small groups. We pastors and church leaders like to copy success.

Secular society has also discovered the "small group" phenomena. Manufacturing companies have incorporated small groups as a means of maintaining quality control. It was these "Quality Circles" that transformed the Japanese automobile industry in the '60s and '70s which nearly wiped out the US car industry until they too caught on.

Some see the "small group" phenomena as the result of Post Modernism, but small groups have been around for hundreds of years.

John Wesley's revival that transformed England in the 18th century and led to the Second Great Awakening in the US in the early 19th century, resulted in part from small groups. George Whitefield was a great revivalist in England and America before the Revolutionary War. According to Wesley, the great weakness in the Whitefield led awakening was the failure to draw the newly converted people into a close, corporate discipline. In a sermon in 1778 he observed that,

"...the people had no Christian connection with each other, nor were they taught to watch over each other's souls."


Methodist class meetings or societies were the focal point of the Wesleyan revival in England and were just as effective on the American frontier. Wesley quickly realized that many were coming to faith in Christ without any knowledge of how to grow in this new life. As a result, Wesley formed his movement into three different-sized groups for varying levels of spiritual growth and support. 

  1. “Societies” were essentially congregational churches. 
  2. “Classes” were mixed groups where no more than fifty individuals would gather for instruction and prayer. 
  3. “Bands” were single-sex groups of no more than ten individuals who met every week to discuss direct and probing questions in order to bring about character formation and Christlikeness. 
The groups became the basic medium within early Methodism;
  • for spiritual growth, 
  • for relationships and
  • for personal spiritual accountability. 

In the smaller sized meetings were found;

  • intimate human fellowship 
  • and discovery of intimacy with Almighty God.

Classes, or societies, were formed in a new community by the itinerant preacher who might preach one or two days and then form a class and select a leader. 

Perhaps the supreme moment in the communal experience of the Methodists came in the "Love Feasts" Each quarter all of the members in a circuit were brought together for a joint meeting. The love feasts, a part of that meeting were normally closed to all but members and usually preceded or immediately followed the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Opportunities were given to share Christian experiences, offer scriptural verses, extemporaneous prayer and hymn singing. 


Fuller Theological Seminary has done extensive research on the subject of groups in the church and has discovered several important factors, that coincide with Wesley's methods. People find comfort when three basic levels of relationships exist. 

    • A large group of people with common interests.
    • A group of people they know and can have fellowship and share opinions.
    • A smaller group with whom they can share feelings.
Churches that are successful provide all three of these relational experiences. Before people talked about "small groups'" the church had them but did not call them that. They called them "committees" the "choir," or prayer groups.

There is a negative side to small groups that most pastors have encountered. The first small group meeting that my wife and I attended was a gripe session aimed at undermining the pastor. We did not stay there long and eventually that group leader left the church and took most of his group with him. This happens, but is not a reason to omit small groups, it is only a reason to monitor them carefully.

The small group can become "closed" or remain "open." In a closed group, the members will grow spiritually but not numerically. An open group will grow numerically, but spiritual growth will be slow.

If your purpose is for the group to grow spiritually, you must let it close. You do not have to do anything about it because it will naturally close as people develop an intimacy. 

On the other hand, if you want groups to be used to help grow the church numerically, then you must take action to keep the groups open. You will have to consider splitting them when they reach a certain number (10-12) and keep feeding new people into them.

We will continue discussing small groups in later posts.


Bill 





Saturday, February 2, 2019

Hearing God Part 2

Listen with your heart!

How we listen to people around us is the way we listen to God. This may be shocking but it is so true. 

When we listen to someone, we are often more concerned with how we feel about what they are saying than we are about hearing them. We keep looking for a place to insert our story into the conversation.

When we listen with our heart, we ask questions from a vantage point of sincere interest in the other’s well-being and genuine curiosity about their experience.

To listen with our heart, we must slow down our minds and allow divine curiosity to permeate our thinking. If we do not allow for time to listen truly, we will gradually lose our ability to listen. When we lose our ability to listen to others, we lose our ability to listen to God.

When we listen to others, we give clear evidence that we value what they have to say, and therefore we show that we value them. True listening draws us closer to one another; it helps us become more whole, healthy, and holy.

Proverbs 12:15 Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to advice (NRSV)



James, the half-brother of Jesus, tells us to be swift to hear and slow to speak. We must listen more and speak less. How much strife and division could have been prevented if true listening had been practiced instead of hasty speech and voicing impetuous opinions.

Steps to listen with your heart.

  1. Be curious. Curiosity creates a passion to listen. If we already know it all we will never learn anything new. We should have a desire to grow and learn new things every day. If you continue to learn you will not grow old.
  2. Be humble. Humility sensitizes our ability to listen, whereas pride dulls our ability to hear.
  3. Be teachable. Realize that others - no matter how we see them – can teach us something. Look for a lesson in every encounter.
  4. Understand that the way we listen to our spouse, employer, teacher, colleague, friends, and our children, is the way we will listen to God!