October 29, 2009
God's Pies: A funny and sobering look at how we divide our resources
Last week I promised that we would be rolling out some new features for the blog in the coming month, and here's the first one: I'm going to regularly troll through the Internet to find a Video of the Week.
Some of these videos will be professionally produced, others will be off the cuff from amateurs and churches. And they will run the gamut from funny to moving to encouraging to shaming. Whatever I can find that I think will have benefit for small-group leaders!
Here's the first one, from Worship House Media. It's supposed to be a look at financial resources, but I think it does just as well speaking about our time—or our total allocation of resources in general. Enjoy!
October 24, 2009
Have you experienced "text abuse"?
I just finished listening to Bill Donahue speak at the Willow Group Life conference. His talk was a bit different from the first sessions in that it dealt specifically with the group leader's role in Bible study and facilitation, which was cool.
Some of what Bill said was pretty basic, but one point especially stood out to me. I'm paraphrasing a bit, but here's what he said about some people's use of the Bible: "When we use our strength to force or beat someone, that is physical abuse. When we use our tongues to cut people, that is verbal abuse. When we enforce our will over children, that's child abuse. And when we use the Bible as a weapon or a method of control, that is textual abuse."
That idea needs to be shouted from the rooftops. So many people feel like the Bible is a club to be wielded against those who need it. They feel that change happens through bludgeoning with verses. And this happens in small groups all the time. If someone's opinion is different than mine, I stone them with BIble verses until they submit or shut down.
This needs to stop. But how? As a group leader, what should we do when this starts happening in our group?
Very good stuff from one of our favorite authors!
If you're not familiar with Heather Zempel, you need to go to SmallGroups.com right now and search for what she's written there. It's all great stuff. You can also go to her blog, which is called Wineskins for Discipleship.
Today at Group Life, Heather talked about the reality of mess in small groups. Specifically, the fact that messes are given in any place where human beings come together. I intellectually agree with everything that Heather said, including different ways to engage and address the messes as a process for growth.
But I've not experienced a lot of this recently. I'm in a pretty clean group right now, and I guess that scares me. Are the group members just not opening up? Am I not providing the right kind of atmosphere for them to open up? Is it possible that we're just in a time of little trouble right now, and we really all like each other as much as we claim to?
I wish I had answers to these questions, but I'm pretty blank right now. I'm going to chew on this for a little while, but I'm curious what all of you are experiencing, as well. Got mess? (reminds me of those milk commercials.) And if not, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Is that your fault as the leader, or the fault of your group members?
Is deep, personal confrontation really realistic?
I'm sure most of you are familiar with Dr. Henry Cloud from the "Boundaries" series of books and videos, but you might not be aware that he is also a big, big advocate of small groups. He speaks regularly at different conferences, and he's got a pretty cool book out called "Making Small Groups Work."
Dr. Cloud's talk at the conference today was very cool, but there was one thing that kept bugging me as he spoke. He told several different stories about different groups he's been a part of or heard about, and all of the stories dealt with some kind of deeper interaction or confrontation. For example, he talked about someone from his group telling him that they were bugged by his habit of not hearing what people said and just talking about what was on his mind. There was another story about a guy who was beaten down by his father, and the group encouraged him to call his father on the phone right then and there and disagree with him three times.
Lots more stories like that, and they all had the common thread of confrontation within a group—not confrontation like this person talks to much or sings too loud, but confrontation like, "I want you to be a better person, so I am going to tell you the areas where you are weak so that the group can help you get stronger."
And that sounds really cool to me, that idea. But I've not experienced it in a group. And frankly, I'm not sure I have the guts to initiate something like that. Spiritual growth and education, yes. If someone confesses a sin, I'll be there with support and whatever they need. But personal confrontation with the sins and bad habits of another person? Not right now.
Is that a place I need to grow as a group participant? As a group leader? Or is that kind of experience not realistic for a small group that is not led by a professional psychiatrist?
Here's a quick video clip from Traci
Why the soul of a group leader is the most important thing
I'm listening to Mindy Caliguire speak at the Willow Group Life conference. If you don't know of Mindy, she is a powerful and growing voice in the world of spiritual formation. She's got good stuff to say in several books, and I'll actually be talking with her early in November, so you'll be able to see that interview.
Mindy also has good stuff to say here at the conference. She's talking about the soul—especially the soul of a small-group leader. According to Mindy, there are many things she used to think were the most important qualifications for a group leader. All the usual stuff -- listening skills, Bible knowledge, hospitality, etc. But now she has only one answer. The most important qualification for a small-group leader is that he or she is leading from a healthy soul.
And that reminds me of some really cool research that was conducted by Jim Egli and some other folks who made a nationwide study of several hundred churches. They looked at churches who were doing small groups well, but specifically at small groups that were healthy. And they discovered some common habits of healthy small groups.
Here are the biggest two:
1. The vast majority of healthy small groups had group leaders who had a regular and fruitful devotional time with God every day.
2. The vast majority of healthy small groups had group leaders who prayed for their group members by name every day.
Those sound like group leaders who have healthy souls, to me.
I haven't thought of this before...
I just listened to the first session here at the Willow Creek Small Groups conference, which featured Dave Johnston. He's the pastor at Church of the Open Door in Minneapolis, MN.
He was talking about spiritual formation, which is a pretty common topic. And he gave three non-negotiable elements of change. The first and third were authenticity and grace. And those are also pretty common—good stuff, but common.
But sandwiched in the middle was the idea of courage. It takes courage to be authentic. And I think that is huge. I have not heard that word connected to community and small groups before, but I sure think it should be. What better word for the emotional strength it takes to remove all the masks in front of other people? What better word for what it takes to confess sin?
Let's talk about this a little more: how does Courage fit in with your experience of small groups?