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September 29, 2010

Pixar on Mentoring

Funny and useful is a great combination.

I couldn't resist featuring one more Pixar short film here—this one effectively communicates the value of mentoring over "keeping score," don't you think? :)

posted by Sam O'Neal at 4:05 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

September 20, 2010

Help Group Leaders Accomplish Less...

...In order to focus on what is really important.


I don't think I have mentioned this on the blog before, but I am currently writing a book for InterVarsity Press with the goal of providing basic training for small-group leaders. It's a great opportunity, and I've been having a lot of fun digging into the writing process.

I'll be blogging about my writing experiences every now and again for the next few months. I'll also be asking for a little help and advice from you, our faithful readers. (And several posts, like this one, will have a little of both.)

Pray More
One of the points I am trying to make early in the book is that small-group leaders need to focus more on spiritual preparation (things like praying for your group members and building your own connection with God) than physical preparation (things like cleaning the house, preparing a lesson, and so on).

We've had a good conversation going on regarding this issue with articles like A Small-Group Leader's Most Important Job, by Jim Egli. But in order for group leaders to have more time to pray, I think they need to spend less time working on the other tasks traditionally associated with leading a small group.

In other words, I think group leaders need to be less productive.

What Can We Give Up?
So the question becomes:

  • What tasks are you performing as a small-group leader that could be let go without damaging the group?

  • What chores and assignments are traditionally connected to leading a small group that are not really necessary when you stop and think about it?

  • What can you cut in order to spend more time spiritually preparing yourself to lead?

I've got a few ideas in mind that we can talk about later, but I would love to get your input on this issue.

posted by Sam O'Neal at 3:05 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

September 16, 2010

Friday Flashback: Consumerism and Small Groups

Feeling the tension between servanthood and consumerism


There's been a lot of talk about Western Christians viewing church with a consumer mindset. This is a mindset that is consumed with what I can get out of church or small group. A focus on having my needs met rather than meeting other needs.

Tom Stipe at the Xenos Summer Institute nailed it when he simplified this concept by saying consumerism, in the context of relationships, is when you are trying to extract happiness from one another. He said that mentality will kill a marriage, a friendship, a small group, and even a church.

Our goal in a small group, stated or not, should never be to extract happiness from one another. Rather Matt. 5:3 says, "Blessed (happy) are those who realize their need for him (God), for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them."

You can help your group overcome the consumerism mindset by training them to have a desperate need for God and constantly practice serving others! There's no better time to put this into action than right now. Plan a service project or help someone you know with a specific need or serve the poor.

posted by Dan Lentz at 8:23 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

September 14, 2010

Poll Time: Evaluation

Let's find out if group leaders are being assessed on a regular basis.

I am beginning the process of putting together an Assessment Pack for small-group leaders, and it has got me thinking. How many churches take the time and effor to evaluate their small-group leaders? Or how many group leaders evaluate themselves with the goal of improving weaknesses and maximizing strengths?

Maybe we can find out something useful this way:

If you have been evaluated as a group leader, is it a regular occurence? And how often does it happen?

posted by Sam O'Neal at 9:02 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

September 13, 2010

Searching for Boundaries

Where do we draw the line between "appropriate" and "inappropriate" in mixed-gender small groups?


Last week I offered women a chance to Stand and Speak regarding their experiences in small groups. And we have had some great responses and interesting disclosures.

One comment that caught my eye came from Jill, who said:

I haven't been in a coed group in a long while, but in the past I've frequently found that men in leadership of said groups don't quite know what to do with single women in the group. I'm no shy wallflower, and I think sometimes they've felt somehow threatened. I think male leaders find single women very different somehow from married ones. Maybe the married ones are accustomed to deferring to their husbands.

Well Jill, I can tell you that you have nailed the feelings of at least one male small-group leader. To say I "don't quite know what to do with" the women in the small groups I have led is right on—and it's not just the single women that get me confused and/or gun-shy.

To put it badly, I am often am uncertain where the line is between appropriate and inappropriate behavior regarding women and men in a group. And that means I usually act overly reserved just to make sure that I don't unintentionally do anything weird—which often makes me feel like I am not fulfilling my role as a group leader who wants to care about and support the members of my group.

These are the kinds of issues I am talking about:

  • Eye contact. When I facilitate a discussion, I like to demonstrate active listening my maintaining eye contact and showing positive body language to whomever is speaking. But it often feels weird to be staring into a woman's eyes for long periods of time.
  • Physical contact. Some people are huggers, and I understand that. I am not a hugger. That being the case, I often feel awkward when a woman hugs other members of the group upon coming through the front door, but I stay back instead of "coming in for my turn." Am I being offensive in doing so?
  • Hospitality issues. My wife and I pride ourselves on being good hosts, which means I am always on the lookout for someone who needs a drink or something to eat. I will give up my chair for a woman that doesn't have one. I will open doors for women. I try to welcome everyone into our home and take their coats if they have one. But I often wonder, Can these gestures be misconstrued as flirting?
  • Emotional support. Like most men, I react when I see a "damsel in distress." I have an instinctual desire to comfort or encourage a woman who is having a hard time. Obviously, I understand that it's not a good idea for me to put my arm around a woman and try to soothe her or anything—my wife is wonderful at recognizing those moments and offering comfort when necessary. But am I within appropriate boundaries to verbally encourage a woman? To pray for a woman? To have a one-on-one conversation where I am listening to her trouble and offering support/advice?

This has become a longer post than I intended, but I would still like to ask for your help on these issues, and on others that you can think of regarding men leading women within a small group. Wehre are the boundaries? How do we know what is appropriate?

In other words -- help!

posted by Sam O'Neal at 1:52 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

September 7, 2010

Women -- Stand and Speak!

Anyone interested in sharing their stories of small groups from a female perspective?


I am finishing up a new training packet for called "Effective Small Groups for Women." And I figured that I would write up a quick blog post about some of my reactions to the material in that download -- specifically, me talking about the awkwardness and uncertainty that I sometimes feel when I lead a small group that includes women.

But then I thought -- who wants to hear about that?

So, I would like to open up the floor to the women readers of this blog for a moment. Thinking specifically as a woman, how would you rate your experiences with small groups? Have you been pleased, confused, excited, or demoralized? What things have gone right, and where is there still room for progress?

Here's another angle: have you ever been in a group that was led by a man -- and how did it go? Or, have you ever led a small group that included men, and were there any issues that needed to be addressed there?

I guess I would just like to hear some of your stories, since I will never be able to experience a small group from a woman's point of view. So, for those of you that are willing to share, thanks in advance!

posted by Sam O'Neal at 9:15 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

September 1, 2010

Video of the Week: Pixar on Cliques

I guess you could say they are "for the birds."

I just skimmed through the new book The Wisdom of Pixar, and it reminded me of one of my favorite short videos. Take a look, and then answer this question: Have you ever been involved in a small group where something similar has occured?

For the Birds 2001 from Le Thanh Sang on Vimeo.

posted by Sam O'Neal at 10:05 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)