January 31, 2011
You can win one of five free memberships to SmallGroups.com!
It's time for another SmallGroups.com contest! Huzzah! As usual, this contest is very simple to enter. And, as usual, it makes fun of me.
You've noticed the picture of my riding a donkey by now, I'm sure. This was taken in Israel on an amazing trip I had the privilege of being a part of back in December. I was with a group of Evangelical journalists, and we saw ancient cities and historical sites that added a new level of depth to our understanding of the Bible. We also had the chance to experience the modern culture and diverse population that makes up Israel today.
But enough about that—let's talk about the contest. To enter, simply think of a caption to this photo. And when you think of one, post it in the Comments section below. (Be sure to include your email address so that we can contact you if you are a winner.)
The SmallGroups.com staff will choose five winning captions based on these criteria:
- Keep it clean. (This is a family friendly blog, after all.)
- Try to connect your caption to small groups in some way.
- Creativity and humor are the best ways to catch the judges' attention.
Winners will be chosen on the last day of February and will receive a free, one-year membership to SmallGroups.com. (Winners who are already members will have their subscription extended by a year.)
January 26, 2011
Take the poll and submit your own tips and tricks.
I am putting the finishing touches on a download called "Making Small Groups Fun!" and I'm curious about your current experiences in your small group. Do you have fun?
Let us know by taking the poll below.
Also, if you have any ideas or tips that have made your small-group meetings especially fun (or bad habits that tend to eliminate fun), share it with others by posting in the Comments section.
January 20, 2011
See the response from a legal expert.
Earlier this week I posted a question from a pastor who wanted to know if the idea of confidentiality in small groups had any kind of legal support. (Click here to see the full question if you missed it.) The pastor was concerned because one of his group members had been forced to speak in court about something that happened in a previous small group, and the pastor wanted to assure this person that it would not happen again in his church.
Kudos to those of you who responded with your answers, because you were pretty much correct. Here's why attorney Frank Sommerville had to say in response to the pastor's query:
The small groups are not private for legal purposes. Anyone present can be compelled to tell what happened. There is nothing you can do to prevent this possibility.
Just something interesting to keep in mind if a potential group member ever asks about this kind of thing.
By the way, in the earlier post I incorrectly mentioned that the pastor's question came from our friends at Your Church. It was actually part of the Church Administration discussion board at Yahoo!. (If you're interested in becoming part of that group, you can create a Yahoo e-mail account and then contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
January 17, 2011
I'd like your opinion regarding the legality of small-group confidentiality.
One of the benefits of working on the team at Christianity Today International is that I sometimes get "insider information" from some of the other resources in our corporate family.
For example, the following question was recently sent to the editors over at Your Church Resources:
An issue has come up in our church about peoples' legal obligations regarding confidential matters discussed in small group meetings. We strive to maintain strict confidentiality on things discussed in our small group settings. We want them to be a "safe place" where people can share their troubles and not have to worry about group members spreading gossip or the information somehow ending up in a courtroom.
One woman we heard from was in a small group in another church and group members were called in to testify against her in court. Before joining one of our small groups she wanted to be assured that sort of thing would not happen.
So my question is, how private are small groups really? We typically get information second-hand and are not usually witnesses to things that happen in people's homes or in their personal relationships. So can we, should we, be required to appear in court about things we might know about from small group sessions? Are we able to assure people that our groups are in-fact safe for them? Is there any case history that addresses these issues?
The Your Church folk have already solicited an answer to these questions from attorney Frank Sommerville, which I will reveal on Wednesday. Between now and then, however, I would love to hear your opinions.
How would you respond to this pastor in need?
January 13, 2011
Our continuing series is back and better than ever.
Well, it has been quite a while, but I am back after some extended travel over the holidays. I hope you didn't miss these blog posts too badly!
Before we get back into the swing of things, let me give a quick review of the series we have been featuring here on the intersection between Learning Styles and Small Groups. So far we have covered Visual Learners and Auditory Learners. In my last post before Christmas I gave an overview of the Reading/Writing learning style, and below you will find some specific information on how people with that learning preference generally fare in a small-group setting.
As with auditory learners, small groups present a lot of advantages to people with a reading/writing learning style.
The idea of a Bible study or curriculum guide is exciting for reading/writing learners, as is the opportunity to study the Bible directly. These individuals also enjoy the traditional "inductive Bible study" format where they are asked to read a portion of the text, interpret what it means, and then make a connection toward application.
Reading/writing learners usually enjoy small-group discussions—especially when they are given the opportunity to recite definitions, make connections to other parts of Scripture, and dig into the study notes contained in their Bibles.
Here are some more ways to maximize a small-group experience for reading/writing learners:
- Homework. I know, I know. For a lot of people, homework is a dirty word. But not for reading/writing learners. They don't like making spontaneous judgments about a text and would prefer to study, take notes, and answer questions during the week in order to be fully prepared for the group discussion.
- Reading time. If your small group is approaching a Bible passage or a book for the first time, be sure to provide a few minutes for people to read it over more than once. Give your reading/writing learners the time they need to dig in.
- Write on the board. You may want to consider including a whiteboard or tear-off notepad in your small-group sessions. Ask someone to take notes during the discussion so that the primary ideas and opinions being shared are written out for everyone to see.
- Give tests and evaluations. Again, this will probably not be a popular feature of your group if you do it every week. But there is value in writing up a little quiz before your group begins a new curriculum series in order to see what your group members already know. And there is value in another quiz or evaluation after the series is over in order to see what they have retained. (Your reading/writing learners will also like it if you set up a game based on Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit.)
Next in our continuing series: Kinesthetic Learners!