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February 25, 2011

More Great Blogs for Small Groups

Fifteen sites you should be reading regularly.

If you are reading this, then I assume you like to access the blogosphere for information, ideas, and insight concerning the world of small groups. (And you should.)

That being the case, make sure you check out a recent post from Rick Howerton on his new blog Group Life Connected. In it, Rick is kind enough to list 15 high-quality blogs that are all helpful resources for small-group ministry.

I won't list them here (you'll have to jump over to Rick's site), but I will report that I'm very happy with the group represented.

posted by Sam O'Neal at 3:58 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

February 24, 2011

Is There a Definition for Prayer?

One author takes a crack at it, so what do you think?


I will be working feverishly today and tomorrow in order to put the finishing touches on our next downloadable resource: Evaluating Prayer in Your Small Group.

I wanted to pause for a moment, though, because one of the articles I am editing contains a working definition for prayer that I thought was interesting. The article was written by Spence Shelton (a small-group pastor and all around good guy), and here is his definition for prayer:

For the sake of common language, this assessment will operate on the idea that prayer is God’s means for people to acknowledge their dependence on him for all things.

Interesting, huh? It got me thinking, at least. Spence continues with a little more explanation:

So when we praise him, when we confess to him, when we believe him for a brother’s need, we put ourselves where God designed for us to be: dependent on his provision. A rich prayer life is one that regularly and unreservedly cries out "Abba, Father."

What is your reaction to this definition/explanation of prayer? Agree or disagree?

Have you heard another definition of prayer that you thought was interesting? (Or do you have one of your own?) If so, please share in the Comments section below.

posted by Sam O'Neal at 9:12 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

February 21, 2011

Help: Group Leader Celebrations

What are some ways to celebrate a job well done?


Here's a question that recently popped up on our growing Facebook page:

Our church would like to do an appreciation event for our small group leaders - and include a learning opportunity within the program. Has anyone done a similar type of event? Any ideas/suggestions you'd be willing to share?

So, anyone have any ideas? Let's pitch in and help out a fellow groups-lover in need of some inspiration.

You can post in the Comments section below, or respond to the original Facebook comment from Nicole.

posted by Sam O'Neal at 4:07 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

February 17, 2011

Learning Styles: Kinesthetic Learners

The fourth and final learning style in the VARK model


It's been a few weeks, but it's time to start finishing up our continuing series on Learning Styles and Small Groups.

So far we have covered Visual Learners, Auditory Learners, and Reading/Writing Learners. Now it's time to take a look at the final learning preference included in the VARK model: Kinesthetic Learners (also called "kinetic" or "hands-on" learners).

Gimme a V!
People with a kinesthetic learning style prefer to process information through their fingers and skin. They are "hands on" and would choose to participate in physical activities rather than listen to a lecture or participate in a debate. They learn well when they can manipulate physical objects and conduct experiments.

Kinesthetic learners usually don't like trying to explore abstract theories or ideas. They prefer to be more concrete and practical. "Practice makes perfect" would be an ideal motto for a kinesthetic learner.

Kinesthetic learners also place a high value on experience. They hold things to be more true when they have experienced them, and they would prefer others to tell stories about their experiences, rather than give opinions on matters they are not experts in.

A Few More Clues
Here are some other cues and clues that may help you recognize a kinesthetic learner:

  • If you ask a kinesthetic learner for directions, she just may offer to take you to the destination herself.
  • When a kinesthetic learner orders food at a restaurant, he prefers to choose something he has eaten at that restaurant before—something he has already experienced.
  • Kinesthetic learners enjoy sports and other activities that allow them to engage their bodies with the world around them. Gardening would be a good example.
  • A kinesthetic employee would prefer to watch his boss demonstrate what needs to be done, rather than reading a manual or listening to his boss explain the task.
  • Kinesthetic learners use these words and phrases: "application," "get my hands dirty," "that feels right," "it's been my experience that," and so on.

Stay tuned for the final post in this series, which will discuss how to help Kinesthetic Learners engage and benefit most from a small-group setting.

posted by Sam O'Neal at 3:34 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

February 15, 2011

My Take: Giving Up on Group Members

The answer is both yes and no.


Last week we featured a blog post called Can We Give Up on a Group Member? It featured two somewhat dissimilar ways of answering that question, although I think every came to a stable consensus in the Comments section.

But I've never allowed a consensus to get in the way of me sharing my opinion. :) So here are my thoughts on the issue of "giving up" on a group member.

First, there certainly has been a lot written about this issue in the world of small groups. The main buzzwords for these individuals are "difficult people" or EGRs (extra grace required).

But to be honest, I think a lot of what has been written and produced about this subject is baloney. Or hooey. Or whatever word you prefer to use about a topic that people treat as important when it really is not.

A Quick Reminder
Here's the reality: every small group in the world today is made up of human beings. And every human being in the world today is imperfect. We are all sinful. We are all emotional. We are all unpredictable and perplexing and just a bit unstable.

In other words, we are all difficult people. We all require enormous amounts of grace.

That's why I get irritated when I hear things like, "Every group has an EGR person—and if you can't figure out who that person is, it's probably you." Because I don't like the idea of giving a small-group leader the power to point a finger at a member of the group and say, "He's the difficult one," or, "She's the EGR."

No matter our best intentions, it changes our perception of an individual when we label them in that way. They cease to be an equal member of the group in our eyes—someone to love, serve, and enjoy. Instead they become someone to manage, someone to control, or someone to avoid.

And that's a shame.

A Special Circumstance
Having said all of that, I do believe there are times when a truly difficult person joins a small group. And by "difficult" I mean someone with a legitimate psychological or personality disorder.

Some of these individuals have an extreme form of emotional neediness—they dominate entire group meetings by constantly talking about their problems, call people at odd hours, and/or attempt to reach an uncomfortable level of intimacy with members of the group. Others are incapable of functioning normally in social situations (including people with Asperger's Syndrome and other forms of autism). Still others suffer from conditions such as Bipolar Disorder, depression, addiction, and mental illness.

If you encounter one of these individuals in your small group, it is highly unlikely that the group will be able to handle them. You certainly won't be able to "fix" them.

These situations call for help from a church staff member. And yes, if the issues can't be resolved, or if group members are beginning to feel threatened in any way, then it may be necessary to ask the person in question to stop attending the group. That is the last option that should be explored, but it is an option.

That's my opinion, anyway. What do you think?

posted by Sam O'Neal at 9:17 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

February 10, 2011

Friday Flashback: The Age of Faux Friendships

Is the concept of friendship dying in our modern culture?


I was thinking of Dan Lentz's recent blog post about Relationship vs. Friendship when I came across an interesting quote from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Here it is:

[Concerning] the moral content of classical friendship, its commitment to virtue and mutual improvement, that has been lost. We have ceased to believe that a friend's highest purpose is to summon us to the good by offering moral advice and correction. We practice, instead, the nonjudgmental friendship of unconditional acceptance and support—"therapeutic" friendship, [to quote] Robert N. Bellah's scornful term.

We seem to be terribly fragile now. A friend fulfills her duty, we suppose, by taking our side—validating our feelings, supporting our decisions, helping us to feel good about ourselves. We tell white lies, make excuses when a friend does something wrong, do what we can to keep the boat steady. We're busy people; we want our friendships fun and friction-free….

With the social-networking sites of the new century—Friendster and MySpace were launched in 2003, Facebook in 2004—the friendship circle has expanded to engulf the whole of the social world, and in so doing, destroyed both its own nature and that of the individual friendship itself. Facebook's very premise—and promise—is that it makes our friendship circles visible. There they are, my friends, all in the same place. Except, of course, they're not in the same place, or, rather, they're not my friends. They're a superficial likeness or semblance of my friends—little dehydrated packets of images and information, no more my friends than a set of baseball cards is the New York Mets.

Boom! Tough stuff, huh? The author of that piece is a man named William Deresiewicz, and I'm wondering if you agree with him or not.

Deresiewicz concluded by saying: "Friendship is devolving, in other words, from a relationship to a feeling—from something people share to something each of us hugs privately to ourselves in the loneliness of our electronic caves."

Does he hit the nail on the head, or is he exaggerating? And what are the implications for small groups based on what he is saying? I would love your thoughts.

posted by Sam O'Neal at 8:54 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

February 7, 2011

Video of the Week: Shallow Small Groups

Hopefully this will not look familiar...

Got a couple minutes for a laugh? Here is a pretty funny video put together by the good folks at Bluefish.TV.

posted by Sam O'Neal at 10:14 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

February 4, 2011

Can We Give Up on a Group Member?

Two viewpoints on a fascinating question.


Last week my friend Rick Howerton opened up his new blog with a post entitled: "When to Abandon a Small-Group Member." Here was the full text of his post:

Never! There is…
  • No sin to too decadent
  • No opinion too controversial
  • No revelation too disturbing
  • No sickness too time consuming
  • No need too costly
  • No conflict too intense
  • No addiction too immoral.
Luke 15:11 - 24

I thought that was a pretty cool sentiment, and so I re-tweeted the link to the post. A few of you re-tweeted it as well.

But then I got the following email from another reader:

Nice sentiment in Howerton’s blog post, but I have to disagree with him. I had to ask a group member to leave once because she would go into rages during the group. I tried meeting with her personally, but she would fly into rages against me. I finally blocked her phone calls because they were giving me panic attacks.

So, before I give my opinion on this matter, I thought I would open things up to all of you. Is there ever a time when a group leader should "abandon" a group member?

posted by Sam O'Neal at 10:04 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)