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March 25, 2011

Friday Flashback: Those Annoying Labels!

Why "lay" small-group leaders should carry "clergy" business cards

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For years, I've struggled with the labels of "clergy" and "laity." I've had the opportunity to wear both labels at different times in my adult life. And truthfully, I'm at a point now where no one knows what to label me. My secret confession is this: "I like it that way!" For me, the labels have very little significance to our life in Christ. And really, when you think about it, shouldn't every believer be a blend of clergy and laity? Sure, everyone has unique gifts and callings, but biblically, your title doesn't limit or distinguish who can lead, serve, or follow.

Some would say, Dan, you're not being very respectful. There should be special recognition for those whose income and vocation result from the "work of the Lord." Really? My question is: "How do you define the work of the Lord?"

My wife and I had the incredible privilege recently to leave the January frozen tundra of Central Indiana and travel to Honolulu, Hawaii, and participate in the "Doing Church as a Team Conference" (DCAT '09) hosted by New Hope Fellowship Oahu. Wayne Cordeiro (if you need a label, he is senior pastor at New Hope Fellowship Oahu) spoke of a culture they promote at New Hope. A culture where all Christian leaders are considered vocational ministers. He pointed out that we should not mistake the source of our income with the avenue of our income. If you track the source of our income, it all comes from God. Try it with whatever income source you can think of - if you track that income back to the source, it will always be God. The avenue of our income may vary: construction work, office work, church work; but the source of our income is the same. God provides! Therefore, if you are mechanic, a small-group leader, or a full-time pastor, you are working for the Lord (Eph. 6:7).

The other objection to the notion that all Christ-followers are clergy is the training/education issue. If you haven't got the training, the Bible knowledge, or the degree, then you are not qualified to do the work of ministry. However, as Wayne Cordeiro also pointed out at DCAT '09: "Your heritage and your dysfunction do not determine your usefulness to God. Anything fully in God's hands can be incredible. Dirt in God's hands can become human. Nothing in God's hands can become the universe. Put your life in God's hand and watch the adventure begin!"

I agree. So, for years I've been telling "lay" small-group leaders they are ministers, pastors—whatever "clergy" title you want to use. And at our local church we make business cards for each small-group leader with their name and a "clergy" title. We tell them, "Let this business card be a reminder to you that God can and will use you to impact the course of eternity in many people's lives. Use this card to visit people in hospitals and jails and know that Jesus is with you and has ordained you to be His ambassador, taking the message of reconciliation to the people you are serving."

Scandalous, you say? Perhaps. But no more scandalous than Jesus uttering these words to a handful of ordinary people on an extraordinary mission: "I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).

posted by Dan Lentz at 7:50 AM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

March 24, 2011

Accountability Between Couples

Understanding the different types is necessary before practicing them.

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Editor's Note: Sometime in the next day or two I will finish editing a training resource for SmallGroups.com called: "Life-Changing Small Groups for Couples." This will be available for download on April 4, but I thought you might enjoy a sneak peak.

So, below you will find an excerpt from an article written by Seth Widner that deals with the issue of accountability in a couples' small group.

Couples' groups often struggle with accountability because there is limited sharing when men and women spend time together. Most men and women will not be totally vulnerable when members of the opposite sex are present—which is understandable. So it is important for small-group leaders to provide creative ways for men and women to receive accountability.

The first step is to understand the two types of accountability for couples groups.

Couple to Couple
This type of accountability focuses on marriage- or family-related topics that involve both the husband and wife together. Such accountability covers topics like communication or conflict management, and it requires the husband and wife to work toward a solution together.

Being above reproach is crucial when holding couples accountable. A good rule of thumb is to never meet alone with someone of the opposite sex. If you and your spouse are scheduled to meet with a couple, make sure you both are present. If one of the spouses cannot attend your scheduled meeting, reschedule it for a time when everyone can be present.

Gender Specific
This type of accountability focuses more on gender-specific issues. Men hold other men accountable and women enter into accountability relationships with other women. This type of accountability allows each gender to be more vulnerable with private matters.

Both types of accountability are needed in the life of a couples group. Both will require a high level of trust between your group members. And that means small-group leaders must use wisdom in discerning when to apply them. Proverbs 2:6 says, "For the LORD gives wisdom and from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding." Seek God's guidance and follow his lead. It is also important to know your group member's needs.

Seeking God's guidance and understanding your group's needs will open the door for good discernment.

posted by Sam O'Neal at 11:00 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

March 21, 2011

Video of the Week: Euthanize Small Groups?

One pastor thinks that small groups should go away. What about you?

I came across this video early today, and it should at least give us something to talk about. Should churches euthanize their small-group ministries? Or at least to re-think what we are trying to accomplish?

By the way, here is the article that inspired this video, if you want to read it. It comes from pastor and author Brian Jones.

posted by Sam O'Neal at 11:42 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Summary: Learning Styles in Small Groups

One last post to make sure everything is accessible

Throughout all of 2011, we have been exploring a blog series on Learning Styles in Small Groups. That series is over now, sadly, but I did want to make sure that I compiled all of the links in one place so that anyone who came late to the party can be sure to read all of the posts (if they so desire).

Therefore, behold Learning Styles in Small Groups:

Overview: Learning Styles and the VARK Method.

Visual Learners:
--A General Overview
--Visual Learners in Small Groups

Auditory Learners:
--A General Overview
--Auditory Learners in Small Groups

Reading/Writing Learners
--A General Overview
--Reading/Writing Learners in Small Groups

Kinesthetic Learners
--A General Overview
--Kinesthetic Learners in Small Groups

posted by Sam O'Neal at 10:57 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

March 11, 2011

Caption Contest: The Winners!

The five entries that earned a free membership to SmallGroups.com.

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Back in the beginning of February we set up a Caption Contest in connection with our newest Digizine. Readers were instructed to write a one or two sentence caption to this image of me sitting on an unfortunate donkey in Israel.

Well, here are all five the contest winners, who will each receive a one-year membership to SmallGroups.com. Boom!

  1. "So don't forget... Chips and salsa, veggie-tray and maybe some muffins for after." (posted by Corbett)
  2. Doesn't matter how you get there...just don't miss out on small groups! (posted by Lisa Snuggs)
  3. As a Small Group Leader, you should know when to say "whoa" and when to say "giddy-up"! (posted by Otis Naron)
  4. Just like Balaam's donkey says, you can't "BEAT" small groups!! (posted by Ric Keefer)
  5. Well, when I said that our small group discussions should relate more directly to real life, this isn't exactly what I meant. (posted by Allen White)

Great job, winners! And a big thank you to everyone who entered. Oh, and if you are interested, you can see all of the caption entries here.

posted by Sam O'Neal at 10:36 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

March 3, 2011

Video of the Week: Love Wins

Rob Bell's newest video can open the door to deep discussion.

You may have already seen the "preview video" for Rob Bell's upcoming book Love Wins. And if you have been on Facebook, Twitter, or the blogosphere this past week, you know that the marketing folks over at Harper One have done an excellent job at creating a stir in advance the book's launch.

I'm certainly not going to attack or defend Rob Bell's book here—not until I have a chance to read it, at least. But I do think the video below provides small-group leaders with an excellent opportunity for engaging their groups in a deep, personal, and potentially life-changing conversation.


posted by Sam O'Neal at 11:19 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Wanted: Questions for Our Q & A Discussions

I hope you're looking for answers, because I need questions.

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First things first: are you familiar with the Q & A Discussions we feature regularly on SmallGroups.com? If not, I think you should be.

Here's the basic idea: we compile a list of questions about the toughest and most impactful topics from the world of small-group ministry, and then we ask several small-group experts from around the country to answer them. These answers are posted once or twice a month on SmallGroups.com, and then our readers can interact with those responses by posting comments and other questions.

It's a great feature, and it's been popular on SmallGroups.com for a long time. But I need your help to keep things going! Specifically, I need a new set of questions.

Please help! Take a look at the idea generators below, and post your suggested questions in the Comments section. Thank you in advance for helping us keep this valuable feature fresh, relevant, and helpful!

  • What obstacles are you currently encountering in your small group?
  • What obstacles are you currently encountering in your small-group ministry?
  • What areas of your group or ministry have become stagnant in recent months?
  • Are you experiencing any "people problems" in your group or ministry? (Please don't name any names.)
  • Are there any ministry goals that you have been unable to achieve in recent months and/or years?
  • What is keeping you up at night as a leader?

posted by Sam O'Neal at 9:37 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

March 1, 2011

Learning Styles: Kinesthetic Learners in Your Group

Here is the final post in our continuing series.

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Well, it has been very fun, but it is finally time to finish up our continuing series on Learning Styles and Small Groups.

So far we have covered Visual Learners, Auditory Learners, and Reading/Writing Learners. Last week we got an overview of the final learning preference included in the VARK model: Kinesthetic Learners (also called "kinetic" or "hands-on" learners).

So, the only questions left to answer are: how do Kinesthetic Learners generally fair in a small-group setting, and what can group leaders do to help them get more from the experience?

A Bad Deal
Unfortunately, there are many aspects of participating in a small group that are unappealing to kinesthetic learners. First and foremost would be staying seated in the same place for a long period of time. The traditional method of "going around the circle" for prayer requests is also disagreeable for kinesthetic learners because it takes so long for everyone to talk about what's on their mind, and then everyone to pray out loud.

Kinesthetic learners can also become frustrated when a small group spends most of its time talking and discussing and debating. They want to move quickly into application. They want to get out of the living room and do something.

How to Help
Here are some ways that you can improve the experience of kinesthetic learners in your small group:

  • Service projects. Kinesthetic learners are great for small groups because they are often the ones pushing others to "practice what they preach." They want to get out into the world and make an impact based on what the group has been learning.
  • Establish mentoring relationships. Paul's admonition to "follow me as I follow Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1) sounds just right to kinesthetic learners. Rather than establish some kind of amorphous accountability within the whole small group, kinesthetic learners do well when they can be in a "do as I do" relationship with another disciple of Jesus—both as the mentor and the mentee.
  • Move around. Sitting still is not a preferred activity for kinesthetic learners, so build in some activities that provide people a chance to move their bodies. Announce a stretch break for five minutes before the discussion starts. Encourage people to get down on their knees or walk around during the prayer time.
  • Give them something to hold. A kinesthetic learner will do much better during a "sit and talk" activity if they have something in their hands to hold, squeeze, bend, or throw. So consider making one or more of these materials available at each small-group meeting: a small ball, pipe cleaners, Play Doh, a Rubik's Cube—anything that can be physically manipulated while a person sits and participates in a discussion.

posted by Sam O'Neal at 9:00 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)