May 31, 2011
What options remain for on-site training?
I have attended several small-group conferences over the past five years, and I can honestly say I enjoyed every one. These events are a great place to learn something new about small-group ministry, yes. Of course. More importantly, though, these events are a great place to meet somebody new—and that often proves invaluable.
But I've noticed a trend in recent years, and you may have as well: many small-group conferences have gone the way of the dodo. Others have gone the way of the caterpillar and metamorphed into something new. Regardless, if you want to attend a conference this year (let alone bring some folks from your church), the options are limited.
So, I thought I would provide a spot here for announcements and a little networking. What conferences are you aware of that would be beneficial for small-group leaders and point persons? What conferences are you planning on attending? What conferences do you wish you could attend?
And if your church, denomination, or organization is hosting an event this year, feel free to post a little blurb with a link.
May 24, 2011
Another discussion-sparking video on heaven and hell (this time from Francis Chan)
People around the world have been buzzing about heaven and hell after the release of Rob Bell's newest book Love Wins. And that means small groups have been buzzing, too.
If you have followed that conversation at all, you probably saw the promotional video for the book that really got things cooking. (And again -- if you didn't, I'll bet someone from your group did.) We embedded that video on this blog as a way to spark a discussion about the doctrines of heaven and hell in a group setting.
Well, it looks like Francis Chan will be entering the Exchange of Ideas soon with a book of his own. The bad news is you have to wait until July to see what he adds to the overall discussion. The good news is you get another chance to spark some discussion in your group with the book's promotional video, which is below.
May 16, 2011
Are you trying (and succeeding) to reach single men through community?
First things first: this post doesn't have anything to do with Charlie Sheen or "winning" or anything like that. So don't worry. I just thought it was a clever title on the subject of single men in the context of small groups.
Having said that, do you have any single men in your small group? Better yet, are you trying to minister to single men through your small group?
I am putting the finishing touches on a new SmallGroups.com resourced called "Effective Small Groups for Men," and I came across some interesting ideas in an article written by Steve Grusendorf:
Assimilating single adult men into the life of a local church can be difficult. When a new family comes through the doors of most churches, the leaders work hard to get them connected; the same is true for single mothers. But there seems to be an initial distrust of many single men who enter our churches.
That's a shame. More than any other demographic, single men are in desperate need of community. In many ways the single adult male is more isolated than his peers. As men get older, more and more of their friends get married and begin having families. An unspoken stigma usually accompanies single men as they get older: the mark of being desperate. Single men find fewer and fewer people to which they can relate, often forcing them to live lonely, isolated lives.
Steve's conclusion is that "with some intentionality, co-ed small groups can be a great place for these men to find the community they long for."
And my first reaction to that is: "Yeah. That makes sense." My second reaction is: "But I don't have any single men in my small group. And I have never tried to attract any single men into my small group." So where does that leave me?
What about you?
May 13, 2011
Am I a gatekeeper for the members of my small group?
We recently featured a Darryl's Dilemma on SmallGroups.com that asks this question: Is it okay for a small group to study Love Wins? As one would expect, this topic has received a lot of comments from readers. And I'm happy to say that just about all of them have contributed to the conversation in a thoughtful way (so far).
As I read through the comments, one theme stands out to me in particular. I'll summarize it this way: "A small group can (and possibly should) study this book if the participants are mature enough to handle it." Not all of the comments run that way, but a majority do.
You can certainly make a Scriptural case for this kind of restriction. I'm thinking specifically of Paul's comments in 1 Corinthians 3: "I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready" (v. 2).
I can also understand how that perspective makes an efficient sort of sense from the perspective of a pastor or small-group coordinator. I can see the dilemma that these people would face in this situation: I want the people in our small groups to tackle tough issues, but I don't want them to actually believe any crazy ideas.
But I'll be honest: that kind of thinking rubs me the wrong way as a small-group leader and member.
Who Are the Gatekeepers?
I think my discomfort is based on two factors:
- It rankles me to think that another human being would have authority to not only put some kind of grade on my level of spiritual maturity, but also to limit the kinds of ideas I can be exposed to. This may be nothing more than a manifestation of my own pride, but I prefer to believe that the Holy Spirit operating within me has the authority to guide my spiritual growth.
- Looking back at church history, it seems to me that bad things usually happen when the Church attempts to clamp down on people's exposure to ideas, rather than allowing a consensus to be formed through a more open exchange of ideas.
I think the basic question I'm trying to answer is this: should I be serving as a gatekeeper for the members of my small group, choosing which ideas they can handle and which they cannot? Also: should I as a small-group leader submit myself and my group to the decisions of a church-appointed gatekeeper when it comes to the different ideas we are allowed to explore?
As I said, I'm still thinking through these questions—something about this issue creates a stirring inside of me. But I would love to hear your thoughts.
May 10, 2011
A quick and easy picture of what goes wrong and how to fix it.
I believe the following video was put together by the folks at www.sayingitsimply.net (which doesn't seem to be working right now), but I first found it on Alan Danielson's blog (which is worth reading regularly if you don't already).
So there. Without further ado: here is Missional Community Made Simple.
May 4, 2011
Using your weaknesses to become a better leader
Have you ever led a small group in which the following type of scenario took place?
You’re excited because you invited a new person to your small group—perhaps a young co-worker or a student you met on campus—and this person is not a believer. He or she lives with their boyfriend or girlfriend and is very much immersed in the secular world, but you’ve had some promising conversations with them lately, and they’re definitely curious.
The small group time goes smoothly—lots of interesting conversation, and the new person is welcomed by the group. You feel encouraged and exhilarated! Then comes the prayer request time. A member of the group begins to share about their dating relationship and confesses the need for prayer and accountability with sexual purity. They explain, “We just keep going too far and I feel convicted about it. We haven’t had sex or anything (spoken with a worst-case-scenario kind of tone), but we are really struggling.”
And with that comment, you immediately cringe. Unintentionally, the speaker just qualified their sin as being less severe as others. While the group member acknowledges that their sin is wrong, they’ve implied that it’s nowhere near as bad as some people’s—such as the new person sitting right next to you.
Note: you can continue reading this post on our sister blog, Gifted for Leadership.