June 30, 2011
Something to think about in the Age of the Internet
I recently learned about a man named Ze Frank. I don't know if that is his actually name, or it is some kind of French interpretation of his first name ("Beware, I am ze Frank!")
Either way, he is a pioneer in exploring the different ways in which people can connect at a true emotional level over the internet. And to me, that means he is someone to keep an eye on.
Like, check out the TED talk that recently posted online. I am only including the link instead of embedding the video because it contains a few iterations of the word "ass" in the non-Biblical sense (meaning, he's not talking about a donkey).
But the video as a whole is interesting, provocative, and I think worth your time.
Then there's something called the "Chill Out Song," which I think is amazing.
Basically, Ze Frank got an email from one of his readers asking him to make a song for people who felt overwhelmed or who were experiencing a lot of anxiety. (Writing up these kinds of songs is one of the many talens of Ze Frank, apparently.) You can read about the whole thing here, but I'll summarize below because that link includes a little more salty language.
Here is how the woman expressed a few of her feelings:
it feels like bring dropped into a dark void. completely dark. and all the darkness has weight, a thickness. not liquid. not a solid. something else. and youre trapped. and the longer you are there you know the black is just growing and growing and growing. and theres nothing you can do. the hole would just be bigger to dig out of with every passing hour. but you cant even do that.
So Frank (I'm going to drop the Ze) wrote up a quick song.
That was just the beginning, though. Frank sent this base melody out to several people in his audience and asked them to add their own voice to the mix. Several people responded, and Frank put them all together into a new song.
I think that's pretty amazing. And so did the woman who originally sent the email. She wrote back and said: "This is one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I can't thank you enough. I don't even know how to. To feel like everything is spinning out, and have a relative stranger do this, with other total strangers participating is overwhelming. In an incredible way. Thank you so so so so much."
So, the whole thing makes me ask two questions:
1. Why isn't the church doing more of this kind of thing?
2. Why aren't I?
June 28, 2011
It's time to re-stock the Small Groups Meeting Builder.
As I interact with various users of SmallGroups.com, I get the impression that a lot of people aren't familiar with what I consider to be one of our coolest features: The Small Groups Meeting Builder.
This free resource allows users to browse through our selection of learning activities in an organized way—hundreds of icebreakers, worship ideas, hospitality tips, outreach options, and Bible study extras. All of these free resources are designed to help small-group leaders create a well-rounded group meeting.
And did I mention that using the Meeting Builder is free?
In any case, I want to help people become more aware of this great resource this summer and fall. And I need your help to do that.
Specifically, I am looking for quality icebreakers, worship ideas, recipes, and other learning activities that I can add to the Meeting Builder in the coming months. If you are good at creating original activities that help your group members engage and interact with the topics or texts under discussion, you are just the kind of person I am looking for.
Send me an email here to get some more details about writing Meeting Builders for SmallGroups.com. The good news is that we pay you for your work. The bad news is—well, I guess there is no bad news. You get paid to write resources that advance the mission and effectiveness of small groups around the world!
What are you waiting for?
June 22, 2011
You have a great chance of winning Scott Boren's newest book.
Thanks to Randall Neighbour and Touch Outreach Ministries, I have the chance to give away 10 copies of M. Scott Boren's newest book MissioRelate—which is fun for me, but it's an exciting opportunity for anyone reading this who is also a believer in small-group ministry.
Here's the deal. To enter the sweepstakes, just send me a photograph of your group doing something "missional." I know that's a word that is hard to define, but for the purposes of this blog post I am referring to a missional experience as something that is beyond a polite gathering of Christians who simply eat and chat and pray and leave.
If your group has taken a deeper step, no matter what it may be, send me a picture and you will be entered into the contest.
Or, if you don't have a picture handy, you can use the comments section below to describe a missional experience you would like to have in community. If you could lead your group to make some kind of impact for the Kingdom of God, what would you do? Post a comment below and you will be entered.
I will randomly select 10 entrants to receive a free copy of MissioRelate.
More About MissioRelate
I have become more and more familiar with Scott Boren in recent years, both as a contributor to SmallGroups.com and the author of Missional Small Groups. (Click here to see my review.) In that time it has been easy to recognize Scott as a leading voice in the world of small groups.
More specifically, Scott has a way of helping small-group leaders achieve something meaninful in their groups—something beyond what usually happens in "normal" group experiences. in other words, the word "missional" has appropriately been attached to Scott's ideas, I believe.
And for what it's worth, here are my comments about MissioRelate from the book's endorsement page:
When I read Missional Small Groups, Scott Boren reminded me that small groups done well can produce revolutionary change in the lives of individuals, in communities, and even across the world. Now, after reading MissioRelate, Scott has convinced me that such groups can develop and thrive in any church—even my own.
June 14, 2011
A fun new video from the fine folks at JohnnyandChachi.com.
Every now and then I like to check in with our friends at www.JohnnyandChachi.com to see what they've been up to. This morning my vigilance was rewarded with a new video they put together for Father's Day -- which is coming up at the end of this week, in case you forgot. (And shame on you if that's true.)
Anyway, here is a free preview of their new "video within a video," and it's a good one. Remember to hop over to Igniter Media if you want to download this for use in your church.
One more question: what are you planning to do for the fathers in your small group this weekend?
June 13, 2011
Let's explore an issue that generates strong opinions among "group people."
I want to share a secret, so I'm going to whisper. Come in close so you can hear: [whispher] In a couple weeks, SmallGroups.com will feature a downloadable resource on effectively launching online small groups in your church [/whisper].
That's right: this will be something like an official endorsement for online small groups. Or at least, an official endorsement on a few methods for attempting online small groups.
Some of you don't care about this subject either way, but others of you may be feeling mad right about now. Upset. Betrayed. Well, before you get carried away, here are six reasons why Alan Danielson loves online small groups:
- I get to do group with some great friends from across the country.
- It's simple.
- I attended once in my bathrobe when I was sick!
- We don't have to coordinate a snack schedule.
- We hold each other very accountable.
- It's one of the rawest, most honest group experiences I've ever had.
If you have some opinions on this topic (including angry ones), I would love to hear them before I finish up the final edits on this resource. So let me know in the Comments section below if you have an answer to this question: Can online small groups really work as well as "face to face" groups"?
June 6, 2011
When does exposure to pornography disqualify a person from leadership?
The video below is an interesting discussion between Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald on the question, "When does viewing porn disqualify someone for ministry?" The speakers in the video are pastors, and they are focusing primarily on leadership requirements for fellow pastors.
But the discussion can easily be extended to lay ministers, including small-group leaders. And I certainly think that is a conversation we need to have.
So, at what point does exposure to pornography disqualify a person (man or woman) from leading a small group?
June 3, 2011
A study resource that may be a blessing to you or someone you know.
I recently came across an interesting Bible study course put together by Larry and Lisa Jamieson, who are co-founders of Walk Right In Ministries. The curriculum is called Finding Glory in the Thorns—thus the creepy image attached to this post.
What intrigues me about this material is that the authors have specifically designed it as a resource for individuals and families facing disability, illness, and/or serious care-giving situations.
Larry and Lisa are the parents of three children, including a daughter born with Angelman Syndrome. Thus, they bring a wealth of experience and compassion to the table when they write about this subject. Here's what they had to say about the Finding Thorns curriculum:
While the content of this Bible study tool is broadly applicable, it has obvious value for individuals and families experiencing disability and/or caregiving situations. The long-term vision for this curriculum is that it will become for the special needs community what the curricula of Celebrate Recovery, Griefshare and DivorceCare programs have become for people challenged by addiction, loss and broken marriages. For more information about Finding Glory Groups go to: http://www.findingglory.com/findingglorygrou.html
June 2, 2011
Could something like this work in your church? Should it?
I just read through an interesting article from Kevin Miller that I thought all of you might want to check out; it's called No More Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Kevin is an associate priest, and his church recently instituted a "moral-lifestyle policy" for volunteer leaders. This means that anyone in the church who is responsible for pastoring the vulnerable, leading others, and teaching others (including small-group leaders) needs to sign a form that commits them to living a lifestyle that abstains from specific behaviors and sins.
It's an interesting ideah, huh? My first reaction was one of incredulity. Isn't like a little too invasive? I thought. How can you ask someone to lead if you're not willing to trust them? But as I read through the article, I began to swing in the other direction. Actually, I wonder why more churches aren't requiring something like this.
Here is Kevin's explanation:
* The Bible calls leaders to a higher standard (1 Timothy 3; James 3:1).
* This is for the protection of our people. It's prudent to ask, "What do we require of people who are over others and influencing their lives?"
* We believe in transformation—and that begins with confession and accountability. We believe you do not have to live with persistent sins forever. Transformation can take place, but not until you confess your sins and work with someone to develop a plan for your ongoing care and discipleship.
* This is not about legalism but about living a confessional and accountable lifestyle. It's not for condemnation but transformation. It's not punitive. Just because you have one of the issues listed on the policy doesn't automatically mean you'll be removed from ministry; it means we're asking you to talk with a pastor. We want to have conversations with you that will lead you toward greater maturity in Christ. So it's a discipleship tool: not, "You're not pure and holy enough," but "Let us help you continue to be transformed into the holiness of God."
Anyway, like I said, I just thought this might be of interest to churches and small-group leaders, and so I'm passing it along. I encourage you to read through the article, at least. It may spark some useful thoughts for your own context.