March 29, 2012
Is knowing self important to our faith journey?
I recently came across this quotation from Honest Christianity, and it got me thinking. He states that an important factor in our faith journey is getting to know ourselves—which may not be what we normally think of. We think about growing closer to God, becoming more servant-minded, and building relationships with others. But what if all those things depend on getting to know ourselves first?
"Prideful creatures that we are, it is hard for us to acknowledge what we do not like or respect, or what we sense others will disparage. It is so much easier, so more convenient, at least in the moment, to deny the existence of the distasteful. God, however, is truthful, and to truthfulness he calls us. He wants us to know ourselves, so that in the process, we can grasp just how much he loves us. We need not fear what is inside us, however heinous, however awful, however base. God already knows all about it, and he loves us anyway—which is, in fact, the good news of Jesus Christ . . . Our life with God will thrive only to the extent that we purpose in our hearts, sincerely and relentlessly, to reckon with truth—about him, about others, about ourselves." --Clinton W. McLemore in Honest Christianity
Do you agree with McLemore? How important is knowing self to our faith journey? When have you seen proof of this?
If it's important, how much time should we spend on getting to know ourselves? How do we balance it with getting to know God and others? And how do we help our small-group members with this?
Share your thoughts and experiences with us below.
March 28, 2012
Looking for a comfortable small group with no expectations?
Is small group a bit too deep for you? Are you looking for a place to simply get some good food and time to discuss the game? Do you hate awkward silences? Here's the perfect small group for you: the openly shallow small group!
Check out this video from RightNowTraining.org. Because everyone needs a good chuckle on a Wednesday.
March 27, 2012
Use the popular movie to spark discussion in your group
It seems like everyone is talking about The Hunger Games! And for good reason. The trilogy is hard to put down, and it brings up important themes. Here at Christianity Today, we read the books and anxiously awaited the movie's arrival, and we've spent a lot of time discussing it ever since.
Looking for great resources on The Hunger Games? Christianity Today has you covered.
Amy Simpson, editor of Gifted for Leadership, shares how she sees Jesus in The Hunger Games in this article. Spoiler alert! Her article shares a lot about the book series.
Plus, a movie review by Todd Hertz.
Consider using the movie to generate great conversation in your small group. Take a trip together to see the movie. Then use this study guide for great questions and discussion.
What's your take on The Hunger Games? Do you have other ideas on using it in small groups? Share with us below.
March 20, 2012
Spence Shelton explains why clarity is critical.
Effective communication is essential to healthy small-group ministry. And it can be one of the most difficult tasks for small-group ministry leaders. You need to get your senior pastor and other church leaders on board, communicate your vision and purpose to small-group leaders, and communicate the value of small groups to church members. It's a huge responsibility!
In our most recent resource, Improving Communication for Effective Small-Group Ministry, Spence Shelton explains that clarity is critical, especially when you're trying to explain the value of small-group ministry. Here's an excerpt from his article "Get Your Church Leadership On Board."
I've found it easier to get key leaders on board when I am able to communicate the concept of small-group ministry in very clear language. As point people, it is our job to do all of the research, read all of the books, and work through all of the revisions of philosophy and strategy. You should spend time doing that hard work. In fact, this will make you a better leader as well as reinforce the power of your communication to those you want to get on board.
We must then distill our philosophy and strategy into clear language that can be mentally digested in one conversation. This may be hard work, but the payoff is significant. Here are a few of questions you should be able to answer in one short thought, questions that church leaders will ask you.
What is a small group?
Why do we need small groups?
What is your plan for small groups?
What is the first step you need me to take?
Can you answer each of those in a sentence or two? Do your answers get you excited about small groups? If your answers seem long or uninteresting to you, they will definitely feel that way to other church leaders. Try practicing your answers on some friends who will shoot straight about your communication. Do not underestimate the power of clear, compelling communication.
How well are you able to communicate about your small-group ministry? Can you answer these questions in a clear, concise, and compelling way?
To continue reading this article, check out Improving Communication for Effective Small-Group Ministry. And for a sample from this resource, see Instill the Vision in Your Small-Group Leaders.
March 15, 2012
What should small groups do in the midst of this growing trend?
Our sister resource Out of Ur recently highlighted this short video of David Palau interviewing David Kinnaman of the Barna Group. Kinnaman shares that more and more the unchurched are simply indifferent to the church, and it's a trend we'll see continue to grow over the next 10 years.
This poses big questions for the church: how do we reach a world who doesn't care about us or our message?
My question to you: what can small groups do in the face of this cultural shift to continue to introduce people to the love of Christ? Watch the video and share your thoughts with us below.
March 13, 2012
Why this slogan is perfect for today's small-group leaders
Have you ever seen the signs that say "Keep Calm and Carry On"? Sam O'Neal thinks it's a great slogan for small-group leaders. There are plenty of times when we find ourselves in the middle of a meeting that's not going as planned, or leading a discussion that's so far off topic there's no hope of pulling it back. Sometimes we experience more serious things like a fall-out between group members or a confession from a group member that rocks the group.
Whatever you're facing as a small-group leader, Sam offers that simple slogan to you: "Keep Calm and Carry On." View his blog post to learn about the history of the slogan and why it's so fitting for small-group leaders today.
And for those of you curious about what Sam's been up to since leaving SmallGroups.com, be sure to check out his book: The Field Guide for Small Group Leaders, coming out in May.
Picture Credit: Derek Keats on Flickr
March 7, 2012
Seth Widner explains the benefits of coaching.
At SmallGroups.com, we believe coaches are valuable to small-group ministry. So we provide lots of articles and training resources specifically for coaches including Giving Leaders Feedback, Ministering to Struggling Small-Group Leaders, The Five Stages of Coaching Relationships, and the Small-Group Coach Orientation Guide.
Seth Widner feels coaches are important, too. In our newest resource Staying Connected to Your Church, Seth lays out seven benefits of coaching. Among them you'll find many of the usual benefits such as accountability, support, and ongoing training. But there's one you might not immediately think of: connection to your church's vision. I often hear the complaint from small-group staff that they have "rogue" groups—groups that have diverted from the church's vision for small groups. Other times I hear about the trouble of keeping small-group leaders informed of updates to the church's vision and strategy. Here's what Seth has to say about it.
If small-group leaders are left alone in leadership, our groups can become islands, disconnected from the church. This is a dangerous place to be. When small groups are functioning as islands, they are one storm away from sinking. Small-group leaders need to be reminded that they are part of something larger than their groups. Small groups are active members of your church's larger cause. As leaders are reminded of the church's specific vision, they are given a GPS-like map for everything they do in small groups. Coaching provides a way to keep small-group leaders connected with one another and to the church's DNA and vision.
To read the rest of Seth's article, check out Staying Connected to Your Church.
And share with us below: what benefits of coaching have you experienced?
March 2, 2012
Dig deeper into the Word with Keri Wyatt Kent
Have you ever had one of those moments while discussing Scripture when a group member looked to you and asked, "What does that mean?" Ever felt that pang of panic when you didn't immediately know the answer? Maybe it was as you discussed Matthew 11:28–30 and someone asked what a yoke was or how it could be easy. Maybe it was as you used the terms justice, mercy, and grace in conversation, and someone asked how they were different.
Thanks to Keri Wyatt Kent you may run into fewer of these awkward moments. Kent, author of nine books including Oxygen, Simple Compassion, and Listen, provides two great resources: Deeper into the Word: Old Testament and Deeper into the Word: New Testament. These books each provide 100 reflections on common words in the Bible, providing insight into the original language and the historical context.
So, for instance, if that question about the yoke comes up, you could flip to the entry on yoke, which fleshes out four things the terminology would have sparked in the original hearers' minds. Or, to learn the difference between justice, mercy, and grace, you could flip to any one of those words to see that "justice is getting what you deserve, mercy is not getting what you deserve, [and] grace is getting what you don't deserve." And with 100 word entries in each book, you'll have plenty to learn and look up.
The books are extremely user-friendly. Each entry is about two pages and fleshes out the word in common language and modern-day examples. As you read, you'll learn about the Greek or Hebrew roots and read Scripture passages where the word appears. Use these books during your small-group Bible study to look up words you come across, or use each entry as a devotional to begin your meeting. You could even use the reflections to put together a brief word study that complements your study. With so many ways to use these resources, check them out today and see how they may help your small group go deeper into the Word.
For a sample from these books, check out Why "One Another" Is Important to Understand, which excerpts her entry on "one another" from the New Testament book. Learn more about Keri by visiting her website.