September 27, 2012
The power of private Facebook groups for small groups
This fall I started leading a new small group. Through the discussion at our first meeting, I realized that all of the group members are very active on Facebook—and would actually prefer to be contacted through Facebook over phone calls or e-mails. To meet the need for ongoing communication that all small groups have, I resorted to something I learned while editing Social Media for Small-Group Ministry: Create a private group on Facebook and invite your group members.
It's only been a few weeks since we started, but already I'm finding that our Facebook group is helping us stay connected. I asked someone to bring snack and reminded group members about a Bible reading challenge our church is doing. Several of us have posted prayer requests—and it's safe to do this because private groups are only seen by those in the group. In other words, nothing posted on the group's page is seen by anyone else.
Our resource Social Media for Small-Group Ministry has lots of great ideas with practical how-to tips on using Facebook and Twitter to enhance your small group.
How do you use social media with your group members? What results have you seen? Share with us below.
September 25, 2012
How sensitive are you and your group members?
In our newest Assessment Pack, you'll learn whether your group is building accountability. Included are seven assessments for you to evaluate the group and three assessments to give to group members for self-assessment. You'll discover if your group members are deepening relationships with one another, if you've created a safe environment for accountability, if you're listening well to your group members, and more.
Mark Bonham explains that it's very important for you and your group members to be emotionally sensitive in order to create an environment safe for accountability. Here's a short excerpt from his assessment.
Do you show sensitivity when you respond to group members? Rate yourself between one and five (1=Never True, 3=Sometimes True, 5=Always true).
____I don't jump to advice-giving.
____I give the sharer space and time to find his or her own answers.
____I never push into others' stories when it's clearly unwanted.
____I share by using "I" statements and without placing blame.
____I don't minimize hurts by explaining them away or ignoring them.
____I uphold confidentiality.
Check out the full Assessment Pack today and learn whether you're building accountability in your group.
September 24, 2012
What's next for SmallGroups.com
Ready or not, 2013 is only about three months away, and at SmallGroups.com we're beginning to make plans. We want to serve you and your small-group ministry well, providing you with the tools and resources you need to lead life-changing groups and small-group ministries.
In order to do that, we need to know what you like (and don't like!) about SmallGroups.com. Take our survey and let us know what you think. We'll reward you with $10 off at BuildingChurchLeaders.com.
Thanks for taking the time to inform us!
September 20, 2012
The ins and outs of crafting effective, transformative meetings
All small-group leaders have something in common: that moment we find ourselves in a panic wondering what we've gotten ourselves into. And chances are, as you prepared for your first meeting, those feelings were strong. How in the world do I structure my meetings? How do I come up with good questions? How do I get people to talk?
New leaders these days are lucky—they can use Sam O'Neal's Field Guide for Small Group Leaders to give them expert advice and calm their nerves. And veteran leaders can benefit from it, too—there's so much to learn and brush up on.
O'Neal covers everything from the role of leaders and learning styles to crafting meaningful meetings and handling unwanted surprises. The book is divided into three helpful sections: Mapping the Terrain (the basics of the leader's role), Planning Your Route (crafting a great meeting with focus, activities, and discussion questions), and Hitting the Trail (leading the meeting and troubleshooting issues).
One of the most helpful tips I found in the book is the need to identify the "Big Idea" of each meeting. O'Neal says that in order to bring focus to a meeting, we must look at our study material and pick out the one major point we want to get across in our discussion. Then we can choose a few questions to discuss that directly relate to that Big Idea. This keeps the focus narrow and the meeting succinct. Without this focus it's too tempting to talk about all the themes in a chapter of Scripture, but we simply don't have time in our hour-and-a-half meetings.
O'Neal stresses that small groups have the goal of life change. And in order to accomplish that goal, leaders must focus on application and inspiration in the meetings. If leaders don't help group members take their next spiritual steps, small groups will simply be a fun social gathering with interesting conversations. Luckily, O'Neal gives great advice in this area as well.
O'Neal has over 10 years of experience in small-group ministry and is a former editor of SmallGroups.com. Read Field Guide for Small Group Leaders today and buy it for any new leaders you know.
September 18, 2012
Why missional living is for all Christians
Sometimes when we hear the word "missional," we immediately assume it's for someone else—someone who is gifted in evangelism or someone who has extensive ties to the non-Christian community. But Scott Nelson says that's not what missional living is about. Instead, every Christian can participate in everyday missional living. We just have to be intentional, looking for ways to be God's love in the world.
In his article in The Meaning of Missional, Scott shares several stories of average, everyday Christians looking for ordinary ways to impact their communities. One woman joined a local gym and works out with the same, non-Christian women each week. A man spends time playing Uno with a handicapped woman. A high school teacher loves on her students. Family members build deep friendships with their neighbors.
We can all live missionally right where we are—as long as we're being intentional. Read Scott's article today. Then share with us below: How you are and your small group seeking to impact your community?
September 14, 2012
There's even money to be won!
Lately, SmallGroups.com has been talking a lot about what it means to be missional—how we can be small groups that gather and grow not just for our sake, but for the sake of God's redemptive purposes. (Check out our digital magazine for more.)
Well, I believe your groups have been doing this—impacting the world by being on mission with God. And we'd love to hear your stories. In fact, our sister ministry This Is Our City would really like to hear them. Today they launched an essay contest, looking specifically for stories of how Christians are impacting their communities for God. See the full details for the contest here. If you've got a story to tell, why not try your hand at writing about it?
September 13, 2012
Focus on the discipleship opportunity in small-group ministry.
Do you treat small-group ministry like a program or a discipleship opportunity? Heather Zempel, in Community Is Messy, urges readers to the latter. But she also admits the difficulty. She writes:
Discipleship is a whole life journey, not an eight-week class. It's about developing the fruit of the Spirit and spiritual gifts and looking more like Christ, not about checking off a set of boxes. It's a process of becoming, not a destination. There's no way to short-circuit discipleship. It's about turning every moment of every day into an encounter with God.
While many of us whole heartedly agree with her definition of discipleship, we realize that measuring discipleship and spiritual growth is difficult, even messy. So we resort to running our small groups—our main means of discipleship—like an eight-week class instead of a journey.
So how do we lead our ministries in a way that recognizes and honors the messy journey of discipleship? Zempel, who holds a degree in environmental engineering, suggests that small-group leaders must engineer environments that welcome true transformation and spiritual growth.
This focus on discipleship requires a lot more work and a lot more time. It requires life-on-life interactions that aren't scripted. It means intentionally investing in others and helping them see their potential. She writes that you need to be a little crazy in order to disciple others because "you have to see things in people that they don't see in themselves. And then you have to speak things into their lives or ask them to do things that they may scoff at or at least shake their heads and laugh at." It's messy, but according to Zempel, it's the way Jesus taught us: communities of believers living life together, learning about God along the way, and being drawn to him more and more.
More than anything, Zempel calls readers to value people more than programs. She calls us to be leaders who leave a legacy of relationships that we've invested in, and she gives great advice in being a strong leader: developing tough skin and a soft heart, being a life-long learner, thinking outside the box, modeling the life of Christ to others, cultivating a deep relationship with Christ, and embracing the mess of ministry.
Zempel also gives practical advice on handling "rogue" groups and finding a structure that fits your ministry. This combination of practical advice and focus on discipleship makes this one of the best books I've read on small-group ministry in a long time. It's especially helpful for coaches, directors, coordinators, and pastors who lead small-group ministries. On the other hand, small-group leaders can learn a lot from her focus on discipleship and being a strong leader that others want to follow.
Read "From Classroom to Laboratory" and "Life-on-Life Discipleship" for two excerpts from the book. You'll find a number of other articles from Zempel on our site as well. Buy the book today, which is also available in e-book form.
Heather Zempel is the pastor of discipleship at National Community Church in Washington, D.C., and has written numerous articles for SmallGroups.com.
Take our short survey and you could win!
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Take our short survey on how you train small-group leaders, and you'll be entered to win a copy of Building a Life-Changing Small Group Ministry by Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson. Take the survey now.
September 6, 2012
A great resource for women
SmallGroups.com would like to officially welcome back Today's Christian Woman! This sister ministry of SmallGroups.com seeks to empower and encourage women to love God and live fearlessly. TCW has a fresh new look, bimonthly magazines, an engaging blog, practical resources, and articles on faith, marriage, parenting, ministry, and friendship. It's a great resource for you or the women in your ministry.
September 4, 2012
We want to know!
With small groups starting all over the country, SmallGroups.com wants to know: what are you studying in your small group?
There are so many studies to choose from: books, devotionals, workbooks, Bible studies, video studies, and more. What did you choose? And what do you look for in a small-group study? Share with us below.