June 27, 2013
Carter Moss explains how small groups are the perfect place to support missional living.
Chances are, you've heard cool stories of how Christians are living missional lives, making a big impact in their communities. Missional living allows us to live out the call God has given us and be ambassadors to a broken, hurting world. It's not about doing service projects. It's about living incarnational lives that show Jesus to everyone we come in contact with.
But living incarnationally can be challenging if you don't have support, so Carter Moss--small-group champion for Community Christian Church in Chicagoland and SmallGroups.com advisor--shares why he believes small groups are the perfect place to support missional living. Group members can learn about, try it out, and grow in incarnational living together. Watch this quick video from Moss to find out more.
For more on missional small groups, see our Training Tool Missional Small Groups, which includes an article from Carter Moss.
June 24, 2013
Discuss this major event with your small group.
Last week, the president of Exodus International, Alan Chambers, made a huge announcement about the world's leading organization seeking to help people with same-sex attraction through reparative therapy. Chambers apologized for the hurt Exodus has caused over the years and explained that it will shut down with a new, separate ministry launching soon.
In case you missed it, the announcement got a lot of Christians worked up—both for and against Chambers' apology. In his interview with The Atlantic, Chambers comes across apologetic and seeking to extend love to those with same-sex attraction and in same-sex relationships. Yet his apology has hit people in different ways. Some still seeking healing from their same-sex attraction feel hopeless and wonder where to turn. Other people are happy Chambers has decided that sexuality can't be changed this side of heaven.
Regardless of where you stand, this hot topic will likely come up in your small group. Read more about the story on the Gleanings blog of our sister site Christianity Today, and read Chambers' interview with The Atlantic to prepare for questions your group members may have. Think about your church's stance on same-sex attraction, and consider speaking with a pastor if you have questions. Then talk through some of these questions with your group:
1. Why might some people be happy about Chambers' apology while others are angry? How does it strike you?
2. Chambers says in his interview with The Atlantic that God would never treat sinners the way many Christians treat people in gay or lesbian relationships. He says, "[God] sent Jesus. He loves us. He wants amazing things for us, and he wouldn't treat us in the ways that religion has taught us to treat people." So, how does God treat sinners? What stories of Jesus interacting with sinners can we look to?
3. Chambers also says in the interview, "We are a church that has mostly been about waging war and battle. But I believe God has called us to be a people of peace. I've realized [God] can love a gay person or a lesbian person the same as anyone. For me as a Christian, those aren't boundaries or barriers, and I don't believe they are barriers for God." Is it possible to love a person who is gay or lesbian even if we feel the Bible speaks against same-sex sexual relationships? If so, what does that look like? If not, why not?
4. Who have you seen engaging the LGBTQ community in a winsome, biblical way? What is he or she specifically doing?
5. Do you have any relationships with people in the LGBTQ community? If so, how has a relationship with this person (or people) helped you gain more understanding?
To discuss this topic further with your group, use our Bible study Homosexuality and God's Household.
Photo credit: AP/Alan Marler
June 21, 2013
Mental illness, spiritual depth, simplicity, and more
If you come to SmallGroups.com for our amazing training resources, you might not know that we also offer nearly 300 Bible studies on a number of topics and books of the Bible. Today we're taking a look at the top five studies so far this year. Whether you like studies on books of the Bible, popular topics, or even based around videos, we've got a Bible study for you. Click on the titles below to check them out.
Use Your Spiritual Gifts (5 session study)
Spiritual gifts provide clues to God's intention for how we should live out our days and affirm the uniqueness of our calling as human instruments of his grace.
By Alexandra Clair Stancil, with JoHannah Reardon
Discover your gifts and your calling in this popular study. Learn why understanding how God made us is the first step in living the life God specifically intends for us.
1 John: Go Deeper in Christ (8 session study)
Life with Christ shouldn't be shallow.
By Bryan Wilkerson, with JoHannah Reardon
What does it mean when we say we want to "go deeper" in our faith? First John spells out exactly what a deep life with Christ looks like and why really knowing Christ is the most important piece.
A Life of Simplicity (4 session study)
Learn what simplicity looks like and why God calls us to simple lives.
By Carol R. Thiessen, Marshall Shelley, Amy Jackson, and Richard A. Kauffman
In our crazy, frazzled world, it's no wonder this has been such a popular study. Learn what true simple living looks like and why God calls us to simplicity and contentment. Plus, discover why the advice for simplifying given by popular magazines and websites just won't cut it.
Francis Chan: Sold Out to Jesus (3 session study)
The surpassing greatness of Christ is worth our everything.
By Francis Chan and JoHannah Reardon
In this Video Bible Study, you can welcome Francis Chan right into your small group. Watch him as he discusses the supremacy of Christ detailed in Philippians 3. When we are consumed by Jesus and Jesus alone, we begin to understand what really matters in life.
Ministering to Those with a Mental Illness (4 session study)
How to help those suffering
By Amy Simpson
Mental illness has been in the press a lot lately, so it makes sense why this Bible study is so popular. You can be sure that it will truly help your group understand how to help because it's written by Amy Simpson, author of Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church's Mission.
What's your favorite Bible study from SmallGroups.com? And what would you like to see a Bible study on? Share with us in the comments below.
June 20, 2013
Marketing your ministry, studying the Bible in groups, and meeting group members where they are
One of my favorite things about working for SmallGroups.com is creating Training Tools for small-group leaders and point people. As a former small-group director, I was always searching for expert advice to solve my most pressing needs. And SmallGroups.com provides these resources at a great price. Our Training Tools mine the experience and wisdom of small-group experts and present it to you in an easy-to-use format that helps you deal with your biggest small-group issues.
Today we're counting down the top five Training Tools of 2013 so far. They're all excellent resources that help make your small-group ministry healthy.
Bible Study Methods for Groups
Fresh ideas for digging into God's Word together
By Justin Marr, Diana Bennett, Michael Mack, and more
You asked for more resources directly related to Bible studies, and we came up with this gem. Learn how to study the Bible in a small group in a way that brings about life change in your group members. Take a look at inductive study, the LeSPA approach, reflective reading, object lessons, and more.
Minister to Multiple Spiritual Maturity Levels
Engage everyone in your group from not-yet believer to mature follower.
By Maegan Hawley, Reid Smith, Rachel Gilmore, and more
In a survey last year, we learned that most of you are leading groups with a mixture of ages and spiritual maturity levels. That's awesome! But it can also be confusing when you're trying to reach everyone where they're at. How do you make the group inviting enough for not-yet believers and challenging enough for mature Christ followers? Find out with this resource.
Empowering Group Members
We can't force spiritual growth, but we can empower people to take their next spiritual steps.
By Diana Bennett, Alan Danielson, Sam O'Neal, and more
How do you turn a small group into a place where life change occurs? You empower group members to intentionally take spiritual steps. With a devotional, assessments, case studies, and how-to articles, you'll learn how to help your group members take responsibility and ownership of their own growth. Plus, a retreat plan is included if you want to use this resource as the base of a training event.
Ministering to Difficult Group Members
How to effectively lead a group without letting members' quirks get you off track
By Sam O'Neal, Margaret Feinberg, Reid Smith, and more
If there's one question small-group leader consistently ask, it's how to minister to the difficult people in their group. From the over-talker and the person who never shares to the person giving too much advice or sharing false doctrine, leading a fruitful discussion can be difficult. This resource gives practical tips for working through common group dynamics issues.
Market Your Small-Group Ministry
Communicate about small groups in a clear, compelling way that draws people into groups.
By Steve Gladen, Michael C. Mack, Will Johnston, and more
Although this resource came out only a month ago, it's already our most popular Training Tool of the year. And that's because it addresses a huge issue that small-group directors, pastors, and coaches face on a regular basis: communicating about small groups in a way that gets people to join. Learn how to market your ministry with practical advice from small-group experts.
What's your favorite Training Tool from SmallGroups.com? Share with us in the comments below.
June 19, 2013
From Pope Francis and Kevin Ware to mental illness and facilitation skills
As part of our look back at the top five this week, today we're counting down the top 5 blog posts. And I have to tell you, these posts cover quite a variety of topics. Yet each of them resonated with you in some way. If you haven't read them, click on the titles below to take a look.
What Does Pope Francis Have to Do With Me?
Regardless of what you think of the papacy, we can learn something from the newest pope.
When Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis, many Protestants were talking about it—and you may be wondering why. We break down why it does matter and highlight some great articles from Christianity Today magazine about the new pope.
Followers of the Wounded Healer
Wisdom for relating and ministering to those with mental illness
When Kevin Ware of the Louisville Cardinals broke his leg in a basketball game, it was pretty obvious. But mental illness wounds aren't as visible. So how do we care for wounds that we might not see?
Get In the Habit of Icebreakers
These meeting builders can do a lot more than transition you to your discussion.
After reading The Power of Habit, I realized that icebreakers need to have a place in small-group meetings. Find out what icebreakers have to do with habits in this post.
How Should We Measure Spiritual Growth?
Lessons from the Twelve Conference
A discussion on measurement methods at the Twelve Conference got me thinking: How do we measure spiritual growth? Luckily, some of the experts at the conference—regular writers for SmallGroups.com—weighed in with some helpful advice.
Develop Your Facilitation Skills
Why your leadership matters
Leaders need to know just how important they are to small-group health. Without someone facilitating the discussion, things can go haywire fast. This blog post gives you great ideas on facilitating well and even gives you reflection questions to think through after your meetings.
What was your favorite blog post this year? Let us know in the comments below.
June 18, 2013
Use these free questions at your next meeting.
This week, we're counting down the top five of five different types of content on our site including articles, icebreakers, blog posts, training tools, and Bible studies.
If you're not already familiar with our Small Group Meeting Builder tool, you should be. Search for icebreakers, worship ideas, Bible-study extras, and even recipes. Instantly find what you're looking for to make your meeting fun, inviting, and meaningful.
We publish several new meeting builders a month, most of them icebreakers. Here are the top five icebreakers so far this year:
Married or Single
Exploring unique perspectives on God
By Amy Jackson
How is worry distracting you from God?
By Keri Wyatt Kent
What does it look like to "seek first his kingdom"?
By Keri Wyatt Kent
Rediscover God's Love
A quick activity to learn about true love
By Rachel Jay
Be transformed, not just informed, by God's Word.
By Dan Lentz
What's your favorite icebreaker?
June 17, 2013
(So far . . .)
It's hard to believe that nearly half of 2013 is in the books, but with the first official day of summer coming this Friday, it's true. So we're taking a look back at the year so far to see what articles, icebreakers, blog posts, training tools, and Bible studies have most resonated with you. We're counting down five different top fives. If you haven't seen them for yourself, check them out—they're reader approved.
Today, take a look at our top articles so far this year.
Explore Identity and Purpose
Help emerging adults discover what life is all about.
By Richard R. Dunn and Jana L. Sundene
This article shows you how to help emerging adults—those 18- to 30-years-old—discover identity, mission, and purpose in life. It's excerpted from Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults.
Crossing the Road to Meet the Stranger
What it means to truly follow Jesus
By Margot Starbuck
Starbuck explains that living on mission with God will require we step out of our comfort zones to meet people where they are—in her case, the elderly woman collecting cans across the street.
Spiritual Challenges of Emerging Adults
How to minister to the unique spiritual needs of 18- to 30-year-olds
By Richard R. Dunn and Jana L. Sundene
Emerging adults are a huge, untapped resource . . . if you can find them in the church. The authors explain the specific spiritual needs of emerging adults, particularly where they are in their life stage and the growth they're experiencing.
Antidote to Burnout
Abiding in Christ is our true responsibility.
By Carolyn Taketa
Taketa gives you nine warning signs of burnout and practical ways to avoid it altogether. It's excerpted from our popular resource "Avoiding Burnout."
Shake It Up
Easy ways to energize your group meetings
By Mark Ingmire
If your group is starting to feel a bit stale, this article gives you lots of easy, practical ideas for shaking it up. And summer is the perfect time to try some of these out! This article is excerpted from our practical resource "Leading Outside the Box."
What do you think of these articles? Did we miss one? What's your favorite?
June 13, 2013
What Luke 19 teaches us about loving the unlovable
My small group studied the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector in Luke 19 this week. Tax collectors at the time made their living not by earning a wage, but by overcharging people and keeping the extra for themselves. They were hated in society—and for good reason. Who likes someone who takes advantage of others?
It struck me how much love Jesus showed by not only speaking to Zacchaeus, but actually eating at his home. He wasn't afraid to associate with Zacchaeus. He didn't even call Zacchaeus to himself or ask to meet him at the temple. Instead, Jesus entered his world. Convicting.
But another small-group member pointed out something even more important. Most of the other stories of Jesus helping someone involve a person who was down on their luck, who was born with a physical limitation, or who was otherwise in a bad place for reasons outside their control. Zacchaeus, however, was an oppressor, taking advantage of helpless people for his own gain.
It made me think about how we treat modern-day oppressors. I think of Ariel Castro who is accused of holding three women captive for years in Ohio, raping the women, and even forcing miscarriages.
I think of the Georges on trial in Manhattan for sex-trafficking, branding women and beating them when they didn't make enough money.
I think of corrupt politicians whose illegal actions cost taxpayers—especially the story last month on how New York politicians are costing the taxpayers over $49 million.
It's a lot harder for us to feel empathetic toward people we feel have "dug their own graves." Yet the story of Zacchaeus shows us that Jesus is willing. Even when it makes us incredibly uncomfortable.
Help your group members grow in this area by identifying and praying for the oppressors in your community. Spend time thanking God that he is willing to go where we're uncomfortable going, loving everyone. Work through the ways that we each take advantage of others for our own gain, remembering how Jesus forgave our sin as well.
Photo credit: Associated Press
June 11, 2013
What deep, meaningful relationships look like
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about authentic community and wondering what it looks like. Luckily, I've had some pretty good examples of it.
The small group that my husband and I attend led us to some of our closest friends—people who call us to come over to watch the Blackhawks game and make us delicious dinner, or ask us to watch their kids while they run out for a quick errand.
My husband and I recently hosted an outdoor dinner party that reminded me of the importance of creating a space where everyone can contribute something. So we welcomed baking skills and chopping skills and playlist-making skills and setting-up skills to the event. Without each addition, it wouldn't have been possible.
My women's small group makes me look forward to Mondays. One meeting we can be grabbing a box of tissues as we console a group member in a tough relationship. The next, we'll be bent over laughing at a story someone tells. Another meeting we'll be digging into John 3, asking important questions about baptism. It's hard to believe we were all strangers a few months ago.
And a group of friends recently came to my house, and I glowed when I realized they had refrigerator rights, helping themselves to whatever was in our refrigerator. We sat chatting about careers and marriages and identity late into the night.
This is authentic community. People coming together with their lives and arms open wide. Offering skills given to the group. Giving and taking in mutual relationships. Finding a rhythm of fun and study and joy and sadness. And it's in this context of authentic community that we grow and learn, that we are challenged to become all God intends us to be.
When have you experienced authentic community? What does it take to form authentic relationships?
June 4, 2013
Check out our YouTube channel!
Sometimes a quick training video can do more than a whole article. So we’ve put together several quick training videos from small-group experts on our YouTube channel for you to watch, share, and even show to other small-group leaders. Right now you’ll find videos on hot trends in small-group ministry, how to ask follow-up questions, and how to make the most of your meeting. We’ll be adding new videos on a regular basis, so check back regularly to see what’s new.
This video is all about finding a focus for your meetings so that you make the most of your time together. Let us know what you think in the comments below.