Thursday, April 28, 2016

Top 10 Websites for Small Group Leaders - 2016


Here are the 10 best websites for small group leaders and ministry point leaders as judged solely by me, Michael Mack. Part of the mission of Small Group Leadership is to resource leaders—or, in this case, point you to some of the best resources—to help you carry out the mission God has given you. I not only use all these sites to varying degrees, I'm also involved in some of them, which I'll note, below. Take that statement as my full disclosure.

These sites are divided into two categories: ministry organizations and individuals. The order in each category isn't that important; what is critical, I believe, is that you discover and utilize great resources that help you lead well.

So here we go: the 2016 Best Websites for Small Group Leaders.

1-5: Ministry Organizations

 

SmallGroups.com

SmallGroups.com

Yes, I founded this ministry way back in 1995, using a dial-up modem out of our basement in Cincinnati. Today it's owned and operated by Christianity Today, and it's come a long way! My guess is that this site has more available for leaders than any other, and it's also very easy to navigate and utilize.

Many of the articles on this site are free, or you can download some of the training tools, Bible studies, or videos a la carte at a starting price of $4.95 each. You can also get an individual or multi-user subscription.

Facebook  Twitter  YouTube


Small Group Network

Small Group Network

Steve Gladen, Global Pastor of Small Groups at Saddleback Church since 1998, founded the Small Group Network to help Small Group Point People discover answers to their questions. This truly is a network of small group point leaders from around the world who provide one another with encouragement and support. One of the key ways this network works is through local huddles of point leaders to share ideas, resources, and to build relationships. The site also provides a blog written by various members of the SGN team, a small groups job board, and a schedule of Small Group Network events.

If you are the point leader of small groups in your church, the Small Group Network should be one of your most-clicked bookmarks. Be sure to register and jump into all the encouragement and support.

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Small Group Churches

http://www.smallgroupchurches.com/

The mission of Small Group Churches is to be an influential small group community, linking pastors and leaders to like-minded resources, events and organizations. Andrew Mason, the small groups pastor at Real Life Church in Northern California, founded this online community of leaders. I, along with Steve Gladen and Scott Boren, join Mason on the SGC team. The site includes relevant articles and a blog, but the two best things about this site are the videos (which you'll notice first at the top of the homepage) and the forum. Mason boasts (in a good way) that Small Group Churches is the "#1 self-hosted online forum for Small Group point people, pastors and leaders." The site says, "We are not THE resource for everything small groups, but we believe we can help you find the resource(s) you need." The forum makes this site unique and very useful for leaders looking for answers to small group questions.

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Joel Comiskey Group

http://www.joelcomiskeygroup.com/

Joel Comiskey is recognized around the world as a leading authority on the cell church. His ministry, Joel Comiskey Group is "dedicated to helping complete the great commission in this century by providing resources and coaching to plant new cell churches and transition existing churches to cell-based ministry." Even if you're not a cell church, however, this site has lots of great resources, a well-written blog written by various leaders, and a bookstore that includes many of Comiskey's 28 books primarily focused on life-giving small groups (cell groups).

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SmallGroup.com

http://home.smallgroup.com/


Not to be confused with SmallGroups.com, this site, developed by LifeWay, provides Bible studies that can be customized for your church or group. This is a fee-based site that charges based on the number of groups using the membership. The pricing currently starts (accessed 4/27/16) at $199.95/ year for one group and goes up to $5,999.95/year for 100+ groups. (Monthly memberships are also available.) You can check out the program with a free trial on the site. One of the neat features is that if you can’t find a study that works, you can request a study on the text or topic they haven’t covered and they’ll write it for no additional charge.

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6-10: Individuals/Bloggers


Allen White's Blog

http://allenwhite.org/

Allen White has been involved in small group ministry for more than 25 years in churches and as a coach/consultant working with hundreds of churches (he must have started when he was 10). The site's tagline says it all: "Taking the Guesswork Out of Groups."™  The blog posts are excellent and are geared mostly toward small group point leaders. Allen often interviews point leaders and others in his "5.5 Questions" feature. (See the one he did with me here.) The site also includes Allen's courses, info on his coaching ministry, and his small group webinars.

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Jim Egli

http://jimegli.com/

Jim Egli is the Leadership Pastor at Vineyard Church in Urbana, Illinois. He's also one of my favorite authors of books on small group leadership. Jim's blogs challenge me to think beyond the normal small group/discipleship/evangelism boxes, so I try to read everything he writes. Besides the blog, you'll find lots of great small group, discipleship, and multisite resources. But one of my favorite parts of this site (actually, it's on a separate site) is his Small Group Icebreakers, categorized into Light, Moderate, or Deep.

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Dr. Bill Donahue  

http://drbilldonahue.com/

Bill Donahue is simply someone you want to follow if you're involved in small group ministry. Leadership is often defined as influence, and if that's true, Donahue is the epitome of a godly leader. His vision is to "resourcing life-changing leaders for world-changing influence." I first met him when he was Director of Leader Development and Small Groups at the Willow Creek Association and Church and today he's a popular conference speaker, prolific author, and leadership consultant. His site includes his blog, his books and other resources, videos, and more. The only knock I have on the site is that as I write this today, the blog has not been updated for six months. Still, the resources and past posts are worth the time to read.

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Scott Boren: The Relational Mission

http://scottboren.blogspot.com/


Scott Boren and I have been ministry partners for years. We've edited each others' books, often seek each other's advice, and have similar convictions about the church, groups, discipleship, etc. I had the students of my Small Groups & Discipleship class at Cincinnati Christian University read his book, MissioRelate mostly to challenge their thinking and help them catch a new vision. Boren is the author of I-don't-know-how-many books on groups, all worth the read. He blogs on the topics of and often includes adaptations from the books.

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Mark Howell: MarkHowellLive.com / SmallGroupResources.net

http://www.markhowelllive.com/

Mark Howell is a prolific blogger who has probably forgotten more about small group ministry than most of us have ever known. He's so prolific, in fact, it takes two websites to contain all the good material! He is the Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, and has more than 25 years of small group ministry experience in several churches and as a consultant and coach with a wide variety of churches. Be sure to check out the Services tab on his site to see the types of helps he offers to churches and leaders.

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What small group sites did I miss? Please comment below, and I'll consider them for the next list!


Related Posts

Jim Egli on Why Every Pastor Should Lead a Small Group
Where Do You Go When You Have Lots of Small Group Questions? 
Why a Small Group Director / Minister Brings in an "Expert" Trainer
5 Ways to SERVE Your Leaders Well

Friday, April 22, 2016

Small Group Leadership TIPS of the Weeks for April 11-22, 2016


Oops! I'm not sure how it happened, but last week's TIPS never actually posted. So guess what? It's BONUS WEEK! You get two week's of Small Group Leader TIPS s Tweeted, posted on the Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and posted on LinkedIn for the price of 1!

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Monday, 4/11: Whenever you see a mbr display the use of a spiritual gift, point it out, affirm it, and encourage more of it.
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Tuesday, 4/12:  Jesus won't force his way into your group, but he is standing at the door knocking.
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Wednesday, 4/13: Remind your group that you exist for the people who are not yet "in." Break the holy huddle.
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Thursday, 4/14: If you want to be a spiritual leader, 1st live by the Spirit. Let him lead every part of your life.
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Friday, 4/15: To paraphrase +Josh Hunt, Never try to lead people you have not prayed for. http://ow.ly/10CEUI #prayer
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 - - - - - - - THIS WEEK - - - - - - -

Monday, 4/18: Don't usurp all responsibility 4 group's spir growth. You plant/water, but only God can make ppl grow.
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Tuesday, 4/19: If your church doesn't provide coaches, find one yourself. Ldrs become grt thru consistent coaching.
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Wednesday, 4/20: If you are an experienced grp leader, coach someone else. It will make them and you better leaders.
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Thursday, 4/21: Take your SG Min Point Leader out for a meal and pay. Thank, encourage, and promise to support and pray.
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Friday, 4/22: Surprise a struggling member w/ flowers, card, or other gift just to say you're thinking abt them and praying.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Why a Small Group Director / Minister Brings in an "Expert" Trainer

GUEST BLOG by Kathy Stahlhut,  Director of Small Groups at Greenwood (Indiana) Christian Church.
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At Greenwood Christian, we are constantly striving to improve our small group leader training. We know that with good coaching, leaders function at their highest capacity. As directors or ministers of small groups, we can only do so much. For a boost, at least once a year, we try to bring in an expert on the development of small groups.

This year, Mike was our guest speaker, and he really challenged our leaders to become more outwardly focused. He emphasized how our personal mission should simply overflow out of our relationship with God. He talked about the importance of spending time with our Savior so our hearts could more reflect His. He taught us how to keep the group intentionally open to new people focusing on Matt 9:13 (The Mssg.), “I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” It’s what needed to be taught, but by someone other than me. I’m so thankful that Mike has stepped into the role of super coach or consultant. We need people like this to speak into our groups the hard things we can’t always say.

In return, our leaders really enjoyed it! Thanks, Mike. Here are a few comments:

“I loved it! It gave the leader practical ways of improving their group: have a plan, purpose, logistics, etc.; he gave ways to challenge us: using the six count, watching for ah-ha moments, etc.; and emphasizing the importance of prayer: writing names of lost friends on index cards and praying for them weekly.”

“It was an excellent training. Mike was a great speaker and discussion facilitator. He was able to help us think deeply about the mission and vision of our LifeGroups, while keeping us biblically focused.” 




“Mike’s training was excellent. He presents in a way that makes application in our LifeGroups easy. I will be incorporating a couple of ideas for group this week.”

“Mike's experience with and passion for small groups were evident right from the beginning. He led us through very interactive exercises that allowed me to think about how I would integrate the concepts into my own group as we went along. I appreciate Mike's ability to relate to us as group leaders and illustrate stories and information to help us better relate to our group members.” 



“I enjoyed Mike’s emphasis on being a group where members invite people in. This is something the leader must keep in focus for the group so they may follow the Great Commission. I would like to hear him expand on the leader’s job to facilitate vs. teach. He emphasizes facilitating a discussion, not teaching a lesson. However, there will be situations where someone misinterprets Scripture (Misinterpreting 1 Corinthians 10:13 to say “God will not give you more than you can handle”) and the leader should know how to teach and correct (2 Tim. 3:16) so the truth of Scripture can be applied among the group.”


MORE ON THIS TOPIC

5 Ways to SERVE Your Leaders Well
10 Stupid Things That Are Keeping Your Small Group from Growing
What Every Small Group Leader Needs from their Small Group Pastor

Thursday, April 14, 2016

What to Do With Not Enough _____ (Money, Ability, Compassion, Faith ...)

What do you do when you don't have enough?
  • Not enough money to pay the bills.
  • Not enough skills or experience for the job you want.
  • Not enough patience or compassion to deal with, much less love, that person in your life.
  • Not enough leadership abilities or knowledge to lead that group or ministry or church or organization.
  • Not enough faith to keep going.
We've all been there. I'm there right now. I look at our situation and there's simply not enough to make this work. I see it as a fact—the numbers don't add up—and it feels so hopeless, doesn't it?

Our circumstances are no surprise to Jesus. He's been here before. There was the time when a huge crowd of people, 5,000 in all (but that may have been just the men) had followed him to hear him teach, but now they were a long way from town and were hungry. You know the story, right? Jesus charged the disciples with finding some food, and they brought him five loaves of bread and 2 fish.

That's not enough food to feed so many people. The numbers don't add up.

The disciples had seen Jesus miraculously take "not enough" before and do what only he could do. He took people with not enough strength in their legs because of birth defects or diseases or injuries and made them able to walk. He took people with not enough sight or hearing or even brain-cell or heart-beat activity, and was able to provide what was needed. Once, his disciples told him they didn't have enough faith, and he was able to give them the faith they needed.

Let's get back to those 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Jesus had the ability to work with nothing at all. He had done so before. He had the ability to multiply the small rations as the disciples held them in their hands. But Jesus responded with a phrase that we need to hear:

Bring them here to me (Matt. 14:18). 

That's what I need to do. It's what you need to do with your "not enough."

Bring the little, the "not enough" you do have to Jesus. He is able to do immeasurably more with your "not enough" than you can ask or even imagine (Eph. 3:20).

Take your meager finances and offer them, surrender them, to Jesus. He can take your "not enough" to pay the bills and, in his hands, do something that only he can do. But you have to give it to him.

Take your "not enough" skills or experience or patience or love or knowledge or faith or whatever seems like not enough to you—and take it to Jesus and see what he will do.

Maybe it's time to dedicate your business or your job or your family or your budget to God. Begin treating whatever it is as his, not yours. Be a steward of what he provides you with.

Stay connected to the Vine. Apart from him, there's never enough. But when you abide in him, you will not only have enough, you'll bear enough fruit for others as well. He will take our "not enough" and multiply it into "more than enough." 

 

MORE POSTS ON THIS TOPIC

Big Buts in the Psalms: The Secret to Real Success
Waiting for God to Answer 
What Do You Do When Life Sucks? 

 


Friday, April 8, 2016

Small Group Leadership TIPS of the Week: April 4-8, 2016


Small Group Leadership TIPS of the past week as Tweeted, posted on the Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and posted on LinkedIn.


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Monday, 4/4: No, your faith is NOT a private matter! Go public. Invite others into this community life with God.
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Tuesday, 4/5:  Discuss: if a video of your group was set to "One Shining Moment," what would be in the video?
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Wednesday, 4/6: Like a patron of a group of archeologists, your job is to facilitate discoveries of priceless treasures.
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Thursday, 4/7: Get equipped on conflict resolution and be ready to help mediate differences between group mbrs.
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Friday, 4/8: Identify a problem and have the group work together to solve it. #application
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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

10 Tips for Making Your Group Less Scary and More Welcoming to New People

You may not realize it, but visiting a small group for the first time can be intimidating. Here's are 10 ways to make it easier for a new person to fit in.

 

The first time I attended a small group meeting, I drove around the block several times before finally getting up the nerve to walk up to the door of the host home. This was one of the scariest experiences of my life! I didn’t know what to expect and wondered if I’d fit in. Over the years, I’ve loosened up and I’ve also learned how to make groups more inviting and accepting for new people. Here are ten ideas:
  1. Pay attention to inherent inviting rhythms. When is the best time to invite a friend to your group? If your group is in the middle of a six-week study, will it be awkward for new person to join you? Instead, perhaps you could wait for the beginning of a new study. Is there “stuff” going on in your group that needs to be worked out before inviting a new person? For instance, if you’re in the midst of a group conflict, it may not be a good time to ask someone new to join you! Or if you’re working through a tender issue, such as a couple’s serious marriage problems, deal with that first. 
  2. Make it natural. People balk to invitations that feel forced or unnatural. Instead, try these steps: 
    • Pray for your friends you’d like to invite. Ask God to open their hearts and to give you opportunities to grow your friendship. 
    • Invite your friends into your life before you invite them into your group. Spend time together. 
    • Introduce them to a couple other people in your group. Find common ground between your friend and another member of your group. Go to a ballgame, movie, or out to lunch together. 
    • Before you invite them to an official group meeting, extend an invitation to a fun group event. This is a great way to break the relational ice in a more natural social setting. 
    • Talk about your group, why you like it, and how it’s helped you grow. Share this in the natural rhythms of conversation. Don’t force it! 
    • When you sense the time is right, simply ask your friend to join you the next time you meet. The best time to do this is at the beginning of a new study topic that would be of interest to your friend. By this time, your friend may be waiting for an invitation! 
    • When they agree to come, tell them what to expect. Think about what you would want to know before coming to your first meeting, such as what to wear, what to bring, what you’ll be doing, how long the meeting will be, and so forth. If they have kids, be sure to tell them what arrangements the group has for them. If the group does not provide child care, perhaps offer to help arrange something with them. 
  3. Pick them up. It will reduce their anxiety (and assure they don’t back out) if you offer to drive them and walk into the host home together. 
  4. Have a plan for when new people show up. Be prepared to do something fun and non-threatening when a new person joins you the first time. Your group may be at a good-friend or even family level in your relationships, but the new person is probably at best an acquaintance with most of the other members. So plan some entry-level activities. Don’t expect them to jump right in to the existing group dynamic. Watch out for things like insider jokes. 
  5. Be authentic. A tension exists between having a plan for when new people show up and being authentic. Just walk this tightrope the best you can. I’ve found the best way to break this tension is to talk about it. Say something like, “Ellen, we’re really glad you’ve joined us tonight. This group started two years ago with Bob and Donna and Heidi and me. Jim and Jenny joined us a couple months ago . . .” (This shows Ellen that new people joining the group is normal.). “We’ve become pretty good friends and well, we have our idiosyncrasies, too. You know, everybody’s normal till you get to know them!” (Laughter is a great icebreaker.) Then explain what you’ve been up to as a group and where you’re going. But don’t make a long speech detailing every aspect of your group. Your guest will figure stuff out as you go. Encourage members of your group to be themselves. Your guests will find out soon enough who you really are. 
  6. Be normal. You’re a Christian small group, so your guest will expect you to talk about spiritual things. But it’s also fine to talk about sports, work, kids, movies, and so forth. Talk about what each of you is passionate about. If you have been praying for this person, it’s OK to let them know that (without getting overly serious about it). 
  7. Introduce everyone. When a group starts, we usually introduce ourselves and tell our stories. When new people show up, it’s like a new group to them. The rest of the group may have moved past history-sharing icebreakers, but these are very helpful when a guest joins you. “Where did you grow up?” “Who was your best friend growing up?” These and other such questions can help get everyone on the same page faster. 
  8. Explain (almost) everything. If you had never been to a small group, what would you like to have explained? Of course, don’t overdo this, but take a moment during the meeting to clarify what you are doing and why. By the way, what seems normal to you may seem odd or confusing to a non-Christian. Be careful not to be condescending! 
  9. Don’t assume that a guest will or will not read, pray out loud or not, or engage in conversation. Just ask. 
  10. Have fun! Almost everyone likes to be part of something fun and as Christians we should be known by having a sense of joy. People will come back to a group that is learning and growing together from God’s Word and is fun, too! (See +Ben Reed's article, "5 Easy Ways to Make Your Small Group Fun.")
Most institutions exist for the people who are already in them. But not the church, and not your small group! You exist for the people who God has put in each of your circles of influence so that you can make an impact on their lives. Be like Jesus, who came “to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders” (Matthew 9:13).

Talk with your group now for how you can make your group less scary and more welcoming, because, as John Wooden said, “When opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare.”

MORE POSTS ON INVITING PEOPLE TO YOUR GROUP

5 Vital Secrets for Getting Your Group to Invite Others
How to Build a Group of Real Friends: Throw Away the Signup Sheets!
Reconciliation: the Heart of Small Groups
Healthy small group leaders are friends with non-Christ-followers
Rock 'n Roll Advice to Get Your Small Group Back Where You Belong



Friday, April 1, 2016

Small Group Leadership TIPS of the Week: March 28 - April 1, 2016


Small Group Leadership TIPS of the past week as Tweeted, posted on the Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and posted on LinkedIn.

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Monday, 3/28: A shepherd-leader protects the flock. As terror against Christians increases, start w
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Tuesday, 3/29: Hand write a personal encouragement note to someone in your group today and send thru postal mail.
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Wednesday, 3/30: When u focus on faithfulness u will bear fruit. If u focus on fruit w/o faith, u can do nothing.
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Thursday, 3/31: God is not a secret to be kept inside your small group. Let your light shine for outsiders to see!
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Friday, 4/1: As you lead, be aware of the deceiver who conspires to ppl into rejecting the Truth.
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