Archive - October, 2010

The Art of Making Disciples: seeing groups differently

For far too long, churches have seen “groups” as merely the newest fad to replace Sunday School.  The traditional thinking goes like this.  “If you’re starting a church then you need to start some groups.” But as time goes by Pastors begin to question themselves and the system.  They wonder if “groups” only work in other cultures.  They begin to make statements like:

  • “our people just don’t get groups”
  • “groups are just too much work”

Many church leaders fail from the very beginning.  Instead of seeing “groups” as a way of life, they market them as a fad for making friends.  Friendship is important, but “groups” have to be about more than just friendship.

“Groups” aren’t a new fad.  They’re a very old idea.  Jesus chose to gather a group instead of a crowd.  He knew the power of investing in a few & sending them out.  Successful group leaders see their group as a laboratory for making disciples!

What’s the difference between successful group leaders who are in it for the long haul & those who drop out quickly?  What causes some leaders to thrive in the hectic, hustle & bustle world of small group ministry while others whither, quickly loose their passion & give up?  For some leaders it’s a problem of logistics, poor planning, or a failure to implement good leadership skills.  But when an entire system of groups breakdown, or an entire church begins to say, “groups just don’t work for us,” the problem is much deeper!

Small group systems consistently fail when their main purpose is not strategically connected to the churches overall process for making disciples.  Here’s what that means.  If groups just help people get connected, make friends, and do a little Bible study along the way, their momentum is limited.  The energy of the group will rise & fall on the leaders ability to motivate, plan & keep the group connected.  BUT if the group leader & members see the group with a deeper purpose: as a way of life; as a way to practice the teachings they hear about on Sunday morning (which is a hugely important time as well); as a way to truly make disciples, then the group has a momentum that will live past the highs & lows of a single Bible study.

When discipleship becomes the purpose of the group, leaders see the big picture & move past the successes & failures of a particular meeting.  The hard work of weekly meetings in homes, caring for members, building trust, developing accountability, teaching members to pray, & spending time together outside of group fuels a much greater purpose than simply keeping a group alive.  The leader sees his or her objective as making disciples.  Not pulling off a meeting.  There is a big difference.  Group leaders & systems that prevail for the long haul understand that success is not measured in meetings but in multiplication.

Healthy Small Groups systems are always growing, reproducing leaders & multiplying.  Group Leaders are the key component in this system.  Healthy group leaders see their #1 role in the system, not to pull off a meeting but in Apprenticing a young leader to take their place.  Without this commitment to discipleship, the overall system will quickly decline in the areas of leadership & overall spiritual character & development.

To multiply a group the leader must begin with the end in mind!  The #1 thing needed to multiply a group is a new leader.


Look for someone who has the potential & ability to be trained to lead the group.

What do they look like?

  • F aithful – (character / spiritual growth)
  • A vailable – (attendance / time)
  • I nspired – (desire leadership / passionate)
  • T eachable – (learner / willing to follow)
  • H umble – (able to shepherd well)

Approval – He / she must be an active member of GHC and approved by your SG Coach.


Set a formal appointment (coffee, lunch, dinner) and tell your potential apprentice you’d like to talk with them about their interest in group leadership.  Don’t try to do this during snack time at group!  You need time to cast vision, answer questions, and let your apprentice know this is a significant step in both their spiritual growth process & also in the life of the group.

Be sure to set ask your potential apprentice when they will follow up with you re: their decision.  Specify if you will call them or if you expect them to call you to follow-up.  Usually a week is plenty of time to pray and seek the Lord.

Be careful not to get stuck between this step & the next!  Begin with the end in mind by setting a multiplication date for the group. It’s important that both the leader & apprentice commit to this date.  This will keep you from stalling out & give you an accurate time frame to complete the apprenticing process.

Introduce your new apprentice to the group & remind the group of your multiplication date!


Development Is Always a Process Not an Event

  • Watch Me Do It
  • Help Me Do It
  • Let Me Help You Do It
  • Let Me Watch You Do It

Determine a meeting schedule (weekly / every other week / monthly, etc).

Determine how your time will be spent (review of previous group / preparation / development).

Personal Development

  • Relational – work, family, small group
  • Physical – rest, exercise, work, wellness
  • Mental – reading, watching, filtering
  • Spiritual – prayer, word, disciplines

Areas of Development in Meetings

  • Preparation
  • Listening & Restating Skills
  • Icebreaker
  • Lead Discussion
  • Art of Asking Quality Questions
  • Prayer
  • Administration
  • Provide Biblical context for study
  • Group outing / coordination
  • Maintaining a vision for the lost
  • Caring for group members
  • Review how last weeks meeting went


Plan to multiply during one of the three natural growth seasons (Jan, Easter, August).

Celebrate what God is doing!  Making plans early will keep anyone in the group from being caught off guard & will enable the group to confidently multiply.

Encourage group members to pray about joining the new leader to form a core for the developing group.

Follow-up with your former Apprentice even after they are leading a group.

Don’t underestimate the power of Making Disciples!  You never know the potential & spiritual influence of a single life that is well trained & committed to God.

what you have heard from me…entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others 2 Tim. 2:2 (ESV)


Sabbath on Friday

My usual off day is Friday & Saturday.  Sunday is typically one of the busiest days of the week.  Especially now that we have two services.  So it’s about the farthest thing from a Sabbath.

I must admit that I’m pretty bad at really taking a Sabbath.  I’ve got this little deal with myself that if I get everything finished during the week, then I’ve earned my off day.  You can imagine how often that happens.

So this Friday, I tried something pretty radical, at least for me.  I just quit and gave up.  My work wasn’t done, but I was.  So I took the boys to school & went straight to a favorite coffee house with outdoor seating.  Planted my rear in a comfy chair, enjoyed the breeze, & spent the next 3 hours reflecting, relaxing, & resting.

Here’s an entry from my journal as I reflected on the last short but significant 9 months.

“Reflecting this morning as I actually take my Sabbath today.  Wonderful to rest, read, reflect, relax & drink coffee & enjoy the morning air.  Learning and growing apart from a list of tasks that tie me down & at times become the death of me!

Thinking back over the events of the last 9 months:

  • March – traveled to Port-Au-Prince (Haiti) to do earthquake relief work
  • Early August – 1st trip to Ethiopia
  • Early September – 2nd trip to Ethiopia
  • Seen God raise $33,000 / adoption expenses
  • New Son – now have 3 boys!
  • Church has doubled number of Small Groups
  • Church has almost doubled
  • Started a 2nd service / launched a new website
  • Baptized 12 people (1 of those being my son Cole:-)
  • Discipling 3 talented guys
  • Leading a Small Group of a dozen people who are growing in their relationship with Christ

At the end of the morning I realized that I have so much to be thankful for!  Later that afternoon we took all three of the boys to the park, went wading in the creek & had tons of fun playing ball & frisbee.

I’m realizing how much I need a Sabbath.  Sometimes it makes all the difference!