Whereas work is task focused, the family is relationship focused. One is about doing, while the other is about loving. In one environment we find our worth through accomplishment. In the other we find our value simply by who our relatives are. Work is about doing. Family is about being. The members of my congregation want me to show up prepared to speak. My family is happy if I just show up.
Archives For Leadership
If you stayed at work until everything was finished. . .if you took advantage of every opportunity that came your way. . .if you sought out every angle to maximize your abilities, improve your skills, and advance your career. . .you would never go home.
More often than not today, God’s first call in the life of a ministry leader is a gentle whisper of invitation to repentance. It is an invitation that leads us by way of humility to the foot of the cross in a spirit of contrition. It is reminiscent of the invitation that Samuel received from God in the stillness of the night in 1 Samuel 3 where through patience, gentleness, and forbearance, God invited Samuel into a relationship with himself. If was neither terrifying nor alarming. Once Samuel realized the source of the invitation, he responded, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
One of the greatest mistakes leaders make is spending too much time in their offices and not enough time out among the people.
If you don’t let others lead, they will go somewhere else.
Our primary need is not leadership programs focused on training—teaching people in religious or non-profit organizations how to do things. Religious and non-profit organizations, like for-profit organizations, need a model for transformational leadership development that integrates learning, changing, and doing into the on-going experience of their members.
Deliberately knocking a group’s physical and mental dynamics off course, what I call a purposeful disruption, is a great mood altering tool that every leader should use. Keep in mind that there’s a very clear difference between an engineered experienced that’s going to take people out of their current context and a truly spontaneous purposeful disruption. It takes intuition and healthy tolerance for risk to fully disrupt a moment or interrupt a ritual and shift the mood. But hey, you’re a leader: that’s your job.
In this post I outline the four study methods that small groups may use. I have ordered them from the most difficult (#1) to the easiest (#4).
- This is the most difficult and requires knowledge and understanding of a specific topic that can have many different views and ideas.
- It also requires group members to be able to flip to different parts of the Bible, which can be difficult for new believers.
- A study based on a passage of the Bible is the second most difficult.
- A LIFE Group leader will have to do a lot of preparation to teach directly from the Bible (time and resources).
- A book study is where a small group leader has the group each purchase a book that guides them through the process of studying the Bible.
- Book studies can be focused on books of the Bible or topics within the Bible.
- My favorite book study curriculm is Warren Wiersbe’s “BE Series”
- Video studies are easier than book studies.
- Only limitation is making sure you have good AV support.
- My favorite DVD curriculum in Chip Ingram’s material available at Living on the Edge
I am privileged to serve as the Assistant Pastor of Small Groups at Rocky Hill Community Church. Last month I spent some time with some of our small group leaders talking about how people “learn” in small groups. Here’s some tips you can use to help people learn in the small groups you lead.
I. ACCORD: THE “UNIFYING QUESTION” FROM THE PAST WEEKEND MESSAGE 1
A. Reinforce the Message
1. Why the Message Needs Reinforcement
While my wife Jen and I were living in Texas we attended the Dave Ramsey course at church that was located just across the freeway from our apartment. In this format for the class there was about 150 people there and you were placed at a specific table each week with the same people. So, over the course of time you get to know those people. Jen and I were one of the few people who were attending the class that were not members of the church that it was being held at.
The church was a very charismatic and pentecostal type of church. So, while sitting there with the church members at our table I would sometimes make small talk. One week I was asking them about their church and how they liked it there. They responded saying that they loved hearing the Word taught there and that their pastor really brings the Word hard and delivers it well. And, when you leave that church you can’t help but be pumped up and rejuvenated for the work. I responded saying that that was great and that I was glad they had found a church where the pastor preached in a way that fed them. I then proceeded to ask them what the pastor had taught on that last weekend end.
As soon as I asked them the three people began looking at each other with a confused look. Not one of them could remember what the pastor had taught on that last weekend. And, this was “Wednesday” so they had just heard the message three days earlier. I really felt bad about that situation and told my wife that evening that I wished I would not have asked that question because you could tell that they were embarrassed that they loved what they were taught but that they could not remember what they were taught. So, I’m using that as an example that the “Unifying Question” (which I will define a little later) is a way to help people wrestle with what was said in the message and to help them find ways to apply it to their lives.
2. Good Questions to Ask
- What stood out to you from this past weekend’s message?
- What did you hear that you hadn’t heard before?
- What have you done as a result of what the pastor taught?
- How are you going to change how you do things based on what was said?
B. Encourage People to Attend
1. Small Groups Are a Part of our Church
LIFEGroups are the discipleship element of Rocky Hill Community Church. With that said, we want to make sure that everyone in a small group worships God in the context of the church as well. Most of the people who are in our groups are going to be from our church, but if you have some people that are in your group that do not attend our church, that’s okay too. But, they should be plugged into a Christian church somewhere because a small group is not a substitute for church.
2. What Is Church?
Additionally, someone might say, “But hey, the Bible says ‘where two are gathered in Jesus’ name, I am with you.’ The context of that passage has nothing to do with what a church is or what a church does. In Matt 18:19-20 the context is correcting another believer and prayer, not at all about church. With that said, let’s look at what the church actually is.
- First, the church is commanded to go into all nations and make disciples (Matt 28:18-20).
- Second, baptism is another thing that the church does for believer who want to provided external evidence of an internal change (Acts 2:38; 9:18-19; Rom 6:1-11).
- Third, the church should regularly practice the Lord Supper as a tangible reminder of what the Lord Jesus Christ did for us through his bodily death and resurrection (1 Cor 11:17-34).
- Fourth, the church should be hearing the Word of God, wrestling with it, and seeking to obey what it teaches (1 Tim 4:13; 2 Peter 3:15-16).
- Fifth, there needs to be some uniformity about what constitutes the Bible and the core teachings of it. For example, believers in the New Testament affirmed the Old Testament (Matt 22:29-32, 43-45; John 10:35) and now we accept the New Testament as part of the God’s Word too (Heb 1:1-3; 2 Peter 3:15-16; Rev 22:16-19). Furthermore, we accept Jesus as the Son of God—fully God and fully human—as our Savior, we believe Jesus is coming back, and we believe in a Triune God. These are all part of the “basic agreements” that constitutes a church.
- Sixth, songs and hymns seem to be included in what believers should participate in (Eph 5:19; cf. Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:15-20).
- Seventh, one of the elements of a church—the body of Christ—is that it is made of up believers that exercise their gifts. The passages that describe the body of Christ as having different elements are different members as being part of a church are in Rom 12; 1 Cor 12; Eph 4; 1 Peter 4. I think we can all agree that these spiritual gifts are something that the body of Christ—the church—has and should employ. However, if we have small groups that have six people in them, there is no way for everyone to exercise their spiritual gifts. If you have the gift of hospitality then the person who hosts the group at their home is going to exercise their gift, or if your gift is teaching then the person that facilitates the discussion somewhat gets to use his or her gifts.
II. ACCURACY: CAREFUL INTERPRETATION AND A GUIDED OPEN DISCUSSION
A. Careful Interpretation
1. Leader Box
I always include several things in the leaders’ supply boxes every time they start a new study. One of the things that I always put in there is our church’s doctrinal statement. I often include a commentary or notes on some of the passages that might be more difficult to interpret or have the people apply to their lives. I try to give you tools to do that, which is why I really like Warren Wiersbe’s books because he has study guides small groups use, but he also has commentaries.
2. Pastoral Help
One of our Men’s LIFEGroups decided they wanted to study the book of Hebrews just before I began working here last summer. Hebrews has some difficult parts so I was glad to know that they were tackling a long and difficult New Testament letter. So, I would check in with them every couple weeks say, “How’s it going, where are you guys?” And they’d replied, “Oh we are great. We are in chapter two.” Then a few weeks later I’d check in and say, “How far along are you in Hebrews? How is it going?” And they would reply, “We love Hebrews! We are in chapter four!” Then, about a month later I get a frantic email message saying, “Hey, we were in chapter 6 and thoroughly are confused! We need help!” And to that I said, “There it is. I was waiting for it.” I share that story because part of my role as the Assistant Pastor of Small Groups is to help you and your group when you get stuck. Sometimes there are parts of Scripture that are a little more fuzzy and you might need some assistance, and that is what my job is for.
3. Facilitator Preparation
And, you don’t have to wait till the group meets and gets stuck. As the facilitator you should always be spending a little bit of time in preparation. If you have a DVD for your group take some time and watch the DVD lessons and fill in the blanks so you know what is going to be taught and how you might need to guide that discussion. If you are using curriculum that is going verse-by-verse through the Bible make sure you read the passage a few times, take time to complete the questions, and think about you might like to facilitate the discussion.
B. A Guided Open Discussion
You, as leaders of LIFEGroups are facilitators, not teachers. You should be doing 25 percent of the talking. They are about the spiritual growth of people. And, that’s one of the reasons that people join a group: to get to interact with others.
III. APPLICATION: PERSONAL RELEVANCE FOR MEANINGFUL LIFE CHANGE
A. An Example
If it’s okay for me to share transparently here, this is something I struggle with. One of the great things about attending Seminary is that you become well educated and learn a lot of great in-depth material about the Bible, theology, and Greek/Hebrew. However, the byproduct is that you learn about a lot of stuff that isn’t really relevant to the everyday Christian and that does not have a lot of personal application for the believer. For example, when I preached on Phil 1:12-18 recently there was a section I wanted to share about the “chiasm” that is in vv. 15-17 where Paul mentions the good guys, the bad guys, the bad guys again, and then the good guys. I wanted to show how this was a literary device that Paul used that many other New Testament authors used. I also wanted to talk about the background to that text and how they are a couple of different manuscripts of that letter that have the ordered changed and that’s not a big deal. So I practiced my sermon with Jen and she said, “what’s the point of this? it doesn’t add to your message.”
B. Personal Relevance
So, with that said we want to make sure that each time your LIFEGroup meets that there is personal relevance for meaningful life change. This means that you draw the topic in and get the people to apply it. Now, if you’re using a set curriculum there are going to be set questions to get the people to apply it.
For example, in the LifeGuide Bible Study in John (written by Douglas Connelly) that Bob Ally ends one section by saying, “Thank Jesus for coming to explain God fully to us. Use some of the titles and descriptions from this chapter to express your work and praise to him” (p. 11). This gives an application for the person on her own to apply the chapter by praising God using the titles of the chapter questions. In the group you can have people do it there or you can encourage them to do it on their own. The most important element of this is that you have to follow up.
Just because they hear about something that they should do does not mean that they are going to follow through. Your job as the leader is to follow up with people on this. The next week when you meet, ask the people how they’ve applied what they learned. Never single out a person directly and embarrass them, but instead simply say, “Last week we talked about this. How is it going?” Real life change happens when we follow up on the applications that people say they want to make. Use basic questions such as, “What did we talk about last week that changed what you did or how you thought this week?” “What did you do differently this week based on our study last week?” “What personal application did you decide to make last week in our study and how did it go?”
Under the “Now or Later” section of the LifeGuide Study it says, “Consider some ways that you (as an individual or as a group) can be a witness for Jesus in your community. Plan to take one specific action this week to demonstrate Jesus’ love to others who don’t yet know him.” This is a great way to end your meeting and suggest to people that do they this. Then, when you meet the next week, start here! Follow up with them and ask, “Based on the application from last week, what specific action did you take to show people Jesus’s love?”
Question: Do you have any other ideas for how people can “learn” in small groups?
- The three elements of “accord,” “accuracy” and “application” are copyrighted material of my senior pastor, Dr. David Ward Miller ↩
What is “grace”? Some would define it as “unmerited favor” (whatever that means!). Often we hear the word “grace” as it relates to the work Christ did on our behalf on the Cross. However, the apostle Paul used the word to describe how God appointed and entrusted Paul to do ministry. In today’s post I show how God’s grace was essential to the apostle Paul’s ministry and how it is necessary for your leadership.
I. NOT BECAUSE OF PAUL’S OWN WORK
Acts 8:1 says that, “Saul [who was later renamed Paul] was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Steven.” Later in Paul’s life in a letter to the Philippians he says, ” I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin–a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law” (Phil 3:5). It was obvious that Paul was a strong believer in YHWH, the God of Israel based on the Old Testament. He stood to persecute this new Way that had urupted and he was doing everything that he could to stop it. Yet, he was the one chosen by God to do bring the news of Jesus to the Gentiles. Paul being appointed to do the work of God had nothing to do with Paul’s own work; it had everything to do with God’s grace.
II. APPOINTMENT FROM GOD
Paul’s appointment by God for God’s work is told in Acts 9. After Paul sees Jesus appear to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-9) God spoke to a man named Ananias about going to see Paul. God told Ananias, “But the Lord said, ‘Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel'” (Acts 9:15). Later in Paul’s ministry he affirms that his appointment for ministry was from God (Acts 26:19-20).
In Paul’s numerous letters he regularly refers to himself as
- “a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle” (Rom 1:1).
- “God has appointed me as the apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom 11:13).
When writing to the Corinthians Paul starts his letter in this way,
- “This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus” (1 Cor 1:1).
- “This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus” (2 Cor 1:1).
To the Galatians:
- “This letter is from Paul, an apostle. I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead” (Gal 1:1).
While Paul had knowledge and understanding that might have led him to be successful, Paul makes it clear in his letters that he was appointed for work by God.
III. APPOINTMENT BY GRACE
Paul makes it clear that he was appointed to do work by grace.
- “Even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him” (Gal 1:15).
- “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecutived his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love tht come from Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 1:12-14).
IV. WITH THE APPOINTMENT THERE WAS WORK TO BE DONE
After Paul’s appointment from God he immediately began his work. While imprisoned later in his life Paul tells King Agrippa about his ministry history, “I obeyed that vision from heaven. I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God–and prove they have changed by the good things they do” (Acts 26:19-20).
- “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him” (1 Tim 1:12).
- “And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of his Good News” (2 Tim 1:11).
- “This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim fiath to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives” (Titus 1:1).
V. GOD’S APPOINTMENT COMPELLED PAUL TO CONSTANT HUMILITY
“I have done the Lord’s work humbly and with many tears. I have endured the trials that came to me from the plots of the Jews” (Acts 20:19).
VI. PAUL WAS ENTRUSTED TO DO THE WORK GOD GAVE HIM
“And now at just the right time he has revealed this message, which we announce to everyone. It is by the command of God our Savior that I have been entrusted with this work for him” (Titus 1:3).
In a similar way we too need to be appointed for our work. That appointment probably will not be in the same form as Paul with Jesus appearing to him personally, but our own appointment is something that should be clear to us. That appointment might be someone who sees strength that we have to do something correctly. Someone might see that we have a natural gift in a certain area. Or it might be a position that God has allowed us to have within an organization.