Allen White

I write, consult, strategize and speak to churches, businesses, and groups on groups, staffing, structure, and innovation. I have over 25 years of ministry experience including 15 years at New Life Christian Center, Turlock, CA, 4 years at one of Outreach Magazine's 100 Largest Churches, and over 10 years with Brett Eastman at Lifetogether.com. How can I help you? Contact me at 949-235-7428 or allen@allenwhite.org

Homepage: http://allenwhite.org

Rethink Summer

By Allen White

When I was a kid, summer started when school was out just before Memorial Day and ended just after Labor Day. We had enough time to actually wonder what we would do with ourselves. Sure, there was a week of church camp and a family vacation in there, but there were weeks and weeks of playing outside and watching old reruns, if we were fortunate enough to have a mom who wasn’t hooked on soaps.

Today, summer starts the second week in June and ends about the middle of August. It’s about six to eight weeks, if you’re lucky.

Many groups automatically decide to break for the summer. It’s just what they do. They assume that it’s too hard to get together or that they’re group members are too busy, so why bother gathering as a group? But, when was the last time you rethought your assumptions?

1. Who’s gone for the entire summer anyway?

We go into summer making a few assumptions like “Everybody’s busy traveling, so we might as well not even try to get together as a group.” In a normal year, most families do one big vacation and maybe a few day trips. While everyone in your group probably won’t take vacation on the same week, they also won’t be gone for the entire summer. Before school ends, ask your group about their summer schedules, who knows they might be available after all?

2. Your group may be the spiritual resource for the summer.

In this age of staycations and day trips, people tend to be busier on the weekends than during the week. Few of us could be categorized as the idle rich. Yes, it’s summer, but we’ve got to keep our day jobs. While your group might be headed to the mountains or the beach on the weekends, they’re in town Monday through Friday. They might not be around for church services on Sunday, so your group gathering might be the consistent touch they get during the summer.

3. Your group doesn’t need to meet every week to be spiritual.

If your group meets every week, then meet every other week or meet once a month during the summer. The key is to keep the relational connections up. Ask your group to bring their calendars and see when most of the group will be in town. Even if you can only get together once or twice during the summer, do it. I’ve even seen groups spend vacations together, go on camping trips, and even take a cruise together.

4. Your group doesn’t need to have a Bible study every week to be spiritual.
Have a party and invite prospective members. If you live in the South, grill out. If you live in the rest of the world, have a barbecue. Ask everyone to bring something. Invite the neighbors, but be sure to only invite people that you actually like.

Serve together with a local organization. Is there a neighborhood school with projects, but their funds were cut this year? Is there a yard in your neighborhood that needs work? Is there a single mom or an elderly person who could use a hand? Is a member of your group moving? If you’re part of Brookwood Church, there are many opportunities listed at brookwoodchurch.org/care.

Change it up with your group. While some groups will meet 52 weeks of the year, the frequency of the meetings is not nearly as important as keeping in touch over the summer. You never want to give your group the impression that you only care about them September through May, and not as much during Christmas break.
Oh, and on the being spiritual part, we are spiritual beings, so everything we do is spiritual. Our spirituality involves every part of us, not just worship services and Bible studies.

As your group heads into summer, take time to ask what the group would like to do together. Don’t assume that everyone is busy and that no one wants to get together. If you as a leader need a break, then ask other group members to host a party or head up a service project. You’re not alone.

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Very Cool Donation to Water of Life

Support our work in Liberia, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Guinea and among the untouchables in India: givefreshwater.org

Donations of all sizes are accepted from donors of all sizes.

Now, the rest of the story:

This little girl’s mom told me last night that her daughter had sold two bicycles at a yard sale for $65. She asked how much she should give to God. Her mom explained that a tithe would be 10% or $6.50. The girl replied, “I don’t think that’s right. I’ll give $60 and keep $5. That seems right to me.” Even 7-year-olds can reverse tithe to save lives!

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How Do I Deal with Group Members who Gossip?

By Allen White

A couple of guys in our small group in California would wonder out to the sidewalk after the meeting each week to smoke. They would just hang around in front of our house and talk. The other guys in the group were a little jealous of their fellowship and considered taking up the habit themselves.

Someone from another group heard about our smoking members. Then, that person passed the news to a friend of theirs. The third person in the chain approached me at church one day, “I heard that you’ve got group members who smoke in front of your house every week. That must be embarrassing for a pastor.”

I replied, “Yes, it’s terrible. I wish they wouldn’t smoke. But, I’ve heard that some groups are full of gossips.” Okay, I actually didn’t say that, but I wish I had.

 Gossip

Gossip is a small group killer. There is nothing more fatal to a small group than gossip. It is the deadliest sin in group life.

The Bible teaches that “a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28) and “a gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much” (Proverbs 20:19). The Apostle Paul includes gossip on the sin lists in Romans 1 and 2 Corinthians 12 along with murder, envy, strife, jealousy, rage and deceit. Gossip is serious business. So, what do you do when it shows up in your group?

1. Be Proactive.

Even though your group is filled with wonderful people, the first place to deal with gossip is on the first day of the group. As your group talks about their group values, you should formulate a group agreement. These are simply the things the entire group agrees to. This can include when and where the group meets, the frequency of meetings, childcare, etc.

A key value for your group is confidentiality. What is said in the group needs to stay in the group. Period. Your group should be declared “Las Vegas.” Nothing in the group – comment, prayer request, joke or off-the-cuff remark – should be repeated outside of the group.

Sometimes the rules get blurry. Let’s say a group member requests prayer for a mutual friend, let’s call her Jane, who is not in the group. Jane is having some tests for a serious health problem. One day you bump into Jane’s husband and tell him that you are praying for Jane and her health issues. The problem is that Jane hasn’t said anything to her husband. She was afraid that the news would affect his heart condition, so she didn’t want to worry him unnecessarily. (This is a fictitious story. I am not telling tales out of school here). Now, you get the picture.

Gossip, as benign as it might seem, is a missile that will sink the whole ship. Who would ever share another prayer request or personal issue in front of someone they feel that they can’t trust? If the group lacks trust, relationships are broken down. There is no more group.

Confidentiality is the foundation of group life. Creating a small group agreement and reviewing it periodically will help to insure trust in the group.

2. Even Gossip in the Group About Others is Dangerous.

Gossip shuts down trust. Even if the gossip is about someone outside of the group, it certainly makes the group wonder what this person says about them behind their backs. Gossip of any kind will diminish trust in the group. If the group lacks trust, then the members will not open up. The leader should redirect the gossiping member with “Let’s keep our discussion to those present in the group.” Then, take the member aside and personally talk to them about gossiping and the harm it can bring to a group.

What is gossip? Well, the rule of thumb is that if the person you are talking to is not part of the problem or part of the solution, then it’s gossip.

3. Act Quickly.

If something about your group is told outside of the group, deal with it as soon as you are aware of an incident of gossip. Don’t interview every member of the group. The offended person should go directly to the offender. As Ross Perot once said, “If you see a snake, kill it. Don’t appoint a committee on snakes.” As Jesus said, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you” (Matthew 18:15). If the offended person isn’t willing, then you as the group leader must step in.

The first step is to pray and ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to prepare the way and to work on the offender in advance. If you’re eager to confront the offender, then you should probably pray some more. If you’re reluctant to confront, then you’re probably in the right place.

Unless you heard the offender tell the gossip yourself, you must give them the benefit of the doubt. Tell them what was said outside of the group, and let them know the harm that it caused. Hopefully, they will admit their fault before you have to ask them directly. If they don’t own it, then you have to ask: “Do you know who told this outside of the group?”

If they admit to the gossip, then they should be given an opportunity to confess to the group. If they don’t admit it, then you must take the next step and bring a person with you who either heard the gossip or is somehow involved in the incident (Matthew 18:16).

If the person did gossip, but won’t admit to it, more than likely, he will stop coming to the group on his own. Most people are not so callus as to offend the group, lie about it, and then continue participating in the group. But, don’t be surprised.

4. Bring the Issue Before the Group.

If the person is repentant, then give him an opportunity to confess to the group and seek their forgiveness. The best scenario is that the group will forgive and everyone will be reconciled. This is ideal. But, it may take time for the group to trust the person again. Reconciliation isn’t necessarily automatic with forgiveness. Over time, as the group bears with one another, they will be able to trust each other again.

If the person won’t admit their fault, then the gossip must be addressed in the group in the person’s presence. This shouldn’t be presented in an accusatory way, but simply stated: “Someone in the group broke the group’s confidentiality by saying _______ outside of the group. What do you know about this? How did this affect the group?” The offender might come to repentance in the meeting.

5. As a Last Resort…

If the group is certain about who committed the offense, then the last resort is to ask the offender to leave the group. Jesus taught us, “If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17). In this case the “church” is the group.

The question is how should believers treat “pagans and tax collectors”? As with anyone who is not in relationship with God, believers should love them, even if they’re an enemy (Matthew 5:44) and challenge them with the need for repentance. When the person repents, then the process of reconciliation should begin.

Few other issues are as harmful as gossip in a small group. But, if the leader deals with the issue quickly, chances are the group will remain strong. If the issue is not dealt with, it won’t go away. In fact, it will become a greater problem.

Gossip is not just a bad habit, it is a prideful sin. The gossip is pleased to divulge information that other people don’t have. It makes them feel powerful. As a group leader, the issue becomes how to serve a person who needs gossip to make them feel significant. What are they lacking? What are they misunderstanding about their relationship with Christ?

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How Hard Should Our Group Try to Accommodate Everybody?

By Allen White

People are busy. There is no doubt about it. Often job schedules, travel schedules, family schedules, and numerous other activities will dictate against the group meeting. When the current arrangement works for most of the group, the dilemma is how much to change for a few without losing everybody else in the process.

1. What is the issue?

Something significant has changed in a group member’s schedule, and they are no longer able to make the group meeting on that particular day. There are some things that people just can’t control – a standing meeting at work is now standing on the group meeting time, a major project is demanding overtime, a family situation is conflicting with the group time – these are all legitimate issues. There are also things people can control that might conflict with the group – the member has decided to take a class on the group meeting day, his child’s ball practice is at the same time as group, she’s not a morning person and just can’t get up that early – these are also legitimate issues, but they are preferences.

Is the schedule conflict temporary or permanent? Has their schedule become too crowded to even participate in the group? All of these factors will play into the group’s decision.

2. Who raised the issue?

People do what they choose to do. Even if a lot of things are being thrown at them, they will ultimately do what they want to do. So, the question here is — who is proposing the change?

If the member wants to continue with the group, then the member will ask the group to consider a change. “Guys, I really hate to inconvenience you, but I can’t meet on Tuesday’s for lunch because my boss moved a mandatory weekly meeting to that day and time. Would you consider meeting on another day, so I can participate in the group?” That’s a reasonable request that the group should consider.

If another group member is intervening on the member’s behalf, you must determine if this is what the member in question really wants. Your group could possibly move Heaven and Earth to accommodate the member, when the member was content to just skip the meeting for a while. You certainly don’t want the whole group to change their schedules only to find that the one they changed for can’t make it anyway. This happens more often than you might imagine.

3. What defines the group anyway?

Is the group just the members who show up for the meetings? Is it the group roster? What is the group? Think about it this way: if a member of your family couldn’t eat dinner with the rest of the family, are they no longer a family member? But, if the same family member is estranged from the family, what do we do then?

If the group is the meeting, then commitment is determined by a lack of tardiness and absences. But, isn’t a group more than a meeting? A group is more like a family. There is a commitment to each other, even if there is an issue with the commitment to the meeting.

Every group goes through challenging seasons. And, there are even times when scheduling conflicts can’t be resolved, so a group member has to move on. A group is a living thing. It is constantly changing. New members are added, and sometimes even long-time members move along. This is a normal part of group life. Don’t panic.

But, if your group is more than just a meeting, then continue to invite your group members who can’t attend the meeting to be involved in other aspects of group life. Include them in group service projects, parties and other activities. Keep them on your email list, unless they intentionally choose to join another group. If the member is dealing with a ridiculously busy schedule, even a text or a tweet from other members is significant.

4. What is the group willing to do?

The entire group should consider the situation and the options together. Is the situation beyond the group member’s control? Did the group member prioritize something else over the group meeting? What options does the group have? Then, the entire group should decide together. Don’t put yourself in a leader versus group member decision, and certainly don’t dictate to your group. You are the group leader, not the group owner.

In my group, one member decided that he didn’t want to pay $10 for lunch any more. He was more of a dollar menu kind of guy. He was also a member of another small group in addition to ours. The group decided to wish him well, but didn’t move to Wendy’s.

Another group member kept getting called into meetings in another city on Thursdays, but Wednesday were typically good for him. So, the group chose to move to Wednesdays so he could join us.

Our group meets in restaurants up and down Woodruff Road in Greenville, South Carolina. We will never run out of restaurants even though we change every month. The group decides together where to meet each month. For one season, we had ventured a little too far down the road for some of the guys to get to back to work on time, so now we’re at restaurants closer to their businesses.

Whether your group chooses to change days or locations, the key is for the whole group to make the decision together. It’s a decision that needs to work for everyone.

 5. What is the result?

If your group decided move the meeting to accommodate the group member, did it work out? Is he still involved in the group? If so, then you’re group can continue as normal.

If after trying to accommodate the group member, he doesn’t come after several weeks to months, then it’s time for a conversation with the member. This shouldn’t be a guilt-induced, brow beating. But, obviously something else is going on with this group member. What’s going on with him personally? Did something happen in the group? Did something happen outside of the group?

If the group member hasn’t rejoined the group after the change, then I would be reluctant to make another change for this group member. Sometimes the people you make the greatest lengths to reach still never show up. I learned this when I reorganized an entire Bible Institute class for a student who needed to complete the class and needed to participate on a mission trip in order to graduate. After his mission trip, the class reconvened only to discover that the student we tried to accommodate never returned.

Every group leader wants to be the good shepherd who will leave the 99 and go after the one. If you go to extremes, however, you might alienate the rest of the group and find yourself in a small group of two. And, there can be a purpose for a group of two.

You can’t keep every group member for life. That’s just not possible. After the group has done everything they can, if the group member can’t participate, then it might be time to move on.

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How Do I Get My Group to Do Their Homework?

By Allen White

Group members, like everybody else, are busy people. “But, if they’re really committed, they would do their homework,” you might object. What if they’re really committed and show up to the group most weeks? The question of homework raises several issues about expectations and gifts in your group.

Homework
1. What is your goal concerning homework?

What is the homework preparation for? If the center of the group is sharing life together, then the preparation comes from our life experiences of the previous week. If the group is centered on a lesson, then by doing homework, each group member is prepared for the discussion. Statistically, half of the group members will do homework and the other half won’t. As the group leader, it’s important to include everybody in the discussion. Group members who prepared will be quick with their answers. Group members who didn’t prepare will need a little more time to respond.

2. What expectations have been set by the group?

Has the group agreed to homework? Did the group choose the study together and go into it with eyes wide open? Did they understand how much homework would be involved? Or did the group leader spring the study on them?

Group expectations are best decided together as a group. Everyone should agree to what study the group will be discussing as well as any expectations for homework, rotating leadership, bringing refreshments, etc. If the group leader chooses to assign homework without the group’s consent, then don’t be surprised by a lack of participation or a possible mutiny.

3. What benefit is there to doing homework?

If the group has prepared in advance, then we understand that the lesson will be easier to lead. But, what’s in it for the group? Other than avoiding the group leader’s wrath, what do they get out of it?

Group members who spend time studying the topic in God’s Word will definitely benefit from spending time in God’s Word. The principles more than likely will stick with them longer. These are all great things if the entire group agrees to it. Be clear about what is expected: self-study, daily reading, reviewing the discussion questions, attending the Sunday service.

4. What if the group can’t live up to the agreement?

One summer my group decided to study a great Christian book. Our assignment was to read and discuss one chapter per week. We all agreed. Then, reality set in. While everyone attended the group each week, most of us, including the leader, had trouble getting to the chapter every week. Yet, we were committed to completing the study.

Our solution was simple: at least one group member would read the assigned chapter each week, give the group a summary, and lead the discussion. This was great for many reasons. Our guilt was relieved. Everyone led at least twice that Summer, so they read at least two chapters. The group didn’t fall apart. Then, of course, we agreed to never attempt another book study again.

5. Asking for homework reveals a teaching gift.

Carl George has wisely said that if the group leader is assigning homework, then more than likely, the group leader has a teaching gift. Teachers make homework assignments. His suggestion is not to use the teaching gift to assign homework.  Instead, the group leader should use his gift to do the homework themselves, and then teach the group along with the group discussion. While you don’t want to turn the small group into a class, the group leader’s teaching gift can certainly enhance the discussion. Of course, the other alternative would be for the group leader to teach a Sunday School class or a Bible Institute type class rather than leading a group.

Expectations can run awry unless they are clear, reasonable and accountable. The key is buy-in from the group. Adult learners are motivated by what interests them. Imposing something on them is highly demotivating. Taking the time to agree together as a group will greatly reduce frustration all of the way around.

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Most Read Devotionals for April 2011

Here are the Most Read Posts on the Galatians419 blog for April 2011.

1. Dealing with Irrational People

2. The Hardest and Best Thing

3. Emotions Are So Unreasonable

4. God’s Callings Are His Enablings

5. Things I Just Don’t Understand

Thanks for reading,
Allen

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Small Group One on One

By Allen White

What is a small group? In my group, the answer would be either “A group that is small” or “Jesus.” But, the group wouldn’t give those answers. The former answer would come from Jeff and the later from Jamie. (I use these names, because these are their names. We’ll talk about confidentiality another time.)

While anyone can join my group, my group is not just made up on anyone. My group is made up of eleven individuals. Eleven men, each with unique challenges and outstanding gifts. I know them, and they know me. We meet for lunch every Wednesday. We eat at deli’s and sushi bars and Southern barbecue joints. But, we’re also there for each other. The most significant conversations that take place aren’t necessarily around the table at lunch. While we have good Bible-based discussions, we share life in the parking lot afterward and throughout the week via email and cellphone, Facebook and Twitter.

If you treat your group like a class, then you become the teacher, and they receive a grade. Too many tardies or absences and soon they get an “Incomplete.” The difference between a group and a class lies in the center of it. A class is centered on a subject. That class will take place whether you’re there or not. A group is centered on the group members. The connection trumps the content.

Listen to actual group leaders talk about the importance of one on one ministry in groups:

Trouble viewing this clip? Go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fN4gdT-6NHs

The strength of a small group is built on the level of touch and interaction among the members. If your small group members don’t like each other or don’t know each other, then get ready to do something else in the near future. But, on the other hand, personal touch is more needed and more significant now than it’s ever been.

1. Encourage members who were absent.

Chuck Swindoll said years ago, “Every person you see is a person in need of encouragement.” In group life, our members need encouragement when we see them and when we don’t see them. But, following up after absent group members isn’t the easiest thing to do. I’m probably the only person that does this, but when someone misses the group, I think: “I must be a terrible leader. Our discussion wasn’t very insightful. As their group leader and their pastor, I let them down. Maybe I should just quit and let someone else take over the group. People are falling away because of my ineptitude.” Okay, I would never use “ineptitude” when I worry, but you can see where this is going.

A very popular book starts with this sentence: “It’s not about you.” What if they missed because someone was sick? What if there was something more interesting on TV? What if they’re not confident talking about their faith in public? What if they forgot? What if they had to work overtime? What if you as the leader don’t actually suck at all? Could it be true?!

Leaders are the people who do the things that other people refuse to do. Sometimes the hardest thing in the world is picking up the phone, but it’s an important touch. Even if you just leave a personal voice mail, “Hey, we missed you today. I hope everything is alright.” If your group has a Bible study, then the content is stellar, so it must be something else. Their absence could lead to a prayer request, which could lead to another touch.

2. Follow-up on comments and needs brought up in the meeting.

As leaders, we don’t always realize the impact of a statement in the meeting. As much as we put sharing in the group over the study guide, sometimes we’re thinking about the next question instead of the last comment. Then, it dawns on us later that the group member had just disclosed something significant, and we went on to the next question. That’s okay. Pick up the phone and ask the group member what’s going on. Say, “I was just thinking about something you said in the last meeting. I’m sorry I didn’t ask you about it right then, but I just wanted to see what was going on.” It might be nothing, or it might open the door to personal ministry.

If someone is sick or in the hospital, check in on them. Visit them in the hospital. Take a meal to their house. Call them and see how they’re doing and ask what they might need. If you’re not sure whether you should go or not, go! It’s better to show up where you’re not needed than to miss the opportunity to serve.

3. Be normal.

Unfortunately, some of us require a manual on being normal. The Bible tells us to “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, NLT). Celebrate with your group members on their happy occasions: weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms, promotions, new houses, new babies – these things all need celebrating. Then, circle around them when they weep.

We all need our group when we experience significant losses in our lives – deaths and unemployment, struggles and setbacks – this is when we need community, not advice. This is when group members need each other – not to throw down advice or quote Romans 8:28 – but to be there. The more that we can make our group relationships, and discipleship for that matter, a normal part of our lives, the better off we’ll be.

4. What touches are significant to your group member?

Sure, it’s easy to send an email blast to the entire group and “Reply to All” with our responses, but is that actually a touch? One on one ministry isn’t built on convenience.

The Bible tells us to “encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13). How do you do that? If your group member loves to email, then email away. If they’d rather talk in person, then get together for a cup of coffee. If they’d rather text, then text. Offline relationships can be enhanced with online communication. It usually doesn’t work as well in the other direction. (Although I do have a good friend who I helped lead to Christ in an online small group back in 1994 on CompuServe.)

A wise person told me once, “People have more ways to communicate today than never before, yet they are more disconnected than they’ve ever been.” When email inboxes and twitter direct messages overflow with spam, even personal electronic communication can get lost in the mix. Maybe it’s time to go old school with a pen, a card and a stamp. Personal hand-written snail mail definitely stands out these days.

5. Don’t Lead Alone.

As a leader it’s easy to be overcome with a list like this. Most leaders have a job, a family, a life as well as a group. While the group is pretty high on the list, sometimes it’s all that a leader can do just to make the meeting happen each week. The tension is we all need more than discussions with members living disconnected lives. What’s the answer?

I’ve said this before, but while the leader is responsible for the group, the leader isn’t responsible to do everything. The leader’s job is to make sure everything is done, but not to do everything. Ask for a volunteer in the group to follow up on members who are absent, then follow up with the volunteer. If someone in the group says, “I wonder what happened to,” there’s probably a very good reason why they’re thinking about them. Don’t get in the way. Encourage the person who asked to follow up.

John Maxwell is often credited with saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Group life should engage both our heads and our hearts. Group is not something we do. It’s something we are. We can’t say to a group member, “I don’t need you” (1 Corinthians 12:21-25). “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:16, NIV).

Inevitably, we will have one of those days when we stop and think, “I didn’t sign up for this.” We thought we were getting together with other believers to do a nice, neat Bible study. Then, it got messy when people opened up. It got a little complicated when people took off their masks to reveal that they weren’t as together and freshly scrubbed as they usually appeared on Sunday morning. We certainly didn’t sign up for this, but God signed us up. Over the next 30 days, how can you show each of your group members how much you care about them?

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Review: Connecting in Communities by Eddie Mosley

By Allen White

Connecting in Communities is smart on many levels. Eddie Mosley gives us not just the ‘what’, but also the ‘why’ and ‘how’. He is not a philosopher or a demagogue. He is a practitioner with a heart for God and a heart for people. You can tell that Eddie didn’t write this book merely to sell books. He has a genuine passion for small groups and for helping other pastors and group directors.

First, Eddie shows how he has consulted with the best of the best in small group thinking and practice: Steve Gladen of Saddleback Church, Carl George, aka Small Group Yoda, Bill Donahue of Willow Creek, Bill Willits of North Point and many others. Why reinvent the wheel when you can build on the knowledge and experience of others? After carefully gleaning from these thought-leaders, Eddie does an even smarter thing — he adapts the best of these models to his church’s mission and culture.

Too many pastors are looking for a silver bullet out there that will be the one-size-fits-all, homerun solution that will address every issue and help every person grow spiritually. That silver bullet doesn’t exist. Eddie wisely integrates what works for others into what works for his church, LifePoint. In the book, we read about the host home strategy, the GroupLink strategy, the neighborhood strategy, the free market strategy among others. LifePoint has adjusted the strategies to fit the life of the church rather than adjusting the church to fit someone else’s strategy. Too many pastors are prone to throwing out what is working for some and replacing it with what might or might not work at all. LifePoint adds to their success by implementing additional strategies for success. They are in favor of whatever works rather than whoever is right. This is the smartest thinking to come along in a long time.

What makes the book even better is that Eddie shares stories, positive and negative, from his own experience. He is not writing from an ivory tower. He’s writing from the trenches. He lives where his reader lives. His humility in sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly of groups is refreshing and encouraging.

Connecting in Communities is the new primer for small group ministry. Whether you are just starting out in leading groups or you’re in need of a course correction, this book will inspire and inform you of some of the best practices in small group ministry today. The only thing that might have made this book better is if it were mine. Not that I would have done a better job, I would just love to have the credit.

Get your copy of Connecting in Communities.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Related books:

Small Groups with Purpose by Steve Gladen

Leading Small Groups with Purpose by Steve Gladen

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Got Curriculum? Free Stuff.

We are cleaning the closets at Brookwood Church and have discovered a treasure trove of great resources that we’re giving away. You can either pick it up from the church or pay for the shipping. Otherwise, there is no cost. First come, first served.

Find the curriculum list here.

To reserve your copies, please contact my assistant, Lora Catoe at lora.catoe(at)brookwoodchurch.org  (substitute @ for (at) or 864-688-8242.

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Inviting

By Allen White

A small group leader complained to small group expert, Carl George, a while back, “My group members won’t come to the group. They would rather go to the movies with their friends. What should I do?”

Carl’s sage advice, “Thank God that they have friends.” If group members are reaching out to people, then your group will continue to grow and share the love of God with others. No meeting is a chance occasion. There are no coincidences in a committed life. Meeting leads to inviting.

Listen to what Small Group Leader Shannon Perry learned at our recent retreat:

Trouble viewing the video? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51zEkl90xyA

Inviting new people to a group is more than just adding names to a role or increasing attendance in a Bible study. We’re inviting new people into our lives. Group members aren’t merely students in our class. They are companions in our journey. Since the stakes can be a little high on both sides, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Will this be the right fit?

Not every group is for everybody. As a pastor, people have a certain expectation of what a pastor’s small group will be like. Got that image in your head? Okay, that is not my small group. Last summer we did a study called “Jaded.” Get the picture. So, when I launched my small group, we packed out the big table at Panera Bread. The second week, we packed out half of the table.

My group is not “The Pastor’s Bible Study Group” where we can think deep and live shallow. We get real in my group. We avoid the softball questions like “If you were a tree what kind of tree would you be?” My group would simply answer, “Jesus.” If the questions start hitting where the rubber meets the air, then my group makes fun of the questions. It doesn’t matter that I wrote the questions or that I’m sitting right there. In this group, you’re going to get real or get lost. I tend to talk people out of coming to my group at times.

Not every group is for every person. Before you encourage someone to attend your group, find out what kind of group they’re looking for. Then, you might invite them to your group, or you might recommend another group.

2. Invite group prospects the right way.

Groups are not classes that go on regardless of who shows up. Groups are more like family. As Eddie Mosley shares in his book, Connecting in Communities,

“The family usually has an understanding about certain things…This is a courtesy that my mother-in-law taught me. Family members don’t bring someone to lunch without giving her warning first.”

We don’t just bring somebody along because they want to come to group. We ask the group how they feel about it. If they resist for the wrong reasons, then we must address their Bad Reasons to Close a Group . But, in doing the good thing of including others, we don’t want to commit the bad thing of disrespecting our group.

3. Who is God directing into your path?

As Steve Gladen says, “There are members you choose, members who choose you, and members God chooses.” God is at work around us. The question is whether we are aware of what God is doing. We don’t need to gear up for a big sales pitch about how awesome our group is. We just need to ask God who He wants to bring to our group, and then be willing to receive them.

4. Is your group prepared to receive new members?

Introducing new members into a group creates some awkwardness on both sides. It won’t always be awkward, but it might be a little awkward at first. The group must be prepared for a little discomfort. This is one reason why it’s good to warn the group in advance and not have visitors pop in at random every week. If the group is committed to including new members, then the new members may stick. If they don’t, then the group shouldn’t take it personally. Most of us didn’t marry our first blind date.

5. It’s not about you.

After that first meeting, it’s good to follow-up with the new member. At this point, a little fear of rejection will kick in. “Did they hate the group? Do they think I’m a terrible leader? Will they call me back?” Okay, now that that bit of neurosis is out of the way, have the person who brought them to the group follow-up with them. If they didn’t like the group, then help them find another group to try. If they liked it, then remind them of when and where the group meets next and of any preparation they need to make.

Groups are living things. Group members come and go. But, if group members only go without new members joining, then we all know where that group is headed. Inviting new members not only brings new life to the group, it just might bring eternal life to the new member. Pray about who to invite next, then pay attention to who crosses your path.

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