Win $600 in DVD Small Group Curriculum

Win $600 in DVD Small Group Curriculum

The contest has now ended. Instructions were left to give context to the comments below. Thanks for entering. Congratulations to Dan Brubacher. His curriculum reject, “What’s That? A Biblical Look at Infectious Skin Diseases” cracked me up.

My friends at only144.com are offering my readers a chance to win $600 in curriculum. Let’s have fun with this. Create a title for a study that no one would ever publish. If you can make me laugh out loud, then one humorous reader will get the whole shebang. Here’s what you will win:
LoveLife with Mark Driscoll

How is your love life? Think it could or should be better? Married? Single? College Student? No other area of our life impacts our quality of life more than this one. It can lead us to the best of times and for many of us it has led to the worst of times.
The LoveLife Conference is a 6 hour investment into your present situation, your future and truly even your kids and grandkids. One of, if not the most important role we can play with our kids is giving them a happy and well-adjusted home, and that starts with a healthy marriage. An ounce of prevention is most certainly worth more than a pound of cure.
LoveLife features best-selling author, Pastor and International Christian Leader Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. With The Bible, primarily the Old Testament book of Song of Solomon as Pastor Mark’s guide, he will teach us with humor, candidness and grace, God’s design for Love, Dating, Marriage and Sexuality.
Our LoveLife events are designed for anyone 16 years or older, both married and single. God’s direct teaching on this subject will be convicting where needed, full of grace and forgiveness, and filled with tons of practical advice straight from the Giver of Love and Romance, God Himself.

Philippians by Matt Chandler

Join Matt Chandler, Teaching Pastor of The Village Church in Dallas, TX, as he walks us through this most intimate of all Paul’s letters and paints a beautiful picture of what it is to be a mature Christian.

The story begins in Philippi where Paul introduces three individuals that were all enslaved by the kind of things that we often choose over the gospel: Lydia, the Business Executive, The Little Slave Girl, and The Hard Working Jailer
Their lives portray dysfunction and emptiness, but are totally transformed by the Gospel. True joy and Christ’s love begin to live within them, giving them a life of purpose. In fact, Paul himself was enslaved and then by God’s grace and mercy he could pen these popular and profound words: To Live is Christ and to Die is Gain. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Song of Solomon by Tommy Nelson

Used and loved throughout the world, the Song of Solomon series teaches the Biblical design for relationships. For both singles and married couples, this exegetical study follows Solomon’s relationship from attraction to dating and courtship, marriage and intimacy to resolving conflict, keeping romance alive, and committing to the end. This 10th Anniversary Edition (released in 2005) updates Tommy Nelson’s original study with updated teaching and added features.

Here’s How to Enter and Win: (This Contest has Ended).

  1. Leave a comment below. Leave your humorous (but appropriate) never-published curriculum title below. (Comments on this blog are moderated, so don’t worry if your comment doesn’t appear immediately.)
  2. Tweet a link to this post. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can use Facebook. For example: Win $600 in Small Group studies just by being funnyhttp://wp.me/p1qrsD-gv #only144
On Thursday, July 28, I will select a winner from whoever makes me laugh the loudest.
Thanks for reading,
Allen
How Do You Know When God is Speaking to You?

How Do You Know When God is Speaking to You?

By Allen White
“I believe that God is directing me to ____________________.” How do you handle that in a small group? Whether the group member feels led to quit his job, move to another state, or end a relationship, how do you help your group member discern the truth?

From the very beginning, God has been in relationship with people. Today, we’re not walking in the garden with God in the cool of the day or getting inspiration to write new books of the Bible, but God does speak to us. The question is how do we know that it’s actually God and not wishful thinking or indigestion? Here are some tests for what you might be hearing:
1.       What does the Bible say?
As followers of Christ, we believe that the Bible is God’s Word. All truth is God’s truth, certainly. But, any direction attributed to God must square up with God’s Word. God isn’t going to contradict Himself. That wouldn’t make any sense.
Let’s say your group member feels closest to God in nature, so he feels led to quit his job and spend more time seeking God out in the woods. The problem is that he’s not independently wealthy and isn’t ready to retire. His wife will have to carry the load of the family finances. She hasn’t worked outside of the home for years, and he would basically expect her to do everything she’s doing now, plus provide the total family income. This may seem farfetched, but in over 20 years of ministry, I’ve heard some doozies. This one is hypothetical, however.
While it may seem spiritual to connect with God in a peaceful place, it’s also spiritual to provide for the needs of your family. If you don’t, you’re worse than an infidel (1 Timothy 5:8, KJV).  When God’s leading conveniently confirms our own desires and violates God’s word, then we must question whether the person has actually heard from God.
This is just a silly example, but I’ve heard of people feeling led to leave their spouse, stop paying their taxes, stop giving to the church, buy a new car, drill an oil well in a specific spot – you name it. While God does speak to us, the primary way He speaks is through His Word. If what they are hearing doesn’t line up with Scripture, then they need to listen again.
2.       How does it line up with other circumstances?
Sometimes people feel a leading from God to escape a problem. I believe that we should allow God to help us work through problems. We come out better people on the other side. “But, my wife just left me. It’s the perfect time for me to go to the mission field.” Not so fast there, buddy. On the Holms-Rahe Stress Test, divorce is one of the highest stressors there is. (And we didn’t need a stress test to tell us that). If you add leaving your home, friends, and your church to taking on a new job, a new culture, a new climate, a new language, and so on, not to mention the spiritual toll of divorce, it’s the recipe for disaster.
But, sometimes the circumstances line up. When the person is not in the middle of a problem, when they feel a leading and finances line up, and the house sells, and the spouse agrees, God’s plan just might be coming together.
3.       Has the person sought godly counsel?
Who has the person consulted on this leading? Have they talked to mature believers and pastors who will ask the hard questions and tell them the truth? Or, have they just sought out people who would easily agree with them? Every believer needs people in their lives who love them, but aren’t impressed with them.
They shouldn’t be in a hurry for quick affirmation. It’s important to ask others to discuss the potential leading and to pray with them. God often uses others to confirm a leading.
4.       What does the group members sense in their guts?
When the group first hears the news, what is their reaction? What do the faces around the room say? As you’ve spent time together, you’ve started to get to know each other, good or bad. Does this news fall in the category of group excitement or “Here we go again”?
5.       What other confirmation have they received?
Is there independent confirmation? Someone out of the blue says, “You would be really good at…” then describes exactly what the person feels led to do without any knowledge of the leading. The Lord works in mysterious ways, but not in careless ways.
If the person is gaining confirmation from dreams or fortune cookies, then he needs a little help. If he feels led to buy a new white car, suddenly he will see white cars all around him. Guess what? They were already there.
6.       What if they’re unwilling to listen to others?
There is a place for godly counsel, and then there’s a place for the person to make his own decision. Even if he makes a mistake, it’s his decision. If you and the group strongly feel that he is in error, once you’ve had your say, don’t continue to bash him. But, you also don’t need to offer support for the endeavor.
The Bible tells us, “Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.” (Proverbs 20:30, GNT). If the member will not listen to the group, then there’s no choice but to allow them to have the experience and learn from it. You should continue to pray for the person and show concern for him. You should also avoid trying to rescue the person when things go south.
If the person is particularly obnoxious about it, then the group might need to implement the disciplinary teaching in Matthew 18:15-17. The last resort would be for the group and the individual to part ways.
Sometimes people get caught up in the moment and feel that God is calling them. Sometimes God does. How do you know? If it’s a calling, then it will last. If it’s a temporary feeling, then it will pass – unless he’s already told people, then his pride might get in the way of his senses.
You want to encourage people to listen to God. These situations come with a label – “Handle with Care.” But, as you guide your members through these criteria to confirm their callings – God’s Word, circumstances, godly counsel  – God’s leading will become clear. All of us make mistakes along the way. But, if we don’t try to discern God’s voice, then we never will. The goal is to hear God more clearly with less confusion. It’s possible to lead your group members there.

How Can I Get My Group to Share at a Deeper Level?

How Can I Get My Group to Share at a Deeper Level?

By Allen White
While some folks seem to prefer a Shallow Small Group, many small group members joined a group for relationships that lead to spiritual growth. If the conversation continually just skims the surface, some members will go looking for a scuba diving group or at least one that requires hip waders. But, what are these members looking for and how can your group get there?
Going Deep-small
1.       How Deep is Deep?
If your group is looking for depth spiritual growth, I’m not sure that parsing Greek verbs will get you there. I don’t know if a cathartic experience of reciting the details of painful pasts will accomplish that either. The problem with most people seeking a deeper experience is that they don’t actually know what they want.
I recently recommended a curriculum named “Deeper” to a small group leader. She told me that it seemed kind of shallow. Every group is at a different place of maturity. What’s challenging to one group might be child’s play to another. The key is to ask your group to describe as best they can what they expect of the group. When someone throws out “deep,” ask them what they mean by deep. There are many varieties of deep.
2.       Speed of the Leader = Speed of the Team
The leader sets the pace for the group. If you want your group to become more transparent, then the leader must become more transparent. If you want the group to personally apply God’s Word, then the leader needs to talk about his or her struggles with making that application.
Sometimes leaders resist opening up, because they’re the leader. They feel the need to come across as more together than the rest of the group. They might even aim for perfect. After all, if the group members knew their flaws, they might leave the group. Actually the reverse is true.
Your group members will identify with your weaknesses and failures more than they will connect with your strengths and successes. Why? Because every one of us has failed. Every person has weaknesses. When my wife and I brought our baby home after months in intensive care, people called me for counseling. I told them, “I’m really not a counselor.” They told me that they wanted to talk to me because I knew what it was like to hurt. That pain transformed my ministry.
As the leader, you set the tone for the openness of the group. If you’re group isn’t getting “deep,” check your own depth meter. It might be time to offer a little more transparency.
3.       Confidentiality is Key.
In order for group members to share their thoughts and feelings about life, God’s Word, or anything else, they need to feel safe in the group. What happens in your group must stay in your group if you want your group members to share openly. Gossip is a group killer.
Make confidentiality a key point in your group agreement. When new members join your group, you don’t need to share the entire group agreement, but  at least make it a point to talk about the importance of confidentiality. There will be awkwardness anyway, but getting the new folks’ agreement to confidentiality is the first step to everyone feeling safe in the group.
4.       Fixing is Forbidden.
When someone shares in the group, the response can’t go to advice giving. They don’t want to be fixed. They want to be heard. When others in the group chime in with advice, the person sharing quickly shuts down. Remember what your mom said about why you have two ears and one mouth?
Probably one of the worst examples of fixing happened in a group I lead in the early 90’s. We were a group of six: one older couple, one younger couple, a middle-aged single guy, and me. During our prayer time at the end of the meeting, the younger couple asked for prayer because they were having trouble getting their one-year-old to go to sleep. She was often staying up until midnight.
The middle-aged single guy began to give them parenting advice. He had never been married. He didn’t have any children. Yet, he was carrying on about how they should put their child to bed. We all sat there frozen. We didn’t know what to say. Finally, after a few minutes he ran out of advice or at least words. It was the dictionary definition of awkward.
In a group meeting a few weeks later, I simply asked everyone to listen to each other’s prayer requests without making comments. Our offender wasn’t offended, and he obliged during prayer time. Fortunately for the group, that never happened again.
5.       Acceptance is Oxygen.
Openness requires acceptance. Your group members are asking themselves, “If I share something hard, will the group accept me or will I feel embarrassed?” They aren’t looking for helpful hits or advice. They want understanding. They want acceptance. They want the group to not act weird after they share.
Appropriate responses sound like “Boy,  that must have been hard” or “I can’t imagine how painful that would have been.” What they don’t want to hear is “My cousin had the exact same problem…” or “I know exactly how you feel.” Is that even possible?
The group should respond with enough so that the person sharing knows that he’s being heard. But, not so much that he feels interrupted or brushed aside.
If the sharer has a bad experience, he might leave the group. If he is a no show for the next meeting, it’s important to follow up with him. You don’t necessarily have to bring up the topic. Just let him know that he was missed, and you’re looking forward to seeing him next week. If he admits feeling awkward in the group now, diffuse his concern: “Everybody in the group has gone through tough things. No one is judging here. We accept each other just the way we are.”
Whether your group is looking for deeper Bible study, deeper sharing, or deeper dish pizza, it’s important to start with expectations of what the group should be. If your group is the place for your members to decompress from the worries of life, then make it a value to let it all hang out. If your group is longing for deeper spiritual things, then find an appropriate study, set the right tone, and remind the group of James 1:26-27. (If it’s pizza, I recommend Lou Malnati’s).
But, remember, the pace of the group starts with you. Group members typically won’t go any deeper than their leader. Take the plunge yourself, and your group will also go deep.

Is Worship in Small Groups Even Possible?

Is Worship in Small Groups Even Possible?

By Allen White
Worshipping together in a small group conjures up a lot of awkward memories. Even if you find a guitar player, few people sing, and no one sings very loud. The discomfort usually causes groups to abandon further attempts at worship. But, if you want to have a well-rounded, purpose-driven group, how can you successfully worship?
Guitar player
1.       You need louder music.
Seven people sitting in a circle trying to sing along with an acoustic guitar spells disaster in most situations. A few people barely sing. If you know the words, you close your eyes or look down at your shoes. If you don’t want to sing, you just pray that either the music will end soon or the rapture will take place.
Worship DVDs can be a good alternative. The DVDs usually have the words and a visual, so everyone can look at the TV rather than working hard to avoid eye contact. The key is to crank up the volume. If you want your group to sing, the music needs to be loud enough, so people don’t feel self-conscious.
Two or three songs are sufficient to focus the group away from the worries of their day and into the presence of God. The group may not be into it initially, but they will discover that this is a great transition from the outside world to the group.
2.       Music is only one form of worship.
Worship in group can be built around methods other than music. You can read a Psalm with instrumental music playing in the background. Someone could read a poem. The group could write their praises on helium balloons and release their balloons to lift up praise to God.
As Executive Director of Lifetogether, I planned to open a conference using a worship DVD. Unfortunately, the DVD didn’t work. So, we worshipped with Alphabet Praise. I called out each letter of the alphabet, and everyone chimed in with something they were thankful for or a word describing God’s character that began with that particular letter. I warned the group ahead of time that the letter X was coming. I was afraid that we would have to skip that one unless someone was really into xylophones. A woman in the back exclaimed, “X-rays that show my cancer is gone.” I’m glad we didn’t pass on X.
There are many great worship ideas for small groups on smallgroups.com and other online resources.
3.       Celebrate Communion in your group.
Communion is a symbol of what Jesus did for us. Since communion is a symbol, you don’t need silver trays or wafers that taste like Styrofoam. You simply need bread to represent Christ’s body and a drink to represent His blood. Any kind of cracker or even matzo would serve the purpose. On the drink, you should err on the side of caution and go with something non-alcoholic.
The practice of communion is as easy as reading directly from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. You can offer prayers or not. The important thing is to remember Christ’s work on your behalf and in your lives.
My favorite communion elements are a loaf of French bread and bunch of grapes. Each person takes a hunk of bread and several grapes and shares communion with other people in the group. Sometimes this becomes the time to repent of an offense and to seek forgiveness. Often it’s a time to encourage each other and to share appreciation.
4.       Give a group member the worship responsibility.
As the small group leader, your plate is pretty full already. Who in your group would be interested in leading the worship portion of your group? Has anyone asked about having worship in the group? Rather than trying to figure out how you are doing to accommodate their request, why not ask them to head it up?
5.       Worship as a group at a Sunday morning service.
The easiest place to worship together as a group is during a Sunday morning service at church. Rather than attempting music in your group, why not have the “professionals” lead your group in worship? It’s a great group dynamic to attend the same service and sit together. This also encourages your group members to attend the services.
Worship in a group can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. By asking someone to champion worship in your group and trying different ways to worship, your group will grow in enjoying worship together.
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1. Are You Discipling Your Online Followers? 

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3. Is Pornography Adultery? 

4. Rethink Summer 

5. $10 Can Change a Life in India

6. How Do I Get My Group to Do Their Homework? 

7. Very Cool Donation to Water of Life 

8. How Do I Deal with Group Members who Gossip? 

9. Small Group One on One 

10. Turning Wine into Grape Juice 

Top 1o Small Group Leader Posts of All Time on Upstate Groups