Why Writing Curriculum is Better Than Buying It

Why Writing Curriculum is Better Than Buying It

Why Writing Curriculum is Better than Buying It

By Allen White

With so much curriculum available on the market today, why write your own curriculum? Curriculum from publishers is written by professional, well-known authors. It has been thoroughly edited and proofed. The curriculum is designed and printed. All you need to do is buy it, right? While you can purchase the right study with the right topic (and without the work of creating your own), there are some distinct advantages to writing your own curriculum.

Integrate Your Church’s DNA into the Study

Published curriculum is written based on someone’s else’s doctrine, point of view, and even denomination. If those things align with your church, then published curriculum should be the way to go. But, even if the curriculum comes from your denomination, doctrinal statement, and point of view, it won’t reflect the vision and values of your church. Every church is unique. Even churches in the same tribes vary widely according to their region, their culture, their setting (urban, rural, suburban), their demographic, their ministry approach and so many other things.

You can hang your church’s mission statement on the wall, where everybody can see it, but few will remember it or live it out. Or, you can bake your vision and mission into every lesson your group members study and help them better apply your church’s vision and values to their lives.

Some churches will even name the main sections of their curriculum template after their church’s values. Let’s say your church’s mission is summed up as Connect, Grow, Serve (which is a great assimilation strategy, but is not a discipleship strategy. Read more here…). The icebreaker section of your curriculum could be the Connect Section. The Bible discussion could be the Grow Section. And, the application questions could be the Serve Section. This is not a great example, but you get it.

In order to reinforce your church’s values and take your people deeper into your church’s interaction with the community, writing your own curriculum will remind people of where the church is headed. Vision leaks. Your curriculum can recast vision on a weekly basis.

Motivate Your People to Do and Not Just Talk

A great deal of published curriculum focuses on a knowledge-based approach to discipleship. Don’t get me wrong. God gave us a book and a brain. That’s not a coincidence. Reading and studying the Bible is important. But, living out what the Bible says is even more important. After all, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17).

Often published curriculum leads people into gaining more knowledge about the Bible and a greater understanding of the meaning of the text. But, is it changing their lives? D.L. Moody put it this way, “The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.” If your people are growing in knowledge, but lacking in transformation, there is a problem with how they are studying the Bible.

By writing your own curriculum, you can help your members set weekly goals for themselves, participate in specific community projects, or take on an assignment to apply your Bible study where the rubber meets the road instead of where the rubber meets the air.

As Howard Hendricks said, “Most believers are educated well beyond their level of obedience.” By writing your own studies and directing your members toward lesson outcomes that focus more on obeying God’s direction rather than outcomes focused on mere education, you will take them closer to Jesus’ instructions to “teach them to obey all I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).

Include Future Leader Development

Curriculum does not need to serve just the single purpose of Bible study. You can integrate leadership development into each study. Rather than spending hours training group leaders to develop apprentices, you can put the leader training directly into the group study. Write questions that will help group members get further involved in the group. Nothing is off limits. Ask group members, in the lessons, to share responsibilities for the group like facilitating the discussion, leading a prayer time, opening with an icebreaker, hosting the group in their homes, bringing refreshments, organizing a serve project, or planning a social event. Group leaders can delegate everything they are currently doing to the group members. The only thing they can’t delegate is the responsibility for the group.

By including these instructions in the actual lessons, even if the leader is reluctant to ask group members to participate, the curriculum asks for them. If you provide a sign up sheet or calendar for group members to record their assignments, then it’s all set. The leader no longer has to carry the entire burden of serving the group. The members will feel greater ownership for the group. Future leaders will be identified and developed to lead future groups.

You have to do this yourself. Very little published curriculum includes small group leadership strategies as part of the lessons.

Reduce Your Curriculum Costs

Published curriculum is expensive. The average study guide will range from $8-$20 per person. While that’s merely the price of a good cup of coffee or two, for some people and for most budgets, curriculum costs are expensive. If your curriculum is video-based, then you’re probably shelling about another $25-$35 for DVDs or streaming video. Fortunately, this is not the only way.

By creating your own curriculum, you can output your lessons as a pdf and upload your videos to Youtube. There is very little cost. If you want to up the ante and provide a professional looking study guide for an alignment series or church-wide campaign, services like Amazon’s CreateSpace offer print-on-demand services. For instance, my All In study costs $2.34 per copy. You can publish books on Kindle for free or upload video to Amazon Direct Video and not charge anything. You could even use a digitally interactive format like Connector.org which integrates video and print content.

Creating your own curriculum will not only reduce costs, but will provide flexible formats for your groups. For more information on creating curriculum teaching videos, go here.

Keep What’s Important in Front of Your Groups

Publishers care about providing quality resources to help your group members interact with God’s Word. They use very gifted, well-known teachers and speakers to produce these resources. They can do a lot of things that most church’s can’t. But, there is something they cannot do.

Publishers cannot customize their curriculum for your church. But, you can. As I stated before, you can integrate your church’s mission, vision, and values into every lesson. You can lead your people toward serving your community by including details of upcoming outreach events in the lessons. Even better, you can lead the group through a discussion on serving and outreach with your serving opportunity as the outcome of the lesson. You can train your group members to become group leaders by including your leadership training in the actual lessons instead of a page in the appendices of your book.

I’m not saying to avoid published curriculum. But, I do want you to consider the possibilities of writing your own curriculum. It’s your responsibility to lead your people, not a publisher’s responsibility.

This fall I am offering a 4-week Writing Effective Curriculum Workshop. For more information, click here.

The Right Topic Will Make or Break Your Fall Launch

The Right Topic Will Make or Break Your Fall Launch

By Allen White 

Nothing will accelerate your group launch faster than the right topic. When you choose a theme for an alignment series that is a common felt need in your congregation and your community, people will run to join groups. But, the reverse can also be true. Choosing the wrong topic will drive them away.

1. More “Mature” Topics Will Limit Your Launch

Several years ago, I was working with a church that started every year with a 21 day fast. They wanted to design a curriculum to support the fast. While I would never attempt to talk a church out of such a significant initiative, I did caution them that forming new groups might be a little challenging. On the bright side, the refreshments would be very easy. They started a handful of new groups for their members and had a great experience with their fast. But, they were far from involving the entire congregation.

Some topics are for more mature believers rather than for people in the community who may have never darkened the door of your church. Anything to do with money: budgeting, giving, generosity, capital campaigns, and so on are challenging to form groups around. While many people need help managing their finances, too many evangelists desiring $65 million jets have created a poor association between the church and money for most of the world. Don’t go there.

Other topics like evangelism, spiritual disciplines, and spiritual gifts are great for the congregation, but probably won’t draw much interest from the community. There are ways to promote these topics more indirectly.

Instead of creating an alignment series around a capital campaign, why not create a series around what the church is raising money for? If the church is taking new initiatives to help the poor or become a resource in the community, then these are the topics to promote. Maybe the church is investing in the next generation. People are very concerned about the world their children will grow up in. They can get behind the vision of the church to reach the community, and then they might even give.

Instead of creating curriculum to teach your people evangelism, why not produce a series that is evangelistic? Talk about the needs in the community. You could even include a presentation of the Gospel. You could do evangelism with the curriculum rather than teaching how to do evangelism. A series like All In focuses on the story of Jesus and offers the Gospel message.

There are ways to introduce mature topics to a broader group. But, the largest group launches come from topics that touch a nerve.

2. Felt Need Topics Will Attract People Who Need Help

When you talk to your neighbors and others in your community, what are they concerned about? Many people struggle in their relationships, their marriages, and their parenting. These are great felt need topics which can reach a broad audience.

People also deal with anxiety, worry, and stress. Some feel like giving up or are lost in even successful careers. What will bring them meaning and hope? Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef who recently committed suicide once asked, “What do you do after your dreams have come true?” Even those who seem to have it all often feel a deep void. How can your series help them?

Of course, the granddaddy of all church-wide campaigns is The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren. Other series which have drawn in the community include Kerry Shooks’ One Month to Live, Live Like Your Dying, and Half Time by Bob Buford. I’ve worked with churches to produce series that deal with leaving a legacy, common fears, hope, or ambition that have helped some churches more than double their current numbers of groups. A couple of churches now have twice as many people in groups than they have in weekend attendance.

3. What is Your Senior Pastor Passionate About?

The best topic you can choose for a successful curriculum and group launch is the idea that your pastor is the most passionate about. Does he have a life message or dominate them he speaks about often? Does she have a clear direction on what the Fall series should be? The best topic is not necessarily the hottest topic to the church, but the hottest topic for your pastor.

Once you have that direction, you don’t have to start with a blank piece of paper. Most pastors have files full of sermons they’ve preached over the course of their ministries. There is no shortage of content. Why not research the pastor’s hot topic in past sermon files? You’ll be surprised what you come up with.

And, remember, you’re not creating the next Purpose-Driven Life! Your study may not make the bestseller list, but your pastor’s teaching on your video-based curriculum will be very popular with your congregation. What’s even better is that when your felt need topic draws in the friends, neighbors, and co-workers of your members into groups, they will be introduced to your pastor through the video curriculum. When these new folks are invited to church, they will feel like they already know your pastor from the videos!

Concluding Thoughts

Where are you headed this Fall? If you’re creating your own curriculum, I hope you’ve already started. If not, there are semi-custom offerings from allinsmallgroups.com and other sources that have scripts and study guides already written. The hard work is taken care of. Your pastor just needs to personalize the scripts and shoot the video. If push comes to shove, curriculum you purchase can also help you form new groups as long as your pastor is passionate about it.

The topic will make or break your next alignment. Where are you headed?

The Easter Hangover Cure

The Easter Hangover Cure

By Allen White

Easter services are the biggest of the year in most churches. Everyone who calls your church home, their friends, and plenty of visitors pack the house. You and your staff give it your all. The music, the creative elements, the sermon — everything is planned, prepared, timed, and executed to a tee.

Our buildings are packed with dozens to thousands of people. A good number of those folks met Jesus for the first time. Now, we need to go lay down.

In fact, in our exhaustion, we might even question why we did everything we did. Some have even plunged from delight into despair. If Easter was the peak, then next Sunday will be the valley. In a culture where people attend an average of 1.6 times per month (or less often), we won’t see many of them again for at least six weeks or six months. Should we just throw in the towel?

Okay, what if I told you what you are experiencing is actually normal? You have an Easter hangover. Here’s what to do:

Take Care of Yourself.

After a big event, we all go through what Dr. Archibald Hart refers to as post-adrenaline depression. Dr. Hart said his most dreaded time of the week was the Sunday night at the airport after a successful weekend conference. He questioned himself. He questioned his content. He wanted to jump out of a plane at that point without a parachute (my words, not his). Why?

Once we’ve expended our energy and given it all we’ve got, our bodies and emotions tend to shut us down. We can’t do any more. The body needs to recover, so it will do what it takes to discourage you from taking on any more in the near future. Don’t fight it. Take a nap. Eat. Relax. Go hide somewhere. Your body will thank you. But, if you don’t, your body and emotions will punish you. You’ll question your calling. You’ll type out your resignation. You’ll grouch at your wife and kids. Your dog will resign as your best friend. It can get dark.

Drs. Minirth and Meier in their book, How to Beat Burnout, said we should take care of ourselves in this order: First, physically. If we don’t feel good physically, then we don’t feel good about anything. Second, emotionally. Do something you enjoy. Watch a comedy. Putter around your house. Veg out. Lastly, spiritually. Don’t take on any issue related to your calling, your mission, your effectiveness, and your ministry until you have recovered physically and emotionally.

When Will You See Your Easter Crowd Again?

It really depends on your next step. I just talked to a pastor today, who is launching a series alignment next Sunday. His sermons for the next eight weeks will go along with a small group study. Groups are forming next weekend at a luncheon. He announced the series on Easter and is ready to give everyone a next step so they can grow spiritually in a group.

Easter services can’t just be about Easter services. You have everyone who calls your church home and quite a few others under the same roof at the same time. While those make amazing worship services, it’s an even more amazing launch pad for groups. Just ask Gene Appel who launched 460 groups off of Easter weekend with his Hope Rising curriculum.

Okay, I’m frustrating you. Unless you have a modified DeLorean, Easter 2017 is now in the rearview mirror. What can you do now?

You could choose a small group study that goes along with your next message series or create your own THIS WEEK to launch with the groups next weekend. I might be crazy, right? But, you could write five or six questions to send out with a five minute video for your new groups to discuss. Next Sunday invite your congregation to get together with their friends and a few new friends, then have a get together. Promise them that you will have curriculum in their hands or in their Inbox by the next Sunday.

Curious? Join me for a webinar called The Easter Hangover Cure this Thursday, April 20 at 11am ET/10am CT/ 9am MT/ 8am PT. To register: CLICK HERE.

 

Pick up your copy of Exponential Groups: Unleasing Your Church’s Potential by Allen White at exponentialgroupsbook.com, Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, Cokesbury, and Christianbook.com.

[Part 1/3] Connecting Your Entire Congregation: 3 Secrets to Discipling a Growing Church

[Part 1/3] Connecting Your Entire Congregation: 3 Secrets to Discipling a Growing Church

By Allen White

By captainvector via 123rf.com

By captainvector via 123rf.com

After the dismissal of our founding pastor, our church was devastated. Everyone left who was in favor of our pastor. Everyone left who was against our pastor. And, all of the staff left, except for me. There I was with the 85 remaining members praying about what to do. It was a hard year.

On the very last Sunday of that year, our new pastor joined us, and hope reappeared. Our church started growing — not dramatically, but consistently.

When we reached 250 people, we heard our congregation say, “I don’t know everybody anymore.”

When we went to two services and reached 400 people, the comments changed to, “I can’t find the people I do know.”

Everybody didn’t need to know everyone, but everybody needed to know someone. We knew it was time to start groups.

I attended conferences, read books, and interviewed other pastors about small groups. The more information I collected, the more confused I became. We launched our groups for better or worse. Some of what we experienced was better than expected. The things we didn’t expect were worse.

Here’s what worked for us:

1. Small Groups Connected Our People Like Never Before.

As our church continued to grow, we didn’t want to see people get lost in the shuffle or fall through the cracks. Even though they didn’t come all at once, they were coming in a steady stream. We needed to start connecting and discipling folks ASAP.

As our couple of Sunday school classes and our midweek Bible study were declining, we found that groups were a great place for people to connect and go deeper into God’s Word. We offered a variety of curriculum for our groups to choose from. Since we only started with a few groups, it was easy to keep an eye on them and know what was going on. If a group started to stray toward the “loony fringe,” we very gently guided them back into the fold. Things were under control.

We made announcements in the services, sent postcards in the mail and emails, and featured groups regularly in the church bulletin. Our groups started to gain momentum.

In fact, we couldn’t recruit new leaders fast enough to keep up with the demand.

2. A Quality Group Experience Starts with Quality Leaders.

Now to make sure we didn’t set ourselves up for trouble, I took on the task of personally recruiting every group leader. I had been at the church for seven years at that time. I pretty much knew the good apples from the rotten apples. (And, God loves the rotten apples, too.)

The easiest place to start was to round up the usual suspects. You know, the folks we counted on for everything. I personally invited board members and founding members as well as other solid citizens. It didn’t take much effort to quickly find 10 willing leaders who I believed would offer a quality experience.

Admission: I also knew that they wouldn’t cause any problems for me. I was wearing a lot of other hats like children’s ministry, leading worship, and overseeing all of our ministries, plus speaking on Wednesday nights and occasionally on Sundays. I did not need any more problems. I had enough already.

We weren’t reaching for explosive growth. After all, since our church was growing steadily, but incrementally, we felt the gradual growth of groups would serve us well. I mean, we weren’t Saddleback or Willow Creek. There was something special about them. Normal churches like ours weren’t seeing huge percentages of people connected into groups…at least not yet.

We offered the groups to our people, and they signed up. Once the groups were full, then the rest of the folks who wanted to join a group had to hang out in the midweek Bible study with me or in a Sunday school class until the next batch of group leaders were ready to go. Even though we let a year pass before we offered groups again, we launched six more groups the following year and quickly filled them up as well.

Things were going well in the “trouble-free” department. Our groups were coming along. And, our church kept growing steadily.

Value: A quality group experience starts with a quality leader.

3. Don’t Skimp on Coaching and Training.

Every year I would gather my new recruits into a “turbo group” by way of Carl George and his book, Prepare Your Church for the Future. We spent six weeks as a small group with the intention of every leader or couple starting their own group when the training was over.

I trained them on why groups were important; how to deal with various issues in the group like over-talkers and conflict; how to recruit an apprentice leader; and how to birth a new group. The training was in the format of a small group, so based on a Bible study, I was modeling a group meeting while I was training the leaders.

After the training ended, and the leaders started their new groups, we met monthly for group huddles. While I did have a couple of other people helping me coach the leaders, I was still learning about group life myself, so I did all of the training and led the monthly huddles. The coaches visited groups and connected with the leaders.

Result: We developed a solid groups system with 30 percent of our adults in groups.

As our church continued to grow, our groups also continued to grow. Groups weren’t keeping pace with the growth of the church, but we achieved 30 percent in groups, which somebody told me once put us in the top 1 percent of all churches in the U.S. — not too shabby.

The plan was for every group leader to indentify and train an apprentice leader. Then, once a year, the group would help a new group get started either by the leader starting a new group, the apprentice starting a new group, or the group dividing into two groups. With group multiplication and the new recruits I was inviting, we were on a good pace to double our groups or better every year. I looked forward to the day when group attendance would exceed worship attendance.

But, it started to feel like I needed another 100 years to catch up with the increasing size of the congregation.

Quick Recap:
Secret #1: Small Groups Connected Our People Like Never Before.
Secret #2: A Quality Group Experience Starts with Quality Leaders.
Secret #3: Don’t Skimp on Coaching and Training.

Where We Failed: Bottleneck!

Failure #1. The way we recruited leaders and launched groups couldn’t keep pace with the growth of the church.

The harder I tried to recruit more leaders and launch groups, the behinder and behinder I got. Some years we started 10 groups. Other years we started two groups. One year my training yielded zero new groups.

As the church continued to grow by 13 – 33% per year, our group formation just couldn’t keep up. More people were getting lost in the shuffle, and more leaders were not stepping up at the rate we needed them.

I thought I had a good thing going by recruiting well-known people myself. The problems were kept at a minimum. But, now we faced a much bigger problem — where were the leaders going to come from?

Failure #2: Our leaders couldn’t identify an apprentice leader.

I put a lot of pressure on the group leaders to identify and train their apprentice. After all, the future of our small groups depended on apprentices, or at least, that’s what it seemed like. In every huddle and every encounter with the group leaders, I would emphasize the significance of raising up an apprentice leader. My words didn’t fall on deaf ears. They fell on stressed ears.

My leaders would pass me in the hallways on Sunday morning and say, “I’m working on my apprentice.”

I thought, “Whatever happened to ‘Hello’?”

The apprentice strategy was going nowhere good.

Failure #3: No one wanted to give up their group to start a new group.

Since the group leaders weren’t recruiting apprentices, I took the initiative to recruit potential leaders right out of their groups. There were great candidates right under the noses of the group leaders, but they just didn’t see them. I did!

Before they knew it, the new recruits were in my Turbo Group and headed toward leading their own group. The only problem was that while these potential leaders agreed to participate out of loyalty to me and the church, their hearts weren’t in it. They didn’t want to give up the group they loved. They were torn.

After the six weeks of training was complete, instead of going forward with a new group, many of them went back to the group they came from. This wasn’t progress. This was regress. My efforts were actually working against me.

Failure #4: After seven years of effort, our groups were stuck…

While we had 30 percent of our adults in groups, and our church was allegedly in the top 1 percent of all churches in the U.S., I felt like a loser. The church continued to grow. The groups were stuck. No new leaders. No new groups. No apprentices. So, I gave up on this strategy.

At the end of my time at this church, 125 percent of our weekly adult attendance was connected in groups.

I want to share with you a new strategy we created to recruit more leaders, form more groups faster, and maintain a quality group experience.

 

5.5 Questions with Alan Danielson

5.5 Questions with Alan Danielson

By Allen White Alan Danielson

My guest today is Alan Danielson, the Lead Pastor of a church that’s probably a lot like yours. New Life Bible Church is a church of a few hundred people, but not long ago he was on the executive staff of Life.Church in Edmond, OK. Now, along with pastoring New Life, Alan is a consultant and has worked with many of America’s largest churches. Alan founded Triple-Threat Solutions to help leaders of and churches of all sizes grow. Learn more from Alan at http://www.3Threat.net.

Q1: You’re not new at small groups. Over the years, what trends/methods/strategies in forming groups have stood the test of time?

Oh boy, I have several things that come to mind.  The first and most obvious answer is leadership.  Every group that lasts needs a leader.  There are “leaderless” methods for starting groups but these groups only last long-term when someone in the group demonstrates leadership.  They may never actually give someone the title of leader, but make no mistake a truly “leaderless” group won’t be a group for long.

The second thing that pops into my head is coaching.  I’m a huge believer in small group coaches.  I’ve heard lots of people claim that coaching doesn’t work, but that has certainly not been my experience.  By providing coaches to connect with and guide my small group leaders, I’ve given them all a lifeline and a partner.  I once asked my friend Dave Treat why some people are down on small group coaching when it has proven to be so important to me.  He said, “Coaching works, but people are lazy.”  What that means is that coaching is hard work and it only works if pastors and other leaders will put in the effort needed.

Thirdly, I think of church wide small group campaigns.  Campaigns are such a simple tool for launching new groups and getting new people connected.  If a campaign is followed up by capable small group coaches, the new groups can last a long time and provide a great platform for discipleship.

Q2: When you think about methods like church-wide campaigns and other ways of rapidly forming groups, do you see these srategies going the long haul? Why or why not?

I’ve seen both.  I’ve seen churches run campaigns, start a ton of groups, get bunches of people connected only to see those groups fizzle out after a few months.

I’ve also seen churches run campaigns, start a ton of groups, get bunches of people connected and then see the groups last and build tremendous relationships that change lives.

So what’s the difference?  The first two things I talked about after your first question: leadership and coaching.  At some point someone in the group has to take up the mantle of leader (whether they want the title or not).  The perfect person to guide the would-be leader through that process is a small group coach.  A well-trained coach can help people make the transition into leadership well.  Without leaders and coaches, small groups quickly implode, collapse, dissolve or just fade away.

Q3: You’ve served as a small group champion as both a small group pastor and a senior pastor. Where have you been the most effective in group ministry? What made it more effective?

Well, it depends on what you call effective.  When I was a campus small group pastor at Life.Church we developed 544 groups on a campus of 7,000 people.  544 groups sounds really impressive, but I was never impressed.  We averaged 8.45 people per group which translated 4,597 people connected.  That still sounds like a lot.  But when compared to our campus attendance of 7,000 it meant that just under 66% of our weekend attenders were in groups.  In school 66% is a D.

When I was promoted to executive groups pastor over all of our campuses we got to nearly 1,100 groups total for all of our campuses.  That came out to 9,295 people in groups.  At the time we were running 28,000 on all campuses meaning we had 33% of our total attendance in groups.  That’s an F.

Now I’m the lead pastor of a church of 300 and we have about 80% of our people in groups.  That’s much better.

What made the difference in these three different settings?  Leadership and coaching.  On the one campus where I led the small group ministry, coaching was a critical component.  When I was given charge of all 13 campuses, we were in the middle of implementing our coaching ministry on all campuses.  If I’d stayed there longer I believe we would have broken the 66% mark and gone even further.

Here’s the big takeaway: small groups and coaching work in all churches of all size.  Success is determined not by the slickness of the strategy but by the break-neck-work-ethic of every leader involved (from the pastor to the group leader) and high value of small groups in the church.  My current church will one day hit, and I believe exceed, the 100% mark because, as the lead pastor, I am committed to our strategy.  Then I hire staff who share that commitment, who recruit coaches who share that commitment, who train leaders who share that commitment.

Q4: What is different about Group Life in Oklahoma than in other places?

The Food!  When I was a pastor in Santa Fe, New Mexico, you could be sure that every small group had some form of green chile every week.  In Oklahoma there are lots of veggie trays, followed by some kind of meat and dessert.

Seriously though, I don’t really think there’s much difference.  People are people everywhere you go.  As I’ve consulted with churches all across the country I’ve noticed that people crave connection everywhere.  Every neighborhood needs groups who will care for the neighborhood.  Every person in every church needs healthy relationships and needs to grow spiritually.  The biggest difference is simply one of awareness.  In the Oklahoma (often called the buckle of the Bible Belt), more people in the culture are aware of small groups or Bible study groups.  In Portland, Oregon the average person hasn’t heard of such a thing.

Q5: When we first met, you were the small groups pastor at LifeChurch.tv (now Life.Church). What did you small group structure look like across multiple campuses? Were groups consistent across campuses or did that matter?

The goal was to have a consistent group strategy and structure on all campuses.  It was to be built on three basic building-blocks:  leaders, coaches and campaigns.  We did two campaigns every year, so we needed coaches on every campus who would develop great leaders in a very short time.  That’s a pretty over-simplified summary, but I think you get the gist.

Anyway, when I became the point person overseeing groups on all campuses, the group ministries did not have a very consistent look.  My predecessor had encouraged lots of experimentation on every campus, so there were definitely differences from one campus to the next.  These differences were both good and bad.  The good thing was that each of our 13 campuses was a laboratory where we could try different strategies and tactics.  The bad thing was the tendency of the campus groups pastors becoming too attached to their own way of doing things.  This led to quite a bit of tension.

Okay, before I continue I have to give you a little more context.  What I’m saying may sound like I’m running down Life.Chruch, but that’s most definitely NOT my intent.  Remember, when I was at Life.Church, the multi-site movement was still very new.  In many ways we were making things up as we went along.  We quickly became the biggest multi-site church in the country and had few examples to learn from, so we made a TON of mistakes.  That’s why I’m very comfortable sharing that we got an “F” for only 33% of our people in groups.  But in this case and “F” is not automatically a failure.  We didn’t necessarily view each experiment as “success” or “failure”, but as an “opportunity to learn”.  Even things that didn’t pan out like we’d hoped taught us a lot.

So through all of this I learned that the most important part of leading multi-site small group ministry came down to the campus small group pastor.  If the campus small group pastor was a teachable, team-player, he/she was far more likely to utilize the basics that we wanted to implement on each campus (the basics being the things I mentioned earlier:  leaders, coaches and campaigns).  The independent-type campus group pastors had a tendency to try to blaze their own trails.  Rather than building upon something proven effective, they often tried to start building from a new foundation.  This often led to slower success. Under my leadership, the ideal personality-mix for a campus group pastor was a creative person who is willing to learn from and follow their leadership.  Rather than being trail blazers (or sometimes even rebels), these types of campus group pastors implemented the basics and experimented with ideas only if they would enhance or improve the basics.

Q5.5: As the co-owner of the second largest Star Wars fan site in the world, what is your favorite Star Wars movie?

It’s episode V, The Empire Strikes Back!

 

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