Friday’s Hot Links – April 28, 2017

I’d like to welcome 67 more subscribers to the blog this week – glad to have you aboard! I am happy you found the blog, and equally happy that you are finding the daily posts helpful in your teaching/groups ministry wherever you are. If you have stumbled into this blog, you can jump from this post to my home page and sign up to receive daily posts Monday-Friday. It takes about 30 seconds – just use the field in the upper right corner to enter your email address…that’s it!

Here’s a quick reminder about a new feature on the home page of the blog: I now have a tab at the top of the page to LifeWay Teacher Helps. This page has links to all three of LifeWay’s most popular curriculum lines:  Explore The Bible, Bible Studies For Life, and The Gospel Project (used by millions of people weekly). If you use those at your church, you might think about sharing the blog with your fellow group leaders and encourage them to use those links to find extra helps as they prepare to guide their Bible study groups.

Hot Links

Here are some links to trusted articles and podcasts from friends around the web. I hope you’ll have some time this weekend to read or listen to some of them!

May God bless you, your church, and your group!

Ken Braddy

Blog Posts You Might Like:

Podcasts You Might Like:

“Stay In Your Lane” as a Communicator of God’s Word

I just completed reading the book Talk Like TED. It is a summary of the 9 communication practices of the persons who have delivered the best TED Talks in the history of that event. I highly recommend this book to anyone who speaks publicly. It’s full of practical insights, advice, and science. The ninth and final secret of great presenters is that they “stay in their lane.”

What does it mean for a communicator to stay in his lane? Since you and I lead groups to study the Bible each week, this is something we must do if we want our group members to buy in to our message. According to the author, Carmine Gallo, staying in your lane means you are “authentic, open, and transparent…most people can spot a phony. If you try to be something or someone you’re not, you’ll fail to gain the trust of your audience…Now I’d like you to set aside the techniques and the science and speak from the heart. That’s right, everything we’ve discussed will be meaningless if you are putting on an act” (p.240).

3 Ways to Stay in your Lane as a Bible Study Leader

Staying in your lane means being the authentic you. It means being real. It means that you make mistakes. It means you don’t always have every answer. It means you’re on a journey to spiritual maturity, just like your group members. To “stay in your lane,” do the following:

  1. Speak from your heart.
  2. Share stories and illustrations from your life.
  3. Bare your soul (within reason) so the people see “the real you.”

If you do these three things, you’ll be well on your way to staying in your lane. If you’re ever tempted to exaggerate, don’t. If you think embellishing a story will make you look bigger in the eyes of your group members, reconsider. If you believe playing the part of “the sage on the stage” somehow makes you more admirable, it doesn’t. Just be you. The real you.

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“Clarify the Win” – Group Leaders will Thank You

You’ve probably heard the expression, “If you don’t aim at something, you’ll hit anything.”  I wonder how many group leaders aren’t sure what they are aiming for each week?  Church staff who lead Sunday School/Bible study ministries  must “clarify the win” for group leaders so they will know what they are supposed to accomplish each week.  Only when the “win” is clarified can a group leader focus his or her energy and attention on accomplishing the “win.”  Consider the words of Andy Stanley in his book Seven Practices of Effective Ministry:

“The church should be more determined than any other organization to ‘clarify the win’ simply because the stakes are so much higher.  Eternity hangs in the balance.  Clarifying the win simply means communicating to your team what is really important, what really matters.  The best way to leverage the collective power of your team is to make sure that everyone knows what it means to “score.”

Nothing hinders morale more than when team members with separate agendas are pulling against one another.  If the win is unclear, you may force those in leadership roles to define winning in their own terms.  If you don’t define winning for your ministry leaders, they will define it for themselves.

It doesn’t take very long for leaders to take over a class, start a new program, begin an innovative ministry, and rally a crowd to follow them.  They may only be ten degrees off track, but given enough time they will miss the target by miles.  It’s not that they are intentionally being defiant or difficult, they’re just being leaders.

But countless leaders have innocently sabotaged their church by leading people in the wrong direction.  And the fault lies with an organization that has not been systematic about defining and clarifying what a win really is.

Misalignment usually happens gradually.  And if it goes unchecked, it can wreak havoc on an organization.  Like the wheels on a car pulling against each other, misalignment will ultimately ruin the tires and waste enormous amount of fuel.”

Several years ago I decided to “clarify the win” for my adult Sunday School teachers and we re-branded our Sunday School.  The name was changed to LIFE Groups and I created an acrostic for the word LIFE that detailed the four key “wins” every group was supposed to aim for.  My group leaders knew the four key tasks/”wins” expected of their classes:

Learn and apply God’s Word to life

Invite others to become Christ followers

Form authentic relationships

Express God’s love by serving others in the church and community

These four statements were a reminder of the four “wins” the church expected of every adult LIFE Group.  We changed the name of Sunday School, but not because we thought Sunday School was an outdated term. We changed the name because we wanted to “clarify the win” for our group leaders and group members.

If you’re a group leader at your church, do you know what is expected of you? If you’re a pastor or staff leader, how might you clarify the win for your group leaders?

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Tuesday Teaching Tip: Complete the Story

Here’s a unique teaching procedure that will challenge your group members and stretch their thinking and creativity! It’s called “Complete the Story,” and here is how you can use it the next time you teach.

Complete the Story

This teaching technique is a creative writing assignment. You can send it to your group members before you meet (asking them to bring it with them to your study), or you can do it in your group’s Bible study.

Complete the Story should take about ten minutes to finish in your Bible study, and it sets up “what if” situations for group members to ponder and write about.

Here are some examples, but you can make up your own:

  • You are the boy with the loaves and fishes. What do you tell your parents when you return home for your family’s evening meal?
  • You are the little girl that Christ raised from the dead. What did you write in your diary the day after you were brought back to life?
  • You are one of the wedding guests in Cana, and you happened to see Jesus turning water into wine. What did you think about this miracle?
  • You are the Apostle Paul. You’ve just been beaten badly by Judaizers and left for dead. As you recover, what are you thinking about them, your mission to the Gentiles, and life since meeting Christ on the Damascus Road?

This kind of teaching technique allows group members to synthesize biblical stories with their feelings and thoughts, and it gives a creative outlet to group members. You may be surprised at the depth of insight that some of your group members come up with in their creative writing assignments!

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Pray for the lost, not just grandma’s stubbed toe

Today’s blog post, like all Monday posts, is a book excerpt. The book I’ve chosen for today is Leader: Creating Commissioned Community. It’s from a series of books that David Francis and I have co-written. This particular book helps focus attention on the need for groups and group leaders to excel in evangelism. Our co-author on this book, Alan Taylor, agrees this important privilege is one given to all groups. David and I are grateful for his contributions to this book. Together with one voice, the three of us have this to say about groups praying for the lost:

The catalytic moment for groups becoming outwardly focused often occurs as attention turns from themselves to others. And not just prayer requests for other people’s jobs, physical health, or finances, but their souls. How sweet is the sound of people praying for lost husbands, wives, children, family and friends? If your group normally focuses its prayers on the group members, begin adding people to the prayer list who are far from God. Pray for them by name, and ask God to use you and the group to nudge them closer to Him.

As I lead my group of empty nest adults to study the Bible, I’m listening for the focus of our prayers. On occasion we lift up a lost friend or family member, but it’s really occasionally. I pray that one day soon we will regularly pray for the lost.

How could you and I as group leaders nudge our groups to pray for lost people more often? I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve had success with this.

The next time you and your group come together, begin leading your group to pray for the lost by suggesting one or two lost person’s names as the focus of your group’s prayers. Encourage your group to think about people they know who need to accept Christ as Lord, and to allow the group the privilege of helping pray them into a relationship with God.

Friday Hot Links 4-21-17

I’d like to officially welcome almost another 100 new subscribers to the blog, including a group of education pastors who participated in LifeWay’s recent M.E. Essentials Conference.

I’ve added a new tab on the home page of the blog for all of you who use LifeWay curriculum in your Bible teaching ministry. The new tab is “LifeWay Teacher Helps” and this page contains links to teacher helps each week. There are sermon outlines, extra discussion questions, and video training sessions – all free. Why would I add this particular page? Because almost 3M people a week use LifeWay’s “ongoing” Bible study curriculum, and teachers are always looking for ways to save time – and oh yeah…my teams create the stuff!  I hope you’ll enjoy this new resource page. If you teach from Explore the Bible, Bible Studies for Life, or The Gospel Project, come here each week and save some time with these helpful free resources! You might want to share kenbraddy.com with  your group leaders if you haven’t already and invite them to come to the site and get these free helps.

Now – the hot links! As you know, I post links to articles and podcasts from trusted sources around the web. Happy reading this weekend. May the Lord continue to bless you, your group, and your church as you teach His Word!

Shoulder to shoulder,

Ken Braddy

Blog Posts You Might Like:

Podcasts You Might Like:

What Walt Disney can teach us about Sunday School

I have a miniature carousel horse that sits on my office desk.  It is a constant reminder of a story I once heard about Walt Disney.  He loved carnival rides as a child.  His favorite one was the carousel.  He reflected on an experience he had as a very young man that, unknown to him at the  moment, would change his life (and probably make a big impact on yours, too). From a book on the leadership secrets of Disney, here is a quick paraphrase of the event:

When a carnival came to town one day, Disney waited in line to ride the carousel.  He could hardly wait to take his turn and ride the it!  He gave the attendant his ticket and quickly mounted one of the carousel horses. To Walt Disney’s dismay, he had picked a horse that was broken.  The horse didn’t “jump” like the rest of the horses.  He was very disappointed.  If that wasn’t enough, he realized the paint was chipped in many places; some people had even carved their initials into the horse.

This was not the experience he had hoped for…and it certainly wasn’t the experience he’d payed for.  Little did Walt Disney know it, but this experience would be the catalyst for his dream of a theme park where excellence would be the norm.  Walt’s motto for Disneyland became “All horses jump, no chipped paint.” It was a challenge to each and every employee to create an experience for guests that was nothing short of excellent.  What does Walt’s “All horses jump, no chipped paint” motto have to do with your Sunday School?  Everything.

In his classic book The Frog in the Kettle, George Barna noted that “Local churches must take a  hard look at their performance and dedicate themselves to excellence in all they do.  In today’s marketplace, people are critical and unforgiving.  They have high expectations, and they give an organization only one chance to impress.  In this type of environment, a church would be better off doing a few things with excellence rather than many things merely adequately.” Excellence matters.

You might be wondering what excellence looks like in your Bible teaching ministry.  I’d like to first  suggest a definition of excellence:  “Excellence is an attention to the detail.” Think about that for a moment.  If you pay attention to details, excellence will happen.  Excellence is in the small things.  Take care of those and you’ll have an excellent Sunday School.

Here are some ways your group can aim for excellence:

  1. Wear name tags – Nametags help people get to know one another, and they “level the playing field” so that guests can call people by name. Nametags help people fit in, and anything that reduces awkward experiences for guests is a good thing.
  2. Provide extra chairs – nothing says “we weren’t expecting you” more than not having enough chairs. If guests have to stand around while someone from your group runs around looking for additional chairs, you probably just lost them.
  3. Provide guests with Personal Study Guides (PSGs) – Give each guest their own copy of the PSG your class uses, and build an expectation that guests will return the following Sunday. Even if they don’t, you’ve given them the gift of God’s Word and a way for them to self-feed and study for themselves until they come back to visit your group again.
  4. Use a variety of teaching methods – If your group members know what to expect, it’s time to change things up.  Move beyond lecture and use other teaching methods to help learners actively engage in Bible study. There are 8 learning approaches you can use (I’ll write another post on those).
  5. Fast follow-up – Once a guest visits your group, don’t delay in making contact. Contact by a church member is several times more effective than contact by church staff (guests will expect a contact from church staff, but contact from a church member is a welcome surprise).
  6. Start and end on time – It may seem like a little thing, but it’s important to be respectful of people’s time.  Watch the clock and manage your group’s time. Respect those who arrive on time by starting on time.
  7. Fellowship regularly – Be sure to get together regularly outside of the classroom. Monthly fellowships and quarterly ministry projects help people build relationships beyond the kind they do during your group’s Bible study. And when your group gets together, always – always invite your guests to the party.

These are small things, but excellence is in the details.  Think about more ways you can create a culture in which “All horses jump, no chipped paint” in your Bible teaching ministry.

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