Do you have a Transformational Group?

Today’s blog post is an excerpt from a book written by Dr. Eric Geiger. Transformational Groups He and Dr. Ed Stetzer co-authored Transformational Groups, which helps us to gain insights into the dynamics that cause groups to grow as they seek to become healthy places for people to study and connect.

In this excerpt, Eric and Ed help us understand the need for people to connect relationally by using an airplane illustration, one with which we can all identify. They say:

When we fly on an airplane, we are associated with the people surrounding us. We are on the same flight scheduled to land at the same airport. We experience the same bumps, the same views, and the same food. We arrive at the same gate, at the same time, peruse the same magazine in the seat pocket in front of us, listen to the same announcements, and are greeted by the same flight attendants. But despite having the same experience and being next to one another, we are typically not in community with those around us. We associate, but we don’t participate…We fear many churches are like an airplane. Everyone is headed to the same place and filled with people who associate but who don’t participate…The staff may experience community with one another and may be, therefore, oblivious to the lack of community among attenders. If you are a church leader, don’t settle for mere association. Preach and plan for participation. Don’t be content to lead an airplane-ride church. A church like this has a lot of passengers, but few are transformed. This requires community.

In my experience the groups in which people can connect and form community are smaller, newer, and discussion-centered. How are your groups doing in connecting people in a community of believers who help them experience spiritual transformation?

Would you say your groups ministry is one of association or participation? What about the group you lead?

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Friday’s Hot Links – June 23, 2017

Thank you for following this blog! Fridays are reserved for sending you links to blog posts and podcasts from trusted friends and others around the web. I hope you’ll enjoy reading and/or listening to some of these over the weekend.

Again, I am very grateful to all of you who re-post and re-tweet articles I post that are meaningful to you. You’re helping others find the blog and get connected to thousands of you who follow the daily posts.

Shoulder to shoulder!

Ken Braddy

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10 Ways Pastors Can Support Sunday School and Small Groups

Sunday School, Community Groups, LIFE Groups, small-groups – and the list goes on!  It’s your church’s name for the Bible study strategy you have. It is your church’s expression of obedience to The Great Commission.  Whatever it’s called, it can grow if it is supported by your pastor.  Providing support to the church’s Sunday School or small-group strategy is vital, so here are 10 ways the pastor can support the Bible teaching ministry of your church:

  1. Encourage people to attendsay it from the pulpit.  Let your people know it is important to you, the pastor, for them to be in a group Bible study. What is important to you will become important to the church family. And people, once they’ve become regular attenders in worship, need to know what step to take next. Tell them!
  2. Pay a visit.  Your presence affirms the group leader and his or her group members. It communicates that you are interested in what they’re doing.  Swing by and say hi to a group or two each week.  These are short visits that won’t take a lot of your time, but they create a lot of emotional goodwill between you and the people. If you have the time, sit in on a full Bible study session.
  3. Attend fellowship events sponsored by Bible study groups.  Yes, you’re busy, but occasionally spending an evening with a Bible study group when they have a party is a great way to get to know the members and guests in ways you can’t on Sunday morning.
  4. Preach a series of messages on the importance of Bible study, relationships, and the Sunday School or small-group ministry of your church.  Don’t assume that people in the congregation “get it.”  You’ll want to help them understand the biblical basis for having a small-group Bible study strategy, how it benefits them, and why building relationships with others is so important to their spiritual growth and development.
  5. Interview people during a sermon about how being involved in a Bible study group has made a positive impact on them or their family.  The power of a personal testimony should not be underestimated.  The people you recruit will be able to communicate and reach people you might not be able to reach – because they are one of them!  People expect you to say that Sunday School is important; they know you believe in your small groups…but when a lay person talks about the impact your Bible study ministry has made on them, it can unlock the heart of someone in the congregation and create a desire in them to get involved in a group, too.
  6. Speak at your church’s annual group leader training event, lead a workshop, or just have  a visible presence.  Clear your calendar and set aside this time. Participating says that the Bible-teaching ministry of your church is important, and so are its leaders.  Your absence communicates just the opposite, so “save the date.”
  7. Lead the staff and Finance Committee to budget for the needs of the Bible teaching ministry.  Your group leaders need you to budget for curriculum, training, equipment, supplies, and other things that increase their effectiveness in ministry.  Too many churches have reduced these line items from their budgets and the Bible teaching ministry is on a “starvation diet,” just barely getting by from year-to-year.  Wonder why your groups aren’t growing?  If you starve anything long enough, it will die. How can I tell if your Bible study ministry is really important to you? Just follow the money trail.
  8. Lead the church to remodel current education space or to build new education space.  Nothing shows support like new or remodeled education space.  If your Bible study ministry takes place primarily on your church campus, consider how you might expand it to reach more people through a building or remodeling campaign. Many churches are in need of updating their facilities, and money spent on this is always a good investment in the future.
  9. Schedule an annual commissioning service for group leaders. Make a big deal about those individuals who lead groups. Leading a group is hard work, and leading a group is not for everyone.  Celebrate and support those men and women who tirelessly serve others by teaching God’s Word through an annual commissioning service.  Call attention to them and the importance of studying God’s Word in groups.
  10.  Send three thank-you notes a week to group leaders.  Remember, “Praise is like oxygen to a volunteer’s soul.”  Too many group leaders live in oxygen-deprived environments and are on life support, never hearing a “thank you” from their church leaders.  Praising people provides encouragement and puts a spring in their step.

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10 questions possible group members may ask

Chris Surratt teaching his workshop at the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ

Last week I had the privilege of sitting in a workshop led by Chris Surratt. He is a small-group expert, and has authored the book Small Groups For the Rest of Us.

Chris covered a lot of topics really quickly, but one that I particularly liked had to do with questions a possible group member might have. It’s a great reminder of the mental gymnastics that people often go through in order to step into a Bible study group.

Here, with Chris’s permission, are the 10 questions he believes possible group members are asking:

  1. How much time is this going to take?
  2. What are we going to do with our children during group meetings?
  3. Will there be homework? If so, how much?
  4. Am I going to have to talk, or can I just sit and listen during meetings?
  5. Will I have to pray out loud?
  6. Who else is going to be in this group.
  7. How much do I have to know about the Bible
  8. How many weeks or months is the group going to last?
  9. If I don’t like it, can I leave without people being angry with me?
  10. What are we going to do during meetings?

Potential group members have a lot of questions. Before they show up to one of our Bible study groups, they often have to get over a number of fears. You and I may not understand it, but newcomers have a lot of questions rolling around their heads.

If you are the leader of a Bible study group, think about how you might help answer these questions when potential group members show up. Can you cover them succinctly and from memory? Should you produce a take-home sheet with the questions and answers spelled out? Would it be best to have an email ready to send to a potential group member that covers these basic questions? (Google Mail has a feature called “canned responses” and it makes sending this kind of email very easy…type the text once, save it, and you can send it out over and over again).

Don’t let commentaries become a crutch

Tuesday’s teaching tip is about avoiding a big crutch that some teachers depend on a little too much – Bible commentaries. If you have Bible study materials from a Christian publisher, there will no doubt be commentary imbedded in the teaching plans. Publishers like LifeWay even have inexpensive advanced commentaries for Bible teachers that are designed to coordinate with Bible studies such as Explore the Bible and Bible Studies for Life. Many of you who write your own Bible studies will have commentary sets you’ve purchased over the years. Those books are probably a short reach from the place where you study and prepare your lessons. Don’t pick them up first. Instead, pick up your Bible and read.

While it may be tempting to start your preparation by reading what experts say about a Bible passage, resist the temptation to start there. Instead, read the Scripture passage several times. Jot down insights. Write out questions raised by the text. Identify unfamiliar terms, places, or people. Re-read the passage you’re going to teach in 2 or 3 other translations and note any words that are translated differently. Decide on what the passage meant to the original audience.

Once you’ve done your “homework,” then do some investigation in Bible dictionaries, commentaries, and atlases. Compare your conclusions with those of the experts. Just don’t start there! Commentaries make poor crutches.

 

What Churches can Learn From “The Thank You Economy”

The Thank You Economy is a 234-page book that is an easy read, and one that will challenge you to think about how important social media is to the future of your business (and in my/our case, the church).  The CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, says the book “shows how it’s (the Thank You Economy) built on both the time-honored techniques of listening to and appreciating customers and the newer services like Twitter that allow you to engage directly with customers at unprecedented scale and speed.  The book, like Gary, is a lot of fun and full of passion.”

The Thank You Economy reminds us that we’ve entered a new era, one in which developing strong relationships is pivotal to a brand or a company’s success.  In the past, companies have pushed their messages out to the consumer.  In the new economy, companies will have to develop relationships with consumers, and be comfortable with the fact that they (the consumer) have the power via social networking to influence the buying decisions of friends, family, and strangers.  Shoving one-way communication down a customer’s throat may have been an effective marketing strategy in the past, but not in the present economy.

The author, Gary Vaynerchuk, says that social media has taken us back to a time in our country when people frequented businesses because they liked the owners, felt good about the products, and wanted to help out their neighbor.  He says, “Social media has transformed our world into one great big small town, dominated, as all vibrant towns used to be, by the strength of relationships, the currency of caring, and the power of word of mouth.”  Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites allow us to communicate with friends, family, and others about the experiences we have with companies, products, and yes, even churches (Vaynerchuk does not address the church, but I see large implications for the church in his book).

Church leaders must be prepared to engage people in the social media arena regarding their church, the Sunday School, and other ministries.  Apologize for the shortcomings, don’t hide failures, and be honest and open (authenticity is key) about who you are and what your church is.  Look for ways to engage people in an online conversation about your church and Sunday School as you find places in which people have dialoged in the social media world.  Even negative comments, according to the author, can help you engage people in honest conversation and it will allow an opportunity for many others to see your open, honest, and calm communication with a disgruntled person.

What should the church, and Sunday School, learn from this?

1.  Social media and its influence are not going away any time soon.  Learn to use social media to promote your church and Sunday School in the virtual world.  Spend time searching for conversations about your church and engage people in an honest dialog.  Set aside time each week (daily is even better) to track down conversations in which the subject of your church comes up.

2.  A poor experience at church or in the classroom may be seen by the masses.  Faith Popcorn once called disgruntled customers “vigilante consumers” for their use of social media, phone, e-mail, and word-of-mouth to hurt those businesses that disappointed and/or ignored them.  If you deliver a poor experience to a church member or guest, it may be magnified a hundred fold as they talk about it in social media.

3.  You’re never done.  In the Thank-You Economy, you never are done communicating with potential customers (members/parishioners)…as the author says, “The Thank You Economy rewards marathon runners, not sprinters.”  You’ll want to thank people for choosing your place of business (i.e. church) and continue to engage them after the initial encounter.

To learn more about The Thank You Economy, click here to go to the Amazon website and read details and customer reviews

Friday Hot Links – June 16, 2017

This past week I spoke with dozens of church leaders at the annual SBC meeting in Phoenix, AZ. The temperature was hot, and it approached 120 degrees by the time we left for home! Those who choose to live in Phoenix are tough! The city was a great host to the 2017 annual meeting of Southern Baptists.

Here are some links to other articles and posts from trusted sources around the web. I hope you’ll find them helpful to you as you continue to lead a Bible study group, or your church’s overall groups ministry.  I even included a podcast link to an episode I recently taped for the Groups Matter Podcast. I hope you’ll enjoy listening to it, and to my “radio voice” as some have described it.

Blessings,

Ken Braddy

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