Be a 212 Degree Leader

One degree of intensity makes all the difference. Water is hot at 211 degrees, but at 212 degrees it turns into a cauldron of steaming, boiling water. Steam can power locomotives. And it’s that one extra degree of intensity that makes all the difference. Could one extra degree of intensity could make all the difference in your Bible teaching ministry? The answer is yes.

One extra degree

If you could turn up the heat on your own teaching ministry, what would that look like? Where would you invest just a little more time? A little more energy? One more degree of intensity?

  • Would you study an extra 30 minutes a week?
  • Would you contact one more potential group member?
  • Would you spend an extra 15 minutes a day in prayer?
  • Would you commit to visit a person who’s been absent from your group?
  • Would you search for that one extra illustration or object lesson that would really drive home the point of your Bible study?

The possibilities are endless! Just remember, though, that little things matter. One extra degree of intensity really can make all the difference.


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Leadership Lesson: Gripes Go Up

Here’s a leadership lesson I learned from Hollywood – yes, Hollywood. And it’s a good lesson for those of us who lead groups. The lesson comes from a movie set during WWII.

Tom Hanks as Captain John Miller in Saving Private Ryan

The 1998 movie, Saving Private Ryan, was about a small group of soldiers under the command of Tom Hanks. As their captain, Tom Hanks (Captain John Miller in the movie) had been ordered to take his small squad of soldiers on a manhunt into the French countryside. Their mission? Find a missing paratrooper named James Ryan and bring him back alive. His three brothers had been killed in battle, and the U.S. military was sending him home to his mother since three of her sons had already been killed in the war.

The soldiers in Tom Hanks’ squad began debating the merits of searching the German-infested countryside for the lost paratrooper, Ryan. The soldiers griped to one another, reasoning that they’d probably all be shot and killed themselves, and that one man’s life wasn’t worth the cost of their lives. Besides, they weren’t even sure that James Ryan was alive. It seemed like a futile mission.

That’s when a great leadership lesson took place. One of the soldiers asked the captain, Tom Hanks, why he wasn’t griping, too. The soldier noted that his captain had been unusually quiet and refused to join in the fray. “Gripes go up,” Tom Hanks told his small squad of soldiers. He made sure that his soldiers learned this valuable leadership lesson: good leaders never gripe down to others. If they have a complaint, they take it to their superior, not downward to the enlisted men. Griping down to others would do nothing but cause damage to attitudes, and could hurt the ability to lead effectively.

If we have a gripe or complaint about something related to the church we attend, a staff member, or the Bible study group we belong to, never “gripe down.” If something is really wrong, don’t spread rumors, cause dissension, discourage people, or cause trouble in general. Instead, “gripe up” through appropriate channels. If you have something against another person, approach that person and talk it over, always seeking understanding and reconciliation. If you lead a Bible study group, never gripe down, always gripe up. Griping down to your group members could turn an entire group sour, and that’s nothing a good leader should be a part of.


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The 6 Pillars of Sunday School

Back in the day (yes, I’ve lived long enough to use that phrase now), I learned the six pillars of Sunday School in my courses at Southwestern Seminary. I could recite them in my sleep. They helped me as an education staff leader to keep groups focused on these core tasks. The six pillars are exactly that – pillars that provide strong support for the ministry of Sunday School. They strengthen the work of Bible study groups by helping group leaders stay focused on the essentials. As Vince Lombardi once said about football, “Football is nothing more than blocking and tackling.” He was an expert at keeping his players focused on the basics of the game. That’s what the 6 pillars of Sunday School do – they keep group leaders focused on the basics.

The 6 Pillarssix pillars

  1. Reach
  2. Teach
  3. Witness
  4. Worship
  5. Care
  6. Fellowship

If a group is being led to do these six things, you’ll find a healthy, balanced group. Chances are, though, your group does better at about 3 of these six pillars. It is rare to find a group that accomplishes all six pillars effectively, but that’s the goal. So the challenge becomes shoring up the ones in which your group doesn’t excel. That means getting more people involved in the leadership of the group, and giving them responsibility to help accomplish the six pillars. For more on the topic of calling people alongside you to serve and help, see chapter 3 of the book David Francis and I co-authored, 3 Roles For Guiding Groups.

Pillar 1:  Reach – The group that reaches others operates as an open group – open to the possibility that new people might be present any time the group comes together for Bible study. It acknowledges that one of the primary tasks of groups is to act as missionaries to the culture. A welcoming environment is intentionally created, and guests are treated extremely well by group members.

Pillar 2:  Teach – Most group leaders are going to give themselves high marks in this category. It is exactly what it appears to be – how well the teacher of the group leads his members to engage in Bible study.

Pillar 3: Witness – Evangelism. It’s something most groups could stand to do better. If your group isn’t seeing people saved on a regular basis, perhaps you could brainstorm ways to share the gospel in practical ways. If we don’t take the gospel outside the church walls, we are “fishing in a bathtub.”

Pillar 4: Worship – The things that take place in a Sunday School class should lead people to worship the Lord both publicly and privately. And Sunday School can be a place to prepare people’s hearts for a worship experience, or it can be the place to continue a worship experience, depending on your church’s Sunday morning schedule. But at the end of the day, as we learn more about God’s Word and obey it, our obedience becomes an act of worship to the Lord.

Pillar 5: Care – This pillar has to do with the ways group members demonstrate Jesus’ love to one another in practical ways. Some group members actually drop out of groups when they believe their needs have not been met by the group. It is important for groups to be sufficiently organized to provide care to hurting members. Has your group lost anyone lately because they felt neglected during a crisis? Are they hurt because no one has contacted them during a time of extended absence?

Pillar 6: Fellowship – Here’s another pillar that most groups do well. Fellowships should be regular, and they should always include associate members and potential group members. If the core members of the group are the only ones getting together, you’ve probably got a clique on your hands. Not good.

Which 3 of these six pillars does your group do well? Focus on the remaining three pillars, then, and strengthen them so that you have equal, balanced support that your group needs.

Start With “Why” to Inspire People to Action

Take a look at this video of Simon Sinek (I recommend his book Start With Why) from TED TV.  It’s a powerful message about the importance of reversing the typical way we motivate people to action by starting with “why”.