Small Group Pastor: I want to steal your ideas!!

Do you lead adult ministries, a small group ministry, or community life? If so, let’s talk.

In addition to all of the great lessons from mega-churches around the country, I sense important innovation and tomorrow’s ideas for community are being birthed in medium-size churches like yours. So let’s share . . . EVERYTHING.

I’ll start then I’d love to hear what you’re up to!

How do you engage people into groups?

We use a unique “on the spot – during the service” method. (Imagine North Point’s GroupLink in the middle of the message.) It helped us engage 1,000 adults in groups this Fall matching our weekly adult attendance.

How do you prepare new leaders?

You can download a copy of our BFC Group Leader Orientation HERE.

I know you’re being creative and strategically solving obstacles that would help me and others. Share whatever you like in the comments so everyone can benefit. Or, feel free to email me at markariggins@yahoo.com.

Finally, my wife set up our personal camcorder during one of our Group Leader Orientation a couple of weeks ago. If you’re interested, check it out. HERE is the group approach we’re pioneering.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/47910588″>Group Leader Orientation #3</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user13066718″>Mark Riggins</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

You’re busy. Why?

You’re busy so I’ll keep this short. Busyness has become a cultural value.

Illusion: Busyness = increased value.

Truth: Busyness = emptiness.

“Busyness may feed your ego but it will starve the people around you,” Pete Wilson.

With every meeting and project opportunity, the only person prioritizing your family is you. Your Heavenly Father and your family want you more than what you can produce.

Your season of life may require busyness. But don’t fall for the illusion that busyness increases your value or improves the lives of the people around you.

Learning from WIPEOUT

Our family loves the show WIPEOUT! It’s a great example of “art” imitating life.

We all begin our own race of life hoping to advance on our pre-determined course. We begin running and with each step we pick up a little speed and a touch of increased confidence. Just when a smile creeps across our face WHACK! BAM! Something unforeseen sucker punches us in the face knocking us completely off our feet. As we spin in the air we are in shock. Finally, with a sudden thud we hit the ground. We lay on our backs dazed and wonder, “What just happened?”

Jesus said, “At some point in the future you WILL fall…guaranteed.” (See Luke 17:1) Now that’s a hard truth isn’t it?

Solomon (wisest man outside of Jesus) said, “Live life with others who will help you up when you fall.” (See Eccl. 4:9-10)

No matter what your future holds it will be better if lived with others. How will you leverage this principle in your life?

Dinner Around the Table

Last week I was listening to Andy Stanley’s monthly leadership podcast when, almost in passing, Andy emphasized the importance of families having daily dinner around the table. “There is NO substitute for the family sitting together around the table for dinner each night,” he said.

My wife and I are blessed because both of us were raised in families that sat down and ate dinner together regularly. But our family doesn’t. We spend time together daily but “sit down” dinners have been happening a couple of times a week.

After talking to my wife, we both decided we want our family to sit down together for dinner each night. For us, there are a couple of obvious obstacles:

  1. Our schedules are busy (we both work and like to workout in the evenings)
  2. We don’t have a table/indoor space to make this comfortable for our family of six

We decided that our family sitting down together for dinner each night should be a priority . . . even if the meal is casual. So it was time to tackle our two obstacles.

Obstacle #1: We realized as school begins this is the perfect time to arrange our schedules around our new priority. We are establishing our dinner time at 5:30pm (our stomachs are still on central time). Each evening everything (including our workouts) will revolve around our 5:30pm dinner time.

Obstacle #2: Saturday morning we went to garage sales looking for a larger table. We found a patio furniture set at an estate sale that will meet our needs perfectly. (In SoCal outdoor dining is common and preferred.)

So this week we began something that we hope continues daily . . . family dinners around the table.

Beyond your feelings

My feelings guide me accurately sometimes. Other times, they completely betray me.

Feelings are good indicators but terrible leaders.

When you feel down what do you do? When your feelings are “hurt” what do you do?

If you’re like me, you’re tempted to embrace and dwell on those feelings.

There’s got to be a better way. So what can you do? After all, feelings are a powerful inner force!

I want to boss my feelings around instead of the other way around. So here’s a formula that’s been helping me take control of my feelings:

1) Truth > 2) Thoughts > 3) Actions > 4) Feelings

Notice that feelings are last. When I feel something I need to quickly compare it against what I know is true. The power of your feelings will often die in the shadow of the truth.

When I think (meditate) on the truth and then act on it, my feelings will fall in line. Why? Because feelings are good indicators but terrible leaders.

Isn’t it interesting that the Bible doesn’t tell you how to feel? Instead, Scripture (truth) instructs you how to think and act knowing your feelings will ALWAYS follow.

Let me give a personal, recent example:

On Saturday my entire family went on a garage sale tour around town. This is rare for me because I don’t enjoy this type of adventure but I wanted to “take one for the team” and be with my family. Early in our drive my oldest daughter asked my wife, “Mom why is Daddy going with us anyway?”

Honestly, that immediately hurt my feelings. I felt unwanted and under-appreciated. I spent a few quiet moments thinking about how I felt. (My real inner battle was rather to let feelings or truth lead.)

Then I asked myself “What do I know is true?” The truth is God gave me these wonderful kids. I am the only Dad they will ever have. They need me to be mature enough to lead them and reflect God’s love instead of sitting and sulking. Remembering that truth, I decided to act on it.

I took a deep breath and calmly talked to my daughter about why she had asked her question that way. We talked and then before long we were all excited about our adventure again which lasted more than two hours. My feelings quickly followed my actions. Wow! I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on that moment because I allowed my feelings to lead.

What do you do when your feelings want to overtake you? Are you choosing to live life beyond your feelings?

Impacting the world while loving your family

As a leader you’re so future-focused that you can leave relational, financial, and organizational chaos in your wake because once you’re finished with a project you immediately move on to the next “thing”. 

It’s great that you’re future-focused. In fact, that’s God’s thumbprint on your heart!

But how do you look ahead while still looking around? How do you impact the world while loving your family?

Here are two important practices:

1) Define the future by writing down your preferred future.

The hunger for progress within you is an appetite that’s never fully and finally satisfied. Part of the reason you need to write down your preferred future is to fight the “hunger for progress” within you. This helps reveal progress while creating focus within your current context.

2) Monitor 3 gauges

GAUGE #1: Personal health

If you ignore your body, you undermine your future.

“What works better for your day – exercising 1 hour a day or being dead 24 hours a day?”

 You can’t have a productive future without a physical body.

If you’re going to ignore your health it’s like gathering your spouse and kids and telling them that you’re not going to take care of your body now but you’re expecting them to take care of your body later.

GAUGE #2: How are the emotional gauges of the people most important to you?

Nobody wants to tell the story of a broken home with a divorce, estranged kids, and broken relationships. But if you’re only looking ahead and not stopping to measure the emotional gauges of those closest to you you’re going to write a story that you’re not proud of.

This is the one that trips up a lot of leaders. There’s no quarterly report providing you immediate feedback. You only get to raise your kids once. There’s only one “cycle”.

How do you measure the heart gauges of your children and your marriage?

Family operates on the law of the harvest. You sow and sow and sow then when your kids are adults you reap.

Listen to your spouse. Don’t assume: Ask them how your marriage is going. Create a rhythm/routine that includes daily and meaningful interaction with your kids.

GAUGE #3: Why am I doing this . . .  really?

You get emotionally engaged with something in the future and then tell your brain to create justification. Because you’re smart you can do that. That’s why many leaders drive a vehicle they can’t afford and live in a house they can’t afford.

Are any of these tripping you up? If so, here’s what I know about you: Leaders learn what they need to know in order to do what they need to do.

This is all from the most recent Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast. I summarized it in today’s blog because I benefit so much from this free monthly leadership podcast and I think you should too. Subscribe via iTunes or by clicking HERE.

4 ways to lead your church according to Jason Garrett

I jumped in my Hyundai to drive to an appointment. I put the windows down and turned the radio on. I began listening to Los Angeles sports talk when I heard Jason Garrett (head coach of the Dallas Cowboys) being interviewed. The Cowboys are in neighboring Oxnard for training camp.

Jason was asked, “With the storied tradition of the Dallas Cowboys, how do you plan to lead this organization into the future?” Jason Garrett, who has a degree from Princeton, quickly shared four things that he suggested every leader do to lead effectively. Here they are:

1) Cast a clear vision

2) Recruit a team to accomplish that vision

3) Recast the vision daily

4) Hold people accountable to the vision

Then Jason said, “That’s what leaders should do if they’re leading the Dallas Cowboys, ESPNLA 710 radio, or Joe’s Ice Cream Shop.”

I’d add God’s church. 🙂

Are you doing what’s expected?

I was leaning against the fence in the 70 degree sunshine. Oblivious to the crowd, I stared intently at the practice. Each time a player would run by I would envision what his life was like. I would imagine what it was like for a gifted athlete to try out for a professional football team. For the first time he was “just another athlete” among many “equals”. He was on the edge of fame and fortune. Yet, he was on the edge of a dead-end road with a broken dream.

The Dallas Cowboy’s Training Camp practice came to an end and eventually the players made their way from the field to the team hotel signing a few autographs on the way. But there was a notable exception. More than half-an-hour after practice, Jason Witten continued practicing with his position coach on the field. The other two healthy tight-ends (both trying to make the team) both appeared to be content to “call it a day”.  They did nothing wrong. They showed up on time. Practiced hard through the designated practice time. They did exactly what was expected.

Maybe that’s the problem. Jason Witten isn’t an average player because he exceeds what’s expected.

Jason’s a first-ballot Hall of Fame candidate in the prime of his career. His position on the team couldn’t be more secure. Yet, after many players who may or may not make the team had left the field, there was Jason – working and learning.

As a follower of Christ, your eternal position is secure. It’s tempting to simply do what’s expected isn’t it? You’re doing nothing deviant or immoral. You wouldn’t think of it. You attend church. You might even open your Bible between the weekend services. You’re doing what’s expected.

But God seems to always use atypical people who are willing to do more than what’s expected. The road to impact always includes extreme sacrifice, suffering, and risks.

It’s easier to evade risk, avoid “messy” people, invest in no new relationships, pass on opportunities to stretch ourselves, decline chances that stretch our giving, and allow our calendar to lead us. You know – just doing what’s “expected”.

But you don’t want the minister to eulogize you at your funeral by repeatedly saying, they did what was expected as he secretly fights back a yawn.

Where is your faith being stretched? Who in your life has permission to challenge you if you start “mailing it in” with your life? Are you “staying after practice” in some area of your life for the Kingdom?

What Church Teams Should Learn from the U.S. Olympic Team

The U.S. Olympic team won the overall medal count with a total of 104 medals and the gold medal count with a total of 46 gold medals.

When asked why he thought the U.S. team was so successful, swimming star Ryan Lochte said the spirit in the U.S. camp was the primary reason behind its exceptional performance. “The whole team supports each other, and that is a huge thing,” said Lochte. “You take out anything negative … and good things happen.”

The U.S. Olympic team believes it performs best when there is support. You and your team do too. What keeps your team from performing at their best? The most common culprit is a lack of support.

So how does your team create support? 

 1. Private Feedback/Public Praise

“Be a raving fan publicly and an honest critic privately.” – Andy Stanley

Time and time again the TV camera would catch an American athlete (swimmers, gymnasts, runners, etc.) encouraging another American athlete. I couldn’t help but imagine the private, robust conversations they’ve probably had in the past to help each other improve. But the olympics was a time to encourage each other!

Is your team consistently supporting each other publicly? Are there opportunities for honest feedback privately?

 2. Take out the negative

Ryan Lochte said, “Take out the negative and good things happen.” A negative atmosphere will KILL chemistry every time. That means we’ve got to eliminate the negative.

A negative person, ministry, or situation will create a bad atmosphere. Dealing with each honestly and quickly is difficult but critical.

Chemistry is critically important and should be measured during the hiring process. I shared some thoughts about that HERE.

Why is this important? Though we’re not pursuing medals, we are equipping and encouraging people to pursue crowns.

Why you might not be experiencing authentic worship at your church?

German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer made a one-year trip to America in 1930. He observed that American churches lacked life-changing impact and authentic worship. There was one exception: the African-American churches. According to Bonhoeffer, the African-American history of suffering ignited a holiness and life-changing power from God that was unique compared to other American churches.  

More than 80 years later, let’s make an observation of American churches. Many churches have increased production quality, resources, and creativity. (Much like the churches Bonhoeffer visited in the Northeast in 1930.) However, the influence of churches is significantly lower based on the percentage of people who attend.

Suffering and broken people have always filled churches. So if Bonhoeffer’s premise that suffering increases authentic worship is correct, why doesn’t God’s life-changing power infuse the worship of all churches?

As pointed out by Bonhoeffer, there seems to be a correlation between open brokenness and authentic worship. Could our churches be working too hard to avoid brokeness with polished ministry?

If open brokenness leads to authentic worship, how can your church create a culture of open brokenness? Here are four ways that came to mind:

1. Scriptural teaching. The story of human brokenness saturates Scripture. Recognize and identify with it in your teaching.

2. Resource an active recovery ministry. This will bring openly broken people into the church family making authenticity more “contagious”.

3. Model authenticity. As you evaluate your services is authenticity being valued?

4. Small groups are fertile ground for authenticity. Group leaders should model this and encourage a different member to share their life story each week.

Everyone’s story includes brokenness. That unites us in a profound way. Brokenness invites God’s power into our lives and our churches.