Category Archives: Groups

How many RED groups do you already have?

A RED group is, by definition, Reproducing, Evangelistic and Discipleship orientated.

What that means is that the group intends to multiply. It intends to multiply through reaching out to others rather than waiting for them to come. And it intends to grow people to be like Jesus. How many of those do you have in your church? How many of those would you like to have? You probably have more in your church than you think.

Here I am going to use the word ‘Evangelistic’ in a broader term. In this article I am defining ‘evangelistic’ as the act of reaching out to those uninvolved with the intention of involving them. A lose definition but a helpful one. A mindset of reaching out beyond our own group is contagious and will lead to a desire for evangelism toward seekers.

Within any church there are a lot of small groups of people. Some of these sets are organised and some aren’t. And they go by all kinds of names. Bible Study Groups, Connect Groups, Care Groups, Prayer Groups, Youth Meetings, MOPS, ALPHA, Committees, Teams, Worship Teams, Ministry Teams to name a few.

Although they all have different purposes they all have a few things in common. They are small. Each group can grow through recruiting outsiders, growing them, developing leaders and giving birth to new groups. The church (and God’s Kingdom) will grow as these groups multiple.

Firstly, they are a small group. By definition a small group is small. Sounds obvious I know. The strength of growing and multiplying small groups is that it decentralises ministry. For example, if all the pastoral care was in the hands of one person then as the church grew the quality of pastoral care would diminish. If the pastoral care was decentralised across a growing network of small groups then the quality could be maintained as the church grew. Likewise, in a decentralised network if one group leader is struck with illness (or needs to step down due to sin) the whole network isn’t affected.

Secondly, each group has outsiders that they could recruit to make the group larger, develop new leaders and birth new groups with a similar purpose. This is also true of a worship team. If you have 1 drummer, 2 guitarists and , 1 keyboardists and 3 singers who make up the worship team and they sought to RED their group then purpose over the course of a year or 2 you would have 2 worship teams. This could lead to a second service or even a church plant.

 

Lastly, when every group (team, committee) within the church is looking to reproduce leaders, recruit new people and help each grow the impact is a growing church. When different groups in your church take on board a reproducing, evangelistic, discipleship mindset it affects everything. The guy at the sound desk starts to ask who else could be discipled in their role. The drummer starts to help others to learn, not just the drums, but how to love others through music and worship.

Which of the two scenarios would you prefer?

A team of 2 greeters who faithfully, cheerfully, and lovingly meet people at the door for 10 years.

A team of 2 greets who faithfully, cheerfully and lovingly group their RED group. They invite people to be a part of their team. As new people join their team they begin to disciple them in hospitality. As the new team members learn how to create a warm welcome for visitors they in turn also recruit others and disciple them. As the team grows they find new ways to offer hospitality and welcome to visitors. They make sure that no visitor is left standing alone after the church service. They spend extended time with guests. They help connect those on the fringe with connect groups and affinity groups.

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This is the most effective thing to do to grow health and numbers in your discipleship groups

Men_Praying_3-407x275There are a lot of activities we can do for our small groups. But there is one thing that we all know that we need to do more of. You will hear preachers preach it. You will discuss it at length in your groups. In leadership meetings it comes up all the time. And now, research has shown that it is in fact the most important thing you can do to grow your discipleship group. In the very well researched book, Small Groups, Big Impact, they say, “The practice that impacts the health and growth of a small group the most is the prayer life of its leader.  If you walk away from this book with only one insight, perhaps it should be this: If you want a vibrant and growing small group, consistently take time to grow in your relationship with God!” If you want to grow your group, pray.

The prayer life of the group leader impacts every other area of group health. If you want to increase the outreach to those far from God – pray. If you want to increase the love of group members toward one another – pray. If you want to increase the empowering, equipping and releasing of members to leadership – pray. Their  research shows that those leaders who were strong in their prayer life were four times more effective.

But this we already know.

The reality is that we already know this. We already know that prayer is crucial. There is nothing this research is telling us that we don’t already know. We know we need to be strong in our prayer life. Living it is another story.

It is difficult to have a strong prayer life. Spiritually there is active warfare against you when you seek to pray. We need to draw near to God and resist the devil. Secondly, our culture creates lives that are often very busy. To be stronger in prayer we will need to carve out time (this may not be as hard as we think given that on average Australians watch 2 hours of TV per day!) Lastly, we need to stand against our own sin nature that moves away from God. How we see God will impact how much time we spend with him.

What’s interesting, though, is that the amount of time we spend praying is not as important as what we pray for. Passionate, focused prayer is the key. There are 3 key areas to pray for a healthy growing group.

Firstly, pray for those far from God to come close to God. Pray for an area of your city to have more disciples of Jesus. Pray for people you know who are far from God to hear about how to follow Jesus. Take time to listen to God for any ideas on what part you are to play in fulfilling this prayer.

Secondly, pray that your group would have love for one another. Pray for there to be a high level of encouragement, of laughter and of honesty. Pray that they would deeply forgive one another.

Lastly, pray for the leaders you are raising in the group. Pray for them to have courage in the group to practice their leadership. Pray that they would be empowered by God’s Spirit to be bold in starting a new group (or taking over this group so that you can start a new one).

If you find it hard to find time to pray then I suggest the following two tips. Firstly, watch a little less TV. Watch a little less and pray a little more. Secondly, drastically reduce the amount of time you spend preparing the Bible study for the group. Again, in their research they found that the amount of time preparing for the group had no bearing on health or growth of the group. Spend that time preparing your heart instead of preparing the lesson. I suggest moving to a discovery Bible study format instead.

I think one word that best describes how much time you should pray is generosity.The Apostle Paul tells us that God loves a generous giver. I think that applies to time as much as it does to money. So be generous with your time. What does a generous amount of time for God look like for you? That’s a great place to start. God doesn’t despise the little things. Give what you got.

Be a generous giver of your time to prayer and specifically pray for those three things and see what impact it has on your group.

Let me know how it works out for you.

 

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One thing you must do to get your disciple-making beyond second generation

Most discipleship programs are jug to mug. By that I mean, the teacher/disciple-maker talks and the student listens. The teacher may ask questions for understanding but that’s about it. This type of discipleship will lead to head-knowledge but very little else. Knowledge of what to do does not equal the ability to do it.  Training and practice are required if one is to grow and be like Jesus. This style of discipleship almost never attains reproduction. What you end up with is a teacher with students or a preacher and a congregation. Personally, I don’t like it. Jesus asks his disciples to go and make disciples. That commandment is not the number one commandment (or even number two) but it’s still an important command for the church today. No MAWLThe commandment is given to everyone. When a disciple-maker stops people from going and making disciples they undermine the obedience of those they are teaching. We teach so that lives may be transformed, so that people can live well in the Kingdom of God. Why on earth would we ask them to be disobedient to God’s Word when his Word brings life? When we fail to encourage and teach others to fulfil the Great Commission we are undermining their obedience and the good life that Jesus talks about. To me, this is like a music teacher always showing the student how to play the instrument but never letting them have a go or a coach that drills the player at practice and then makes them sit on the sidelines every game. Disciples need to make disciples. It brings life.

The way to move from head knowledge to proficient application is through MAWL. Through Modelling, Assisting, Watching and Leaving the disciple-maker is able to reproduce themselves and develop MAWLanother disciple-maker. Whether it’s teaching them to lead a bible study or how to pray or how to lead a church of 5,000, MAWL reproduces. When MAWL is applied you end up with this diagram: That’s much better than the first diagram, don’t you think? I think so. MAWLing will get you to the second generation (you being the first). To get beyond the second generation you need to do one thing – MAWL MAWL.

MAWLing MAWLUsing the process of Model, Assist, Watch, Leave, you now need to apply this to the MAWL process. In other words, you need to show (Model) your new disciple-maker how to do MAWL. Then you need to coach (Assist) them as they begin to put it into practice. As they build confidence and competence in the process your role moves to observation (Watch) and when they are ready you release (Leave) them. Just because they have been through the MAWL process doesn’t mean they know it. Remember, knowing is not enough. People need training. Training means more than head knowledge. It means helping them to put it into practice and do what they can until they can do what they can’t. When you MAWL MAWL you fully reproduce yourself by enabling them to reproduce too.

For example, let’s say you are teaching someone how to study the Bible at home. You Model, Assist, Watch and Leave. They now can study the Bible at home. What they can do now is to Model it to someone else but that doesn’t mean they know how to Assist, Watch or Leave. Until you MAWL the process they will be stuck at the Model stage. In practice, this is often enough. Often, just seeing how it is done is enough. But for best practice, for best results, MAWL will give much better results. Once you help them to learn the MAWL process they can move beyond applying the truth themselves and simply modelling the truth to others and move toward others applying and reproducing the truth too. MAWL MAWL to get beyond the second generation in your discipleship of others.

When you don’t MAWL you develop people who know the truth.

When you MAWL you develop people who can apply the truth.

When you MAWL MAWL you develop people who can reproduce the truth.

Let me know what you think about MAWLing MAWL in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe.

 

 

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A Reproducing Group – Week 5

tagIn an orchestra there is one conductor and lots and lots of musicians. Some musicians are super stars. They could be the soloists or the leader of their section. They do most of the work, sound the loudest, and play all the best parts. And then there are the minor musicians. They have a smaller part to play. Notice two key things about an orchestra.

Firstly, there are lots of different musicians. There are violinists and flautists and tubists and others. Each instrument adds to the flavour and sound of the orchestra. Each instrument is important to the whole orchestra. The role of the musician is to play that instrument well, as a member of the orchestra, to add flavour and variety to the piece of music.

The second thing to notice is that there are often multiple musicians playing the same instrument, playing the same piece of music, at the same time. There are multiple violinists. Multiple flautists. Multiple tubists. The different types of instruments gives width and variety while the combination of the same instruments gives depth and volume. Both aspects are important. The variety of the instruments is important and the sameness of instruments is important.

So to with your small group.

Within your group there will be people with different talents, abilities and gifts (TAG). You will want them to use their TAG so the group is amazing. As each person in the group learns what their TAG is, and has the chance to use it within the group, they will become more competent and confident in using their TAG which will help the group function well. They may use their TAG in the church service, they may use their TAG in another ministry throughout the week, they may use their TAG in any other part of their lives. The best part of helping someone develop and use their TAG is that God is glorified. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, ESV) Developing someone’s unique contribution to the world brings glory to God.

Some people in your group will have a unique TAG while others may have a similar one. Both are important to your group as they add variety and depth. Develop everyone. Train everyone. Give everyone the opportunity to play their part in God’s orchestra.

There are many great tools out there for helping people discover their TAGs. Many are self-discovery while others require feedback from those closest to them. A simple method is to give people the freedom to try and fail within your group. Where there is the freedom to try and fall short there will always be new discoveries. Within your group encourage people to experiment. Using passages like Rom 12:3-8 or 1 Cor 12:4-11 as a guide to the different types of TAGs that people may have ask group members to try an experiment and see if they have an aptitude for it. In this way they will be discover if they have a TAG for helping, or serving, or administration, etc.

For example. Allow different group members to prepare and teach on a passage. Not facilitate a discussion through questions like we saw in week 2 but for them to prepare to teach the passage out of their TAG. Depending upon their teaching paradigm they might teach through monologue, or group exploration, or drama, or through some other means of teaching. There are many different approaches to teaching. But, If they have a talent for it then it should be obvious to the group. And more importantly, it should be obvious to them. Even if they still need to develop skill a natural or supernatural TAG will be obvious. I’ve seen a middle aged man, who just happened to walk in on a jam session, encouraged to sit behind the drum kit and see what it feels like. A simple experiment that led to the birth of a new drummer in the church. Give people the freedom to explore and they will discover what they are good at. Create a fun, safe environment where people can try something without condemnation and they will surprise everyone with what they can do.

You can tell when someone has a TAG. There will be a passion that wells up within them for behaving this way. They will be motivated, alive, fulfilled. Doing a good job leaves you satisfied; doing a job you are made for leaves you fulfilled even when you do it badly. Additionally, there will be something within you and the others in the group that see something in them. Even if they do it horribly (skill often will need to be developed) there will be something that the group recognizes. They may not have a TAG in that activity but in a safe group they will have the opportunity to explore it further.

Once you know their TAG it’s time to fan them into flames. They might require training (the new drummer above within a week of realising this ability signed up for lessons). They may just need more opportunities to practice their TAG so that they can become more competent. Their development may be outside your TAG and skill level. You may not be the best person to help them develop their TAG. But, you can journey with them. You can help them to find those who can help them. You can help them explore where they can use their TAG and where they can receive the support to develop it further. Your job as a disciple maker is not to do all the training but it is to help them to grow in who God has made them to be.

Knowing your TAG doesn’t absolve you of your responsibilities. Some have a gift of mercy and they ooze compassion and concern. If you don’t have the gift of mercy you still are called to be merciful. It will be harder for you but we need to show mercy. Some have the gift of giving and their generosity is outstanding. We all need to be cheerful givers. Some have the gift of encouragement but we can all offer encouragement to the fearful. Maybe not as well as those with a TAG for it but it’s important that we encourage one another, TAG or no TAG.

So the purpose of knowing your TAG and helping others know their TAG is to build up the body of Christ. So that each person can play their part in God’s kingdom as God created them. In a church service there is very little room to experiment and explore what a person’s TAG may be. In a small group members can try and fail and laugh and try again. Some things will work while other things will not. But let us encourage one another to have a go and see if God has something for us that we never imagined.

 

 

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A Reproducing Group – Week 4

One of the stated goals of this discipleship group blog series is to reproduce. While the group process will equip the group participants to facilitate their own small group a few more things are required to get to reproduction. The first thing is a list of people whom they can invite to join their group. How do we do that? You ask them to map all the people they know: family, friends, neighbours, co-workers/student, and common interest people they know. If this sounds like the exercise you did in week 1 it’s because it is. Teach them how to do week 1. At the end of it they will have their own map of the people they can begin praying for an to invite to a group. If they have developed their facilitation skills to the point of leading a group then it’s time to have them practice how to invite and then releasing them to start. But, and this is a big but, don’t abandon them. I will talk more on this in week 6. But this week we need to address a small problem.

There’s one small problem with this model of reproduction and I hope you have noticed it and are wanting an answer. If all we do is start and reproduce discipleship groups with Christians when and how do we grow the Kingdom of God? While the Great Commission focuses on making disciples we see in Acts and the historical record of the Apostles that sharing of our faith with those far from God is what Jesus meant when he said ‘Go’. Some people are very gifted at this. In fact, about 1 in 10 people have some sort of evangelism gift. God bless them and their ministry. I love watching gifted evangelists. They naturally flow from whatever to the gospel story. I wish I could express the message of life like they do but I can’t. So the rest of this post is about how a non-evangelist can seek to bring life to others.

I use three stories. People like stories. Youtube and Facebook and TV all tell us that people love stories, even the 140 character ones on Twitter. There are three stories that need to be told. The first is their story. The second is your story and the last one is God’s story.

Their Story

Sadly, despite learning to sit and hear a sermon every week most Christians don’t listen very well and this first story is about listening. You will want to listen to the story of the person you are wanting to share with. I want you to genuinely listen to them. In fact, as an exercise, I would encourage you to have 5 conversations where you just listen to them without any other agenda. Just listen to them.

There are 5 questions/statements you will want to ask. They are a slight modification of William Fay’s taken from his book, “Share Jesus without Fear“. The Kindle version will cost you about US$3. It’s a great book and helped me learn how to start conversations. Most books on evangelism focus on why and how to share our faith but this one includes how to find out if the person wants to hear the gospel. If they do then proceed and if they don’t then don’t. Personally, I love his whole approach on how to safely share with others. I highly recommend you get a copy.

There is one question/statement which proceeds these five depending on whether you know the person well or not. If you know them well and have never truly listened to their story then say, “I’ve never taken the time to hear about what matters in your life. I would really like to know. Tell me …” If you don’t them well then say, “Tell me about yourself.” This will lead naturally into the first request below. Here are the 5 questions/requests:

  1. Tell me about your spiritual beliefs
  2. To you, who is Jesus?
  3. Do you think there is a heaven or hell?
  4. If you died tonight, where would you go and why?
  5. If the truth was something different, would you want to know?

These are the broad questions. Please, please, please, if they have spiritual beliefs then explore them. What do they believe and what does that mean for them? Don’t debate them. Don’t tell them they are wrong. Listen to them. Probe out of interest not to score points. People are happy to talk about themselves so let them. Be interested in what they believe for what they are believe is the essence of who they are – get to know them deeply and well.

The way you ask the second question is really important. You are not asking, “Who is Jesus?” or “What do you know about Jesus?” These questions are about facts and will lead to arguments. Don’t go there. And worse than that, they don’t tell you what the other person feels and thinks about Jesus as he is to them. Look again at question 2 – they can’t be wrong. That makes it a good question to answer since they can’t get it wrong. And if you can’t be wrong then you are more likely to honestly reply. They could say that Jesus was a hippie from the 70’s sent back in time. I don’t think that’s true but I didn’t ask them for the truth; I asked them who Jesus was to them. It’s the ‘to them’ that makes it a safe question for them to answer.

Throughout this conversation in what they believe do not, DO NOT, start a debate. Listen to them. This is crucial for three reasons. Firstly, it’s polite. Secondly, it’s wise. It’s said that when an amateur speaker is asked to come and present a message they will ask what to speak on while the professional asks to whom they will be speaking. Knowing them, hearing them, listening to their story and their beliefs is more important at this stage than what you are going to say. Yes, what you have to say is important, but first know your audience. There are four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Four different audiences. Four different stories. Know your audience first. The last reason is that we are given two ears and one mouth and they should be used in that proportion. Spend time listening to people and you will find they will give you an opportunity to speak. We aren’t listening to them to manipulate them into listening to us, we are listening to their beliefs because their beliefs are the core of who they are and as precious human beings whom God loves they deserve for us to listen to their deepest selves.

Now, notice the last question. Question 5. What do you think you do if they say ‘No’? You do nothing. If they don’t want to know then go no further in the discussion. If, however, they say yes then ask one more question; “Can I share something with you?” If they say ‘No’, stop. If they say ‘Yes’, continue. Respect their ‘No’. If they say ‘No’ then it’s no. Jesus let people walk away and so should we.

Your Story

If they have said yes then it’s time to tell your story.While you could tell your whole story it’s best to keep it short as a lead in to God’s story. Your story is the answer to the question, “What difference has Jesus made to your life?” There could be many, many answers to this question. You have many, many stories to tell. Choose one of those answers and tell them that one story. It shouldn’t take more than 1-2 minutes. The more answers you have the easier it will be to identify with their story as a bridge to God’s story. Practice with the people in your group. Take turns telling each other how Jesus impacts your life. Practice listening to each other.

God’s Story

Lastly, you will want to tell God’s story and invite them to place their trust in Jesus. As I stated above, I love the way William Fay does it. His method uses questions and self-discovery to share the gospel. His approach ensures they understand the gospel story before asking for a commitment. I love this approach. There are lots of other great approaches out there. The Roman Road, the Hand Gospel (God, Man, God, No, Yes), Do vs Done, The Bridge, Creation to Christ, Four Spiritual Laws, Evangecube. I suggest you find one and use that as a model for your group. Get them sharing with that one method and perhaps introduce them to another one if you need to. By keeping to one model you make reproduction easier. Everyone understands the model approach and can help each other get better at it. Which approach is best? The one you are using. Due to the length of this post I won’t elaborate any more on the various methods. Find one that works for your cultural context and teach it to your group.

For Aussies

I need to mention this for my Australian readers. In Australia there are two taboo topics – Politics and Religion. In most parts of the world these are daily topics and asking someone about their spiritual belief is fine and normal. But not in Oz. Some good news and some bad news. The good news is that it is White Australians that have the biggest problem with talking about religion. If you are talking to an immigrant, an Afghan Aussie, or a Greek Aussie, or an India Aussie, then it’s actually ok to talk about spiritual matters. They come from lands where these topics aren’t taboo. The bad news is that White Aussies don’t like to talk about religion. So don’t. Back to the good news. Spiritual beliefs are different from religion. Everyone has some kind of spiritual belief – even atheists. Keep it to their beliefs without asking them to defend themselves and you will be fine.

That’s it. Teach them how to facilitate a group and teach them to share their faith. Many will not lead a group even though they know how. Train them anyway. Many will not share their faith even though they know how. Train them anyway. What you don’t know is who has the gift to do it and those who don’t. People will surprise you. Train everyone. Equip, Empower and Encourage everyone. Some won’t but some will. Years ago George Barna wrote a book called “Evangelism that works”. His conclusion was that those who do evangelism see people come to new life in Jesus and those who don’t do evangelism don’t see people come to new life. You may not have a gift of evangelism but by training those in your group to disciple others who disciple others evangelists will be found and they will reap a large harvest. But if they are never trained, never shown how to make a map, never empowered and released then they will sit in church never knowing the joy of giving their gift away. Train for reproduction and you will see results.

Let me know how you are going with your discipleship groups. What’s working? What needs more important? Where are you getting stuck? What are some of the success stories?

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A Reproducing Group – Week 3

There are many different types of small groups that you can start. Some groups are prayer groups where their primary purpose is to pray. Other groups are Bible study groups where, guess what, their primary purpose is to study the Bible. The type of group I am suggesting over these 6 weeks is a Holistic Small Group.

This term, Holistic Small Group, is a term coined by Christian Schwartz in his book, “Natural Church Development“. There is not a single purpose to this group. Instead, the small group is holistic, in that each element is intimately connected to one another. Three core elements are summarised by the words, “Head, Heart, Hands”. Let me begin with Hands, discuss Head and then Heart and finish with the challenge and tension of Hands vs Heart.

In the Great Commission Jesus says, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” It’s not enough that people know God’s truth. It must be applied. James says it well, “be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). If someone can’t apply God’s Word the problem may be that they don’t understand it but it could be that they don’t know how to apply it. And even then they may need to train in order to develop the spiritual muscles to apply it. Physically, I could show you how to do a one-arm push up. I could clearly explain it to you. But, if you are like most people, you will not be able to do it. No amount of effort will help. If you don’t have the strength then you will be stuck. Spiritually is no different. Too often we are asking people to do something they are spiritually unfit to do. It’s not a question of understanding or desire but one of unfitness. If you are seeking to bless and not curse the first step may be learning to be silent and not cursing and once that is mastered then moving on to learning how to bless. Growth is a process. Granted, sometimes God miraculously gives growth but more often than not it comes from Spiritual training. Paul wisely tells Timothy, “train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim 4:7). It is for these reasons that in this group process the Bible study finishes with a discussion on how you will apply the passage. It’s important that the group process moves people to becoming doers of the Word. The application may be different for each member as we are all at different levels of growth. Knowing what you want to do and doing it are two different things and so you move from the desire to do to practising what you will do. A whole third of the group time is given to practising because it’s that important. It’s best to teach less and practice more than know more and not be able to apply it. Obviously, before we can apply we need to know.

There are many, many passages that talk about the need for us to change our minds (eg. Rom 12:2, Col 3:2) The transformation toward Jesus requires thinking. Thinking about Scriptural truths and challenging our current thinking is essential in the Christian walk. It is through thinking that God graciously gives us understanding (2Tim2:7). Within your groups you will want to give people time to think, to question, to wrestle with God’s truth. Through discussing the passage, without judgement, the group members can explore what God’s Word has to say to them. Often God’s Word is very, very clear and people filled with God’s Spirit understand it easily. The challenge for many is not what God’s Word says but the inability to apply it. The command to love our enemies is not difficult to understand but can be terribly hard to live out. However, it is through intentional thinking that we can find ways to apply Scripture to our lives. But our faith is not just about our heads. The Christian faith is filled with emotion and feelings and we need to consider them also.

We are emotional creatures. If the environment is safe we are less defensive, more open, more honest. If I ask you “How are you doing?” you will answer according to the safety of our relationship. The strength of discipleship in a group is that we can open our lives for others to speak into areas we cannot see, areas we are afraid to go into, areas where we struggle to make any progress. In a group we get to stand with one another in these dark areas, these scary areas and challenge them together. However, unless I feel safe with you it is unlikely that I will show you these dark areas. If there is judgement then I am unlikely to be open. If I am struggling with pornography will you stand with me, as a fellow sinner, without judgement,  and help me overcome it through God’s grace? If I feel safe in the group, knowing that you are for me and not against me, then I am likely to share my darkness, my struggles, my stuckness. It is through developing intimacy in the group that I am best able to discuss how to apply God’s Word more meaningfully and relevantly to my life. Taking the time to worship God together, to pray for each other’s needs, to dialogue about God’s Word, to hear what each other likes and dislikes will lead to greater intimacy.

A challenge that comes from developing intimacy is the need to multiply. If left unchecked, intimacy may become a barrier to new people. The group, once open, becomes inward looking and self-focused. The message of Jesus is one of outward looking and reaching out. One of the greatest challenges to intimacy is the dividing of groups. There are two ways to develop intimacy and multiply.

The first approach is to maintain a closed group. That is, the group doesn’t allow new people to join. Multiplication, however, can still happen if each member of the group is encouraged to belong to a group and to lead a group. If this pattern continues then generations of groups would be established. The strength of this approach is that personal and leadership development happen together. The original group members would grow from members, to leaders, to coaches, to Disciple Making Movement leaders. In this way the group maintains an outward focus without losing the intimacy of the original group.

The second approach is to have an open group. This group permits new people to join. Once the group becomes too large multiplication occurs through developing new leaders who birth a new group. There are other ways to describe the birth process. Positively, we can say ‘birthing’ and ‘planting’ while negatively we can say ‘splitting’ and ‘dividing’. Those against multiplication are likely to use these negative terms while those in favour of multiplication will use the positive terms. ‘Splitting’ relationships doesn’t sound nice. ‘Birthing’ a new group sounds painful yet a joyful as a new ‘baby’ group is born. ‘Planting’ implies hard work but fruitfulness comes to mind. ‘Dividing’ sounds less than the original.

The strength of this approach is that some group facilitators are very good at developing leaders and inviting new people but not so good at coaching them. This allows them to release group members into a system (hopefully) with trained, gifted coaches who will take those new leaders and continue to develop them. The weakness of this approach is that if too many new people keep joining the group then intimacy falters. It is difficult to share intimately with those you don’t trust. One solution to this challenge is to close the group for a season and have times of openness where growth can occur. Adding just one person every 3 months means that you would double your group every two years which would lead to a new group being established every 2 years.

In reality, both approaches will be needed at different times. The important thing is to continue to develop intimacy without losing an outward focus. In the small group process described in week 2, there is ample opportunity to develop intimacy while maintaining an outward focus. These two elements need to be balanced with the application of God’s Word to our lives. Intimacy builds the safe environment for change to take place while an outward focus is what gave us the opportunity to belong to a group and one which gives others the same opportunity.

What is strongest in your group, Head, Heart or Hands? What is weakest? What about for you personally? Which one feels most comfortable for you? What has surprised you as you apply this process? What’s working? What’s not?

Please leave a comment and let me know how the group process is working for you. If you would like this emailed to you directly the please hit the subscribe button.

 

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A Reproducing Group – Week 2

group processThis is going to be a fairly long post as I am going to describe how to facilitate the group process. It’s worth the read. I have tried to be thorough yet brief. If something isn’t clear or you have any doubts leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

One of the goals of this small group process is to reproduce. It’s aimed at being simple but not simplistic. While you could run your small group with this format and process indefinitely I would hope that you would develop and grow beyond this simple process. The simplicity of this process is so that it can easily be reproduced. It’s a starting point so that even a new believer could start a group with their friends with little or no Bible knowledge.

The process is broken up into 3 parts. Each part is to receive one third of your time. If you have 60 minutes then each part gets 20 minutes. If you have 90 minutes then each part gets 30 minutes. These parts are called: Gather, Grow, Go.

The focus of the Gather part is to bring the group together with Jesus, to share what has happened throughout the week, and to care for one another. The second part, Grow, is a study in the Scriptures. The final part, Go, focuses on how the group members will apply what they are learning in the group. It is in this part that members will practice what they are learning including how to run their own group. This final part is crucial to reproduction and should not be skipped. Let’s break each part down further.

gather titleGather

There are five key elements to this part. The first is to worship God. This can be done through music, through reflection of a psalm, to answering the question, “What are you thankful to God for this week?” The goal is to centre the group on God. The second element is to move from the vertical to the horizontal and show care for one another. Take time to listen to the high’s and low’s of the member’s week and pray for one another. The third element is to ask each other about what they said they would do the previous week. This is to be a time of loving accountability. Later in the group each person will share how they intended to apply the Word to their life – it’s important to ask them how they went with implementing. There are many reasons why people fail to apply Scripture such as time, fear, incompetence. If you don’t ask them what happened you will not be able to stand with gatherthem and find a way to overcome their barriers to obedience. The fourth element is a time of casting vision for the discipleship of other believers and sharing their faith with those far from God. In this time take out your maps and pray over them, pray for each other’s maps, pray that everyone on the map would have a chance to grow in God’s grace. The final element is reviewing what you have been doing and studying together as you move into the second part, Grow.

So, the gather part may look like this:
1. What’s something you are thankful to God for this week?”
2. What are some of the high’s and low’s you have experienced since the last group?
How can we pray for you tonight?
3. Last week you were going to try and do [insert their action], how did that go?
(If it went well, praise God. If it didn’t go well, ask, “How can we help you do it this week?”)
4. Let’s take out maps and pray for them. (Obviously the first week only you have your map but they will develop theirs in the coming weeks).
5. Let’s review what we have looked at so far in our group…

grow titleGrow

One of the biggest fears people have of running a small group is that they don’t know the Bible well enough to teach it. In this format you won’t be “teaching” the Bible. Instead, you will be facilitating a discussion about it. While people will learn and be taught the emphasis is not on you as a teacher but as a facilitator. Instead of being the Bible expert you will ask questions and help them to see what the Scriptures say. This method has some problems. People could miss the point of the passage and come up with some weird thoughts and ideas. The passage could be very difficult and beyond what the group is able to grasp. Despite the potential problems most Christians don’t struggle to grasp the basic meaning of the Bible but rather they struggle with how to make it work in their life.

growThere will be six questions that you will ask each week. For a few weeks you will want to restrict yourself to just these questions. The reason for this is to help in reproduction. If the Bible study component is based on your Bible knowledge then you need to teach them what you know in order for them to reproduce. If you ask deep, creative questions each week then you will need to teach them how to generate deep, creative questions. If you ask the same six questions each week then you need to teach them the six questions. This restriction makes reproduction easier. I’m not saying you must remain with just these questions. These questions are for the starting of groups in helping them to get to reproduction – that’s all.

These are the six questions:
1. What does the passage say? (If they say something that isn’t in the passage ask, “Where does it say that?”) It’s helpful to have the group read the passage out loud, in different translations if they are present, and then to retell the passage in their own words. The purpose of this question is not to discuss what the passage means only what it says.
2. What do you like about this passage? (Everybody can answer this question because they can’t be wrong.)
3. What do you dislike about this passage? (Again, there can be no wrong answer. Question 2 and 3 get people talking.)
4. What do we learn about God (Father, Son and Spirit) from this passage?
5. What do we learn about people and ourselves from this passage? (If there are multiple groups of people in the passage you can ask, for example from Mark 5, “What do we learn about people from the demoniac? From the Apostles? From the town folk?”)
6. What can you apply from this passage? (We don’t just want to be hearers of the Word we want to be doers.)

In the final question help them to be as specific as possible. eg from Mark 5 they might say, “I will share my faith with my friends.” You could ask, “Which friends?” The more specific someone can be in their application the more likely they are to do it.

go titleGo

If you have ever been involved in a small group you are probably familiar with the first two parts. This part is crucial to helping people actually apply the Scriptures to their life and get to starting their own group. This part is all about practising. Discipleship is about training. You may know every detail about how to run a marathon but unless you have trained for it you are unlikely to be able to do it. So to with the Christian life. Studying how to love our enemies is easy. Stating what I seek to do during the week is easy. Living it out – now that’s the hard part. Notice that in the Great Commission that Jesus doesn’t ask us to teach everything he taught but rather, he asks us to teach them to obey everything he taught. People need to learn obedience. Sometimes obedience comes easily but often it doesn’t. We need to train for obedience through discipleship. This time doesn’t have to be serious. Try to make it playful in the sense that it is training. It’s ok to fail in training. In fact, that’s what training is for. It’s in training that you want to try new things and fail. Keep this section focused on having a go and not on getting it right. With consistent training positive results will come – trust the process.

goThere are three elements to learning obedience in this final part. The first element is to practice what they have just said they will do during the week. Using Mark 5 as our example, if they said they will share the gospel with a friend have them practice with another group member. It is here that people discover the cliche, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, in practice there is.” Many people will discover that they don’t know how they are actually going to do what they said they would. This is the time to show them how. If you don’t know then as a group you will seek the answer and grow together. The second element is to practice the first two parts. While you may not have time every week to practice all the elements of the first two parts you can choose one element and have the group practice it. For example, if in the worship time you begin with a song then have the group members practice introducing the song to the group and how to start singing it. This may sound simple but if you have never introduced a song before and led off as the first singer it’s a very difficult task. Asking the six questions needs to be taught and practised. At the end of this practice time look for someone who could lead that element the following week. Each week involve more the group members and you will slowly train them how to facilitate the group. It’s this practice time where they get to train that will lead them to being able to do during the group time. Lastly, you will want to pray for each other that you would have God’s grace to live in obedience to his will.

That’s it. Here is a simple small group process that isn’t based on how much you know and more on facilitating a process of discovery. It’s a process that helps people to practice in a safe environment where they can build their confidence through developing their competence. Give it a go. You will be amazed at the insights people will have as you study Scripture. Their applications will astound you – I promise. Often in the groups where we study Mark 5 people will identify with the demoniac and come up with the application of sharing of their faith. In one group a lady identified with Jesus and “We should go looking for those who are harassed by demons and pray for them to be set free.”

Oh, one last point – which passages do you study? There are no limitations on what you can look at but here is a list of passages I like to use for a starter group whether they are hard-core Christians or far from God.

  1. The Weeping Woman Luke 7:36-50
  2. Tax Collector Luke 18:9-17
  3. A hole in the roof Luke 15:17-26
  4. God loves the world John 3:16-21
  5. A Hard Road Mat 16:21-17:9
  6. Trial and Crucifixion Mark 15-16:8
  7. Two Sons Luke 15:11-32

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A Reproducing Group – Week 1

There are two ways you can approach the next few weeks. The first is to wait until I have finished blogging about starting and reproducing a discipleship group and then decide if you want to continue, or, you can implement each week trusting me that over the next few weeks you will establish a group that will be a blessing to others and be geared for birthing new groups. Both approaches will work. The second, I think, will be more fun.

Let’s deal with your fears first. What are the fears you have in running a group? Make a list. Pray through them. What needs to happen for you start the group despite the fears? While I expect these fears will be dealt with in the coming weeks leave a comment if you want me to address them now. Fears are feelings that need to be acknowledged but we can act according to them or against them. Don’t let the fear of starting a group stop you. Let’s address the fears together. (This blog entry will be way too long to address them here – if you need address them before starting a group then let’s deal with them in the comments below or send me an email directly).

The first step in the process is inviting people. There are five key relationships from which you can invite. Make a list of all the people you know in these five key relationships. It doesn’t matter whether you think or even know they aren’t interested, just make the list.
The key relationships are:

  1. Family (immediate, distant)
  2. Friends
  3. Neighbours
  4. Co-workers, co-students
  5. Common interests (church, clubs, hobbies, sports, those you know by sight but don’t really know)

The list will be about 100-200 people.

Now, map them out according to their relationships and add new names that are second, third or fourth generation. Put a cross next to all the ones who are close to God. This map represents all those whom you can ask to join your group. Don’t forget to include all those who attend your church whom you may know only by sight and name. Those who are new to your church are looking for connections so don’t forget to add them. Here is the start of what the map may look like:

oikos

Sit with the map before God and ask him to show you whom to invite and start inviting.

You are asking them to join:

  • a reproducing group
  • for 6-9 months
  • to live out the Great Commission
  • at (insert where you will meet)
  • from (insert starting time) till (insert ending time – about 90-120 minutes after the starting time)

You may not know where or when you will meet yet. I suggest for you to meet in the home of someone who says ‘Yes” as it makes it easier to reproduce when it’s not in your home. There will be a lot of “No’s”. There are lots of reasons why people will not be able to make it. However, sit with God, ask him to show you the first 20 people to invite and start inviting.

One of the things that hold us back from inviting people is the fear of rejection. We associate their ‘No thanks’ to a rejection of us. They aren’t saying ‘No’ to you personally. You are making them an offer which they may not be in a position to accept right now. There are many reasons why they will say no. Keep asking until you have enough “Yes’s” to start (between 3 and 12).

That’s the first week done. Make a map of all the people you know. Start inviting.

Next week we will look at how to run the group. Don’t worry if you have never run a group before. Don’t worry about not knowing enough about Scripture. I will go through those details next week. For now, know that you can run a group, you will be able to develop leaders, and you can get to reproduction.

Let me know how you get on in the comments box below. If you have questions or doubts speak them out so that we can work through them together. If you want to receive this directly to your inbox subscribe to the newsletter. Blessings

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