Monthly Archives: February 2015

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:


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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Launch and start reproducing a discipleship small group in 20 hours

smallgroupJesus was in a small group. Jesus grew an unlikely small group of people into an amazing team that turned the world upside down. While Jesus did conduct large meetings the small gathering were equally crucial. Perhaps you belong to a group right now. That’s a good thing and I want to encourage you to belong to a small group of people committed to your growth and development in Christ Jesus. But for the next few weeks I want to challenge you to launch a group that can reproduce; a small group where discipleship happens; a small group that goes beyond itself and raises up new leadership; a small group where people will feel connected, loved, cared for, and invested in.

The Great Commission, which is given to all Christians, calls us to make disciples. A small group is a great way to make disciples for 3 reasons. Firstly, you don’t have everything someone needs to grow in Christ. We all have our strengths and weakness which is why God puts us into community. You don’t and never will have all that it takes to see someone grow to maturity. Others will bring to the group things you cannot. Secondly, in a group you can raise new leaders on the job by getting them to practice. You can assist them and watch them as they lead. Each week they can practice facilitating the group more and more until they are more than competent to launch their own. Lastly, in a small group you have enough intimacy that you can get beyond the teaching and move toward the training for obedience. Jesus doesn’t want us to know what he taught, he wants us obey what he taught. Teaching Scriptural truth is easy. Helping someone apply needs a more hands on approach. In a small group individuals can work through where they are stuck in applying God’s truth to their lives. That’s a task almost impossible to do in a large crowd.

If you give me 20 hours over the next 6 weeks I’ll show you how to launch a group and how to multiply it. It’s a great thing to start a group and see people grow in Christ. It’s a an awesome thing to see someone launch out as a leader because of your ministry. Jesus was about passing the baton on to new a generation of leaders who in turn would pass the baton. In doing so Jesus’ message of hope and healing has been passed on from generation to generation and you can do this too.

I’m guessing you have a lot of fears right now about starting a group.”I don’t know enough.” “Who am I to start a group?” “I’m a new believer.” Maybe this isn’t the right time for you. Maybe it is. It’s a 20 hour experiment in what God may do through you. Ask God, right now, “Lord, Is this for me? Is now the time I should learn and launch a discipleship small group?”

Let me finish with saying why I love reproducing small groups. It grows bigger people. You launch a group and you must step up and grow as a facilitator. And then you want to reproduce. Now you must step up and train leaders. And then they launch and you become a discipleship grandparent. And then they train leaders and they too want to launch and they look to you again for assistance, and help and wisdom, and you need to grow to a whole new level again. Reproducing small groups builds bigger people in Jesus. Not bigger as in arrogant but bigger as in deeper, more generous, more Christ-like.

So, what did God say to you?

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