What are you Doing to Fill your Tank?

 "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." Luke 5:14

Nine times in the Gospels the scriptures say that 'Jesus withdrew' from the crowd so that he could tend to his soul and own spiritual wellbeing. As leaders we often run very hard and attach everything on our plates with great gusto. Eventually we will reach a place of exhaustion and the need to rest. One thing that I have come to understand about leadership is that God has wired me to work very hard and for long periods. Sitting down to rest for me is very hard. I have also learned that if I do not intentionally stop and rest I will eventually run out of gas and start causing damage to others. 

You may ask yourself 'how can I find time to rest when I have so much going on?' This is a valid question and one that I can appreciate as a husband, pastor, and father of 3 girls. What I am not advocating is that you checkout of everything in your life and move to an island somewhere. What I would encourage you to do is to ask yourself some key questions. Answering these questions can help you find moments of rest throughout your day and week and can help you to not run out of gas.

Here are the key questions:

1) What things am I doing that refresh me? All of us have hobbies or interests that recharge our souls. They might be painting, fishing, hiking, etc. Find time in your schedule to do these things.

2) What things am I doing that drain me? In the same way that the things that we like to do refresh us, there are things that we do that drain us. Make a list of these things and work as hard as possible to avoid doing them.

3) What are my warning signs that I need to refuel? In the same way that the fuel gage on our dashboard alerts us that we are low on fuel, we need to identify and pay attention to the signs that we are running low on fuel.  Losing your temper with your kids or not being able to complete assignments at work are some great examples of warning signs that it might be time to take a rest.

4) Who do I have in my life that can gentle remind me to pull over and refuel?  Invite someone to invest in you and give them permission to tell you to stop and refuel when they begin to notice some of your warning signs. Your spouse is a great person to ask or a member of your Small Group. Giving others permission to tell you when you are running on fumes will help prevent you from running out of gas!

Taking time to rest and recharge is part of the rhythm of life. Jesus knew this and practiced it. So take time to determine what you can do to refill your tank.

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Developing the Next Crop of Small Group Leaders

One of the most important roles that you can play as a Small Group Leader is that of a mentor. A mentor is 'someone that helps another develop and grow as a leader'. At Parkway Fellowship we want to be the kind of church that is constantly raising up new leaders. Perhaps you have never considered this aspect of leadership before. Let me share with you three reasons why is is crucial that you be looking to pass the torch of leadership to others.

1. It’s biblical.
Throughout the Bible, leaders sought out others so they can follow in the leaders’ footsteps as their apprentice. Moses apprenticed Joshua. Elijah apprenticed Elisha. Paul apprenticed Timothy. One of the most cited verses on this subject is in Paul’s second letter to Timothy:

“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2)

Jesus also modeled this process in his interactions with the twelve disciples. If anyone could have done ministry all by himself, it was Jesus. But he didn’t. His disciples were always with him—watching, learning, and listening. He involved them in almost everything he did. That’s because he saw beyond his three years of public ministry. He knew success was handing off the ministry to those coming behind him. That’s one measure of your success as a group leader too.

2. It’s practical.
Identifying future leaders doesn’t just develop the apprentice. It also grows the leader! Nothing makes you take stock of what you know like being asked to teach someone else. The process gives you incentive to organize your knowledge and put it down on paper. It helps you to solidify it in your mind. As you hand over responsibility to others, they bring their knowledge, talent, and experience to bear upon what you’ve shared with them. They find new and better ways to lead. This gives you the opportunity to learn from them. It expands your knowledge and skills.

3. It’s strategic.
Our mission is to 'reach the lost at any cost and grow them to maturity'. Our strategy to 'grow them to maturity' is to get people into groups because we believe that life change happens best in the context of small groups. So, creating space for more people to experience healthy relationships and spiritual growth is essential. We can only do that if we have qualified group leaders. 

These are just a few reasons why it is important to help identify future Small Group Leaders. Start to pray this week about who you can identify in your Small Group about approaching and asking them to consider taking their first step toward Small Group Leadership. In the coming weeks, we will share more what those 'first steps' look like. Stay tuned!

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7 Types of Questions to Ask in Group, Part 2

By Mark Shull, Director of Men's Groups at Buckhead Church

The following is part two of a a two-part series of posts from the group leader blog of North Point Ministries.

4. Summarizing
These questions draw the rest of the group into discussion after a member answers a question or expresses an opinion. Summarizing questions can also help a group go deeper by consolidating the ideas they’ve been discussing.

Example: Do you see some common threads between what you’ve said and what Ellen was saying?

5. Applying
These questions help the group make a connection between the material you’re discussing and their lives. Because growth is driven by the application of information and not information alone, applying questions are crucial in encouraging your group members to make the most of what they’re learning and discovering.

Example: Based on what we’ve talked about, what are some things you can do to resolve your conflict with your brother?

6. Reversing
Reversing questions pose a question back to the person who originally asked it. You don’t want to overuse reversing questions because they may become irritating or seem condescending. But used correctly and sparingly, reversing questions can help a group member think through a question rather than just rely on your answer. The more people think through a problem and come to their own conclusions, the more they own those conclusions. And people are more likely to apply a conclusion they own than those they’ve been told.

Example: That’s a great question. I don’t have a quick answer. What are your thoughts?

7. Relaying
Use relaying questions to turn a question you’ve been asked over to the group or to a specific group member. Relaying questions help a group to work through an issue rather than rely on you to provide answers. Again, they help build ownership among the group members. Relaying questions can also be used (carefully) to draw specific group members into the discussion.

Example: That’s a great question. I don’t know. What do you guys think?

Asking great questions is one of the most useful skills you can add to your leadership toolbox. It’s both strategically smart and relationally powerful. Most of us don’t do it well naturally, but it’s like a muscle: if you commit to exercising your question asking skills on a regular basis, it will get stronger

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7 Types of Questions to Ask in Group, Part 1

By Mark Shull, Director of Men's Groups at Buckhead Church

The following two-part article is from the Group Leader Blog of North Point Ministriesand it's all about the different ways that we can use questions to help our group members think about, process, and own their faith journeys.

The idea of asking questions instead of always offering answers seems simple, right? It’s easy to understand, but challenging to practice . . . especially when something difficult or controversial comes up in group. Asking good questions takes practice as well as an understanding of what makes a question good and what type of question to ask depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Over the next two weeks “leader tips” we’ll look at the seven types of questions you can use in your Small Group discussion. We’ll also break down when and why to use them. Here are the first three:

1. Launching
These are open questions used to kick off a discussion. They’re particularly helpful in setting the tone of a conversation and drawing all of your group members into the discussion.

Example: What are some ways other people’s words have hurt you?

2. Clarifying
These questions help guide your group toward accumulated facts by urging them to define, clarify, explain, or compare and contrast. Clarifying questions are particularly useful for bringing the group back on topic when they’ve begun to stray. They do so by prompting group members to think about the main topic in a new way.

Example: Can we back up for a second? What was going through your mind when he said that to you?

3. Follow-Up
These questions draw the entire group into a discussion after a single member has answered a question or expressed an opinion. Follow-up questions are great for helping group members connect through shared experiences or emotions.

Example: That’s really powerful. Thank you for sharing. Has anyone else ever experienced something like that?

Using launching, clarifying, and following-up questions require intentionality and a little practice. But making the effort can free your group discussions from routine and help the people you lead to grow in their relationship with Jesus.

Next week we’ll look at four more types of questions to ask in your Small Group discussion time.

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4 Strategies for Improving Group Attendance

 

By Sue Bates

One of your top challenges may be encouraging convincing begging group members to show up each week. There is no shortage of reasons for people to not show up. It begins with a single text: “I can’t make it.” And then the dominoes begin to fall: “I can’t make it either,” “I’ve got a ton to do.” Suddenly, it’s you and one other person staring awkwardly at each other. The frustration of last minute cancellations creates a weight on your leadership. You begin to ask yourself what you’re doing wrong, and how you can prevent cancellations. 

Don’t beat yourself up or, worse, send out a scathing email about attendance (admit it, you’ve done it or you’ve been tempted to do it). Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you’re not responsible for making someone else responsible for their commitments.  Instead, focus on these four strategies for improving group attendance:

1. Create an engaging group environment.
Think about environments that you like.  What stands out?  Is it the warm, welcoming host?  One of the things that engages me most is knowing that the leader wants me to be there.   A text from a leader during the week or on the day of the meeting  is often enough to convince a person show up.

2. Communicate clear expectations.
How do you communicate attendance expectations to your group without sounding like you’re scolding them? Acknowledge the obvious: Poor attendance will undermine your group dynamic.  No one has trouble filling up his or her nights.  No one shows up at group each week because they have nothing better to do. We show up because we’ve decided group is necessary for our spiritual growth.  Encourage and challenge your group to resist allowing the urgent to crowd out the important.

3. Hold your group members to a standard.
Don’t apologize for holding group members to a standard.  At the same time, make your expectations clear. Holding them to a standard you’ve never communicated isn’t fair.  Keep in mind that holding people to a standard you to be flexible sometimes, too.

4. Plan out 2 or 3 months at a time.
Look at your calendars together and plan out your weekly meetings in advance. This communicates that “Tuesdays” are spoken for, unless a clear exception comes up.  People appreciate it when a leader has a plan for a meeting, whether that meeting is at work, a neighborhood association, or a small group.  Having a plan communicates respect for people’s time. There may be some weeks where everyone is gone. Planning ahead allows you to cancel group in advance.

Finally, remember that you’ll probably need to have the attendance conversation more than once. It may not be easy, but it can make the difference between having an okay or a great group experience.

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