Myth: Our Small Groups Should Take a Summer Break

by Steve Gladen. Taken from churchleaders.com

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:41-43

I am often asked if Saddleback’s small groups continue meeting during the summer. Let me answer that question by asking a more fundamental question—“What are you trying to get from your small groups?”  Small groups are the center of our discipleship, the structure of our ministry, the launch pad of our evangelism, the enrichment of our worship, and the network of our fellowship. 

Whenever you tell small groups when to meet (the day of the week or time) and when to take a break (seasonal times), you are lowering your expectations for all groups. Your groups will never rise above your expectations. If you tell groups to stop meeting during the summer, they will stop—whether that is good for them or not. Instead, we manage groups for health (macro) and let groups figure out frequency (micro). 

The only ones off for summer are kids, unless they are in a year-round schedule. Adults generally only have two or three week vacations. So, why would you want to tell all of your groups to take a break during the summer? Most couples groups with kids get better traction in summer than the school year. Why? Because the kids have no homework and sport schedules slow down. My small group loves meeting during the summer because the kids’ schedules are easy. If we stopped during summer, that would kill our sweetest time of group life. 

Do you take the summer off from your kids? How about your spouse? What about your close friends? I don’t. My friends are part of my small group. I wouldn’t want to miss hanging with them. If your small group isn’t full of people you want to do life with, you need to change that and get together with your friends. 

Summer is also a great time to make new memories whether your group is new or has been together awhile. Use activities (some ideas are listed at the close of this article) to help bond your group. This will take fellowship to a new level and encourage transparency so discipleship and accountability can deepen. Summer is also a great time to develop ministry and missions. 

So, why miss the perfect time to develop your small groups to a new level? 

With that in mind–summer is here! Schedules are changing, vacations are planned, and summer activities may have to be arranged. While summer can be a time for some “vacation” from school and other activities, friendship and community can grow deeper. Here are some suggestions to help encourage consistency, provide new memories, and help breathe some new life into your small groups. Pass them along to all of your small groups.

Stay consistent: continue to meet when you regularly meet.

If one family, couple, or member cannot make it because of vacation plans or other things, don’t take it personally and get together with whoever is available. If it turns out that only a few can meet, still meet. This gives you an opportunity to fellowship in a more intimate group, and it’s amazing how you may grow closer just meeting with the few who can attend. 

Uplift someone or a group in your area.

“Missions Trips” don’t have to be far away. You don’t just have to think globally, you can look locally! Look for ways that your small group can uplift someone in your community. What about a Senior Home to visit? Maybe there is a widow on your block that needs comfort? Do you know an elderly person that may just need a few things done to his/her yard? Your group can also volunteer at a local orphanage, school, church summer camp, or prison. 

Modify group meetings.

Have a Barbeque, Date Night, or Girls Night/Boys’ Night out. Maybe someone has a pool, trampoline, or basketball hoop in their backyard for some fun and games. Have small group at the beach, the park, or by the lake! Our small group has had swim parties, and barbeques with our children, as well as couples only nights for the adults to get to know one another better. 

Explore Rotating leadership and homes.

Commit to have a meeting even if it’s just two or three people. Hosts/leaders, if you’re going to be out of town, ask someone to have the group meeting at their house. This is a great way to start sharing leadership, if you aren’t already.

Involve everyone in an overnight retreat together.

Find a campground, plan an overnight or two-day outing, meet up around a campfire at night, and eat, sing, and have a devotional. Oh yeah! One overnight retreat is worth 26 weeks of small group meetings.

Minister together, do a serve project!

What a great time to help out at church, fix up a group member’s home, do some yard work for someone who is not doing well, or serve one Sunday morning in a way to help your church. See your church for a list of ways to serve as a group.

Experience a night of worship.

Ask each person to bring two of their favorite worship songs. Play them all and share why the songs they brought have meaning to them. If your church polity allows, have communion at the end.

Check out this verse. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more, as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25

So, keep going and have a fun S-U-M-M-E-R-T-I-M-E. Together

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Finding Community as a Leader

As a leader, sometimes leading is a ministry. You pour into others even though they may not be capable of pouring into you. You may not always find community—strong, reciprocal relationships—in your group. If you don’t already have it, how do you find the community you need so you can keep growing and leading? While there’s no magical solution, there are two key ingredients from a post at the ​North Point Church's Group Leader Blog.

1) Depth of Relationship

You have a deep relationship with a person . . .

  • Who brings out the best in you
  • Who is in your corner
  • Who is there for you

1) Frequency of Interaction

  • Your paths cross regularly and naturally.
  • You interactions are face-to-face.
  • You would like to know the person well.

The first step to finding real community is to identify those people with whom you have either depth of relationship or frequency of interaction. The next step is to figure out how and with whom you can begin to experience both. 

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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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