There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability;
there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community. - M. Scott Peck

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Learning from the people at Grace

Last night Ed King, Mary Hayden and I went to Grace Community Church to talk with Michael More and some members of his small group team. Michael and his team have been very successful connecting the members of their Church into groups as 85 percent of their members are in a small group. We have about 15 percent in groups so we are trying to learn how to create more a culture of small groups.

Here are a few thoughts from our meeting last night.

1. There is no magic or for lack of a better word great savvy to their sucess, just a commitment to make groups accessible and drive everyone into a group. In fact, Michael has a very hands off approach many aspects of groups that we have spent much time and energy on. The biggest is in finding leaders and in starting new groups. He does a "Launch Night" in which groups simply choose a leader and work out when and where they will meet. We copied some of the process last Lent and will be working to make it better for our Launch on MONDAY, OCTOBER 4th.

2. Coaching for them is all about relationships and just investing in the leaders, believing in a "trickle down effect." They believe that as they love and support leaders that love and support leaders, leaders will pour into members. One coach Mike said essentially that he doesn't ask how the group is going, he asks how the leader is doing in life.

3. Coaches visit groups twice a year, not to check in but to show support. We have to look into that idea.

4. Struck with what Michael saying how they overload leaders with support in the first few months. Also, he pointed to the need to (using my words not his) script the first critical moves for new leaders so they feel comfortable. That is a ball I dropped last Lent and know I need to really support new leaders this Fall.

5. The Grace team is a humble team. Their attitude a great reminder that God gives grace and strength to the humble and resists the proud.

6. I loved Michael's use of a family/hospital analogy. He said groups are like families and from time to time members of families need to go to a hopsitl for healing. In a small group that may mean a member has serious financial issues or is going through a divorce or is in bereavement or needs counseling. In a family, you take the person to the hospital. In the same way a group should help a member get the support he or she needs.

We learned much more. I'll save that for another blog.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Doing Life

If you have never read Donald Miller you should check out his book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." It is a great book about living in a larger story.

On his blog today he wrote:

"Yesterday, at lunch, my friend David mentioned he’d spent some time in Colorado with the guys at Ransomed Heart. David used to work with them and went back to hang out with them for a weekend in the mountains. He mentioned that one of the guys reminded him that spirituality was not a context. I asked David what the guy meant, and Dave said what he meant was that you learn about God while learning to fly a plane or raising a child or planting crops in a field. It’s not a hard, fast rule to be sure, but the idea is that sitting around looking at your spiritual belly button isn’t going to provide an object lesson for your faith. The idea is that faith makes sense in the context of some other pursuit.

And that might be the reason I don’t migrate toward conversations specifically about faith.

In the Bible, God guides people through stories. Stories is how He teaches people about themselves and Himself. He doesn’t get the children of Israel out of Egypt instantly. God drags it out, creates plagues, guides them through positive and negative turns, all to shape their faith. He does the same with Joseph, giving him a vision, then immediately letting him be thrown into a well by his brothers.

If we think we are going to grow in faith by sitting around at a Bible study, we are wrong. That stuff is fine, but without a story, without diving into something really difficult, something that requires us to look to God for support and wisdom and comfort, it will be more difficult to become a person of great faith."

I think Donald Miller is spot on with these observations and I struggle how it applies to small group. In one way, the quote verifies why we do small groups and not bible studies. The content of groups should be the lives of group members with the discussion of Scripture to bring guidance and wisdom to the people in the group so that members see Scripture as living and active. God's word is ultimately to be lived out in us.

On the other hand, I think to grow with other believers we must do more than sit in a circle, as much as I believe in it. In his book, Miller says something along the lines that men don't really grow to trust each other unless they face danger together. I don't know how that gets applied to groups, but there is some application. Somehow we need to not just talk to each other but put our lives in the hands of the group members around us.

I have no easy answer to this. For now, I'm content to let it sit there. I'd love to hear any thoughts from others. I'd also like to hear from women and what they think connects them to each other.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I had coffee today with Kevin Burroughs, who is a member of my Thursday morning small group. It was great catching up with him. We talked a bit about anger and shared one common anger. I am always amazed at how conversations with people bring perspective and that just knowing we are understood soothes our soul. I once heard, "You have a fundamental need to be understood."

That statement continues to stick with me and that's why I love small groups. Through my small group, I get to connect with people who slow down in their life to understand me and I get to serve others by understanding them. How much better would our community and world be, if everyone had a place where they felt understood and listened to?

Consider if there is anyone in your life who you know would benefit from being understood, who are struggling because they feel like no one else understands their problems. Pray he or she would join a group this Fall.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gearing up for Fall

Brian Crook on our staff noted that once 4th of July hits, summer is just about over. He is right. All of a sudden the Fall doesn't look so far away, but right around the corner.

We are working on our plans for Launch and our prayer and hope is that it will make small groups accessible and get people excited to join a small group. It will take a great deal of work, if you are reading this take a pause and pray for our efforts. Marriages, relationships, families and the building of God's kingdom is at stake on how well we get people into groups.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Odd Feeling

Our group took the month of July off. It's Wednesday night and no group. Odd feeling. And that's a good thing.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

So, what do you believe - really?

As any good Catholic school product, I was taught the Nicene Creed. And I estimate that I've said it as many as 4,000 - 5,000 time over my life time. But I never really discussed it with anyone. Never really dug into it.
Once you do - especially with a group of guys working to build stronger relationships with Jesus - the question quickly surfaces: What do you believe - really? Not what you say. Not what you repeat from rote. Not what Sister said to believe. What do I believe - really believe? Really believe so that people see it in your life.
One of us felt that if you didn't believe the first part - "I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth" - the rest doesn't matter. But if your really believe the first part, how do you not live your life with a great amount of trust in your Almighty Father? Several of us struggled with "one, holy, catholic (is that a big "C" or a little "c"?) and apostolic Church" given what has been going on in some parts of the church over the last several years. Is the Nicene Creed our mission statement and the Beatitudes our values statement was another part of the conversation. One of our guys had an encounter with someone that left him really questioning whether he lived what he said he believed. He was so humbled by the experience that he went home and wrote a poem - about being humbled. (He also plans to follow up with the person he encountered to put his belief into practice.) Another guy struggled to articulate why he prays when one of his grown children asked him why he prays. What would my personal testimony be in answer to that question?
If you stand in a row, you can repeat the words. If you sit in a circle, you dig into your beliefs. I'm praying more people get in circles. And I'm praying that those of us sitting in circles grow deeper in our creed so that our actions scream out our beliefs.