Category Archives for "leadership"

Love Works Wednesday Link Up Week 3 – Kind

Last week, I continued a Wednesday series based on Love Works by Joel Manby.  (Click here to read my first post in this series, and click here to read last week’s post based on Patient Leadership).  A blogging friend of mine, Bill Grandi (The Cycleguy), recently challenged readers to consider linking up with him for several weeks with posts related to this excellent leadership book.  To read Bill’s introductory post for this series, click here. And to read his post from last week, click here.

For today, Bill and I (and anyone else who’s linking up with us) will be posting about the fourth chapter (Kind:  Show Encouragement and Enthusiasm).  Check out Bill’s take by clicking here.

If you recall from last week, Manby’s premise is that leadership is best when it comes from a position of agape love based on I Corinthians 13.  Since I already read the book, I thought it would be interesting to highlight some of the sentences I underlined when I read the book initially:

  • “Kindness doesn’t mean being nice all the time; leaders must hold people accountable.  However, kindness does mean that encouraging and leading are two sides of the same coin and that words of affirmation and support can be infectiously effective.”  (p. 52)
  • “Making someone’s day better is contagious and increases the energy, effectiveness, and productivity in any organization.  Even when leaders feel concern for what lies ahead, we must give off positive impressions and encouragement if we want our teams to thrive.”  (p. 55)
  • “’Loyalty today is no longer a function of rote or duty, but rather passion.  You must do things so astonishingly well that customers become not merely loyalists, but rather outright apostles.'” Skip LeFauve – CEO of Saturn (p. 58)
  • “’Treat the customer as if it was your own mother buying'” Skip LeFauve (p. 58)
  • “Make their day better – not because you have a mushy need to be liked or to be softhearted, but because it works!” (p. 59)
  • “The enthusiasm of the guest experience can never rise any higher than the enthusiasm of your own employees.” (p. 60)
  • “Kindness is about intentionally creating and maintaining the right environment in your organization so that frontline employees can deliver an enthusiastic guest experience.  Management is kind to employees, employees are kind to customers, and customers are loyal and enthusiastic.”  (p. 60)
  • “Kindness isn’t an add-on – it’s a critical component of any well-run organization.”  (p. 61)
  • “Money can never buy contentment at home; nor can it buy passion at your job.  Working with an enthusiastic team and being supported by kind, loving coworkers is priceless.”  (p. 64)
  • “Spend part of ever day actively encouraging behavior you want to reinforce!”  (p. 66)
  • “Kindness in the context of leading with love begins with you – encouragement and enthusiasm start at the top whether you run the local PTA or a Fortune 500 company.”  (p. 67)
  • “Being kind starts with you and is a key attribute of leading with love.”  (p. 67)

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like to be treated with kindness.  Yet, there are so many unkind words and actions exchanged by leaders, co-workers, colleagues, and even customers.  Wouldn’t it be much better if we all practiced the golden rule?  Treating other people the way we would like to be treated is such a simple idea, but it often seems to be forgotten.  Maybe it’s the hustle and bustle of the busy schedules we all keep.  Maybe it’s the scars left by wounds of the past.  Maybe it’s a complete numbness to the reality around us.

Whatever the reason, kindness isn’t put into practice as often as it should.  We run over each other on the way to the next meeting or on our way to the next rung of the corporate ladder.  When will it stop?

Here’s an idea:  It can start TODAY with you and me.  That’s right, whether you hold a leader position or not, you can decide today to be kind to those around you – in your workplace, in your church, or in your home.  Don’t wait for others to be kind first.  It may never happen.  Instead, take a step of kindness today, and watch what happens.  Kindness is contagious. Be the start of something amazing!

Over the next six weeks, Bill and I will continue to explore love based leadership.  I hope you’ll read along, jump into the comments, and maybe even change the way you lead.  Until then, consider getting a copy of Love Works for yourself, and see how this book might change you and your leadership.

What is one thing you can do differently this week to lead people with more kindness and love than before?  How have you been led with kindness and love-based leadership?

Love Works Wednesday Link Up Week 2 – Patient

Last week, I kicked off a series of posts based on Love Works by Joel Manby.  (Click here to read my first post in this series).  A blogging friend of mine, Bill Grandi (The Cycleguy), recently challenged readers to consider linking up with him for several weeks with posts related to this excellent leadership book.  To read Bill’s introductory post for this series, click here.

For today, Bill and I (and anyone else who’s linking up with us) will be posting about the third chapters (Patient:  Have Self-Control In Difficult Situations).  Check out Bill’s take by clicking here.

If you recall from last week, Manby’s premise is that leadership is best when it comes from a position of agape love.  As the book unfolds, he uses I Corinthians 13 as the springboard to talk about love-based leadership.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Since I already read the book, I thought it would be interesting to highlight some of the sentences I underlined when I read the book initially:

  • “Embracing patience is not about ignoring poor performance.”  (p. 36)

  • “The principle of patience means behaving with self-control in difficult situations.” (p. 36)

  • “I determined never to publicly admonish people in a way that would diminish their dignity.”  (p. 39)

  • “Whenever possible a reprimand should be given in private, and it should be given in a way that maintains a person’s dignity.  When we admonish our employees in private and in a patient, respectful manner, we go a long way toward ensuring our employees remain motivated and continue to grow.”  (p. 39)

  • “We must always admonish with patience and respect.  Our goal isn’t simply performance; it’s to protect the dignity of the people on our team.  Whether we correct and train our employees in public or in private, our goal is always to do so with respect and love.  After all, that’s exactly how we want to be treated.” (p. 41)

  • “For praise to be effective, it needs to be delivered by a leader who is patient enough to observe what his or her team has actually been doing and waits for the right moment to deliver that assessment.”  (p. 42)

  • “It takes patience to praise with specifics, and praise without specifics can be worse than no praise at all.”  (p. 43)

  • “To be truly effective, praise must be legitimate and pointed.”  (p. 46)

  • “Admonish in private whenever possible; be stern but avoid malice; be specific; get people “back on the horse” with pointed praise; move on without a grudge.”  (p. 49)

Bill’s post focuses on utilizing self-control/patience when reprimanding someone.  This chapter in Love Works clearly gives some great insight and advice for addressing poor performance.  Another side of the patience spectrum mentioned in this chapter is how we choose to praise someone for a job well done.  Have you ever received a compliment that seemed vague and unspecific?  It kind of seems like you’re being coddled – that someone is just trying to suck up to you.  Manby reminds us that we need to be thoughtful and specific in complimenting someone.  This takes self-control and patience to deliver a message that is meaningful and deserved.

I have been learning how to apply this type of praise as I’ve joined and participated in Matt McWilliams‘ Thank You Thursday Revolution.  In Matt’s initial post about the revolution, he encourages leaders to write handwritten Thank You Notes to deserving team members.  He charges readers and Thank You Thursday Revolutionaries to be specific in reasons for providing appreciation.  As leaders, we obviously need to reprimand, but we must not forget to praise our team members.  There’s amazing power in simple and specific gratitude and it starts with us!

As we continue with Love Works Wednesday, I want to challenge you to think about your leadership from a whole new perspective.  Whether you lead in the business world, the church world, or in another pocket of the world, try leading with love.  Not love the feeling, but with love the action.  Lead in a way that puts other first.  Lead in a way that represents how you’d honestly like to be treated by others.  Lead in a way that preserves the dignity of others.  Over the next seven weeks, Bill and I will continue to explore love based leadership.  I hope you’ll read along, jump into the comments, and maybe even change the way you lead.  Until then, consider getting a copy of Love Works for yourself, and see how this book might change you and your leadership.

What is one thing you can do differently this week to lead people with more patience and love than before?  How have you been led with patient and love-based leadership?

Love Works Wednesday Link Up Week 1

“Love isn’t a feeling but an action, an action by which leaders and entire organizations can experience almost unimaginable success and personal fulfillment.” 

Joel Manby – Love Works

A couple of months ago, I read and reviewed Love Works by Joel Manby.  (Click here to read my overall review).  A blogging friend of mine, Bill Grandi (The Cycleguy), recently challenged readers to consider linking up with him for several weeks with posts related to this excellent leadership book.  I thought I would give it a try.  To read Bill’s introductory post regarding this series, click here.

For today, Bill and I (and anyone else who’s linking up with us) will be posting about the first two chapters (A Hard Day’s Night and The Jedi Masters).  Check out Bill’s take by clicking here.

Since I already read the book, I thought it would be interesting to highlight some of the sentences I underlined when I read the book initially:

  • “I wanted, in short, to be the same person all the time:  at work, with my family, at my church, and when I was alone.” (p. 21)
  • “Love isn’t a feeling, but an action, an action by which leaders and entire organizations can experience almost unimaginable success and personal fulfillment.” (p.22)
  • “Profits are a product of doing the right thing – over and over again.” (p. 22)
  • “Leadership is about the bottom line AND…and loving the people you work with.  and making your community a better place.  and feeling a sense of satisfaction at the end of every day. and leading employees who can’t imagine working anywhere else….  The bottom line is best served when leaders lead with love.” (p. 23,24)
  • “It’s not okay to achieve profit growth and destroy our culture as a ‘great place to work for great people.’  It is also not okay to focus on being a ‘great place to work’ without achieving our financial objectives.”  (p. 29)
  • “For the culture to survive, it must be defined AND adhered to or the organization could lose its way.”  (p. 29)
  • “Treating someone with love regardless of how you feel about that person is a very powerful principle.”  (p. 31)
  • “Agape love is the foundation for the best and noblest relationships that humans are capable of.  It is deliberate and unconditional love that is the result of choices and behaviors rather than feelings and emotions.”  (p. 32)

I am a leader.  I’m definitely in a leadership position in my company as an operations manager.  My team members include project managers, engineers, technicians, union pipe fitters, and miscellaneous support staff.  I’m in various leadership roles in my church.  I’m a youth leader, I co-lead a small group with my wife, and I lead a Foundations class once or twice a year.  I’m in a leadership position at home.  As a parent, my wife and I have the responsibility to lead our children.

Leadership is an interesting thing.  It takes energy, thought, and action.  When you hear the word leadership, what comes to your mind?  Power?  Fame?  Notoriety?  Influence?  Wisdom?  Many words probably come to mind, but love is not the word we usually think of when we hear the word leadership.  However, when you see how Joel Manby frames love and leadership in the first two chapters and in the quotes above, you get the sense that love is essential in order for leadership to be truly successful.

As we kick-off Love Works Wednesday, I want to challenge you to think about your leadership from a whole new perspective.  Whether you lead in the business world, the church world, or in another pocket of the world, try leading with love.  Not love the feeling, but with love the action.  Lead in a way that puts other first.  Lead in a way that represents how you’d honestly like to be treated by others.  Over the next eight weeks, Bill and I will continue to explore love based leadership.  I hope you’ll read along, jump into the comments, and maybe even change the way you lead.  Until then, consider getting a copy of Love Works for yourself, and see how this book might change you and your leadership.

What is one thing you can do differently this week to lead people with more love than before?  How you have you been led with leadership by others?

Book Review: Love Works by Joel Manby

“Love isn’t a feeling but an action, an action by which leaders and entire organizations can experience almost unimaginable success and personal fulfillment.” 

Joel Manby – Love Works

Love Works by Joel Manby is a must read for leaders.

In Love Works, Manby offers “seven timeless principles for effective leaders.”  These tips are primarily based on I Corinthians 13 and are the same principles Manby uses to lead Herschend Family Entertainment (HFE) where he is the President and CEO.  Last year, Joel and HFE were featured on Undercover Boss.  That week, it was the second most watched show in America (led only by American Idol), and the response was amazing.  Americans wanted to be a part of a company with the type of culture and leadership that was represented at HFE – a culture and leadership based on love.  Based on the response of the show, Manby decided to write Love Works as a way to get these principles in the hands of leaders around the country.

In Love Works, Manby explains that agape love is the key to leading effectively.  Throughout the book, he interweaves in stories from his own experience at HFE, at Saab, at Saturn, and at home with seven lessons designed to help leaders.  Each story builds on one another to give the reader a picture of a leadership based on love – a leadership that is patient, kind, trusting, unselfish, truthful, forgiving, and dedicated.

I found myself underlining words, phrases, and sentences on most pages as I digested what Manby shared.  I will keep a copy of Love Works on my desk as a reference and reminder, and I will definitely recommend Love Works to aspiring leaders.  If you are a leader at work, in church, at home or in other arenas of life, consider picking up a copy of Love Works for yourself!

How have you experienced love at work?  How would things be different for you if your leadership was based on love or if you were led out of love?

Foundations Class Week 2: Growth

Yesterday morning, I led week two of a Foundations Class at my church. If you remember from my post last week, we talked about grace during the first class.  This week, we continued along with the five Gs outlined in Fully Devoted, a study guide by John Ortberg, with the topic of growth.

Growth is an interesting topic.  When I think of growth these days, I think about growth in my running, in my writing, and in my engineering management career path.  In each of these areas, growth doesn’t just happens.  It takes work.  If I want to run a marathon, I have to go into strict training.  If I want to become a better writer and maybe someday write a book, I have to keep practicing and learning.  If I want to keep up with the ever-changing engineering and leadership fields, I have to stay in training so I can learn about new technologies and about new leadership techniques.

Spiritual growth is somewhat similar.  It doesn’t just happen.  It takes time, experience, and some effort on our parts if we’re serious about growing spiritually.  Sure, God could just zap us with spiritual maturity, but we would then miss out on all the experience and training.

So, what does this kind of training look like?

That’s a good question.

I think it includes an attitude of learning – we need to learn God’s Word.  We need to develop a heart for prayer.  And we need to listen for God.  Listening to God can happen in a corporate setting of worship and small groups, but it also happens in solitude where the distractions of this world are put aside for a brief period of time. Honestly, this is the area where I struggle with now.  I feel so often that I’m running from one thing to the next.  I even wrote about this last week.  How can I hear God’s calling when I’m typically too busy even to hear myself think?

As we walked through our discussion, we talked about a few verses that encourage us to be intentional in our spiritual training.  I would encourage you to read these verses and see how they relate to the topic of growth and spiritual transformation.

I Corinthians 9:24-27, I Timothy 4:7-8, Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 4:22-24

It’s funny how God hits you on the head with a message when you’re in the spotlight leading.  This is a message that I need to hear over and over again.  It should be a fun week.  Leanne and I are leading a discussion on discipline at the week’s MOPS meeting at our church. Sounds like another blog post and some more challenging lessons.

What does your spiritual training look like right now? What steps do you need to take to grow spiritually?

3 Thumbs Up! May 12th, 2012

Time for this week’s 3 Thumbs Up! Stretched blog post. For the past several weeks I have used this post as an opportunity to highlight three things that get my thumbs up. This has become a highlight for me as it gives me a chance to support the work of others. So… here are three things that get my thumbs up this week.

Thumbs Up Number 1:  Josh Hamilton. I’m not a Texas Rangers fan despite the fact that my parents live in Dallas, TX. However, it’s hard not to appreciate the story of Josh Hamilton. He has weathered the ups and downs of drugs, alcohol, and celebrity. As recently as this past off-season, Hamilton has dealt with the demons of his past. This week, Hamilton hit four home runs in one game. I haven’t heard the interview yet, but I hear that he gave a pretty moving interview after this achievement in which he talked about his past and about his faith.  Hamilton’s story is inspiring.  He’s obviously not perfect, and I’m sure he will continue to struggle with life.  What inspires me about his story is that there is still hope and redemption and salvation.  This is a story we all need to cling to.

Thumbs Up Number 2:. Blogging Your Passion Podcast. I just stumbled across this podcast this week as I was loading new podcasts on my iPod in preparation for a long day on the road. So far, Blogging Your Passion has released two episodes in which the speakers share valuable tips on how to improve your blogging along with suggestions on how to increase traffic. I listened to both episodes on Tuesday, and I found them very informative. I’ll be back to listen to future episodes.

Thumbs Up Number 3:  Executive Pastor Online by Kevin Stone.  I’m not an executive and I’m not a pastor, but I find myself resonating and thinking through many of the things that Kevin throws up on his blog on a regular basis.  Kevin came out of the corporate world to take on the challenges of running the business side of a church (my church).  His thoughts on leadership and team development often fit in with what I’m wrestling with in my own job as an operations manager.  If you’re interested in some new leadership ideas or if you are interested in reading thoughts from a guy who wants to help other churches, I’d recommend you check out Executive Pastor Online.

And those are my three thumbs up for this week!

What have you come across this week that deserves a thumbs up?

Resource Review: This Is Your Life Podcast

I’m a big fan of podcasts.

I listen to them in the car.  I listen to them on the treadmill.  I listen to them when I’m taking a walk.  And I listen to them while I’m running.

Here are a few of the podcasts that I listen to on a regular basis:  The Dave Ramsey Show Podcast, EntreLeadership Podcast, Daily Audio Bible Podcast, FamilyLife Today Podcast, and The RELEVANT Podcast.  I enjoy each of these podcasts as they keep me entertained and informed.  Podcasts are a great way to keep your brain growing.

Podcasting is definitely an up and coming form of communication.  There are new podcasts popping up every day.

Recently, a blogging friend of mine started his own podcast, and I think it’s worth sharing here.  Last month, Michael Hyatt launched his own podcast called This Is Your Life.  In his podcast, Michael offers practical advice for blogging, leading, and living.  So far, he has released three “issues” of This Is Your Life, and I have listened to each of them a few times.  With each listen I’ve absorbed new ideas for my own blog, my own leadership, and my own life.

So if you’re looking for a great podcast or if you need something to listen to for your next 30 minute car ride, I’d definitely recommend downloading This Is Your Life.

What podcast do you recommend?

Multiplying Small Group Ministry

The narrative below is by no means a complete analysis of the process involved with multiplying small group ministry, but it provides some insights from personal experience.   I’ve tried to break up this analysis into various aspects that I think are important to consider when heading into small group multiplication.

Before I go into these different aspects, I thought it might be appropriate to share some history related to my small group ministry experience.  My wife and I started attending Christ’s Church of the Valley more than ten years ago.  When we first started attending, we struggled with finding real connection at the church.  Since we met in a movie theater, we never had a lot of time before or after our normal Sunday church time to establish relationships with anyone else at the church.  Realizing that this would take some effort on our part, we decided to try out a new “marriage building” workshop.  This twelve week workshop gave my wife and I a chance to meet people and begin deeper relationships with others at the church.

Out of this workshop, our first small group was started.  For the first couple of months, it was basically one other couple meeting at our house every other week.  Over time, our group grew a couple at a time.  When we started a study based on “40 Days of Purpose” by Rick Warren in January 2004, we were averaging 18 to 20 adults (along with many children) at our weekly meetings.  Heading into this study, we realized we needed to make decisions about the future of our group.  At the end of this study, we “birthed” into two groups.

After this “birthing” process, I did not imagine having to go through it again for a while.  I guess God had other plans, because in January 2005 we went through the process again when our group ballooned to 30 adults (and over 20 children).  This time we “birthed” into three groups.

Going through these times of transition was not easy at all (especially when you don’t enjoy change – like me); however, I am convinced that it was the right thing to do both times.  Hopefully, the tips below will help you in addressing this process at your own church or with your own group.

Changing the tone

When I first started talking about splitting up our small group, the reaction was mixed with a heavy leaning towards the negative.  Everyone had become very comfortable with the people who were in the group, and they did not want to split up the group.  Our adult ministries pastor recommended using different language to describe the process.  “Splitting up” sounded so negative.  This terminology implied a divorce or breakup of the group.  The term “birthing” seemed a bit funny at first, but it eventually caught on.  This terminology implies new life without the feeling of abandonment.  Once our group bought into this change, they began to look at the whole process a lot more positively.  (Multiplying might be a good word to use also.)

Communicating the positives

As our group developed, we were committed to fostering an environment where new people were always welcome.  We refer to this as the “Open Chair Policy.”  We always try to have an open chair at our meetings as a reminder to be praying about who God might be sending to our group.  A major reason for this policy is our commitment to contributing to the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:19, 20).  I’m also convinced that this was how the early church worked.  Acts 2:42-47 describes the early church and clearly shows that God was adding to their numbers daily.  I believe they had some sort of open chair policy in place.  If the early church had closed its doors to outsiders, the church today would certainly not be the same (if it even existed).  Similarly, the courage of someone sharing their faith with us was probably the driving force for our own faith.  We have the privilege and obligation to share this with others.  Helping your group to understand this is extremely important.  Yes, the small group exists to help them grow and experience fellowship, yet it is also there to help fulfill the Great Commission.

A man in our first group shared one night during our discussion about this issue, that we are telling others (non-believers who might be interested in attending our group, but won’t or can’t because our group has gotten to big) that they can “go to hell,” because we are too selfish to go through the pain of birthing our group.  His comment helped our group understand the need for this process.

The birthing process also gives current members a chance to invite friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors to their group.  When the group gets to a certain level, small group members become reluctant to bring others to the group.

Another positive about the birthing process is that it allows for deeper intimacy.  When your group is approaching 20-30 people, it becomes a real challenge to keep the deep connections going.  As a group leader, it also becomes a real challenge to shepherd a group of this size also.  Even Jesus did not have a group of this size.  His example of 12 or 13 seems much more manageable.  I would even propose that a group size of 8 to 12 is about as big as a group should get.

For our group another positive about this process related to the whole childcare issue.  Our group has made every effort to provide childcare.  As a result, our group growth as been predominately marked by families with kids.  Trying to coral a large number of kids into someone’s basement or backyard isn’t fair or safe for the kids or the sitters.  By birthing, our new groups have been able to more effectively handle the childcare issues.

Communicating these positives is essential to helping group members understand the benefits and the need for going through the “birthing” process.

 Listening to the negatives

As a small group leader and as a “people pleaser,” I am always concerned about the thoughts and feelings of those in my group.  I want them to understand and be happy with the decision to birth.  Unfortunately, group members don’t always get it right away.  Like me, they don’t like change, and they don’t understand why it is so necessary.  It’s important for small group leaders to listen to the people in the group as they wrestle through this time of transition.  We talked about it at our weekly meetings which I’ll mention later, but I also tried to call or speak to each individual in the group personally (especially the first time) to give them an opportunity to voice their opinions.  I believe this provides an essential opportunity for group members to grow into the decision to birth new groups.

Group leaders also need a coach or point person that they can lean on for support through this time.  This person not only acts as a sounding board but also as a cheerleader.  A small group leader should not feel like they are swimming through this process alone.  They need an encourager and a backup.

 Praying throughout the process

This process could never happen without prayer.  Small group leaders need to be praying for their group.  Church leadership needs to be praying for the small group leaders and for the effective growth of the small group ministry.  Each small group should also be praying for the “Open Chair” and for the future of the group as it looks towards birthing.  As our group began to discuss this topic, we tried to start and/or end each discussion with prayer.

Prayer has probably been the biggest highlight of the actual birthing process for our groups.  At our last meeting together as a whole group, we spent time commissioning the new groups through prayer.  This provided a beautiful time to thank God for his work in our group up to this point and to ask for grace and guidance for the new groups.

 Building up new leaders

Another important aspect to the birthing process is the building up of new leaders.  I recommend appointing an apprentice leader to each small group early in the life of the group.  I also believe it’s important to provide plenty of opportunities for the apprentices to have leadership in the group.  Initially, this may mean assigning the apprentice to a task or two at each meeting (i.e. Ice Breaker Leadership or Announcements).  Eventually, the apprentice should be encouraged to lead the entire meeting.  This provides an opportunity for the apprentice to become comfortable leading the group, and it also gives the group a chance to become comfortable with the apprentice.

One way we approached this was by splitting the group into two or three groups for the discussion part of the evening.  This allowed for more intimate discussion, and it gave the apprentice a valuable opportunity to lead.

Apprentices should also be included in the small group ministry support activities.  At our church, group leaders and apprentices meet quarterly along with the small group coaches/team leaders.  At these meeting, we are challenged by visions for the future, we are encouraged to huddle with others to learn from each other and to pray for each other, and we are educated with new skills that will help us effectively lead our small groups.

 Involving the group in the decision

The small group should be involved in the decision to birth.  Groups should together establish a charter that recognizes that the birthing process is inevitable and important.  As the actual birth approaches, time should be set aside at a couple of meetings so the group can talk about the process and the logistics (who is going where, etc.).  In some cases it might be beneficial for the apprentice to make some phone calls to nail down the location for their future meetings and to ask people to consider joining their new group.  Through this discussion, the group may be able to easily divide the groups based on geography or age of children.  In other cases, group members may just want the leaders to determine which new group each person should end up in.  Again, prayer through this whole process is crucial.

 Looking ahead to the future

A helpful way to get your groups through this process is to plan a reunion event of some sort (i.e. covered dish picnic).  This will be a neat opportunity to see each other again and to meet the new people who have experienced real community as a result of the birthing process.  This will also be an opportunity to celebrate and to encourage continued involvement in this process.

The first time was the toughest.  The second time was a bit easier.  As people in your church and in your small groups adjust to this process, it will hopefully become easier.  Looking ahead, I see a church full of small groups that provide true community and unbelievable outreach and growth.

Afterthought

I could probably share many other things about my journey through this process (maybe I’ll have the chance sometime), and I realize I have much more to learn.  In the meantime, I hope this brief narrative will be helpful as you approach the small group ministry birthing process.

What tips to you have to add relating to the “birthing” process?  Have you ever experienced this process?  How did it go?

Ten Things Every Small Group Leader Should Know

Several months ago, I had the honor and privilege of sharing my thoughts to a group of small group leaders at our church.  I shared this list on the old jonstolpe.wordpress site, and it continues to be the most popular post.  I thought it might be a good idea to repost it here on the new site to hopefully spark some new conversation and thoughts about small group leadership.  So here are my notes:

I’m excited about this opportunity to share.  If you don’t know me or if you haven’t figured it out, I’m extremely passionate about small groups.  I truly believe they can provide a path for connection to others and to God.  I also believe that small groups play an important role in accountability and discipleship.  In no way is this list the Bible of small group leaders. It’s just my thoughts based on my involvement with small groups in various capacities for nearly 20 years. I’ve participated in groups. I’ve led groups. I’ve led group leaders. And I even had the privilege of leading a team of coaches.  (I was also brought up in a home where small groups were important and modeled by my parents.)  As I share my ideas, I’d encourage you to take a few notes.  So here goes:

1.  Small group leaders are important.  They play a big part in helping people find community, find God, and find growth.  If you are a small group leader, you need to know that what you do matters.

2.  Small group leaders set the tone.  Whether or not you consider yourself a Biblical scholar, your group members look to you as an example.  For this reason, it’s important that small group leaders continue to model growth.  They should be in the Word.  They should develop disciplines that model growth.  Small group leaders aren’t perfect, but they must find others who will hold them accountable to setting the tone.

3.  Small groups are not about small group leaders.  Small groups aren’t meant to showcase your incredible “holiness” or biblical knowledge.  Small groups aren’t meant to show off how great you are as a leader.  Small groups are about the group – about pointing people to God.

3A.  Small groups aren’t just about the groups either. Get out there and serve with your group. Find a way once a month or once every other month to get out there and serve together. Adopt a place that your group can focus on. There are many area nursing homes, soup kitchens, food and clothing pantries, etc. that would love to have the support of your group. Getting your group involved in this type of service gets your group focused on others and allows your group to practically put into motion what following Christ is all about.

4.  Small group leaders aren’t supposed to live on an island.  Leaders must find ways to stay strong and spiritually fervent.  They must also have a support team to provide guidance when small group life gets tough – and it usually will. (I wrote about this on my blog over a year ago.)

5.  Small group leaders must be invitational.  Intimacy and transparency in groups can be great, but it shouldn’t be an excuse not to invite others into the group.  I’m a big proponent of the “open chair” policy in small groups.  If you’re a small group leader, set the tone.  Make sure there is always an open chair in your group for new group members and guests.  Talk about it with your group.  Don’t let it be optional.

6.  Small group leaders aren’t perfect.  I think I said this before.  Group leaders must be honest with themselves.  They must learn to ask for help.  Maybe you stink at the administrative stuff, or maybe you’re a terrible host.  Look to those around you.  Get others to use their gifts to help the group and to help you as a leader.  Not only does this make you and the group better, but it engages others into the group experience.  People want to be asked to help.  They are often just waiting for you to ask them to get involved.

7.  Being a small group leader isn’t always easy.  Let’s face it, nobody likes to deal with EGRs (Extra Grace Required people).  But it can also be challenging when people in your group are going through difficult life circumstances.  People in your groups will get sick, they’ll have messed up relationships, and they’ll make mistakes that carry significant consequences.  You may be required to get involved with the mess.  Embrace it.  God may have placed you in leadership for such a time as this.

8.  Seek advice and wisdom from trusted advisers.  Your pastor, group life pastor and others who have been doing small group ministry for a while can be helpful.  They will know how to react.  They will know when to bring in assistance.  (I have also found a lot of great small group leader advice and resources on-line. Mention blogs – Because Relationships Matter by Kathy Guy, Heather Zempel, Life & Theology by Ben Reed, Mark Howell Live by Mark Howell, Simple Small Groups by Bill Search, Small Group Books.com by Ryan Knight, Small Group Pastors by the Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, The Naked Truth About Small Group Ministry by Randall Neighbor, and Will Johnston – of NCC.)

9.  Lean into the small group leader community.  Make it a priority to be here for each quarterly meeting.  Connect with each other outside this meeting.  Go to lunch or breakfast together.  When you see each other in and out of church, stop, ask, and share about your group.

9A.  Be patient. It may take time for your small group to grow. I remember starting our first group at our church. We met at our house. The Stolpes and the Callahans. This was it week after week after week. Then we added the Santangelos. Then the Bonanis started coming. Suddenly our small living room was filling up. We switched over to the Callahans. Before we knew it, we had to split up into three different rooms. The group had grown so much. I have seen this trend again and again. Don’t give up! It may take a little while for your group to catch on. Remember that God is there when two or more gather in His name.

10.  Be passionate!  My list started with a reminder that what you do as a small group leader matters.  Realize this fact.  Think about it.  Believe it. Act like it!  You have a great honor and privilege to lead others in their journey towards Christ.  This is awesome stuff!  Be excited about what you are doing.  Spread the excitement to others!

That’s my top 10 (or 12) things that small group leaders should know. I’d love to hear your ideas and questions. Before that, I’d like to leave you with this. Thank you! Thank you for stepping up to serve. Thank you for getting out of your comfort zone. Thank you for leading. Thank you for leading when it’s fun and when it’s not. Thank you for making a difference. Thank you for caring enough to help others connect to others and to God.

So these were my notes.  I would add another point based on some of the discussion that followed our meeting.  We’ll call it number 7A:  You may need to be flexible.  Sometimes life happens, and you need to throw out your plans for the meeting to address concerns that need immediate attention.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What would you add to the list?  How have you seen these points in your small group experience?

W2R Take Home 2: Make Prayer A Priority In Our Marriage

Happy Leap Day!

To my friend Stretch Mark, Happy 12th Birthday!

Yesterday, I shared one of my big take homes from my Weekend To Remember (W2R) marriage conference experience.  I shared that I want to be an agent of encouragement in my marriage and in my family.

Today, I’ll share my second big take home for the W2R conference.  I want to make prayer a bigger priority in my marriage.  Leanne and I pray to together most nights at bedtime.  Although, this sometimes is missed when one or both of us is “too” tired.  If I’m honest, I often wait for Leanne to initiate our prayer time.  I could probably come up with all kinds of excuses for this, but I’ll save you (and me) the agony.

The W2R conference was a great reminder that I need to step up and lead in this way in our marriage.  One of the speakers, Bob Maddox, shared that he and his wife pray together twice a day.  If he’s on the road, he calls her at least twice a day to make sure this prayer time happens.  Bob takes responsibility for this.  When he shared this, I was definitely challenged.  And so we are praying together twice a day.  I pray with Leanne before I leave for the office in the morning, and we pray together at bedtime.  So far, it’s been three days in a row!

How could praying together twice a day make a difference in our family?

First, making prayer a priority puts our perspective and focus in the right place.  God has to come first in our lives.  Second, praying together gives us an opportunity to connect and to lift each other up.  There’s no question that we are in a busy stage of our parenting lives as we run our kids from activity to activity.  We need this time to slow down and to be together.  Third, praying together sets the tone for our family.  I’ve heard it said, the couple that prays together stays together.  We want our family to be cemented together.  And we want our family to put God first.  When we pray, our kids will know it.  They’ll see us putting God first.  This will have an impact on their lives.  Finally, prayer changes lives.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  James 5:16

What’s your prayer life look like?  If you’re married, do you pray together?  What reasons could you add for praying together with your spouse?