Next month, I’ve been invited to speak at a small group leader gathering at our church. I’ve been asked to share my top 10 list of things that every small group leader should know. I’m excited about this opportunity. 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. So I haven’t formulated my full list, but I’ve begun to process what I will share.
1. The 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.
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.
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.
These are just some of my initial thoughts. I’d love to hear what you think.
What would you add to the list? What do you think every small group leader should know?
As you may have known or guessed, our family was on vacation last week. We took off for a week to enjoy the great outdoors and the French Canadian culture in Quebec, Canada. We spent most of our time in and around the small ski town of Mont-Tremblant. It was gorgeous and a wonderful break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life here in the Stolpe home. The Sunday we were there, we visited the only church in town, L’Eglise Sacre-Coeur (Sacred Heart Church). The church is a small Roman Catholic church that overlooks Lac Mercier. Here are some of my thoughts from our visit:
It was very interesting to be in a French-speaking church and to be in a catholic church. In some regards, it makes me appreciate my own church all that much more.
On the other hand, it was encouraging to see the devotion of those who regularly worship in this setting. A few other observations:
1. Besides the passing of the peace, we were not greeted by a single person. Nobody said, “Bon jour.” Nobody said, “Hello.” Nobody said anything. If you belong to a church, you should be friendly. Stop and say hello to those you don’t recognize.
2. We need to speak the language of those around us who don’t have a church home. Putting aside the French language and the differences in doctrine, would I or anyone else understand what was going on as part of this service? Do we expect people to come into our churches and fall in line with the routines and traditions we keep? Do we provide an explanation of our traditions, etc.? Are we relevant to the community around us?
3. The priest reminded me of (my wife’s) Uncle Dave’s brother, Tom. I know this is trivial, but it’s just what I noticed.
4. The French language is beautiful. I have no idea what everyone was saying or singing, but it sounded nice.
5. People think that church ends after communion. I shouldn’t judge as I don’t know what these people had to do this day, but I observed many people slipping out of the church as soon as communion was over. They didn’t stay around for the closing words. They didn’t stay around for fellowship. They left as quickly as they arrived. Our involvement with church isn’t meant to be a task that must be checked off the list. It’s meant to be our life. We’re called to be in Christian community that transcends the Sunday service. We’re called to be involved throughout the week, and we’re called to bring it into our communities. This doesn’t happen in a 40 minute Sunday service. This happens every minute of every day.
6. I’m not real great at the kneeling thing. Perhaps, I need to practice this more. Getting on my knees before God is a discipline of trusting God and of putting Him first.
I realize these thoughts are somewhat random, but I thought you’d enjoy hearing how I was stretched on vacation.
Where do you go to church when you’re on vacation? What have you learned from your vacation church experiences?
Monday night, I ventured out to a local church to enjoy the local fireworks from their lawn. The church did a great job advertising for the event. The parking lot was full when we arrived, and the traffic directors helped us find a parking spot quickly. As we unloaded chairs from our cars, we were invited to enjoy free hot dogs, popcorn, and water from a table setup near the church building. We found a place to put our chairs and blankets along with everyone else. And we settled down in our spot as we patiently waited for the fireworks to commence. Suddenly, we started to hear and see some amateur fireworks in the neighborhood next to the church. Then off in the distance over the trees, we could see the tops of a professional fireworks display. These were the fireworks we were waiting for only our view was mostly obstructed by the trees.
Honestly, I was initially disappointed. My wife and kids were looking forward to the fireworks, and I was responsible for bringing them to a place that offered less than spectacular views of the show. I was slightly embarrassed as many people who came to the church’s property were obviously upset. I’m sure many of these people were unchurched, so I’m sure they weren’t left with the best impression. I felt bad for the church who clearly had the best intentions in hosting this event.
It seems like a difficult balance – demanding excellence but allowing for grace.
I know that people like myself expect excellence, and churches have a high standard to maintain in today’s consumer driven culture. However, I hope that people will see an opportunity for grace and realize that this church had the best intentions. I hope that people will see a church that clearly has a gift for hospitality and a desire to connect with the community. (And I’m sure this church learned a few valuable lessons along the way as well.)
When have your best intentions fallen short of excellence? How have others shown you grace when you didn’t quite measure up to expectations?
Over the past year, I’ve been struggling to figure out where I fit in at our church. For a long time, I was active in grouplife leadership at our church. Events a couple of years ago (that I really don’t want to rehash) left me somewhat scarred and feeling out in the cold related to this ministry area. Grouplife remains a huge passion of mine, but it’s been a challenge to jump back in after a couple of years. Some of the challenge stems from other commitments at home and at work. Recently, family circumstances have left me hesitant to jump back in full force. But mostly, I believe it’s been my pride that has kept me out of the game.
Leanne has been encouraging me to find an area where I can serve. I’ve looked at the volunteer opportunities that appear in our weekly church program, but nothing really jumped out at me and said, “This is for you!” Leanne and our kids have been serving regularly in our children’s ministry. On these days, I often find myself hanging out in the lobby while they are serving. Pretty lame, huh? Well, as it turns out, there is a ministry opportunity for people who like to hang out in the lobby. Starting next week, I’ll be serving at our Welcome Center. It’s an opportunity to help people who have questions about our church, and it’s an opportunity to point people towards avenues that will help them get plugged into our church.
I’m excited. I know this may not seem like a huge deal, but I believe it’s a positive step forward for the new year.
If you’re in the lobby on the 4th Sunday of the month be sure to stop by and say hello. I’ll be the tall guy over at the Welcome Center.
(By the way, I have been so excited to see what has been happening with Grouplife at our church over the past year.)
A guy at our church has been “leading” a monthly Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Group connected with our church’s grouplife ministry. For some of you, this sounds sacrilegious and not quite right – after all, doesn’t the Bible discourage gambling? I guess I understand this viewpoint; however, I would argue that this is the type of group that Jesus would promote. From what we read in the gospels, Jesus hung out with prostitutes, cheaters, and punks. I’ve attended this poker group a few times, and it draws all kinds of people – people who are part of the church and people who are not part of any church. The group’s goal (besides playing cards) is to create an entry point for people to get connected with people from our church. From here, the hope is that they would come to our church and check out other opportunities to get connected and to grow.
Today, I was blown away when I saw one of the group’s attenders file into church a few rows in front of me with the group’s leader. He quickly received a hand shake and hello from one of the group’s regular attenders who was sitting right in front of him. I’ll be honest, I never expected to see this guy in our church. I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised. This is the group’s goal, and it’s working.
So what do you think? Would you consider this a valid part of your grouplife/connection ministry? What other types of groups might serve in this same manner?
I’d love to hear your feedback!
Yesterday, my church celebrated it’s 10 year anniversary by kicking off a new series called Beyond. As part of the service, several people shared how their lives have been changed through the church. It was pretty powerful. Check out the video link above (10-17-10 Cardboard Testimonies). Never underestimate the power of the local church.
If you’re looking for a place to celebrate Christmas Eve, check this out: