Small Groups at LifePoint Church
Influencing people to find and follow Jesus by Deepening our walk with God, Developing Biblical community with one another, and Deploying our gifts to serve the world and the church.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Is Your Group Too Safe

Is your group too safe? Before you answer that question, let me explain a bit. I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about the need for small groups to be “safe places.” When we talk about safe groups, we are really speaking of a place where trust is highly valued and doggedly pursued. A place where a person can be who they really are without having to worry that everyone will bail because of it. That’s a good kind of safe. But a group that doesn’t take risks? That’s too safe.

What about a group that week after week sits in a circle answering questions from a study guide but never sees the truth of God’s Word violently collide with the life they live ? That, my friend, is too safe. A group that doesn’t make time to live the curriculum they study? Too safe. A group that chooses to ignore relational conflict rather than engage in the centuries old practice of biblical restoration? Too safe. A group that has found what they were looking for, so they close the doors of community? Too safe. A group that would rather talk about the love of Jesus than live the love of Jesus? Too safe. A group where everybody is fine and no one shares their deepest struggles? Again, too safe.

In his book, “Your God Is Too Safe” Mark Buchanan writes, “The safe god asks nothing of us, gives nothing to us. He never drives us to our knees in hungry, desperate praying and never sets us on our feet in fierce fixed determination. He never makes us bold to dance. The safe god never whispers in our ears anything but greeting card slogans and certainly never asks that we embarrass ourselves by shouting from the rooftops. A safe god inspires neither awe, nor worship, nor sacrifice. A safe god woos us to borderland and keeps us stuck there. He helps us escape reality.”

God is not safe, and He hasn’t called us to live safe lives of comfort and protection—just ask the disciples. Take a risk. Be vulnerable. Reach out. Make the kingdom of God tangible to the world around you. Speak the truth. Allow the Word of God to penetrate more than your ears. Let it run wild in your life. Tell your group that you want this to be more than a two hour a week activity. Communicate the desire you have that your group won’t stop at changing your lives, but that through it, God might change the world. Do you believe He can? I do. I want my group to be a place that takes risks and launches out of the land of comfort into a place where we are absolutely dependent on God to do big things that only He can do and where we lock arms with each other, and don’t let go. How about you?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Just Thinking

Wow, it’s hard to believe that this is the first Tuesday of 2010, isn’t it? I thought we were supposed to have flying cars by now, or be living on the moon. Oh well, a guy can dream. I like the start of a new year because it provides the perfect opportunity to reflect and celebrate what God has done in the past while looking ahead toward what He might do in the future.

For me, I am looking back and celebrating things like:

*The launch of LifeSupport groups and the LifeSupport blog. Currently 50% of our groups are connected in LifeSupport and we have more than 70 subscribers to the blog.
*The establishment of our Small Group Ministry Team which meets each month. Currently seven people make up that growing team.
*The 700+ adults connected to Community Groups with many more attending men’s and women’s group here at LPC.
*Your commitment to be used by God to make a significant contribution to His kingdom.
*The stories I hear on a regular basis from Community Group members about how their group has impacted their lives, how they had the opportunity to impact the lives of others, and so on.
*The fact that everything I am celebrating is possible because of God’s grace and your investment.
*And so much more…

Take a few minutes today or this week to reflect on what God has done in 2009. Where can you trace His hand in your life, your family’s life, your Community Group? What things did He do that if you weren’t careful to observe they would slip by unnoticed? What were the wins for you in 09, how about the disappointments? Have you spoken to God about them?

Now take some time to think and pray about this coming year. Where might God be leading you, your family, your group? What areas of spiritual formation and direction do you think God may be calling you toward? Is there a particular couple in your group that would blossom if you intentionally invested your leadership in them? Is God tugging at your heart in the direction of a particular need in the church, community, or the world? What would you do to advance the kingdom of God if there was nothing to stop you from doing it?

One of the coolest things for me to think about is the fact that after all God has done in the past, all of it, we are all still here so He wants to do even more in and through us in the future. 2010 is here. Are you ready?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Principle of the Path

Direction, not intention, determines destination. That equation is true for everyone, there is no escaping it. Obvious, isn’t it? It’s so obvious that when I first read it I felt a sense of profound dumbness. Think about it. The direction you are heading in ends somewhere, and it’s the direction you’re travelling in, not your intention, that will take you there. There is a final scene for each choice we make. It’s the principle of the path.

The direction you are currently traveling—relationally, financially, spiritually, and the list goes on and on—will determine where you end up in each of those respective arenas. This is true regardless of your goals, your dreams, your wishes, or your wants. The principle of the path trumps all those things. Your current direction will determine your destination.
So, will the direction you are heading in take you to where you want to go?

As it relates to small group leadership I often say that leading a small group is not just about serving, or doing ministry. It is about becoming like Jesus in the process. Jesus would not have been satisfied to see His disciples doing what He did and not becoming like who He was. When a student is fully trained he will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40). For us, small group leadership goes beyond leading a group; even leading it well. Our strong desire is that we all come to know God in deeper ways and are continually being transformed by His grace (2 Peter 3:18). That may be your intention, even your goal. But, the question to ask yourself is--does the path you are on lead you there?

Here are some other questions to think about:

1. Are there disconnects in your life?
2. Are there discrepancies between what you desire in your heart and what you are doing with your life?
3. Is there alignment between your intentions and your direction?

The principle of the path, the quote and three questions are from a book I read several months ago. It’s one of those rare books that I think about long after I’ve read it. It’s impacted my life in a big way and I find myself continually applying its content. It’s called “The Principle of the Path” by Andy Stanley. It’s an amazing book that I wish everyone would read. Oh, and there is another essential component to the equation “direction not intention determines destination”, but I will let you discover that for yourself when you read the book.

If you want to watch a brief video by Andy Stanley talking about this book, or to purchase the book from Amazon click here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Group Life Conference

I attended Willow Creek’s Group Life Conference on Saturday and it was amazing. Every talk in itself was worth the price of admission. Here are some highlights from a few sessions with some of my thoughts sprinkled in. Maybe one or two will hit you where you live.

David Johnson, Senior pastor at Church of the Open Door in Maple Grove, Minnesota, spoke on “Real Transformation for Real People.” Is real growth possible? Can we be and live like Jesus in the 21st century? More importantly, can the people in my small group really grow and change?

David gave three necessary ingredients to experiencing transformation in small groups. We need to be authentic, we need to be courageous, and we need to be grace-filled.

He said, “The unspoken motto in inauthentic groups and churches is this: How things look is what matters here.” This spoke to me in a big way. Groups need to know that this isn’t a show. If the Word of God is going to impact our lives it must intersect who we really are and not who we want to be. This takes authenticity…and yeah, it’s messy. How deeply are people revealing who they are in your group? David Johnson went on to say: “To authentically live in the light of what’s true about you and me is the most courageous thing you and I will ever do.” Wow. Tell that to your group.

Mindy Caliguire, Founder of Soul Care, a spiritual formation ministry serving church leaders, spoke on “Leading from a Healthy Soul.” Real growth, real change in a small group starts with the group leader. Leaders don’t need to be perfect, but they do need to be working on their own heart and life in order to help others do the same.

Mindy started off by asking: “What are the most important qualities to leading a group?” Take a second to answer that question then read her answer. She listed a bunch of qualities that she used to think were most important, and then she said, “They need to be leading from a healthy soul–a deep internal place of well-being.” She developed the idea that over time it is easy to neglect our souls. “Leadership can be dangerous, because leadership gets us moving. Too much activity too fast can damage our soul,” she said. Leading others toward authentic transformation requires us leading, not from perfection, but a healthy soul. You and I are responsible for the care of our souls.

She led us in an exercise that I thought was great. She asked everyone to write down the kind of person we were when we were in an unhealthy place with God. The list contained things like anxiety, stress, a judgmental spirit, being critical, fear, etc. She said that all those things are signs of soul neglect. After that, she asked us to write down the kind of person we were when we were in a healthy place in our spiritual journey, regardless of the circumstances in our lives. Descriptors in that category were things like faith-filled, courageous, giving, kind, forgiving, humble, purpose driven, etc. She asked, “Which would you like to experience regularly? We are always voting for one of these.” Then she said, “Only you can choose to incline your heart in the direction of God.” The most important thing we can do as leaders is to lead ourselves well.

My favorite quote of the day was from Heather Zempel. She’s on staff at National Community Church in DC. Her talk was called, “Flawed is the New Perfect.” It was brilliant. She developed the idea that community is messy because community requires people and people are messy…that includes you and me by the way. So, as leaders do we just throw up our hands and give up because things get messy? She referenced Jesus healing the blind man in John 9 and pondered how many times did God have to spit in the dirt to make enough mud to cover this man’s eyes. He probably had to spit a lot. It was messy. Then she said this, “Jesus said, ‘Go make disciples’, not, ‘Go find disciples.’” That’s good stuff! Disciplemaking is messy, but it’s what Jesus did and what He commands us to do. If there were no mess there wouldn’t be anything to transform.

Hey, I hope this was encouraging to you in some way. You are doing an important task, and don’t ever forget the special promise of God’s presence that Jesus made to those who are making disciples. “I am with you always.” Matthew 28

One last thing, I have been blown away by the number of groups who have fully embraced “Deploying our Gifts to Serve the World and the Church.” I am asked on a regular basis, “Where can our group serve together?” I love the passion that I am seeing in groups to be a tangible expression of Christ’s love to the world around us. If you go to our LifeSupport blog you’ll notice now that at the top of the page is a new tab entitled “GroupServe Opportunities.” If you hover over that heading you’ll see some links appear. Follow those links and the content is self-explanatory. We’ll be adding to more serving opportunities in the days ahead.

With you!


Monday, July 13, 2009

Just Say No?

How do you keep from burning out in ministry? What do you do to ensure that the ministry God called you to be a part of is the one that you fulfill? Paul tells Timothy: Fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:5). I love how Paul personalizes this for his young friend. Paul knows that Timothy isn’t responsible for fulfilling anyone else’s calling or ministry, but his own. And for some reason, he must have known that Timothy needed to hear those words. Maybe Timothy was a guy who felt pressured because he saw all kinds of needs, but not enough volunteers to meet those needs; so he tried doing too much and Paul knew that would end in burnout. Maybe Timothy just leaned toward taking on too much. Perhaps he was a highly driven person who tried doing it all. Or, maybe he was getting weary in ministry and Paul wanted to encourage him to continue on and steward well the ministry God called him to. Regardless, Paul clearly communicated to Timothy the importance of completing what God called him to do.

Someone said the key to leadership is staying focused. As Community Group leaders, it is essential that we have a clear vision of what God has called us to do. If we don’t, it would be easy to lose focus, take on too much, or bail before we complete the task. Listen, don’t try doing it all. Do what God has called you to do. Sometimes that means saying “No,” even to good things. Jesus was willing and able to do that because He knew what His calling was, and He wouldn’t be deterred. That doesn’t mean He didn’t go above and beyond, it just means that He was crystal clear about His mission and fulfilled His ministry.

Fulfill your ministry. That doesn't mean we silo ourselves and automatically "just say no." But, it does mean that we continually evaluate our calendars and make sure that we are giving our primary calling all it requires.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

How Do I Deal with A Constant Talker?

What do you do when there's a person, or people, in your group who dominate the discussion and seemingly don't know when to stop talking? Greg Bowman, Executive Director for Adult Ministries at Willow Creek, offers some practical insights to help you answer that question. You can also see what others at the Small Group Exchange have to say by clicking the link below.

Greg Bowman :: How do I deal with a constant talker?

Shared via AddThis

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What Does it Take to Reproduce a Leader?

Joel Comiskey interviewed hundreds of leaders from around the world with the goal being to find out why some leaders reproduce and others don't.

Here's what he found.

These are the factors that had no impact on reproduction:

The Leader's:

•Social class.
•Marital status.
•Personality type.
•Spiritual gifting.

None of these were factors in a leaders effectiveness at reproduction.

Here are some of the factors that did have an impact on reproduction:

The Leader's:

•Devotional time. Key finding: There is a direct correlation between reproduction and a leader spending time with God.
•How often the small group leader invites people to the group.
•The small group leader’s intercession for the small group members.
•The leader spending time with God to prepare for a small group meeting.
•Setting goals for reproduction.

In his book, Leadership Explosion, Joel Comiskey writes this:

I have researched small groups around the world. Here's what I have discovered: Small groups are not the answer...Small groups come and go, they rise and fall over time. Unless small group members are converted into small group leaders little long-term fruit remains. Churches do not reap the harvest because they have small groups. They reap the harvest because they have harvest workers.

The most important factor in leaders reproducing leaders is the time they spend alone with God. And that, makes perfect sense. We can't give out, for too long anyway, what we are not receiving for ourselves. If we are going to impart to others we must take part ourselves.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


What an amazing night we had together last Thursday! More than 60 leaders showed up as we unveiled our new strategy for supporting Community Group leaders…we call it LifeSupport. “LifeSupport is a community of leaders, gathering to connect, encourage, and resource with one another as they grow in life and leadership.” We have decided to move away from a traditional coaching structure, and are embracing a relational model that emphasizes collaboration among leaders.

Feel in the dark as a CG leader? We want to see CG leaders better connect with one another, the small group ministry, and the overall ministry and leadership of LifePoint. As leaders on the front line, we want you to have increased access and lines of communication to and from leadership so you can lead your group effectively.

Feeling isolated as a CG leader? Leading a small group can be discouraging at times, especially when you feel like you’re in it alone. There is great encouragement when you realize that there are other leaders who have experienced or are experiencing what you are. LifeSupport is designed to fuel the fire, fan the flame and to continue to inspire you as a leader.

You help people on their journey, who’s helping you on yours? We want you to be resourced so you can grow in both life and leadership. LifeSupport groups will be the primary vehicle used to continue to equip and train existing CG leaders.

More to come.
Since all of our CG leaders weren’t there for the big unveiling, we will be providing follow-up presentations to be sure everyone gets the necessary information. We’ll be in touch as to when these are taking place.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to Answer Tough Questions about the Bible

“Why should I trust what the Bible says?”

How would you respond if someone in your group asked that question? The Bible is the core curriculum of Community Groups. Not everyone believes it’s inspired, without error, or even that it’s true. How do we know that the Bible isn’t just another religious book, and are you equipped to answer hard questions about the Bible? This month, group leaders will learn essential skills for answering tough questions about the Bible:

• Is the Bible God’s Word?
• Can we trust the Bible?
• Is the Bible without error?

Mike Hipsley will be facilitating this important discussion.

November 20, 2008/7:15 pm/Room 200

Please contact Lois Schraf at to RSVP.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Group Life 2008 Highlights

Session 1

John Burke
Lead Pastor, Gateway Church Austin TX
Why Community Is Essential

John Burke says what's essential is staying connected to God. "Stay connected and fruit happens."

See the highlights of John's talk here.

Session 2

Mark Batterson and Heather Zempel
Lead Pastor, Discipleship Pastor, National Community Church Washington DC Where Community Grows Best

Mark and Heather address those things that are catalytic to community. Finding the perfect small group model doesn't guarantee perfect results. "Everything is an experiment."

See the highlights of Mark and Heather's session here.

Session 3

Will Miller
Speaker, Author, Therapist, Comedian
What Stunts Community Growth

Will answers the question: What's the biggest obstacle to community?

See the highlights of Will's session here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

10 Keys to a Healthy Group (part 2)

6. Get together often, not just once a week.
If it is true that life change is accelerated in relationships (and I believe the biblical model demonstrates that it is), then at least one of our goals should be to build genuine relationships with those in our community group. Connecting once a week is not enough. Someone said that the quality of a group meeting is determined by contacts between meetings. Get together for coffee, to play games, contact each other through emails, phone calls, etc. If you want to go to a deeper level, you’ve got to invest relationally with those in your group.

7. Model transparency, don’t fake it.
I love the saying, “If you want to know the temperature of a small group, put the thermometer in the leader’s mouth.” As a leader, you need to go first. If you’re not modeling authenticity and transparency, don’t expect others to be all that open either. Model healthy transparency and honesty for your group. Be sure that people know that this is a safe place where they can share and be real. Set the ground rule, and make sure all agree: what people share in confidence stays in the group. Also, don’t allow people to turn your time into a “gossip” or “bashing” session. Nip unhealthy patterns in the bud—and deal with the person’s issue.

8. Prepare, don’t wing it.
Expect God to do great things in your group and be sure to do your part by investing in preparation. Don’t allow yourself to get into the bad habit of waiting until the last minute to prepare for your community group. Revise, enhance, and change questions if you think it is needed. Be creative and think of ways that you can capture people’s hearts and minds as you prepare for your group.

9. Cast vision, don’t drift.
Bill Hybels has said, “Vision leaks.” Perhaps one of the most strategic things you can do as a leader is to continually cast vision for your community group. Without regular vision casting the average community group will lose its sense of purpose and direction. Be passionate about the vision of your group; your passion will be contagious. Be creative and cast vision regularly.

10. Make a covenant, don’t neglect ground rules
Many problems that small groups face can be headed off by putting down on paper what the expectations for the group are and revisiting them often, as well as clearly defining the purpose/wins of the group through a covenant. It is important to state what is expected of members and to let them have input into what that should be and look like. At LifePoint, our groups share a common purpose: Deepening our walk with God, Developing Biblical community with one another, and Deploying our gifts to serve the world and the church. It is through our common purpose that we accomplish the mission of influencing people to find and follow Jesus. For more on the covenants and ground rules, see the resource “Clarifying the Win in CG’s.”

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sharing Your Stories

Here is a great idea on sharing stories together in your Community Group. Sharing your stories leads to deeper community.