Monthly Archives: January 2013

We are in the business of discipleship, not just scholarship.

As many of you know, Thom Rainer is the C.E.O. of Lifeway and a former professor at The Southern Baptist  Theological Seminary.  I enjoy reading his articles, and very often find his comments immediately applicable to our ministry context.  In other words, the stuff he writes about is super practical.  I want to do a series of articles based on some of his comments about Five Common Obstacles That Small Groups Face.  I will briefly discuss one each week for the next five weeks.

Here is the first:

The first obstacle to transformational small communities is that the transference of information is valued much more than life transformation. Biblical illiteracy is a problem in North America and even the church. But the work of a small group or Sunday School class does not end when the members can all find Thessalonica on the map in the back of their Bibles. The purpose of community must be to engender the desire and see the effects of transformation. Somewhere between biblical literacy and biblical minutia we find spiritual maturity. Knowledge puffs up and cannot be the goal alone. Transformation includes biblical learning, but it does not end with it.

My first comment would be that I like the phrase, “transformational small community”.  It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and we aren’t going to start referring to Sunday School classes as “TSC’s”.  What the phrase communicates is what I like.  Transformational: the goal of Sunday School is discipleship.  The proof, or fruit of discipleship is life change, or transformed lives.  I also like the word “community”.  That’s what happens in Sunday School small groups.  We experience Christian community.  We don’t just go to class.  I went to class for years in college and hardly ever knew anyone else’s name.  We do life together in small groups.

changes

The purpose of community is build a desire for, and see the effects of life change.  Are people in your small group getting more knowledgeable, or are their lives being changed by Jesus?

“Somewhere between biblical literacy and biblical minutia we find spiritual maturity.”

Bible learning is a key element of discipleship.  Bible “intake” is a key spiritual discipline.  But it is not the end in itself.  The Word of God is alive and burns within our hearts to affect change.  Our role as teachers and Sunday School leaders is to remind our people of this fact.  Encourage it.  Say things like, “How has knowing Christ and being in his word transformed your life over the past year?”  I am convinced that true spiritual leadership involves authenticity and transparency.  Feel free to share examples from your own  story about how your life is being shaped by God’s story.

Keep the main thing the main thing.  We  are in the business of discipleship, not just scholarship.

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What is the best thing that’s happened in your church small group in the last six months?

best

What is the best thing that has happened in your class or small group in the last 6 months?

Great things happen in small groups at church.

Most of you have great things that happen every week.

Great conversation.

Great questions.

Great sharing moments.

Great prayer times.

Great fellowships.

Great lessons that drove a message home.

Great ministry.

Did you pause to brag on God for that great moment?  Did you stop and acknowledge that “better than average moment” with your group?  I hope so.

I want to share in your best moments.  We can celebrate them together.  Together we can give God the glory!

Share the best thing that’s happened in your small group in the last 6 month, either in a comment below, or in the message thread on Facebook.

Posting a comment on this article is easy, or here’s the Facebook link: http://www.facebook.com/dwalker96sc

God’s been up to something special in your group.  What is it?

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Keeping People Connected

If your class did the index card thing last week, I would love it if you would share with me.  I want to be able to pray with you and those seeking to reach out to new people before Easter.

This week I want to suggest one simple way to “close the back door” to your class, or do a better job Keeping People Connected.

Your class has a Care Group structure that may be more efficient than what I am suggesting, but it may be that something different could be a helpful addition to what your care groups already do.  My suggestion is simple.  Divide your class into groups of 5 (couples or individuals).  Give out index cards to each person that have their names and the names  of the four other people in the group you created for them.  Don’t put a lot of thought into what 5 people are in the groups.  It will actually  be better if the 5 don’t know each other very well.  Be sure to include everyone on your roll, even (and especially) if someone hasn’t been in a while.

keeping people connected

For instance, if I were in your class you would put me in a group with four others.  I would get an index card that had my name and the other four people on it.

Pass the index cards out and ask  people to make one contact off of the card a week for the next four weeks.  The contact could be a card, a phone call, or something more creative if someone feels led.

For one month, or four weeks, everyone on your class role should get a contact every week.  The contact could include a statement to the effect of, “I really am glad you are a part of our small group, and I am praying for you this week!”

Sunday School and worship attendance have been at a high for the past few weeks, and we need to keep the momentum going.  We are prayerfully planning a high attendance emphasis during the month of March, culminating with a huge Easter on March 31.  An effort such as I have described will help us keep people on our rolls connected leading up to Easter and this emphasis.  The theme we are planning involves celebrating the stories of what how God has blessed families through being connected in church.  Don’t hear what I’m not saying…we are not going to have month of patting ourselves on the back for being a great church.  Our desire is to celebrate God’s work in our families through their experience being a part of the church.  More to come on this…

I look forward to seeing you Wednesday night (the 16th) at our leadership meeting!

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One simple idea to reach new people before Easter

Here’s a quick idea to start off the new year “Reaching out to new people” in your class.  It’s not new or novel, but it just might make a big difference.

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Pass out index cards to everyone in the class at the beginning of the session this Sunday.  Everyone in the class gets 2.  Ask your group members to write the names of one individual or family (who doesn’t go to church) that they will commit to inviting to Sunday School and worship with them before Easter.

That’s it.  Maybe it’s a neighbor or a co-worker, but the commitment is to invite their friend to join them in church before Easter.  It’s as easy as saying, “We’d love for you to come, and sit with us.”

They should pass one card in to you so that you can pray for them, and keep a card for themselves as a reminder.

Perhaps you could even have a moment of prayer in class over the cards.

Reaching out to new people is one of our key values.  We are working on plans for a celebration of Sunday School throughout the month of March that would end with a huge Easter celebration on March 31.

God bless you guys and have a great week!  Let me know if you use the card idea so I can pray for you in that specific area.

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Good and timely wisdom for church leaders

A great friend of mine shared this article with me today and I wanted to pass it on to you.  I related to the emotions described, and found that the translation of frustration into lessons I could learn was a very meaningful experience.  I suspect that you will be able to relate, and I hope the following leadership lessons will be as meaningful to you.

Thom Rainer is the CEO of Lifeway, and a former professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (where all 4 of your pastors graduated).  He writes a regular blog that is always insightful.  This article is directed to pastors, but I believe that you will be able to relate the lessons to your service as small group leaders.

Five Lessons for Pastors from the Fiscal Cliff Fiasco
I am stating the obvious. Indeed I am mirroring the emotions of tens of millions of Americans. My statement? I am fed up with politicians. I am fed up with a congress and executive branch that fails to lead. I am fed up with last minute and dramatic decision-making. I am fed up with “kicking the can down the road” on major decisions. I am fed up with the lack of courage obvious at so many levels.

Okay, I’m complaining, maybe even whining. And I hate to listen to whiners! Can I do something constructive with this mess? Can I learn any lessons? My own answer is an enthusiastic “yes.” As I briefly analyzed the situation in D.C. and the Band-Aid solution of the fiscal cliff, I was able to glean some key leadership lessons. And I found five of the lessons were particularly poignant for pastors.

Remember who you work for. Forgive my bad grammar, but “remember for whom you work” just sounded a bit formal. Politicians often forget they work for the people. They don’t work for the pollsters. They don’t work for the lobbyists. They don’t work for donors. They work for the people who elected them. Pastors would do well to understand that their first level of accountability is to God. Seek to please Him first and foremost. Everything else and everyone else is secondary.
Relationships are key. Good leaders and healthy pastors work hard to maintain good relationships. Many pastors are able to lead and serve effectively because they have worked hard to have healthy relationships with people in their congregation and others. It appears that the current fiscal cliff was averted because the senate minority leader and the vice president of the United States were able to have a civil discussion based on their long-standing relationship. Indeed their relationship with each other likely overcame their distinct ideologies and diverse party loyalty.
Indecision can lead to bad decisions. Sometimes in church life it’s easier to put off tough decisions. The reality is that the failure to make timely decisions often leads to bad decisions down the road. Our nation is in a debt crisis. Politicians have yet to address that issue sufficiently. It’s politically expedient not to address the issue of entitlements. It’s stupid too.
Compromise is not always bad. Doctrinal compromise is bad; it can be heretical, especially if the doctrine is a primary Christian doctrine. But pastors don’t always have to get their way on other issues. It might be a setback if the congregation was unwilling to fund a new building program, but it’s not the end of the world. There is always a new day and new opportunity. We have a divided ideological government. On some issues we must compromise. Neither side will be totally pleased, but the alternative is a non-functioning government.
Lack of leadership frustrates followers. Do you know why you and I are so frustrated with our politicians? Among other reasons, we are longing for a leader in congress or the executive branch who will exhibit courageous leadership. Few things frustrate a follower more than inert leadership. The same is true for pastors. You are certainly called to care for the flock, but you are also called to lead. Most people in your churches will gladly and willingly follow wise and godly leadership.
This fiscal cliff will soon become another fiscal cliff. And if something does not change in Washington, we will soon witness the same drama and failed leadership. Though painful for our nation, these days provide good models for pastors as leaders. Simply do the opposite of what most politicians are doing.

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You’re small group isn’t just a part of the church…

The following is a guest post for our Sunday School small group leadership from a great friend of mine.  Sean Rheaume is a student at Luther Rice University and Seminary and has been in Ministry for 20 years as Student Pastor, Family Pastor, Education and Evangelism Pastor.  Sean’s heart is to see the church leave the building and have a true impact on our culture for Christ.  He knows that discipleship through small groups is not just a key, it’s the key.  He knows that discipleship is not just a part of what God has called us to.  True biblical discipleship encompasses evangelism, worship, fellowship, and ministry.  I hope that Sean’s call to reach beyond the usual classroom boundaries will challenge and encourage you.

reach

 

I love Discipleship! Whether it is Sunday School or Small Groups or a bunch of guys with a Bible and a biscuit at an early morning Bible Study. I love Church but there is just  something about a small group of people trying to figure this Jesus thing out.

 
Many people think that the discipleship ministry of the local church is there to educate the members of the body about the scriptures and how to apply them to your daily life. To be sure that is a role of discipleship in your church, but I want to challenge you to think a little broader as you think of discipleship. You see your group IS the CHURCH…or it should be.

 

Acts 2:42-43 says
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.”

 
They devoted THEMSELVES! Isn’t that cool?! They didn’t wait for Paul to tell ‘em. They committed, each to take care of the other.

 
When it comes to Evangelism, Is that something that you expect your pastors to do, or are people surrendering to Jesus through the ministry of your group?
When it comes to Ministry, do you pass it off to the benevolence committee, or does your group come together to care for one another?
When it comes to Fellowship, do you wait for a church social, or do you genuinely enjoy doing life with each other?

 
I want you to think of your small group/Sunday School class as a micro-church. Poplar Springs has an excellent campus, great services, and a top-level staff. It is easy to get caught up in the idea that your small group is part of a church rather than THE church.

 
Your Sunday School Class is THE Church.
Your Youth Ministry is THE Church.
Your Choir Ministry is THE Church.
Where is your group strongest?
What can you work on harder this year?

Great thoughts Sean.  Thanks for your heart and commitment to true discipleship.

 

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