Archive for January, 2017

small group connectedYou probably love your small group, but maybe sometimes you feel like it’s hard to connect with everyone? Maybe you feel like people aren’t as engaged. Or maybe it seems like people get distracted too easily. That’s a common thing that happens in the life of a small group. Here are some tips and ways to help your small group feel more connected.

1) Turn off Your Phone

This is probably the biggest distraction in a small group. Even a quick downward glance can create distance within your group. Groups members may feel like you aren’t listening or valuing what they say. Most of us are considerate enough to silence our phones, but Facebook notifications distract us.  The best thing is to just turn your phone off during small group. You won’t be tempted and you can check your Instagram feed later tonight. By doing so, you are fully present with your group.

2) Share your Weaknesses

The best way to create connections is by sharing your hurts, habits and hang ups. When you share your weaknesses and vulnerabilities, others relate and feel close to you. It also makes them want to share their own struggles. But someone needs to start so that others feel comfortable to do so. The leader usually should model this but it isn’t always their responsibility every time. Prepare to open up about an issue that you may be going through. Sharing a weakness helps you heal and bond with your group.

3) Affirm each other

Our society is filled with negativity. Small group should be a place and time for people to feel encouraged and uplifted. Do people leave your group affirmed? Take some time to build that habit. You can have one person be on the “hot seat” where they receive the affirmation from everyone. You can do that at the start of a group and then do another person the next week. This sets a positive tone for the small group to build on.

4) Look into Eyes

The eyes are the windows of the soul. Looking into someone’s eyes communicates that they are the most important person at that moment. By locking eyes, you give them your full attention and share how valuable they are. When people are sharing or talking, look at their eyes. You are loving them and helping them feel like what they say matters. You are giving life and receiving their life when you look into their eyes.

5) Write a note to each other

Maybe it’s hard to verbally affirm someone, so try writing affirmations to someone. You can spend one small group writing affirmations to each other and then reading it together. You could also write thank you cards to other people in your community or members in your church. You can be creative and use this time to bless each other and the community.

6) Do a group hug

God created us to be people of touch. Hugs are the one of the best ways to show your love and connect with others. Take another step and do a group hug with your small group. This may be a good way to end your small group. It’s also a beautiful representation that you are one group and one body together.

7) Pray and lay hands on each other

Friends that pray together, stay together. You probably pray for each other in your group. What if you added the element of laying hands on each other while you prayed for one another. It’s a great way to do for someone’s birthday. You can also pray and lay hands for someone struggling or going through an issue.  You add a human touch to your prayers to that they literally feel the prayer.

8) Ask questions to go deeper

Asking questions communicates interest and that you want to know more about the person. It communicates that you genuinely care and want to understand them. Encourage your group to ask open ended questions.  You can ask questions like, “How does that make you feel,” “What are you struggling with,” or “Can you share more about that?” Your group will feel heard and known.

What is one thing that you can try in your group this week?  

weekend ballWhat kind of experience do you want people to have when they step onto your church location? 

Most likely you used words like “welcoming,” “friendly” or “connected.” Do your people feel that? What about a first time guest? Hopefully so, but for most churches, new guests do NOT feel welcomed. Here are three ways that you can quickly train your volunteers and leaders to create a more friendly and welcoming experience.

1) Look

A smile can make a world of a difference. A smile is contagious and lifts not only your own mood but also others. Do your volunteers smile when greet and welcome guests? Another way to build connection is to look into a person’s eyes. You give your full attention to someone when you look into their eyes. You communicate that they are important and that you are fully present with them.

2) Word

A welcoming word or phrase can also build connections. A simple phrase like “welcome, glad you made it, good to see you, how are you doing” can start to break down walls. When you say these words from the heart, they make people feel like a human being. This usually can lead to deeper conversations. Telling a joke is also a great way to connect. Victor Borge says that “laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” How often are your volunteers verbally connecting with guests?

3) Touch

God created us to  physically connect with others. That’s why our moms love to give us kisses and hugs. People are hungry for a physical embrace. On Sundays, it’s my goal to personally shake hands with everyone that walks on the campus. If they are open to it then I’ll give them a hug. For some people, this may be the only time they receive physical contact during the week. A touch can break down walls so that they can connect with the campus and the message.

What is one thing that you or your volunteers need to start doing this weekend?  

leader“How do you grow as a leader?”

A friend asked me this question a while back. I shared that being uncomfortable makes you grow the fastest. What does that mean? When you place yourself in situations that are challenging, you discover more about yourself. Whether you succeed or fail, you become a better leader. You’ve taken one more step in your leadership journey. I encourage you to embrace the discomfort. Here are three ways that you can do so.

1) Learn from others outside your field of expertise

You only know what you know. Most people are in a field of business and they learn from experts in that same field. That’s great but you there are experts all around who  offer great wisdom that can help you. You can learn from experts in business, management, science, technology, psychology and much more. You have access to great world class leaders through podcasts, blogs and videos online. I recommend finding one expert in a field that is different from yours. It may be a field that interests you. Find that person and learn from them at least once a week through a podcast, blog or video. What you learn will help you in your current situation too.

2) Hang with different types of leaders

They say that you are what you eat. And they say that you are who you hang around especially as a leader. Most likely, you hang around and learn from people that are like you. That’s not a bad thing but it can make you  think and act in a certain type of way. What would it look like to hang around and learn from leaders that are different from you. You may not agree with them in all aspects but they can teach you and stretch your leadership.

3) Do side projects with them

When you find leaders that you like and want to learn from, do side projects with them. This is your way to apply what you are learning and create something. When you build something, you learn more about yourself as a leader. You push yourself and do it in the context of relationships. This helps you learn a different style and they may bring out something in you that you didn’t know. Working with others will also inspire something in you and help you be the best type of leader.

Which step will you take this week?

small-groupMost churches preach on the importance of joining a small group. But have you ever heard why you should not join a small group? Here are four reasons why small group isn’t a good idea for you.

1) You have life all figured out 

You have figured out the mystery of life. You also have an answer to Forest Gump’s statement about life, “Life is like a box of chocolate, you don’t know what you’re gonna get.” You know what you will get. You have discovered the secrets to life. Small group is for people who don’t have it all figured out. It’s a group of broken people who make mistakes… a lot. Small group is a safe place to be loved and talk about our mistakes without judgment or fear. It’s a place to forgive and show compassion too even when we don’t feel like we deserve it or want it sometimes.

2) You know your purpose and reason for life always

Every person is trying to figure out their purpose and reason for life. We think we find our purpose in a job or position. While we may find fulfillment in a job for a season of our lives, our true purpose is found in one person, Jesus Christ. We learn that our identity comes from our relationship with Jesus Christ. The best place to discover this truth and reality is through a small group. Pastor Andy Stanley said, “Life change happens in circles, not rows.” A church service helps you learn about God through your mind. A small group allows you to discover Jesus together. When you do that, you start to find your purpose and how God has created you for this stage of your life.

3) You don’t want to have life long friends

Small group is for people who want to create life long friendships and relationships. God created us for community. We can’t follow Christ if we aren’t in fellowship with our friends. We all crave for friendships and relationships where we can be known and know others. Small group is the best time and place to be loved.

4) Your prayer life is perfect 

Small groups are for people who want to deepen their prayer life as well as all parts of their faith. Small groups are a time and place to learn to listen to God and obey God. Our faith grows and matures as we practice our faith together in a small group setting. We encourage and support each other as well as keep each other accountable. It’s a spiritual journey that requires a prayer and support for each other in a small group.

Are you ready to join a small group?  

weekend-graphicWhat’s the most important part of the weekend experience at church? Sermon. That’s the #1 thing mentioned by people. And that’s definitely on the top of the list. But have you ever heard a great message but still had a bad church experience and did not want to come back? The message is an important part, but there are so many other pieces that can turn off a guest. There’s the experience of the parking lot and interactions with volunteers and members. Do people know where to drop off their kids and do they feel safe? What a guest experiences outside the building is just as important as what they experience inside the building. Here are five reasons why it’s important that the church create a great weekend experience.

1) It’s about people’s spiritual and eternal destination

One of the biggest goals for a weekend experience is so that people will find Jesus and follow Jesus. Every handshake and smile from the parking lot to their seat opens up their hearts a little more. It opens up the hope that they will make Jesus their boss and best friend. There is no greater feeling than knowing that your role in creating a great weekend experience helped change a life forever.

2) We are in the hospitality business to serve people 

The church should be the most welcoming, friendly and hospitable place on the planet. It’s a place of refuge for those that are hurting or having hang ups. Sometimes pain in our life opens our ears to hearing a message. When we serve them, we are showing them God’s visible love. Thus, the goal for the volunteers and leaders is to serve all people including strangers. You never know who you serve because it may be an angel (Hebrews 13:2). We find our purpose when we serve others and it allows others to have one more experience of God’s love.

3) A bad experience can hurt your church’s reputation

Research, on average, shows that people will share with 21 people about their bad experience. That’s just verbally to people that they know. A post on social media may have an even greater influence. It may not be fair and completely accurate, but it’s their experience and story. Their one bad experience can have a lasting impact on the community’s view of your church.  What are people saying about your church?

4) Get it Right the first time

According to research, it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for that one negative experience. From a logical standpoint, that’s a lot of work to change a person’s mindset and view. If the church gets the experience right the first time then you save all that time and energy. If you are intentional with creating a great experience and training your volunteers in the beginning then it’ll save you a lot of headache in the long run. The work in the beginning will only bring blessings and fruit for you and the guest.

5) A good experience can reach more people

People who experience something wonderful will tell 8 people about that place. If people enjoy the church experience, they will share it with 8 of their friends. That’s free advertising and publicity. Their friends and family may want to join them the following week too. A positive church experience has an exponential impact on the person and their contacts. The best way to grow your church is by creating a great experience for guests. The investment will pay off.

You only have one shot to make a first impression for a first time guest. It’s worth your time and resources to think through that experience and how you can improve on it.

What is one thing that you can do to improve the guest experience this week?