Planning Your Next Semester: Winter/Spring 2018

plan

Praise God, our groups are winding down a memorable Fall 2017 Semester. This post, which is revised and updated each year, aids leaders in planning for our next semester.

How NOT to Start Your Next Semester

Let’s begin with how NOT to start your next semester.

A typical question leaders are asking is: “What curriculum should I kickoff the Winter/Spring semester with?” My preferred answer would be… NONE!

NONE, Why is that!? This goes back to why our groups exist. Are they Bible studies alone? No, definitely not. But, experience teaches that if a group launches a new term immediately with the new Bible study or curriculum on the first week, then that group will become forever locked into the “study” mold and mentality, as if that is all you exist to do, no matter what you try to do later.

The Solution: Start your semester with some of the other vital small group elements which often get crowded out. Ideas include:

  • Start with a meal or fun night. You are a spiritual family, after all. Set the tone to enjoy each other!

communion_t

  • Start with a worship, prayer, and/or communion night, seeking God’s guidance and setting a worshipful pattern for your year.
  • Start with a service/outreach project, or series of them, declaring: “We are going to be the hands and feet of Jesus!”
  • Start with sharing a few personal salvation testimonies, to celebrate God’s grace in our lives and get to know each other well.group-worship
  • Start with having the kids involved in worship, so they see Jesus Christ as the center for your group’s existence.
  • Then, start your curriculum, having become close friends and spiritual siblings; soul mates and teammates. We have 16-20 weeks in the Winter/Spring Semester. No need to rush into a curriculum, there is plenty of time to do it all!

Calendar and Small Group Agreement Pages

Pull out that Winter/Spring Calendar, found in the first couple pages of the Leader and Member Toolkits, with your group to plan out the entire semester together – host locations, fun days, weeks off, trips together, meal plans… whatever you can plan.

And, don’t neglect to review the Small Group Agreement page, to get everyone’s expectations aligned. Among the most important axioms I have learned in church leadership over the years is that “Expectations are everything.” They truly are. Clear and aligned expectations will directly impact your members’ attendance and engagement all year long.

NOW, Choose the Right Curriculum

currSince our foundation is God’s Word, a good curriculum or Bible study plan is a vital tool. Come browse our many curriculums in the training sessions or in my office anytime, where you can access our materials to preview or check out.

And, don’t forget that you can help us keep building up our curriculum library, with “The Lake City Offer”, which is:

If you are interested in using a curriculum we do not currently have, I will buy the leader book and DVD (if there is one) for you if you will return it when finished, to add to our library. Your group members will just buy their own participant guides, if there is one. This offer helps future groups and eliminates any hesitation based on the cost of a study!
NOTE: A list of our available and recommended curriculums can be found in the back of the Leader Toolkit.

Important Dates

Here are a few important dates for your calendars:

    • * **Leader Training: As always, there is one required January training session for all leaders, offered twice, for your scheduling convenience:
      • Option 1 – Sunday, January , 11:30am – 1:15pm, with lunch.
      • Option 2 – For those who cannot attend the January 7 session, come to the makeup session on Sunday, January 14, 11:30am – 12:40pm, without lunch (snacks only).

*This year’s training will focus on personal spiritual growth and leader development, strategically according to where you in this season of your life. Also included are fellowship with other leaders, coaches, and then key elements of the church’s vision and winter/spring  dates.

**This year’s training involves videos to watch beforehand. A link to five videos will be sent to all leaders who then choose two of the five to watch, based on where you are currently in your personal leadership life-season.

  • Signups: Signups will officially be open to new members starting on Dec. 30/31, with the list of open groups passed down the aisles in church the following two weeks.
  • Kickoff: Winter/Spring Semester officially kicks off the week of January 14. Leaders of open groups, be prepared to proactively welcome new people right away!  

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Our mission and vision remain the same:

Small Group Mission Banner 8 logo1

All our small group training sessions are always open to everyone. Families and discipleship groups are welcome to attend together.

The Winter/Spring Semester runs through the end of May, so it’s a bit longer than the Fall Semester, leaving you room to do more things and have more fun and transformative experiences.

May God be glorified in our ministry,

Pastor Reg

Planning Your Next Semester: Winter/Spring 2017

plan

Praise God, our groups are winding down a memorable Fall 2016 Semester. This post is to help leaders pray & plan for next semester.

How NOT to Start Your Next Semester

So, let’s start with how NOT to start your next semester.

A typical question leaders are asking is: “What curriculum should I kickoff the Winter/Spring semester with?” My preferred answer would be… NONE!

This goes back to why our groups exist. Are these groups Bible studies alone? No, definitely not. But, experience teaches that if a group launches their term immediately with the new Bible study curriculum on the first week, then that group will become forever locked into the “study” mold and mentality, as if that is all you exist to do, no matter what you try to do later.

The Solution: Start your semester with some of the other vital small group elements which often get crowded out:

  • Start with a meal or fun night. You are a spiritual family, after all. Set the tone to enjoy each other!

communion_t

  • Start with a worship, prayer, and/or communion night, seeking God’s guidance and setting a worshipful pattern for your year.
  • Start with a service/outreach project, or series of them, declaring: “We are going to be the hands and feet of Jesus!”
  • Start with sharing a few personal salvation testimonies, to celebrate God’s grace in our lives and get to know each other well.group-worship
  • Start with having the kids involved in worship, so they see Jesus Christ as the center for your group’s existence.
  • Then, start your curriculum, having become close friends and spiritual siblings; soul mates and teammates. We have 16-20 weeks in the Winter/Spring Semester. No need to rush into a curriculum, there is plenty of time to do it all!

Provided Calendar: Be ready to pull out that Winter/Spring Calendar with your group to plan out the entire semester together – host locations, fun days, weeks off, trips together, meal plans… whatever you can plan. It is found in the first couple pages of the Leader and Member Toolkits.

NOW, Choose the Right Curriculum

currSince our foundation is God’s Word, a good curriculum or Bible study plan is a vital tool. Come browse our many curriculums in the church library, where you can access and check out materials.

And, don’t forget that you can help us keep building up our curriculum library, with…

“The Lake City Offer”

If you are interested in using a curriculum we do not currently have, I will buy the leader book and DVD (if there is one) for you if you will return it when finished, to add to our library. Your group members will just buy their own participant guides, if there is one. This offer helps future groups and eliminates any hesitation based on the cost of a study!
NOTE: A list of our available and recommended curriculums can be found in the 2016-17 Leader Toolkit, page 29.

Important Dates

Here are a few important dates for your calendars:

  • *Leader Training: As always, there is one required January training session for all leaders, offered twice, for your scheduling convenience:
    • Option 1 – Sunday, January 8, 10:00-11:15AM.
    • Option 2 – For those who cannot attend the January 8 session, come to the makeup session on Saturday, January 21, during one of the 50-minute workshops of the Church Family Summit. Attend just this workshop, or better the entire half-day seminar.

*This year’s training will focus on “The Why?”, local and global small group missions, conflict resolution, key winter/spring dates, and more.

  • Signups: Signups will officially be open to new members starting on Dec. 31/Jan. 1.
  • Kickoff: Winter/Spring Semester officially kicks off the week of January 15. Be prepared to welcome new people, if possible.  

FINAL THOUGHTS:

All Summit workshops and small group training sessions are always open to everyone. Families and discipleship groups are welcome to attend together.

The Winter/Spring Semester runs through early June, so it’s a bit longer than the Fall Semester, leaving you room to do more things and have more fun and transformative experiences.

Our mission and vision remain the same:

Small Group Mission Banner 8 logo1

May God be glorified in our ministry,

Pastor Reg

Top 10 Posts of 2012

Here are the top 10 most viewed posts of 2012. It has been a remarkable year. Enjoy the look back!

10. “The Christian Life is a Team Sport,” A Letter from Pastor Jim

9.  4 Stages of the Bible’s Discipleship Process

8.  Best Small Group Ice-Breaker Ever?

7.  7 Days of Prayer before Kick-Off

6.  Discipling Men in Small Groups, Part 2 – Getting Them and Keeping Them

5.  Early Testimonies from the HEROES Series

4.  Faith In Action Weekend, 2012: RECAP and VIDEOS

3.  How Important is Leadership? Part 2 – Leading Jesus Mission: KONY2012 – A Test Case for Leading Mission

kony2012

2.  HEROES – at LCCC, Fall, 2012

Heroes

And, the most viewed post this year, with over FOUR times as many views as number two…

1.  Communion in Small Groups – More than a Good Idea

communion_t

With 615 views this year, this post has reached a bigger audience than our church alone. I praise God for what it may contribute to the worshipful experience of small groups around the world. Making communion common has been a tremendous growth area in the worship and relationships of Lake City Small Groups. Praise God.

And, praise God for a memorable 2012 and all He has waiting for us to experience together in…

2013

Blessings on our homes!

Pastor Reg

P.S. Here is what’s in store for the upcoming Semester, kicking off on January 20! 

Winter/Spring Semester, 2013

Here are a few important dates to put on your calendar right now:

1.  The 2nd annual Lake City Family Summit happens Saturday, January 12, 9:00AM-1:00PM. NFL quaterback Jon Kitna and his wife Jen will be our primary speakers, along with several breakout sessions.  As usual, the small group leaders training will be contained in one of those 50 minute workshops. How small groups fit into the BIG picture of the church as God’s Family is an exciting major theme for this year’s summit. Don’t miss it!

2.  If you miss the Summit, a small group leader training make-up session happens Sunday, January 20, during 2nd service (10:50AM-12:10PM), in the Gym.

3.  The Official Kickoff Week of Winter/Spring Semester is the week of January 20. Of course, groups have autonomy to start earlier or later, based on their semester plan.

4.  Pastor Jim resumes the Luke Sermon Series on Feb. 2/3, a good option for any group who would like to study Luke’s gospel along with the weekend sermons. We will have resources.

Communion in Small Groups – More than a Good Idea


The Bible says very little about how we are actually to go about observing communion, yet most Christians have strong preferences, if not convictions, about how to do it.  I want to expand your thinking in one area — observing communion regularly in your small group. As we will see,  this is more than just a good idea.

No Wafers and Juice Cups in the Bible

Most of us (assuming an audience which holds the “symbolic” view of communion) have observed communion primarily in corporate gatherings, with a short message and Bible reading from the pastor, followed by a collective ingesting of a wafer and a small plastic cup of grape juice. Let me say, I have no problem with the wafer and grape juice! Observing communion in this way has been a major part of my life’s spiritual formation. But my strengthening conviction is that small group members should observe communion together at least once per semester/term.

Here’s why:

At LCCC, we view small groups as not just another ministry or Bible study, but as the “church scattered,” in homes, throughout our community, engaging in directives of church which are not possible in a corporate setting: knowing, serving, loving, taking care of each other; digging in and applying Scriptures together; obeying the Great Commission together; having things in common; bearing each others’ burdens; and “being devoted to the breaking of bread and prayer”  (Acts 2:42-47).

Communion in the Bible most always centered around a meal, and small groups allow a better opportunity for that than anything else in the church.   At the Last Supper, Jesus effectively changed the Passover Meal into Christian Communion, and He strategically placed the observance of bread and wine within the course of this meal.  (Read more about that here.)

Is it wrong, then, for us to observe communion without a meal? Well, no. One of Christianity’s unique characteristics is the freedom Scripture gives regarding church polity and practices; freedoms which enable Christian churches to thrive and transform culture anywhere, at any time, on the planet. Additionally, in 1 Corinthians 10 Paul does allude to the bread and cup without a meal (10:16-17) and in chapter 11 even tells them to STOP the meal because they were abusing it! So, the meal is not required, nor should it replace the Lord’s Supper as the focus of our gathering.

But, would it be appropriate; constructive; healthy for us to observe communion more as the New Testament Church did – as part of a relational, worshipful meal together? That is the more important question. And I believe the answer is a most definite YES!

Guidelines for Leading Your Small Group in Communion

So, to help you lead your group in communion this very semester, here are some guidelines for leaders or any spiritually mature member of a small group who wishes to lead.

1.  Don’t be intimidated by this! You are already viewed as a “shepherd leader,” and this is one of the most significant and joyous acts Jesus gave us to do together.

2.  Spend some time in the communion passages (Matt. 26:26-30; Luke 22:14-20; Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 10:15-22; 11:17-34, and many others if you want to study the significance of the Passover, its link to Jesus’ sacrifice and blood, and the biblical rules for it.)

3. Use other resources from books, websites, etc. There are tons of good resources out there. I’ll give you a couple of mine:

First, as a kind of template for you, here on a Word document is the communion manuscript from my recent sermon on Philippians 3:13-14 – Communion Manuscript from sermon – What to Remember, What to Forget

Second, from the engaging little book, Going to Church in the First Century, which I have given to all of our small group leaders, below is a copy of the pages which I used to lead my own group in communion just a couple weeks ago.

After explaining the premise of this book – the observations of a young man on his first visit to a house church – I passed around the elements and read the following pages, followed by the 1 Corinthians 11 verses. We then “ate” and “drank” in celebration of the gospel as part of our meal together. It was a fun and worshipful experience.  If this appeals to you, I encourage you to try it at your group’s next meal together!

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

FROM PAGES 19-21 – THE BREAD:

            Before we began to eat, however, Aquila took up a cob of bread which his wife had laid on the table before him, and said he would like to give thanks. Instead of offering part of the bread to their god, Aquila reminded the people present that their god had offered something for them instead. His only son, no less, who died that they might live.

            ‘Just before he sacrificed himself for us,’ he went on to say, ‘he took part in a meal with his followers just like the one we’re having now. During this meal he shared around bread and told them that it represented him. Just as they needed bread in order to live physically, so, even more, they needed him if they were to experience real life. And so do we. This is why he wants us to continue having meals together and this is why we are meeting together today.’

            Just how a dead person was going to do all this wasn’t at all clear to me. But then Aquilawent on to say that after this person was executed, he’d actually come to life again. I could hardly believe my ears, I can tell you, but that’s exactly what he said! He’d gone to his father after death and this put him in a position where he could share his life with anyone who followed him, wherever they were and no matter how many there were of them. A bit of him living in each of them, so to speak, or at least that’s how I understood it.

            ‘This means,’ continued Aquila, ‘that although he isn’t physically with us in the room, he is nevertheless really present among us. As we eat the meal together, beginning with this bread’ (which he was now breaking into substantial portions and passing among the guests) ‘we’ll experience him directly within ourselves, as well as through our fellowship with one another as we eat.’

            He concluded all this with a brief prayer, if you could call it that. For it was made up on the spot so far as I could tell, and spoken in quite a normal voice. In it he thanked his god for all this and told him how much we looked forward to the meal and everything that went with it. Then he sat down to a chorus of ‘yes’, ‘indeed’, ‘amen’ and the like and began to eat.

FROM PAGE 35 – THE CUP:

            At this point we were interrupted by Lysias who, at Aquila’s signal, had begun to refill the cups at our table. Felix was doing the same at the other. Aquila then took his cup in both hands and said:

            ‘The wine that we’ve been drinking has been part of our meal and a help to our fellowship in the Lord. But it means more than this. For, as Jesus explained, it reminds us that he is the one who has created this bond through his death. It also stands as a promise to us of the fellowship we shall have one day with him when we sit down at his table and dine with him face to face. So as we drink this cup together, let us take these things to heart and be grateful for them, looking back with appreciation on the one and looking forward with anticipation to the other. And may our meetings express that oneness that we have with him more and more so that they are, as it were, a little taste of heaven on earth.’

            In this spirit we all drank. 

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However the Holy Spirit directs you, I pray that observing the Lord’s Supper with your small group will become a pivotal moment in your life together — one that you will repeat regularly, in remembrance of Jesus.

Blessings on your homes,

Pastor Reg