Planning your Next Small Group Semester: Have You Thought of Everything?

Plan, 2015-1

Our groups are winding down the Fall, 2014 Semester. Finish well, groups! 

This post is to help our small group leaders as you pray and plan for next semester; to be prepared and as proactive as you can be to lead your group well. 

Winter/Spring, 2015 Calendar

Calendar - generic

Click for a printable LCCC Winter/Spring Calendar Template that gives general church information.

How NOT to Start Your Next Semester

There is a common way to start a new small group semester. And then there is a better way.

The Problem: If a group starts their semester right off with the new Bible study curriculum, they will be 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: As you (and your Inner Circle) create your calendar, start your semester with some of the other items which often get crowded out:

  • Start with a meal or fun night. You are a spiritual family, after all. Set the tone to actually enjoy each other!
  • Start with a worship/prayer 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 your personal salvation testimonies, to celebrate God’s grace in our lives and get to know each other well.
  • 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!

acts

NOW, Choose the Right Curriculum

See our entire small group curriculum library list, here.

Since our foundation is God’s Word, a good curriculum makes an effective tool. Come browse and check out some of our many curriculums. NOTE: Our ever-expanding small group curriculum library will not be on a table in my office for browsing this year (as pictured). This year, we are moving to the church library, where you can access and check out materials more easily (and I don’t have to climb over the table to get to my desk all winter!)

curr, 2013

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!

Important Training and Kickoff Dates

Here are a few important dates for your calendars:

  • Training: As always, there is one required January training session, offered twice, for your scheduling convenience: 
    1. Option 1 – Offered as a workshop at the Church Family Summit, Saturday, January 10, 9:00AM-1:00PM.
    2. Option 2 – For those who cannot attend the Church Family Summit, come to the make up session on Sunday, January 18, during 2nd service (10:50-12:10pm).
  • Kickoff: Winter/Spring Semester kicks off the week of January 18, after a few weeks of signups. Be prepared to welcome new people, if possible.  

NOTES: 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 transformative experiences.

May God be glorified in our ministry,

Pastor Reg

Spring Fever

Image

by Tung Le, Small Group Coach

Ask any teacher about “spring fever” and they will tell you it is a real thing. As the weather gets more beautiful, and as children see the end of the school year and the beginning of summer, they begin to lose focus on the present. In the same way, at this time of the year, small groups begin looking to the summer and the end of the spring semester. As that happens, I’d like to encourage small group leaders to consider the following actions in response:

1. Remain focused on the present: Most groups have another 4-6 weeks of meetings left. God still has much to say and do into the lives of group members. There is no summer break in God’s plans for spiritual growth. Keep planning and preparing and praying diligently for your meetings. The summer will come when it comes.
2. Plan ahead for the summer: While we are to remain diligent and focused on the present, it is important to plan as a group for the coming months. Your group should know when its last official meeting of the spring semester is. Your group should also know what plans are for the summer months. Most groups plan monthly social occasions (BBQ, day at the beach, time at the park, etc.) — what will your group do to stay connected this summer?
3. Pray for the fall: As leaders, we need to be seeking the Lord’s will for whatever plans He may have for groups the next semester. Is your group going to branch this fall and birth a new group? Are any members leaving the group? Will you be open to new members this fall? These are all questions that don’t need any answers now; they simply need the Lord’s leading, and that will come only as we begin to pray now.
The Apostle Paul compared his ministry to a race and a fight, noting that he fought hard and that he finished the race. May we do more than simply finish this semester; may we finish strongly.

Steps for Planning your Winter/Spring Semester, 2014

plan

Our groups are winding down the Fall, 2013 Semester. Finish well, beloved groups. This post is to help as you pray and plan for next semester.

Here are some helpful steps and resources for your effective planning.

TOOLKIT and Small Group Vital Signs Book

Vital Signs

These are our primary leadership resources. They emphasize (and reward) proactive leadership. One of the best preparations you can make before Winter/Spring kickoff is to flip through these great resources again to build up your vision and gather ideas, so you can better lead those entrusted to your care. 

Leaders, co-leaders and Inner Circles should have these two resources. If you do not, tell me and I will get you one ASAP.

How NOT to Start Your Next Semester

As we often clarify, small groups are more than Bible studies. Small groups are our glorious opportunity to live out ALL the New Testament’s design for the church, with each other, for Jesus’ purposes. (read Acts 2:42-47 again, for example).

The problem: Experience shows that if you start your group’s experience with a Bible study, you will be locked into the “Bible study” mold and mentality, no matter what you try to do later.

The solution: Wisdom suggests you start your semester with the other things that get crowded out:

  • Start with a worship/prayer night, seeking God’s guidance and setting a worshipful pattern for your year.
  • Start with a service/outreach project, or series of them, saying “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.
  • Start with having the kids involved in worship, seeing Jesus Christ proclaimed as the purpose for your existence.
  • Then, start your study. We have 16-20 weeks in the Winter/Spring Semester – plenty of time to do it all!

acts

NOW, Time to Choose a Study

Our foundation is always God’s Word, and a curriculum used well can be an effective tool.

As always, I have laid out our ever-expanding small group curriculum library on a table in my office, for you to come by and browse, or borrow a couple to check out.

curr, 2013

See our entire curriculum library list, here.

And, don’t forget that you can help us keep building up our curriculum library, with “the Lake City Offer”…

“The Lake City Offer”

If you are interested in using a curriculum we do not 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.

Important Leader Training and Kickoff Dates

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

As always, there is one required January training session which will be offered twice, for your scheduling convenience: 

  1. First offering – Sunday, January 12, during 2nd service (10:50-12:10pm).
  2. Second offering – at the Church Family Summit, on Saturday, January 25, 9:00AM-1:00PM. Young Life Field Vice President, Bill Paige, will be our plenary speaker.

The full Church-Family Summit Schedule will be out soon. All training sessions are always open for walk-ins.

UPDATE

Phil Downer

Two exciting events have just been added. Author, speaker, and mentor of our small group leader Kevin Bouren, Phil Downer, is speaking to several thousand at JBLM, from January 13-17. We have just added two dates with him at LCCC:

1.  Monday, Jan. 13, 6:00-8:00pm – Speaking to small group leaders, ministry leaders, and all church leaders. TopicSpiritually Reproducing Your Life – Spiritual Multiplication. 

2.  Wednesday, Jan. 15, open dinner in Friendship Room, 5:30-6:15pm; Session for outreach and encouragement, from 6:30-8:00pm. Topic: Family – From Hell To Eternity: Strengthening Marriages through Men’s Mentorship/Discipleship

The Winter/Spring Semester kicks off the week of January 19, after a few weeks of signups. So, leaders, be prepared to welcome new people, if possible.  It runs through early June, so it’s a bit longer than the Fall Semester, leaving you room to do more things.

Continue to cast the vision that small groups are not merely Bible studies, but rather the “church scattered in communities, passionately living out Christlike love for God, one another and the world.”  The Winter/Spring Semester allows for a breadth of formative experiences for your group. 

May God be glorified in our ministry,

Pastor Reg

Questions to Ask AFTER Your Next Small Group Meeting

Outstanding Evaluation

Have you ever successfully evaluated something? A job you completed? A team’s performance? How about your small group meetings?

Because regular evaluation leads to improving things that are important to us, here is a simple list of questions to ask after your next small group meeting.

Ask yourself, your spouse, your co-leader, your “Inner Circle” leadership team, or a select member to answer the following:

1. How well did you make known that Jesus is the Center, Leader and Lord of your group?

2. How did you sense the Holy Spirit moving in the group?

3. What does this group value?

4. What stage is this group in?

5. What do we need in order to move to the next stage?

6. How actively is everyone contributing their spiritual gifts and abilities to build up the group?

7. Was the facilitator asking or telling?

8. What challenges did people leave with to work on this week? How will I know if they achieved them?

9. What ministry, outreach, and worship events are on our group calendar this semester?

10. Are there any unresolved conflicts? Should there be (some healthy confrontation)?

11. What other evaluation questions should I be asking about our group?

12. And finally, what is there to celebrate about our group? (If any should be celebrated church-wide on the LC3Celebrations blog, send them to reg.overstreet@lc3.com!)

evaluation1

Blessings on our groups,

Pastor Reg

Finishing the Small Group Year Strong, 2012

(This post is an updated version of last year’s similar post on finishing strong, with the same two headings, but new content; plus a great new ACTIVITY!)

The 2011-2012 ministry year is just about to conclude. Here’s how to have your best finish possible!

The two most important things to do in your last meetings together are “Celebrate Your Past” and “Plan Your Future.”

I.    Celebrate Your Past

“What is rewarded gets repeated.”  I have found this popular statement very true. So, what took place in your group members’ lives over the year that you consider a “win” and that you would like to see repeated?  Did anyone trust Christ; get baptized; have a child receive Jesus; live faithfully through a trial; share their faith; pray faithfully; grow spiritually; ask a lot of questions or contribute well in discussion; have perfect attendance (one of our leaders even gives an attendance reward – very fun).  Whatever the wins were for your fellow members, acknowledge them!

How about the wins for your group? Did you grow together; serve together; help each other through a difficult time, move or transition? Did your kids see you praying together? Did you give support to a missionary, or be the hands and feet of Jesus yourselves? Did anyone lead discussion for the first time, or do a great job planning your social calendar? Is anyone going to step out and lead their own group next year?

These lists go on and on. Brainstorm with your spouse, assistant or all group members together what your wins were, and then celebrate them together!  If you do, they are more likely to get repeated and built upon in the future.

II.    Plan Your Future

After celebrating your time together over the last year, it is vital to take the next step and plan your group’s future. Everyone needs an idea of your group’s plans for the summer and for next year.

So, get out the calendars and plan your activities this summer. Here’s a great idea list to start the brainstorming.  Be sure to include LCCC’s Family Camp – the Family Reunion, on August 17-19 (click for details!)

For one more good resource, see last year’s post “Maximizing Summer”.

 

 

A Recommended End-Of-Year Activity – “The THANK YOU CHALLENGE”

MATERIALS NEEDED: Bucket, and a small item (balls, stuffed animals, etc.) for each person 

INSTRUCTIONS (Print these):

1.  Sit in a circle with the empty bucket in the center. 

2.  Each person is given a ball. Someone will volunteer to go first. that person will SHARE something with the entire group that was meaningful to them from the year together.  This could be something they learned about themselves, something God has convicted them of or is calling them to change or do, something they appreciated about another group member, etc. Try to be genuine and personal.

3.  The person who shared will then toss a ball to someone else in the group – anyone. The person who tossed the ball must then look at that person and do one of the following: 

  • Apologize for something they’ve done to them in the past and ask for forgiveness.
  • Encourage or affirm them. For example, say, “A strength I see in you is _______.”
  • Challenge them (in a personal growth area, leadership issue, etc.)

4.  Now the person who received the ball only says, “Thank you,” and drops the ball in the bucket. Let me emphasize the ONLY thing the person can say is, “Thank you.” 

5.  Another person then volunteers to go next and follows the same pattern. Please note that the person who caught the ball does NOT need to go next, but everyone should have a turn. 

6.  When everyone has finished, either end with some time in prayer, or, if time, allow anyone to go a second time. By this time the group’s walls will be down and a good spirit of Christian fellowship will be felt. Make note of how nice this would be to experience regularly as we continue life together. 

I would love to hear about your group’s experience with the “Thank You Challenge.” Give me a call, email or post on the comments here for all to see.

Blessings on your homes,

Pastor Reg 

Maximizing Summer

Maximizing Your Small Group’s Summer

Small Group Leaders and friends, isn’t it great to be in the ministry of shepherding people towards Christlikeness!? For most of you, the bulk of your work for the 10/11 season is over. But, don’t limp across the finish line! Fly across it like a champion by MAXIMIZING your summer!  Here’s how.

In my last blog post I attached this document (Here it is again): What Have You Got Planned This Summer.  I recommend you print it out for your next meeting, and make a note of your top ideas to suggest; then talk over with your group as you make plans for the summer.  

Sample Group Idea!! – Sarah and I were excited to receive some recent insight from small group leaders John and Shari Schock about how their group maximizes summertime. At the end of the small group year (which is about right now!) they pass out a sign up sheet for their summer get-togethers, which are twice per month.  Each group member or family plans whatever they want to do for their night.  In the past they have gone bowling, roller skating, served together, done a progressive dinner, and I can’t remember any more, but the list went on and on 🙂

This plan is wonderful: It is amenable to summer schedules; it’s fun and energizing; it helps share the leadership load; it’s welcoming to new members; and, maybe most importantly, it keeps the Christian community of a small group thriving.

Maximizing Our Church’s Summer

Another healthy use of your small group summer is pitching in to maximize the summer of our entire church. Here are a few things LCCC is doing this summer which all our small groups are needed to help maximize:

Summer  Community Outreach

Join in as a group with LCCC’s outreach events this summer, or come up with a few of your own.  Here are some suggestions.

  • Do “Servant Evangelism” in the community.
    • Our 2nd annual FaithInAction weekend is being planned for July 30/31, pending leadership. Would your group like to help head this up? Contact Pastor Jim!
    • Throw a block party in your host home’s yard and invite the entire street or neighborhood to party with you – Christian style! 😀
    • Other service project ideas are best identified by polling your group members for ideas close to their hearts.
  • Piggy-back on a local community event.
    • LCCC will have a booth at SummerFEST again, June 24-26! Last year we gave out almost 600 emergency preparedness packets and balloons, and painted hundreds of faces. The SummerFEST administrators are eager to have us back!
    • There are other summer events  in the area, such as American Lake Park. What else do you know of?

The sun is shining as I type this. Can you feel summer and the rush of serotonin coming?! Let’s use it to maximize our effectiveness with the gospel.

Blessings on your homes,

Reg

Finishing the Small Group Year Strong, 2011

I am praying deeply and sincerely for all our groups to finish on a high note; for our small group leaders to finish strong!  

Two healthy ways to do that are to “celebrate your past” and “plan your future.”    

I.    Celebrate Your Past

Spend time in one of your last meetings reflecting on the God-glorifying victories and growth from your experiences together this year.  Have a couple of your own, or someone else’s with a compelling story, planned to “prime the pump.”

You might read one of these paragraphs to get started:

A.        The Bible is filled with so many exhortations to ‘remember’ what God has done in the past, whether through the device of ‘memorial stones,’ annual festivals, tassels, phylacteries, or the discipline of hiding His Word in our hearts. God further demonstrated this in the two memorials that will last in His church forever: communion and baptism. 

B.       “We are so immersed in the pressured flow of life that we move from one crisis to the next activity to the following event, seldom if ever pausing to reflect on what those experiences are teaching us.  Unless we stop and reflect on the formative experiences and relationships of our life, we will miss the transformative purpose that God intended for them.” –Andrew Seidel

II.    Plan Your Future

Also spend time in one of your final meetings planning your group’s future. This will set everyone at ease, and give you the satisfaction of knowing everyone’s expectations are set.

A.        Discuss the future of this group: Remain intact? Transfer leadership? Split into two partnering groups so more people can join?

B.        Plan your summer schedule: rest; service/outreach projects; BBQ’s!! – get them on the calendar!

C.        Make a serious challenge to your group members to step up and become leaders of their own groups this fall. Challenge them, and promise to work with them to do it. One of LCCC’s greatest needs is more small group leaders, thus this can be one of the greatest services you could give to your church. Make sure you let me know who they are, too, and I will thank you!

Blessings on your homes,

Pastor Reg