Free Small Group Stuff
Hello all. It's been a while and for that I apologize. Because I love you so much (and because I don't have any other commentary) and because we had such a great time in our small group (we call them Connecting Points) this weekend I thought I'd share what we did and let you download it for free.
[The rest is detail about our meeting... skip to the bottom if you just want the download]
This Sunday our Connecting Points started up again and the group that my wife and I facilitate met at our place. It's shaping up to be one of my favorite groups in a long time. This group was wide-open transparent from jump-street. for half of the group this is their first group in our church they've been apart of so I was very pleased with the transparency. Another thing that made it great was that we laughed like crazy but we kept moving forward... very fun and very productive at the same time.
We have a diverse mix of age and church experience (I see a ton of value in diversity and not as much in mono-bland-ity --new word---) so the group will definately be interesting as we learn from each other this semester (our group will run up until a few weeks before Christmas and then we'll start up after the new year).
So we wanted a highly interactive group with more of a facilitator feel and not as much of information transfer (like a classroom) so this week we walked through 1 Corinthians 13 looking for hints on how to improve our marriages. After reading together we divided up to process and break it down among wives in a group and husbands in another group (one in living room, one in the kitchen). We would read a verse and then ask questions like
* How can this make my marriage better?
* What is different in how I take this vs. how my spouse would act this out?
* What are some funny experiences that relate to this?
Ultimately both groups were able to talk about everyday life in context and in concert with God's word. I think it is Mark Batterson, Ed Young or Andy Stanley (I don't remember) who said "Information without application is an abomination." This week's group was definately not that. We both exegated the passage as well as exegated our marriages. That's what I call a bible study!
Anyway, after our groups finished (we had note-takers), we privately made a list of 5 things our mates could do this week to show us love. This list was later given to our spouse at the end and our spouse picked 2 they would work to accomplish this week.
So our groups get back together and talk through with the opposite sex some of the things that each group brought up. What I thought was great was that both groups brought up things that they know they could do better. It wasn't an "us vs. them" mentality. It was an honest and humorous dialogue between the sexes. Some guys said they should be home more... some said they need to be more sensitive... some said they need to clean the house... etc. Wives said they need to affirm their husbands more often, others said they could give some space and still others realized that nagging wasn't helping. It was a GREAT time.
We concluded with each couple exchanging their lists in private and praying together. One man even said "I have never prayed specifically with my wife about her until tonight. I'm glad we did this." That is awesome!
As men we challenged each other to be accountable as the spiritual leaders in the home. My prayer is that this group of men will continue to be open and honest. The most challenging guy to me was a guy who's been attending church for just under a year who seemed to have the most passion about making things better in his home. It was awesome.
So anyway, this was a simple exercise but one that you can steal and use in your context if you need a great activity with a small group of mainly married couples. I'm attaching a link here to the zip file and you can make any adjustments you want. For our night I gave everyone a sheet at the beginning outlining everything we'd be doing and it worked like a charm. I hope it helps you too!
Small Group Material LINK
It's not Ridgestone... but it's us
Prior to service with the house lights dim.
This theater seats about 180 and we use two others (preschool and children). Should God bless us we have a fourth theater we can use for video venues. I'm begging God to have to use it. I love the theater chain we're with and they have 3 other locations in our metroplex so I'd definately see the day when we'll use all of them as God blesses.
If I were attracted to guys, he'd get a double-take.
side note: If I notice that church people are in the audience and appear to have a problem with my style, I highlight it more... Jesus wore sandals... why can't I?
We have the curtain to the left where anyone on stage enters and exits. We use the hallway behind the theater. We have two risers in the back currently used for our keyboard and bass with the drums behind a cage to the right on the floor. We have two stages in the front that the lead vocalist and I share. This setup changes from time to time but that's where it is during this last series.
We've also just recently added someone who will begin adding more stage design. I'd love to get pictures from any of you guys of things you've done to help her get her creative juices flowing. She's limited in what she's seen so any Creative worship environment pics would help.
Link: Ridgestone Church's stage
I don't know if Gary has shared publically the huge blessing that Ridgestone got with much of their equipment. After reading this article I pray he does :)
My comments at MMI
I appreciate the Monday Morning Insight and have spoken to Todd on a few occasions. He has an article today about a Pastor in Nashville who was ousted from the church he planted nearly 15 years ago. Apparently the membership is up around 4,000 (I've read 2,500 and 4,000 in different places).
The allegations were harsh and there were plenty of meetings. Ultimately this Pastor spoke this Sunday afternoon to a packed room of about 1,000 supporters where he laid out a vision for a very large ministry in the Nashville area and beyond. It seems the commenters at MMI dislike this guy and for the most part believe he should move out of town for the sake of 'unity' at his old church.
I left some comments that I'm sure are controversial so I figured I'd own up to them here. By the way, yes this is one of the things I enjoy doing on a study break.
Let me be clear... I do not know this Pastor at any level and have only heard what has been published online about the incident. If I met him and we talked for an hour, I'd have a much more clear view so my comments are more generalized in nature.
I'm over the idea that conflict is terrible for the Church. Iron only sharpens iron where there is friction. I'm also over seeing the word 'unity' being tossed around like a disagreement is the anthesis of unity. We are to be united in Christ, not in taste or opinion of everything. We're a kalidascope... we don't look the same, act the same or talk the same... even do things the same. Sometimes that difference can lead to a type of division. Not division over the centrality of Christ in all things... but a division over how we move forward. We've had people in our own church that wanted to go a different direction that I knew would forefit the reason God called me to lead the church (i.e.: the uniqueness he built into me through my gifts, talents, circumstances, passions, experiences, etc.) When you come to a place where someone is asking you to forefit that.... you have to walk away. In our case, others have walked. I'm convinced that these types of divisions only enhance the Kingdom if both parties are focused on Christ. Not everyone of us are called to do the same exact thing in the exact same way.
Monday Morning Insight Article
Dr. Foster's You Tube Clips from Sunday
(there are 9 small clips so be sure to watch them all. MMI cites only the one where Dr. Foster shares thoughts of the future and readers haven't taken the time to watch the others.)
As Pastors we always want to be certain that we're connecting with the audience in front of us. We bust our tails week in and week out to bring something of value to our people. I haven't met many Pastors who don't take seriously their responsibility to exegete God's word. It's a monumental task and one we should all continually work on. . Far too many Pastors aren't very good communicators. Sure, there are many guys who can tell you how many rivets there are in the Titanic but the real question is "Where are the life rafts?"
Really from an outsider's perspective it's a simple task... just tell people what the bible says. But then there is the complicated part of knowing what to say and how to say it in such a way that the Holy Spirit has something to work with. I look at my job as pointing people to the life rafts.
Yes it’s also my job to steer the ship, check on the crew and be sure that people are connecting with Jesus in a relevant way. Behind the scenes it's also my job to know the ins and outs of the word so that we can navigate the seas of life with confidence.
Because I take so seriously my task to communicate I always try to improve. I want to hit a home run each week not for me or for anyone to say how good I am... but rather so that Christ can be given full glory for all he's done. If people understand how the word all ties together, they can worship a God far bigger than a cosmic Dr. Phil. In the end really it's simple... We have God's word... He wants his people to know and obey it... it's simply my job not to screw up the translation to this culture. If I can get out of the way and take my idiosyncrasies out of the way, God gets glory.
Simple in theory, difficult in practice week after week.
That's what I love about the book I'm reading (the book I read about HERE with Gary, HERE with Bob and HERE with Todd. Andy Stanley's book "Communicating for a Change" with Lane Jones is a great book for any communicator. In my opinion, a good book should grip both my mind and heart. This book does that.
If you speak, go pick up Andy's book and work on your communicating. It may take a while but you'll improve. Your people will thank you and God will get greater glory through your work.
No more pizza?
"My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas"
When I was in elementary school I recall this phrase being trumpeted by our science teacher as a way to know each of the nine planets. Apparently I'm finding out in my old age that we've never really known if there was actually nine. Pluto has been debated for a long time and a few years ago scientists discovered a much larger object that is further away than Pluto.
The fun part of this story for me is that scientists do not have a definition for "what is a planet?"
We have to teach Christian students that science describes what God did and as such, needs to be given time to come up with a theory. The bible doesn't have to be re-written every decade or so. It's comforting to know.
Here's the story.
Next month's Series
Beginning Sept 10th we will start a new series at Focal Point called "Focal Point Inked".
Tatoos are rather common in society today and generally accepted in the public arena. Gone are the days when only bikers got 'inked' and hello are the days when people from all walks of life choose to memoralize a moment of their life on their bodies. Most ink today is done to commemorate an event, person or life stage. Even the stupid ones. Getting inked is an expression for some people of their soul speaking. The tattoo for many provides a voice for that otherwise silent part of their being.
Living in the city with the world's largest naval base means we also have a ton of ink in our church.
What we aim to do in this series is tackle some of those stories, emotions and periods of life that are forever etched into the skin of some of our members. For instance we will talk about a tattoo one of our navy guys has of his two kids' hand prints on his chest. He shares what it means to him and we will use that Sunday to talk about birth and the honor of being a parent. Another week we will see a woman in our church who had her dad's name, rank and dates on her back to remember her father who passed away this past year. Obviously during this week we will talk about how to cope with loss and the greiving process. Some others are going to be a relaxing look at the emotions of love and we'll also spend some time talking about the writing on Jesus' thigh in Revelation 19: "King of Kings and Lord of Lords"
I'm looking forward to this series. Should be a lot of fun.
As I sit and finish up this week's message I'm looking forward to the upcoming weeks ahead. At the end of the month we will have a comissioning service for a man named Calvin Allen. Calvin feels led to full time ministry. He is unsure of when or how everything will go down but the thing he knows is that he wants to obey God's calling and boy have I seen that up close over the last year. To refresh your mind, Calvin is the guy who after being layed off from his company ultimately decided to live for significance and not so much success. Last July when Calvin made me aware of his job situation I went to him and challenged him to live as a missionary for a year within our church. Get a lower paying job and just see what God would do. Well God chose to revamp Calvin's world. Gone are the days when he'd wake up looking for the next promotion or looking to fire people who may be in his way... Today he's a man who views his job as his ministry and he's taken HUGE steps to organize his life around this new view.
So here in a few weeks we get to affirm Calvin's calling and encourage him as he moves forward in leading people God's way instead of the way of the bottom line. I'm pumped about this. Calvin will be the first of what I hope will be many men who are called from within our body to lead the charge in God's army and fight for Shalom as a leader of men.
The service yesterday was pretty good... we've had an influx of guests lately so that's always encouraging and our production level continues to improve which leaves me especially pleased. We've been improving week by week so it's good to see things take shape.
I'm the type of person that would have wanted it all done last year but for a lack of funds and manpower, the growth has been slower than I'd prefer. I've learned that for us, for now... I have to be the leader that tweaks things one at a time. If we had other people around who knew where we were going and had the experience to get us there, our approach would be different but for now I have to invest in a few who can then invest in others. We have some dedicated people who have taken on tasks and have been faithful in what they're doing so I've had to take a different approach here and work to build the church one person at a time.
We will continue to do large outreach events (Easter Egg Hunt, Week of Giveaways, Movie Outreaches, etc.) but those don't seem to be making the impact I would have prayed that they would. Word of mouth is still the best growth method so we're going to have to grow this thing one person at a time. We're going to continue delivering God's word in relevant ways so that the message of the cross draws people in.
People get me... after a while :)
So last night I had a great conversation with quite possibly the most loyal person I know in our church. We talked about how that bond has been forged. He said to me "Tally, I know that some of the things we went through you could have avoided but to be honest, if you did... I wouldn't have followed you. The reason I follow you is because you stand up when opposition comes. You're trying to reach people for Jesus and you don't apologize for it."
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Luke 5:32
Jesus didn't come to call a bunch of people who already had their act together. I'm more and more convinced that a lot of church planters don't really want to reach people with the gospel. What they want instead is to get a bunch of Christians in a room and have a Kumbaya moment. I'm not into that. Not if I'm calling what I'm doing 'reaching the lost'.
I'm about reaching people with the gospel. All my life I've searched for the one thing I could be about that matters more than anything else. This is it. Creating a refuge for people to come out of the storm and hear that the creator of it all wants to meet them. For some people our church isn't the final destination. If we have to be a bus stop for some people... fine. I'm cool with that because in the middle of the storm, they will receive love, encouragement and possibly a cup of coffee as they board their next bus in life. But as long as I am able I plan to create a place for 'sinners' to meet Jesus and the self-righteous can either join me or get out of the way.
It's awesome to hear this man's words. He gets it. Others get it. The two who accepted Christ as Savior on Sunday get it. I love it. It's good to know that people get me... after a while. :)
This past week with our friends from Pennsylvania in town I saw first hand how vital volunteers are to a churches' success. Once a leader has his act together, he must have volunteers in place ready and willing to do anything. There have been times in my ministry when I had volunteers willing to go through walls for the vision and then there have been times when it always seems to be a struggle to get them on board.
Tucker Hibbs, the youth guy from Carpenter's, has a great volunteer staff (aptly named: The V-Staff). They are a group of (mostly) college aged students who bust their tails for the youth ministry. They care about the ministry and more importantly the kids within it. They truly are the heart and soul of that department. Seeing this team work together last week reminded me of how important it is to have a great lay staff. They really do make it all happen.
I'm so greatful for those in our ministry who have come around at different times and filled a void. I'm thankful for those who have walked along side and have been faithful to following through on what they said they'd do. I want to continue to grow and become a leader that expresses value to our volunteers. Without them, nothing would move.
Be good to your volunteers. Swim with the swimmers.
What's your plan 'B'?
I've never been to any mission activity where things went smoothly. For me it's always been my experience that once you give yourself to God, He takes the wheel and drives differently than you would. This week was no exception. There were some awesome times and there were some crazy times but at the end of the day God reigned supreme and people came to Jesus.
During this week when a few snags came up I was asked about a 'plan B'. I came up with (as far as I can tell) a phrase that suits my feeling on the subject.
"There is no plan B, we just make plan A work!"
Some would describe making plan A work a different plan all together... I don't. To me it's about the big picture. If you're trying to sell widgets, you put your plan together and adjust when necessary but the plan is still to sell widgets. If your plan is to love and serve your community... do it... regardless.
We had a day early in the week last week when the rains came down like a 'Big Tent Revival' song. To me, this is not a destruction of plan A but rather an opportunity. I instructed half of our group to stop passing out information and go inside of Target and buy the biggest umbrellas they could. We then shuttled people to and from their cars for 2 hours. It was awesome! Some people felt strange letting someone walk them to the store, but many appreciated the gesture.
Jesus was glorified in a non-threatening way and people were served in a very practical way.
I don't call that a 'plan B'... I call it making 'plan A' work.
This week I met an 18 year old named Danny. Danny has a speech problem due to Cerebral Palsy. Danny recently graduated High School and hopes one day to work in the ministry full time.
Out of all of the amazing things God challenged me on this week, Danny's passion resonated most.
For Danny to talk he has a small computer that speaks what he types. He can talk without the aid of the machine but it takes a long time for him to process the words from his brain to his mouth. If he types, he's fine. He can type like anyone and the words flow naturally. I quickly learned early in the week to ask Danny 'yes' or 'no' questions because he can respond quickly to these. It's just trying to explain something or get out longer sentences where he has a hard time.
God used Danny in my life this week during a few times of prayer. For Danny to get out a 4 sentence prayer, it may take him up to 3-5 minutes. For you and I to get out that same prayer it may take up to 30 seconds. Danny is a guy who doesn't let his disability disable his ministry. Danny is a guy who will take the time to praise his Savior and pour out his heart to God regardless of the adversity. And you know what... I appreciate him for that. If you pray with Danny, you can't just go into and out of time with God in 2 minutes... Praying with Danny requires you to focus in on your Savior. Time with Danny allows you to truly understand God's soverignty in life and thank him for who he's created you to be. A unique masterpiece.
As with every missions trip, this group of teens had a few who had to spend the week learning not to complain. Let me just tell you that Danny was not one of these kids. Danny busted his tail all week and was excited to be able to honor God all the week through.
I thank God for Danny. He brought me closer to my Jesus this week!