Archive for the ‘community’ Category

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Being the BODY – Groups @ their best

January 20, 2010

Our church, Oakbrook, participated in the Advent Conspiracy (watch this video if you have never seen it!)this year.  We collected a year end offering to support global & local compassion efforts and encouraged our small groups to also come up with creative ways to serve others during the Christmas season.  I am always so proud of our church in times like this.  Despite the fact that we live in one of the most economically depressed cities in the United States (~20% unemployment), our people continue to grow in the area of generosity because of their love for Jesus and others.  Here is just a snapshot of some great stories that came out of Oakbrook’s 2009 Advent Conspiracy:

-Offering exceeding $25000 to go towards global (Haiti) & local missions!

-“Our group assisted 2 families: One family has not had a full-time job for 3 years and another family who has sent their teenage son to work to help pay the bills.  We paid up the teenage son’s lunch account for the remainder of the year.”

-“Our group gave a $275 gift certificate to a family who lost their job and health insurance.”

-“Our group served meals at a local mission.  It impacted us greatly and we are planning to go back and serve every few months.”

-“Our group wrapped gifts for the Rescue Mission and then helped deliver the gifts during Christmas week.”

-“Our group bought presents, grocery gift cards, paper goods, and toiletries for 2 families.  We are also serving every other month by serving meals at Kokomo Urban Outreach the second Sunday of each month.”

-“Our group helped a family who had lost their dad in an accident earlier in the year.  We were able to provide some clothing, shoes, toys, and gift cards so they could have a somewhat ‘normal’ Christmas.”

-“Our group collected $600 to sponsor the needs of someone we know who was going to Haiti.  We also committed to contributing a minimum of $100/month toward his expenses for as long as he is there. We also provided gifts for ‘Angel Outreach’, bought diapers & wipes for Healthy Families, wrapped gifts for the Rescue Mission, rang bells for the Salvation army, supported a group member’s trip to Haiti right before Christmas, and made dinner for a group member whose mother passed away.”

“Our group helped 2 families by buying presents for their children.  We gave another family $75 for groceries.  We also paid for the repair of a windshield for a girl who could not afford this repair.  Finally, we visited a retirement home and sang Christmas carols and gave gifts to the residents.”

-I had one group hand me a backpack full of cash ($300) to be given towards a local backpack program that provides food to needy students every weekend.

-“Our group gave about $200 to buy gifts for some children that had just lost their father unexpectedly and because of finances would not be receiving any gifts this year.”

-6 groups in our Young Married Community and many others in our church joined together to provide Christmas to about 75 ‘angels’ at The Community Youth Outreach Center.  Every child received a gift (for many this would be their only gift!) and a whole lot of pizza to fill their bellies!  These 6 groups also spent a night before Thanksgiving sorting over 800 pairs of socks that would be delivered to needy families by Kokomo Urban Outreach.

Does it get any better than this?  Don’t just talk about it, be about it!

Looking for the best idea I’ve experienced in a long time to bring mission into grouplife?  Check out The Power of 10. It’s revolutionary!

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Praying Power

December 11, 2009

You’ve heard it before but I’ll say it again: people that PRAY together STAY together.  When 2 or more people pray regularly together, a powerful sense of community happens.  When my wife and I pray together, we are stronger.  When my kids and I pray together, we are stronger.  When I pray with my friends, we are stronger.  I just got back from a trip to Haiti where we teamed up with a Haitian church to put on a weeklong series of evening services in the middle of a bean field.  Yes, that’s what I said, a bean field.  Amazingly, 2000+ people were attending by week’s end and 150+ people accepted Christ, but the most powerful element of the week for me was joining my Haitian brothers and sisters for 2 hours of prayer every morning.  By week’s end, simply by praying together, our team was deeply connected to a group of people that we previously did not know and that didn’t even speak our language!  The power of prayer cannot be put into words.  Even my couple’s small group’s best experience this fall happened right before I left for Haiti and my group circled up and prayed over me.  Does one ever feel more loved and cared for than when the people they love take the time to pray for them?  I don’t think so.  Are you remembering to pray with those you love?  Is prayer central to your small group experience?  Don’t forget where we started this post: people that PRAY together STAY together!

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Power of 10

April 30, 2009

“If a group doesn’t help each other connect it will end quickly.

If a group doesn’t help each other change, it will end within a year.

If a group fails to become mission minded it might last a long time but eventually it will become very dissatisfying.”

Bill Search from his book ‘Simple Small Groups’

I can relate to the above quote by Bill Search.  Been there and done that.  In recent months, I have been thinking a lot about the missional component of small groups because in most cases it seems to be the part of group life that gets most easily neglected.  Problem is, to not prioritize ‘mission’ in group life is to disregard who and what we believe in.  The body of believers has been called to serve each other and to serve others.  There is no getting around it.

So here is an idea for you.  Not sure who came up with the idea but I think it has tons of potential.  We are looking at potentially inviting all the men of our church to be a part of what we are calling a ‘Power of 10’ group.  Here is a brief summary of the idea:  10 people giving $10 to meet a need.  Simple as that.  The rest is up to you to figure out.  Actually, the rest is up to the Holy Spirit to figure out and lead you to do.

My group is just getting started but let me share some initial takeaways.  Our group gives $10/week so between the 10 of us that is $100/week.  We pray for opportunities to serve with the resources that are available.  You see where this is going?  We grow spiritually as we lean into God and rely on Him to lead us.  We grow relationally as we marry our resources together and serve needs that arise.  We are used by God to serve those in need and draw them closer to Him.  It doesn’t get any better than that!

It’s been so life giving to see how God is stirring in each of my group members.  They are excited about the adventure that lies ahead.  Over the next 2 years, our group will contribute over $10000 to this little journey.  We have talked about saving $3000 of it to send with our Haiti teams and using the rest in our community however God sees fit.  The opportunities are endless, that is what makes it so exciting.

Groups that last are groups that figure out a way to inspire every member of the group to begin doing exactly what it is that they feel they have been put on this planet to do.  The ‘Power of 10’ is just one way to harness the potential of 10 surrendered bodies and to let God do the rest.

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60-40 Principle

February 4, 2009

Over the past 5+ years as a ‘small groups’ guy, I have had several conversations with frustrated group leaders wondering why their groups just won’t ‘take off’ like they had hoped.

Here is my answer: 

A small group is not a program or a thing to do as part of ‘doing church’, it is a way of life. 

In short, a group that meets 2x/month will not likely end up where you hope.  In fact, more than likely, groups that meet 2x/month usually result in a conversation where I am trying to rescue a wayward leader from committing small group suicide.

None of us need another thing to do.  What we need is a new way to live.

I believe that we need to lead our groups into a relational way of life like the one modeled by the early church.  A life that is modeled by loving and serving others not a life that is controlled by our schedules and ‘to do’ lists.  There is immediate tension when we evaluate this for ourselves and when we try to steer others in this direction, but it is a tension that we all need to fight because it is a fight of selfish vs. selfless.

Groups are a way of life.  I thought these comments by Scott Boren in his book, The Relational Way, were very practical for us as leaders as we evaluate the current health and future direction of the groups we lead:

“The vision for small groups must extend beyond the weekly meetings.  The small group meeting is crucial to group life, but in my experience in participating and leading effective groups, the meeting contributes about 40% to the life of a healthy group.  The other 60% is a result of random life connections between group members.  Good meetings are important, but we need life connections with people who will love us, challenge us, pray for us, and support us.  This cannot be done in ninety minutes once a week or twice a month.”

Read Acts 2.  This small group thing is a way of life.  Quit settling for anything less and lead people to begin living this way with you.

The Community Channel is back.  Let the dialog begin.

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Christmas Sweaters & Community

December 9, 2008
Just had to share a fun pic with all of you.  Our 20’s & 30’s Young Married Environment finished off it’s year together doing 2 things: serving & celebrating.  Next week this community, consisting of 6 small groups, will be serving a youth outreach program in a neighboring town by purchasing gifts for over 40 children and giving them a taste of Christmas that they would not get otherwise.  Awesome!  Last night we celebrated our community with a little Christmas gift exchange.  The pic below highlights the gift of the night…it fit him perfectly!
Celebrate Jesus, celebrate the relationships He has given you, and celebrate through giving.
Merry Christmas.
Crazy Gift Exchanges

Crazy Gift Exchanges

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Refrigerator Rights

November 26, 2008

I have really resonated with the concept of ‘Refrigerator Rights’ that author and comedian Will Miller has proposed.  The idea is this, “How many people in your life are comfortable opening your refrigerator to get a drink or something to eat without asking your permission first?”  Miller suggests, and I agree, that the key to mental and emotional health is the presence of these types of relationships in your life.  I like to take this idea one step further, “How many people in your life are comfortable opening up the door to your heart without asking your permission first?”  Or how about this, “Does God have access to your heart?”

The idea of refrigerator rights speaks to a relational way of life that is rapidly disintegrating in American culture and causing us to get more and more disconnected and fragmented from the people around us.  In fact, such is this way of life that most people, including Christ followers, do not even realize how disconnected we are from each other.  Our culture is constantly on the go.  Yes, most of us are surrounded by people every day, but very few in America have ‘refrigerator rights’ relationships.  I heard it said that the church does not need to figure out how to do small groups rather the church needs to learn how to do relationships!

The American drive for personal success, the drive to focus on my needs, my dreams etc. has left us in a state where there is little value for relating.  This pursuit of self is having a devastating impact on our mental and emotional well being.

In the book, Refrigerator Rights, Will Miller described our desensitization to relating this way:

” If something is nearly constant or routine, we tend not to notice it.  Breathing is so automatic that you don’t tend to consciously think about the mechanics of your body as you take a breath.  In today’s environment, our isolation from other people has become so routine that many of us don’t even realize that this is our state of affairs.”

So what do we do?  We, the church, must help people understand that our way of life is polluted and begin to model a ‘refrigerator rights’ way of life……the relational way of life that God has called us to.

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Organic Community – Growth

July 2, 2008

It seems as though every church is constantly looking for the ‘perfect’ way to foster spiritual growth in people.  The ongoing REVEAL study by Willow Creek Community Church is a great example of this (and by the way, thanks to the REVEAL team for all their great research!).  Even at my church, we are currently bending our little minds and seeking out God’s wisdom in an attempt to come up with a strategic plan that will deepen the spiritual maturity of our attenders.  In the process I am definitely learning that discipleship has many angles. Oh yeah, and I’m also being reminded that spiritual growth is SLOW!  There is no 18-month track to full devotion…for some, this may be true, but for the majority of us, the discipleship process is unique as each person is unique.

So how do we help people grow?  Do we put all our eggs in one basket and hope it works or do we take each egg individually and create multiple ways to connect and grow?  Throwing all the eggs in one basket might work in the short-term, but wisdom tells us that there is not much sustainability with this approach.  If we agree that every individual is unique, then why would we expect one method of spiritual growth to result in sustainable growth for every person.  It just won’t work. 

I am reminded again of the 4 spaces of belonging that Joe Myers writes about in his book ‘The Search to Belong’: Public, Social, Personal, Intimate.  Nelson Searcy, in his book ‘Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups’, makes some key statements about the 4 spaces of belonging:

1. We grow spiritually and connect with others in all 4 spaces.

2. We need relationships in all 4 spaces.

3. No one space is more important than the others.

4. The spaces are interrelated and connected together.

5. We have a deficit of social space….which leads to deficits in personal and intimate space.

I am just diving into Searcy’s book, but from what I have read I highly recommend it.

So how are we doing at encouraging relational connectedness and spiritual growth in all 4 spaces?  I think Searcy is dead on with his conclusion that we have a deficit of social space in today’s church which is a critical miss!  If you are invested into small group ministry at any level, I invite you to think about what space small groups fit into.  In many ways (and I think a lot of people would agree), the church has sold small groups as a place where personal and intimate relationships will take place.  I, along with many others, would agree that this is flawed strategy.  Certainly, both personal and intimate relationships often organically emerge out of a small group but small groups at their core are social spaces.  Because of our inability to vision cast group life as social space, we have failed to assimilate countless numbers of people who were too intimidated to leap from public space to this so called personal and intimate space known as a small group.  Yes, on rare occasions, there are those groups that seem to have gone to the next level relationally, but I think the following summary by Nelson Searcy is a more accurate picture of what is really going on when this happens:

“Groups help us form personal and intimate relationships by providing a safe space within the group where we make friends who could then become more intimate friends outside the group.”

In the end, we grow in many different ways and connect in many different spaces but each way is built on relationship.  Each space is important but no space is greater than another.  Growth is slow and cyclical.  At times, one space may be more healthy for us than another space (example – a small group).  At another time, we grow more in another space (example – an accountability partner).

As a leader, pray about what space God is leading you into to help you grow closer to Him.  Then, pray about what space God can use you best to draw others closer to Him.

Fascinating stuff to think about…..your comments are welcomed.