Roles of a Leader in Small Group Discussions

Under the guidance of a skillful leader, small group discussions can be effective. Carefully guided discussions can change hearts, minds, habits, and attitudes. Here some of the things you need to “Be” to lead a small group discussion:

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Be The Leader

Whatever your topic of discussion, make sure you have a goal in mind for the discussion. Have a clear idea of what you expect to accomplish. As the leader, it is your job to set the goal. Without a stated goal, the discussion becomes aimless and ultimately boring.

Make sure that goal is clear, practical, and measurable. When it is clear, people will be able to visualize the outcome. When it is practical, it is something useful and desirable for the members of your group. They will want to move in the direction of that goal. A measurable goal provides a clear way of knowing that you have attained it. For a small Group meeting, you’ll have to make the goal simple and small enough to be attainable in a short 15 minute discussion. For example, you can’t make your goal something broad like “Spiritual Growth” as it is just too vast and not measurable for a short discussion.

Be The Guide

With the goal in mind, constantly be in a guiding mode. You don’t need to control every aspect of the discussion. Be careful not to dominate and overpower the group members to force them toward the goal. Gradually guide the conversations in a meaningful way that will lead to the goal.

In other words, just make sure the discussion is moving in the right direction. As long as the direction is right, you will get there. Whenever the interactions seem to move away in a different direction, patiently redirect them back toward your goal.

Be The Facilitator

Along with being the leader and the guide, you are to facilitate every aspect of the discussion. Take all the preliminary and ongoing steps to make sure you will have a meaningful discussion.

Minimize distractions by paying attention to the various aspects of the room and group dynamics. Be sure to have something for small children to keep them occupied and comfortable. Ensure sufficient lighting for the group members to connect with each other. Try to arrange the seats in a circle so everyone is at least “visually” part of the discussion.

During the discussion, encourage the silent and timid ones to participate. Then, skillfully handle the talkers who seem to dominate every discussion. You don’t want to silence them, but skillfully leverage their boldness to keep the discussion moving, while including the quiet ones.

Facilitate the balance between the theoretical and practical. Bring in a sufficient amount of Biblical and other theoretical material, but make sure to keep it focused on the practical benefits of knowing the theory. Make sure it does not become a Bible study for the sake of a Bible study. Make the practical aspect the main aim of your discussion.

Be The Learner

Never present yourself as the expert. We are all on the same path as learners. By not presenting yourself as an expert, you allow for more participation from the group. But in the presence of an “expert,” the people simply become spectators.

Of course, you may be more knowledgeable and experienced than many of the people in your group, but that must be secondary. Your primary task is to be a co-learner who wants to benefit from the discussions as much as anyone else. This allows for the most productivity from your discussions.

If you currently lead a small group, I commend you for the awesome responsibility you take in God’s Kingdom. Be on a quest to do your task better every time. May the fruits of your work show up as changed lives.

For more on this topic, read one of my previous posts, Seven Things I’ve Learned About Leading Discussions.

How to Nurture New Believers in Small Groups

Becoming a child of God is the greatest privilege one can experience. Accepting the invitation through faith in Jesus is not a religious decision but a relationship. It is that relationship that needs to be nurtured.

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Mentoring

Because a new believer has begun a new relationship with God, they are best nurtured through relationships. This person’s relationship to the small group and to a local church is vital for their growth. Effective nurture can be pursued through one person who can be a mentor to this person. Clearly identify a mature person who can relate and faithfully guide this new believer.

Guiding

This mentor can be the key person to guide the new believer through three important aspects of this new relationship. This person needs a healthy relationship with God, other believers, and the community. Without a proper relationship in these three areas, the new believer’s faith becomes shallow. Their most vital relationship is with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Their relationship with God is evidenced through a proper relationship with other believers. When these two relationships are genuine, the love and concern for the community will be natural

Modeling

In the small group, make sure to model these three relationships. Let people see what it is to develop an ongoing personal relationship with God. Give opportunities for them to relate with other believers in a casual, friendly atmosphere. Bring in actual stories of how the community is impacted through relationships from this small group.

Let the caring relationships within the group be the launching pad for this new believer. As they navigate through the painful and difficult circumstances of life, the mentor along with the group will help his person to keep their eyes on Jesus.

4 Steps to Training Small Group Leaders

Those who have been part of a vibrant, active, small group can share how that group has helped in numerous ways. For some, their lives were completely transformed as a result of being part of a small group. For others, the small group sustained them through some of the fiercest storms in their lives.

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For a group to sustain itself and stay vibrant for the long haul, it is vital to continually develop new leaders. For every new leader you develop, you’ll gain ten new people. Its not a numbers game, but an opportunity to impact more people with your life changing message.

Here are four things you need to develop as you train new leaders.

  1. Heart – Vision

Develop within their hearts a vision that will become their passion. They need to develop a vision about themselves and others.

  • Themselves as enablers.
  • Others as prospects for a better life.
  1. Feet – Experience

As soon as people catch the vision within their hearts, give them opportunities for them to get involved in leadership tasks. While they are involved and gaining experience, teach them so they will have the knowledge and the necessary skills.

If you try to teach them all the necessary knowledge and skills before they begin taking responsibility,  you may lose them before they begin. Let them start, then teach them incrementally.

  1. Mind – Knowledge

Gradually work on developing their knowledge. A new leader needs some basic knowledge about worldviews, life, the Bible, and about things that are important to people in your group.

Get them on the track of being a reader. Develop an interest in them to be a lifelong learner. Resources are freely available now, and can be accessed from almost anywhere in the world. Get them on the learning track.

  1. Hands – Skills

Some basic skills of leadership must be taught to them in the beginning. As you invite them to share the burden of leadership along with you, they will be full of questions they never had. This is an opportunity for ongoing training in leadership skills.

A Lifelong Privilege

I believe leadership is a privilege that God has given his people. We are a “Kingdom of Priests” called by God. All of God’s children are given this opportunity. Some are willing to take the bold step into leadership.

See it as a lifelong privilege. As a leader, make it a priority to continuously develop leaders.

Your Best Social Connection

Reaching Out in Distress

Remember these posts? “Feeling lonely,” “Feeling depressed, angry, gloomy…” These posts on social media are often followed by responses from readers with sympathetic words. The list of responses are often quite long. Do these words have any lasting impact? Is the person’s condition improved by the words offered by sympathetic fingers as they type away on their keyboards or phones?

It’s healthy to have friends you can turn to in times of deep sorrow. But turn to God first. He will strengthen your heart with his Spirit, and enlighten your mind with His perspective. Your friends will give you advice based on their perspective which may come from their own brokenness.

God is Waiting for You

When the people of Israel experienced extreme suffering, they refused to turn to God. He commented about their condition and said: "They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds; for grain and wine they gash themselves; they rebel against me" (Hos 7:14).

It seems we turn everywhere else but to God. Israelites did that too. But God is waiting for you to reach out to Him in your distress. He will be your strength when you have none left.

Skip the Social Media and Friends

You need the encouragement and companionship of friends, but they must come second. Allow God to impact your heart and mind before anyone else does. When the struggles of life cause you to cry out in pain, bypass your friends and social media and go directly to God. He is ready to help, and he is waiting. Will you go to him first?

When you turn to God first, He will impact your thinking about your situation. When you approach your friends, each of them will have their own ideas based on their hang ups. On social media, you'll get advice that spans the entire spectrum with no limits. So give God your first priority and allow Him to direct you.

The New You…Sure, Assertive, Trusting

“You? You won’t amount to much.” “Since you’re a poor student, you won’t be able to do much with your life.” “Are you sure you can handle that? You’re too skinny.” “Isn’t that motorcycle too big for you?” Those words and others similar to that pierced deep into my being. I never thought much of it through the years, but several years ago I began to understand the extent of the damage.

The Trap

The constant onslaught of negative comments with little or no positives have an impact much beyond what we can imagine. The pain of negative words continue for some time, but after a while, the pain goes away. The pain is replaced by a certain numbness to those situations and negative words. But the roots of negativity go deep and continue to influence the person all through life.

These roots cause various problems in different people. Some deal with a constant sense of inability to make decisions. Low self esteem becomes the guiding principle underneath this person’s behaviours. Fear of being rejected by others will cause them to cave in and not excel in most things they do in life.

This person may have some dreams, but they never expresses those dreams. They cannot imagine that their dreams can ever be fulfilled. Thus they never take the steps necessary to live out those dreams. Its a trap that keeps them from moving forward.

The Turn

For such a person, the change will come only with a dramatic impact through personal experiences, or a divine intervention. Sometimes, colleagues and friends take an interest in the person and help them to refocus.

But refocus is too simple of a word for someone who has been conditioned by decades of thinking that they can’t live their dream. Their past failures also attest to this negative concept that has held them back.

In essence the mind has to be reconditioned to think differently. Negative thoughts need to be replaced by positives. Thoughts of failures must be replaced by dreams about life and how there is hope for the future.

Most of all, come to grips with the reality of  negative influences. Acknowledge the damage that has been done to your thought processes. Then make a decision that by God’s help, you will be able to reverse the negative effects into positives.

Trust that God believes in you and has your best interest in mind. Oh, you’ve always known that, but you’ve never accepted that for yourself. It was a reality for others and not for yourself. But God wants to do this in you. He has an awesome dream for you and wants you to live it out.

So, acknowledge the negative effects of the past and understand that God’s dreams for you can be lived out. Daily, pray and commit yourself to God’s dream for you. Allow your thinking to be transformed and subsequently, your words and actions will begin to change. With God’s help, you will think His way and begin to live differently and confidently.

More sure of yourself

Once you understand yourself from God’s perspective, you will see yourself differently. Your timid and fearful nature will begin to gradually change to confidence. This gradual shift to confidence will be a great asset.

When you are more sure of yourself, you can dream God’s dreams. Big dreams. Your thinking begins to expand and the horizon, the future, looks entirely different. New possibilities begin to appear in your mind like never before.

Initially you may suppress these dreams because you have been conditioned to think less of yourself. But as the transformation progresses, you become more sure of yourself. This feeling of confidence will be uneasy to you at first as you feel unworthy of such thoughts. Just allow God to work within you and replace the negative thoughts with His thoughts, GOD size thoughts. You will notice yourself becoming more sure of yourself.

More assertive

Eventually the confidence within you will express itself outwardly. In your interpersonal relationships, you’ll be more assertive than ever before. You will notice the growing assertiveness and may want to pull back because of your years of negative conditioning. But now, God is working in you a conditioning that is different from the past.

Others will notice your new level of assertiveness. Especially when you have never behaved like this before. Your bold steps and words will be noticed by others.

I believe the greatest impact of your assertiveness will be in your performance. You continue to do the same work you’ve always done, but now, everything changes. Once your attitude changes from fear to confidence, and you begin to be more assertive, you will see greater results. Get ready for a change in your direction and future.

You don’t have to give in to the ideas and whims of others. You can listen to God’s voice and move forward; bold and assertive.

Quiet trust

The confidence and assertiveness you sense must not be just a general sense of positive thinking. A clear trust in God and his dreams for your life needs to be the foundation. God’s dreams are the fuel behind your confidence and assertiveness.

You are replacing fear and timidity that has controlled your thoughts and actions most of your life. This can be done only with a quiet trust in God. He will live His dreams through your life.

You’ve not had much trust in yourself and your abilities, but now you replace that with a trust in God.

4 Fears of a Church Planter

Let’s get real. Church planting sounds awesome when we talk about creating space for a move of God in a new community. But all the words of hype and glamour fade once you get into the reality of committing five to ten years of your life to an idea.

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Then fear sets in, and you begin to ask questions. Once the loneliness begins, and you don’t seem to get the results you wanted, things begin to get scary. Here are four questions that I’ve asked, and continue to ask.

1. Do I have what it takes to plant a church?

During my days as a seminary student, I was glad to prepare myself for the ministry that God had for me. But once I stepped into church planting, everything changed. All of a sudden, I’m not sure what I’m prepared for.

The tasks were numerous. It began with having to create a broad five year plan and a detailed one year plan. After moving to the new location, we struggled with our focus on planting while looking for a job, a place to live, and all the details of settling into a new community.

The next step was to gather a core group and begin to share our vision for the new church. Vision? I was busy with Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and other important things to get me “ready” for the ministry. But how do I plant a church?

All my reading on church planting seemed to have dissipated into thin air. Facing the heat of the situation, I was not so sure of myself anymore. Can I do this? Do I have what it takes to plant a church?

2. What if no one shows up?

The first few small group meetings were tough, but the toughest ones were after the newness dried off. Will they continue to come? Are these groups truly meeting their needs? They seem happy, but happy enough to come back?

The same struggle was there when the worship services started. It started well with lots of motivation and excitement. The question always remained in my mind: Will these people come back next week? Is there anything going on in these meetings for these people to show up again?

Then it happened.

There were those meetings where no one showed up. We continued to call, encourage, and meet new people as if nothing went wrong. But that fear of empty seats was as real as ever.

3. Will I have enough money?

Our own tithe and some offering money is all that came in. The financial stretch was tremendous, but we held on. Borrowing was out of the picture, but we had to have more. Outreach and other programs cost money, but I was not the “asking” type.

You hope people would catch the vision and begin to give more. The greater hope is that they would Make a firm commitment to this new venture and begin to tithe. Waiting for people to respond can be a great challenge.

I was really intrigued by a statement I heard from Steve Nicholson: “Money follows vision.” I had a vision, but maybe I didn’t have enough confidence in that vision. Yet God provided at the right time.

4. Am I wasting my time?

How much time should be devoted to the process of planting a church? I used to think that five years is enough to get things up and running. But to get things going in the direction you want for the church, I would suggest committing at least ten years or more to the process.

But this was the problem. I kept wondering if my time was better spent somewhere else doing something different. Maybe I would have accomplished much more if I would have invested these years at another location. Am I wasting my time?

The fear that settles all other fears

Whenever I  think of doing anything else, I fear being out of God’s plan for my life. You see, for this season of my life (long season), God wants me to dream, start, and create. This is what I enjoy, and this is what drives me. Until I sense the release from that calling, I must continue. Fears will always be there. The risks are outrageous. Yet I know that God is faithful.

Do you know someone who is in the process of planting a church at this time? Talk to your pastor and get the contact information for someone who is planting. Call them or email them with some encouraging words. As pioneers on the front lines, bless them. If you’re not able to get information on church planters, I’ll get you connected with a few. Just email me using the contact form on this website

Thanks for caring and encouraging.

What? Another New Church?

Who needs another church?

We have planted churches in cities and towns where churches already exist, and sometimes the obvious question arises: Why another church? Aren’t there enough churches already? Here below are some of the reasons for new churches.

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Vibrancy

Newly planted churches experience more vibrancy than older ones. People are motivated as a new community begins to form. They’re motivated towards action, since this new movement demands action. In a new church plant, there’s no time for discussion over various issues of the faith. Just simple, pure, action is required to get this movement off the ground.

Outreach

As the new church reaches out to the community with the love of Jesus, more people are touched. Jesus went out from village to village and town to town with the message of the good news of God’s Kingdom. Along with teaching about the Kingdom of God, he performed the works of this kingdom as well. The “words” and the “works” went side by side.

Ultimately, this is the best method that anyone can suggest. Teach the words of the kingdom, and do the works of the kingdom. Your community needs this good news now more than ever. The good news that God is not all about having some philosophical discussion, but He is a God of action. He wants to step into your life and bring firm and lasting change. Effective outreach into the community demands truly changed lives.

Involvement of more people

Every aspect of the new church requires the involvement of more people. People are needed to set up chairs, banners and signs, to pray for people, to counsel people, and to do a host of other tasks that are needed for the new church. In existing churches, there are plenty of people already active in those roles. Others are simply watching these people do the work and wondering how they can be involved. Although there is no objection for people to get involved in existing churches, but there just seems to be no space.

A new church plant creates that space naturally. People don’t need an invitation to get involved. They simply recognize that there is more space, and move into those spaces. They see the need and feel the freedom to fill those needs.

Leadership Development

More leaders are needed as the new church develops. The new organization naturally requires people to take responsibility in various ways. Naturally, as more people get involved, more will be developed as leaders. Much of this will emerge according to need. You will be able to distinguish those people who are ready to move into leadership roles. These are the people who take action before they are asked to. Others look at a challenging situation and will begin to make suggestions for improvement.

These are the people who are ripe for development as leaders. Without assigning titles, allow them to function in roles that benefit the new church. Eventually, you can add titles as the need arises.

So there are numerous reasons why your community needs another church. Maybe you are one of those reasons. Maybe you are the person who needs the love of Jesus to penetrate your troubled life and make an impact. Or you may need to be inspired by the challenge of a new community. Some people need an opportunity for involvement, and others are ready to step into roles of leadership. You may not know that you are ready for leadership, but as you step in and get involved, you will notice the flow.

And if you are in the first category of needing the love of Jesus to penetrate your heart and life, feel free to contact me. Use the contact form on the website www.barnabas.in/email and I will reply to you. I would love to speak to you. Allowing Jesus to come and take a prominent place in your life will be the most rewarding step you will ever take.

3 Reasons Why Some Church Planters Fail

After struggling with failed church plants, stalled attempts, and some successes, I’ve had the privilege of helping several church planters. The road has not been easy for any of these people who have put themselves on the front lines.

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Some of them bailed out after several years of struggle, and others press on. It has been painful for me as I begin to wonder how I could have been a better support for them. The questions are endless, and the answers few.

Through all of this, here are three things that failed church planters struggle with, and how you can help.

1. They don’t feel loved.

These planters are often living in a new place, far from friends and family. They long for deep relationships. This is part of the risk they have taken, but it is certainly an important need for them.

Find ways to reach out to them in genuine love. Regular phone calls are the best if you are far away. Even if they don’t call you, call them. Periodic emails telling them you remember them in your prayers. Give them updates about their home church and the people they know.

Whenever possible, visit them and pray with them and for them. Lay hands on them and bless them in the name of Jesus. In such a tangible way, express your love for them. Then, figure out a way to have a meal together with them.

2. There’s no one to believe in them.

Whatever happens, through success and failure, believe that they will succeed. Especially when there are failures and setbacks, express your confidence in them to hear God’s voice and to move in the Spirit.

When you believe in them, it will come through your words and actions in a powerful way. This will be a refreshing gesture that they desperately need.

Having people who believe in them will certainly build their confidence and enable to step out in faith and believe God. The Kingdom of God will do its work in the gradual process that Jesus taught. They just need to hang in there and trust.

3. No one is there for them when they are in a bind.

These people are taking some of the greatest risks they have ever taken in their lives. Having a consistent, supportive backup for them is a great asset. It impacts the level of risks they will take, and the level of confidence they will have.

In times of emergencies such as hospitalization, unexpected and expensive car repairs, and other surprise expenses, open your hearts and pockets and help them. Let it be a gesture of your support of their passion for the lost.

Have a listening ear. Sometimes, you may need to write an email or call them and offer to listen to them. I remember when my father passed away, so many sent their condolences by email, Facebook, and twitter. One of my college buddies wrote and said, “Hey, if you just need to talk, just call me.” At that point, that sounded like a refreshing offer and I took him up on it. I don’t remember the conversation, but I talked, and he listened.

A rare breed

Church planters are a rare breed. Be sure to love them, believe in them, and be there for them. It will pay back much dividends for God’s Kingdom in your favor.

Do you know a church planter? Check with your pastor and get information on a church planter that your church supports. Then love them, believe in them, and be there for them.

3 Step Plan For Early Risers

Getting up early in the morning has not been easy for me. But this is something that I’ve struggled with, and practiced since my teenage years. This practice still remains a challenge for me as the mornings are not easy.

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So if it’s been such a challenge, why continue to struggle? I have found that the early morning hours are the most productive and refreshing time for reading, prayer, and meditation. These functions can be done any time of the day, but I found the mornings are the best.

During my years of struggling to be an early riser, I’ve learned some important lessons that have helped me. Here are three most important steps.

1. Plan your evenings

In the later part of the evening, avoid activities that provide too much mental and eye strain. Avoid the computer screen and all other devices as much as you can. The extra strain will make it harder to fall asleep, and has an effect on the quality of your sleep.

A good activity before sleeping might be to read a book. Paper books are best since they are easier on the eyes. Although I use eBooks a lot, I prefer to use the Kindle device without backlight. It seems to give a view that is softer and easier on the eyes.

Avoid coffee, tea, and other caffeinated drinks in the evening that may hinder your sleep. Any kind of snacks and drinks with sugar can also be avoided in the late evenings.

All of these factors help you to sleep quicker and sleep better so you can get up at an early hour of the morning.

2. Plan your mornings

When my alarm goes off at 4am, I am hardly ever in the mood to wake up. But its somewhat of a mental “game” for me to go through several of my morning routines before deciding if I need more sleep.

Usually after those routines, and washing my face with soap, I begin to feel much better. But I tell myself that if I still don’t feel right, I can opt to return to sleep. This gets me up with the option of going back to sleep if its a must.

I also plan out my morning routine as well. I place my Bible, notebook, pen, and other things I might need at the right place. In the evening, I set up that “area” for me to sit and pray, read, and meditate. This adds to the expectation in my mind to get up since I’ve done some preparation in advance.

3. Plan your rewards

Set up some rewards for yourself as you go through the hassle of getting up in the morning. For people like me, its the inviting smell of freshly brewed coffee and its taste that acts as a worthwhile reward.

For those in colder temperatures, its that cozy feeling of wrapping something warm around you as you sit on the couch. Now for us who live near the equator, that means nothing at all.

I believe the best reward for me is to have a personal, one to one time with my Lord who called me and sustains me every day. Its the joy, delight, and expectation of hearing His voice each morning as I sit at His feet.

So, take these things to heart and make a bold attempt this week to get up earlier than your regular wake up time. Earnestly try the above steps during the next few days and weeks. Then, let me know how it went. Come back to this post and leave a comment about your experience. You’ll surely find this a rewarding time.

4 Reasons Why You Should be Part of a Small Group

4 Reasons Why You Should be Part of a Small Group

I remember the young couple that came to church shy and withdrawn. They both seemed unsure of themselves. They’d hardly look at anyone’s face nor speak to others.  

Soon after they came, we got them connected to a small group near their home. Now after after a few years, they lead a small group on their own. They reach out to the needy in their community and they’re a blessing to the church.

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Some of the basic aspects of life are best learned and developed through involvement with a small group of people. We can develop relationships, reach out to others, and develop ourselves in the context of a small group. Here below are some ways you can benefit from being part of a small group.

1. Relationships

By nature, we are relational beings. Although there is great value in solitude, relationships are an important key to our vitality.

In a small group, the family we mentioned above were loved, cared for, and developed. They had a chance to be open with others enough for them to share their deepest problems and fears.

The relationships they developed over the years were valuable. These relationships became an important source of support as their children grew and they went through a major transformation as a family.

Outside the church, they had never experienced the benefit of such a group. They had various circles of friendships, but none benefitted their entire family as well as this small group.

2. Personal Development

The initial fear they had of facing people disappeared enough for them to meet new people in their community. Now they reach out to those in need by meeting their physical as well as their spiritual needs.

They now have a larger “family” to care for them and to back them up.  Decision making is different now. They share with the group and receive advice, care, and instruction. I’ve even watched how some of the older ones corrected them in rare situations. Because of the depth of their relationship, it was well received.

3. Leadership Development

Although they formerly struggled to take care of their own family, thing are now different. They don’t have a perfect family, but things are much more stable than ever before. They are able to manage their own family affairs without unhealthy dependence on others.

In addition to taking care of their family well, they take care of a small group. It is great to see them taking responsibility for several others. It has been a delight to see the gradual development over the years for this family.

4. Outreach

There was a time when this family was focused on themselves and their needs. They required constant care, attention, and prayer. Their need for survival was the predominant issue for them and they couldn’t think beyond themselves.

But now, they as a family reach out to others in their community like never before. Whenever they approach me now, it is with a request for prayer. But not for themselves, but for others they are ministering to and caring for.

I don’t mind such requests for prayer, since they are now outwardly focused. This has been a wonderful transformation that I believe is best seen through involvement in a small group.

In a large group, such people simply “fall through the cracks” and never get mentored. But in a healthy small group with proper focus, we see such exemplary benefits.

Your Turn

This is all the reason for you to join a small group. If a group is not available to you, why don’t you take the initiative and start your own. Make sure it is sufficently connected to your local church and stay within the authority structure of the local church. But by all means, take the initiative and start one.

Resources

Small Groups, Big Impact by Jim Egli

Successful Small Groups by Paul Yongi Cho