Monday, August 24, 2009

Sticky Church Blog Tour

Below is the next stop in SMALL GROUPS.COM blog tour for the new book Sticky Church. To read other posts in the series, visit the Tour Hub. Today, Reid Smith comments on Chapter 6.

One major thesis of the book is that small groups must be an extension of the pulpit/"Sunday morning preaching" ministry, Smith affirms this when he write, "It wasn't until I implemented sermon-based small groups that we blew through this barrier experiencing at least a 25% increase in involvement . . ." Read on:

Chapter 6: How Small Groups Change Everything

Post written by Reid Smith on 2orMore.

“Lots of churches have small groups. But if truth be known, they're usually more of an add-on than a churchwide priority...” (p. 47) Got your attention? Can you relate?

If you're a small group pastor, this opening sentence of chapter six in Sticky Church probably resonates with you. A programmatic view of small groups is pandemic in the Church. Far from being another program, ministry, or good thing for Christ-followers to do – small groups encourage God's people to obey The Great Commandment and empower them to fulfill The Great Commission.

Larry Osborne is accurate in saying that small groups tend to be more of an “add-on” vs. a “church-wide priority”. He states how there are two indicators that a church does not have a programmatic understanding of group-life: (1) If there is a critical mass (40-60%) of adults attending a small group and (2) The participation level of senior staff and key leaders. If these two things are happening at a significant level then small groups begin to change everything.

I've found that just as there are barriers in church growth, there are growth barriers in small group ministry. As you integrate adults into the community life of your church through groups you will likely run up against challenges of moving beyond the barriers of 30-35%, 60-65%, and 80-85% involvement. Several years ago, I found myself at the middle barrier. Groups were an integral part of our church's community life, but were not definitive for our culture or the hub that influenced multiple spokes of ministry activity.

It wasn't until I implemented sermon-based small groups that we blew through this barrier experiencing at least a 25% increase in involvement; much of which happened through the innovation of new forms of group life and group outreach.

I used an approach we called “Group in a Bag” where we produced our own DVD-driven group curriculum in-house along with participant study guides, invite cards, host orientation guide, etc. - all of which we put in a bag and strongly promoted church-wide. Not only did this resource existing groups, but it inspired new groups to form in ways I couldn't have imagined. That development took the lid off of the church's group-life.

I've learned that moving beyond the seemingly unscalable teflon surface of growth barriers in your community life requires the combination of a few critical factors:
  • The home-grown factor: People valued hearing from their own pastors and because the Lead Pastor was a part of the production process made it easier for him to promote it from the front.

  • The campaign-factor: People responded to the excitement of the material being current and tying in with what they were hearing on the weekend. This resulted in a bandwagon effect that was relevant, ever-changing, and continuously renewed with successive sermon series.

  • The freedom-factor: People were encouraged to engage with the material in ways that fit for them. For example, start by using it as a personal/family devotional and then use over coffee with a friend, etc. I did not prescribe how they were to use the material; rather I gave them ideas for what they could do with it.

  • The cost-factor: Now more than ever, cost matters. Sermon-based small group resources that are created in-house and delivered onsite and online only cost the church / group participants the paper they're printed on. Instead of purchasing new material each season, this is a cost-effective way of offering the group content that's relevant to everyone since they just heard the same message.
At Christ Fellowship where I serve as the Community Life Pastor, we implemented sermon-based small groups with an initiative we called iMAX. Every weekend we produce sermon discussion guides that people can use to maximize the message in their lives. Each edition has four parts: 1) IN A NUTSHELL (1-paragraph sermon summary), TALK IT OUT (discussion questions), DRAW IT OUT (in-depth study section), LIVE IT OUT (life application exercises). We created a landing page on our website where people can download the most recent copy, access tips for group discussion, and even register as a new iMAX group.

Larry Osborne's writing reflects his rich experience and his style is straight-forward, honest, and oozes with humor. I love the fact he is writing from the perspective of a lead pastor and empathizes with challenges that small group pastors face; plus, the final 20% of the book provides a wealth of group resources.

What has made the church he pastors STICKY is the 80% of adults participating in small groups – a measurement that has stayed true for 25-years now. The connection between small groups and becoming a sticky church is undeniable. “By far the most powerful tool for keeping our back door shut and making the church sticky has been our commitment to sermon-based small groups” (p. 21).I couldn't help but laugh while reading the concluding sentence of this chapter, which you'll just have to see for yourself!

Please read the other blogs on the blog tour here. You can pick up a copy of Sticky Church here.


3 John 8
Bill H.

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