Archive for the ‘Assimilation’ category

Seminar: "Connecting the Sermon to the Small Group"

December 18, 2008


How can a church make disciples in the 21st Century? On January 13, 2009, I’ll be leading a workshop at the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention onConnecting the Sermon to the Small Group. cordsIf you know of any pastors who are in churches where Sunday School is not working or expanding or are looking for a fresh small groups approach, please tell them about this workshop. 

Connecting the Sermon to the Small Group

January 13, 2009



The workshop themes: 

1. Why you should use Sermon Based Small Groups? 

2. Who is using them? How do they it? 

3. How can you build a model that works for your church? 

I’m finishing my DMIN with Haddon Robinson and have studied churches using this model. Help me out by spreading the word about this opportunity.


Book Recommend: Sticky Church

November 25, 2008

I just finished reading Pastor Larry Osborne’s Sticky Church. The book is a must read for anyone wanting to do small groups well. Really, if you want to do a simple church type of model,sticky-church you should consider sermon-based small groups as a way to make disciples and close the back door of the church. Here are a few bullet thoughts reflecting on the book:

1. Small groups should be as much about relationships as about content; if not more about relationships. People don’t need a lot of content. They need friends. 

2. The message on Sunday morning should be the topic of the small group. Most Christians can’t remember the message from Sunday to Sunday. What if they discussed it in small groups? What if they worked on application, prayer, and how to do what the message asked them to do.

3. Larry Osborne is way outside the box. He seems to avoid tradition in favor of simple disciple making. 

4. Long term relationships in sermon based small groups take care of maturity issues. 

5. The chapter on “Cho’s Model” is worth the book. 

6. The “one anothers” in the appendix need to be preached in a series. Love those things. 

7. I love the California model of ministry. Many churches have been impacted by North Coast Church.

Sticky Church Conference 2008

October 7, 2008

The Sticky Church Conference is nothing short of what ministry is all about: making disciples.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Larry Osborne today. Larry is the Senior Pastor of North Coast Church in Vista, California. In one way this was a dream come true. In another way it was just a great opportunity to meet a sleeping giant in the ministry. Larry is the Patriarch of Sermon Based Small Groups. He has had 80% of his regular attenders in small groups. Here’s a sample of his talk today. It was one of the best I’ve heard on assimilating people in the church and making disciples of them.

How to Go From Leaky Church to Sticky Church?

1. Develop a Healthy Leadership Team 

2. Shepherd the People You Have Already

3. Target Believers and Be Sensitive to Seekers

4. Foster Long Term, Christ Centered Relationships (via Sermon Based Small Groups)

Lessons Learned in the Ministry Journey

1. Stickiness starts with church health

2. Stickiness has two important aspects:

  • Visitor Retention
  • Long Term Retention

3. A fancy front door can hide a leaky back door

4. Most programs and ministries and designed for casual and/or short term relationships

5. We get what we measure and celebrate: retention seldom makes the list.

6. It’s increasingly difficult to reach and keep people with a one size fits all approach to ministry.

7. Spiritual growth is seldom linear. Programs are linear and that’s why they don’t work. Sermon Based Small Groups are organic. 

8. New relationships need easy on and off ramps.

Social Media and 21st Century Ministry

August 22, 2008

In the last year I have been following a friend of mine, Pastor Kerry Mackey, in his use of Social Media as a means of community, communication, and commitment to making disciples. Kerry’s site is Check it out. Kerry’s an expert at social media and assimilation. I’ve found social media to very gratifying and effective for communicating with younger people especially. There are many social media outlets out there and they can be addicting. So, if you should jump in, be careful not to spend all of your time doing it. However, effective use of these technological mediums can bring great benefits to your ministry and family. Ignoring the power of social media is a mistake. In one sense you don’t have to have it. In another sense, you cannot live without it.

MySpace is for mainly for teenagers. If you want to reach into the world of younger students, this is a must. You will have to setup a free account, but be ready to do some set up work. My advice is for you to set up for a few weeks before actually jumping into the online community. I had a MySpace account, but get rid of it recently. The reason I got rid of it was two-fold. First, I wasn’t keeping up with it. Second, it has some rather appealing adds. They are not pornographic, but are seductive. The adds are at the same level as you TV commercials, so don’t panic. But you will have to make a decision to be careful for the sake of reaching into “their world.” Young people are using MySpace as an alternate community. They either don’t have any real, healthy community, or they want to have a community where their parents are not looking in. If you can get into their community, there’s a respect and interaction that will build confidence and respect. You will want to interact, but not preach or condemn them for what’s on their sites. This will be hard, but it’s worth it. After a while, you will be able to make headway with them.

Facebook is used by young adults. It’s an online community that’s not as seductive, but still has adds that are not what you want on your face book site. Tony Morgan has a great post on why he left face book here. It’s something to consider. One way I’ve benefitted from Facebook is that 90% of my young adult small group  Sunday School class is in the Facebook community. I’ve gotten into their community. It’s allowed me to learn a lot about them and it shows them I care about their world and them as individuals. If you get into Facebook (or MySpace), I suggest if your married, have a page with your spouse. Don’t do it alone. If you’re single, it’s all good.

Twitter is a kind of micro-blogging. I have just begun to use it, but I love it. It’s simple. It can be run through your phone or from your computer. It creates a community based on the question, “What are you doing?” It’s a place where you can communicate ideas and let friends in on what you’re doing through the day. It allows you to follow some people who you may not ever get access to. I’m presently following Ed Stetzer and Dave Furguson. I’m learning a lot from just following their “tweeting.” I’m trying to get my friends to join Twitter. Twitter, like MySpace and Facebook, is free if you have an unlimited text messaging. If you don’t, Twitter is not for you, at least via phone. If you have iPhone, you can use Twitteriffic. It’s pretty cool.

I was slow to acknowledge the power of social media. I’m now catching up and passing some by using Twitter. What’s next? I don’t know. Maybe nothing. What I know is a good blog or website is crucial for churches and ministry leaders. Pastors should have a blog link on the front page of the church website. Link a weekly question to the previous or upcoming weekend message. I know of some churches that have internet campuses and have hired “Internet Campus Pastor’s.” At Christ Fellowship they have an online chat after the service. If someone cannot attend the service, they are challenged to watch online and participate and interact within the church community online. I love that! One other medium I’ve used to communicate with my Sunday School Class is “mass email.” I use a “Connection Card” to update constantly. I ask if the person is MySpace, Facebook, and get email address with birth date. I send an email to my class twice a week to encourage them to keep up their “walk with God.” It helps keep community during the week and helps them remember to come to class (I send one email on Saturday).

How are you using social media to create and enhance biblical community for the unreached and reached within your church?

Sermon Based Small Groups

August 18, 2008

I’m writing my DMIN project on Sermon Based Small Groups (SBSGs). The Patriarch for the model is Pastor Larry Osborne. Northcoast church is a great church and Larry is a great leader. 

In the homiletical field, I’ve been studying Haddon Robinson for over 15 years. His book Biblical Preaching describes the Big Idea method to preaching and has been THE classic for preaching for the last 30 years. I’ve had the privilege of sitting with Haddon and his disciples/friends for the past four years at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. Robinson’s model for preparation for preaching looks in part like this:

1. Study a passage (one literary unit) to the point of writing an exegetical idea (one sentence summary statement, stated in the past tense which is created by using a “subject” and “complement”)

2. Submit the exegetical idea to developmental questions: What needs to be explained, applied, or proved (Usually only one of these provides your outline angle)

3. Write your homiletical idea or Big Idea (one sentence in contemporary language)

4. Write the sermon purpose: most preachers ignore this. They may generally know it, but rarely can I tell where preachers have actually thought it through. The sermon purpose is at least one main, specific statement of what the preacher wants listeners to do as a result of the message. 

  • Sermon purpose brings intentionality to the sermon
  • Sermon purpose is the bridge to the listeners next week, real life
  • Sermon purpose takes the sermon from the pulpit to the living room
  • Sermon purpose takes the sermon to the workplace
  • Sermon purpose helps the church at all age groups know what to do after listening

An example: Let’s say the preacher spoke on “Vision.” His text was Prov. 29:18, “Where there is no prophetic vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law.” In this message the sermon purpose is this: “I want my listeners to understand and apply within small groups how biblical vision helps them and their world.”  In this message the preacher lays out the Hebrew meaning of this verse within the Old Testament context. He then applies the vision of the church to the text and shows the need for the vision.  Let’s say the message was motivating and the content was excellent. Let’s say the application is fresh because the preacher studied and prayed and God blessed. Each listener received a cool looking color copy of the vision and what it looks like. It fits neatly in a Bible so it’s portable. After all that….

What do you think will happen to the message by Wednesday of the next week? 

Can I say that it will be forgotten? Or maybe it will be swallowed up by a busy week? Might I insinuate it may be stolen by the enemy? It may get dismissed to stand with all the other messages listeners will here in a week. 

What if you designed small groups who met during the week. Those groups would not study another topic. They would apply your message by using discussion questions based on your sermon purpose, which is based on your passage and application. 

There’s more to this process, but what strengths and weaknesses to do see with this approach?

Sticky Church Conference

August 14, 2008

Assimilation is the name of the game these days.

…Are people joining your church yet your attendance is not growing?

…Are people being baptized yet you can’t tell where they are in the weeks and months that follow?

…What happens with your visitors after they attend?

…Is there a way to connect people into small groups, thus SLAMMING the back door of the church shut?

This conference will deal with these challenges. Pastor Larry Osborne is the Patriarch of the Sermon Based Small Groups movement. If you’re looking for something fresh, this is it. I’m doing all I can to attend. You should do the same.

Are you familiar with sermon based small groups? What do you think of the concept?

Where Did They Go? (2)

July 21, 2008

The membership retreat was very beneficial. I suggest you get a team of disciples passionate for follow up and take them on a retreat. Every church needs to strategize out how it will follow up on visitors and new members. We focused on new members. We have 6 of us who will follow up on our new members. We discussed the priority of community in the church and its benefit to new members. So we kept it simple.

We will assign two new members each week to a person on the team. Along with the membership letters we send out in our 60 day strategy, we will get personal. What personal means is we will make at least one phone call a week to the new member. We will reinforce the personal contact with email, text message, Social Media (My Space and Face Book), and hand written notes. Each person will decide how to make the connections based on his or her style and personality. Our goal is to eat with the person or do coffee at some point. This may or may not happen, but our goal is to make the attempt.

The connection point will be to coach the new member to our new members class (Membership Connection) and to a Sunday School Class. We want to love on new members and get them connected. We are hoping the personal touches will help facilitate new members entering the transformation zones of the church.Each of us will keep a new member for 4 weeks. We plan to meet in the month to report and rejoice on our efforts.

The church in Acts was strategic (Acts 1:8). I recommend you lead your church to follow up on new members with intentionality. Most US churches see people join only to not have a process for connecting people. I wish I would have learned the nuts and bolts to follow up earlier or in seminary. I did learn the principles. I think what was missing was a church structure that allowed follow up to be natural and effective. What should you do? Develop a strategy to make disciples. Look closely at the things at the start of the membership flow.

1. Are you using a system of letters?

2. Emails?

3. Calls from a staff person

4. Text Message?

What do you do if a person doesn’t come to your membership class? Develop your strategy beyond the first opportunities. There must be an ongoing plan for follow up.

More to come later.