Archive for the ‘Small Groups’ category

Paul Cho, Larry Osborne, and Sermon Based Small Groups

June 5, 2009

What’s a sermon based small group? It’s a group of believers who meet weekly to flesh out the Big Idea of the Sunday morning message. But where did this idea come from? Who is using the sermon based small group model? 

Well, I’ll be posting soon on how the scriptures provide the biblical foundation for sermon based groups. But where did they start in modern culture? Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho, Pastor of the Full Gospel Central Church in Seoul, Korea used sermon based groups. He didn’t call his groups that. He called them “cell groups.” Nevertheless, he used sermon based groups. These groups were led by women. That was a problem in Korean culture by itself. When starting his cell group ministry, he said:

I could see that she was right (that Cho had to release the women only under his authority to lead), and so that very day I began to write out my sermon notes and distribute them to the cell leaders. I called a meeting of all the leader for every Wednesday, and at the meeting I would distribute the notes and explain them, and tell the women what I wanted them to teach (Cho, Successful Home Cell Groups, 34-35). 

Cho used the lecture lab model as a matter of convenience. I’m not sure how long his church used them. I doubt they were the model they used as a model. In Korea, the church culture was drastically different than the in the West. Cho’s groups were evangelistic groups because of the communal nature of the Korean culture. Larry Osborne has a great chapter in Sticky Church called “Why Cho’s Model Didn’t Work in Your Church?” If you have not read that book, get it asap and read it comparing your disciple making process with the North Coast model. You will be challenged. Larry Osborne is an expert at using sermon based small groups.

How often have you heard a message and thought to yourself, “I wish I could get people to discuss this message so we could internalize it, be motivated in group by it, and actually do what the message challenged us to do?” People are talking about preaching. Why not help them do it in a way that’s not negative, “roast preacher” after the weekend experience? Why not start a few sermon based small groups in your church. Expand your preaching!

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Sermon Based Small Groups

May 23, 2009

Well, now  that I’ve finished my doctoral work, it’s time to blog on it some. When I came back from my last residency at Gordon-Conwell, I had no idea what I would write about. I had planned to write on a couple of other possibilities. But, they didn’t work out. I was either going to write on the preaching ministry of EK Bailey, or on the priority of prayer when preaching. For some reason, I got back on the plane without an approved doctoral proposal. SO, on the plane at 30,000 feet the Spirit spoke in a book I was reading: Simple Church by Thom Rainer. In the book, Rainer identified a Southern Baptist Church that used sermon-based small groups in its Sunday School model. It was then that I decided I would do a proposal on researching sermon-based small groups as a valid way to make disciples. 

communityI knew nothing of sermon-based small groups. Serious! Nothing. The topic intrigued me because I not only love hermeneutics and homiletics, but also making disciples. In the end, I learned so much. I became a better disciple and disciple maker. My view of ministry became more focused. I stopped relying on events and programs as the way to hide and not make disciples. I volunteered to teach a Sunday School class, which I didn’t have to do, and started a small group out  of the class. I know for sure I’m making disciples who will in turn be able to make disciples. The journey made me a better leader. 

I’m fully convinced sermon-based small groups are the best way to help believers grow in their faith. This is especially true in our busy, complex culture.

I’m going to begin a series of posts that will explain the journey I took and what I learned in the research. Who did I meet? Where did the sermon-based group start? Who is the Patriarch of the movement? Why are sermon-based groups better than other groups? 

Stay tuned. Let’s take the journey together. Are you making disciples?

The Doctoral Graduation

May 16, 2009

Alan@Dmin3This past weekend I was blessed to finish my doctoral work at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. In 1992, the first book I purchased so I could study preaching was the classic, Biblical Preaching, by Dr. Haddon Robinson. I had no idea who he was. I got the book because my pastor recommended it. I started to read it, but it was beyond my ability to read at that point. I was the typical man who rarely read a 200 page book. I learned to preach from “preachers’ training” in my church. I was called to ministry in an African-American church where in that time ministerial development was serious business. After that call to ministry, I ended up in a Southern Baptist Church in Germany where my pastor encouraged me to go to seminary. I went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. I went to seminary mainly because I didn’t grow up in church and needed equipping. While at Southwestern I had a professor who quoted Haddon Robinson a lot. I ran across a picture of Haddon in Leadership Journal. The picture was one of Haddon in downtown Boston. He was promoting a new Doctor of Ministry track at Gordon-Conwell called, The Preacher and the Message. I thought to myself, “If I can ever study with Haddon Robinson, I was going to do it. After graduating with the MDIV, I waited one year and applied to Gordon-Conwell. I was excepted early (usually you have to have 3 years post MDIV experience) to Haddon’s track. I was excited. Well, 5 years later, including 1 year off from the program in the middle, I finished. 

Last weekend I walked the stage and was hooded with a doctoral degree by Dr. Haddon Robinson. I was able to take my family with me. They were able to experience the graduation and enjoy Boston and the North Shore for a few days. DSC01264It was a culmination of something special. Really, I didn’t go to get a degree, although I wanted to finish. I hate not finishing something I know I’m able to do. My family getting to watch it finish was special beyond expression. I think it’s because this degree process was so much more than a degree. 

My doctoral thesis is entitled, Teaching Pastors to Reinforce Expository Preaching with Sermon Based Small Groups. This project culminated into a seminar on small groups. I plan to convert the project into a book. I’ve actually started. The degree program I was in was a doctoral level preaching degree. The difference in this and other degree programs is at least 2-fold: first, Haddon Robinson, and second, the final year deals with “teaching preaching.” Robinson stated in the third residency, “this third year focus on teaching preaching is a focus no other degree program has in it.” There are Phd’s out there who have never taught preaching before they go on faculty at a Bible College or seminary. At first glance, the program seems like the same thing you get at the Master’s level. But the difference is Haddon has obviously thought through the preaching tasks and what would need to be focused on to take Master’s level education to it’s intended level. The DMIN process was a culmination of all my previous education. 

There’s no task more important than communicating the gospel We should all do all we can to better our communication of  the gospel. The gospel is the only hope of the world without Christ. 

My thesis ironically was not specifically on the homiletical task. It was on the tasks that happen after the preaching: discipleship, ministry, and reproducing small groups for disciple-making. I’m so glad I did a thesis on something no one else has done (to my knowledge). The process had not only made me a better preacher. I’m better because Haddon teaches you how to ask the right questions and think where you normally would not. The process most of all made me a better disciple and disciple-maker. And this is what this is all about. We are supposed to make disciples, not just draw a crowd (important, can’t make disciples without a crowd). But there can be a focus on the front door at times while the back door in wide open (see Dr. Larry Osborne’s Sticky Church. a must read). 

Thanks for your prayers for me in this process. I’m thankful. 

My prayer: “Lord, I dedicate my life, skills, education, family, church position, all I have and am, I dedicate to your kingdom desire: “Make disciples” (Matt. 28:19-20).

The Need for Community

April 27, 2009

For the past few years I have watched with amazement at the isolation of people in American culture. It’s all about need, greed, and speed. People are hurting; that’s the need.  People trying to succeed; that’s the greed. People are busy; that’s the speed. 

communityNever has there been a more important time in church culture than now for the need of biblical community. I’ve been preaching (not pulpit preaching) lately to people that “I’m tired of getting of being on  the wrong side of the questions in peoples’ lives.” Often, because our culture is so busy and programatic, we only lightly hit the real problems people have. If it takes 3 months to build trust, and we never get with a person for growth purposes, for 3 months, then will we ever get to trust? 

The problem in our culture is not the information available to people. It’s the missing relational factor that gets us an audience with people. Young people especially are played out on traditional “niceties.” They want authentic Christian faith. They want genuine disciple making. I’ve been leading a young adult small group for 6 months in my home. I’ve poured myself out to them and they in me. Believe me, they are no longer impressed with my “religiousity.” ( I know it’s not a word)

There is a great need for biblical community. Why don’t most churches get biblical community? One reason is we just offer too much to people. Andy Stanley is correct that in his model of church at NorthPointe in Atlanta, Georgia, they basically do Sunday worship and groups in the week. Larry Osborne also does the same thing at North Coast Church in Vista, California. Worship, and sermon based small groups. They offer less, to get more. People across the board are the target, not the same 10-20% that come to everything. The people on the perimeter need to community. The 20% have had it for years now. 

Jesus took 12 and provided community for them. Three years later, they changed the world. That’s where our focus in the west should be. Making disciples in small groups. If not, we never know where a person really is in his/her walk with God.

Where Transformation Happens…Most

March 4, 2009

Tonight our young adult small group met. I’m amazed at the life change I see in these young leaders. They are the future. They are cutting edge. They want authenticity. We have been meeting for 90+ days now. The group was born out of a young adult sunday school class. We got tired of not knowing people. So we started what grandma would call a “care group,” named it a small group and began to meet weekly. This difference it has made in new believers and everyones lives is tremendous. The growth is amazing. 

I am a believer in small groups. If you’re not keeping up with this site, you need to go look at it. This week’s discussion is on small groups. 

Where does transformation BEST happen? 

I would challenge any answer. It’s not that transformation can’t or doesn’t happen in other ways, but the small group is the BEST place for transformation to take place. It’s just a fact. And the small group is the best place to see Acts 2:42-47 really happen with EVERYONE or MOST of your church. 

Where do you think transformation BEST happens?

Sermon Based Small Groups Article

February 6, 2009

Hey Everyone,

As many of you know I’m finishing up my DMIN at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. My thesis-project is on churches that use sermon-based small groups. Its end goal is to teach others the “why, what, and how’s” of using this great form for disciple making. Check our the article the SBTC did on my project.

7 Things That Can Move Your Sunday School Class Into the 21st Century

January 31, 2009

1. Change your Teaching Style

If you still teach from the denominational material, you’re not being creative enough. If you still lecture most of the time, you’re teaching style matches older generations, not younger. If you don’t use an image, object lesson, or multi-media visual, you are not keeping up with how all of us communicate. People, today, have flat screens in their living rooms. We us laptops. If you just lecture, you need to change your teaching style. It will change the reaction and interaction of your class. Use questions to get participants to engage biblical ideas.

2. Start Small Groups

People today need and crave relationships. The previous generation did not do relationships the same way. Today, if your class does not know one another after 6 months or a year, then something is wrong. In the past generation, care groups worked. Today, care groups are not the best way to care for people. Care groups are passive. They are concerned with maintenance. 

Small groups is what classes need. Take your care groups to another level. If you can start small groups that meet periodically for food, fellowship, and faith building, you will deepen your Sunday School. Take 6 weeks and challenge your classes to meet once a week at night off-campus. The goal is not to impart more content, but build relationships. Everything will change for the better when your people get to know people they should know, but don’t know. 

3. Use Name Tags

Use of name tags says more about what you expect than it does for what is accomplishes. Name tags help people know names, but it does more in modeling expectation in the class. When you use name tags you say, “we have too many people and they can’t possibly know everyone.” Growth is expected and is modeled to participants. It may seem small, but it is pre-relationship building. 

4. Social Events

Don’t use social events as the only way to do fellowship. If your class fellowships are over 15 people, they are not deep. They are superficial. Superficial fellowship is needed. It helps those who are not ready for small group “koinonia” fellowship. What I recommend is having a large, social event quarterly. Bowling, movies, BBQ, whatever it takes; social events are good for pre-fellowship connections. 

5. Move Locations

One of the best things that happened to my young adult class is we got booted  from our room so another class could have our room. We moved to Starbucks and guess what? Our class grew! We now are in a larger room in out fellowship hall. You should not stay in your room forever. If you do, you will stagnate.

6. Change the Room

Simple, from time to time move your room around. It may be rough at first because some will complain if they are stuck in a rut. Once you get it going, it will work for you. Use tables, then just chairs in a circle. You’ll be surprised how your class will come alive. 

7. Team Teach

Share the teaching duties and enlist discussion leaders for small horse shoe groups. Team teaching keeps the class fresh. Mix it up. Don’t let it be predictable. Develop an apprentice. Different teaching styles and personalities keeps the class fresh. Team Teaching will help you keep leaders.