Category Archives: Small Groups

GT Update | Feb 15

Hello everyone, as promised here is week one of the “Misunderstood: Jesus According to Mark” series.  As I’ve mentioned over the last few weeks, we would love for each small group and class to join us in this study during the next 6 weeks.

MISUNDERSTOOD: JESUS ACCORDING TO MARK

Here is a link to download the week 1 Group Guide: Misunderstood – Jesus According to Mark 1

Please feel free to download this and share it with your group/class or we will have some paper copies available at the Welcome Center this weekend.

We have also created an informal video to go along with each week of the series.  Here is a preview of that video:

You can stream or download the video here: VIDEOS: Misunderstood: Jesus According to Mark

ENCOURAGEMENT DURING FEBRUARY

Snow Shoveling

With the holidays long gone and Spring still weeks away, I often find February one of the toughest months to stay motivated as a leader.  A few years ago, when I was a Youth Pastor in Michigan, I wrote an article to encourage small group leaders of students during this difficult month.  I hesitate to share it because it is specifically written for student ministry small group leaders.  However, as I re-read it this week, I thought it might be an encouragement to some of you.  So, here you go: http://leadsmall.org/students/will-february-ever-end/

Thanks again, JG

GT Update | Feb 8

Hello awesome Grow Together Leaders, today’s post is a bit shorter, but I wanted to make sure everyone is on the same page about our Mark series, which begins in 10 days.

MISUNDERSTOOD: JESUS ACCORDING TO MARK

The weekend after next (Feb 17/18) we begin a 6 week series, leading up to Easter, focused on the life of Jesus as portrayed in the book of Mark.

 

 

 

  • Each week of this series we will provide a small group study that will build upon what was taught the previous weekend.  We would love for every group and class to join us in this study during those weeks. We’ve seen over and over again the value of linking our groups to what is happening on the weekends. 
  • Each week, starting next Thursday, the study will be available here for the following week.  You can download it and share it with your group members and we will have some copies available in the lobby during the weekend services.
  • There will also be a short video available here that will setup the study each week.

I would love for every group and class to join us for these six weeks as we prepare our hearts for Easter.  I realize that some groups meet every other week.  If your group does, please feel free to either do 2 studies per meeting or have people do the study at home on the weeks you don’t meet.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know.

Thanks,  JG

Grow Together Update | Feb 1

Hello awesome Grow Together Leaders,

First of all, I just want to say thank you.  I know you don’t hear it enough, but what you do matters and you are so vital to the growth and development of people in our congregation.  Thank you for showing up in difficult moments, thank you for taking the time to prepare each week, and thank you for taking the time to pay attention to the lives of the people in your group and pray for them.  Those things truly matter, and they would not happen if you didn’t step up to make them happen.  Thank you.

OK, enough mushy stuff.  Here are 2 really important items.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARK [working title]

The weekend of Feb 17/18 we begin a 6 week series, leading up to Easter, focused on the life of Jesus as portrayed in the book of Mark.  Each week of this series we will provide a small group study that will build upon what was taught the previous weekend.  We would love for every group and class to join us in this study during those weeks.  Each week, the study will be available here the Thursday before the weekend.  More details about that next week, but I wanted to give you a heads up as you plan your group time for the next several weeks. Please plan to join us for this series.  We’ve seen over and over again the value of linking our groups to what is happening on the weekends. 

NEW DATABASE

As I mentioned in the email I sent last week, we are in the process of updating to a new database called Realm.  To help get this ready to roll out to the congregation, I need to hear from each of you, so I can get your group set up in Realm.  I will share more about this later, but there are some really cool features that are going to help us keep better track of our groups and communicate with them.  In light of that, if you haven’t already, please click here to send me the information below about YOUR GROUP.

  • Who’s in your group?
  • What day do you meet?
  • How often do you meet? (every wk, every other, 1st and 3rd, 2nd and 4th, etc.)
  • Where do you meet?

As always, thank you for investing yourself in discipling the people of FCC.  I appreciate each of you. – JG

GT Update | Jan 4 2018

Hello all, and welcome to 2018.  I hope you each had a great Christmas and New Year.

LEADER HUDDLE: JAN 21

Before we get into today’s post I wanted to remind you that we have a Leader Huddle on January 21 (2 weeks from Sunday) from 6-7 PM in Mosaic Cafe.  DINNER IS PROVIDED.  I really enjoyed our last huddle and am looking forward to this one.  More details to come next week, but please mark your calendar now.

 

NEXT STUDY

The last two years we have written a study to go along with the sermon series in January and February.  However, this year we have decided to write a study that will accompany the series leading up to Easter (beginning Feb 17/18).  We are excited to see how this can unite our church leading into Holy Week.  In light of that, we would love for each group and class to join us during that time frame.  Please keep that in mind as you decide what your group/class will study in the coming weeks.  If you would like help choosing a study for your group, please email me. I am happy to help.

SPIRITUAL GOALS FOR YOUR GROUP

The beginning of the year presents a natural opportunity for a fresh start, a “re-up”, a chance to look at the past and determine how you would like the future to be different.  While it is important for us each to set goals during this season, it is also important for our groups/classes to set goals.  I mentioned this in my last post, but I would highly encourage you to set aside a group meeting in the next month for your group to set some spiritual goals.  This would be an opportunity for each person in your group to share some personal goals, and to talk about the spiritual goals you could pursue as a group over the next few months.  Not only would this refocus and re-energize your group, but it would serve as a reminder to your group that your ultimate purpose is to help one another become more like Jesus. 

How? If you are interested in setting goals with your group, I would recommend giving your group a heads up prior to the meeting.  Encourage them to think through some personal goals they could share with the group (physical, financial, spiritual, relational).  After each person shares their goals, take a few minutes as a group to discuss these questions.

  1. What motivates you to continue to be a part of this group?
  2. How do you want to be more like Jesus in May?
  3. How could being a part of this group help you become more like Jesus?
  4. What could our group do together during meetings to grow in a deeper way?
  5. What could our group do together outside of our regular meetings to grow in a deeper way?
  6. What’s at stake if we don’t do these things?
  7. How are we going to make sure we make these changes?  Who is responsible for what, and how are we going to hold one another accountable?

I sincerely hope you each give this a try, and I look forward to hearing how it goes.  Thanks again,

JG

GT Update |Dec 14

Hey all, Happy 10 Days until Christmas Eve!

Last week we began a re-cap of our Leader Huddle in November by talking about 3 areas we can each focus on to help the people in our Groups grow to be more like Christ, and we began by focusing on Leadership.  If you didn’t get the chance to read through that post, please take a minute to read it here before moving on to the information below.

PART 2: WINNING IN YOUR GROUP TIME

LEADER HUDDLE NOV 19.016While leadership has to be our first focus, there are some “wins” we can focus on during our group meetings that are key to helping people become more like Jesus.  Before we get too far into this point, I want to acknowledge that many of the ideas below came from the book: “The Essential Guide for Small Group Leaders” by Bill Search, which is available on Amazon here.

GROUP TIME WINS

  1. God First.  While we gather for many good reasons, the primary reason we gather is to pursue God together.  As you plan for your group time each week, God must be at the center of it.  If we continually point people toward him, they are far more likely to follow him.
  2. Bible not opinions.  Sharing openly and honestly about our opinions is an important part of group life, but the Bible must take ultimate authority.   When there is a question, we should study his Word and ultimately do what it says.
  3. Sharing openly. While this may seem contrary to the previous point, we need the people in our groups to share openly and honestly.  We have to value vulnerability in conversation and encourage everyone to share.  Honesty and vulnerability help us see where people are coming from, and until we know where they are coming from, we can’t help them take next steps.
  4. Share Leadership. This is one of those great ideas I “borrowed” from the book I mentioned above.  One of the best ways to help people in our groups grow is to invite them into leadership.  In fact, I would recommend encouraging each person in your group to take a turn leading the group.  If leading a whole group time is too much, invite them to take a portion of a group and coach them through it.  As we know, when someone has to prepare for something, they tend to learn it themselves in a deeper way.  Not only that, but it might give them a greater appreciation for what you do each week. 🙂
  5. Spiritual Goals.  Each person develops spiritually at a different pace, and while there are some things about spiritual growth that are systematic, many times the steps to spiritual growth vary from one individual to the next.  With that in mind, our goal as a leader should be to help each person in our group take the next step in their personal faith journey.  As the shepherd of our group, we should be intentional about setting a goal for each person in our group, and then helping them work toward that goal.  On a broader sense, we should also be intentional about setting spiritual goals as a group.  Another idea I got from the book above is to take two meetings each year (beginning of fall and beginning of January) to set spiritual goals for your group.  Not only would this re-focus your group, but it would remind them of the bigger reason you gather.

LEADING GREAT DISCUSSIONS

Another way to win in your group time is to lead great discussions.  We all know the pain of discussions that don’t go well.  While there is no formula for a great discussion, here are some ideas to focus on.

  1. Environment.  This one is easy.  Is your environment conducive to conversation or does it detract from conversation?  What could you do to improve your environment?
  2. Be Prepared – Know the Point.  If you’ve ever tried to fake your way through group time, you know the pain of not being prepared.  Preparation is fundamental to a successful conversation.  Not only should you know your content, but you should know “the point” and then do everything in your power to make sure that point gets across.
  3. Manage Group Time Well.  This goes back to being a leader and a manager.  As the manager of your group, you are responsible to watch the clock and move things along in order to make sure you arrive where you want to be.
  4. Ask Great Questions.  Yes, I realize this is easier said than done.  However here are some thoughts to help.
    • First, prep out loud.  Sometimes things sound better in your mind than they do coming out of your mouth.  When you prep out loud you can hear the awkwardness and adjust prior to group time.
    • Secondly, make sure that your questions are open-ended.  It surprises me how often curriculum writers use simple-answer or yes/no type questions.  These types of questions shut down conversation.  Open ended questions encourage conversation.  Also, if you ask a question that leads to simple answers, consider asking the person a follow up question like “Why do you think that’s true?”
    • Focus on What?, So What?, and Now What?  In other words, What are we talking about? Why does it matter? and How should my life change as a result of knowing this?
    • Be careful not to shut down conversation.  There are two easy ways to shut down conversation.  The first is to jump in too quickly when there is a period of silence.  Silence is often a sign that people are thinking.  If you feel awkward about the silence, instead of jumping in, ask the group if the question made sense.  The other way of shutting down conversation is to praise the right answer.  Sure it might be right, but if you praise it, you inadvertenly communicate to the group that all other answers are wrong, and nobody wants to share a wrong answer.

SHARE YOUR STORY

One of the most important things you can do to encourage spiritual growth in your group is to share your story, and encourage others to do the same.  Our stories have the power to encourage, inspire, and challenge one another. If you haven’t done this in your group before (or in awhile), I would encourage you to go first, and then invite the rest of your group to share in subsequent weeks.   Here is a resource you can share with your group to help them prepare to tell their story: https://groupleaders.org/blog-feed/using-a-life-map-to-tell-your-story

5 GROWTH KILLERS

While we’ve talked about a number of things that can help your group grow, I want to leave you today with 5 things that can kill growth in your group.  Again, this was taken directly from “The Essential Guide for Small Group Leaders” by Bill Search .

  1. Gossip.  Sharing anything that you don’t have permission to share from the person you are sharing about.
  2. Leader Bashing.  Yes, us Pastor types can be frustrating, but group isn’t the right environment to discuss it.  Having said that, if someone in your group is frustrated with a church leader, please encourage them to talk to the leader directly.
  3. Church Bashing.  Some of the deepest scars people carry are the ones caused by a church.  While group can be a safe place to discuss these scars and grow, group is not a place to bash other churches.
  4. Sexual history.  These types of conversations are not appropriate in the group context, especially in co-ed groups.
  5. Majoring on the minors.   Let’s make sure that we focus on what is truly important.

Well, that’s all for this week.  Next week we will talk about winning outside of group time.

Thanks, JG

 

GT Update | Dec 7

Hello all, as promised this week’s post is a follow up on the Huddle we had a few weeks ago.  Honestly, the things we talked about that evening have been stirring in my mind for the last few weeks.  I am excited to implement them in my group.  If you were there, hopefully this will be a good reminder.  If you were unable to make it that evening, please read through and let me know if you have questions.

STARTING OUT

LEADER HUDDLE NOV 19.002

As we ate dinner, each table answered these questions.  While it’s probably not as much fun on your own, it is worthwhile to think through your win, struggle and greatest hope for your group or class.  Thinking through these can help you as you plan your trajectory for the winter and spring.

 

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO SUCCEED? 

LEADER HUDDLE NOV 19.004One of the most important questions I have for you is “What do you need to succeed?”  My desire is to provide the tools, resources, or answers you need to make the most of your experience as a leader.  Please take a minute to think through anything that could help you succeed, and then please email me and let me know.  Just to be clear, a life-size cutout of Brian Talty is not essential to your success. 🙂

MORE LIKE JESUS 

LEADER HUDDLE NOV 19.008In our Huddle in August we talked about the goal of our groups being to help the people in them become more like Jesus.  But, that is a tough goal to measure.  How do we know if the people in our groups and classes are more like Jesus today than they were 3 months ago?  Sometimes, the most important thing we can do is clarify the wins that get us to achieving that goal.  In other words, we need to figure out what we want to look back on and celebrate.  The following thoughts are ideas that I believe push us toward our ultimate goal.

There are 3 areas we can focus on to help the people in our Groups grow. 

EDIT: As I began writing this post, I realized it was going to be extremely long.  So, I am going to focus on one of these areas each of the next 3 weeks.  Here is part 1.

1. IT STARTS WITH LEADERSHIP

LEADER HUDDLE NOV 19.010

I want to start with a disclaimer.  Every leader from time-to-time questions whether they are qualified to lead and if they are doing a good job.  I want you to know that I believe each of you are doing a good job (even when it doesn’t feel like it), and God has placed you in this role for this season, so you are qualified through the Spirit.

So, Please don’t read the following and feel discouraged, and if your group is struggling, please come talk to me.  I would love to offer some encouragement and help you figured out next steps.

Having said that, here are some key ways to “win” as a leader, and ultimately help the people in your group become more like Jesus.

  1. Attitude reflects leadership.  Please keep in mind that your attitude about your group is contagious.  If you are passionate about growth, your group will most likely be passionate about growth.  If you are phoning it in each week, your group will likely follow suit.
  2. You are the greatest influence on your group.  Yes, ultimately God is the one doing the work, but the time you invest in leading significantly impacts the health of your group.  You are the greatest point of influence and direction in your group. This is most important in regard to change.  Change in your group begins with you.
  3. The most important thing you can do as a leader is care for yourself.  As the spiritual shepherd of your group, sometimes you are the sheep who needs the most attention.  Your personal spiritual journey sets the tone for the group.  You can’t lead where you haven’t been, and you can’t fill others when you are empty.  Sometimes the best thing you can do to influence others is tend to your own soul.   We each have seasons where this needs to be our greatest focus.
  4. There are 2 roles a leader plays:  A leader and manager.  Leaders focus on vision and direction, and managers focus on people and systems.  As a group leader, you must be both of these.  You will naturally gravitate toward one or the other, but it’s important that you keep your group pointed toward the goal and simultaneously care about people and keep your group time organized.

So, as we come to the end of part 1 I have a few questions for you to wrestle with on your own. 

  1. In light of the above, what is your biggest take away?
  2. How does this information encourage you as a leader?
  3. What is one change you would like to make in your leadership to make a greater impact on your group?

Thanks for reading. Next week we will talk about “winning” in your group time.

 

 

 

GT Update | Nov 30

Hey all, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  My family had a nice trip to Tennessee and we are glad to be back and running again.  There is a lot to cover today, so please set aside a few minutes to read the information below. 

We had a great Leader Huddle 2 weeks ago.  In fact, I am still processing many of the things we talked about and how they apply to my small group.  For those who were unable to attend the Huddle (or those who were there and want some reminders), I will include a recap in my update next week.  

 

INVEST IN OTHERS

As you know, the purpose of our groups and classes is to help the people in them become more like Christ.  There are three ways we accomplish that: Sharing Life, Pursuing God, and Investing in Others. In light of that, here are 2 opportunities to invest in others.

 

First, next Saturday (Nov. 9) we are looking for 10 people to come serve at Catholic Charities to help pack food for Children in our community.  We will be serving from 10 am – noon.  This food will be given to children in our community to help provide for them and their families during the holiday season.  If you, your group, or part of your group would be interested, please email me.  First come, first serve.

 

I’ve mentioned before that we have a group that serves monthly at Hickory Point Christian Village.  That group will be serving again on Wednesday Dec. 20 at 6 PM.  They have invited any group leader or group to join them to see what they do.  My family and I will be attending that night.  If you or your group would like to come, please email me and let me know.

 

HOLIDAY BIBLE STUDY

Keeping up with your group can be tough during the month of December.  In fact, I know that many groups will only be meeting once or twice between now and Jan 1.  Having said that, here are two ideas for your group during this season.

An Invitation to Christmas.  If your group is meeting one time in December, I would highly recommend you watch this video together: https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/Series/145943  Not only is it a powerful teaching about the meaning of Christmas, but it lines up well with what we are talking about as a church over the next few weeks.

 

YouVersion Group Reading Plan.  This week, youversion (www.bible.com) released the ability to read a Bible Reading Plan as a group and discuss online.  In other words, you can subscribe to a reading plan as a group, read online individually and then discuss online.  For more information about how it works, check out this article.

If you are interested in giving it a try, I would suggest starting with a simple 5 Day plan like this one: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/49-the-christmas-story

WOMEN’S EVENT NEXT FRIDAY

Next Friday (Dec. 8) is our “Preparing Your Heart and Home for Christmas” event.  I am really excited for this event and think it would be a great opportunity for the women in your group to attend together.  There will be a great speaker, delicious dessert, wonderful music and each person will take home a beautiful handmade item, provided by local artisans.  Tickets are $10, which includes the cost of the handmade item.    You can PURCHASE TICKETS HERE . Tickets are limited, so please purchase soon.

THANK YOU AGAIN.  Please check back next week for a recap of our Leader Huddle.

Thanks JG

GT Update Nov 16

Hey all, can you believe Thanksgiving is only a week away?  Amazing isn’t it.

LEADER HUDDLE

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I wanted to remind you that we have a LEADER HUDDLE this Sunday at 6 PM in MOSAIC CAFE.  DINNER IS PROVIDED.  This time we are going to be talking about:

HELPING YOUR GROUP GROW.

Just to be clear, this is NOT how to make your group larger.  It is how to help the people in your group/class become more like Christ.

 

 

 

 

If you are unable to make it, I will send a follow-up email the week after Thanksgiving.

SERVING OPPORTUNITY

I mentioned in my last post the possibility of a small group or class serving at Hickory Point Christian Village.  I realize that is a big step so I wanted to invite you join a group who is already serving there, so you can experience what it is like.  They will be serving again on Dec. 20.  If you would like to join them to see what it is like, please let me know.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

I will be out of the office next week, so there will be no update, but I wanted to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.  I am so grateful for each of you and the way you serve, lead and shepherd.  It is a blessing to serve with you.  I hope you enjoy a great day with family and friends.

Thank you, JG

GT Update | Nov 2

Hey Everyone, can you believe it’s November already?  Doesn’t it seem like we began the Tell Me MORE series just a couple of weeks ago?   Anyway, in our home, Nov 1 is the beginning of Christmas Music season.  I know some of you are cheering right now and others are trying to figure out how to tactfully express your disdain.  Please understand that I’m not trying to convert you to our holiday timeline, I just love Christmas music and don’t want to limit it to the 4 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Having said that, Thanksgiving is only a 3 weeks from today.  Being thankful is fundamental to what it means to be a Christ follower. With that in mind, I thought it would be cool if several group leaders shared ideas on how you could take time to be thankful as a small group or class?   In light of that, please share an idea in the comment section below.  That way everyone can see it and borrow it.

LEADER HUDDLE

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I wanted to remind you that we have a LEADER HUDDLE on the Sunday before Thanksgiving (Nov 19) at 6 PM in MOSAIC CAFE.  DINNER IS PROVIDED.  This time we are going to be talking about:

HELPING YOUR GROUP GROW.

Just to be clear, this is NOT how to make your group larger.  It is how to help the people in your group/class become more like Christ.

 

 

 

 

GROUP SERVE OPPORTUNITY

You may have heard me say before that the goal of our Grow Together Groups is to: 

  • Share Life
  • Pursue God
  • Invest in Others

Those first two are a little easier to do, but Investing in Others can often be challenging.  With that in mind, it is my goal to routinely bring ideas of how your group can Invest in Others.

As it turns out, right now we have a small group who serves at Hickory Point Christian Village one evening a month.  The group spends time talking with the people there, playing games, and building relationships.  That partnership has gone very well, and HPCV is asking if we might have other groups who would be interested in coming one night to serve.  The best options for them would be the 2nd or 4th Monday or Wednesday night of each month.  If you think your group would be interested in this opportunity please let me know and I would be happy to help you connect. 

As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.  I am here to help.

Thanks, JG

GROW TOGETHER UPDATE | OCT 26

Hey all, I’m sorry there was no post last Thursday.  I apologize if you wasted hours staring at your phone or computer waiting for my email to pop up. 🙂  I was in class last week learning about leadership and administration in the church, and actually had the opportunity to tour several other churches learning about how they approach leadership and discipleship.  I am excited to share in the days ahead some of the things I learned.

LEADER HUDDLE | NOV 19 

Before we get too far into this post, I want to ask you to make it a priority to be at our LEADER HUDDLE on Sunday Nov 19 at 6 PM in MOSAIC CAFE.  DINNER IS PROVIDED.  This time we are going to be talking about:

HELPING YOUR GROUP GROW.

Just to be clear, this is NOT how to make your group larger.  It is how to help the people in your group/class become more like Christ.

 

 

 

 

THE HOLIDAYS ARE COMING

Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is 4 weeks from today and Christmas is 2 months from yesterday.  I know some of you hate me right now.  However, holidays can have a funny impact on people’s schedules, and as it turns out, people’s schedules impact their group attendance.  With that in mind, please talk to your group now about a holiday rhythm.  Some groups continue to meet throughout November and December and only miss a week or two.  Others meet right up until Thanksgiving and then try to gather socially during December.

Much like summer, we often forget how full our schedule can be going into the end of November and December with family and business parties, school concerts, and last minute shopping.  Having a plan now can help you figure out how to plan your group study between now and the end of the year.  Or you can ignore this advice, but if you complain to me in December about how nobody is able to make it to your group, I’m going to say “I told you so”. 🙂

SPEAKING OF STUDIES

Studying God’s word is fundamental to what we are doing in our groups. In light of that, I know that I’ve mentioned this study before, but my small group right now is going through the Tony Evans study on the books of 1st, 2nd and 3rd John.  We are only 2 weeks in, but if you are looking for a study, I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

Again, I want to say how grateful I am for each of you.  You are not only group organizers or conversations leaders or providers of delicious snacks, you are DISCIPLERS.  Thank you for taking that role seriously!

Thanks, JG