Wednesday, November 12, 2014

3 Childcare Options for Small Groups

By Rick Howerton
In my nearly 15 years of consulting small group churches, training small group leaders, and taking calls from hundreds of small group pastors, childcare is the number one question asked of me (without a close second).

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Connection Between Neuroscience and Discipleship

By Sam O'Neil
If you’ve been paying attention to news headlines in recent months, you may have noticed that people are becoming awfully interested in their brains. Specifically, there have been a number of recent studies and discoveries claiming to uncover the fascinating interactions between our brains and our behaviors.
For example:
As you can see, “neuroscience” is the key term that describes this newly popular field. Neuroscience is the study of the human nervous system, usually focusing specifically on the brain. At its most basic level, neuroscience is an attempt to go “under the hood” and discover how the wiring of our brains impacts every element of our lives.
That being the case, I was especially intrigued by John Ortberg’s recent article in LeadershipJournal: “Can Neuroscience Help Us Disciple Anyone?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Protestant churches show economic improvement

By Jim Burton

The nation's slow economic recovery from a deep recession is showing up in the offering plates of Protestant churches in the U.S., according to a recent survey by LifeWay Research.
Although 56 percent of churches still report negative impact from the economy, 13 percent report a positive impact -- a jump of 4 percentage points from May 2012. When compared to the previous three years, churches are reporting less negative and more positive economic impact.
"The most recent recession revealed poor habits among Americans in terms of spending and lending," Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research director, said. "Surely churches have had to learn some of these same lessons."
Two-thirds of the churches surveyed report meeting or exceeding their 2014 budget. Nearly half (46 percent) are matching their budget, while 22 percent say receipts exceed their budget. Meanwhile, 29 percent of churches report receipts below budget.
When compared to 2013 giving, 74 percent of Protestant churches report offerings are at or above 2013 while 21 percent say receipts are lower than 2013.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Top Ten Ways Churches Drive Away First-time Guests

By Thom S. Rainer
If you attend a church regularly, you’ve probably noticed the phenomenon. A guest shows up for a worship service, but he or she never returns. It is, unfortunately, a common issue in many churches.
I did a Twitter poll to ask these first-time guests why they chose not to return to a particular church. While some of the responses were anticipated, I admit being a bit surprised with some of them.
Though my poll is not scientific, it is nevertheless fascinating. Here are the top ten responses in order of frequency.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Changing Face of the American Church

population-chartBy Bob Smietana

For a look at the future of the church in America, it’s time for pastors to go back to school. Not to seminary—but to their local public schools.

More than half the students (50.3 percent) nationwide are ethnic minorities, according to the U.S. Department of Education. That’s up from 37 percent in 1997, according to Pew Research. This is just one sign of how the United States is becoming a multiethnic nation.

Consider this: In 1960, 85 percent of Americans were white, about 11 percent were black, with other minority groups making up the remaining 4 percent. Today, only 63 percent of Americans are white.

By 2043, the Census Department predicts no one ethnic group will hold a majority. By 2060, an estimated 57 percent of Americans will be people of color (black, Hispanic, and other).

For American Christians, the changes have been even more dramatic—at least on a demographic level. Among older Americans (those over 65), 7 out of 10 are white Christians. By contrast, only about a quarter of younger (18 to 29-year-olds) Americans are white Christians. In addition, more than half of younger Christians are people of color, according to the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).

Yet few American congregations reflect these changes.

Read more...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"The Beginning" from the Disciples Path series...bulk discounts and leader guide

Now Available- The Beginning

The Beginning introduces the basic practices and elements of the faith, including the centrality of Christ, the crucial practice of prayer and Scripture reading, community, and what it means to be on mission for God. Exercises put weekly topics into practice, and meeting times work as well in one-on-one discipleship relationships as they do with typical small groups. 5 sessions.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

More churches using background checks

By Aaron Earls
An estimated 1-in-5 background checks processed through LifeWay Christian Resources' program with backgroundchecks.com reveals a conviction of a felony or other serious offense.
This may be part of the reason why a growing number of churches use background checks as a way to better protect children and others involved in ministry.
After a six-year partnership between LifeWay and backgroundchecks.com, the number of churches that say they are benefiting from the screenings continues to grow. Since last year, 50 percent more churches and organizations have used the service.
Since 2008, approximately 7,700 churches and religious organizations have conducted more than 142,000 background checks by using backgroundchecks.com (www.LifeWay.com/backgroundchecks). Of those checks, nearly half (47 percent) contained some type of criminal offense, according to Jennie Taylor, a LifeWay coordinator who helps manage the service.
Taylor said the majority of those were for minor incidents, such as speeding tickets or seatbelt violations. But more than 21 percent of the checks discovered misdemeanors or more serious crimes, including more than 9,000 felonies.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Group Leader Skills: Conversations Between Meetings

By Rick Howerton

The amount of and the substance of conversation that takes place during the small group meeting is directly related to the amount of and the substance of conversation that takes place between meetings.

I am asked all the time to teach on the small group meeting. The real question seems to be, “How can our group have a life-changing, biblically-driven, story revealing conversation when our small group gets together?” I always go through a list of well-known, often written about ideas:
  1. Be sure to do ice-breakers as they create a conversational environment.
  2. Be sure that as group members arrive you greet them well making them feel welcome and converse with them about their day and what is taking place in their lives so that you deal with those surface conversations before the real meeting even begins.
  3. You as a leader should model vulnerability and transparency so that the conversation goes past surface discussions into real life.
  4. Be sure you’re asking open-ended questions that lead to conversation rather than closed-ended questions that shut down the conversation, etc.
But in almost every instance someone says, “I do all of that but my group members still won’t talk.” My next question, “How much do you and your group members communicate between meetings?” And, in almost every instance, there is a revealing silence. I then state, as I did earlier in this post,“The amount of and the substance of conversation that takes place during the small group meeting is directly related to the amount of and the substance of conversation that takes place between meetings.” Communicating between meetings can take place in multiple ways.

Read more...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Gospel Project Babies and Toddlers Leader Guide — Coming Fall 2015!

In Fall 2015, the Preschool Leader Kit will include a Babies and Toddlers Leader Guide. Each session will include a toddler-friendly Bible story, Christ Connection, a shortened key passage, and five activities for a leader to pick and choose. We will also include fun songs for babies and toddlers to reinforce Bible truths and the key passage.

Starting in Fall 2015, across the age groups we are going to structure our big picture questions a little differently. Each unit will have one or two big picture questions that are theological in nature. Each session will include a main point to reinforce a story-specific Bible truth. Babies and toddlers will learn one main point, such as “God made everything” and “Jesus is our King,” per unit.

The leader guide will also contain a Bonus Teaching Hour for the second-hour leader. The Bonus Teaching Hour will include brief Bible story points, a transition activity, and five low-prep activities to reinforce learning that occurred in the first hour.

Will there be materials for parents?
In Fall 2015, the Big Picture Cards for Families: Preschool are going to be easier for little hands to hold. The preschool cards will include the main point for babies and toddlers and Bible story statements for parents to say at home.

In addition, we are going to provide The Gospel: God’s Plan for Parents for teachers to coach mommies and daddies about how they as adults can trust Jesus.

Will babies and toddlers understand the gospel?
Will a toddler understand the gospel in a way that leads to repentance? No. The Bible is clear that salvation occurs when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our personal sin and our need for a Savior. (See John 16:8-11.) Babies and toddlers do not have the ability to comprehend personal sin. Toddlers might understand that they make wrong choices, but they do not understand what sin is—yet.

As we train babies and toddlers in righteousness by teaching them the Bible and God’s standard of holiness, in time, they will understand that they fall short. When we teach early on that Jesus is the only One who saves, they will know to whom they can turn for salvation. Along the way, we hope to walk alongside parents as they talk about Jesus to their kids so that the gospel is the foundation upon which their understanding of God is formed.

Our plan as we begin to write gospel-centered Bible stories for babies and toddlers is for them to hear constantly:
·         God created the world and He is our King. (Rev. 4:11)
·         God is our Rescuer. He rescues us through His Son, Jesus. (John 3:16)
·         Jesus is alive! (Matthew 28:6)
·         We can love and serve God. (Eph. 2:10)

As we prepare for Fall 2015, please let us know any ideas or suggestions you have for babies and toddlers, or any of our other age groups. See you in Fall 2015!In Fall 2015, the Preschool Leader Kit will include a Babies and Toddlers Leader Guide. Each session will include a toddler-friendly Bible story, Christ Connection, a shortened key passage, and five activities for a leader to pick and choose. We will also include fun songs for babies and toddlers to reinforce Bible truths and the key passage.

Starting in Fall 2015, across the age groups we are going to structure our big picture questions a little differently. Each unit will have one or two big picture questions that are theological in nature. Each session will include a main point to reinforce a story-specific Bible truth. Babies and toddlers will learn one main point, such as “God made everything” and “Jesus is our King,” per unit.

The leader guide will also contain a Bonus Teaching Hour for the second-hour leader. The Bonus Teaching Hour will include brief Bible story points, a transition activity, and five low-prep activities to reinforce learning that occurred in the first hour.

Will there be materials for parents?
In Fall 2015, the Big Picture Cards for Families: Preschool are going to be easier for little hands to hold. The preschool cards will include the main point for babies and toddlers and Bible story statements for parents to say at home.

In addition, we are going to provide The Gospel: God’s Plan for Parents for teachers to coach mommies and daddies about how they as adults can trust Jesus.

Will babies and toddlers understand the gospel?
Will a toddler understand the gospel in a way that leads to repentance? No. The Bible is clear that salvation occurs when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our personal sin and our need for a Savior. (See John 16:8-11.) Babies and toddlers do not have the ability to comprehend personal sin. Toddlers might understand that they make wrong choices, but they do not understand what sin is—yet.

As we train babies and toddlers in righteousness by teaching them the Bible and God’s standard of holiness, in time, they will understand that they fall short. When we teach early on that Jesus is the only One who saves, they will know to whom they can turn for salvation. Along the way, we hope to walk alongside parents as they talk about Jesus to their kids so that the gospel is the foundation upon which their understanding of God is formed.

Our plan as we begin to write gospel-centered Bible stories for babies and toddlers is for them to hear constantly:
·         God created the world and He is our King. (Rev. 4:11)
·         God is our Rescuer. He rescues us through His Son, Jesus. (John 3:16)
·         Jesus is alive! (Matthew 28:6)
·         We can love and serve God. (Eph. 2:10)

As we prepare for Fall 2015, please let us know any ideas or suggestions you have for babies and toddlers, or any of our other age groups. See you in Fall 2015!

Learn more...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mark Dance to help LifeWay become ‘best friend to pastors’

By Marty King

Arkansas pastor Mark Dance will join the staff of LifeWay Christian Resources to lead efforts in building closer relationships between the entity LifeWay and pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Dance, senior pastor of Second Baptist Church, Conway since 2001, will begin serving Oct. 1 as LifeWay’s associate vice president for pastoral leadership.

Thom S. Rainer, LifeWay’s president and CEO, said Dance will develop and strengthen LifeWay’s relationships with SBC pastors and staff, as well as denominational entities, state conventions, and associations.

“I love pastors,” Rainer said. “One of my prayers when I was called to this position was the Lord would allow LifeWay to be a best friend to pastors and staff. And, one of my ongoing goals is that LifeWay would provide the resources our pastors need to lead their churches to reach people and make disciples. Calling Mark Dance is the next step toward that dream.”

“Mark has experienced the challenges pastors face, and, after eight years as a trustee, he knows LifeWay well enough to coordinate pastoral resources from across all our divisions. I’ve asked Mark to launch whatever initiatives we need to intentionally connect us with the needs of pastors and their staffs.”

Dance said he is humbled and excited about the new ministry, but will miss his church.

“I love our church family tremendously and am thankful for God’s hand of favor on Second Baptist Church. Maybe that is why He has chosen this time to reassign me to another ministry,” Dance explained. “Second has been wonderfully supportive and loving, and fortunately sees this more as sharing their pastor than losing their pastor.”

“My original calling to the ministry is being both narrowed and broadened,” he said. “Narrowed from pastoring members to pastoring pastors. Broadened from pastoring locally to pastoring nationally and even some internationally through LifeWay’s extensive ministries and partnerships.”

“I aspire to be a voice of encouragement and hope to those struggling personally or professionally. Paul encouraged Timothy to preach through both the good and bad seasons. I have pastored through both, and consequently there are not many ministry mistakes I haven’t made or blessings I haven’t experienced in the last 27 years.”

“I also want to help provide opportunities for pastors to develop their gifts and fulfill their calling. Since only about 1 out of every 10 who start ministry will actually finish in the ministry, I consider it a privilege to be that ‘son of encouragement’ to those still pastoring.

A native Texan, Dance has served as a summer missionary in Kenya and Japan , as well as on mission teams to more than two dozen countries. He is completing his eighth year as a LifeWay trustee. Prior to his call to Second Baptist, Dance pastored churches in Tennessee and Texas. He earned a D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Dance and his wife, Janet, who is a registered dietitian, have been married 26 years and have two children. Holly is married and lives in Arkadelphia, and Brad is a senior at Conway High School. In Conway, Dance has served as a chaplain to the Conway Police Dept since 2006. An avid bowhunter, he has been a member of the Natural Gear Pro-Staff since 2008.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Disciples Path: A New Resource for New Disciples

Take the Next Step with Disciples Path! Disciples Path is a series of resources founded on Jesus' model of discipleship.
Created by experienced disciple makers across the nation, it is an intentional path of transformational discipleship. While most small-group studies facilitate transformation through relationship and information, these disciple-making resources do it through the principles of modeling, practicing, and multiplying.
  • Leaders model a biblical life
  • Disciples follow and practice from the leader
  • Disciples become disciple makers and multiply through Disciples Path
Each of the six studies in the Disciples Path series has been written and approved by disciple makers for one-on-one settings as well as small groups. The Beginning is available now. Future studies include The Way, The Call, The Truth, The Life, and The Mission.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pastor salaries not keeping up with inflation

By Marty King

Compensation for full-time Southern Baptist pastors has not kept pace with inflation over the past two years, while salaries for other full-time ministers and office staff increased at a rate higher than national inflation.
These findings are part of the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention Compensation Study, an in-depth survey of 12,907 staff members in Southern Baptist churches. Baptist state conventions along with LifeWay Research and GuideStone Financial Resources conduct this survey every two years. All the data acquired by the study has been compiled into an online tool at LifeWay.com/CompensationSurvey.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Building a Family Legacy Resources from Dr. James Dobson

Church families can build better homes.

For more than four decades, Dr. James Dobson's singular passion has been to strengthen and preserve the family. And much of his legacy is now available in a collection of eight Bible studies based on his best-selling books. The Dr. James Dobson Building a Family Legacy film series will help families in your church learn how to build solid marriages and stable homes, raise responsible and respectful children, and ensure that your whole family lives forever.
No matter how they might have begun, your families can still finish well. And it can all start here.

Building a Family Legacy Resources


Monday, September 15, 2014

The Gospel Project (2015-2018)

At the end of Summer 2015 we will complete the original 3 year study plan for The Gospel Project and we will begin a new cycle in Fall 2015.  We will announce the new study plan more publicly in December 2014, but this hidden post provides an early, behind the scenes look at our upcoming plans.

In the fall of 2015, The Gospel Project will begin a new, chronological Christ-centered study cycle in which all ages—Adults, Students, and Kids – will discover the over-arching thread of redemption weaving through Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Every session, participants will be immersed in the gospel and challenged to live on mission.

What can you expect from The Gospel Project relaunch?
  • Christ-centered: Each session will point to Christ as the hero of the story, and show how the gospel transforms hearts and applies to every area of life.
  • Chronological: The cycle will move participants, babies to adults, from Genesis to Revelation in three years.
  • Age Aligned: All ages, from babies to adults, will be aligned in Bible passages.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Why Groups Are Essential for Biblical Transformation

By Bob Smietana

Most weeks it’s hard enough to get people to show up for church on Sunday. Does it make sense in today’s hectic world for pastors to ask people to give another evening or morning for group Bible study?

Yes it does, according to a new study by LifeWay Research on the impact of Bible study groups. The study of 3,500 Protestant churchgoers found that being in a group plays an essential role in Christian growth.

The research showed that groups remain one of the most effective tools for learning the habits of faith, such as prayer, Bible study, and serving others. People who regularly attend groups show an increased level of commitment to building their individual relationships with Christ and with others. Simply stated, groups matter.

Read more...

Check out all the FREE resources at GROUPSMATTER.COM to help you DEVELOP your leaders, LAUNCH new groups, FEED your people!

Friday, September 5, 2014

LifeWay Launches New Church Tech & Media Blog

As of today, LifeWay.com has officially launched it's newest content channel, Church Tech & Media  The channel will be offering blog posts to the church vertical highlighting relevant topics that include websites, social media, mobile & apps, e-giving, AV/lighting, communication, video production, streaming, podcasting and much more.

We're excited about serving all sorts of ministries with this valuable resource, and would love to have you help us get the word out. In addition, we’d love for you to follow us on twitter @lwchurchtech

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Free Training For Bible Study Curriculum Leaders

In order to help churches effectively train their leaders Ministry Grid has teamed up with LifeWay's three curriculum lines to offer free online video training. Leaders can watch a brief video tied to each lesson and hear from those who helped create the lessons. We offer this lesson-by-lesson-training for all age levels. It will clarify the main points, good questions, and any challenging subjects. 
As each line releases new curriculum we will continue to offer this video training so that group leaders have all the resources they need to lead others well in the study of God's word. 
You can find the training easily right here: