Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Now you can customize Bible studies with your own video teaching

Now you can customize Bible studies with your own video teaching.

Smallgroup.com is the digital library of discussion-driven and video-enhanced Bible studies you customize to fit the needs of your group. 
Now your video-enhanced study experience is more custom than ever.
We've just launched a new feature that lets you include your own videos with the Bible study content. Simply choose a study from the over 2000 studies available in smallgroup.com, and then click the "add video link" icon to add your video hosted at YouTube or Vimeo. It is a seamless experience allowing your groups to stream your video while using the customized study guide in smallgroup.com.
We hope you love the new custom video feature. Lock in your summer pricing today at smallgroup.com.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Using lead and lag measures to grow your Sunday school – and your group

By Ken Braddy

When it comes to setting goals, churches often forget to consider lead and lag measures. A goal is goalsannounced – “We want to grow our Sunday school this year.” Right goal. Wrong approach. That goal isn’t measurable, for starters. A better statement to announce to the church would be, “We want to grow our Sunday school’s average attendance 10% by August 31, 2017. Now you have something that is measurable and attainable. Each Bible study group within the church’s Bible study organization would need to grow their average attendance by 10%. But it’s still not complete – this is just a lag measure. Confused? Keep reading – and let’s talk about the difference between lead and lag measures.
Lag Measures
The goal of growing the Sunday school by 10% during a specific period of time is a lag measure. You measure the attendance of the Sunday school on August 31, 2017, and see if you hit your goal. Let’s assume you begin on September 1, 2016, and you start measuring attendance for the next year. The clock starts ticking, and you have one year to accomplish your goal. You track attendance by the week, month, and quarter. This is a lag measure – it will lag behind the things you do to reach it, which are your lead measuresLag measures are the result of tracking the right lead measures.
Lead Measures
If you want to grow your Sunday school by 10% over the next 12 months, you’ll need to set some good lead measures. They are the things you’ll act on during the year – you’ll do these first, then measure the results (the lag) to see if they accomplished your goal of 10% growth. Some lead measures for the entire Sunday school to accomplish the 10% growth might be:
  • Start 5 new ongoing Bible study groups by the end of the 12th month.
  • Contact 100 absentees per month.
  • Visit 10 prospects a week.
  • Enroll 20 new people in the Sunday school each month.
Each of the above lead measures happens in advance of achieving the growth goal of 10%. They are measurable and attainable. They are lead measures.
Accountability
People need to know what the goals and measures are, so you need a way to filter than information to the people on the front lines – the group leaders. These are the men and women who are “in the trenches” week after week, teaching and ministering in the Sunday school. The lead measures above (just representative – your actual lead measures will vary depending on your circumstance and growth goals) must be broken down further so that groups have accountability and responsibility for achieving the lead goals.
I’m a group leader at my church, and here is what my group’s lead measures might look like if my church decided to use lead and lag measures:
  1. Contact 5 absentees a week for 52 weeks through email, phone calls, and hand-written notes.
  2. Enroll 1 new couple in the group every 3 months.
  3. Contact every prospect for my group within 36 hours of their first visit.
  4. Lead my group to start another one at the end of 12 months.
Now I have accountability that is measurable, and so does my group. These 4 things are doable – and I can do my part in helping my church achieve its lag goal of 10% growth by hitting my group’s lead goals.
Sunday school isn’t rocket science. Setting lead and lag goals isn’t hard. But someone has to take the wheel and set the goals. Someone has to look to make sure goals are being met. For some reason we’ve gotten away from this – but it works. I’ve seen it. I’ve done it. I hope you’ll consider it.
To learn more about lead and lag measures, try reading the book The Four Disciplines of Execution. It’s got some great chapters on lead and lag measures, and could even help you in your secular work!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The 8 Stages of Leading Good Change in the Church

By Eric Geiger

[originally posted here]

I am honored to lead the Resources Division at LifeWay and serve with a team of leaders who are passionate to serve the Church in Her mission of making disciples. Each Wednesday, I share the heart behind one of the resources our team has developed and give an opportunity for you to register to win a free copy of the resource. This week’s resource is Thom Rainer’s new book, Who Moved My Pulpit: Leading Change in the Church.


Yes, Dr. Rainer is my boss, and he has been an important part of my leadership development over the years. I have had the blessing to spend plenty of time with him, including working with him on the book Simple Church. His latest book is one that is important to leaders of all types of churches because all churches wrestle with change at some point in their journey. Change is something we as leaders will encounter and need to be prepared in how to lead through it.


Below is a post from Dr. Rainer...


Monday, June 6, 2016

Two ways to study Bible Studies for Life

Where the Bible meets life

Bible Studies for Life: Adults is intentionally designed to help your groups make disciples through:
  • In-depth Bible study that addresses real-life issues
  • Engaging conversation that helps build biblical community
  • "Live It Out" application that challenges participants to engage culture biblically
Studies are available for Young Adults, Adults, and Senior Adults in a variety of translations to best fit your groups. But you also have two more options:
Bible Studies for Life
Ongoing Studies
  • 13 sessions
  • Commonly used on Sunday morning but can be used anytime
  • Ideal for traditional Sunday School settings or any group that meets on a consistent basis
Unstoppable Gospel
Short-term Studies
  • Six sessions
  • Commonly used with small groups
  • More than 20 titles to choose from
  • Affordable option for Sunday eveningWednesday night, or other group times
  • Great way to start new groups and connect people to your church

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

OnTrack! National Sunday School Conference - March 17-18, 2017

Bring new life to your Sunday School ministry at OnTrack!

Registration Only $40

Sign Up Today

March 17-18, 2017 — First Baptist Church — Hendersonville, Tenn.

What is the most vital aspect of a healthy, growing On Track Sunday School? Trained and equipped Sunday School leaders.
You’re invited to see some of America’s best Sunday School practitioners and get your Sunday School leaders trained and On Track!

The Benefits of On Track Training

  • A trained leader is a competent leader.
  • A trained leader has higher morale and enthusiasm.
  • A trained leader has a higher sense and focus on the mission.
  • A trained leader senses the value placed on them by their church.
  • A trained leader is positioned to train other leaders.
  • Research reveals growing Sunday Schools have prioritized leadership training. Conversely, “off track” Sunday Schools do not train their leaders.

Event Schedule

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Discipleship Doesn't Happen By Accident

Bible Studies for Life
That's why Bible Studies for Life is built on a research-validated plan to make disciples at every age. Help the adults, students, and kids in your church grow closer to God together. Try Bible Studies for Life today.
View print and digital study options for every age group by clicking below.
ADULTSSTUDENTS
KIDSPRESCHOOL

Monday, May 23, 2016

Seven Ways Church Outreach Has Changed in 15 Years

“So what are churches doing to reach people today, Thom?”

I hear some version of that question on a regular basis. The difficult response is that more churches are doing nothing rather than something.
But, to be fair, thousands of churches are doing some type of outreach to their communities and beyond. But the times have definitely changed. Here are seven of the most common changes in church outreach practices over the past one to two decades.
  1. From in-home visitation to lunch or coffee shop visits. Relatively few churches do in-home visits. But many are connecting with people at lunch or at a coffee shop. In fact, I believe every church should have some budget dollars allocated for this type of outreach. More on that later.
  2. From newspaper ads to Facebook ads. Facebook ads are not only affordable; their algorithms allow a church to be highly focused on the target audience. Starting as low as $15 per month, almost every church can afford some level of Facebook ads.
  3. From worship services to the church website as the front door. Guests to a church in the past would check out the church first by visiting the worship services. Guests today often make their first impression decisions by checking the church website. There is no excuse for a church to have a poor and dated website today. They are affordable and user-friendly.
  4. From complex gospel presentations to simple gospel presentations. The most popular gospel presentation of the past several decades was “Evangelism Explosion.” Theologically rich and highly effective for a season, EE did, however, require a great deal of memorization and training. Today many churches look for an effective gospel presentation that requires less training. My favorite simple gospel presentation is “Three Circles,” conceptualized by Family Church in South Florida, and its lead pastor, Jimmy Scroggins. Here is Jimmy explaining Three Circles.
  5. From multi-service to multi-venue and multi-site. While churches still use the multi-service approach as a strategic means to reach people, more resources are being invested in new sites and new venues. I have written on this issue extensively. I am still amazed how quickly this practice has become so widespread.
  6. From attractional to going. Many churches have invested significant resources in attracting people to their worship services or to some big event. More resources are now being expended on members going into the community. Hands-on ministry and small group connections are becoming a more normative approach to reaching people today.
  7. From national and international giving to contextual giving. Churches are now more likely to fund outreach ministries where they know the ministry or people involved in the ministry. They are becoming less likely to fund a national or denominational fund that then decides funding recipients. Of course, this issue is presenting challenges to many denominations, including my own.
These are not merely shifts; they are dramatic changes. And most of the changes took place in a relatively brief period.
What do you think of these changes? Let me hear from you.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Rainer shares roadmap to helping pastors lead change

By Carol Pipes
The email addressed to LifeWay Christian Resources President and CEO Thom S. Rainer sounded urgent. The subject line: A plea for help.
"I am a pastor and I'm about to give up," the email began. The pastor went on to share his frustration in trying to lead his church to make much-needed changes. "Every time I try something, I get hit hard by critics and bullies," he wrote. "My wife wants me to quit." He ended by asking Rainer for advice on how to lead change in the wake of so many obstacles.
Rainer receives multiple letters, emails and comments a month from pastors saying they are discouraged trying to lead their churches to change. His latest book, "Who Moved My Pulpit?," is a response to those asking for advice.
"I wrote this new book with a heart for those church leaders," he said. "Most pastors and church leaders don't know how to lead change. But it's an important and perhaps the most difficult aspect of leadership."
Published by LifeWay's B&H Publishing imprint, Who Moved My Pulpit? comes out at a time when many churches are in need of change. Research shows nearly 9 out of 10 churches are either declining or growing more slowly than the communities in which they are located.
"Change is absolutely necessary in our churches," Rainer said, "but it is difficult and risky."
Leading change in churches is more difficult today than it was 20-25 years ago, Rainer said. That's due in large part to the pressure of today's ever-changing culture on church members.
"The world outside the church has shifted so drastically away from Judeo-Christian values that church members want to hold onto the methodologies, ministries and programs they know and are comfortable with within the church," he explained. "When change happens in the church, they are told they have to let go of those things they know, and that is yet another major frustration."
The book, available June 1, is a collection of stories drawn from the experiences of pastors and congregations navigating change. Readers will learn valuable lessons from the mistakes and successes of others. One of the biggest mistakes a leader makes when leading change is not praying first.
"Leading change in the church can only work if it is God-led, God-powered, and God-ordained," Rainer writes.
Another mistake, he said, is moving forward without making sure the congregation is on board with the change -- and not measuring how others are responding to change.
"The greatest determinant of whether change will be effective is how well the leader is being received as a change agent," he noted.
Rainer provides an eight-stage road map for leading change, which includes prayer, communicating a sense of urgency, building an eager coalition, providing a voice and vision of hope, dealing with people issues, moving from an inward to an outward focus, picking low-hanging fruit and implementing change.
Who Moved My Pulpit? takes some of its cues from retired Harvard professor John Kotter's "Leading Change." "Some of Kotter's principles have a biblical foundation even though the book was not written with biblical intentionality," Rainer said. "I had recommended his book to pastors for years, but many couldn't connect with it because it's a business book. I felt I needed to write a book for pastors and church leaders that would communicate some of these same change principles."
For churches unsure they need to change, Rainer offers these five signs:
1. The church is not growing.
2. There is ongoing conflict within the church.
3. Most of the church's ministry and budget are focused inwardly.
4. The church doesn't have a positive presence in the community.
5. The church has a high turnover of leadership.
If leaders take only one thing away from the book, Rainer hopes it will be to lead change with prayer. "Even if they only do that one thing, they are depending on the power of God to change the hearts of people more than any type of strategic methodology," he said.
"Prayer is not an option in leading change in the church."
Rainer hopes pastors will have the courage to make a difference in their churches and lead change well. Tens of thousands of churches are in need of revitalization. "God has called pastors to lead change for such a time as this," he noted.
To learn more about Who Moved My Pulpit?, visit ThomRainer.com/WhoMovedMyPulpit.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Discipleship [IN] - Free Webcast on June 23

Discipleship [IN]

June 23, 2016
1:00 p.m. ET

FREE WEBCAST FEATURING DANIEL IM, STEPHEN BREWSTER, ROBBY GALLATY, AND MORE!

You're invited to Discipleship [IN], a webcast event designed to give you practical training on how discipleship happens in every ministry area of your church. Join a line‑up of discipleship experts as they look at discipleship in:
  • Worship
  • Arts
  • Men's Ministry
  • Women's Ministry
  • Kids Ministry
  • Student Ministry
  • Pastoral/Preaching Ministry
  • Leadership
  • Small Groups
  • Senior Adults
  • Multisite

IT'S PRACTICAL TRAINING YOU CAN USE TO MAKE DISCIPLES.

And the best part? It's absolutely free, making it the perfect opportunity for you and your entire ministry team to be encouraged and equipped as you make disciples—together.

REGISTRATION SPECIAL!

Register for Discipleship [IN] and you will receive a free, instant download of Disciples Path: A Practical Guide to Disciple‑Making. Plus, you'll be entered in a drawing for a chance to win $150 in Bible Studies for Life curriculum.
So what are you waiting for? Sign up today, and forward this email to a friend.
register for free

Friday, April 29, 2016

End times, rapture & Antichrist focus of new study

By Bob Smietana

Most Protestant pastors believe Jesus will return in the future. But few agree about the details of the apocalypse, a new study shows.
A third of America's Protestant pastors expect Christians to be raptured -- or taken up in the sky to meet Jesus -- as the end times begin. About half think a false messiah known as the Antichrist will appear sometime in the future. A surprising number think the Antichrist has already been here or isn't on his way at all.
Those are among the findings of a new telephone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors and their views on end-times theology from Nashville-based LifeWay Research, sponsored by Charisma House Book Group.
End-times theology remains popular with churchgoers, says Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research. But it's not an easy topic to preach about.
"Most people want their pastor to preach about the Book of Revelation and the end of the world," he said. "But that's a complicated task. Pastors and the scholars they cite often disagree about how the end times will unfold."
No consensus about the rapture

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Live Webcast with David Platt - April 29, 2016

Secret Church with David Platt Coming April 29th

Secret Church is an intense time of Bible study with teacher and author David Platt.  It is simulcast live around the world, to over 60,000 participants —lasting 6+ hours—including a time of prayer for Christian brothers and sisters across the globe who are facing persecution and for those who still have not heard the gospel.  This year, David will look at five major religions, what makes the gospel unique and sets it apart from other religions and how we, as followers of Christ, can share the gospel with those of different faiths.
We all have questions when it comes to sharing the gospel with people of different faiths . . .
Isn't it intolerant to say that Jesus is the only way to be right with God? 
Don't all people really serve the same God in different ways? 
What if I'm not an expert on Islam ... should I still witness to my Muslim friend? 
Why do I need to know about other religions if I'm not a missionary? 
What do I need to know about other religions when I'm witnessing to people?
Secret Church 2016: "A Global Gospel in a World of Religions"
During the next Secret Church, David Platt will explore the claims of Christ in the gospel and consider how these claims both inform the way we understand religions in the world and impact the way we live and share the gospel with others when surrounded by believers with diverse belief systems. (Read the full topic synopsis here.)

We  invite your church, small group, friends, or family to participate and be a part of the next Secret Church Simulcast, on Friday, April 29, 2016.  Register at SecretChurch.org.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Let's all 'Invite 1' to VBS

By Diana Davis
Vacation Bible School -- it's not just for church kids! VBS can be a fantastic evangelism event. Catch a vision for how your VBS could impact eternity.
Here is a simple plan to involve every member of your church or small group to engage unchurched children in a life-changing VBS. It's called: "I Invited 1".
Issue a challenge.
The goal is for every individual in your church to personally invite one unchurched boy or girl to VBS. Anyone can do that. Specifically issue a call to every child, senior adult, youth, single adult, couple and college student to take the challenge.
Ask God to alert them to children in life's path who don't attend church -- neighbors, acquaintances, schoolmates, strangers, work associates' children, and then to personally invite the child to your church's VBS.
Ask church members to bring the first name of that child next Sunday.
Make it easy.
As you issue the challenge, give each person one great-looking VBS invitation for the child they'll invite. It can be a business-card size or larger-size invitation. Include the church website for details and online registration. Pray over the invitations and ask God to direct each person to a child who needs Him.
Make it visual.
-- Create a huge "Jesus loves the little children" wall display in a visible area of the church.
-- A couple of Sundays before VBS, provide greeters with colorful die-cut paper dolls to give to each church attender to write the first name of the child they're inviting, and add it to the wall display as a prayer reminder.
-- Print well-designed, round stickers with large letters "I invited 1" for every person to proudly wear. Purchase and print sheets of circle stickers or order stickers from a printing company. You can do this for a couple of weeks. Picture this: grannies and 4-year-olds, teens and newcomers all wearing "I Invited 1" stickers. Wouldn't it be fun if some needed a dozen stickers?
-- Announce the total number, who have been personally invited so far. Pray for them. Challenge others to invite one.
Create excitement.
-- Strive for 100 percent involvement. Though many are already fully engaged in VBS planning, the majority of members probably can't offer hands-on help because of work, schedule or health. Every person of every age and circumstance can invite one child. Imagine what God can do if every member participates.
-- Children's Sunday School teachers can relay tips on how to invite friends, how to include and welcome newcomers, and how to invite them to your church after VBS.
-- Just before VBS begins, encourage members to remind the child they invited to come.
-- Instead of an all-church project, this could be done in your choir, women's ministry, youth group, deacons, small group, etc.
-- Plan an enormous follow-up on Saturday after VBS and prepare to welcome many new parents and children on Sunday.
So wear your "I Invited 1" sticker with pride and prayers. And, VBS staffers -- hold on to your hats! God's at work, His church is excited about inviting, and this may be the most thrilling VBS yet.
Keep Jesus' words from Luke 14:23 in mind: "So his master said, 'Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.'"
Diana Davis, on the Web at www.dianadavis.org, is an author, columnist and ministry wife in Pensacola, Fla. She is the author of "Fresh Ideas for Women's Ministry" (B&H Publishing) and "SixSimple... [Expand Bio]

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Small Groups in Summer


Summer is right around the corner, and countless churches are facing the same question: What are we going to do about small groups this summer?

It’s a question that matters to small groups ministry professionals, and more importantly, to small group leaders. Often, we do one of two things: (1) cancel our groups over the summer, or (2) forge ahead as if nothing has changed from the school year. Both of these approaches have major drawbacks.

When we cancel our groups, we abandon the one thing that drives the dual engines of community and spiritual growth in our churches. And we do this during the time of the year when more people than ever are looking for a new church home.

If we just push through the summer with our weekly meetings as if it’s the fall or spring, we fail to take seriously the change in mentality that happens when school lets out. At best we will have about 25-30% attendance at our group meetings because people are not up for weekly, long-term commitments over the summer.

Small group leaders need a summer solution that offers discipleship and community but also takes seriously group members’ intermittent availability. I’d like to share one solution that we tried when I was a small groups pastor that worked really well. I hope this is helpful to you small group leaders out there in the trenches, as well as those of you who serve on church staff teams.

During the school year, we would do weekly Bible studies in our groups. But when the summer rolled around, we changed that up. We chose three “hot topics” that would be intriguing and timely. For example, one of them was entitled Responding to Islam like Jesus Would. For that topic, we filmed an interview with an expert on witnessing to Muslims. We also did one entitled Questions Every Christian Should Be Able to Answer. For that one I reached out to Mary Jo Sharp at Houston Baptist University, and we filmed a great dialogue on basic apologetics. A timely topic for this summer might be something like How Would Jesus Vote?

For existing groups, we asked them to meet just once a month over the summer to address the three topics. We provided them a link to the videos so they could watch them as a group and discuss.

For people who were not already in a group, we hosted a corresponding on-campus event where we showed the videos and people had conversations around tables. We did not ask people to sign up beforehand; we just told them to show up if they were interested. We provided dinner and childcare, and some of these table groups launched into home-based groups in the fall.

Monday, April 18, 2016

9 Trends In Church Membership And Assimilation Processes

By Chuck Lawless
I’ve studied churches in the United States for almost twenty years. During those two decades, I’ve seen growing changes in church membership and assimilation processes – particularly among newer and younger congregations. Here are some of those trends. 
  1. More churches are emphasizing membership, including requiring a membership class. More congregations are recognizing that the New Testament strongly implies that church leaders knew who their members were and held them accountable. Exclusionary discipline passages like 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 surely show church membership at that level.
  2. Churches are doing their homework before admitting members. No longer do some churches automatically accept members from other churches. Instead, they often check with previous churches to evaluate prospective church members. Some churches won’t admit members if they’re still dealing with anger or frustration toward a previous congregation.
  3. Some churches are requiring prospective new members to read books before joining. Typically, these readings are part of the required membership class. Two of the books I’ve seen required are Thom Rainer’s I Am a Church Member and Jonathan Leeman’s Church Membership.
  4. Churches are working to close the back door. They’ve learned that wide-open back doors result in poor assimilation rates. They focus on small groups and mentoring as essential discipleship strategies for closing the back door.
  5. Church discipline is assumed. They find discipline within the New Testament not as a punitive strategy, but as a means of redemption and restoration. In fact, they wonder why older churches have seldom carried out necessary discipline.
  6. Believers see themselves as responsible for, and accountable to, each other. My experience is that younger and newer churches have a helpful, growing understanding of what “church family” means. They may not always do “family” well while they’re learning, but they have the right goals in mind.  
  7. Small groups are really “life” groups. This point relates directly to the previous one. In the past, small groups were more content-focused than relationship-focused. That’s changed as churches use small groups as the glue to connect members to one another.
  8. Among evangelicals, more regular observance of the Lord’s Supper is part of strengthening the church family. In my early Christian experience, our church observed the Supper once each quarter to avoid its becoming just a ritual. More churches now recognize that it’s possible – and perhaps even necessary – to share the observance more regularly as part of the church family tradition.
  9. Churches are still wrestling with membership issues. Issues like the content of a church covenant, the necessity of signing a covenant, and the process of church discipline are still being debated.  
First appeared here...