Friday, September 16, 2016

Telegram: Announcing the future of small group Bible studies




Wednesday, September 14, 2016

2016 study of pastor salaries, benefits available

By Martin King
Compensation for full-time Southern Baptist church staff members has exceeded the cost-of-living increase over the past two years. However, health insurance coverage continues to decline, according to the 2016 SBC Church Compensation Study.

The biannual study is a joint project of state Baptist conventions, GuideStone Financial Resources and LifeWay Christian Resources. Compensation and congregational data is collected anonymously from ministers and office/custodial personnel of Southern Baptist churches and church-type missions.
Compensation increasing
Compensation (salary plus housing) increased 3.4 percent for full-time senior Southern Baptist pastors over the last two years, 4.3 percent for full-time staff ministers and 2 percent for full-time office personnel. The U.S. Department of Labor's Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the same two-year period increased only 1.1 percent.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Houston Pastor Night Out: Date Night with Dinner & Childcare - October 13

Pastor Night Out:  Date Night with Dinner & Childcare

Thursday, October 13   |   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Houston's First Baptist Church    |   Fellowship Center    |    7401 Katy Frwy
UBA partners with Houston's First Baptist and Lifeway to offer this evening of encouragement for pastors and spouses at no cost to you. Enjoy a free dinner and receive a free gift from Lifeway. The primary purpose of this free event is to encourage ministry couples to lead healthy lives and ministries. There will be a panel of three ministry couples who will answer your tough questions about the challenges of life and ministry.
Space is limited to the first 100 couples to respond, so an RSVP is absolutely needed. Childcare can be provided only for those who complete the HFBC Childcare Registration Form by October 3.
Contact: Tom Billings, UBA Executive Director
Houston's First Baptist can not accept a child for childcare without pre-registration.Please follow this link to complete registration for your child. Select "Register as Guest." Childcare is available for birth through 5th grade with registration.
A similar event is scheduled at a different location on Friday, October 14, for those couples who prefer a program in Spanish. This will allow us to serve a greater number of couples more effectively.
Un evento similar esta programado para los pastores hispanos el Viernes 14 de Octubre. Por favor presione aquĆ­: Salud Pareja Pastoral.

Please share this invitation with others you know. Hope to see you there...

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Go digital studies and start today!

Bible Studies for Life

Go digital and start today!

The fall study season is nearly here, but there's still plenty of time to get the perfect resources for your groups. With Bible Studies for Life digital resources, you and your group leaders get instant access to everything they need to lead.
Bible Studies for Life digital studies are:
  • Flexible: use anytime, anywhere
  • Convenient: download today, teach tomorrow
  • Leader-friendly: easy to share via LifeWay's MyCurriculum Manager
  • Customizable: choose from additional translation choices and adjust content
  • Affordable: a great value for churches of any size
  • Mobile: app versions also available for iOS and Android devices
It's the simplest way to start a new Bible study. Discover all digital Bible Studies for Life resources for adults, students, and kids by clicking below.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Gospel Presentation Videos

The most important message kids will ever hear is the gospel.
With the help of these videos, every leader in your ministry can confidently share the gospel message with kids.
Each video presents the gospel to kids in a simple and straightforward way. You may choose any video you like, download the video for free, and then watch with your kids or use it to train your leaders.

Additional Downloads

Monday, August 29, 2016

8 Reasons You Need to Pray for Your Small Group Leader This Week

By Chuck Lawless

Whether your church has Sunday school or off-site small groups during the week, you likely have small group leaders who week after week facilitate the group. Frankly, I don’t think we spend enough time praying for these leaders. Here’s why we must cover them in prayer:
  1. They’re teaching the Word. That in itself is serious business. Anyone who studies, interprets, teaches, and applies the Word of God needs our prayers. Even if your small group leader only facilitates the study, he or she is still leading discussion of the Word.
  2. God will judge them as teachers. God holds the standards high for teachers (James 3:1), even if they’re not the primary teacher/preacher who stands in the pulpit every Sunday. The location of the teaching and the size of the crowd don’t diminish what God demands.
  3. The enemy wants to destroy teaching leaders. Satan is aware that whenany leader falls – including a small group leader – others are weakened, too. He aims his arrows at the small group leader’s personal walk and at his or her family.
  4. They must balance family, work, church, and group preparation. Most of us struggle with balance in general. Along with all the other commitments in life, small group leaders add the hours needed weekly to prepare a lesson and minister to group members.
  5. They share the burdens of their small group. In the strongest small groups, members really do share life together. That means that the leader often carries the burdens of the group. And, he or she often does that alone, depending on the nature of the concerns.
  6. They sometimes wrestle between group preparation and their personal quiet time. In fact, their small group preparation can become a source of conviction if it causes them to miss their own time with God.
  7. Their task is to raise up good leaders and then send them out. That’s tough to do, actually. Most of us love having faithful attenders and great contributors in our group – but those are often the very people we need to multiply new groups. That means that small group leaders are always seeking to send out and re-grow their group. Leading well, they never reach a place of comfort with their group’s status.    
  8. They’re sinners, too. They may be leaders, but they struggle with temptation just like the rest of us. Their families face the same pressures. Work can be just as chaotic for them, and then they must put on a good face each week with their group.  For all these reasons and others, they deserve our prayers. 
I encourage you to pray right now for your small group leader. Then, direct your other group members to this list so they can join you in prayer. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

How to Start a Small Group Bible Study in 9 Easy Steps

by Rick Howerton

Learn how to start a Bible study, create a setting where people can engage with God's Word and facilitate the growth of authentic relationships.
One of the biggest problems facing the American Church today is the fact that many people would consider themselves "unchurched."
So the challenge is this: can people be reached with the gospel despite their distrust of the local church?
The answer is yes, but we must offer an informal and relational study group in which people find personal identity.

Small-group Bible studies offer a secure and non-threatening opportunity for people to study God's Word and build authentic relationships. The key, however, is creating quality, intentional Bible study group experiences that grow out of a clear commitment to make them work.

1. Seek God's wisdom.
Pray about whether to start a small group and that God will prepare you for the next few steps in this journey. Without a doubt, this is the most neglected step. But this is a very important one because small group ministry requires leaders who have a heart for people and are willing to invest themselves in the lives of group members.

2. Clarify your vision.
Developing a mission based on prayer and commitment will help you set the course. A vision helps focus your efforts in one direction rather than chasing off in multiple directions.
3. Identify your target.
It's good to know who you want to reach through your group. Most of the time, you can figure this out just by looking around your community and asking a few questions:
·         Who is accessible to you?
·         Who do you already know?
·         Do you want to offer an early morning Bible study for business leaders?
·         Are there young moms in your community who need a support system?
·         Could you organize a prayer and Bible study group where young adults hang out?

4. Develop a strategy.
Think about the people around your church. How many have been there for years? Most likely, someone has tried this before. So that means that some have failed and some have succeeded. Bring together those people and other leaders who can offer fresh ideas and wisdom for creating something new.
5. Choose your approach.
How frequent will your group meet and what types of studies will you have? One way to choose your approach is to start with a calendar. Plan from a yearly perspective if possible, then focus in on each month. This is a great time to dream about what God can do in your community. Be mindful of your group members and what their needs are while you plan. Don't forget to allow for some flexibility in your planning.
6. Train small group leaders.
Again, the nature of small group studies is different from an ongoing Sunday School class. Identify potential leaders and their strengths, equip them based on the unique needs of the small group target and commission them to fulfill the tasks for which they have been trained.
7. Monitor the process.
The small group approach needs one central leader who coordinates the work. This leader can evaluate the effectiveness of current studies. He or she will also identify other needs to address and plan for groups.
8. Replicate.
Start every group with a leader and an apprentice. Every leader should be training an apprentice to someday lead his or her own group. Equip them to invest themselves in others as their leaders have in them. (Learn more about an intentional plan for discipleship.)

9. Learn and apply.
As you complete different studies or books, evaluate and plan new groups based on your experience. Never be afraid to adapt. Use all the organizational tools you can find to create a life-changing small group ministry.

Free Resources Recommended for You
Get access to free resources, practical advice and spiritual guidance for groups ministry, all provided by leaders you can trust.
A small group is essential to a woman's spiritual growth. It provides acceptance, affirmation, accountability and much more.
Consider these three phases when developing a devotion to prayer among the people in your church.
Rick Howerton is the discipleship and small group specialist at LifeWay. He is founding pastor of The Bridge Church in Spring Hill, Tenn., and author of Countdown: Launching and Leading Transformational Group.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The New and Most Popular Studies at

The Heart of God's Story by George Guthrie

This 6-session Bible study explores the beauty and power of God’s unfolding story in Scripture, weaving the teaching around three key, interlocking themes: face, space, and grace. Face focuses on God’s presence as the central theme of Scripture; Space points to God’s creating a place for us to walk with Him and live for Him in the world; Grace refers to God’s outward focus as He gives humanity a mission in the world.

Unstoppable Gospel by Gregg Matte

This 6-session study journeys through the exciting early days of the church. As the Book of Acts opens, you'll see a room full of huddled, scared disciples, completely powerless and uncertain of the future. You'll also see these same followers become empowered men and women, advancing throughout the world, proclaiming the unstoppable gospel that turned the world upside down.

Other new studies at

  • More Than Enough: A 6-week study on peace by Jeff Iorg
  • Connect the Dots: A 6-week study for young adults on God's will by Mike Hurt
  • Samson: A 6-week study on God-given purpose by Chip Henderson

Monday, August 22, 2016

Seven Indicators of True Church Discipleship

By Thom S. Rainer president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.

Most church leaders want to see the people who attend their churches grow into fully committed followers of Christ. Unfortunately, many churches do not have a clear process for discipleship with clear expectations for members. Churches today are experiencing a disciple-making deficiency, with thousands of church leaders asking, “What do I do to make and grow disciples in my church?”

In our study of transformational churches, we began to see a common pattern in churches that were more effective in making disciples. The attendance rate of members was higher, and the dropout rate was lower. Here’s a look at some of the common indicators of true discipleship we found in these churches:

1. Members read and study the Bible daily. Research has shown that daily, personal Bible study is the clearest indicator a Christian is growing spiritually. Daily Bible reading has the highest correlation to other spiritual disciplines. So much of the Christian life flows from Bible reading—worship, evangelism, prayer, ministry, etc. Disciple-making churches exhort, encourage, and provide resources for members to be involved in daily Bible study. How are you motivating and modeling daily Bible reading?

2. Members are engaged in some type of Bible study group. We have found assimilation of those in a group is five times greater than for people who attend worship services only. Assimilation is strongly related to discipleship. What percentage of your people are involved in some kind of group? And how are you promoting Bible study as an essential part of church discipleship?

3. Members are sharing their faith on a regular basis. In Acts 4:20, Paul and John declare to the Sanhedrin, “We cannot help but speak of the things we have seen and heard.” True disciples of Jesus cannot be silent about their faith. How many of your people are sharing their faith with others? How are you regularly and systematically teaching your people about witnessing?

4. Members are generous with their giving. Stewardship is a clear indicator of whether you are making healthy disciples. How is your church’s total giving? What is the weekly per capita giving? What is your plan to teach your people biblical stewardship?

5. Members are expected to attend a corporate worship service each week. True disciples of Jesus are going to be connected to the body of Christ. They aren’t going to be Lone Ranger Christians. If your church has 700 members and only 200 in weekly attendance, you have 500 people missing something from their spiritual lives. What portion of your membership is actively involved in worship? How are you encouraging those who are forsaking the assembling together to join in worship?

6. Members are involved in ministry and missions. In the book Simple Church, Eric Geiger says church leaders should be monitoring what portion of the congregation is doing some type of ministry or missions every year. This is one of the most neglected metrics of church health. Does your church have clear expectations that members are to be involved in those activities that cause them to look beyond themselves and care for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of others?

7. The church has an entry-point class all new members attend. The class should not only provide information about the church (doctrine, polity, staff, etc.), but it should also establish the expectations of members (see items 1-6). Does your new members class define what it means to be a follower of Christ?

I often hear the objection: “If I led my church to have these high expectations of members, we would have a mass exodus.” But research shows just the opposite. Higher expectations bring more positive behavioral patterns. People want to be a part of something that makes a difference.

If church leaders expect little from church members, they will get little. If they raise the bar of expectations, most members will respond positively.

As more church members engage in daily Bible reading, group Bible study, evangelism, corporate worship, ministry, missions, and giving generously, they will become more effective disciples for Christ. And churches will grow stronger and become healthier.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Helpful checklist for starting a new group

Research shows that starting a new group connects an average of 10 new people to your church. So how do you get started?

Here's a useful checklist that can help lead you through the process. It includes many details that are often forgotten or overlooked.

Perhaps the most important decision is choosing a Bible study. Here are four reasons why Bible Studies for Life is ideal for starting a new group:
  • Easy to lead – clear directives and simple instructions are provided to help the leader guide a discussion based on Scripture.
  • Focused – each session stresses one main point that connects the Bible to life.
  • Educational – included commentary gives the leader a deeper understanding of the people, places, and Bible customs mentioned in the passage.
  • Inspiring – each session ends with a "Live It Out" section that challenges the group to bring the study's main point to life.
Learn more

Friday, August 12, 2016

How to Kick Off Fall Bible Studies

By Ken Braddy
Not only does fall signal the kickoff of football season, but it means a new season of ministry for churches. Fall marks the kickoff of Bible study groups and a focused time of fellowship, study, and ministry.
“Kickoff” is an appropriate term for what happens in Bible study groups during the months of August and September. Many groups begin again after taking time off during the summer. New groups are established. And year-round groups continue their practice of meeting weekly.
Each of these types of groups benefit from kicking off a new season of Bible study. Whether a group meets year-round or seasonally, here are a few ways for group leaders to prepare for the kickoff of post-summer studies.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

See what's coming up next in Bible Studies for Life

The fall edition of Bible Studies for Life includes Unvarnished Truth (a six-session study that covers the important aspects of being in a community of faith) and Unstoppable Gospel (a six-session study about the early days of the church).
Order now
Save time and money* by creating a recurring order. Your future orders will be shipped automatically, and you'll receive up to a 5% discount on each. There's no risk; order adjustments can be made each quarter, as needed. Call 800.458.2772 to set it up.

* 5% on church account orders and 3% on credit card orders.

Lean more about LifeWay bible study resources at

Monday, August 8, 2016

Free Training for Ministry Leaders and Volunteers

Ministry Grid

Get Free Training for Ministry Leaders and Volunteers.

Are your church's leaders and volunteers ready for the new ministry year? Give them the practical training they need with Ministry Grid, an online training platform from LifeWay Leadership.
Ministry Grid offers free, two-week trials for leaders and volunteers that provide usable, essential information in five key ministry areas:
  • Kids Ministry
  • Student Ministry
  • Groups Ministry
  • Adult Sunday School
  • Guest Services
Just click below, select the training area you want, and get started for free!
5 Leadership Questions PodcastFree eBook: Developing Your Leadership Pipeline by Todd AdkinsLifeWay Leadership App

Friday, August 5, 2016

5 Current Views of Discipleship

I have been in many settings with church leaders where the question was posed, “What is your church doing for discipleship?” I am grateful that church leaders are asking questions about the church’s fundamental mission—making disciples. After all, a church can excel at anything and everything else, but if the church fails to make disciples, she has wandered from her fundamental reason for existence.

But the question almost always needs to be answered with a follow-up question: “What do you mean by discipleship?” People could mean at least one of these five common and current views:

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

5 Common Myths Program Driven Churches Believe About Effectivenes

By Michael Moore

Today’s churches offer church goers more programs than ever before. Whether it is activities for men or women, couples or singles, young adults or seniors, many churches find themselves drifting towards complexity as more and more ministry programs are added each year.
So what exactly separates churches overloaded with programs from those who have found a simpler way? I believe the answer lies in how each church thinks.
With this in mind, here are five common myths that program-driven churches believe about effectiveness:

Myth 1: The road to simplicity begins with a focus on meeting needs.

Churches are made up of different demographics each with their own unique needs. In an attempt to better understand and meet these needs, some churches choose to pursue a program-driven approach. Over time, the total number of programs offered in these churches naturally tends to grow. This happens whenever pressure mounts within these churches to expand the number of programs offered in order to address the unique needs of each demographic group.
Instead of asking “How can our church meet a person’s need,” a different question to consider asking is this— “How can our church create steps that move people along a path that leads them closer to where God intends for them to be?”

Myth 2: Higher levels of participation in programs is a sign of spiritual growth.

Churches oftentimes measure program effectiveness by attendance. When participation percentages are high, it can be natural to assume that spiritual growth must be taking place.
But that may not always be the case.
Whenever people invest their time into anything, it will always require trade-offs. The more time church goers spend attending church programs, the less time they have available to connect with those outside of the “four walls” of the church.
So could it be that high levels of participation in programs are indeed a result of maturing believers choosing to invest back into their local churches?
Or it may just simply mean that the people within these churches are increasingly becoming more and more insider focused.

Myth 3: Adding more programs strengthens ongoing member retention.

Some churches believe that a foundation for an effective member retention strategy is in a wide offering of church programs. While it is possible that adding more programs may lead to better retention numbers in the short term, long term problems may arise if the programs themselves become a primary reason that church goers have for staying. That’s because it will only be a matter of time before another church comes along offering bigger and better programs than yours.
A stronger way for churches to retain members is to clarify and consistently communicate their vision. The more that church goers understand the vision and the vital part that they play in helping to bring that vision to pass, the more likely they are to stick around.

Myth 4: If the people in our churches are pleased, God must be too.

Reducing the number of church programs would be so much easier were it not for the emotional attachments that people develop with them over time. Change can seem difficult when it means upsetting those who expect for the church to operate the way that it always has. The problem comes when churches assume that just because people are happy with the way that things are happening within the church, then God must be happy with things there too.
Here’s what I have come to realize.

There will always be a group of people you can never please no matter what you say or do.

That’s because any God-given vision will always attract some people and at the same time repel others.
And that’s okay.
What if God was most pleased with His church when they chose to pursue the vision that He had given them, even when it meant upsetting a few insiders along the way?

Myth 5: Programs develop genuine community within the church.

Genuine community develops over time as people openly share and speak into each other’s lives. Oftentimes, churches create programs with intentions to allow people to spend social time together; however, because of their design, many programs actually offer little opportunity to get to know the people attending beyond the event itself. Without organic and authentic conversations, several programs within a program-driven church have the potential to fall short of ever developing genuine community, leaving the people who attend them no more connected when they walk out than when they first walked in.

No church ever intends to become overloaded with programs. Yet far too many churches find themselves stuck in such a reality.

If you feel stuck, the good news is that things can in fact change for the better. But before you can ever achieve the next level of results, you must first begin to think differently.

Is your church overloaded with programs? Learn how The Unstuck Group‘s 4 Phase Planning Processcan help you align church activity to vision.

Monday, August 1, 2016

9 Simple Ways to Begin Reaching Your Community for Christ

By Chuck Lawless

If you read this blog much, you know my heart for the nations that don’t know Christ. At the same time, though, Jesus called us to reach our Jerusalem – our community where we live – even as we go to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Here are some simple ways to move your congregation in that direction:
  1. Do a demographic study of your community, but then share the specific findings with your church. Great Commission-minded pastors often do this kind of study, but they then strategize without giving their church the demographic details. If you want your church to be burdened about the community, make sure they really know who lives there.
  2. Ask a local police officer to take your leaders on a driving tour of your community. You might be surprised what you learn. Years ago, I didn’t realize how little of my community I knew until I became a firefighter who had to know the city well.
  3. Invite local school leaders to talk with your church. They face the community’s needs every day. They can tell you about multiple languages spoken in the home, about children who have little to eat, about grandparents now raising their grandchildren. They’ll also let you know how your church might help local schools.  
  4. Invite leaders of ethnic churches in your community to speak to your church. Ask them to introduce your congregation to their culture, their needs, their struggles, and their lostness. Help your church to see the nations living among them.
  5. Map the homes of your church members so they see their Great Commission assignment. Make the map big, and place it in a prominent place. Show your folks that it’s not an accident they live where they live; they need to love, pray for, and reach out to their neighbors.
  6. Do community prayer surveys. They’re easy to do: knock on doors, talk to people at work or school, visit with people at the store and ask the simple question: “Our church is praying for our neighbors. How might we pray for you?” Somebody will have a need that begins what could become a witnessing relationship. 
  7. Lead members to develop a prayer list of non-believers. If all your attenders begin interceding for five lost persons, God will somehow move in response to those prayers – and your church will begin developing an outward focus.
  8. Reach out to the nearest local university. If it’s within driving distance, connect with Christian ministries there (or ask to start one). You might find students – particularly international students – who are seeking genuine relationships.
  9. Send out your church as witnesses with a testimony. On a Sunday morning, prioritize teaching your attenders how to share their testimony simply, and then challenge each of them to share that story with at least one person that week. Even if only 50% actually do it, that’s a lot more outreach going on than the week before.