Category Archives: small groups

Are You Taking the Summer Off?

I write this on the final day of Spring 2017. Summer makes it’s entrance today around 9:30pm. With it comes hope of warm sunny days, vacations, and lots of time spent outside. It would be easy to get caught up in the celebration of summer while ignoring the reality of fall lurking just around the corner. We want to make room for kayaking, hiking, road trips, and back-yard barbecues. But a successful fall hinges on a productive summer. Taking time to establish some SMART goals and corresponding steps during this season will help prepare you for the next one.

For example, at Journey Church we launched fifteen Journey Groups (small groups) with 150 adults in September 2016. Journey Groups are essential to accomplishing our mission of “Helping people take the next in their spiritual Journey.” By September 2017 we hope to launch five more groups (for a total of 20 groups) reaching 200 adults. This goal is Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive. Several steps are required to successfully accomplish this goal. Here’s a sampling of some of those steps:

  • Evaluate each existing group with individual group leaders.
  • Determine each leaders commitment to lead this fall.
  • Obtain names of apprentice leaders who are ready to lead their own group.
  • Recruit new leaders.
  • Schedule and communicate leader’s training sessions.
  • Establish and promote the Journey Groups schedule.

What additional steps would you recommend?
What’s your SMART goal for this fall?

Take a few minutes today to begin thinking through your goals for fall and the steps you will take this summer to achieve those goals. Then go outside and enjoy the summer sun!

(Summer is a great time to get some coaching! Imagine how investing time in getting coached will pay dividends this fall. Contact me here and let’s start the conversation.)

 

Why Telling People What to Do Doesn’t Work

 

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Actually, there’s a simple way to prove that telling people what to do doesn’t work. Here it is: Do you like being told what to do? Are you more likely to make a change if you’re told to do something or if you choose to implement that change on your own? In reality, no one likes being told what to do. And while we might comply with a demand that’s made of us, it will rarely result in any lasting change.

There’s some pretty good science to explain why this is true. According to an article by David Rock in the Neuro Leadership Journal the approach (reward) – avoid (threat) response is a reflexive activity that occurs unconsciously and automatically.  We quickly perceive situations and stimuli as containing either a threat or a reward. Not surprisingly, the way we perceive those situations determines whether we engage or we avoid. According to Rock, “Engagement is a state of being willing to do difficult things, take risks, to think deeply about issues and develop new solutions.” (emphasis added). That’s the goal of coaching!

In the coaching conversation the person being coached is guided toward a reward-engagement response by asking non-threatening questions which develop awareness and stimulate growth and action. The coach will avoid judgmental questions, leading questions, or what I call “test questions” where there is only one correct answer. Questions like these will result in an involuntary threat-avoidance response.  Someone who asks questions like these neither understands basic human behavior nor practices good coaching techniques. Just ask someone who has received good coaching and they’ll tell you: there’s one reason why coaching works – the questions! Not your basic run-of-the-mill yes/no questions or those there’s-only-one-right-answer questions or I’m-the-boss-and-I-want-an-answer-right-now type questions. A good coach asks questions that help you discover more about yourself and more about the journey you are on – “to think deeply about issues and develop new solutions!”

That’s why I enjoy being a coach! I get to ask the type of questions that help people become more engaged in the issues that matter most to them and to discover new pathways of success, effectiveness, and enjoyment in the pursuit of those life issues. If that sounds helpful to you, contact me and let’s start the conversation.

I offer a limited number of complimentary introductory coaching sessions each month. Contact me here about scheduling a session with you.

I’ve Got Your Back

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With “I’ve Got Your Back” James Galvin has produced one of the most helpful resources for leadership development that have hit the marketplace in recent years. He very wisely avoided the typical textbook format here.

Galvin begins by challenging some worn leadership principles that have produced what he calls Follower Abuse at the hands of incompetent, disempowering, manipulative, or toxic leaders (p. 49). He suggests that we can respond to follower abuse by avoiding leadership roles, perpetuating the cycle of abuse, hiding behind servant leadership, or developing our unique potential (p. 50.)Do we really need another leadership textbook? And perhaps more important, would we read it? Galvin asked that question early on and determined to publish a work that is both significantly helpful and eminently readable. The story he developed successfully delivers the content he wants to convey without getting buried in the pages of a textbook.

Perhaps the central thesis of Galvin’s leadership manifesto is found in these words spoken by Jack – the main character in this story:

“When you’re a leader, you lead followers. If you know how to follow well, then you know what good followers need. If you don’t know how to follow well yourself, you won’t be able to help others follow well.”

To lead well you must understand how to follow well. There are three types of followership:

Type I – Following God – which is eternal. Galvin says that we are unable to follow God fully.

Type II – Following inherited authorities – which lasts a lifetime. We are required to follow them.

Type III – Follow Human Beings – which is temporary. Following them is a choice.

(for the full chart see page 82.)

The core of his content is summarized in a few simple charts that are woven into the narrative. These charts should become part of your office decor or journal for frequent future reference.

If you have ever struggled to lead well or have experienced follower abuse from those leaders in your life (and who hasn’t?) then this book is just what you need to make sense of the mess and to bring clarity to the confusion you are experiencing. Second chair leaders will find this to be very helpful as they seek to follow their first chair leaders well – even when they don’t lead so well! If you aspire to move up from the second chair you would do well to master the technique of following well before you make such a move. I plan to utilize this material with the men’s groups and ministry teams that I lead.

You might explore tenthpowerpublishing.com/ivegotyourback for more helpful resources.
I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of posting a review. No expectation for a positive review was communicated or implied.

God Wants You To Be Holy

Every once in a while you hear about a book that someone reads every year. Screwtape Letters, Elements of Style, My Utmost for His Highest, or The Complete Calvin and Hobbs.  The Hole In Our Holiness will certainly make the annual reading list for thousands who take following Jesus seriously.

Kevin DeYoung makes the case for a holiness deficit in the N. American church with three penetrating questions:

1) In Romans 16.9 Paul writes, “Your obedience is known to all.” DeYoung asks, “Is this even what you want to be known for? (p. 12)

2) Based on Rev 21-22 heaven is a holy place. DeYoung asks, “If you dislike a holy God now, why would you want to be with him forever?…..You would not be happy there if your are not holy here.” (p. 15)

3) Are we Great Commission Christians? “The Great Commission is about holiness. God wants the world to know Jesus, believe in Jesus, and obey Jesus.” (p. 16)

What follows is a thoughtful book on our responsibility and the necessity of our cooperation in the pursuit of holiness and the inherent perils in that pursuit. He addresses the importance of understanding the gradation of sin: “When we can no longer see the different gradations among sins and sinners and sinful nations, we have not succeeded in respecting our own badness; we have  cheapened God’s goodness.” (p. 72). When we get complacent in the pursuit of holiness DeYoung warns “…some Christians are stalled out in their sanctification for simple lack of effort. …. And they need to fight, strive, and make every effort to work out all that God is working in them.” (p. 90)

Chapter 7 is an important and profound treatment of the doctrine of our union with Christ. This chapter alone is worth the modest price of this fine book! Here’s just one example of DeYoung’s pointed and powerful writing: “In effect God says to us, ‘Because you believe in Christ, by the Holy Spirit I have joined you to Christ. When he died, you died. When he rose, you rose. He’s in heaven, so you’re in heaven. He’s holy, so you’re holy. Your position right now, objectively and factually, is as a holy, beloved child of God, dead to sin, alive to righteousness, and seated in my holy heaven – now live like it.” (p. 105). That will preach! And it will provide great encouragement to those who struggle to live up to their calling every day.

Toward the end of the book DeYoung clearly identifies the importance of personal holiness: “We think that relevance and relate-ability are the secrets to spiritual  success. And yet, in truth, a dying world needs you to be with God more than it needs you to be “with it.” That’s true for me as a pastor and true for you as a mother, father, brother, sister, child, grandparent, friend, Bible study leader, computer programmer, bank teller, barista, or CEO. Your friends and family, your colleagues and kids – they don’t need you to do miracles or transform civilization. They need you to be holy.” (p. 145).

It’s a short trip from holiness to legalism and we are often either very eager to make that trip or take just 1 or 2 wrong turns and end up at a destination that is not where we intended to go. What DeYoung writes in The Hole In Our Holiness can be very prescriptive and preventative in keeping us on the road to holiness. Don’t miss the last paragraph. It might be the most powerful paragraph in the entire book!

As a coach and second chair leader I recommend this book to all who want their lives to reflect the reality of their union with Jesus Christ. Personally, I found this short book to be filled with balanced and accurate interpretations of what the Bible teaches on the topic of personal holiness. The thoughtful reader will find plenty of encouragement and challenging motivation from it. And if you don’t have a book that you read annually, I would encourage you to make The Hole In Our Holiness that book.

the Anxious Christian

I was eager to read “the Anxious Christian” by Rhett Smith. I’ve heard him speak live and have read many of his blog posts. I think his has a lot of important and helpful things to say about faith and living whole and healthy lives – spiritually, emotionally, and physically. And beside, with Jon Acuff writing the forward you know that there had to be some witty stuff that you could use in your next blog or sermon!

I also wanted to learn more about the intersection of anxiety and faith. Like you, I have a personal reason to want to learn more about how to nurture and respond to anxious people. Much of what Rhett had to say was helpful in that regard. He proposed a new way of looking at anxiety. Rather than the all-too-familiar response of well-meaning Christians that anxiety is a sign of spiritual immaturity, Rhett suggests that God may use anxiety to cause us to trust him more! His development of this concept alone is worth getting your hands on this book.

There are some pretty good discussion questions at the end of each chapter that can guide the reader into taking some positive steps toward implementing helpful habits and actions in their lives. They could also be beneficial to a family our group that read the book together. A few times I felt that the material got a little too clinical but overall it was very accessible and practical.

Smith focuses on anxiety that rises up from a point of embarrassment about an inability to perform or function at a certain level. (“I can’t do that! I’ll fail!” He uses his personal experience of stuttering as an example.) That is a very common point of origin but I was hoping to see something about anxiety that rises from a point of fear that something is going to go wrong that is completely out the control of the individual. (“What if something bad happens?”) I wanted to know how I can encourage that person and help give them hope.

I would recommend “the Anxious Christian” for most people. You may be a teacher, a church staff member, or the spouse or parent or friend of an anxious person. Or you may be that anxious person, yourself. “the Anxious Christian” is worth the read. I found his approach and advice to be very thoughtful, balanced, and practical – something that is not easy to do with this subject.

Chazown

Craig Groeschel defines “Chazown” as: “dream” or “revelation” or “vision.” He asserts that we all need vision to  do what God has created us to do. He identifies four things that vision brings to our lives: focus, endurance, peace, and passion (p.12). Beginning with the end in mind, Groeschel takes the reader on a journey of discovering their personal Chazown.

Part field guide, part workbook, Chazown is a practical manual for developing and identifying God’s vision for your life. Along the way you will do some writing as you wrestle with a variety of clarifying exercises the author presents. As you walk through these 76 short chapters you will refer back  to those exercises and further clarify and modify them.

At about the half-way point of the book Groeschel identifies five spokes of your personal Chazown as:

1. Your relationship with God

2. Your relationship with people

3. Your financial health

4. Your physical health

5. Your life’s work

A brief self-inventory on page 106 helps you consider one of two options. You can either focus on one of the five spokes and develop an action plan to address it or you can develop action plans on all five spokes. A section is devoted to each spoke. If you are going to just look at one at a time then this is where you skip ahead to that specific section. (You can always come back to the other sections!)

I believe that most people will find Chazown to be helpful – especially if they feel that something is missing in their lives and they are looking for direction and meaning. This is not a book that you just read and then set aside. There is a fair amount of work that one must do to fully benefit from it. There are tons of additional resources located at http://www.chazown.com that will help you. You might find the 4-session group guideline included in the back of the book to be the best way for you to process what you’ve read. But whether you make this journey alone or with others, Chazown will help you bring clarity and direction to your life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Gospel of Yes

Mike Glenn makes a significant contribution toward bringing clarity back to a simple Gospel message that has been buried by confusion and clutter in recent decades. How many of us have come to understand the Gospel as “the Gospel plus?” Plus a dress code, plus a list of do’s and don’ts, plus a certain translation of the Bible. Enough already!

Glenn begins our journey toward a simpler Gospel with words like these found on p. 12:

“When you accept the “yes” of Christ’s redemptive grace and respond with the “yes” of faith, everything finds its rightful place. Your life finds order, meaning, and the right fit in your community. Finally you can relax in who God created you to be. If a decision before you doesn’t serve your “yes” in Christ, then the response is ‘no.'”

A few pages later Glenn adds: “”Saying ‘yes’ allows you to focus on what matters.” (p. 17)

Somewhere along the way we began defining God’s love and grace and the heart of the Gospel in negative terms. Certainly God is against some things. The same things we are all against. Things like stealing, lying, murder, adultery, etc. Those are terribly destructive behaviors that God (and all of us) should be against. But  this fascination with defining the Gospel in negative terms has been destructive, too.

“For far too many of us, Christianity has been narrowed down to sin management. Sure, we all want to get to heaven. But under the sin-management paradigm, getting to heaven is no longer about Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf and his invitation to follow him in new life. The focus on sin makes getting to heaven a matter of keeping score.” (p. 26)

Hang around church for more than just a few years and you will know all about keeping score. I’ve had people hand me a bulletin from the church they visited while they were on vacation so that I would know that they went to church. Have to keep that perfect attendance streak intact! We are consumed with avoiding wrong behavior and we excel at letting people know what we are against!

“Simply not doing wrong isn’t enough. Being against sin isn’t the same as being for Christ.” (p. 27)

But ask the typical co-worker, neighbor, or unchurched relative to describe the Christians they know and odds are that they will begin with a list of things they think that Christians are against: drinking, dancing, same-sex marriage, movies, public schools, voting democrat!

“We have concluded that avoiding hell is more important that following Christ in any practical, daily, risky way. So we shut ourselves off from the world and the God who created it. This is why the gospel of Jesus Christ is such a shock to many Christians. We assumed Jesus would come to earth and say “no.” We never expect him to preach “yes.” But his message should not come as a surprise. He came, he said, to preach the message of his Father, and his Father has been saying “yes” all along. The champions of our faith – Abraham, David, Mary, and all the rest – are simply those who heard and believed the “yes” of God in Jesus. They heard the same “yes” that God spoke to call creation itself to life.

And we are invited to hear that same “yes” today.” (p. 34)

Glenn takes these basic concepts and applies them in various ways. He addresses the “yes” in creation, in the cross, and in the resurrection. He challenges his readers to consider the “yes” of forgiveness, of authentic relationships, of simplicity, and more.  If reading these excerpts from “The Gospel of Yes” have grabbed your attention then I would encourage you to read the rest of the book. There’s a simple discussion guide included in the back of the book that covers the 15 chapters in 7 sessions. “The Gospel of Yes” could be read individually, used in a small group, or with your church staff or leadership group. It is a book that should be read by all those who seek to follow Jesus and those who have grown weary of keeping score.