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I’m really excited that we will be hosting The Summit: A Convergence of Small Group Experts.  This an event that might be the first time in history these amazing small group leaders have been on the same stage!!  To make it even better, it’s online so you can participate no matter where you live and it’s FREE.  Our very own Rick Howerton will be moderating this Town Hall styled forum and discussing the history, trends, and future of small group ministry.  We are taking questions so you will have a chance to present any issue you are dealing with to the architects of the modern small group movement and hear them respond and provide solutions they’ve seen work in churches all over the world.

The speakers are 9 of today’s most well-known leaders in small group ministry and the next generation’s rising stars – Lyman Coleman Bill Donahue, Steve Gladen, Randall Neighbour, Carl George, Bill Search, Reid Smith, Greg Bowman, and Eddie Mosley

Be sure to register and plan on taking part in this amazing experience.  If you are a ministry leader, forward the information to all your group members so they can get answers to some of their most pressing questions too!

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One of the great things about being a small groups guy is getting to know some of the leaders in the small group movement. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend time with and pick the brain of one of those people, Bill Search the Small Group Pastor (and author of Simple Small Groups, a fantastic read by the way) at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He offers his small groups five options for childcare. I think these may help many of us. Here they are…

 Option 1:

The Community Group host leader arranges for childcare at the home where the group is meeting. The childcare provider can be a teenage child of the host or one of the participants or a responsible friend or neighbor. The group pays for the childcare. (This is not an education program for children, but there is that potential if a simple curriculum is used and the childcare provider is willing to lead.)

 Option 2:

The Community Group involves children in the group process. The group can begin with a simple prayer time and/or object lesson during which the children are present and involved. Then the children and two of the adults move to a different area of the home. The adults rotate turns caring for and continuing the lesson for the children while the rest of the adults resume their study.

 Option 3:

The Community group provides childcare by rotating group members. Older children (11 and up) provide support.

 Option 4:

Each parent is responsible for caring for their own children. There is no childcare at the group.

 Option 5:

All of the children meet at a house nearby with a babysitter. Parents drop their children off before the group and retrieve their children after the group session is finished.

 Consider having all the group members help pay for childcare, thereby sharing the financial burden.

 If you’d like to know more about small groups come join us for the Exponential Conference in April.

Attending conferences is in my job description. Trainers lead training sessions and most training sessions happen at conferences. Almost every conference I attend has an evaluation attendees fill out at the end of the event. The conference directors want to know what they have done well and what they can do better. I’ve evaluated ad-nausea. I mean… I’ve given my humble critique to at least a hundred conferences. I’m beginning to know what a good conference looks like.

 A good conference focuses on no more than a couple of areas of expertise, has one key note speaker who really knows that space, a couple of really great breakout sessions, and opportunities for attendees to network with their ministry peers, people leading the same ministry they are leading. That’s a good conference. But I’ve also seen what a GREAT conference looks like. A GREAT conference will have a laser-like aim at one area of ministry, will have multiple legendary personalities who are the best of the best leading plenary and breakout sessions, will give attendees the opportunity to choose from a plethora of break-out sessions led by people who are not just talking about it but doing it and doing it well. When attending a GREAT conference attendees get to network with ministers from some of the best churches in the country and around the world because a GREAT conference draws church leaders who dream the biggest of dreams and want to be around people just like them.

 Imagine attending a conference where you could spend meaningful time with Steve Gladen (Small Groups Pastor, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA., senior pastor, Rick Warren), Bill Willits (Small Groups Pastor, North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, senior pastor, Andy Stanley), Bill Search (Small Groups Pastor, Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, senior pastor Dave Stone), Lyman Coleman (the man many consider to be the father of the small group movement in the U.S. as we know it today and the man who birthed Serendipity House). And at that same conference you could choose one of two paths. One path would be for you if you were a first time attendee wanting to find out how to do Purpose Driven Small Groups (the Saddleback Church model that has more people involved in groups than she does in weekend worship services). You could take that path. But, if you have “been there, done that” you could choose path number two which will be led by Bill Willetts and friends. And just to add spice to the already amazing meal that’s being dished out there was an unusually impressive amount of breakout sessions to choose from led by church leaders others welcome in to keynote at their churches. Then… on the last day of the conference you could invite your small group leaders to join you for sessions led by the same great people, sessions that will inspire and educate your team. And just to make it possible to attend, there were four locations to choose from.

 Dude… That’s a GREAT conference. One of the greatest and most influential churches in the world is hosting just that conference. Check out the NEXT Saddleback Small Group Conference by clicking on the word NEXT.

 See you there!

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Sometimes a book title blindsides me. This one did. Let’s see if the title of this book ambushes your imagination like it did mine…. Simple Small Groups. Having read every book on small groups I can get my hands on, I’m pretty numb to new book titles. I’m even more concerned that the next book on small groups will be more of the same old, same old, another tweaking of Carl George’s, meta-model. Not this time. I grabbed the book immediately and I wasn’t disappointed with the intent or the content. Bill Search, the team leader for Community Groups at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky (by the way… this is a church averaging 18,000 in attendance each weekend), has composed an symphony, a strategy that gets all the instruments of small group life in sync with one another. And you don’t need to hold a doctorate in small group leadership in order to conduct the band. The outcome (if all Bill suggests is as functional as he says it is and I believe it’s possible since it is so SIMPLE) has to be amazing!

Bill simply states that a small group should give attention to three things… Connect, Change, and Cultivate. He defines each: “Connecting is growing a sense of connection with an identified group of people. Changing is the spiritual and relational renovation that transforms us into the likeness of Christ. Cultivating is the missional lifestyle. He then goes on to tell you how you and your group can make all three of these things happen in… simple terms.

If you’re a traditional small groups aficionado like myself you’ll be stretched as Bill gives permission for groups to feel no pressure to become intimate friends. A few excerpts… “… we don’t have to share the deepest, darkest parts of ourselves to truly connect.” and “If I could change one thing about small groups as they are currently practiced, it would be the expectations that members will become close friends.” Just maybe Bill has raised reality above idealism. You need to get the book and decide for yourself. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

I would really like to hear from you. If you’ve read the book and have opinions, please post them here. Or maybe you’re concerned about the ideas that are revealed in the two sentences from Simple Small Groups I’ve quoted. I would really like to know if you agree or disagree with his assumption concerning small groups and intimacy.