Last year I had the opportunity to lead sessions at the Exponential Conference. I am so honored that I have been invited to help out again in 2010.

This amazing conference is the most attended church planting conference in the world.

Check out the information below then… JOIN US THERE!

  • The Exponential Conference speakers are some of the finest communicators in the country! Exponential has assembled a lineup for 2010 that is as good as any conference has ever had. Opening with Louie Giglio, closing with Francis Chan, including well-known and proven motivators like Ken Blanchard, Mark Batterson, Darrin Patrick, Matt Chandler, Dave Gibbons, Brenda Salter-McNeil, Ed Stetzer, Efrem Smith, Dino Rizzo, Shane Claiborne, Dave Ferguson, Scott Thomas, Billy Hornsby, Greg Surratt, Alan Hirsch, Neil Cole, Bob Roberts, Larry Osborne, Chris Hodge and MANY MORE! Hello….
  • There’s something about church planters gathering. The energy that comes from thousands of leaders who eat, sleep, and breath sharing the Gospel with people and creating new communities of faith, new ministries, new outreach strategies, movements, campuses, networks, on and on. This group of people are the most influential agents of change in our country. To be part of this crowd is to be part of the Kingdom of God in a powerful way.
  • The best ideas, the strongest practices, and the most forward-thinking dreams are shared at Exponential. This is not a “our way is the only way” conference. Quite often the diverse ideas and varied cultures that make up Exponential might seem to be even contradictory! But the open handed approach that has made Exponential the strong voice for church multiplication it is make it a “must attend” event.

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.

Most church plants have no option… they’ll be doing small groups. They don’t have the space to have any other kinds of adult classes on Sunday morning and even if they did, they need every person who makes up the church to set-up, tear-down, be sound technicians, musicians, greeters, etc… In most church plants the only ministries a church can offer adults will be worship and small groups. 

If the church is going to flourish it’s vital that these first small groups have the right DNA, the DNA that will be passed on from one generation of small groups to the next. 

There are some aspects of that DNA that must be in place and must be kept in place. These are principles from Acts 2:42 – 47. When these are working together God will do amazing things. A quick list… 

  • The Bible being recognized and studied as words coming from God
  • Friendships that are built on the principles of biblical Christian community which means those in the group are one body. When one person suffers everyone else feels their pain (and responds to comfort the one who is suffering) and when another has something to celebrate everyone senses their joy and celebrates with them.
  • Recognizing Jesus as the centerpiece of group life and helping one another grow to become more and more like Him.
  • Potent prayer, group prayer that anticipates God is going to respond to our requests.
  • Meeting one another’s needs no matter what the cost is to those who make up a particular group.

 It doesn’t matter what kind of small group system the church planter has determined to propagate. It doesn’t matter if the church is doing open or closed groups, using curriculum or discussing the Sunday sermon, is involved in a 40 day campaign or simply meeting at the coffee shop with a few other believers for spiritual conversations, if these components are not part of group life, the groups will not reach optimal effectiveness.

 If you would like to know more about church planting and small groups come join us at the Exponential Conference in April.

If you’re a church planter, you know how difficult training small group leaders can be. Getting everyone together is nearly impossible, not to mention how busy your schedule is. If you need to help your leaders know how to plan a meeting in a matter of minutes, there is a way.

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend small group leader training. That’s right. Even though I train small group leaders myself I still attend the training others are doing. I learn an immense amount of information and add new tools to my own small group leader tool box every time I do.

 This weekend I learned from one of the best, Russ Robinson. I had seen Russ from a distance as I had attended Willow Creek Association small group conferences for years but had never had a chance to get up close and personal with him. I am indebted to First Baptist Church, Weston Florida and the Florida Baptist Convention for making that possible. Friday night before Saturday’s training event a cluster of people the size of a small group gathered around a table for dinner. For over two hours Russ answered questions. The questions ranged from handling awkward small group meeting moments to how to, with wisdom and sensitivity to the church a pastor leads, move your church toward change. Having been a small group leader, a small group pastor, an elder, a senior pastor, and presently a layman (Russ is a successful attorney) giving his life to his local church, Willow Creek Community Church, he has perspectives and understandings few will ever acquire. Not only is he one of the most diverse church leaders in the training world today, Russ is also an author having co-authored three small group books, Building a Church of Small Groups: Place Where No One Stands Alone,  Walking the Small Group Tightrope: Meeting the Challenges Every Group Faces, and The Seven Deadly Sins of Small Group Ministry: A Troubleshooting Guide for Church Leaders. All three of these outstanding books were co-authored with Bill Donahue. Russ loves small groups (Watch the video and hear him tell why he loves them so much.)!

 Russ has one of the most concise and effective ways to plan a meeting of anyone I’ve seen. He suggests that, when planning your meeting, you focus on goals over content. In order to do so, when preparing for the meeting, simply answer four questions, each related to a different aspect of the human experience, Head, Heart, Hands, Homework.  After answering these four questions determine what you will do to accomplish what has been determined.

During the training event, Russ gave us time to answer these questions. We chose a passage of scripture and were asked to prepare for a small group meeting. In three minutes almost everyone in the room had created a small group meeting that would be transforming. That’s right, in three minutes you could create the best meeting you’ve ever had by answering four simple questions. What are these four amazing questions? Here you go…

 Head: What do I want my group to know?  

Heart: What do I want my group to feel?

Hands: What do I want my group to do?

Homework: What do I want my group to plan?

 Give it a try and let me know how it goes for you!

P.S. If you’re a church planter and want to find out how to do small groups effectively and also hear from some of the most highly renowned church planters and small groups leaders in the country, come join us at Exponential, April 20 – 23, 2009 in Orlando, Florida.