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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!

Your small group members are about to get back in the tempo of normal life. School is about to begin again. They may need to be reminded that times of rest are important. Below you’ll find a Bible study from the Serendipity Bible for Groups you may want to use soon.




Ice-Breaker: What is your favorite way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

 Read Hebrews 4: 1 – 12

 Bible Discussion: 1. What do you remember about the origin of the Sabbath? 2. What is the “rest” promised by God: Sunday off? The Pomised Land? How do verses 3 – 10 support your answer? 3. Did God withdraw his offer to the original people who were given the promise? What happened? 4. What is the warning to those who are reading this letter? What does it mean that God’s word is “living”? Active? That it penetrates?

 Going Deeper: 1. How would you describe your spiritual diet right now: Healthy?  Balanced? Pretty good? Sporadic? Could be better? Terrible?  2. What have you found helpful in keeping a regular devotional life?

 In case you haven’t heard of the Serendipity Bible for Groups… The Serendipity Bible for groups has a Bible study like the one above for every passage of Scripture in the Bible.

Just yesterday Lyman Coleman received an honorary doctorate, kinda. Lyman is the pioneer of small groups as we know them today. He has become a dear friend and co-dreamer. Lyman had agreed to lead sessions at NEXT, the Saddleback Small Group Conference Saturday, May 16th. One day while Lyman and I were talking he mentioned in passing that a prestigious Christian College wanted to give him an honorary doctorate but that he had passed on it because the degree was to be given him the same day he was scheduled to lead sessions in Cincinnati. I assured him we could get by without him and that receiving an honorary doctorate was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I don’t remember Lyman’s exact words he responded with but they went something like this… “That’s only paper, there are people at the conference.” He was much more focused on other people being set free than receiving a doctorate for himself. A few of the leaders at the conference decided he would receive an honorary doctorate, not from an accredited institution though. The piece of paper Lyman received in front of an audience of small group pastors and leaders reads:

Lyman Coleman

having changed the world and having set tens of thousands of people free is hereby awarded this 

Honorary Doctorate

Small Groups 

Generations are indebted to you. 

Most of us will never receive an honorary doctorate of any kind from anyone, even a “kinda” degree. But it is possible for us to lead groups that set people free.  

Thanks, Lyman for teaching so many of us what it means to care for people like Jesus does!

Jesus’ resurrection is the most historic event in all of human history. Every great small group leader wants be certain his/her group members realize how they have responded to this amazing moment in time.  But… If you’re like me you do not want to purchase an entire study for just one small group experience. Below you’ll find questions for a small group experience taken from the Serendipity Bible for Groups

This experience will allow your group members to consider their response to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.



 Ice-Breaker: Describe a time in your life when you mistook someone for the wrong person.

 Read John 20:10 – 18

 Bible Discussion: 1. Would you have responded more like Mary or like the disciples? Why?  2. Does Mary appear to be quietly grieving, or more hysterical? What finally breaks through her grief and confusion (v. 16)?  3. What term (v. 17) does Jesus use for his disciples here? What is new in their relationship from now on (see 15:15)?

 Going Deeper: 1. How has Jesus spoken your name in a time of grief? 2. What does it mean to you that Jesus is your brother?


 In case you haven’t heard of the Serendipity Bible for Groups… The Serendipity Bible for groups has a Bible study like the one above for every passage of Scripture in the Bible.

_42885143_highwire_getty3Just had a long conversation with a man who has become a bit of a mentor to me: Lyman Coleman. (There is no short conversation with Lyman). Lyman is 75-years-old. And boy has he lived. This morning he said that his goals for life were to educate his children, finish strong, and die broke—meaning leave it all on the field. “So far,” he said, “I’m on track for all three.” Even with his association with Billy Graham Ministries and the Navigators, Lyman’s legacy is most likely Serendipity House. He remains an innovator, true to his heart and who he has been created to be. Lyman has never been afraid to break the mold, challenge convention, or call out something not quite right … the only thing he’s sold out to in his life is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Lyman is also no stranger to pain; to heartbreak. I might think that a man after God’s heart like Lyman Coleman could avoid tragedy. But that just isn’t the case. He lost his wife to a medical malpractice event years ago. He has survived two of his children and recently lost a daughter-in-law. Last month one of his own mentors, Bruce Larson, departed this world. Lyman arrived at the funeral surprised to see his name on the program as a speaker. Responding to his surprise, he was told to just keep it short; that’d he be fine. Lyman has avoided most public speaking for several years. He just hasn’t had the heart for it. Life can have that effect. His surprise at seeing his name on the program, however, is indicative of how God works. God allows these things to bubble up in our lives to call us again and again into the redemptive story that He has been revealing to us and continues to reveal. I know from my experiences that it’s not easy. So Lyman followed a thirty minute eulogy. “I spoke for two minutes,” he told me earlier today. “I broke down and I was done. I said everything I needed to say.” He said that this was his call back out on the high wire. He concluded a long time ago that life was meant to be lived on the high wire. Everything else is just preparation.

We talked about several things during that conversation but what I’ll remember is the impact Lyman felt upon seeing his name on the funeral program of a friend. So many of us begin our lives with such drive, vigor, and well-intentioned purpose only to find a place along the way that is “good enough.” We wander. Along the ways of these dusty roads there is potential, if not a tendency, to lose our way. Lyman has told me so many times that we all need two things: (1) a hug and (2) a kick in the [backside]. Got to love the simplicity there.

Lyman is such an inspiration. He has done so much more than endure. Moreover, he has rebelled against going into each day gently. So much of success and meaning and purpose is wrapped up in showing up, in putting ourselves in the right places regardless of the discomfort or the difficult circumstances or the commitment or the fears we bring. Your name and my name, all of our names, are in the “program.” We are featured players in the Larger Story of our time. And we all have a crucial role to play.

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!

The celebration of Jesus’ birth is almost here. Your small group may have decided to take a break beginning a few weeks from now or you may be spending Christmas day together. If you’re like me, you may want to take a one week break from the study your group is involved in so that you can focus on some part of the birth of Jesus. Also… If you’re like me you don’t want to purchase an entire study for just one small group experience. Below you’ll find questions for a small group experience taken from the Serendipity Bible for Groups produced by Lyman Coleman.  I think you’ll find it will create healthy, life tranforming conversation.

Ice-Breaker: When does your Christmas tree go up? Who trims it? How? What other traditions do you observe from your childhood? 

Read Luke 2:8 – 20 

Bible Discussion: 1. Of all the people the angels could have visited, why do you suppose God sent them to the shepherds? How does that relate to Mary’s song (Luke 1: 46 – 55)? 2. What three titles are given to Jesus in verse 11? What is significant about them? 3. What do you treasure the most about Jesus?

 Going Deeper: 1. God appeared to Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds when they were just being themselves. What does that imply about what it means to be “spiritual”? How has God spoken to you in the ordinary flow of life? 2. What precious event has God done that you “treasure in your heart”?

 In case you haven’t heard of the Serendipity Bible for Groups… The Serendipity Bible for groups has a Bible study like the one above for every passage of Scripture in the Bible.

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What’s NEXT for your church? What’s NEXT for your small group ministry? What’s NEXT for your connecting ministry?

If you haven’t heard about this yet, you’ll want to begin making plans now!! Earlier this summer Serendipity partnered with Saddleback Church to provide FOUR Small Groups Conferences across the country in 2009 with the theme of NEXT.

This will be the most comprehensive, energetic, and practical conference associated with small groups. In addition to awesome speakers like Rick Warren and Erwin McManus, there will also be the top practitioners in the country including Steve Gladen, Lance Witt, Bill Willits, Robert Davis, plus our very own Rick Howerton. And if that wasn’t enough, we’ll also be featuring a rare appearance by Lyman Coleman, the founder of Serendipity!! There will be two tracks to choose from – a START Track and a NEXT Track – plus a completely new opportunity for the small group leaders at your church called Small Group Saturday. This will be almost like a mini-conference within a conference. While you’re busy learning critical principles for small group ministry, your small group leaders can hear some of the top speakers in the country with the opportunity to learn from one of America’s best small group minds. Lyman will teach an exceptional two-part workshop on relational dynamics of small groups. Your group leaders will get immediate tools, tips, and techniques for leading transformational small groups from the foremost authority of the last 40 years.

There’s a ton of other things going on at these conferences in Lake Forest, Houston, Atlanta, and Cincinnati so be sure to visit the website to register or get more information.