Earlier this week Rick Howerton posted a Q&A with Alan Danielson. In his post, Alan answers questions about Triple Threat Leadership, a book that he has recently published on leadership, and the broader application of Triple Threat Solutions. Although the principles developed in the book are not limited to small-groups, it certainly seems to be something you’ll want to investigate as a small-group pastor or leader. As I prepare to begin leading a new group I found this blog post itself to be simple, direct, and very helpful—especially when Alan addresses the issue of strategy. And even though we are aware of the importance of vision and vision casting, one can never be reminded too often. It looks like anyone even remotely associated with small groups could stand to gain quite a bit from Triple Threat Leadership.

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Hello All.

It’s me, Rick Howerton, a.k.a. The Navigator. I wanted you to know that I will be launching a personal blog site tomorrow.  I want to know your world in greater ways and for you to join me in mine. Let’s have an ongoing conversation.

As many of you know, there is a dream in me to see “a biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet.” The new website, “Small Group World” will be directed to that end.

THE FIRST FEW DAYS ON THE BLOG WILL BE AMAZING! I am hosting Lyman Coleman, Steve Gladen, Eddie Mosley, Bill Search,  Carl George, Greg Bowman, Reid Smith, and Randall Neighbour for two days of discussions on the state of small groups and what the future might look like. There will be multiple updates throughout Tuesday and Wednesday. As we complete a conversation concerning a given topic a blog will be posted giving you the skinny on the discussion.

To subscribe to Small Group World or just to check in once in a while go to http://blogs.lifeway.com/blog/small-group-training/. I’m psyched about the conversations we will have.

Summit banner

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!

Merry Christmas! You can probably blame the lack of activity around here on the fact that LifeWay empties out faster than you can say, “Ho ho ho” during the Christmas season.

We do, however, stay somewhat active on Twitter, so find us there!

The Navigator: @rickhowerton

Agonistes: @bcdaniel

Nomad: @chinavols

Philo: @philbdavis

Syeira: @vanderbiltwife

You can also follow Steve Gladen, the general editor of Small Group Life, or Pete Wilson, who was featured in the Canvas videos.

When I saw Gran Torino earlier this year there was a powerful scene that moved me deeply, although I wasn’t exactly sure why.  If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll remember the scene.  It’s when Clint Eastwood’s character, Walt Kowalski, takes the young boy, Thao, to the barber shop to show him…model for him how men interact.  Walt strolls in and speaks to the barber in very rough language and is greeted in return with the same gruff banter — all done with a surprising warmth between the two men.  He tells Thao to go out and do the same thing.  When he does, the barber acts  incensed and deeply offended and grabs a shotgun in feigned outrage.  So what was the difference?  Thao spoke in the same off-color language as Walt, but the response was the complete opposite.

I have found this same situation in my own life.  At times associates, friends, or family members’ “friendly” barbs and “funny” insults have been very hurtful and offensive to me.  However, there are those people in my life who are closer than a brother that could say the very same thing, and I would return the banter feeling a sense of camaraderie — not of outrage.  Why is my response so different for them.  Why do I feel so different?

In processing this, I’ve come to believe the difference lies in knowing the heart of people through the battles of life.  My closest brothers have walked beside me when the battles were raging the hardest.  They were there when I was wounded and helped carry me when I was completely disoriented and couldn’t make sense of anything.  I knew they had my back, which allowed me to pursue healing rather than spend all my energies defending myself and striving for justice, or medicating and anesthetizing the pain.  They reminded me of my true identity as a restored son of the Sovereign Lord.  These few had seen me at my worst but also saw what was deeper.  To me, these individuals have “earned” the right to speak to me anyway they want because I know their heart for me.  I know they love me deeply and that provides freedom from misinterpretation.  I know their jokes are simply jokes because they have showed up for me over and over again.  For those whose hearts remain hidden from me, who haven’t been in the valley with me, who don’t know my heart and my greatest wounds, I can get riled up when they hurl insults in  a “humorous” way.  I don’t know what’s behind that…and it makes all the difference.

Now I’m not suggesting that we begin speaking to our closest friends in course and off-color language, as done in the movie, but how can we nurture this depth of relationship in our small groups?  How can we begin to know others’ hearts more intimately?  I believe it begins with authenticity in our groups.  By leaving your false-self behind and bringing your true-self and offering it to the group.  Of course this is risky and we have all felt the sting of offering a piece of our hearts only to have it rejected, minimized, or in other ways mishandled.  But this is also the only way to really begin to come alive.

In Rick Howerton’s book on small-group community, he states there are seven principles groups must practice if they want to live authentically:

  1. There are mysteries found in the Bible – God is static but our understanding of Him should be dynamic as He continues to reveal Himself to us.
  2. The fact that life is messy – In sharing our messes, we become free to be ourselves and free to support one another as we continue the journey to be more like Jesus.
  3. Personal imperfections – We will judge ourselves, as well as those around us, until we accept our personal imperfections.
  4. That God is always present even when He feels distant – God sometimes uses what we perceive as distance to force us to reach out to other believers.
  5. Respecting others without having to agree with all they do or say – God created us as individuals, and no two of us are exactly alike physically, philosophically, or spiritually. Differences shouldn’t divide a group. Instead, they should bring it together as group members benefit from one another’s diverse perspectives and experiences.
  6. Confessing our failures at the right time with the right people – In most instances when our moral failures are confessed to others in the right setting at the right time (with those who have covenanted to keep confidences and care deeply about the confessor), the person confessing experiences healing.
  7. Satan is at work in the world – Christ-followers should be aware that Satan is more than a fictional character is an enemy on the attack, looking to destroy friendships, family members, and belief systems. Most importantly, he looks to kill hearts.

What kind of transformation would we experience if we knew those members of our small group so deeply that we never had to try to interpret what they really meant? What if we knew their heart for us and they knew our heart for them. Put these principles to action in your group and see how you experience change together.

supermanSmall Groupologist Rick Howerton is fond of putting a note of authenticity to what is typically a mundane question when he asks, “How are you doing REALLY?” Recently I had an opportunity to have lunch with a friend I spent some of my high school and all of my college years with. Right away I asked him how he was doing, he said “fine.” There was a pause. The word “really”  hung in the air for a moment before he added, “I don’t know. Sometimes I think bad thoughts.”

“Like what?”

“Like, ‘I wonder what would happen if I just left.'”

“What do you mean, ‘left’?”

“‘Left’ as in ‘left and never came back.'”

Of course we talked our way through it for a few minutes. He wasn’t serious. At least, wasn’t serious in considering walking out on his life. But what he was saying was how tired of the routines and the mundane of life he has become. This can’t be uncommon in men getting close to 40 or thereabouts. The word my friend used was “trapped.” In an email exchange I had with yet another friend in this demographic I got the following:

“I wake up a lot of days and have the same what I’ll call malaise. It’s like the new day I’m facing is the exact same day I had yesterday and tomorrow doesn’t promise to be much different or better.”

Now that’s just being honest. Who can’t relate to something on the level of Groundhog Day at least for stretches (for me it tends to be Janaury-March). Neither of these men would describe the lives as bad or their families as anything other than a blessing. I’ve known them both for most of my life and can honestly say that I love them. They’re both very successful at what they do. But I do wonder what the sum of these conversations is and what implication it has for the larger culture of today. In what ways have we both robbed ourselves and, perhaps, been robbed of adventure—which would seem to be part of the issue at hand.  I saw an article today in another publication about getting men to church and how we need to find a way to get more men to church. Apparently we’ve lost Superman! Until we get to the heart of what’s REALLY going on—until we get honest about recovering our hearts—that will continue to be the question.

Last fall at the Catalyst Conference, I caught up with Stewart McWilliams from Fellowship of the Rockies in Colorado Springs where we talked about Catalyst, the book “Tribes” by Seth Godin, and Serendipity Small Group Workshops. Stewart had recently hosted a Serendipity Small Group Workshop with Rick Howerton for his small group leaders as well as other ministry and group leaders from area churches. It was a great success for everyone in attendance both as a learning event and as a small group networking opportunity.

If your church would be interested in developing your group leaders by hosting a Serendipity Small Group Workshop contact Rick (Rick.Howerton@lifeway.com or 615.251.5862). You can also view our calendar to see if a workshop will be in your area for your group leaders to attend

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