Bill Donahue and Steve Gladen. Photo courtesy of @warriorriver.

Last week we wrapped up the filming for the DVD portion of Building Biblical Community, a new resource scheduled to release at the end of the year in time for January campaigns, new-group launches, and new beginnings. Building Biblical Community owes its concept to authors Steve Gladen and Bill Donahue, two of the most notable names in small-group leadership over the last decade. Bill and Steve have more than 50 years of small-group leadership experience at Willow Creek and Saddleback respectively.

Given that this is the first time that Bill and Steve have collaborated on a resource, we were all a little uncertain about how the dynamic would work once we got the cameras rolling. Although they’ve known each other for several years, this is the first time these two leaders have come together to create a small-group experience—and the 2-day video shoot went better than anyone could have dreamed. Not only did Bill and Steve deliver the goods in terms of the content and the small-group experience, but they also hit a wonderful on-screen rapport beginning at the first countdown through the bonus material. Your groups are going to love the spirit, interaction, and heart that these two leaders were able to convey.

What the Donahue/Gladen team has created is a small-group experience to help groups understand the dynamics of being a true, authentic biblical community. To achieve this, according to our authors, groups must become a celebrating, learning, loving, and serving community. Drawing from tried and true biblical principles, examples, and experiences, Building Biblical Community is not only perfect for new groups and church campaigns, but also for groups that have yet to hit the sweet spot—or else stalled or even sinking. We’ll be writing more about Building Biblical Community here at the Gypsy Road over the next several weeks and I’ll be posting more about how production is coming along both here and through Twitter (@bcdaniel).

In this short video we captured a little bit from our authors about their first experience working together. I just wish I could have gotten either a photo or a video of Steve riding in my Jeep Wrangler with the top off. Now that was a sight.

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!

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!

NEXT Conference banner

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.

Hey, met with a great mind named Bill Seaver today and turns out he is a whiz with this new media thing.   Bill is no where in this picture, but these are the other guys I met with…boy did they have questions!!!  This is at the end of a long day at the Saddleback Small Groups Conference having comfort  food at In-N-Out Burger.