Each Sunday, I’m taking the opportunity to tell you about one of the pastors from my coaching network.
Today, I want to share with you Tim Maybray from Titusville (PA) Free Methodist Church. In this short video testimony, you’ll hear how the network has made an impact in his church.
One of my greatest joys is knowing that the impact of The Journey isn’t just limited to metro New York, but it’s multiplied through the ministry of guys like Tim:
Titusville Free Methodist Church
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For more information or to apply now, visit:
This is Kerrick Thomas (Executive Pastor at The Journey and co-author of Activate). I recently received these questions and Nelson asked me to share my responses with all of you.
Q: We’re in the process of creating and launching a new small groups system at our church and I’ve found the Activate system to have great potential for us. Our church is 150+ years old and we’ve hit a critical point in our history where we need some significant change if we want to be relevant for people in this current/future culture.
We have had small groups in our church for some 20 years (some that have been together almost that long) and we have no formal, regular system for creating new groups; they have just formed when a person said they’d like to start one.
With that in mind, here are my questions:
1) How do we transition from being a church “with” small groups to a church “of” small groups?
We have many “ministries” (as you can imagine with a church that’s been around this long) and I strongly agree with the idea in Activate that these ministries are actually competing with each other and therefore diluting our church’s impact.
I know we need to start making some tough calls, but is there a general strategy for transitioning from a church “with” to a church “of”?
2) How do we handle all the groups that have been together for years?
Any insight you could provide here would be appreciated.
Thanks in advance for your help!
A: First of all – know of my prayers for you this morning as you guys make this big transition in your church. It’s not easy I know – but I pray that it will bear much fruit.
1) To transition to a church “of” small groups I recommend patience. Many of the ministries you have right now will probably transition quite smoothly into a semester-based small groups system.
For instance, you can run women’s and men’s ministries as well as community service through groups by offering those types of small groups specifically. If there are ministries that don’t fit in – you might have to gradually phase them out by not advertising or pushing new people toward them.
I have a book recommendation for you. It isn’t perfect for what you are doing – but it’s called “Transitioning” and talks about steps you take people through as you transition them from one system to another.
2) As far as moving from the old system to the new semester-based system with your old groups – remember, the key is “leader multiplication” not “group multiplication.” So, I would pull all of your group leaders together and share the new vision in a compelling way. Then I’d follow-up with each individually and ask them to lead a new semester-based small group for the upcoming semester.
Then I would find 2-3 people in each of the existing groups and just go directly to them to ask them to lead a group. Don’t try to split up the groups. Just tell them you are starting a new groups system and describe all of the benefits and tell them you want them to be the first leaders. The current groups will be wrapping up but everyone in them can sign up for a new group.
You might even have the one on one meetings before the big meeting and get as much buy in as possible. Maybe even get a few key leaders committed ahead of time to lead a new group.
If a few groups insist on staying together – and the group isn’t poisonous (if the group is poisonous and is hurting the church you have to shut it down) that’s okay. Let them meet – but just stop moving people toward them and let them exist isolated.
In the meantime, go ahead and identify individuals within those groups who you would like to lead and go and ask them individually if they would leave the group and lead a semester-based group. I really don’t think those groups will last too long when you get the semester-based groups up and running well.
The last thing to think about is that we might be starting a Small Groups Coaching Network in the fall. We have one going on right now with about 20 small group leaders from around the country that will be wrapping up in September. Keep your eyes open – if we kick off another one this fall we’d love for you to join us.
Also – keep your eyes on this blog – we often have helpful posts related to small groups.
Hope this helps!
P.S. Looking to learn everything about the Activate small groups system? Check out The Small Groups Intensive.
Q: I read in Activate how you should be a church OF small groups, not a church WITH small groups. And I agree. Here’s my question. Don’t classes 101-401 create drag on your small groups system? Or are your classes offered AS small groups?
A: Great question! We do, indeed, use the Purpose Driven C.L.A.S.S. series (101, 201, 301 & 401) to help our members grow and take next steps on their spiritual journey.
However, The Journey remains solidly a church OF small groups by strategically incorporating these classes and coordinating the timing of it into our overall calendar.
Here’s how: We offer CLASS 101 – 401 between group semesters. Since you only attend each class one time, it doesn’t compete with our semester-based growth groups. We offer each class from 1-4 on Sunday afternoon.
This allows us to be very intentional about helping people take specific next steps through the C.L.A.S.S. series AND to avoid creating drag on our two main activities (Weekend Services and Small Groups).
Hope that helps!
P.S. Do your church members know the benefits of membership? Do your church members know exactly what is expected of them? Do you have an effective, realistic plan to hold your members accountable for their commitments?
We have put together a practical, proven resource package that provides everything you need to plan, implement, follow up, evaluate, and improve your own 3 hour maximized membership class in THE MAXIMIZING MEMBERSHIP PACKAGE.
I don’t normally blog on Sundays but over the next few weeks I want to highlight some guys who are having a great impact in the Kingdom. They’re all in one of my coaching networks and they’re making a difference in their communities. Here’s:
Chula Vista, California
Will you consider applying for my upcoming Senior Pastor Tele-Coaching Network?
For more information or to apply, visit:
They only last a half an hour, don’t require a great deal of planning or administration, and they really are a helpful tool in the Assimilation process. A key part of the reception is giving new people the opportunity to take Next Steps at the gathering.
I’ve gotten a few questions via email about what kind of card we use at the Newcomers Reception, so here’s a sample of a recent Next Steps card. It’s basic, but it gets the job done (right-click and “Save As…”):
P.S. If you’re looking for other proven, advanced ideas for connecting more first time guests into the life of your church, check out The Assimilation Intensive Workshop.
This book was released recently, but I had the opportunity to read an early copy (and the honor of writing a cover review for the book).
Larry is a friend, a mentor and one heckuva teacher.
This book will challenge you personally AND help you better disciple the members of your church – and that’s a rare combination.
I recommend you click here and get your copy on the way today!
P.S. Have you read a book recently that you think I would enjoy? Click the “Ask Nelson” button to the right and send me your recommendations.
Here’s a recent question that the CLI team answered for a fellow pastor:
Q: In listening to you refer to the various growth barriers that churches face, I wasn’t sure which barrier we are currently contending with, and I was hoping for your opinion.
Our average weekend attendance in 2009 is 295. Does that mean we should work on the growth barriers for 500?
The reason I am curious about this, is because we have still had a couple weeks where we dipped well below 250 (198 and 215).
Are these two weekends indicative of still needing to get past the 250 barrier or should I focus on the specific aspects to break through the 500 barrier?
Thank you for taking the time to answer this question.
A: Thanks for your question. We encourage Pastors to evaluate their attendance based on adult attendance.
So, if your adult attendance is 298, then you are on the verge of breaking the 250 barrier (consistently) and then you’ll want to set goals to break the 500 barrier. If 298 includes kids, then you’re at the 250 barrier and will want to set goals to break 250.
It’s not uncommon to experience dips like you mentioned due to vacations, seasons and other factors. The ultimate goal is to make your highest attendance record become your average attendance number.
Don’t let the low days pull you back. Instead press forward consistently setting your goal upon your highest attendance record.
It sounds like God is doing some great things in His church. Keep pressing on!
Thanks for letting us partner with you in ministry.
P.S. A great resource for breaking growth barriers is The Growth Barriers Workshop, which outlines the 9 most common growth barriers that all churches face, regardless of size. Here’s the link:
I have been in a tele-coaching network with Nelson Searcy through Church Leader Insights for the last several months. Actually, it is my second coaching network I’ve done with Nelson. To say the LEAST, it has been off the hook helpful! Our church over the last few months has doubled in size and I attribute much of that to the things I’ve learned from Nelson and others in the network.
If you are a pastor/church planter you should really check this out. I noticed at www.nelsonsearcy.com they are taking applications for the next network. If you want to maximize the effectiveness of your church you have got to get in this network! Here’s the link http://www.churchleaderinsights.com/telecoaching/.
If you want to ask me questions about how it works and how we have benefited from the network, just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. Here’s that link again for more info or to download your application:
Q: How important is it, in your opinion, that churches work together to serve their communities? What do you think causes some to not want to work together?
A: Nelson – thanks for taking the time to participate in the tour. You’re a huge blessing to the Church we both love so much. Thank you for all you do.
I believe that there’s nothing that compares to churches working together to serve their community. There’s so much more that can get done. The Bible even teaches that what one can do alone, ten times that can get accomplished with two working together.
I think when I really decided how important it is to work together with others came one day when I had a thought – I won’t say it was a vision, but it was close – more of a daydream that turned really vivid. The picture was of me decked out in mountain-climbing gear, standing atop Mt. Everest. I had just reached the summit, and I was exhilarated. But then I turned to give someone a hi-5. No one was there. Suddenly I was bummed. The thrill of it all emptied out quickly because I had no one to celebrate with.
As humans, we are built to enjoy each other, and when we go after life alone, we miss out on a lot of joy God offers us. In reality, we will reach far more mountaintops as a team than we would alone. And when we do, we’ll have someone to hi-5.
Honestly, Nelson, I can’t think why anyone would want to go alone in this. Not once you’ve tasted the joy of serving together. It’s just so much more effective and fun. Maybe it’s because they just haven’t experienced it yet.
P.S. Have you considered bringing a mission team to New York City this summer? If so, check out this post from a while back about The Journey’s One in a Million project.
I wanted to share this brief article that I wrote recently:
You and I may look different on the outside but beneath our skin we are a function of common machinery. We both have hearts that pump blood, even though we are different blood types. We both have senses that take in the world, though some of yours may be more elevated than some of mine.
In the same way, all churches are made up of a set of common systems, even though we may utilize those systems in slightly different ways based on our individual calls to ministry. The question isn’t whether or not these systems are in place, but whether or not we acknowledge and maximize them.
Even if you are not sure what the eight church systems are, much less how to keep them healthy, they are there, ready to help you achieve God’s purpose for your church – and we all know that part of that purpose is to mobilize disciples.
None of the eight systems of the church would be able to function without people. In fact, I like to say that relationships are the tracks on which systems run. Each system encourages you to fine tune your skills for developing disciples and mobilizing them to carry out the work of the church.
That said, there is one system that focuses specifically on this goal: The Ministry System. The Ministry System asks, “How do we mobilize people for significant ministry in our church?” God wired people to grow as disciples through serving. If you don’t have a system in place that helps your people get plugged in, you will be hurting both yourself and your untapped leaders.
You will never mobilize disciples if you aren’t continually creating disciples and teaching them to have a heart for service. And since all of the eight systems will ultimately be run by volunteers, you need as many dedicated servers as possible.
Your church will thrive – and you will save yourself a lot of stress, time, energy, and money – when you have well-developed systems in place and stocked with people who are motivated in pursuit of a common vision. How do you make that happen? By understanding and strengthening each of the eight systems that operate within your church.
To learn exactly what these systems are and how you can do your part to cooperate with God by maximizing them, check out my free report “Healthy Systems, Healthy Church” at:
God is not haphazard with His church, and neither should we be. Let’s all do our part to develop the eight systems of the church fully so that God can work through them mightily.
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