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10 Tips for Leading Marriage Small Groups

10 Tips for Leading Marriage Small Groups

Significant life change can happen in the context of small groups. In this setting, group members can feel safe to discuss issues and share experiences on a more personal level. One of the keys to small group effectiveness is the leaders and the preparations they make.

Here are 10 tips for leading small groups for married couples.

1. Choose materials wisely

Group leaders will find a plethora of resources available on marriage enrichment. Begin by asking your pastoral staff to preview and approve materials before choosing what you’ll use.

The optimal length of a small-group class is six weeks, with each session lasting 60 to 90 minutes. A six-week class keeps the material fresh and is short enough for people to make the commitment to attend. If you use digital media, make sure the delivery technology works well in your chosen location.

2. Enlist primary and secondary group facilitators

If you are the primary facilitators, then enlist another couple to serve as the secondary facilitators. Secondary facilitators assist in leading the class and helping with discussion. They can step in as the primary facilitators in your absence.

3. Choose the meeting time and location carefully

Sunday morning at church fits most church structures. Childcare and classroom space are usually available. If you decide to have a home study, consider how you will handle childcare, a very important issue for parents.

4. Personally prepare each week

Study the material early in the week and meditate on it throughout the week. Refresh your memory by looking through your notes, either the night before class or the morning of. Guard against letting up on your personal Bible study and prayer time because Satan will be eager to attack any good work.

5. Be punctual

Each week, arrive at least 20 minutes prior to class so that you can have everything ready and have time for personal prayer, yielding to God’s direction and wisdom.

Start and finish on time. Resist the urge to “wait until everyone is here” before starting, or to “keep going because everyone is engaged” when it is time to stop. People appreciate when you stick to your schedule; it shows you respect their time.

6. Promote through multiple channels

Different channels and methods catch different people’s attention. Facebook, email, Instagram, text, church bulletins, church foyer table, posters, word of mouth, pulpit announcements—use all channels available to you.

We recommend that you start promotion three weeks before your class begins. Visit the resource publisher’s website; sometimes you’ll find downloadable promotion files there. Create an attractive flyer that gives the class details: location; time; subject; length; childcare; and contact name, email, and phone number, along with a call to action such as “Sign up today.”

7. Provide snacks and drinks

Food, even just something to drink, usually puts people at ease. During the first class, circulate a sign-up sheet for couples to volunteer.

8. Communicate with the group during the week

Create a class roster and communicate often with reminders of topics discussed, homework for couples to do, the snack schedule, or articles participants will find interesting. Send reminders of prayer requests and encourage members to pray for one another. Keep up with members’ contact info for when you offer other marriage enrichment opportunities.

9. Consider the seating arrangement

If you are able, arrange the chairs in a circle. This facilitates good discussion. Circles are better than rows.

10. Encourage participation

During discussion, become comfortable with silence. You may find it uncomfortable to ask a question and sit in silence for a few seconds, but doing so often encourages a group member to interact who normally might not. Resist the temptation to answer your own question.

Start each class with an “ice breaker” question. Possible questions are “Where was your first date?” or “What is your favorite restaurant?”

Participants aren’t the only ones who will benefit

Leading a marriage class can be very rewarding to you and your spouse in addition to those who attend. As you prepare for each class, you will find God strengthening your own marriage and giving you a heart to minister to others.

Reposted with permission. Read the original post here.

How You Can Model Healthy Marriages For the Next Generation

How You Can Model Healthy Marriages For the Next Generation

It’s no secret that kids and students are always watching us. That’s true whether or not you have kids of your own. Because as church leaders, we are role models for the next generation in our church.

We also know that kids and students model what they see. It’s the whole monkey see monkey do, right? The idea of ‘watch and learn’ is useful when you’re intentionally trying to teach a baby how to stack blocks or a teach a sixteen year old how to drive.

But this isn’t so convenient when a kid or student learns something they shouldn’t learn. Or worse, when they don’t learn something important because they haven’t seen it.

Growing Up Without a Model

My parents split when I was really young. While they’re great friends now, it was an awful, messy thing. Even a decade later, the effects of everything that I saw and heard when I was younger reared its ugly head when I began dating. They were there when I got engaged. And they were still there when I got married.

I had never witnessed first hand what a healthy relationship looked like. So I wandered through my relationships a bit like a person stumbling through a dark room. Incidentally, my then boyfriend/now husband also came from a badly broken family.

So at least I wasn’t stumbling alone—although I’ve since learned what ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ means. When we hit relationship bumps or had questions that desperately needed answers, we didn’t have anyone to go to.

Giving Others a Healthy Model

Then, my husband, Jamie, and I became the youth pastors (and small group leaders) at our local church. We were handed a group of students who all came from broken homes. And we immediately knew what we wanted to do.

We wanted to model a Godly marriage.

We wanted to do that because we knew how we suffered in the beginning from the lack of exactly that. We knew the boys in our group were watching Jamie. We knew our girls were watching me.

We knew because we had watched the adults in our lives, and we had either mimicked their mistakes or tried to correct them ourselves without knowing how.

Healthy Doesn’t Mean Perfect

We didn’t have a perfect marriage when we started leading students. Ten years later, I can confidently say that we still don’t. But we were aiming for better than what we had seen, and I think we did a pretty good job for a couple of kids whose parents made a mess of love.

While my heart was often broken for our students because they were experiencing so much of the hurts that we had when we were their age, we were also empowered to do something about it.

When we sat with our students during worship, my husband and I worshipped together because we hadn’t seen that growing up. When the pastor started the altar call, we would go up to pray together, because no one had ever showed us how.

When we had seniors in our small groups that started dating, we went on double dates with them. That way, Jamie could nudge the guy and remind him to open the door for his date. Or I could encourage the girl to settle for only the best because she was worth it.

Who Is Watching Your Marriage?

Those you are leading are always watching—no matter how young or old they are. They are watching you for tips and tricks on how to be a grown up and on how to be a better person.

You may have kids or students in your group who come from broken homes or who have seen things that kids their age shouldn’t have to see. While you can’t erase their pasts, you can impact their futures.

Relationships, whether romantic or between friends, are tricky things to navigate. So model healthy relationships for your few. Show them what a godly marriage can look like. Show them what godly friendships can look like.

Inspire them to aim for good relationships. And encourage them to believe themselves worthy of healthy love. You may be the only place they get to see it!

Reposted with permission. Read the original article here.

What’s the Purpose of Marriage Ministry?

What’s the Purpose of Marriage Ministry?

At the pinnacle of scoring my first boyfriend, earning my driver’s permit, and obtaining a position as the varsity football team’s water girl, my parents told me that they were getting a divorce. Their timing was terrible.

Instead of planning my future as Mrs. Some Football Player, I was moving to another high school. I had to reestablish a new normal in a city 20 miles away that smelled like cows and had no Target.

Years later, I wonder if it would have been different had my parents been part of a marriage small group. What if they had connected with other married couples in a Bible study aimed at growing their understanding of what it means to have a Christ-centered marriage.

Perhaps their marriage could have survived. It couldn’t have hurt. I do know that.

Keeping couples married is paramount for a healthy home. And a marriage ministry has the privilege of providing a place for couples to invest in their marriage, so families are less likely to implode.

Cultivate Connection

Many couples spend time together, yet they barely talk. They see each other at home, share the same bed, and busy themselves with their kids’ activities. But they invest little effort into cultivating conversations with each other.

Because of this reality for many couples, the church can be the catalyst for couples who need a space to connect—such as a date night where they can have fun, remember why they fell in love, and eat a meal that someone else cooked.

Whether it is a comedy night, date nights with childcare provided, or marriage small groups, marriage ministry has a unique opportunity to provide the space for couples to connect and converse, away from laundry and Netflix.

Foster Faith Foundation

Most church leaders would agree that spiritual maturity is essential to a relationship with Jesus. While individuals have a personal responsibility to grow their faith, marriages benefit when couples are developing spiritually together.

When couples are spending time in God’s word, praying, attending church regularly, and learning about what it takes to have a godly marriage, the benefit is monumental. Marriages built on this foundation of faith are more likely to last.

Create Community

Transparency, authenticity, accountability, and lasting friendships are all created in community. Marriage ministry can build opportunities for couples to experience community. This can be done through life-stage specific small groups and Bible study classes, and by using round tables during events in order to encourage conversation and connection.

When couples are regularly placed in groups with other couples who are on the same journey, comfort begins to occur and a lasting bond is developed over time. This accountable and like-mindedness contributes to the health of marriages.

Guide Newlyweds

Since the rate of divorce is high among Baby Boomers, it’s likely that couples married less than 10 years have at least one set of parents who have divorced. Consequently, there are a host of couples today who have been left with flimsy impressions of marriage, along with uncharacteristic expectations.

Premarital counseling is not a new concept, but was not widely considered for those outside of a faith. Many marriages start off well intended, but ill prepared. A healthy marriage ministry uses seasoned couples, to mentor, encourage, and provide support for couples during those first few years of marriage. We can allow older couples to share their experiences and to be a tether for couples who are just stepping into marriage for the first time.

While marriage ministry can’t eliminate divorce, it does help to provide a place for couples to strengthen their faith, spend time together, and build a community. These are all important elements in helping these couples stay married.

Setting Goals For Your Marriage Ministry in the New Year

Setting Goals For Your Marriage Ministry in the New Year

I absolutely love and admire Aaron. He’s a Hispanic guy who used to be the janitor at his church. Aaron and his wife asked the church leadership if they could start a Bible study for young married couples to help build strong marriages in their congregation.

Today, Aaron is a full-time marriage and family ministry pastor, serving that same church with literally hundreds of couples being reached by his ministry. All because he saw a need for a marriage ministry at his church and was bold enough to be the one to step in to help.

I have a phrase in my office that reads: “When you reach the family, you reach the world.” Aaron saw a need in his church and fulfilled it. Shortly thereafter, people from the community began to look at his church as a place to get help for their marriages and parenting.

How about your church? Is your church viewed as a place where people can receive the practical help they need for their marriages and families?

Whether you have a thriving marriage ministry or it’s just at the visualizing stage, setting realistic goals for the coming year will help you help others. Here are a couple of principles to consider:

1. Something is better than nothing

Don’t get so overwhelmed with the needs of marriages in your church that you become paralyzed and do nothing. One small group or one date night event in a year is better than nothing. Start small.

2. The essence of creativity is the ability to copy

I’m not talking about plagiarizing here but find what is working at other churches and copy it. Don’t create your own programing when you can use programs and ideas from MarriedPeople or others.

I shared the MarriedPeople blog with my church. And now there are many getting regularly inspired without us having to create our own blog!

3. Recruit marriage champions

I find lay people wherever I go whose passion is in marriage ministry. Who are the champions in your church? Sometimes they come in unexpected places.

My wife Cathy and I were speaking a marriage conference at a church whose leaders were doing a great job. I asked about their story. It was not the first marriage for either one of them, but they told us they finally got it right and they were now investing back into other marriages.

Make a list of possible leaders. Brainstorm with others and find those leaders to help you and eventually become the marriage mentors your church needs.

4. Become a marriage resource junkie

If you haven’t already done this, become a marriage ministry resource junkie. There are excellent resources in every aspect of marriage available at your fingertips. Look at everything from small group experiences to large group experiences to resources for individual couples.

When I first started doing marriage ministry, the resources were lacking. That is not the case today. They are out there, and they are good.

5. Don’t over program

People are already overcommitted and under-connected. Provide practical marriage ministry on a regular basis but don’t burden people with too many activities.

6. Follow the MarriedPeople model

My friend Aaron started with a small group marriage Bible study. Today his ministry reaches hundreds of people with the MarriedPeople model. As he plans and sets goals for each year, he writes down three phrases.

Underneath each phrase he writes a few goals and plans for each.

Large Group Experiences

  • Quarterly date nights
  • Marriage and family series in the weekend services
  • Attend one large marriage event in the area
  • Attend one marriage seminar and one parenting seminar each year

Small Group Experience

  • Provide a five-week marriage small group twice a year
  • Provide a Getting Ready for Marriage class for engaged couples three times a year
  • Make available a resource library of other small group marriage curriculum for groups to use anytime

Individual Couples

  • Book, blog, newsletter and video resources
  • Professional counseling referrals, pastoral counseling, lay ministry mentors from the church
  • Youth group baby-sitting (for a fee) once a month at the church to enhance date nights

Whether your church is small or large, whether you have a marriage ministry or not, make this year the year to consider developing some healthy plans and goals to help marriages succeed.

How to Move from Managing to Leading Your Church

How to Move from Managing to Leading Your Church

It’s been said many times by many different people that everything rises or falls on leadership. I don’t think that’s ever truer than in ministry. Charles McKay, a former professor at California Baptist College, used to say, “If you want to know the temperature of your church, put the thermometer in your mouth.”

You can’t ever take people further than you are yourself, spiritually or any other way.

I remember when I was interviewed on the ACTS television network by former SBC president, Jimmy Allen, and he asked me about starting new churches. He said, “How important is location?” I told him that location is the second most important thing. But the most important thing is not location, but leadership in a church.

You don’t have to be a charismatic leader (in the emotional sense) to be a great leader. Personality has almost nothing to do with dynamic leadership.

Vision Matters

It’s not the charisma of the leader that matters, but the vision of the leader. Whatever your assignment may be in your church, no matter what your ministry concentration may be, your number one responsibility of leadership in that area is to continually clarify and communicate the vision of that particular ministry.

You must constantly answer the question: Why are we here? If you don’t know the answer, you can’t lead.

As a senior pastor, my job is to keep us focused on the five purposes Jesus gave the church in the New Testament. That gets much more difficult as your church grows larger.

When we were very small, the only people who wanted to come were non-Christians. We didn’t have a lot of programs. We didn’t have a children’s ministry or a music ministry or a youth ministry. The people who wanted all those things went to churches that had them. Now that we’re big enough to not only have these programs but to excel at them, we have people transferring their membership to Saddleback.

Every week I meet people coming from other churches. This dynamic presents an acute problem. Often, people coming from another church carry cultural baggage and the expectation that Saddleback will be like the church they left. But the vision of the church someone just left isn’t the key issue. What matters is the vision you have as the spiritual leader of your congregation.

You must continually clarify and communicate your church’s vision to everyone who walks through the doors. You must make clear what you are doing and why you are doing it. No one can be left in the dark to the question of vision.

At Saddleback, we constantly communicate our vision through Class 101, through our website and social media, and in any other way we possibly can. Our purpose for being is always out front where everyone can see it. Everyone needs to know why we are here and catch our vision.

Vision Is the Difference Between Management and Leadership

Management consists primarily of three things: analysis, problem solving, and planning. If you go to any management course, it will be composed of those three things. But leadership consists of vision and values and the communication of those things. If you don’t clarify God’s purposes as the leader, who is going to do so?

Most churches are over-managed and under-led. Your church needs to be managed, but it also needs to be led. You have to have both.

When you only have management in the church, you get the problem of paralysis of analysis. Management without leadership results in constantly analyzing and looking, but never actually doing anything. You need managers within the church as well. Without them you end up with a church that makes decisions without direction.

Vision Is Powerful

Some people have dreams, but not vision. There is a difference. A vision is a pragmatic dream. Lots of people have great dreams. They have grand ideas of all they would like to accomplish, but they can never get their dreams in a concrete form where they can do something about it.

A vision is a dream that can be implemented. It’s specific. Nothing becomes dynamic until it becomes specific.

When you look out on a congregation filled with people who have been reached with the Good News of Jesus, whose lives have been eternally changed by God’s power, you get to witness the power of the vision God has placed in the heart of a church leader.

If you’re not sure where God wants you to be taking your congregation, get alone and spend time with him until he makes it clear.

Reposted with permission. Read the original article here.

Humility and The Problem with All-Stars

Humility and The Problem with All-Stars

I’m a bit of a podcast junkie. And I wanted to share with you my favorite podcast episode I’ve listened to in a long time. This is not a Christian podcast, but the topic is as “Christian” as it comes—humility.

The podcast is the TED WorkLife Podcast with Adam Grant, and the specific episode is called The Problem with All-Stars. Grant is an organizational psychologist and the podcast “takes you inside some of the world’s most unusual workplaces to discover the keys to better work.”

In The Problem with All-Stars episode, Grant looks at humility, which he says is the hidden ingredient in great teams. The truths of this short podcast episode apply to all team contexts—workplace, sports teams, church staffs, and so much more.

How Shane Battier is Humble

The episode starts off with an interview with retired NBA player, Shane Battier. Here’s a little bit of a bio on Battier:

  • He’s the only basketball player to win both the high school and college national player of the year awards.
  • He’s a graduate of Duke University.
  • He won two championship rings with the Miami Heat (and also played for the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets).
  • His career stats won’t “wow” anyone, but low stats can be deceiving (which is largely the point of this episode).

Battier was the best of the best in high school and college. But, when he got drafted into the NBA, he realized everyone was much more talented than him. He was no longer the best. As a result, many focused more on his deficits than his strengths.

But Battier overcame the criticisms and became a central part of the Miami Heat when they won 2 NBA Championships in 2011-12 and 2012-13. The reason why he was a central part of the team’s success is because he asked himself this question:

How can I make my team better when I’m not the biggest star?

Heating Up on Humility

A little backstory will help. In 2010, the Miami Heat signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh. They joined Dwayne Wade (who was already on the Heat) to become the NBA’s first Super Team. In the press conference when James and Bosh announced their signings, James claimed the Heat would win as many as seven NBA Championships starting with the 2010-11 season.

To everyone’s surprise, the Heat didn’t win in 2010-11. When everyone wants to be the alpha dog, you have a problem.

That all changed when the Heat signed Battier. His goal was not to the best small forward in the NBA but to be the best small forward for his team and it made all the difference. He made everyone around him better and became known as the “No-Stats All-Star.”

Battier made others on his team more efficient and opponents less effective. He did it by setting picks, diving for loose balls, playing lockdown defense, and embodying a whole lot of enthusiasm and hustle. None of that shows up on the personal stat sheet but it does show up in the win column!

The Problem With All-Stars

In sports, we define star by the statistics on the court, says Michael Lewis, author of the book Moneyball and Blind Side. He goes on to say that you need other people to play a role other than the one who takes the shots all the time. Stars are overrated, and role players are underrated.

Grant goes on to talk about the idea of humility—being grounded and from the earth. When I think of humility, I think of the following:

  • John 3:30: He must become greater; I must become less (said by John the Baptist about Jesus).
  • Philippians 2:3-4: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Keep reading through verse 11—Jesus provides the perfect and ultimate picture of humility).
  • James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5: God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.

Grant and Battier go on to say that people who are humble demonstrate the following three actions:

  1. They recognize their own shortcomings and limitations and behave differently in response.
  2. They appreciate the strengths of others, give credit where it’s due, and highlight the team’s success over their individual achievements.
  3. And, they show openness to learning from others.

Humility is Contagious

Humility is contagious. When we spend time with others who embody humility, it rubs off on us. This makes everything and everyone around us better.

What would it be like if you and I practiced a humility that celebrated others over ourselves? What if we appreciated the strengths of others and gave credit away instead of trying to steal it and hog it for ourselves?

For me, this looks like celebrating the amazing speaking gifts of others on our church staff instead of coveting their talents and opportunities. Or, it might be me affirming the efforts of others on the team instead of craving the praise of man.

What is it for you? How can you better celebrate those around you and demonstrate humility?

This is what I want to do in ministry—make the team better and others better. Hopefully this is what you desire on your teams as well.

Reposted with permission. Read the original post here.

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