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Groups Leader Video

Since we’re always looking for new opportunities to introduce better ways to communicate and leverage platforms to connect with our folks who are scattered and disbursed, we’ve been trying out a new way to provide training to our group leaders who cannot make our regular meetings.

One of the best tools that I’ve encountered for doing this, as well as doing video conferencing for one-on-one, small, medium, and large sized groups, is the Zoom platform. Here’s a sample video that I’ve sent out to our group leaders at University Baptist updating them on some basic information, providing some calendar updates, and then talking about a few more detailed matters.

 

09
Jun 2017
POSTED BY Garet
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Fish for Groups

IMG_0004This past Sunday, we held a meeting of the Young Adults Leadership teams that are part of the ministry at Sugar Creek Baptist Church. This is an annual pre-fall meeting where we discuss what’s been going on in our ministry area, what is coming, and then take some time to refine some aspect of our overall groups processes. We are incredibly blessed with strong lay leaders at Sugar Creek and, even with a few leaders missing, still have 52 in attendance for our luncheon.
One of the key parts of any healthy and growing ministry is the continued investment in leadership development through times of intentional training and a willingness to talk through basic ministry structures. As I’ve learned (often the hard way) those in ministry must remember two key principles:

1. We can never tell our people how much we love them.

2. We can never show our people how much they mean to us.

At Sugar Creek, we’ve found that many of our best leadership development times come on Sundays, often during or directly following our regular programming. So, this past Sunday, we held a lunch, catered by a wonderful vendor, that allowed our leadership to enjoy a great meal and then participate in some leadership discussions.

To facilitate the second part of this day, we used the powerful training resource called Fish! Philosophy and applied it to our groups ministry. I discovered the Fish! Philosophy while serving at a previous ministry venue and have seen the impact the four key principles can have in creating discussions to aid ministry development. The Fish! Philosophy uses a well produced video to discuss four principles that make any experience wonderful:Front Slide

1. Play

2. Make their Day

3. Be There

4. Choose Your Attitude

After showing the video, we had our groups, sitting together as a leadership team, to talk about how they could apply each in their groups. Perhaps most significant in any training time, especially with Millennials, is being sure to allow for mutual collaboration through conversation with their peers. To often we end up talking at people and not with them and this defeats the purpose of leadership training.

For any groups ministry, a consistent pattern of leadership development enables trust and provides a platform for continued health in these groups. If you are looking to start new groups, you can often find your leaders from times like these.

How we foster a culture of continued ministry leadership development is key to seeing health raised up in our churches and growth, not necessarily numerical, occur among our people. This is one example of how leadership development works well in an established church culture.

03
Sep 2014
POSTED BY Garet
POSTED IN

Leadership

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Thoughts on Church Based Ministry Schools

Over the past several years there have been several mega-churches (and giga-churches) that have started ministry schools out of their campus(es) which are seeking to train young adults in their specific ministry model while also providing them with a college level education.

Of course, this movement isn’t anything new. In fact, it is quite old-school. 

Earlier today I saw a leader in evangelicalism send out a tweet promoting the new ministry school his church was starting. As I ruminated over this, it got me thinking about some of the old fundamentalist Bible institutes and colleges which emerged out of the cultural isolation resulting from the Scopes Monkey Trial. In the period from the 1930s to the 1950s (and a bit beyond) many disenfranchised fundamentalists withdrew from the larger cultural conversation and began to promote and support their own ministry programs and educational systems.

George Marsden has noted about this period in his marvelous Fundamentalism and American Culture (Revised Edition):

Since dispensationalists lacked and clear view of the organized church above the local level, the Bible institutes played a major role in giving them some unity. They arose in response to the demands of urban ministries and the desire to train lay leader for evangelism. They also served as centers for training for foreign missions – always a prominent concern. A wide variety of local evangelistic agencies, local congregations, Bible conferences, publications, and independent national agencies for missions and other types of evangelism was informally united by common ties to various Bible institutes…Of these, Moody Bible Institute was preeminent, not only because of its connection with the late evangelist, but also because of the leadership of two of the outstanding spokesmen for the movement, Reuben A Torrey, first superintendent (from 1889 to 1908) and James M Gray, who served from 1904 to 1934, first as dean and later as president. (128-9)

Now, though the old fashioned institutes were crafted with the idea of training young men for ministry (and women for support roles) and focused primarily on evangelism and missions. These new Church Based Ministry Schools continue an evangelistic purpose, but have, as their primary focus training in ministry leadership and church growth models. 

It is a palatable difference.

torrey09However, the aim seems to be the same. In the early part of last century as these institutes arose there was a general mistrust for seminaries and universities with the influx of German Liberalism and modernist professors. Now, it seems, the mistrust continues to a degree, but it is not about the failure of theology, but the failure of adequate ministry preparation.

It is hard to find a seminary graduate, even from our best evangelical seminaries, who is “ministry ready” upon graduation. For many of these mega and giga-churches, training young leaders in their models is a better investment (for so many reasons) than prioritizing seminary graduates as staffing options.

What is striking isn’t this last paragraph, but that history is, once again, repeating itself. The next several decades will be fascinating to watch. The way that evangelicalism is poised in America the wings of fundamentalism, progressivism, Calvinism, and church growth model are re-creating the grounds that led to the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversies of this same era one hundred years ago.

May we find a better way than division and isolation. The true challenge is that while 100 years ago Christianity remained the dominant cultural spiritual expression in America, we have many other growing voices today.

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The Challenge of Seminary: an initial post

Over at the Gospel Coalition, there is a great short reflection about the challenges of seminary written by Donny Friederichsen pointing out that seminarians often forget that their time in school should be developing them both theologically by pastorally.

One of the paragraphs that seemed to stand out is this:

I also would have spent more time with real people in my neighborhood and at my church instead of gravitating toward people who liked to read dead Dutch guys and use phrases like “hypostasis,” “hapax legomenon,” and “the chthonic thralldom of sin.” I need those people too, but in seminary it’s entirely too easy to get lost in the academic world and lose contact with why you are there. (emphasis mine)

This is a good point and worth exploring. Seminary, in its current form, is presenting substantial challenges to ministry and ministers. As a quick observation, many of my peers in growing, dynamic churches are becoming increasingly wary of hiring seminary graduates who are both 1) recent graduates and 2) don’t have a lot of outside experience under their belts. For many of us, we find that seminary does a good job of preparing a student theologically but there is a massive shortfall in actual pastoral training and ministry execution.

Having graduated from seminary 8 years ago, I saw this challenge worked out. Thankfully a gracious professor of mine put several key texts into my hands while I was in my earliest days of seminary that reconfigured my outlook and steps for preparation. For what its worth, I thoroughly enjoyed seminary. It was a kind of intellectual and spiritual renaissance for me. Though there were some institutional pressures and challenges which cloud a bit of last days at my seminary, I am the minister I am because of my time in seminary.

Now, back to Friederichsen’s point. Too often our seminaries are a kind of “Sunday School 2.0” that fail to maneuver their students to interact critically and practically with pastoral ministry situations. We are seeing a substantial rise in post-seminary ministry failure rates in new graduates over the past decade, and its not because of moral failure. It is often due to burnout, firings, underperformance, expectation issues, among other factors. While not every seminary graduate is going to end up in pastoral ministry (a fairly new concept by the way), for those who do go into pastoral ministry one of the first tasks that must be accomplished is to sort through what was helpful and what was not helpful for application in the local church ministry.

The very real issues at Friederichsen brings up in his post are matters which, as I recall, were rarely addressed in seminary classrooms. They were talked about in my undergraduate instruction. For too many seminarians there is a need to balance this intellectual maturation with practical equipping tools. At this point too many of our seminaries are ill-equipped and ensconced in “church of last century” ministry models to provide a substantive change to the ministry training culture. Another challenge in the seminary model is professors who have never served a day in a church, yet are given opportunities to train and equip future pastors for ministry. While there are certainly individuals and fields where we can make margin for the academic only scholar, I wonder if we are pressing the mark too hard in continuing to elevate and place individuals with no local church experience in the midst of the training and equipping institute for future pastors.

Final thought: In Houston we have radio ad for a local law school that promotes itself by producing “practice ready attorneys.” Perhaps if we can start to get our arms around the realities of ministry and begin developing seminaries that produce “ministry ready pastors” we can see some things begin to change. Seminary is a vital part of training men and women for a lifetime of ministry. I’m looking forward to seeing how this important conversation continues.

25
Jun 2013
POSTED BY Garet
POSTED IN

Education

DISCUSSION No Comments
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The Tension of Reviving or Birthing

There are many tensions that exist in present day church growth and health conversations. One of the more impacting ones is whether we focus on new church starts or church revitalization.

In my home denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, this tension exists in many of the conversations taking place about long term strategy. Of course, this tension isn’t limited to just Baptists, it includes most churches.

It’s easier to give birth than raise the dead.

This mantra is one which I learned early on in my ministry while interning at the mother church for the college I attended. It reflects an honest, and perhaps a bit ambivalent, assessment of the challenges confronting ministers who go into established churches that have plateaued or are in decline. Southern Baptists have measured that 72% of our churches have plateaued or are in decline. As a result we have a overwhelming majority of churches that are in need of intentional ministry to repurpose and revitalize their ministry

As a result, we have heard a continued emphasis about church planting that has led many of my peers to go out and start new churches. This has had mixed results, depending on who you talk to, but overall I believe it is has tremendous Kingdom value.

However, for many of our largest and focal churches across the US, they have moved away from either church revitalization and planting. They are favoring the expansion of their ministries through multi-site church campuses.

So a new tension is introduced into the conversation, it isn’t just reviving or giving birth, but also multiplication. These large churches (for a host of reasons) continue to grow at significant rates while medium and smaller churches are seeing decline. If a measure of ministry successfulness is found in numerical growth (I don’t think this is either a principal or sole measure) than these multi-site churches are perhaps the most “successful” churches in the land. Yet their approach to church strategic growth is to perpetuate their own existence by expanding their influence through new campuses. For many small and medium sized churches, it is having the same effect as what happens to small business when Wal-Mart coming to town.

So, is their resolution to this issue? Not immediately. However, if we consider that these existing churches (the 72%) still have worth if we become intentional about sending new ministers into their midst there might indeed be a wave new growth that continues to provoke change in our communities and culture. Far too often the conversation has moved to the church planting and multi-site options as having the better answers.

Church revitalization remains an important, and perhaps, more opportune ministry. By leveraging existing facilities, perhaps with a strategic rebranding and some updates, the actual barriers to entry into a ministry sphere become lower than both multi-site and planting. By revitalizing our plateaued and declining churches we might be able to also revitalize the communities in which they live.

Perhaps at this crucial moment in our churches we can embrace an ethos that motivates us to consider the all important starting of new churches an campuses alongside revitalizing established churches.

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Resource Review: RightNow Media

One of the post conversations I’m hoping to provide through ProEcclesia is a weekly resource review of a curriculum or content piece which I have used or evaluated. Please check out the gallery below and see my review which follows.

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Resource Name:  RightNow Media

URL: www.rightnowmedia.org

In Short: RightNow Media provides video based groups content from leading communicators through a web-based delivery system for groups and individuals along with leadership and training events.

Cost:  Depending on size of the church, it can be a bit pricey.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, excellent resource

Review:

Since I’ve been out of seminary and in full-time ministry the category of video based small groups and teaching curriculum has exploded. I remember going to Christianbook.com as a college minister in my first church and seeking out video content for my media based college students. The selections, at the time, were slim and way too many were still offered on VHS. (I didn’t graduate from seminary that long ago.)

As we began developing and distributing groups across college campuses in Atlanta, we recognized quickly that bringing fresh, cutting edge video curriculum was difficult. YouTube and Vimeo were in their infancy and there weren’t good options to push content through secure channels on our website…not to mention the legality issues of doing this. We ended up having a weekly resource collection and distribution point which worked okay, but it wasn’t ideal. As I moved into young professionals and life groups ministry at another church this challenge increased as we pushed our groups into homes away from our campus.

Then, about a year or two ago, I discovered a resource called RightNow Media and our staff decided to join up with them. Since then our experience has been outstanding.

By partnering with publishers, conferences, and media outlets, RightNow Media has been able to deliver a web based video site that will bring leading communicators and world class video content into the homes, rooms, and lives of your group members. Since I’ve been using RightNow they have updated their video library about three times, each time adding substantial content.

In RightNow you can search videos based on your: stage of life, Bible study type, topic, what is most recent, what is most popular, group type, and so forth. You can search videos based on communicator or title as well.

The video content includes videos from: Andy Stanley, Matt Chandler, Dave Ramsey, Francis Chan, Drs Les and Leslie Parrott, Margaret Feinberg, and many others. These are excellent communicators. There are also videos from conferences like Catalyst, Verge, Send, The Nines, etc. As RightNow is set up it is providing outstanding content for a church and its members. The videos and content provided are safe evangelical resources that won’t provide any significant theological or philosophical challenges for most evangelical churches. I’ve been impressed with how RightNow has kept this content within theological boundaries.

Added to this video experience are customizable leadership training sessions. This is an interface where a leader can link in (from YouTube, Vimeo, or other video sites) or use existing RightNow content to develop short leadership training sessions for staff and leadership as well as group members. This has been a great addition that I’ve been able to use to continue to develop and train up leaders. Honestly, if the only piece that was included was the leadership library and this customizable training tool, the whole site would be worth it.

Finally, adding new users and administrators is pretty easy. Sometimes the emails get snagged by spam folders for different providers, but that hasn’t been as big an issue lately. This morning I received an email update that owners (the master admin for the church) can go in and remove content if it doesn’t work for you church. For many  leaders who have a pulse on the content going out to our people, because they will view it as being endorsed by their church, this is an important tool.

Okay, that is my basic review. I’ve probably left some holes and missed some stuff. Please note: I am not a paid promoter of RightNow (I pay them actually) nor have I benefited by receiving a discount or free resources from them. This is an objective review from a groups leader in a local church.

So what do you think? What questions do you have about RightNow?

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