Please enjoy this replay of our recent webinar: Effective Small Groups in the Modern Church.
Webinar Sponsor: Smallgroup.com
Resource: Group Answers Podcast
Ok we’re having a discussion about the EGR’s in your small group. And remember, EGR stands for extra grace required. Those are just people in your group who may take up a little bit more of your time, a little bit more of your patience, and they’re just more difficult to lead than the rest of the members and we also call these the four D’s. I’ve got the Dominator. That’s someone who dominates the conversation. The opposite of the dominator, it’s the Dodger. That’s someone who never enters into the conversation. And then the Debater, somebody who always wants to debate the issues. And then finally, what I want to talk about today is the Drainer. What do you do if you have somebody in your group that always turns it back to themself that never is excited, never has joy. We call them Debbie Downers. What do you do if you have a Debbie Downer in your group?
Well, there’s a few things that you can do that might help this person have more joy, more life, and be a bigger part of the group. The first thing that I would do is meet with that person outside of the group time because you probably don’t know their story and it’s hard for them to really share their story during the group time. So meet with them for coffee or after a service and just ask them to tell you their story and find out what is feeding into what is going on in their life because there might be something that you can help with that you can pray with them about that you don’t even know about. So meet with them outside of the group time.
The second thing that you might want to do is when it comes to the prayer time, that’s usually a time for somebody like this that can kind of turn it always towards their issues, their problems. Especially if you do verbal prayer requests. So instead of doing it verbally, maybe try having people write down their prayer requests on a note card and then either praying silently or sending it out during the week so the group can pray that way.
And then finally there may be somebody in your group who needs professional care. They may have needs or issues that’s beyond the abilities of the group, so make sure that you talk to a pastor, talk to a church staff member about how you can refer them to the help that they need. So if you have a drainer that’s okay. There’s some things you can do to help them and help the group.
The following historical tidbit surprised me.
It just seems so natural to walk into the store, make my selections while I walk up and down the aisles, and check out. But prior to 1916, you went to the local grocer and simply handed him your list. He went to the back, got the items, and brought them out to you. Every store did that, including the store Clarence Saunders operated in Memphis. But the process bugged Saunders. It was time-consuming. He wanted a faster way to serve customers—and serve more customers.
This sounds so ordinary to us, but he rocked the shopper’s world when they walked into his new store and found all the products were out front—not in the back. He handed shoppers a basket and empowered them to pick up their own items!
Some people expected this approach to fail. The naysayers expected a negative reaction: I should be paying less since I’m doing the bulk of the work. But when Saunders opened his new store on September 6, 1916, his innovation took off. And here we are 100 years later, gladly standing in the chip aisle, trying to choose between Cool Ranch or Nacho Cheese Doritos. Some of us still shop in the store bearing the same name as the 1916 original: Piggly Wiggly.
Believers need to approach the Christian life with the same attitude we have when we enter the grocery store. If you need something, you go get it. Instead, too many Christians go to church expecting others—in particular, the church staff—to do things for them.
Anyone who has ever pastored can tell you these are exactly the kinds of things many church members expect their leaders to do. It never crosses their minds that they could do these things themselves.
Church members need to get out of 1915! Let’s move into 1916 with its innovative approach to grocery shopping and apply the same principle to church life. If you see something in life and ministry that needs to be done, do it. Don’t present your list to the pastor and expect him to do it.
Notice who does the work of ministry in this passage:
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service” (Eph. 4:11-12).
Don’t give your ministry shopping list to your pastor. Take care of it yourself—as God leads you and works through you.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Pet. 4:8-10).
by Scarlet Hiltibidal
(That’s me, by the white fence, upside down, back tucking with horrible form – so horrible that one second later my teammates were pulling grass out of my teeth.)
I was a cheerleader in high school. Not the pom-poms and “go team” kind (I didn’t understand football then, and I still don’t today). I did the three hours of practice a day, taped-up wrists, crying and sweating and winning national competitions kind of cheering.
Being on the competition team was serious. It was my everything. And if I play out our first national championship winning routine in my mind from start to finish, and remember seeing Jen Granado stick that last heel stretch after having just landed my roundoff-backhandspring-backhandspring-tuck, I can easily trigger a full-blown weeping session of joy and nostalgia.
My job on the team was to tumble. I did flips. So I was, pretty much, just responsible for my self—hitting my mark, doing my tricks well, and making the appropriate theatrical, corny faces to go with it. If I really stuck the landing, I would turn to the judge’s table with the biggest, fakest open-mouthed smile I could contort my face into while underlining the “DCS” on my chest with both hands.
I hate myself.
I was really bad at what we cheerleaders called “stunting”—the thing where we throw each other into the air and catch and lift. I hated it. I didn’t want to get my teeth knocked out.
So, I was good at flipping by myself and bad at working with the rest of the team.
In the first couple of years, my coaches would challenge me by having me spot the girls who flew in the air. The first time I spotted, the flyer landed on her back and sprained her elbow. The second (and last) time I spotted, our star flyer landed on her coccyx. I didn’t jump backward and away, covering my face while my teammates were falling to their death on purpose. It was instinctive self-preservation!
Again, I know! I was the worst! NOW WILL YOU STOP TALKING ABOUT IT, PLEASE!
Back then, I loved the buzz of being on the team, but I enjoyed the most isolated role. This wasn’t only a cheerleading thing for me. It was also, really until the last few years, how I functioned in relationships.
As a cheerleader, I liked wearing the team uniform, but only if I could do my own thing and not be dependent on anyone or have anyone dependent on me. In life, I always want to be at the party, but you can count on me having to go to the bathroom or slipping out the back door as soon as you go from small talk to deep talk. No thank you.
This tendency led to me hurting a lot of people. I’d be friendly, they’d misconstrue my friendliness for actual openness and love, and I would either fail to meet their expectations as a friend or tell them upfront, “Hey…let’s not even go where you’re going, because I’m going to fail to meet your expectations as a friend.”
Living this way wasn’t good for them and it wasn’t good for my soul, either. I thought I was okay because my life has always been very busy and full. But, I wasn’t growing. I wasn’t allowing God to use me to do anything in anyone’s life, and then I fought the guilt this brought by distracting myself with more busyness.
This has been my pattern until the last couple of years. I joined a small group at church a few years ago, and instead of being at arm’s distance, I actually got involved in these people’s lives and let them into mine. When I was afraid to do something that I knew God wanted me to do, I would tell this group instead of hiding it. I would ask them to pray.
They didn’t bulldoze my walls and force their way into my life. They actually didn’t ask anything of me at all. They just lived like Jesus in front of me, and that compelled me to put my defensive arms down. Their Christlikeness helped me notice my own un-Christlikeness and want what they have.
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17
I’m doing things and living in ways that would have scared me to death years ago, and it’s bringing me joy. My friendships have deepened and become sources of encouragement, rather that stress.
Letting myself be fully on a team with a group of people—tossing and catching and praying and diving under the person who is falling, and letting them catch me when I fall has proven to be such an extreme joy—it’s worth any head bump or bruised coccyx that has come with it.
So much has changed since flipping was part of my life. No longer am I the nervous show-off doing, whatever it takes to keep everyone on my team at a safe distance. Now I’m a nervous show-off who does life with people that make me want to be less like me and more like Jesus.
Hey everyone, my name is Chris Surratt and I am the Small Group and Discipleship Specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources, and author of Small Groups for the Rest of Us, and Gospel-Centered Small Groups. I am super excited to let you know about a small groups webinar that I will be hosting on October 9th, 2018 at 11AM Central. Our panelists: Steve Gladen from Saddleback Church, Heather Zempel from National Community Church, and Bill Willits from North Point Community Church, will be discussing how to have effective small groups in the modern church. At a time when churches are giving up on, or moving away from, offering small groups, how are these three trend-setting churches continuing to produce life-changing and disciple-making groups for not only just church members, but for people outside of the church as well? And, the best part about this webinar? It’s completely free! Just hit the registration link on this video and join us for one hour on Tuesday, October 9th at 11am to learn about producing effective small groups in the modern church.
by Jared Musgrove
I grew up in Oklahoma where tornadoes are just part of life. You learn to live with getting out of their way. You also learn that there is not a true linear pattern to how they are formed. As I was raised to understand, tornadoes are dependent on weather conditions coming together just so if they are to exist. The conditions of lightning, rain, wind and clouds can exist and a tornado never form. Some of these may exist and then immediately a whirlwind ensues. Tornadoes don’t follow a particular pattern or process. Elements come together out of certain conditions, and all those elements must be present for a tornado to form.
Your Bible study group may isn’t all that different.
Your role is to ask God for the elements to come together in such a way that souls are spiritually formed when His Holy Spirit moves. Word. Prayer. Food. Fellowship. Encouragement. Accountability. These are some of the elements. Assemble and plan for them faithfully, and pray for the wind to blow.
After you place the extra chairs out, sit in the circle where you will have group that night. Pray over each chair that represents a soul who will sit together with others to celebrate the truth that the Father sent the Son. Raise empty hands of faith and ask the Lord to produce great fruit in you and your group members.
We cannot make the group happen, any more than we can create a tornado. But we can anticipate God’s bringing together of elements for the formation of a spiritual event in the lives of those who make up our group.
Vision. Direction. Goals. Strategy.
These are the buzzwords of leadership, whether Christian or otherwise. And these are good, right, and important things. A leader must work to master these disciplines, and a Christian leader should be proficient in these areas as a matter of stewardship. God has, after all, entrusted us with this role of leadership, whether seemingly big or small, and as stewards we should work to make the most of the opportunity.
In a way, all these things are gifts a leader gives to those he or she leads as a matter of stewardship, especially if all the vision, direction, goals and strategy is centered on the gospel. But there is one gift that many leaders fail to give their people; one that Paul articulated in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica:
“We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8).
Do you see it? There are two things that Paul reminded this church that he, and others, gave freely to them.
First of all, there is the gospel of God. This is the center point of leadership, in as much as it is the center point of life. This is the great grid through which all our vision, strategy, and everything else as leaders must be filtered through. And it’s not only that the specific vision we articulate must be centered in the gospel; the way we communicate, measure, and implement that vision must also be centered in the gospel. Paul gave this gift to the church. But then comes the second gift – the gift of his own life.
This is the gift we, as leaders, often fail to give. We can articulate many other things, set many other directions, measure many other metrics—but we often fail to give our own lives. In other words, those we lead might have a great sense of direction, a compelling gospel-centered vision, and a crystal clear set of metrics in order to gauge progress toward goals… and yet might not know us as leaders.
Once upon a time, I had a seminary class about church leadership. The professor was a well known and well respected retired pastor. And in one of his opening lectures, he cautioned all these young and impressionable young leaders: “Church leadership is the loneliest profession you could have chosen.” Whether that is how it should be or not, he was stating a fact. Leaders—and sadly, perhaps most especially Christian leaders—are lonely. They are not known. They might be faithful in sharing the gospel of God and yet very unfaithful in sharing their own lives.
I’m sure there are valid reasons for this. But I’m also sure that our failure as leaders to share our lives has some invalid reasons too. Reasons like our pride—that a leader should be “above” the doubts and struggles of those they lead. Reasons like our insecurity—that even though we put a confident show of bravado we are actually deeply insecure souls who need to be reminded that Jesus loves them like anyone else. I’m sure there are others.
What we fail to realize, though, is that sharing our lives with those we lead is actually not a burden to them. It is a gift.
It is a gift to know that the person who teaches me God’s Word is also a real person. It’s a gift to know the deep places of the heart where this conviction of the gospel is born. It’s a gift to know how specifically I can pray for and encourage these leaders.
Our lives are a gift. And the gospel frees us to share, with boldness, not only the great truths of that gospel, but also our very lives.
Okay, we’re having a discussion about the EGR’s in your small group. And what does EGR stand for? It stands for extra grace required people. Now these are people in your group who probably take a little bit more of your patience a little bit more of your time and they’re just a little bit more difficult to deal with than the rest of the members of your group. Also refer to these as the four D’s, so you’ve got what we talked about last time. The dominator. That’s just somebody who tends to dominate the conversation, maybe turns the discussion back to themselves during the group time. And then you have the dodger, the debater, and the drainer, and for just a minute, I want to talk today about what do you do if you have the dodger in your small group.
Now the dodger is the opposite of the dominator. Whereas a dominator talks a lot. The dodger tends to not talk at all or very little during the group time. So what do you do? How do you bring them into the conversation? Let me give you four ideas to try during the group time. First of all, you don’t want to force anyone into the conversation before they’re ready. There’s a lot of people that just need some time to feel comfortable with the group before they’re able to kind of share or discuss their ideas in front of everyone and that’s okay. Especially those who are more introverts. Just give them the time to feel comfortable. Give them two or three group meetings before they feel like they have to talk. The second way that you can get people to talk is just have everyone give kind of they’re a three to five minute life story. Most people are okay talking about themselves.
Now the important thing here is that you give them some heads up on this. So if you have somebody that hasn’t entered into the conversation, give them a couple of weeks to prepare so they’re ready with their life story. So just give them about three to five minutes to talk about themselves with the group. The third thing that you might want to do is ask her opinion on something that you know she’s going to feel comfortable answering. So if there’s a question, you’ve looked ahead in the study and you feel like you know what Susan would have an opinion on this, so maybe ask that person directly their opinion on something, that you know they’re going to have an opinion on. And then fourth is to arrange a time outside of the group to kind of get to know that person, get comfortable with them so that they’re comfortable and they have a relationship with somebody in the group before they feel like they have to open up. So just maybe simply meet them for coffee or between services in the lobby. Just something to start that relationship before they have to enter into the conversation with the whole group. So that’s just the things to try if you have a dodger in your small group.
by Reid Smith
I’ve always been fascinated by flight. The idea of soaring thousands of feet up in the air, the perspective of aerial views, visiting unfamiliar places – it all has a way of inspiring me. This is why I sought to understand what aeronautical experts consider to be the ideal conditions for lift-off when I thought about how group leaders could optimize the launch of their new groups.
As you can imagine, there are many factors, but most of them can be organized into three general categories: The aircraft itself, atmospheric conditions, and the trajectory (starting and ending points) of the flight-path. An experienced pilot knows what’s involved in each category and the right combination will ensure a successful lift-off and flight-path so everyone arrives at their desired destination. There are steps you can take that will optimize the launch of your new group and help you to stay on mission as you work out God’s Kingdom-expanding purposes together:
Taking these steps will help to harmonize the aircraft, atmosphere, and trajectory of your group so that its launch will be optimized. A strong start will ensure your group is propelled onto a flight-path where God’s mission is fulfilled through each member. See “Ready-Set-Go” and “Optimizing Group Bible Study” at www.reidsmith.org for more details on how you can have a successful take-off and flight with your new group.
For the record, I don’t frequent bars. But I do watch a lot of movies. And if Hollywood—that bastion of truth—has taught me anything about bars, it’s two things the church should embrace:
Sure, people at church talk to each other, but there’s often a superficiality to it. We talk about the Bible, we talk about Jesus—and in all we talk about, we want to appear spiritual. We want to look like we’ve got it all together. After all, if we’re Christians and we love Jesus, shouldn’t we have it all together?
We don’t have it all together.
And because we don’t have it all together—but we assume other believers do—we don’t want to open up, lest we look inferior or unspiritual. We’re afraid people won’t accept us as we are—or worse, they’ll reject us. So we pretend. And when it comes to praying together, we talk about a distant relative’s gall bladder rather than our own doubts and struggles. Unfortunately, this lack of openness means we miss out on the deep sense of family and fellowship—sharing all things in common—Christ intends for His church.
I lead a small group Bible study. One week as we closed in prayer, one of the group members requested prayer because she had been struggling with feeling down all week. At the end of our prayer time, another person commented, “I didn’t know she struggled with that too. I sometimes get down, but I didn’t want to say anything.” A connection was formed that day, and it created more openness in the group.
I always thought the theme song to Cheers would be a great theme song for the local church. Just for the moment, don’t picture Norm on a bar stool; picture Norm on a church pew. Shouldn’t the lyrics of this song reflect a key motivation for going to church?
Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see our troubles are all the same.
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.
When we come to Christ, we come to His family. Let’s be family, talking and accepting each other.
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Rom. 15:7).