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Category Archives: Just Thinking

Leap of Faith

Take a look at this photo…it highlights the topic of discussion, “You’re gonna need it to get into heaven.” Do you really need a leap of faith to get into heaven?  Have you ever heard someone say, “Take a blind leap of faith?”  I certainly have!  It sounds exhilarating. It sounds dangerous. It sounds spiritual….and it sounds a bit ridiculous.   But in a religious context we think it all the time.  In fact we sometimes encourage others with that very phrase…“Just take a blind leap of faith man!”  When it comes to having faith in God, or scripture, are we called to take blind leaps?
Does faith necessitate taking a large leap, hoping the outcome is beneficial?  The quick answer, I believe, is no.  Let me ask you, how do you know that what you are studying in the bible during your small group time is capital T – Truth?  Do you believe it is, or do you know it is?  We all know God asks us to have faith. So what is the difference between knowing scripture is true, and believing it is.  Let’s start with “what is the difference between faith and knowledge?”
Faith is having evidence (facts) to support what cannot be seen.  (Heb. 11:1)
Knowledge is having evidence (facts) to support what you can see.
For example:  If I tell you I have a coin in my wallet, you can gather the facts.
  • Wallets are made to hold coins
  • There are a lot of coins in the world.
  • Most people do carry coins in their wallet
  • I told you I do (you trust me?), etc.  These are your facts, but you cannot see that I have a coin in my wallet.  I am asking you to have faith.
Now, if I was able to, and was with you beside your computer/phone (which would just be weird), I could show you that I have a coin in my wallet. Then, friends, you would KNOW what I said is true.  That is the small difference between faith and knowledge.
What I am getting at is that God never asks us to take a blind leap of faith.  Faith that is blind is really not faith at all.  If you have no basis for what you believe, no support, then it is not faith (at least not the faith God calls us to).  What God calls us to is less like a blind leap and more like a logical step.  God desires that we have evidence and facts to support what we cannot see.  The bible is full of evidence of the seen and unseen!
So let me ask you two questions that are hopefully a bit thought provoking and maybe you can ask your small group, too
1.  Why do you believe what you believe?
2.  Do you have the evidence to back it up?

Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.  2 Timothy 2:15

~Chrissy Duke
Here are some books with more depth regarding this post:  Case for Faith, Case for Christ, For a Reason, and THE BIBLE!

 

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Posted by on June 3, 2011 in Just Thinking

 

The Childcare Dilemma Part 2

In Part 1 of The Childcare Dilemma we discussed the importance of childcare in small groups, how to get started, and then how to make it happen. In this post we’ll look at childcare options, how to treat sitters and maintaining order.

Small Group Childcare Options

Be as creative as possible. Don’t limit yourself to thinking the way you’ve  always thought. That’s important. When our group had twenty nine children, we had to be very creative. We had them divided into three different age groups with three individual sitters. Each age group had activities to engage in, and obviously, we met at a house where we could all fit. If that house wasn’t available we would have had to come up with another creative solution.

Here are some childcare options that might stimulate your thinking.

  • You can hire a sitter to watch the children in another home–maybe in the same neighborhood, or parents can get their own sitters as if they were going out on a date. (Although I must say I love having our children where we meet. I want them to see us in community, I want them witness first-hand what it is we value so much, and I want them to experience it.)
  • If your sitter bails on you for the night or you just couldn’t find sitters for a particular week, two adults can watch the children, either for the whole night, or in shifts. We recently did this in our group when our sitters fell through. Two people watched the children for twenty minutes each. It worked well. It also gives people in the group an opportunity to get to know each other better.
  • If there are parents with teenage children in the group they could watch the younger children.
  • Yours and another group could watch each other’s children. Couples could rotate so that they would only be watching children once every five weeks or so.

Whatever you decide, talk about it as a group and be creative. Maybe there is no single answer. You might have to do several things at various times. But community is worth it.

How to Treat Sitters

If you want the sitters to come back, pay them well and treat them even better. This kind of goes along with being a follower of Jesus anyway, doesn’t it?

  • Save them some refreshments, buy them a Christmas gift, wash their car, cut their grass. If their family is in need, help them. Serve them however you can.
  • This is key: they are not just there to benefit us. They present the group with an opportunity to demonstrate the love of God in practical ways. We should be there for them as well. In our last group one of our sitters had a family emergency. We raised money for them as a group. It wasn’t enough to solve all the problems of a house fire, but it demonstrated to them that they were more than just our sitters.

How to Maintain Order

When someone opens their home to host a group, it’s no small thing. Everyone in the group should respect and steward well the property of others.

  • When the group leaves for the night, the host family still has a lot of cleaning up to do. Finding broken toys, spilled juice, and general mayhem shouldn’t part of “after group clean up.” Think what you’d want your home to look like at the end of the night.
  • It’s wise to have some kind of ground rules for the sitters and children. Here’s what ours look like:
    • We have something for the children to do the entire time, including a snack time. They can watch a   video, play games, have a snack, learn a story, do a craft, etc. Mix it up and be creative. There are     other times when bringing the children into the group time is more than appropriate depending on       their ages. If you are studying parenting, you could bring the children into the circle and praise them   in front of their peers. You could have a special time of thanksgiving for mom or dad on Mother’s or     Father’s day. Whatever you do, keep it creative.
    • There is no roughhousing or wrestling allowed.
    • We have found that a 5:1 ration works well. That’s a general guideline that is influenced by many things, including the age of the children and even the age of the sitter
    • Children are to be respectful and obedient to the sitters and to each other. If a child is spoken to more than once, he/she is sent upstairs and sits in the kitchen. If the child still cannot control himself/herself the parents take the child/children home. We have never had to do that, but it’s important to have something in place so that parents and children both know that we take this time seriously and that we value our sitters.

It may be a good idea to print these posts out and bring them to group. Read them together and talk about what you are doing well and what you could improve as it relates to childcare.

Community is an essential component in the life of every follower of Jesus, not just those without the childcare dilemma. I’m convinced that there are solutions. Hopefully this guide will help you in your journey.

What’s your biggest obstacle when it comes to childcare in your small group?

What has worked well for you?

 
 

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The Childcare Dilemma-Part 1

The next two posts are all about the nitty-gritty of childcare in small groups. Why? Because the need for childcare in a small group can often become a real deal-breaker for families that would like to be a part of a group. It seems that sitters are tough to find, some families don’t have the money to lay out for childcare and for many leaders, it’s just too much to try and coordinate. To top it off, a group of ten can easily become a group of twenty five once you include children…where do we put everyone?! I’ve seen groups derail because they were unable to sort out the childcare dilemma. There are groups out there, waiting to be formed right now, but they just can’t get over this hurdle.

Webster’s online dictionary defines Nitty Gritty, yeah it’s in there, as “what is essential and basic : specific practical details.” That’s what this guide is about. It’s everything-you-need-to-know-about-childcare-in-smallgroups-even-though-you-wish-you-didn’t. Okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement. It’s a lot of what you need to know, not everything. Fair enough? And while these next two posts aren’t going to solve all of your small group childcare issues, I hope they will offer some insight and stir your thinking about what might work best for your group.

My small group planted a new group about a year and a half ago. Before we began that new group our group was made up of fourteen adults and twenty nine children, yep 29. My current group has thirteen adults and seventeen children. My family only contributes two of those, so don’t look at us :).

Here are some insights on how we’ve made it work, most of the time.

How to Get Started

As a dad of young children I’ve come to learn that most parents have a network of babysitters. Even if they only have one or two “go to” sitters, they have friends who have sitters, who have friends that have sitters, and so on.

  • Work that network. We’ve used sitters from the neighborhood where our group meets, to personal sitters of parents in other groups. We continue to do all we can to exhaust those connections and create new ones whenever possible.
  • Don’t stop. Each person in the group is continually on the look-out for potential sitters. We have found that you can’t stop doing that. Sitters get other jobs, go off to school, have extracurricular activities to attend, etc. So, you need to constantly look for sitters. We continue to ask ourselves, even when we have sitters in place, who do we know that are potential sitters for our group?
  • Do what it takes. Once we identify sitters we do whatever is needed in order to get them to the group. If their parents can’t drive them, someone from the group picks them up. If their parents can’t pick them up, we drive them home. We try to remove whatever barriers are in the way.

How to Pull it Off

One of the biggest mistakes that a small group leader makes is trying to do everything on their own. When I first started leading a group I did it all. And as you probably guessed, not only did I suffer, so did the group. It is critical that as the leader of the group you involve others, especially in this area.

  • To be honest, one of the main reasons we have made this work in our group is because I’ve stayed away from it and have empowered others to lead. Our group has two people who lead our childcare coordination. One oversees the finances, the other sets up the schedule with the sitters–and they do an awesome job! I am confident that most groups have capable people who can handle this area of group life.  Keep in mind that everyone in the group is very involved in making sure that the childcare is the best it can be—you’ll notice that throughout this guide.
  • We have found it best to have everyone pay in advance for at least two months. This keeps us from having to remember  to bring cash or our checkbooks with us each week. It simplifies things nicely.
  • When we pay in advance we all pay the same amount even if we won’t be there on a particular week. In reality, we are paying for the opportunity to have sitters. This ensures that the sitters are getting paid appropriately and keeps our costs the same. If there is ever a week where we need only one sitter, we save the extra money for future childcare needs.

In the next post we’ll talk about childcare options, maintaining order, and how to treat sitters.

What childcare suggestions do you have?

What’s worked for your group, what hasn’t?

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2011 in Just Thinking

 

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GroupServe

GroupServe is all about linking your group with opportunities to serve together. Serving together as a group accomplishes at least a few of things: First, serving together as a group acts as a kind of lab for what we are learning. It’s a truth meets life environment and it’s an essential part of discipleship. Second, serving together builds community. Something powerful happens when a group of people come together to accomplish a task they couldn’t do alone. Third, it’s good stewardship. God has entrusted to us the gift of community and the grace of growth in Christ. It only makes sense that we leverage those things to make a difference in the lives of others.

With that in mind, here are just a few great GroupServe opportunities for your group this holiday season.

NESAP: Holiday Family Sponsorship –Your group can sponsor a family, or families, for the holidays (Thanksgiving and/or Christmas).

NESAP: Christmas Gifts –Your group can purchase gift and/or food cards for needy families in our community.

Mwamba Children’s Choir—Your Group can take a meal to the choir at the Brethren Center in New Windsor, host them in your home for a meal, drop off food, or provide transportation.

For detailed information about all three of these, as well as other terrific GroupServe opportunities, hover over the GroupServe tab above. NESAP is listed under “Serve Our Community” and the Mwamba Children’s Choir is listed under “Serve Our World.”

You may want to identify one or two people in your group to act as your GroupServe point person. You could ask those in your group who is passionate about serving others and present the idea to them. Once they are in place they can assist your group in finding GroupServe projects and help you be sure that serving together is a priority.

How has your group served together in the past?

Why do you think it’s a good idea to serve together?


Adam Workman

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2010 in Just Thinking

 

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Community U

Effective self-leadership is absolutely essential when it comes to effective small group leadership…or leadership of any kind for that matter. See Mark 1:16-29 paying close attention to verse 35 to see how Jesus demonstrates self-leadership coming off one of His busiest days that we have recorded in Scripture.

There are a number of ways to grow by exercising self-leadership as a small group leader: Praying, studying Scripture, engaging in LifeSupport, reading good books, reading worthwhile blogs, listening to sermons, being around other leaders, etc. Here’s another way for you to invest in yourself as a small group leader. It’s called the Community U Small Group Conference.

I’d like to introduce you to Michael Moore, Pastor of Small Groups at Grace Community Church in Fulton, MD with some great information about this exciting conference:

Please give us an overview of the upcoming Community U conference and where it’s taking place.

Steve Gladen, Small Groups Pastor at Saddleback Community Church in CA, his team, and pastors from successful small group ministries around the country will teach on-site live for two days at Grace Community Church, just north of the DC area, in Fulton, Maryland.

Who should attend this conference?

Pastors, ministry leaders, small group leaders, and Sunday School Teachers from all around the Mid-Atlantic Region will be coming to learn together.

What will be the concentration of this conference?

This conference’s focus is on how to have healthy groups which lead to a healthy church. We will talk about how to disciple people, not just lead meetings.  Learn how to make groups more about life transformation than about information. We will work on very practical skills such as equipping leaders to deal with difficult people in their groups as well as exploring strategies to increase the commitment level and more fully engage the members of your small group.

Any parting thoughts?

I flew many from my team to California last year for this event.  Because of the impact it had on our church, we are very excited that it is available right here in our area this fall.  I hope to see you and your team at our church on October 15/16.

I’ll be at this conference and will be leading one of the Leader Rally Workshops called “New Leader’s Crash Course.”  I’d love for you to join me. I had a chance to spend a couple of days with Steve Gladen back in May. He’s now a friend, and I can tell you that spending a day with him would be a big time encouragement and growth opportunity for you. He’s the real-deal, that’s for sure.

If you’d like to come and finances are a concern, please contact me. If you’ve never been to this conference before, you’ll want to register for the Prime Track. For more information, or to register, click here.

-Adam Workman

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2010 in Just Thinking

 

Risk Love Weekend

“I have a friend in the UK who talks about “dirty theology” — that we have a God who is always using dirt to bring life and healing and redemption, a God who shows up in the most unlikely and scandalous ways. After all, the whole story begins with God reaching down from heaven, picking up some dirt, and breathing life into it. At one point, Jesus takes some mud, spits in it, and wipes it on a blind man’s eyes to heal him. In fact, the entire story of Jesus is about a God who did not just want to stay “out there” but who moves into the neighborhood.” Shaine Claiborn

This letter to all of our small group leaders has been written by Chrissy Duke, the coordinator for LifePoint’s first Risk Love Weekend. (We will be sending this letter out to everyone in small groups via email in the next several days.) So, what’s Risk Love Weekend? Glad you asked, here’s Chrissy to explain:

I’m excited to tell you about an upcoming event at LifePoint Church, it’s brand new, something that we have never done before!  LifePoint will be canceling all four services Oct. 23 and 24 so that everyone will have the opportunity to live out the value that we place on Serving by coming alongside people in our community and meeting their needs.  Our goal is to give people a chance to not just go to church, but to be the church!  There is so much need right around us.  In fact, we have more than enough projects to have everyone at LifePoint volunteering that weekend.  In order to ensure the weekend’s success, we need to put at least one project leader at each site (our preference would be to have two leaders at each project site).  One of the project leaders would be a skilled laborer for that site; for example, an electrician would lead the project to put up floodlights on the exterior of the community crisis center in Reisterstown.  The second project leader would be there to assist and help coordinate all the volunteers being sent to that site.  As a ‘skilled’ leader, you would visit the site to determine the process and the materials needed to be ready to go on the 23rd.  The two leaders assigned to each project would be responsible for assessing, planning and then running the ‘jobsite’.  We have LifePoint staff members available to answer any questions or provide assistance as needed to the leaders.

God is providing everyday for these outreach projects, but we know there are many people in our church with specific skills who would love to be a part of what the Lord is doing in our community by leading a project.  I am contacting you to ask you to prayerfully consider whether or not you might be that person!  Below is a list of the categories we are placing our projects in.  If you think you have a skill that would be an asset and would like more information, please email me and tell me about your interest and skill, then I will get in touch with you about specific projects that might be a good fit.

Renovations and Repairs

– this is anything from painting, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, etc

Yard Work and Farming

– gardening, landscaping, farming

Organizing and Cleaning

– cleaning and organizing homes and office/social spaces

Prayer

– leading a team in prayer

Cook outs and Serving Food

– grilling, serving, and preparing meals

Please email chrissyduke@lifepointchurch.us if you are interested in learning more about this amazing weekend.  I am confident that you will be blessed as you step out in faith to be a part of what God is doing in our community!

Blessings,

Chrissy Duke
‘Risk Love’ Weekend Coordinator
410-239-4700 ext. 231

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2010 in Just Thinking

 

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This One’s For the Girls

Heather Zempel is the official small group guru at National Community Church in Washington DC. She recently wrote this article on her blog “Wineskins for Discipleship.” She says it’s for the girls, but don’t be fooled guys, there is a whole lot here for us too. Check it out below.

Tuesday/June 15

Now that I’ve got Martina McBride singing in my head, let me try to crank out a thought. I don’t think I’ve ever written a post specifically for you girls who are reading, but today I am.

A few years ago, my boss, friend, mentor, and pastor Mark Batterson gave me some important leadership advice: you’ve got to develop thick skin and keep a soft heart. While I think this is great advice for any leader– man or woman– I think it’s especially critical that we girls get this. Because we tend to get it backwards so often.

I’m so grateful I’m gifted in and called to leadership. I experience the presence and pleasure of Christ when I am leading, teaching, and mobilizing teams towards a larger purpose. But sometimes leadership is lonely. And sometimes leaders become the punching bag for someone else’s insecurities and issues. How we respond in those circumstances reveals our character and sets a course for our eventual success or failure. Developing tough skin while keeping a soft heart will give us the right posture and perspective.

For many of us, we default the opposite way. We have soft skin and develop hard hearts. We allow criticism– whether constructive and helpful or damaging and hurtful– to pierce our skin and leave wounds. Then we harden our hearts as a defense mechanism. That leaves us wounded on the outside and hard on the inside, rendering us unable to minister, lead, or relate to others effectively.

Developing thick skin means we let the stupid stuff bounce off– not allowing an arrow to pierce our skin unless it first pierces through the truth of Scripture. And keeping a soft heart means remaining transparent, vulnerable, teachable, and pliable in the hands of God and in our relationships with others.

It’s easier said than done. But we’ve gotta do it.

 

Developing thick skin means we let the stupid stuff bounce off– not allowing an arrow to pierce our skin unless it first pierces through the truth of Scripture. Wow. Those words really stood out to me. So simple, so profound. It is easy to allow my sensitivities to drive my attitude. God’s Word speaks truth about me. If  someone speaks truth into my life, even when it hurts, I need to be responsive to the the Spirit’s convicting work. If what they are saying to me isn’t rooted in Scripture I need to see it for what it is, and move on.

What from this post resonated with you as a leader?

To see this post in its original context, click here.

Adam Workman

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2010 in Just Thinking