Author Archives: Chris Surratt
Creating solid, biblical studies to go along with Sunday messages is one of the most difficult weekly tasks for most small group staff people. A lot of teaching pastors won’t have their messages ready to go until the end of the week, and that doesn’t give the writing team (usually one person) much time to go beyond putting together a few starter questions that just reinforce the message. An entire research team is needed If you want your groups to go below the surface and dig deeper into the topic.
We were trying to figure out how to make this work at Cross Point when Lifeway approached us with a possible solution called Discipleship In Context. Basically, they could take our pastor’s notes on Thursday afternoon and turn it into a 4 page study – complete with extra commentary – by Friday at noon. They would also be available to make any adjustments to it if we needed something changed.
We jumped on the idea and have been taking advantage of their expert team of researchers and seminary trained writers to create great studies for us every week for the past two years.
Lifeway has now taken that idea and built it into a fully customizable website. All you have to do is plug in a topic and over 1200 studies on 400 different topics are available to search and customize to your church’s look and context. If your topic doesn’t have study written for it yet, their team will write one for you for free. I have been beta testing the site for several months and I love how user-friendly it is. Almost every topic or text I have plugged into the site has returned several different studies to choose from.
This tool could save you hours each week. You can try it out free for two weeks by signing up at smallgroup.com.
I believe that small groups are where sustained, life change happens best. That when a group of people spend time together in Biblical community, spiritual growth is possible. But when small groups are the option and not just an option at a church, there are also tons of additional benefits that come along with them. Here are 5 of them:
1. Offsite groups solve space problems.
As a growing, multi-site church, on campus space will always be an issue for us. Even if we wanted to offer a more traditional Sunday School format for classes, we would not have anywhere to put them. A few of our campuses are portable, and they are allowed to use just enough rooms to pull off a Sunday morning experience with worship and kids. Even our permanent facilities are completely packed on Sundays with what it takes to create an effective environment for families. We could build more buildings and continue adding rooms, but there will never be enough space. Small groups in homes all over the city are the best answer to space problems for us.
2. They limit the choices.
Recent studies have shown when people are faced with too many choices on a decision, it paralyzes them. We believe the more options we have the better, but it’s actually the opposite. One of my favorite restaurants in the world is In-N-Out Burger. They offer four things on their menu: Hamburgers, Cheeseburgers, Shakes and Drinks. That’s it. It helps that their burgers are really, really good, but I love that I don’t have to think about it when I go in. I just order a cheeseburger and fries. I also love the food at The Cheesecake Factory, but the twenty page menu of options gives me anxiety every time I go. Apple Computers recognized this early on and started creating products that are simple and obvious. One button is all you need. When new people visit our church and ask us what they should do next, the answer is one button: join a small group. If small groups are just an option on a long menu of choices, they will lose every time.
3. They broaden the span of pastoral care.
We could never hire enough staff to facilitate spiritual care for every person who attends our church. Starting a small group gives people the opportunity to discover their God given gifts and abilities through leading. Instead of always hiring more staff pastors to keep up with the growth, we have commissioned 300 leaders to pastor their small circles of community. Our group leaders have become the first line of care in the church. If one of our pastors is required to make a hospital visit because of an emergency, the person’s small group is almost always already there waiting.
4. They create a natural pipeline for leadership.
A question most churches are asking is, “Where do you find leaders?”. A small group system is an ideal incubator for potential leaders and future staff members. If you want to find out if people will follow someone, ask them to start a small group. If you want to find out if someone can build teams, ask them to coach 3-5 small group leaders for a semester. Looking for your next campus pastor? Look for the small group leader you keep encouraging to start new groups because their own group is now the size of a small church.
5. They make a large church feel small.
We all want our churches to grow, but the downside to growth is the loss of personal intimacy. After the church grows beyond 300 people, it’s impossible for attenders to know everyone. This is exasperated when a church goes to multiple services, and it is completely lost when a church becomes multi-site (more than one location). The only way to keep people from falling through the cracks is by creating a system to catch them. Small groups help the church keep people who would otherwise drift back out in anonymity. We all long for the feeling that someone knows our name on Sunday. Small groups provide it.
I am extremely excited to share what I have been working on for the past 6 months: I will be releasing my first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How To Design Your Small Groups System To Reach The Fringes, on the Leadership Network Next Imprint with HarperCollins Christian Publishing in the fall of 2015!
Writing a book has probably been the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life, but I cannot wait to share these ideas with all of you. This also means that I will soon be returning to producing new content here on the blog. Unfortunately, it was impossible for me to write a book and meaningful posts at the same time.
You can find more info about the book and other Next projects at leadnet.org/next.
I had the incredible privilege of spending last week in Kenya seeing all of the amazing work that Blood:Water Mission is doing to help end the HIV/AIDS and water crisis in Africa. It’s estimated that in the Lwala community alone, 1 in 5 people are currently infected with HIV/AIDS. That is a staggering number that cannot be ignored. Through clean water initiatives and HIV/AIDS clinics, progress is slowly moving forward. But it’s going to take the long game to see it through.
After visiting several clinics, schools and communities all over Kenya, one key component for change was repeated over and over: small groups. There is still such a stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in Africa that isolation is fueling the cycle of disease. Even though they are dying, men refuse to seek out treatment for fear of embarrassment and abandonment in their community. We were told the only way to break that cycle is through smaller support groups of men and women.
We experienced unprecedented small groups of wives AND husbands meeting weekly to talk about how to move forward with this disease. That was unheard of before. We listened to men stand up and talk about how they are carrying the message of life back to their community. HIV positive women invited us into their homes to share how they are sharing their story to hopefully change their village.
I don’t care where you are in the world, I am more convinced now that real, sustainable life-change only comes through the accountability and support that smaller groups can offer. They can change an African village. They can change a nation. They can change your neighborhood.
Don’t give up trying.