Author Archives: Chris Surratt
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.
It’s January. You have signed up a bunch of new leaders and launched your small group campaign. Things seem to be going great until you start hearing about groups that are no longer meeting, leaders that have left the church, and members who are frustrated with the church’s latest attempt at creating community.
Chances are, you didn’t have a plan to take care of your new leaders after the launch. We tend to put a lot of time and planning into the front end of a campaign, but little into it after it has launched. If you’re not careful, your leaders will quickly become frustrated and feel used by the church leadership. Here are 5 things that can quickly frustrate your leaders:
1. Little communication from the staff
New leaders need continued guidance from the church leadership. I don’t believe that you can over-communicate with a new leader in the first few weeks of a campaign. There will be a point where you will be able to give them some space, but they need to know you are walking this out with them. Don’t leave your leaders on island to fend for themselves.
2. No clear direction on what’s next
If you want your groups to continue on after the initial 6 weeks of the campaign, they will need a plan for what’s next. That’s why I believe so strongly in providing a curriculum menu that guides leaders through a semester. Pick something that is similar to what was used in the campaign. Make it easy and obvious.
3. No sign of an off-ramp
I am a big believer in clear semesters that give leaders and members easy on and off ramps. They need to know that this is not a lifetime commitment. Have set end dates where your leaders can re-evaluate their commitment to another 6 weeks.
4. Lack of appreciation
It’s tempting to move on to the next thing and not take time to appreciate the effort your hosts and leaders are putting in now. They will be more willing to do it again if they feel like it was worth the effort.
5. No ongoing training
It’s easy to send off new hosts with a curriculum packet and a dvd of basic training. But if you want them to continue and grow as leaders, they will need more than that. Develop a plan for next steps training that will help your hosts transition to long-term group leaders. The goal of every campaign should be developing leaders for ongoing groups.
This Sunday, we will launch over 100 brand new groups at Cross Point. We know that the best way to get new people into community is always by starting new groups. That’s easy said, difficult to do. Here are 5 things that we have discovered to help us start multiple new groups at one time:
1. The vision is cast by the Senior Pastor.
I could have stood on stage last week and talked eloquently for 35 minutes on the benefits of small groups. I could have laid out an impelling vision for why every single person in our church should step up and lead a group so that we can provide community and make new disciples. And…we would have signed up a handful of new leaders as the result. Our senior pastor took 3 minutes at the beginning of the message to cast the vision and we had lines of people wanting to be involved. The senior pastor has to be the champion of groups.
2. Make the ask on multiple weeks.
The average church attender shows up about 1 out of every 3 Sundays. The casual attender is there about once a month. You have to make multiple asks to expect the best results. We made a push for new hosts and leaders for 3 straight Sundays. This was a combination of our senior pastor and campus pastors casting the vision.
3. Lower the entry bar to leadership.
When we launch a church-wide campaign, we open up opportunities for people to lead a group that would have never lead in the past. We provide all of the curriculum and training on dvd’s the day that they sign up – for free. Our hosts are encouraged to reach out to their circles of influence for group members, but we will also help them add members through our Connect Events. The key is making it as easy and obvious as possible. The majority of these groups will continue on after the 6 weeks of the campaign are over.
4. Launch groups at a strategic time.
It’s great to launch new groups at any time of the year, but there are natural seasons that will produce the best results. January is the best one. People are looking for a fresh start and need community to help them get going. It’s not a very hard sell to convince people to join groups at the beginning of the year. August is another prime time for us.
5. Make the campaign compelling.
It never hurts to have an exciting study to offer for groups. We are kicking off the year with Let Hope In, a 6 week study based on the book written by our Senior Pastor, Pete Wilson. I can’t imagine a better theme for a new year than hope! It definitely helps that the study is done by our pastor, but it doesn’t have to be. We have done off the shelf studies in the past and have been very successful. It just needs to be compelling and fit the church’s DNA.
In a couple of weeks, I will have read through the Bible in one year. This is a goal that I have had for the last few years, but good intentions seemed to always turn into failed objectives. I would start the year out strong, start slacking off around mid-February, and then completely give up by March. I would continue to read and study, but always shorter reading plans without getting through the entire Bible.
I was determined this year that I would finally accomplish my goal. I don’t know that it’s necessary for spiritual growth to have read through the Bible in one year, but I felt like it would stretch me in my spiritual disciplines.
As you think about setting spiritual goals for 2014, here are a few things that I did to help keep me on pace:
1. Get up earlier.
I am admittedly not a morning person. My standard line of “not enough time in the morning”, was just a lazy excuse to not discipline myself to get to bed earlier at night so that I can start my day earlier in the morning. I started backing my alarm back 15 minutes a week until that was no longer an issue.
2. Choose a reading plan that is a mix of Old and New Testament.
I will concede that not every book in the Old Testament is a Suzanne Collins page turner. I am not always sure why I needed to know that Joktan begat Almodad, and Sheleph, and Hazarmaveth, and Jerah; but if I know that the next passage on the plan is a story about Jesus – the fulfillment of the begats – I will keep reading.
3. Don’t give up if I miss a couple of days.
I would occasionally miss a couple of days of reading. Instead of beating myself up and eventually giving up on it, I would gradually catch back up through a weekend of extra reading. YouVersion.com also has a great feature where you can have your plan adjust to where you are. This helps you not get depressed if the date is behind a few days or weeks.
4. Make it a routine.
It helped me to know that almost every morning I would do my reading at the exact same time/place and on the same device. The only times that I struggled were when that routine got disrupted.
5. Have accountability
What has helped me stay on track the most is having my wife do it with me. She has her own reading plan, and we often share what we are learning along the way. I love getting her perspective on a passage that I am struggling with.