Tag Archive - formation

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Is your Church Overthinking Discipleship?

At the Unstuck Group we’ve discovered an alarming trend in churches across America. When we lead a church through our strategic planning process we help them discover several “core issues” that that are holding them back from being the church that God has called them to be. In a study that we conducted more than any other issue churches identified creating a solid discipleship strategy as the most pressing issue they are facing.

It’s a concerning trend, especially given the final commission given by Jesus to His followers before He left Earth. Over the years sermons have been preached, consultants have been hired, volumes have been written, para-church organizations have been built and churches have hired any number of staff members to solve the discipleship problem that churches identify. With all of that I wonder if we haven’t just over-complicated discipleship. Could we be overthinking this? Let me offer up a simpler definition of discipleship…

Discipleship is simply helping people become better friends with God.

Most churches have a tendency to over-complicate discipleship. They turn it into a class, information to acquire, or behaviors to somehow try really, really, really hard to imitate. Stuff you need to stop doing and other stuff you need to start doing. The Apostle Paul writes the following in Romans 5:9-11

“And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”

Jesus Himself used the concept of friendship to describe what He’s looking for from us in John 15:14-16

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

And all of that behavioral modification stuff. The fruit of the Spirit? The Bible teaches us that you become who you hang out with. The people who you’re closest with is who you end up looking like. So you want to look like Jesus? Become good friends with Him. The Bible says it this way in Proverbs 13:20

“Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.”

Maybe the reason that our churches have so few “disciples” in them is because people don’t know how to walk in friendship with each other and God. To come out of hiding and simply share the real you with God and others. It takes courage, it takes humility. But they’re kind of the same thing aren’t’ they? So is your church overthinking discipleship?

Interested in learning more? Check out these 10 Articles that will Help your Church Make more Disciples


Posted in Spiritual Formation

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10 Articles that will Help Your Church Make More Disciples

No matter what label you put on it “Discipleship,” “Spiritual Maturity,” or “Spiritual Formation” it’s one of the most argued over and misunderstood issues in the church today. After all just because you know a lot about Jesus doesn’t make you a disciple and on the other hand being in a Small Group or “Biblical Community” doesn’t necessarily make you a disciple either. Over the years I’ve actually written quite a bit on the topic. Below are some of my more popular posts on discipleship.

Choosing the Right Small Group Model for your Church

There are pros and cons to every groups models, but the goal of all of this group stuff in churches is to simply make disciples. Check out these different group models and choose the best model that fits the unique personality of your church.

6 Keys to Successful Small Groups

In a conversation Chris Surratt who runs SmallGroup.com and serves as a Ministry Consultant with the Unstuck Group he mentioned 6 great questions that churches should be talking about if they want to have a successful small group ministry.

How to Convince your Sr. Pastor to Join a Small Group

One of the most common points of frustration I hear from church leaders around the country is, “My Senior Pastor wants Small Groups to be a big deal at our church, but they won’t be in a Small Group themselves.” And the natural follow up question that’s asked right after that statement, “How do I get my Senior Pastor to be in a Small Group?” In an attempt to answer that question, here are a couple of steps you can take to help convince your Sr. Pastor that they need to be in a Small Group.

Who is Responsible for the Spiritual Maturity of the Church?

I hear complaints by church attenders across North America that their church is not, “deep enough.” Essentially they’re saying that they’re hungry. And you want to know the first thought that passes through my mind when I hear comments like these? “If you’re hungry, eat. You know where the food is.”

Making Small Groups the Hub of your Ministry

NorthCoast Church is an outlier when it comes to small groups and you need to get to know these guys. While the norm across the nation is hovering at about 50% of weekend worship attendance in groups, NorthCoast is shattering that norm and boasts just over 90% of their weekend worship attendance in groups. That was enough for us to get on a plane and spend some time learning from these guys. Here are a few of my take aways:

Why the Church Wins when the Church Staff are in a Small Group

You’re as lonely as you want to be. Yes, relationships are risky. Any time you entrust your heart with others there’s a chance that it won’t be handled well. And I understand that church leaders often feel pressure to perform and live up to unrealistic expectations of perfection. But if the church staff chooses to shrink back from vulnerability and authenticity in relationship with others then you’ll build a culture of superficial pretending in your church. That’s why when the church staff takes the risk and jumps into a small group bible study the whole church wins!

Your Church isn’t Deep Enough

In my work consulting with churches and coaching church leaders this, “it’s not deep enough” phrase is becoming more common. And honestly it concerns me. Not because the majority of churches aren’t deep enough, but rather that a majority of people who are trying to follow Jesus misunderstand what spiritual depth really looks like.

5 Ways to Help your Small Groups be Successful

Whether you are starting from scratch at a brand-new church plant or blowing up a large system at an existing church, there are some principles that can help set up your new plan for success down the road. Here are five guidelines to think through.

Why Churches Don’t Grow #3: No Spiritual Maturity Pathway

Many churches are stuck or declining not because they have a difficult time attracting or introducing new people to Jesus but because they have no plan in place to move people towards spiritual maturity or the plan they’re working is broken. Here are a couple of indicators that there is a breakdown somewhere in your spiritual maturity pathway:

A Couple of Statements about Spiritual Maturity that will Mess with You Part-1

Simply put…these ideas will challenge your thinking on what spiritual maturity looks like and acts like. Happy reading! Bonus: here’s Part-2 of that post.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation

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Five Ways to Help Your Small Groups be Successful

The following is a guest post by Chris Surratt. Chris is a ministry consultant with the Unstuck Group and has over twenty-two years of experience serving the local church. Most recently, Chris served on the Executive Team at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN. Before coming to Cross Point in 2009, Chris was on staff at Seacoast Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, will be released by Thomas Nelson on September 29, 2015. You can find Chris blogging regularly at www.chrissurratt.com on the subjects of community, discipleship and leadership.

Whether you are starting from scratch at a brand-new church plant or blowing up a large system at an existing church, there are some principles that can help set up your new plan for success down the road. Here are five guidelines to think through.

1. Define the Win

Every ministry has to decide what its win looks like, and this is especially true for groups. If you don’t know what success looks like, how can you celebrate it? As you dream about what groups could look like at your church, start with the end in mind. What results would you like to see if your system works perfectly? Andy Stanley says, “Your system is perfectly designed to get the results you’re getting.” If my church is not producing disciples, there’s probably a systems problem. If only a small percentage of the congregation is involved in groups, it’s probably a systems issue. If we are not developing enough leaders to keep up with our growth, it probably has something to do with our leadership development system.

2. Choose a Champion

I talk to a lot of small-group pastors who cannot get any traction with groups at their churches. The first question I ask is, Is your senior pastor in a small group? Almost every time the answer is “no.”

It’s not impossible to build a successful groups system without the senior leader being fully on board, but it’s extremely difficult. The congregation is going to take its cues from the leaders, and if the senior pastor is not engaged in community, they will follow his lead. It does not matter how much he talks about the importance of groups from the pulpit if there are not consistent stories circulating from his own small group.

3. Put It in the Budget

When it comes down to budgeting for small groups, a lot of churches follow the example of Pharaoh in Exodus:

That same day the king gave a command to the slave masters and foremen. He said, “Don’t give the people straw to make bricks as you used to do. Let them gather their own straw. But they must still make the same number of bricks as they did before. Do not accept fewer.” (Exodus 5:6–8)

We are asking our point people for groups to build a successful system without the necessary straw but still expecting big results. As much as we want to believe community happens organically, it still takes resources for them to be strategic and effective.

4. Make It Scalable

Your church may never triple in size overnight (although it could), but now is the time to start planning for God to do the unexpected. What happens when you activate your first all-church campaign and suddenly need to triple the number of current groups to meet the demand? Do you have enough coaches? How difficult is it to become a small-group leader? Can you fast-track the vetting of new leaders? You should always be ready to go when God moves.

5. Make It Replicable

Think through not only what could be replicable across different locations, but also what do small groups look like in different layers of your church? The heart of student and kids ministries are small groups, and those ministries can benefit from partnering with the adult groups system for training, leadership development, and structure ideas. What if the same team that develops Sunday message studies works with the student leaders on theirs? What if a few adult group leaders mentor small-group leaders in the kid’s ministry? Replicating successful systems will help break down silos within a church.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation