Love Does

An Interview with Bob Goff

It’s been almost two years since I started this blog. Some really cool things have happened along the way, but none as cool as talking to New York Times Bestselling author Bob Goff.

Bob wrote one of my favorite books of all time Love Does, and he purposely put his personal phone number in the back of the book. If you call that number, you don’t get an assistant, you don’t get a voice mail, you get Bob Goff.

When I think of the abundant live Jesus was talking about in John 10:10, I think about Bob Goff. I think he’s figured it out. I hope I get there one day.

In all honesty, this interview is not great and the audio is terrible. It was recorded early on in my blog journey and I didn’t think it was good enough to post. But now that I’m almost two years in, I think it’s too important not to post.

So, if you have a moment take a listen. I hope you enjoy.

 

Pastors Q & A

Question Number One

“What’s one thing you’re currently doing in ministry, that you wish you had started years ago?”

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“Saying no and trusting others. I said yes to every speaking opportunity. I said yes to fill every void and need (Sunday School teacher, Missions leader, etc) I said yes to every meeting. I said yes to every activity. Which was basically saying no to my wife. No to my daughter. No to my family. And most importantly, no to God. I was doing so much I had zero time to invest in the relationships that mattered most. One reason was because I didn’t trust. I thought in order for it to be done right, I had to do it.” – Cody Hogden, First Baptist Church Orangefield

My answer may be more philosophical than practical but what I wished that I had done early on in my ministry was to spend more time understanding the culture and how people learn. I simply thought a well prepared sermon would be effective. But if my speaking style is not conducive to a listener’s ability to learn; then I am not being the most effective I can be. I may reach some older people or some younger people who have been versed in the “old” style of teaching, but I won’t be able to reach the unchurched or unsaved adult. What you notice in the hunting world is really good hunters spend more time scouting and understanding their prey than they do hunting it. They have discovered that success is not determined by the amount of time they spend hunting but the amount of time they spend understanding the practices of the prey they are after. If they know their prey, harvesting it is simple. I spent too much time “hunting” and not enough time “scouting.” – Gary Miller, Locus Church

I am currently the only full time pastor in our church. So we started doing a Tuesday evening conference call for all the pastors to review the weekend and discuss future plans. I wish I had began this much sooner as it has helped build community and trust on our team. The guys have told me how valuable it makes them feel. Ben Fugate, Journey Christian Church

I wish I did better at adjusting time spent doing ministry work and family. I often validated my actions towards neglecting family by blaming it on God and His work. I have a better understanding that God wants both aspects of my life to be healthy. It’s not a one-or-the-other situation. – Jeremiah Marshall, Gospel Outreach Community Church

I would say daily reading, reading a Proverb a day, weekly learning from resources/podcasts/sermons (including T.E.D. talks or sources that sometimes aren’t necessarily Christian), creating a detailed weekly schedule that is centered around my God given purpose/roles, and reading leader blog posts would definitely be something that I wish I started years ago. So, in a nutshell: Growing myself in disciplines and wisdom. — Brandon Petty, Generation Church

I would say the most important thing I am doing now and not then was paying close attention to the pace of my life. Making sure like creation, there is a sustainable rhythm to my days and week. Some seasons the days are much longer like summer. However, I must consciously look for seasons where the days are shorter and the nights are longer. Just like winter. Whatever pace works for a person is the pace they should follow. But everyone must find a pace or they won’t last through all the seasons of ministry ahead. – Gregg Farrell, Crossland Community Church

#1 Deeper spiritual focus early morning prayer and fasting.   #2 Ask better questions. #3 Committed study day that is in concrete(early in the week). #4 Sermon series planning staying a quarter ahead. – Duane Garner, New Vision Ministries

Did a staycation this year, it was incredible. Wish I would have taken more time off. Even if you can’t afford to leave town, take a staycation where you turn off the phone, enjoy your family, and catch up on projects. – Allen Bonnell, Immanuel Baptist Church

I would say rest and reloading. scheduling time to distress so u and your family have finish lines to run to. That’s something I wish I learned earlier in life and ministry. – Dustin Thompson, Refuge Church

Small Groups for the Rest of Us

An Interview with Chris Surratt

One of my favorite reads of the year so far has been Small Groups for the Rest of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes by Chris Surratt. It is the best and most practical book I’ve read on creating a small group system in your church. Imagine my excitement when Chris agreed to let me ask him a few questions about his new book, and how to make small groups work for your church.

SmallGroupsForTheRestOfUs

  1. Your new book is “Small Groups for the Rest of Us”, who are the “Rest of Us”?

As an introvert by nature, I have always felt left out by most small group systems. Between the connection hoops and the demand to share my secret sins in a room full of strangers, small groups felt like an intimidating concept. While thinking through how we could better design a system to reach people like me, I started running into other groups of people we were missing through our processes. If we were going to say we believed in community for everyone, what does that look like? The typical small group system is designed for the typical church attender. We have to begin thinking differently if we want to reach the people on the fringes.

  1. In your book you say, to the church outsider small groups are weird, I totally agree, how can the church overcome that perception?

I think a good start would be to acknowledge the awkwardness from the beginning. When pitching the idea of small groups to our congregations, the tendency is to only play up the potential benefits – which there are many – but a lot of people are only thinking about how scary and weird it seems to show up at a stranger’s house and “do life together.” Church leaders should publicly acknowledge how big a step joining a group is and offer to make it as easy and weird-free as possible.

  1. Would you say message studies based around the Sunday sermon are the best curriculum for groups, why or why not?

I think they are great starting point for any group. I don’t believe every group should do them or groups should use them forever, but well written sermon-based studies take a lot of the potential hurdles away for a new group. There is no cost. Homework for the group members is showing up for church or listening to the podcast. It reinforces the message beyond Sunday morning. New groups can use them for a semester while they get a pulse on what type of group they have.

  1. I love the idea of the group curriculum menu that you discuss in your book, do you think narrowing the options helps produce more leaders?

Producing a curriculum menu or map has several benefits for groups.

  • It takes the burden of what to study next off of the small group leader and puts it on the staff. Most group leaders want to be lead on what their group should be studying. Any step that we can take off of our leaders will help attract new leaders.
  • It gives a clearly defined discipleship path for groups to follow.
  • It gives doctrinal fences for the groups to stay in. There a lot of curriculum choices out there, and not all of them will line up with your church’s dogma.
  1. You talk about how important it is for the Senior Pastor to be involved in a group, why do so many pastors resist this?

It’s scary for some senior leaders to think about exposing their lives to a small group of church attenders. That’s why I believe it’s important to allow the pastor to hand pick his group if possible. It’s also essential to give him the option of not leading the group. He has to lead everything else, so a small group should be an environment where there is safety and low-pressure to “perform.”

  1. Can you talk about the difference between open groups and closed groups, and why churches need both?

Open and closed groups can serve different purposes in a discipleship ministry. For instance, closed groups can have more accountability for spiritual growth than an open group. An open group can be more evangelistic by leaving room for for neighbors and friends to join. However, there are downsides to both. Closed groups can become stale and stop growing spiritually if together for too long. Open groups are difficult for new people to join because they already have established relationships. It’s like joining a new school in 10th grade.

  1. In the book you state, “Our goal for small groups is to feed people into our ministry teams as they discover their gifts for service in the church.”. Can that happen in a fun group, like volleyball or date night? Why or why not?

It can definitely happen, but I believe you have to make sure to define what the expectations for a small group are before labeling everything in the church a group. An affinity group can work well for assimilating someone into serving in the church, but are they being discipled? What is the mechanism for helping someone take their next step and can a volleyball group provide it? Those are questions every church has to think through when designing their discipleship system.

  1. What would be your best piece of advice for a pastor who is wanting to begin a small group ministry in his or her church?

Read and attend everything you possibly can. When I took over the small group ministry at my last church, I immersed myself in every book and blog written on the topic. And I know a pretty good book to start with! 🙂 There are also great conferences put on by churches who have been there and done that. Find a way to attend one and connect with as many other practitioners as possible. The small group world loves to support each other. The Small Group Network is an awesome community to be a part of. Please don’t do it alone!

Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with over twenty-two years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Teams at Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and Seacoast Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He also manages SmallGroup.com for LifeWay Christian Resources. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, was just released by Thomas Nelson.