Review | Lead Small

Lead Small by Reggie Joiner & Tom Shefchunas

Summary (from Goodreads)

Five big ideas every small group leader needs to know.

Summary (from Amazon)

If you’re a small group leader, you believe in the power of community. You know that every stage and phase of life needs a unique kind of influence.

But what exactly do you do? What exactly is your job?

It’s possible that you may feel lost at times, like your role falls somewhere between a parent and a friend, a coach and a teacher. Remember, you aren’t supposed to be any of those things. You are a little of all of those things.

Small groups come in many sizes.
Those who wear diapers.
Those who watch Disney.
Those who are learning to drive.
Those who are picking a college.

Lead Small clarifies the responsibility of the small group leader for those who work with children and teenagers. it establishes five common threads so that those who choose to lead in any size church can work off the same blueprint.

When you lead small…
you realize that what you do for a few has more potential than what you do for many.

When you lead small…
you choose to invest in the lives of a few to encourage authentic faith.

With personal insight and practical advice, Reggie Joiner and Tom Shefchunas will show you how to do something small for a big impact.

Review | 5 stars

Reggie Joiner’s guidebook on leading small groups from elementary school through college comes chock full of insight into how to communicate with students and invest in their lives. Lead Small isn’t just about giving you the practical tips to do things well (if that isn’t reason enough to read it!) – it gives you the reasons why those recommended steps and actions work to help you continue to create ideas as a Small Group Leader (“SGL”). Reggie and Shef also offer their personal examples from their leading small groups and being in them, providing valuable perspective and refreshing realism to their suggestions.

The book’s structure is easy to navigate and shows how each piece works in relation to the others. The main topics:

  • Be Present
  • Create a Safe Space
  • Partner with Parents (a favorite section of mine)
  • Make It Personal
  • Move Them Out (arguably the most important piece)

Other topics discussed include: Connect Their Faith to a Community, Clarify Their Faith as They Grow, Nurture an Everyday Faith, Inspire Their Faith by Your Example, and Engage Their Faith in a Bigger Story.

Lead Small contains lots of prompts throughout the book to guide you in taking action instead of merely reading. While I typically never do journal entry responses when called for (just being honest here), I liked the questions and considered them before moving through the rest of the book.

I will definitely keep this short read on hand as a field guide in the future.

A thing to remember: This book is not the only way to having a strong small group. Some of the tips may not be applicable, especially if you are not coming in as the single SGL a student will interact with. Lead Small is spelling out the ideal situation where one SGL leads the same group through whole stages of their groupies’ lives.

Another thing to remember: This book is all about the action of ministry and is not a theology book. It is also meant primarily for the North American church and American culture.

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Lifestyle | The Joy of a Giving Community

There’s nothing like seeing a community rally together to support others in need, whether those people are part of the immediate group or are part of another. Last night, I had the amazing opportunity to see one of my Bible study members pour out all kinds of encouragement and love to other members who are going through an especially hard time and are being faced with tough, life changing decisions. We have all fervently prayed for this situation together when we meet and when we are parted, but this particular gift – a basket of sunshine – sent my heart soaring.

I am so grateful that I’ve been able to partner with God to create a wonderful, caring community that goes deep. These incredible women go deep in relationship, and we all have made a safe space in which to do life together. May each of you seek out and find such relationships in life, and be encouraged as I have been.

So beautiful is genuine love given from one to another. Thank you, Jesus.

Faith & Pearls

7:30 am

For the past three weeks, I have been feeling a bit lifeless—at work, at home, during my devotional time. I find it quite strange that I have been in this slump, especially after God spoke to me so loudly at my church’s youth retreat last weekend. I have been going through the motions, but it’s not like my “motions” are bad, if you get what I mean. I read my Bible, I pray while I drive to and from work (my eyes are open, you silly person, you). I get my work done. So what’s my problem, if things are still going well?

Internal strife wreaks havoc on the soul. There are many, many things I have been thinking about in my free time, related to any number of topics. Work, school, the future generally. Relationships, purpose, money. It all has been dragging me down internally, resulting in external fatigue.

I forget or neglect to eat pretty often now. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to me, since in college this was a frequent occurrence. But it is a big deal. Lady’s gotta eat.

To my utter dismay, I woke up at 7:18 am this morning. That work schedule comes for me, even when I ask myself to sleep until 9 on a Saturday.

People sometimes go through this kind of thing. I get that. It happened once in college for me. I just wasn’t in the mood to do anything of substance. I was going through the motions. That time in my life was also wrought with terrible nightmares that have had no compare to this day. Fortunately, I’m not anywhere close to that stage now.

That doesn’t mean what I’m going through, whatever it is, is any less important or legitimate.

Over the weekend, I had a fantastic time at camp with middle and high schoolers and our youth sponsors. We played games, and talked about Jesus, and ate good food, and fellowshipped with each other. It was, I daresay, fun.

Yet here I am, struggling to figure out why I’m feeling so out of it. That’s the first step to fixing it, right? Right?

Wrong.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you…and you will find rest for your souls.”

Matthew 11:28

It’s simple enough. Just come to Jesus.

I don’t need to figure anything out all by myself. God has the answer. The answer to every single question, known or unknown.

Yes, I want to discover the root of my lethargy. As I do, I know I have a community of people surrounding me with the love of Christ.

How do I know? Story time.

While I was at camp this weekend, we did a lot of running around and goofing off, especially outside. Friday evening, when it was already dark, we played a few games to kick off the retreat. I was not dressed for the occasion, on purpose. I didn’t really want to participate. I was wearing my work clothes, including my pearl earrings my aunt gave me and my string of pearls from Dad. I played anyways.

I came back inside the main building with the students after a couple of games. I checked my pearls and… gone. One of the pearls was gone.

I flipped. No yelling or tears or anything, just intense distress (that really showed). I searched. Other adults searched. Nothing. We didn’t find the small white ball anywhere.

I gave up. I started to accept that I would never see that earring again. Adults came up to me with apologies, saying that they would pray that we would find it.

I didn’t want their apologies. I didn’t care about how they felt about it. I cared what I felt about it. I was angered by my own stupidity—how could I go outside with them in? (Note, I wear these pearls at least four days a week, so I do wear them outside. Going outside, playing games with the pearls in was not an uncommon thing. I was so down on myself for something natural.)

I returned to the cabin I was staying in, thinking it was all over for that little pearl. But then, out of nowhere, a student said, “Did anyone lose a pearl earring?”

Stop pulling my leg, kid.

She wasn’t joking. She had found the earring on her top bunk bed. I have theories for how it got there, but I at this point don’t care how. I just care that it was found. I cried that night when all had gone to sleep.

I realized that others’ faith resulted in my finding the pearl.

How often do we need our community to have faith for us? To believe when we can’t anymore? When we give up on our situation, and ourselves?

It’s crazy to think that someone else talking to God on another’s behalf can result in miracles, no matter how small. That’s the God I serve.

Rushing to Fail

3 pm

Adrenaline pumping, so much work to get done. Overloaded, brain-fried, hoping to regain focus long enough to write a to-do list before becoming so overwhelmed that all I can manage is to sit in front of the dual screens of my computer, listening to a conference call while answering questions passed on a sticky note, cell phone ringing all the while. A new IM, three high priority emails. New update to the Google Drive. Text. All at once. I jumped out of my skin when a co-worker knocked on the plastic threshold of my cube to get my attention. Chewing gum to keep myself from biting the cuticles around my fingernails. Forgetting more nourishment is needed apart from the <5 calories every two pieces of Eclipse provides. Shake my hands out to restore circulation to ice cold fingers. Neglecting my need to relieve myself. What time is it in New Zealand? Where am I? Wait, which project are you talking about? Yes, another project is due tomorrow afternoon, but this one is due by 11. Oh, tomorrow morning? No, this evening. Get in the zone. DeadMau5 to drown out the conversations all around me. The Civil Wars to calm down. Another phone call. Nearly missed it because of the music playing in my ears. Caffeine. Looming deadline. Worry. Exhaustion setting in. Fatigue. Headache, like a knife being driven into my temple by Thor’s / King Robert’s warhammer.

Go to church. Wednesday night service.

No tears. Not now. It isn’t the time for that. It will only slow you down. Emotions aside, type faster. Clumsy mouse, won’t highlight the right text. Clock ticking. Keyboard clicking. Wait for new parts. Monitoring email. Refresh. New tab, Google Drive. Loading. Nothing new. Just waiting. Waiting. Skype call with boss during service. Later, meeting for church conference.

Go home.

Still haven’t eaten. Open laptop, new files uploaded, multiple emails. Start editing new material. Computer crash.

God, help me.

Plug in charger. Renewed strength for me, energy for my computer. Struggle to organize last responses. Phone call for last part. Keep co-worker on the phone as I submit. Hands shaking with anticipation. Submit. Submit? Submit!

Denied.

Box closed. Window of opportunity slammed shut. Shock. Anger. At myself. Co-worker inquires. What happened? It didn’t go through. Email submission? Yes, email now. No reply, but there’s hope. Literally seconds late…

Still upset at failure. My failure.

Can’t sleep. Devotional. Can’t sleep. Read. Can’t sleep. No sleepin.. …

Wake at 6. Crawl to shower. Wet hair in bun. Forgot caffeine. Drive to work. Swerving. Hit wake up strip on highway. BUZZ BUZZ. ZZRRRRRPPPPP.

Barely awake. Get to work. Start project. Need to finish by 2 pm. Must ship by 2:30.

Waiting for answers from co-workers. No longer frustrated. Just exhausted.

Eat chocolate and Dr. Pepper for breakfast.

Complete submission at 3. Should be delivered on time. Starbucks.

Return to work. Sit. Wait for 5? No, 4. Leave now. Retreat into God’s love, away from busyness and work. No, don’t stay away from life. Go to it. Run to it. Carry God’s name as a banner, declare victory over life through Christ Jesus. Keep peace close to heart.

God, calm my restless spirit. Anxious, stressed spirit. Speak above the noise. Help quiet the noise.

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I fail, but Jesus bears the weight of the mankind’s failure, our inability to measure up to perfection. I fail. Yet Jesus makes up for every disappointment, letdown, shortcoming. He shuns discouragement. He rejects disillusionment. He replaces my heaviness with peace, rest.

Life happens, sure. But Jesus is always happening. He saves, and saves, and saves again. He never stops. Good thing, because I fail again, and again, and again. That’s my God. He is the God of “always” and “forever.” Eternal peace. I just have to receive it.

Hallelujah. Be encouraged.