Archive for the ‘Cell groups’ Category

Naked and no shame

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This morning Dan Fontaine, missionary to Quebec, spoke on the importance of being open about our lives.  He referenced one of my favorite portions of Scripture in the book of Genesis.  Honestly, I think I could preach from the creation account for months and not feel like I was repeating myself – such incredible stuff right there!  Dan asked a question after reading from chapter three

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”  He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”   verses 8-11

The question was this, “Who told you that you were naked?”  It’s the same question that God asked Adam and Eve.  They were never told that they were naked.  They discovered that they were naked when they acted in disobedience to what God had asked of them.  Rather than walking around in their nakedness they made clothing of fig leaves to hide their stuff.  And nothing has changed in the years that have passed since this time.

We have been hurt and we hide in order to keep from being hurt again.  We have failed to we hide in order to avoid being asked to try again.  We have words spoken over us that are negative so we put on the clothing of over-doing it to compensate for that negativity – because we HAVE to prove those words wrong.  

It is our failure to stand in our nakedness and say, “here I am, this is the real me.”  that keeps us from being real with people.  Because of the barriers that we build up around us for protection we push people away and we lose the community that we were meant to be a part of.  We were created for community.  Relationship with God and others.  That is why we exist.  When we fail to connect with others we lose the ability to be whole and healthy.  Isolation keeps us from living lives of purpose and stops us from being free.

I believe in small groups.  As a member of a small group at my church for the past twelve years I will say that I could not do life without having people actively involved in my life.  I need people who will speak words of encouragement, correction, life and hope into me.  I need to do the same for others.  

If you attend Grace Capital Church and have not gotten connected into a small group let me challenge you right now, get started.  Drop the excuses and get involved.  There are people who need you just as much as you need them.  For those of you who have been involved in a small group and have taken a break for a while, let me encourage you to get back in the game.  Maybe you don’t feel like you get anything out of the group.  Can I ask you to change your thinking?  Try another small group, but this time go with the mindset that you are bringing something to share with someone else.  I would go one further and challenge you to pray this prayer, “Lord, use me to help someone else.”

We need to be open about our lives.  Getting involved with a small group is a great way to do this.  

I pray that you will allow yourself to be naked and have no shame.

Great Expectations

We had our small group tonight.  I was impressed by the Holy Spirit to be thankful for how He is leading so many new people into relationship.  As I looked around the room tonight I realized that of the 17 people that were there Kim and I were the only 2 people that were around before our building was built.  In just 4 short years we have seen exponential growth that has led to some amazing relationships.

As we enter into a new phase of building at GCC with the needed expansion for a Youth Center and additional sanctuary space I look with great expectation to the many more who will come.  It is incredible to see how much of an impact we have had in this region so far but I am also excited for those yet to come.  

Holy Spirit, do what you need to do… in my life and beyond, that we would have a greater impact here in Central NH.

Small Group Question

I received a question via Twitter from Matt Henslee of Temple Baptist Church regarding how we do small groups at our church.  Going on the idea of Tim Schmoyer, I thought I would share my response here on the blog to help answer the questions of many.  So, here you go:

 Our small groups are the life blood of our church as a whole.  We have adult small groups as well as youth small groups.  We are a very relationship focused church and the small groups are the best way that we have found to take a large church and make it feel small.  We didn’t come across small groups as an afterthought to growth though.  11 years ago when this church began we were a small group based church.  The church actually began with a group of 9 people sitting in a living room.  Over the past 11 years we have grown to just over 1000 people regularly and the small groups still remain the focus.  

The adult groups meet throughout the week on a weekly basis.  We have groups that meet every day of the week and they meet every week together in the same location (typically in someone’s house).  The groups are open for new people to join at any time so when we have a new person come into the church on Sunday morning we regularly plug the small groups.  As each individual group grows to a consistent number above 12-14 we look to multiply the small group in order to create more space for new people to join the small groups.  There is a constant wave of leadership development taking place to make ready the new group leaders.  
The youth small groups used to meet in the same way but about 3 years ago I made the change to centralize all the youth small groups to meet at the church building on Wednesday night.  By doing this we are able to have families with multiple teens all come to the same location (with gas at just under $4.00 a gallon right now parents love driving to one spot) but they are able to be a part of different small groups – which can create more transparency in the level of what they share with their small groups (they don’t have to worry about their sibling sharing with their parents about what they may be going through)  By making the switch to a centralized location we saw tremendous growth in the number of kids that were attending.  I chalk this up to the excitement level that some teens find in a large group.  
Each week we meet as a large group and worship together with a student led worship team.  After worship there is a short message based on a theme that we as a church are going through – youth and adults all stay topically together which creates opportunity for parents to talk to their teens about the stuff they are working through.  A great book to read on this idea is called The Big Idea by Dave & John Ferguson.  Once the message is done the youth are dismissed into their small groups.
We reach the ages/grades of 6th grade – 12th grade.  Each small group is broken down by grade and gender.  By doing this we create an environment where one message can be discussed with specifics to each age group.  A 6th grader may be dealing with stuff that a 12th grader doesn’t need to work through or vice-versa.  By keeping the small groups gender specific we can also address stuff that guys are dealing with without having an awkwardness of girls in the room and vice-versa.
One of the challenges that this method presents is the amount of space that we need.  With a small group for each gender grades 6-12 we need 14 places for the groups to meet.  Along with this we need at least 14 leaders.  We also try and develop student leaders who will lead a group at least 2 grades below their current grade.  By keeping a student leader apart from leading their own grade they are more recognized by the younger grades as a leader rather than a peer and it makes it easier for a rookie leader to lead without the struggles of challenges from a student in the same grade.  This model does not work in all church settings as churches vary by size and style.  In a smaller church you may want to look at splitting the small groups by Jr. High and Sr. High.  Mixed gender groups also have a value, we have just chosen to keep them separate to create more intimacy in the discussions.

Burn Out Bright

At Impact we’ve been talking about slowing down.  So many of our lives are non-stop, fast-paced, running on empty traps that lead us to the point of brokenness.  This week (the 28th) we head in a different direction.

If we only have one shot at life we should be making the most of every opportunity.  Some would look at this as a contradiction of the whole series that we are in right now.  That’s not the case.  Making the most of every opportunity also means enjoying the downtime that God makes available to us.  It means that, for me, I spend time playing with my girls (even when all they want to play with is Barbie!).  We need to live in the moment and find joy in those times.  When my life comes to an end I don’t want to look back with regret.  I want to be pleased with the time that I had with my wife and kids.

May you live in such a way that you find joy in what you do.  May you live with no regrets.  May you burn out bright!

Podcast Troubles…

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…and I have to place the blame right here.  I upgraded to iLife ’08 the other day.  The new version of iWeb was touted as being a “God-send”.  I can’t disagree more.

Anyway, if you had previously subscribed to the Impact Student Ministry Podcast you will need to go to the site and resubscribe as the new version of iWeb has reallocated the domain structure of the former podcast feed.

I have fixed the link in the sidebar to the right as well in case that is how you have found the podcast.  Thanks for putting up with this “bump” in technology.

Simplify

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Does life seem too busy to you?  We run from school to work then home to get homework started, grab a quick bite to eat and then it’s off to football practice.  It seems like each day runs into the next and there is no end in sight.

How long can we keep this pace up?  Even better question…

Why would we want to?

We begin a new series at Impact this week that addresses the time challenges that we all face and gives some simple solutions for slowing down your life.  We all need balance in our daily life, without it things go nuts.  God has a plan.  He mapped it out for us many, many years ago.

Take time to pull away.  Slow down.  Be refreshed.  Restore your joy.  Then get back in the game and be even more fruitful.

Hope to see you around in the next few weeks at Impact!

New Small Group Begins at Our House!

We begin a new cell group at our house this week.  Kim & I are excited.  It has been about 3 years since we last hosted a cell at our place.  We love to have people over and sharing our lives with other people is just a natural thing that we do.

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Mike & Holly Tutko will be leading the cell.  It’s funny because things have come full circle.  Before Mike got married he had led at our place before.  Can’t wait for Tuesday night as we begin the process of getting to know a whole new group of people.  As GCC has grown over the past 10 years to almost 1000 people it is still the cell groups that serve to connect people in deeper relationships with Jesus Christ and One Another.  If you live in the Penacook area and would like to join us leave a comment and I’ll get you directions.

Starting at One All Over Again

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Pastor Jack Hayford shared with us yesterday during our morning services.  It was quite a weekend overall and he had a timely message for us all as we celebrated our ten year anniversary.

He spoke about starting at year one all over again.  The things that were important to us as we began Grace Capital Church are what brought us to the point that we are at now.  We should not become distracted by more programs or rest on our laurels.  What God has done at GCC over the past ten years has been amazing.  As we watched the video montage (link to video will be coming soon) that spanned the past ten years it was encouraging to see how many lives have been affected by what God is doing in and through us.  But this is just another beginning for us.  It is by remembering what we did to get to this point and continuing to hold faithful to those things that we will see even more growth and effectiveness in this region.

“What brings future growth is remembering your beginnings.  You can’t forget where you started.  Revisit your beginning.  Celebrate your 10 but don’t forget to start at 1 all over again.”  Thank you Pastor Jack for this encouragement to move forward by looking back.  If I can jump into a football analogy for a moment.  The New England Patriots won their third Super Bowl in 4 years in 2004.  The day after that occurred Coach Bill Belichick had t-shirts printed up to remind everyone that their victories were in the past.  The shirts simply said, “Patriots 0-0”.  A constant reminder that they had to start all over again.  The wins in the past were in the past.  Every victory going forward would not be based on past victories, but in the effort that they put forward to win again.

Small groups are our “1” thing.  While we encourage 5 things at GCC – Celebration, Cell, Journal, Mentor, Serve – it all begins in the small(cell) groups.  My prayer is that a renewed push for getting people at GCC connected into cells begins now.  If you attend GCC and are not part of a small group yet, let this serve as an encouragement to you – “GO!”  The best way to connect relationally with people in GCC is through a cell group.  Sunday mornings are just too busy and there are far too many people to connect on deeper levels with people.  Cell groups are the life blood of GCC.

For other church leaders out there, What are your “start at 1” things?  Is it time to regroup and redirect?  Minimize your efforts to maximize your reach.

Expectations To Hold For Any Youth Worker Volunteer

(Again, inspiration from Tim over at Life in Student Ministry for the idea on this post.)

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I’ve had this on file for quite some time and I know that I have handed it out to many of our youth staff but it bears repeating…

  • Commit 3 hours per week to the youth group – mostly at Impact and weekends
  • Arrive 15 minutes early to all scheduled events and stay until the end.
  • Call or email me as soon as you know of a conflict that will prevent you from attending any event.
  • Attend a bi-monthly leader training event
  • For your small group – Learn every teens name and an interest that they have.
  • Interact with every member of your small group, being careful to spend equal time with all of them.
  • Participate enthusiastically in scheduled events.
  • Receive a weekly update from me – with prayer points and areas of need to recruit in the small groups.
  • Come to me any time with concerns or suggestions.
  • Experience successful and not so successful gatherings.
  • Feel energized after youth events.
  • Feel tired after youth events.
  • Communicate regularly with the parents of the students in your small groups.
  • Celebrate students victories with them & share these victories with their parents.  (parents love to hear the good stuff that their students are caught doing!)
  • Communicate with me (PK) if there are any behavioral issue that need discipline. (don’t go this alone.)
  • Communicate with students outside of Impact and GCC (but clear it with their parents first)  Use a variety of communication methods – MySpace, Facbook, IM, email, text & cell, face time is always best but many times a simple connection can make all the difference in the world to a student.
  • Never allow yourself to be alone with a student of the opposite gender. (Protect yourself and the students that we minister to.)
  • We are not licensed counselors.  (and that is o.k.!)  Understand your limitations and look to others who are better trained for professional help.
  • Passion!  We are not looking for warm bodies at Impact.  We want people who are passionate about connecting with students and helping them connect with Jesus.
  • Criminal Background checks will be run on all youth staff.
  • No adult youth worker is to date a youth or be romantically involved with a youth.  (Any adult with prior incident of sexual misconduct in this regard will not be a youth worker or serve in any capacity of youth ministry at Impact.  There are no exceptions.)
  • To serve on the youth staff at Impact you must be a member of Grace Capital Church.

The bottom line is Youth ministry is not the easiest ministry in which to serve, but it can be one of the most rewarding.  It is o.k. to feel inadequate about your skills.  Your confidence will grow the more you are around the students and experience how God can use inadequate people (like us) to do great things.
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Grateful Parent

I just want to give a HUGE shout out to our Children’s ministry at Grace Capital Church. Not as a Pastor…but as a grateful parent. Words can’t express my gratitude! All of you who serve or have served in children’s ministry…THANK YOU!

Don’t ever underestimate the difference you are making. You have made an eternal difference in my kid’s lives and many others, and Kim and I are eternally thankful for the growth that we are seeing in our kids.

Thank You.

Are there any other parents out there who are grateful and proud of our children’s ministry?  Let Pastor Sondra and her amazing team know!

Parents, let me ask you another question…Is your middle school or high school student connected at church? These are some of the most critical years of their lives as they are bombarded by choices that will affect their entire lives. Let me encourage you to get them connected at Impact. How?

3 ways.

Encourage them to come.  We have specially trained eyes watching all who come in on Wednesday nights.  If they are new they will be greeted by one of our amazing students, introduced to other students, given a tour of the building, and welcomed into one of the existing cell groups with other students their age.

Call or email me and let me know who they are.  We will have one of the students from Impact call them and personally invite them to come and join us.  When they do come they will be given the same treatment as above.

Grab me on Sunday mornings and I will gladly greet your teen as well as introduce them to other students that they may already know.  We can share individually with you and your student about Impact and personally invite them to come.

Our desire is to impact youth throughout Central NH with the love of Jesus.  We’d love the chance to connect your teens with Impact.