Other than your senior pastor, your worship pastor is probably the most public figure in your entire church. He likely holds a lot of influence within your congregation. So you need to ask yourself, are you leveraging that platform and influence well in weekend services?
In a recent DiscipleShift training Question and Answer session, this topic came up when our panel was asked: "What can a Worship Leader say or do to promote Relational Discipleship from the stage?"
This question was given to Matt Roberson, Senior Pastor with The MET in Houston Texas. After sixteen years as a worship pastor, Matt stepped into the senior pastor role with The MET one year ago.
Here is part of what Matt shared in response to this question:
"I call the Worship Pastor "The Minister of the Transition" because the transition between songs and before the teaching is even more important than the songs themselves. "
To hear the rest of what Matt has to say, watch this 3 minute video.
To learn more about DiscipleShift Training CLICK HERE
"Real spiritual maturity is us knowing and loving others and others knowing and loving us too." Jim Putman
In the midst of a month filled with hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes, t seems like an appropriate time to look at the need for and the power of the relationships we have in our lives. We have seen some of our Relational Discipleship Network churches from Texas, Florida and South Carolina face some of the devastating effects of nature recently. And we have seen them come together to serve and care for those in need, both within their congregation and within their communities.
A natural disaster is a time when we realize we certainly aren't meant to go through life alone. However, the relationships that sustain us and give us strength during the trials we face, need to be made before we ever reach the struggle. So how are people, as a whole, doing at making relationships with others?
Here is a sobering quote from Time magazine. "According to data from the General Social Survey (GSS), the number of Americans who say they have no close friends has roughly tripled in recent decades. “Zero” is also the most common response when people are asked how many confidants they have, the GSS data show. And adult men seem to be especially bad at keeping and cultivating friendships."
What prevents us from being known by others? Proverbs 18:1 paints a picture of a person holding himself at arm’s length from others and the chaos that results. the ESV says, “Whoever isolates himself” The result is a fight against all that’s good and wise and solid and true.
If we isolate ourselves, it’s usually because we’ve been hurt. We’ve stuck our heart out and somebody trampled on it, so we vowed we’d never be vulnerable again., I encourage you to find people you can trust. They are out there.
Know this: If you don’t believe they are out there, then you have accepted a lie from the enemy as truth. Though it hurts when someone lets us down, it doesn’t surprise us because we know every person is broken. We know there is miscommunication and confusion. We know our sinful nature is self-serving, and we know others struggle with the same thing.
We are aware that the spiritual enemy of our souls works to divide us. So when (not if) people hurt us or we hurt them, the enemy will whisper that we are better alone. Or the enemy will whisper that the grass is greener somewhere else. That the relationships we have are not worth fighting for, so we should find different ones, always searching for the perfect relationships— ones that are easy and don’t take much work. We must put our excuses aside and take a step of faith forward.
We must risk stepping out into the relational waters because Jesus commanded us to.
If we abide in Christ, if we walk in the light, then Jesus is our power source to bear fruit.
When we abide in Christ, it doesn’t simply mean we fellowship with Jesus only. It means that we fellowship both with Jesus and with other believers, and we find intimacy, sustenance, strength, ability to weather storms, and strength to do the tasks God gives us. We go through both good times and troubled times together.
The question is, do you have these kinds of relationships? If not, then you are trying to live on a faith that is other than God designed - and the storms are coming.
You can read more about this topic in Jim Putman's book, The Power Of Together.
Scroll to bottom of post for a free resource download!
Do you find that you have a hard time getting people to connect in your small group system? Or are you a church launching small groups that you want to set up for success?
Either way, one of the purposes of a small group is getting people to connect and develop relationships with each other, outside of the weekend service.
These connections can do several things for your people.
1.) They give people accountability for weekend service attendance. They know someone will be notice if they are gone.
2.) They strengthen ownership in the church body, and generally increase participation in church activities.
3.) They provide opportunity for discipleship to take place.
Relational connectivity is a vital and key component of a small group. And it doesn't happen by accident. The group leader must create an intentional relational environment. And that begins with the leader setting some guidelines for the group.
Having Small Group Guidelines…
Here are the guidelines that every small group at Real Life Ministries puts into place. They are referenced each time the group meets, and are listed in the beginning of all the curriculum. They are meant to become the culture of the group to enable discussions that can be transparent and deep.
We will strive to create an environment where everyone can be real, open, and honest with their struggles and victories.
What is said in the group stays in the group.
Let’s value one another during the discussions by really listening to what is being shared. Try to avoid thinking about how you are going to respond, or what you are going to say next.
Allow a pause in conversation after someone shares. Give the person sharing the chance to finish and the group the opportunity to consider what was just shared before responding.
It is important to allow silence in the group as it provides an opportunity for someone to share and for members in the group to process the topic or question being considered.
NO “CROSS TALK”:
Be considerate of others as they are sharing. No side conversations.
We are not here to fix each other. Jesus does that part. Give encouragement; speak truth, and point to Jesus. Don’t try to solve or fix each other.
When people are sharing something deeply personal, there can be a tendency to try to make them feel better about themselves or the situation by providing immediate condolences. This will often cause them to stop sharing. Resist the temptation to rescue people.
Be sensitive about the amount of time you share.
Be self-aware of how you are personally effecting the environment through your words, actions and non-verbal communication.
USE “I” STATEMENTS:
It’s easy to talk about the issues of others, but for our purposes, we want you to put yourself on the table. Try to use “I” statements rather than “them”, “the church”, “us”, “we”, etc.
We will commit to resolve conflict biblically. When conflict or sin issues between group members arise, we want to make sure that we are honoring God and each other in the way we deal with these issues.
The following are just a few key Scriptures in this regard (there are many others).
We challenge you to put these guidelines into place and see if the discussions go deeper! They are effective for all discussions, not just formal 'small group' settings.
If you would like a copy of these guidelines and definitions to share with your church or group, or even to utilize in your own conversations, click below to access a free pdf download - you are welcome to use it as often as you want!
Guidelines For Small Group Discussions
Most people believe vulnerability is weakness. But really, vulnerability is courage. We must ask ourselves..are we willing to show up and be seen? " -Brene' Brown-
Our DiscipleShift team had the opportunity to attend the Global Leadership Summit recently. One of the Summit speakers was Marcus Lemonis, the CEO of America’s #1 source for RVs and the largest organization of RV owners in the world. And he also happens to be the star of the hit TV show - The Profit.
During his session, Marcus spoke from the perspective of a highly successful business man. But some of the things that he shared can also be found in the teachings and actions of Jesus.
Here are three things Marcus said:
Jesus lived out these truths as he led his disciples for 3 years. He connected with them with a calling, an invitation to follow him. He was vulnerable with them and earned their trust to the point that they gave their lives to take His good news and share it with the world.
All of Marcus' points, though business based, hinge on relationship. And deeper relationship develops when there is vulnerability, it is what happens when we are transparent about ourselves with others. Being transparent is an important component of Relational Discipleship. True deep relationship does not happen without it.
Jesus made himself vulnerable when he became a man and lived among us. And when it came to his time with his disciples, he was as transparent as he could be. He was not ashamed to show how He felt. He wept openly (see John 11: 35). He got angry (see Mark 11: 15-16). There are times when He was in emotional pain, and He told His disciples about it (see Mark 14: 33-34; John 12: 27). Jesus’ transparency served an important purpose as he navigated through ministry together with his disciples.
When we are transparent with each other about our struggles in circumstances and with sin, we are saying to others: I struggle too. I am human too. We are saying: "I trust you enough to share my inner battles with you. I trust you enough to be vulnerable."
Vulnerability means the courage to allow ourselves to be known beyond our comfort zones in order to expand the depth of our relationships. And it is one of the most courageous and dangerous things we can do.
The decision to be transparent is the beginning of discipleship, it is the starting place of making disciples of Jesus, who go on to make disciples of Jesus. And that is what we've all been called to do.
To learn more about Relational Discipleship, and see our upcoming DiscipleShift 1 Training schedule, click HERE:
Portions of this post were taken from the book Real Life Discipleship by Jim Putman. You can order your copy HERE:
Putting people 'in the game' and then debriefing the situations with them is the best form of curriculum. It is the key teaching tool you will use - it changes everything.'
Jesus had a relational, hands on method of leadership with his disciples. His 'classroom' was wherever they happened to be. It might happen while they were walking along the road together. Sometimes it was while eating a meal together, sometimes it was on a boat in a storm.
Jesus listened to what the disciples were saying so he could teach them what they needed to learn. He took them out into the world as he served, healed, fed and spoke to people who were in need. They experienced the needs of people up close, and they watched Jesus shepherd them. The disciples received daily, on the job training on the responsibilities of being a leader.
An effective leader knows how to take training from theory to practice, from the classroom to the living room. When training is reduced to a program, people often fail to connect it to a lifestyle. People can be conditioned to follow a list or lesson plan, therefore missing the relationships and dynamics of what it means to lead people.
Here is what Richie Shaw - lead pastor of Real Life Spokane in Washington - has to say about training his leaders.
"One of my traditions is exposure, I think it is one of our greatest teachers. There are things that I expose our leadership to that are going to help shape them towards something. I love to help create a hunger and drive inside of people rather than just shoving information down their throats. One of the things I want them to discover are the needs in our community. So instead of just talking about how we can reach our community, we do what we call One Heart Spokane.
We will have three locations where we give free haircuts, hand out backpacks filled with school supplies, put new shoes on kids feet. It is amazing that we will serve 4 to 5 thousand people that day, but the major thing we are measuring is we will have 4 to 5 hundred volunteers out there all day serving at the different locations.
Our volunteers and leaders come away from this experience with the attitude that giving their lives away is an amazing thing! They have a taste of it and now they want more! So I believe creating these tasty opportunities for our people is really an essential part of training and development."
Jim Putman, Senior Pastor at Real Life Ministries in Post Falls, Idaho had this to say on the topic of leadership training;
'Putting people 'in the game' and then debriefing the situations with them is the best form of curriculum. It is the key teaching tool you will use - it changes everything.'
For information on our upcoming DiscipleShift 1 Trainings: Click HERE
You can find more on this topic in the book Real Life Discipleship: Order HERE
A church is successful when everyone is in the game, maturing into disciples of Jesus who can reproduce other disciples of Jesus."
(Scroll to bottom of post for free pdf download)
One of the main thrusts of DiscipleShift 1 training is the importance of a relational environment to making disciples of Jesus. Small Groups are one such relational environment that works well when trying to create a culture of disciple making in your church. Because they are so often talked about, sometimes people mistakenly get the idea that Small Groups are the goal – that if you are a church that has developed Small Groups you have hit the target.
However, the target is not a relational environment. A relational environment is the vehicle we travel in to get to the destination. A church is successful when everyone in the church is in the game, maturing into disciples who can reproduce other disciples. The purpose of the church has been, and should always be, to make disciples of Jesus.
You can have small groups and not make disciples, just ask frequent members to a neighborhood bar, or a sports team in a league, or for that matter the wait staff at a restaurant!
There must be a combination of specific components that are used in conjunction with a small group in order to make disciples.
An Intentional Leader: A car doesn’t get very far unless there is someone in the drivers seat with a key. This leader is driving the group towards the destination, or purpose. It helps if the leader has already made the trip and is familiar with the route!
A Relational Environment: The driver has to have something that drives – and something that accommodates passengers. Relationships are what God uses to communicate His truth and help people grow. Without relationships, the journey of discipleship could become ineffective. Motivation can die because no one is there to celebrate a breakthrough or support us when we struggle. Relationships create the environment where discipleship happens best.
A Map – The Reproducible Process: The third component for this successful journey is a map. Using a map helps eliminate the risk of getting lost or off track from your destination. The road map for making disciples is the reproducible process. This process allows us to measure a disciple’s progress – to figure out where they are in the journey so we have a better idea of what they need. And it teaches the disciple the route, so that they in turn can share it with others.
The entire discipleship journey has a biblical foundation. In other words, these three elements of the discipleship journey are modeled in Scripture, especially in the life of Jesus and in the early church. You can make a disciple without a biblical foundation, but you won’t be making a disciple of Jesus.
When people talk about Real Life Ministries, we love to be known as a Disciple Making Church, rather than a Small Group Church. Small Groups are a core essential to us, but they are the vehicle we use to reach our destination – which is being a Disciple Making Church.
Too many church leaders are looking for the polished diamond and overlooking the diamond in the rough. "
One of the questions the leaders at Real Life Ministries are often asked is “Where do you find your staff?” The answer is that most of them are raised up from volunteers within our congregation. This is generally not the reply they expect!
People assume that with a 90 person staff serving a congregation with 5-6 thousand people in weekend attendance, we must have a nationwide recruiting plan to find the skills and abilities we are looking for. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Through trial and error, Real Life leaders have discovered that the people attending and serving as volunteers in our church, actually make the best transition to staff. We have had a chance to watch them rise up as volunteer leaders and to observe over time how they handle themselves and their relationships in tough situations. And because of our membership classes and volunteer expectations, we know they are in alignment with the mission, vision, and philosophy of our Church.
It has been amazing to watch and see who God brings and who he chooses to work through. Too many church leaders are looking for the polished diamond and overlooking the diamond in the rough. Sometimes we get caught up in what a person DOES, rather than finding out first who they ARE.
One of the things we have discovered is that the use of Jesus’ method of Relational Discipleship is not only the best way to make disciples, but also the best way to raise up leaders. Discipling relationally takes time and investment into a person, walking alongside and helping them grow on their journey of spiritual maturity. But the results are well worth the effort – you will be making disciple’s of Jesus who go on to make disciples, and also creating a strong network of brothers and friends that will help support and build up Jesus’ Church.
So take a look at your top volunteer leaders - do you have someone that has been unselfishly giving of their time and abilities? Are they faithful in their church attendance and present at every event? Have you watched them navigate tough conflict and come through it with stronger relationships? Pray about who God might be placing in front of you - they may be equipped and ready to step up to a staff position!
In the short video below, Derrick McNeil – Small Groups Pastor on staff with TheMET Cyprus Campus in Houston, Texas, speaks about Relational Discipleship and his journey from church attender to staff member.
"The tension that we have to walk with small groups is that we are telling people they have to have relationships, and then we are branching the group in such a way that they no longer have those relationships."
One of the most frequent questions our leaders get asked at DiscipleShift Trainings is this:
"What method do you use to branch your small groups?"
Leaders are usually asking this question because they have branched a group or two with poor results. Many times a group has grown in number because it has created a culture of deep relationships. When a group gets to big (more than 15-20 people) we "branch" or divide the group to make two groups. This allows the groups to be small enough to encourage disciple making, while allowing room to add new people who need to get connected. But separating the group and starting over can take away that deep relational culture that was formed. And many times the new groups are unable (or unwilling) to rebuild that culture again.
Jim Putman, Senior Pastor of Real Life Ministries in Post Falls, Idaho says "The tension that we have to walk with small groups is that we are telling people they have to have relationships, and then we are branching the group in such a way that they no longer have those relationships."
Jim goes on to say there is no 'cookie cutter' methodology for branching a group. It should be like relating to your own children - each one is treated somewhat differently because they have a different design and personality.
Jim usually sends out an apprentice with one or two other couples from the group. This way each group is left with some established deep relationship, yet each group also has room to bring in some new people.
When handled this way, each group already has a welcoming relational environment that new attenders will be drawn to.
Pastor Putman concludes with this statement: "We have a mission to make disciples, but we must always combine the mission with relationship."
Click here to find out about DiscipleShift 1 Training
Watch the short clip below to hear all of Jim's comments on this topic.
We are so excited to tell you about this new resource from Jim Putman!
Hope For The Prodigal is a book that comes straight from the heart. With wisdom that comes from personal experience, Jim Putman with his father, Bill Putman, offer brokenhearted parents and loved ones hope for their prodigals. A prodigal in his younger days, Jim has also found himself in the role of the prodigal's father when his own son rejected the faith.
The statistics are sobering: between 80 and 90 percent of kids who have grown up in the church are leaving the church after age eighteen. Children slipping away into a culture that tells them the Bible isn't true, sin is no big deal, God isn't real, or there are many ways to get into heaven.
This family's powerful story of restoration, along with solid biblical truths and practical advice, will inspire, motivate, and equip you to go after your lost sheep with acts of love and service.
Here is what others are saying about Hope For The Prodigal:
"This book is helpful for individual parents and for churches that experience the loss of those they helped to raise in the faith. It will give you hope as well as clear steps to do your part as a parent and church member."
Josh McDowell, bestselling author, Evidence That Demands a Verdict
"Hope for the Prodigal is raw, vulnerable, and incredibly helpful. It's a practical and powerful look into the heart and response that God has toward His own prodigals--and the kind of heart and response He calls us to have toward the prodigals in our own lives."
Larry Osborne, pastor, North Coast Church, Vista, CA; author, Thriving in Babylon
"Every now and again God gives certain people a heightened understanding of what He is all about and what He wants us to know about living an abundant life. Consistently, God has chosen my good friend Jim Putman to deliver an important message that touches so many people. Hope for the Prodigal is important because many of us are or know of someone who has strayed into a dark and dangerous place and we want to know if there is a way back. Jim, with the truth of God's Word as his guide, leads us step by step back into a place of rich inheritance and blessing. Whether you are the prodigal or it is someone you deeply love, Jim reminds us that the story isn't over yet. Read this great book and find your way back home."
Randy Frazee, senior minister, Oak Hills Church, San Antonio, TX; author, The Heart of the Story
If you would like to read an excerpt of Hope For The Prodigal or order your own copy, please click the appropriate link below-
To download a free excerpt from Hope For The Prodigal, Click Here
To order your copy of Hope For The Prodigal, Click Here
It is hard to think about the potential damage that can come from poor leadership. So with that in mind, I want to give us 3 core values to run any church by. This will help in decision making at all levels.
3 Core Values for Church Leadership
Leadership is a sacred but slippery path. Holding influence over other people is scary and intoxicating at the same time. It is hard to think about the potential damage that can come from poor leadership. So with that in mind, I want to give us 3 core values to run any church by. This will help in decision making at all levels.
1.) Protect God’s Reputation At All Costs!
This has got to be the number one priority for any church or faith based organization of any kind. This answers all kinds of questions like when we speak up about a community issue and when we are silent, or how we treat difficult neighbors, or what community events do we get involved in.
God doesn’t need us to protect Him, He can take care of Himself. But He does invite us to partner with Him in restoring what sin broke in creation. Paul says that we are Christ’s ambassadors as though Christ were making His appeal through us. If that is the case then we better not only present Him to the world “correctly” but also in the manner which He would prefer. If He laid His life down, then so must we. Yelling and screaming about our God of Love is perhaps not the best approach.
Being right never transcends being Godly. The right thing done the wrong way becomes the wrong thing. We must protect God’s reputation first and foremost.
2.) Protect God’s Most Prized Creation – People!
As the Kingdom of God, we must fight for people, not against them. Paul says our war is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities of this present evil age. We must fight against anything that would keep people down. Especially when that which keeps people down is found in the church!
Being right should never trump treating people correctly. Our truth is useless unless it is encapsulated in a relational shell. We must first love people well. Then, we can share our positions on issues.
3.) Deal With The Issues That Prevent The First Two!
And actually deal with them. Don’t sweep them under the carpet. Don't avoid or pretend nothing is wrong. But we must organize these priorities in this order. We must deal with the issues in a way that first protects God’s reputation and second protects God’s most prized creation.
This is not an appeal to avoid or eliminate truth. Rather, it is a way of understanding how we walk in the tension of living in a world that doesn’t share our value system. If we are not careful, we can become truth bullies. And as the church continue to lose influence in culture (at least in part because people are tired of being bullied) we will move ourselves further to the fringe unless we can learn how to put these core values in their proper place.
Maybe the beginning place of any church should be kindness and acceptance. Not the “blind tolerance” version of acceptance, but the “I am for you and will not rest until you see how amazingly wonderful God made you” kind of acceptance. I wonder if people who walked through the door of our churches felt loved and accepted first, perhaps that would change them at levels they didn’t know they even needed to be changed.
Maybe if the church gave its energy first to loving well rather than being right, people would be so inexplicably attracted to the church that we wouldn’t be able to contain them all.
Let’s try it and see. If I am wrong, we could always go back to being right.
May you protect God’s reputation at all costs. May you put Him on display well in how you treat others. And may we all learn to deal with issues that inevitably arise in relationships in a way that moves people forward.
Aaron Couch: Lead Coach at Real Life Ministries, Moscow/Pulman
Aaron has been in ministry for over twenty years. As a pastor in his second church plant, he is still amazed at how God works. God has been truly faithful. Aaron has been privileged to be part of a movement of churches that is changing the face of how discipleship is accomplished within the churches of America. As a result of this, he gets the opportunity to travel and speak often. Aaron has a master’s degree from Hope International University and a bachelor’s degree from Boise Bible College, but his greatest joy is his family. Aaron is married with four kids. Aaron and his wife, Kelli, have served in ministry since the beginning of their marriage. They love the church and love watching God empower people to be set free.
Interested in hearing about our DiscipleShift 1 Training? Click HERE