- Small Group life is better than small group meetings.
- Doing life together is better than eating together.
- Growing Spiritually together is better than studying the lesson together.
- All of life discipleship is better than a Sunday morning Bible Study.
Most of the small group questions I hear about what happens DURING THE MEETING. “What are you studying?” “When do you meet?” “Who’s the teacher?” Necessary but not primary elements.
The real gold for small groups is in life together. I’ve walked with a few small groups for 5+ years. These people are like family. We experience each others lives through the ordinary and difficult moments. We can see life change happening over time and think about how far people have come over years. More than just getting through a lesson or a study, it’s journeying through all of life. Gatherings are simply opportunities to catch up, be encouraged, grow deeper in relationship with God and each other, and apply the scripture to our lives specifically and directly. Life together also allows you to serve one another in special ways as life happens. Seeing and experiencing Jesus in the life of another happens as we walk this worlds ups and down with one another. Love, joy, peace, patience, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, carrying burdens. All of these happen best in family like relationships that small group life provide.
Grateful for my Small Group. Can’t wait to gather together again this week!
Mine the gold of life together by focusing on group life and not just a group meeting.
If the elements of God’s mission can be compared to a football game, we might say that the focus has become the huddle instead of the line of scrimmage. The line of scrimmage is where the action happens. We have prioritized huddling over playing our part on the line of scrimmage by purchasing fancier uniforms for the huddle, composing cooler songs for the huddle, writing more speeches to inspire the huddle, positioning every person in the perfect spot for the huddle, holding conferences on how to build a better huddle, even getting the perfect brew to pass around the huddle.
But Jesus’ commission for the church was about going, not huddling. The huddle is vital, but it’s only a brief moment to receive the playing directions from the quarterback. If you stay in the huddle too long, you get penalized and moved backward. The church is getting shoved backward on the mission field… the problem is an overemphasis on the huddle. The church must be mobilized, it must be sent to the scrimmage line.
For most leaders, including me, that moment when a complaint or criticism arises is like a cloud moving in and potential storm rising. Many church leaders have post-traumatic stress that paralyze us whenever complaints and criticism arise. While complaining is condemned in scripture (1 Corinthians 10:10; Philippians 2:14-15; 1 Peter 4:9) and many complaints are selfish and from power seeking, disgruntled, hurting people; leaders must learn to see the opportunity in every complaint. That’s what the early church did in Acts 6. When “there arose a complaint,” they mobilized people to meet the legitimate need. The result was “the word of God spread”! Conflict is inevitable in relationships, on teams, and in churches. Don’t miss the opportunity!
- Mobilize gifted people to meet the legitimate needs that complaints may reveal.
- Sharpen the mission of sharing with your community through re-prioritizing ministry resources and gifts.
- Make room for new people that God will add as more people are mobilized for ministry and more needs are met.
- Correct, rebuke, teach, and train if complaints reveal prideful, competitive, divisive spirits in the church. 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 2:15
- Say goodbye gracefully to disgruntled, negative influences that refuse to work for unity and solutions and may hold back the mission of the church. Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10. It’s not about who you keep, but who you reach.
- Be thick skinned. Listen to criticism. Learn from it. Don’t get distracted from the mission of spreading the message of Jesus. Proverbs 15:31-32
- Don’t try to do everything or feel like you must answer everyone’s complaints or try to make everyone happy. Gospel first – Acts 6:2. A clear conscience before God is our first responsibility – Acts 24:16.
- What Louisiana city was first named Tiger Island?
- What Louisiana Parish is home to an ancient people group that still resides on its aboriginal lands?
- What Bayou was formed by a 10 mile long snake?
If you know the answers to these questions, you might be from St. Mary Parish. St. Mary Parish includes the cities of Morgan City (formerly known as Tiger Island because of rare cats spotted there by the first surveyors in the late 1700’s), Franklin (the Parish Seat), Patterson, Berwick, and the Chitimacha Indian Reservation (home of the Chitimacha Indian, who were once one of the strongest tribes in North America). Chitimacha legend has it that the ancient tribe fought a war with a 10-mile long snake and on its defeat it squirmed to its death and its remains formed Bayou Teche. Today Bayou Teche is 125 miles long and includes the beautiful Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge in St. Mary Parish.
St. Mary Parish is also home to the Gulf-Coast Baptist Association. A group of 15 southern baptist churches that partner together for the gospel in this coastal community. Today, they are in need of our partnership and prayers as economic downturn and declining church attendance has greatly impacted this association. Here are some fast facts about Gulf Coast Association:
12 Quick Facts about St. Mary Parish:
- It is located “right in the middle of everywhere” – about 50 miles from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette.
- It is part of the Gulf Coast Baptist Associaton. Associational Missions Strategist is Steven Kelly. He is also the Pastor of Bayou Vista Baptist Church near Morgan City.
- 54,650 residents. 59% White, 33% Black, 5% Hispanic, 3% other.
- 14 Southern Baptist Churches. 1 church for every 3,904 residents. (Our state ratio and goal for each association is 1 church for every 2,850. Gulf Coast Association needs 5 more churches to get to that ratio).
- Only 1 African-American church and only 1 Hispanic church.
- Gulf Coast churches have averaged between 900 and 1100 in total worship attendance for the last 10 years, with a total of 1,019 in 2018. That’s only 1.9% of the total population.
- Bible Study or Sunday School attendance was at less than 1% in 2018 with 506 attendees.
- “Well, most people are Catholic in South Louisiana.” Not so fast. The ARDA reports that there are 24,662 nones in the parish, or religiously unaffiliated. That’s 45% of the population. 17,834 are Roman Catholic, or 33%. 9,885 evangelicals, or 18%.
- Crime is 26% higher that the state average and 48% higher than the U.S. average.
- Poverty is at 21%, which is 1% higher than the state and 6% higher than the U.S.
- Greatest needs according to Associational Missions Strategist Steven Kelly, are for an African-American congregation in Morgan City. A new Hispanic congregation may be needed. RePlanting and Revitalization partnerships are needed across the Gulf Coast.
- Also needed are Bivocational or Covocational Pastors and Planter who will plant their lives in these communities and see them reached for the gospel.
Pray for Tiger Island and the surrounding communities of St. Mary Parish.
Recently I was with a group of church leaders and the issue of reaching the lost came up. One of the leaders asserted that it seems the churches are all going after the same people, while the truly lost in our communities have little outreach to them. He’s absolutely right. Many of our standard church outreach activities are white noise to the growing number of NEVER churched in our communities. Maybe its time to Start Something new to reach the lost in your city.
- When was the last time you assessed your community for the real needs of people?
- When was the last time you thought about the unchurched in your town and how to bring the gospel to them?
- When was the last time you asked hard questions about the effectiveness of your churches ministry in making contact with the lost?
- When was the last time you looked at the demographics around your church?
This years Missions and Ministry Summer Luncheon tour will focus on these questions. We want to learn about your community and highlight some needs that may be great avenues for sharing the gospel. We want to talk about starting some new fights with modern day issues affecting people in our state. Join the Missions and Ministry Team at one of our Summer Luncheons across Louisiana in June and July.
Register for a luncheon HERE.
My only experience in Terrytown and that of many others I’ve spoken with is driving through on the way to fishing destinations south of New Orleans. Terrytown is currently at the top of our list of places in Louisiana that need a new church.
12 Quick Facts about Terrytown:
- It’s located on the eastern side of Jefferson Parish on the West Bank of the Mississippi River.
- It is a part of New Orleans Baptist Association.
- It’s name came from the original developer of residential homes in communities south of New Orleans. He had a daughter named Terry, so yep, he got to name it. Terrytown!
- Population is listed at 23,319. The zip code of 70056 shows a population of 41,330.
- It is one of the most densely populated areas in Louisiana.
- Poverty rate is high: 26%. Compared to 20% across all of Louisiana and 15% across the U.S.
- Terrytown is very diverse: 36% Black, 32% White, 24% Hispanic, 5% Asian.
- To note the growth in diversity in this area: In 2000, Terrytown was 50% white, 34% black, and only 9% Hispanic.
- Crime is high: Violent crime is 50% higher than the national average and about 40% higher than the state average. Property crime is 37% higher than the national and state averages.
- There is currently no Southern Baptist Church in Terrytown. And relatively few evangelical churches. Pray with me for a new church or three in this diverse community.
- Jefferson Parish is Louisiana’s 2nd largest parish with 439,000 residents. Best numbers show the religious makeup as 15% evangelical, 33% catholic, and 46% nones.
- If these % are true of Terrytown, then there are 3,498 evangelicals, 7,695 Roman Catholics, and 10,727 people unaffiliated with any church.
Let’s pray for Terrytown!
What other interesting facts do you know about Terrytown? Interested in helping reach out and plant a church in this community?
Anxiety, Depression, Opioid addiction, Suicide. These are some of the struggles that have been thrust upon parents and families in our modern era. Here are a few good books I’ve read and recommended over the past few years if you’re walking any these paths yourself or with someone else.
Life’s Healing Choices: Freedom From Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits by John Baker. This book is the foundation for Celebrate Recovery, which is proving to be a great resources for communities and churches. It’s worth reading if just for the personal testimonies of transformation that will give you hope to overcome whatever struggle your are facing.
Hope in the Dark: Believing God is Good When Life is Not by Craig Groeschel. Craig’s personal story of struggling with his daughters illness, along with his decades of pastoral experience.
Love is Oxygen: How God Can Give You Life and Change Your World by Jarrid Wilson. Jarrid’s personal journey through anxiety and depression. Demonstrates the power of love and specifically God’s love in overcoming these today.
Stronger: How Hard Times Reveal God’s Greatest Power by Clayton King. Clayton’s personal story of loss and hardship and the lessons learned in the school of suffering over the course of a believers life.
Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls by Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert. Tough love is tough. This book gives direction in how to advance tough love in relationships with those closest to you. Lots of real life stories throughout as well.
On Pills and Needles: The Relentless Fight to Save My Son from Opioid Addiction by Rick van Warner. Rick’s story is from a faith perspective and the perspective of a restaurant manager, where drug addiction seems to thrive. You can hear his story on Family Life Radio’s Podast Here.
Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy. Good primer on understanding the rise of opioid production and abuse in America. Macy was a reporter in Appalachia and had a front row seat to its devastation over the last few decades.
Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff. Now a major motion picture. And now a series of books that includes two books by his son, Nick, who was a Meth Addict. This book shares the reality of this struggle from a parents perspective. Sheff does not come from a faith perspective. He is a journalist and writer. Well researched and personal.
Not My Child: A Progressive and Proactive Approach for Healing Addicted Teenagers and Their Families by Frank Lawlis. From the clinical perspective. Lots of great tips for families going through the struggle of addiction with teenagers.
Caring for One Another: 8 Ways to Cultivate Meaningful Relationships by Ed Welch. Anything by Ed Welch is worth reading for the believer who wants to know how to cope and what to say to those trying to cope. This short book helps with how to handle difficult conversations and how to talk about difficult things with people who are struggling.
Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide by Frank Page. The real, personal, and raw journey of a family with a child experiencing mental illness and eventual suicide. Page’s pastoral experience makes this a practical guide for what to do and what to say for those wanting to help others.
When Your Teen Is Struggling: Real Hope and Practical Help for Parents Today by Mark Gregston. Anything by Mark Gregston is worth reading. And you can catch his daily podcast and other resources here.
What books or resources do you recommend to those going through life’s wilderness?
Failure is pervasive in life and ministry. In his book Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure, J.R. Briggs vulnerably shares his story and weaves together the stories of others who had experienced great ministry failure. The book provides a healthy framework for understanding failure, provides solid definitions of success for those in ministry, and connects with some pathways out of ministry failure. Briggs reminds us of the facts that inn our failures we experience God’s grace and power, God does not leave us alone, and God shapes our character. Great book to process if you’re going through a dry season or feel an overwhelming sense of failure in your ministry or career. You can overcome, you can fail forward, you can begin again.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
- Ministry is fertile ground for failure, and failure is fertile ground for ministry.
- Breakdowns often lead to breakthroughs – and sometimes failure can be the very thing that provides the breakthrough we need to experience true ministry.
- Failure is the crucible of character formation.
- The gospel doesn’t keep us from failing but instead transforms it into deeper meaning and a more hopeful purpose.
- Often it is not a major catastrophic event that brings pastors down but the ongoing, unrelenting, oppressive stress on the treadmill of ministry, where we simply cannot keep up the pace.
- Faithful ministry is meeting people where they are and walking with them to where God wants them to be.
- The business-model approach to ministry is product oriented, a biblical approach to ministry is process oriented.
- When we live as faithful followers of Jesus, we are bound to fail – and yet this is a good thing. Failure can be a gift. Failure can be grace. Failure can yield hope.
- Our lives and ministries will be assessed by congruence, not efficiency. It is not found in productivity, competence or progress as much as in the development of Christlike character and coherence of our stories with the character of God.
- There are few professions more open to attack by vulnerability and shame than ministry.
- For pastors one of the most accepted and encouraged yet dangerous and potentially lethal numbing agents is busyness.
- Failure will define us, refine us or redefine us, but it will never leave us the same.
- How we deal with the brokenness around us depends entirely on how we deal with the brokenness inside us.
- There is no spiritual formation and maturity without difficulty and uncertainty. If we are going to continue to grow in our journey with Jesus, we have to continue to risk, opening ourselves up to the possibility of failing again.
Margin is defined as an amount by which a thing is won or falls short. And margin creates opportunities.
In sports – “We’re winning by a 25 point margin, so we can allow our substitute players to get playing time.”
In business – “Our sales have created a substantial margin this month, so we can afford to take a few advertising risks if we want.”
In church, margin can be more than enough money, more than enough volunteers, more than enough space to take risk and expand into a new area of ministry.
Multiplication requires margin. That’s the problem. Most churches today have little margin. We have too little or just enough money, volunteers, space in the calendar, etc.
It has gotten harder to create margin. Building and staff expenses have increased. People are harder to reach today than ever before. People are giving less to churches than ever before. People have less time, or believe that they do, than ever before. Churches must work harder and get creative in building, protecting, and strategically utilizing the margins for healthy growth.
“I just don’t have enough _____ to get involved in church planting right now.” He’s right. The margin for the multiplication of ministry is diminished for most churches.
How can we create margin?
- Assess ministries to determine their effectiveness and work to eliminate those that are no longer fruitful. This could create some margin and momentum for other areas. Example:
- Look for margin that may be unrecognized. Can you duplicate a ministry that your are preparing already into another sphere. Example: One church does VBS at their location, then at local private daycare’s. That’s multiplication, that took little extra prep by volunteers.
- Take an assessment of the amount of time people spend on ministry inside the church. If its more than 12-15 hours, its probably cutting into the time they have for ministry in the neighborhood, marketplace, or community. People work 40 hours per week and probably have another 10-12 to volunteer. Explore ways to help people put ministry and volunteer hours toward the unchurched around them. This is the least common denominator of kingdom growth. This is the path to margin for our churches.
- Assess empty space around you. Most communities have lots of empty space that can be used for ministry. Instead of always thinking about building new (which almost always robs us of margin, or will in the future), consider ministries that may can fit empty space around you. Example: I visited one church that turned neighboring empty buildings into ministry space, saving the church a ton of money in new construction costs and building good will in the community by sparing potential blighted property.
- Margins are created by healthy growth, facilitated by healthy systems. Consider working on strengthening the systems of your church. Check out this Systems Analysis Tool to get started.
If multiplication is desired, margin should be on your mind as a ministry leader.
What other ways can we create margin for ministry and multiplication?
- Is your church creating margin through healthy growth of disciples?
- What are you planning for future margins?
- What is the thing keeping you from having margin for multiplication and ministry right now?
- What are of your ministry has the most margin right now? How can you multiply it?
- Do people have enough margin in their life to perform the least common denominator of kingdom growth – Gospel Sharing with Friends and neighbors?