Making Small Groups Work

This past Saturday I coached my very first tee ball game.  I know the kids had fun, but I’m not sure they had more fun than I did.  Half the kids are 4 and have never played team sports before.  The other half are 6 and many played last year, but are still learning the concept of being on a team.  Small groups can be like that as well.  There are people who have never been in a small group and don’t know the rules, and those who have been in groups for a couple of years but still don’t grasp the team concept yet.

Small groups can be awkward or they can be amazing (I’ve been in both, and I’m sure you have been as well).  With that in mind, we want to make more groups awesome, and fewer awkward.  Bill Donahue, Henry Cloud, and John Townsend want that as well, and put together a training tool called Making Your Small Group Work.  This DVD-based study helps groups (whether just starting, or established) become better groups.  Watch the clip below to see a sampling of the small group study.

In addition, would you take 5 minutes to take a survey for me?  I am trying to gauge what type of resources we should pursue to publish, and how best to let people know that they exist.  Please click this link to take the short survey: Click here to take survey


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Close Encounters

I was raised in the suburbs of Chicago and prefer a six lane highway to back country roads.  I have shot a gun once in my lifetime, and have never hunted.  However, when I and the other people on our staff (who also are non-hunters) saw the video and teaching from Jason Cruise for his men’s Bible study Close Encounters, we knew that it would reach those men in the church (and outside it) who do love to hunt.

Jason is an author, speaker, and video producer in the hunting industry. He has a MDiv from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a DMin from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is a first-class hunter.

Jason developed a six-session video-based men’s Bible study called Close Encounters: A Fair Chase Venture into the Heart of God.  He says, “more and more, the outdoorsman is feeling like the odd man out in church ministry. Many are struggling to fit into small groups that aren’t designed for them or are searching for a way to serve that makes them, as an outdoor enthusiast, feel utilized and appreciated.”

Jason equates the modern-day outdoorsman with Peter the fisherman in the Bible. Peter would not be a likely candidate to sit on a committee or work in kids’ ministry. So where does a modern-day Peter fit in?

Close Encounters was designed to reach men’s groups who want to delve deeply into Scripture, using hunting and fishing as the staging ground. It features real-life wild game hunts and fly fishing ventures with nationally known outdoorsmen who connect divine spiritual truths with the unique earthly experiences found only in the world of hunting and fishing.

To watch the first session of Close Encounters, click on this link to view on YouTube.  Also watch the trailer embedded below.  Also, I’m curious…How many of you are hunters, or have family members who are hunters?

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A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart

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My wife and I are trying (desperately) to teach both thankfulness and prayer to our two boys.  My eldest son has a hard time with both of these (must take after his dad).  After our family Bible story each evening we go around and pray and all we ask for now is that they say one thing they are thankful.  Luke was thankful for being able to go to the park yesterday, but Jack said he didn’t have anything.  After pressing him, he was thankful for “the day”.

Why is it so easy to feel entitled to things and take blessings for granted?

I know, sin.  I think it also has to do with the fact that, as Craig Groeschel puts it, “we believe in God, but live as if he doesn’t exist.”  Thankfulness is something that comes out of a heart that understands and appreciates the gift given.  Prayer is an outpouring of our need and true belief in God.  If we expect blessing and feel entitled, we won’t be thankful, and if are not thankful, we will probably not see a need for God, or need for prayer.

I fully point the finger at myself on both of these counts.  Having grown up in the church, as well as in a middle-class home, I felt a certain amount of entitlement both spiritually and externally.  I was like the elder son in the parable of the prodigal sons – I didn’t want the Father any more than the younger son, I just wanted him for what I was going to inherit and kept “slaving away”.

So what to do about my son’s (any my) lack of thankfulness and desire to pray?  In his first session from The Christian Atheist, Craig Groeschel says that to know God better, seek him.  If you seek him, he will reveal himself to you.  It seems that going through the work of daily counting our blessings and setting aside specific time to pray will help.  Another idea came from my pastor while teaching on Ephesians this weekend.  Take yourself under the wing of a prayer mentor from the Bible.  Look at Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in chapter 1.  Paul says, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Look how Paul prays, and use this prayer as a template of sorts.  Pray that you would have a spirit of wisdom and revelation, that God would reveal himself to you.  Pray that you would see the hope of who you are in Christ and what he has called us to be.

This is what I told Jack last night.  That sin keeps us from being thankful, and when we are not thankful we listen to the snake (Satan).  But when we are thankful, we listen to Jesus and defeat the snake.

For the whole message about believing in God, but living as if he doesn’t exist, watch The Christian Atheist on YouTube here.

Second Child as Birth Control and Becoming Christlike

Do you have kids?  I have two boys, 4 1/2 and 3 years old.  Jack is my oldest and is a very compliant, sensitive, thoughtful little boy.  Luke is…not.  Luke reminds me of my younger sister growing up – very funny, very sweet at times, but if things ever so slightly go awry or not the way they want, watch out.  My wife and I jokingly call him “Lukifer” at these times.  I find myself at a loss with him multiple times a week (and I’m not the primary care-giver!).

As a dad, I think I am involved, and take my role as the leader in the house seriously.  I have also discovered that I am not nearly as patient and unselfish as I thought I was.  I have read many books and watched many parenting studies.  Quite often, these gives tips on training your children and communication and discipline.  That is all well and good, and have found many of the resources helpful.  One parenting study, though, that I have been going back to is Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas.  This study looks at how children shape our souls to become more like Jesus.

Sacred Parenting looks at how parenting changes the parent, not the child.  Thomas calls parenting a school of spiritual formation, and our children are our teachers.

I think this is such a great study, that I want to give it away today.  Here’s what you need to do to get the DVD and Participant’s Guide free:

  1. Watch the full session on YouTube here:
  2. Answer Gary’s question at the end of the video about a particular challenge that you are facing (or faced) with your children and leave it in the comments on YouTube.
  3. Paste the same comment below here (so we can connect with you about sending the resources to you).
  4. Available today only.

Also be sure also to visit the Small Group Bible Study playlist on YouTube.  Watch full-length small group Bible study sessions free from authors and pastors like Timothy Keller, Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, and Mark Batterson.

And the winners of @GospelCoach are…

Keith, Trent McEntyre, and Jarod Houghteling have each just won a copy of Gospel Coach by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood. Thanks for reading the blog! I’ll contact you for shipping information.



If you’re dirty, you’re having fun

My boys (4 & 3) and I have a saying, “If you’re dirty, you’re having fun.”  The last several days we have been working in the back yard, including digging up a dead lilac bush.  The boys love digging in the dirt, lifting up rocks to see what creatures they might discover, and trying to find worms.

They have also really taken to a curriculum series Zondervan recently published called, The Nature of God.  Ideally, both of the 9 lesson curriculum DVDs (one based in Hawaii, the other in Michigan) are for children’s church, Sunday school, or even a home school curriculum and for ages 6-9.  However, both my boys not only love watching the lessons, but learn a lot from them as well.

Peter Schriemer hosts each lesson and takes children on a journey through creation that is applicable to their day-to-day, spiritual life.  Kids learn about humpback whales and why it’s important to obey; forest floor creatures and whether God will take care of them or not; and Great lakes dunes and God’s forgiveness.

Children watch the 10-12 minute video and then teachers or parents can print off the activities and lessons from the DVD-ROM.  Each DVD-ROM has unique lessons for grades 2-4 for church or school.  Watch the full first lesson from Great Lakes Discoveries below and the full first lesson from Hawaiian Adventures at this link:

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Also be sure also to visit the Small Group Bible Study playlist on YouTube.  Watch full-length small group Bible study sessions free from authors and pastors like Timothy Keller, Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, and Mark Batterson.

[image courtesy of Abraham Piper]

Will Downloads Kill the DVD Star?

…I don’t think so, but you can now download any individual session from any of 20 small group Bible studies now on  Download an entire study, or cherry pick different sessions from different studies and create your own study.  Pick from best-selling small group studies like The Reason for God, When God’s People Pray, Surprised by Hope, The Christian Atheist, The Story, and others!

Each video download is available for purchase for only $2.99 and you get both mp4 and .mov formats (depending if you would like to play it on your mobile device or need high-definition, respectively).  If you would like the corresponding participant’s guide session in PDF, that is bundled with many for $4.99 a session.

So head on over and see what’s available.  Let us know which sessions you pick out and what you think of the experience!

Also be sure also to visit and subscribe to the Small Group Bible Study playlist on YouTube.  There are nearly 100 full-length sessions available for free to view from authors and pastors like Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, and Timothy Keller.

PheNOOMAnal Deal

NOOMA is a series of short films that explore the world from a perspective of Jesus.  Jesus didn’t come to simply give a new set of rules to live by, but to challenge listeners to search, to question, and to wrestle with what matters most.  Jesus started discussions about those things in life that matter most to God, and to us.  NOOMA films don’t hold all the answers, but they do start the conversation.

And now, you can get all 24 NOOMA films for $69.99.  Not only is this over 80% off buying them at list price, also included is the Drop Like Stars Tour Film and hardcover book.  To take advantage of this offer, just go to Zondervan ChurchSource here: and add the pack to your cart.  You will be promoted to enter your promo/source code, and just enter this code:  ZC3CAA142.  Boom, it’s in your cart at $69.99.

Hope you take advantage of and enjoy this deal.  Also, in honor of mother’s day this coming Sunday, here is a clip from NOOMA 021 | She:

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Be sure also to visit and subscribe to the Small Group Bible Study playlist on YouTube.  There are nearly 100 full-length sessions available for free to view from authors and pastors like Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, and Rick Warren.

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