Steve’s Tips – August 2009

August 10, 2009

Steve Gladen newsletter

by Steve Gladen

Looking for some tips to help balance your small groups? Pass these suggestions on to your leaders:

FELLOWSHIP – Have group members share a brief account of their spiritual journey. These stories are a great way to get to know each other better. The stories can also prompt group members to extend compassion, patience, and love to one another.

DISCIPLESHIP – Ask the entire group to read the same passage(s) during their daily quiet time this week. For example, you might consider having them read John 17 each day for five days. Encourage them to read slowly and to take notes on what they observe and what insights God gives them. The next time your group meets, read that passage out loud and ask people to share some of their thoughts with the group.

MINISTRY – A servant does whatever needs to be done. So talk to your group about taking on a project at your church that no one else really wants to do. After the group has agreed to get their hands dirty, contact your pastor or a staff member to determine what project to tackle. Depending on the project, this could be a great opportunity to involve your kids in ministry as well.

EVANGELISM – Invite some seeker friends to enjoy a barbecue with your group. Encourage each group member to invite at least one friend. Keep the time together light and fun. Make sure to be sensitive to them as you plan your evening. This would probably not be the time, for instance, for thirty minutes of prayer! Your guests will undoubtedly notice your camaraderie and perhaps be curious about your group. If they seem interested, invite them to check out the group at the next meeting.

WORSHIP – Plan a group prayer walk. Pick a route and have your group pray together as you walk. Notice your surroundings as you walk and use what you see as direction for your prayers.

250 Big IdeasFor more ideas like these read 250 Big Ideas for Purpose Driven Small Groups.  More next month!

Steve Gladen is Pastor of the Small Group Community at Saddleback Church and founder of the Purpose Driven Small Group Network.

Leadership Lifter : Emotional Burnout

August 10, 2009

by Rick Warren


With today’s high pressure lifestyle it’s easy to run out of emotional energy and experience burnout.  This is not a new problem, or unique to you. It is a problem that is as old as mankind, and it is a warning light that something is out of balance in your life. 

Look at the example of Elijah found in 1 Kings 19:1-8.  Elijah was a great man of God.  He had just had a very high spiritual experience atop Mt. Carmel. Yet with every mountaintop there is inevitably a valley, a low.  When Elijah faced his low and became depressed, he ran off to the other side of the mountain and hid under a tree, then later hid in a cave and said, “God, I’m so depressed I want You to kill me.” 

What causes that kind of burnout?  How do you go from that kind of high to that kind of low? A number of things:

  1. Fear causes it.  Verse 3, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.”  Fear can cause burnout.
  2. Resentment can cause burnout.  In verse 4 he said, “I’m fed up.  Lord, I’ve had enough.  I don’t want any more.”
  3. Low self esteem.  He said, “I’m no better than my ancestors.”  He was comparing himself.  He said, “I’m no good.”
  4. Anger can cause burnout.  In verse 10 he complains to God. “God, I’ve been serving you yet none of these people want to follow your will.”
  5. Loneliness. 
  6. Worry.  “Now they’re trying to kill me too.” 

Elijah was an emotional disaster at this point in his life.  He had fear, resentment, low self esteem, anger, loneliness and worry.  Do you think that would cause depression?  I think so. 

How do people get themselves in such an emotional mess?  The answer is faulty thinking.  The Bible points out the problems associated with faulty thinking. Psalm 13:2 tells us, “ How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”  The problem is, when we’re at an emotional low, we are more vulnerable to this type of thinking and we typically make four common mistakes.  


Verse 4 tells us, “… he prayed that he might die, `I’ve had enough, Lord!'” He said, “I’ve had enough, Lord.  I’m wasting my life.  I’m fed up.  It’s no use trying.  I’m going to give up.”  This is what I call emotional reasoning.  Emotional reasoning says, “If I feel it, it must be so.”  I feel like a failure, therefore I am a failure.  I don’t feel close to God, therefore I must not be close to God.  I feel like a lousy husband, therefore I am a lousy husband. The fact is, feelings are not always facts. 


When we are emotionally drained, we start comparing ourselves. This is what Elijah did.  He said in verse 4b, “Take my life.  I am no better than my ancestors!”  He starts comparing himself to his family tree.  

The Bible warns against this over and over again.  It says, “Do not compare!”  When you start comparing yourself to other people you are setting yourself up for depression.  Everybody is different.  Everybody is unique.  Only you can be you.  If you don’t be you, who’s going to be you?  

When you get to heaven, God is not going to say, “How come you weren’t more like Billy Graham?” or “How come you weren’t more like Moses?” or “How come you weren’t more like….?”  

He’s going to say, “How come you weren’t more like you?”  That’s who He made you to be.  

We get emotionally burnt out because we start comparing ourselves to others.  When we compare ourselves, we compare our weaknesses with other people’s strengths.  We ignore the fact that they have weaknesses that we may be strong in.  We make comparisons that get us into all kinds of trouble. 

We try to motivate ourselves through criticism.  We compare ourselves and then say, “I should be able to read my Bible like that person” or “I should be a better Christian like that person” or “I should witness like that person”.  We get into trouble when we say, I should, I must, or I ought to. The moment you start using the word “should” in your vocabulary, you are guaranteeing procrastination.  It is human nature that we resist what is forced upon us.  

How do you get motivated to do those things you know are important in life?  You change the language from “should” to “want”.  Paul didn’t say, “I should be all things through Christ who strengthens me.  He said, “I can be all things through Christ who strengthens me.” That changes the motivation. The motivation must come from your heart, not from a comparison to others. 

We also tend to label.  We give ourselves harmful names. Instead of saying things like, “I made a mistake” we say, “I’m a failure.”  Instead of saying, “I tripped” we say, “I’m a klutz”. Instead of saying, “I overate” we say, “I’m a pig”.  We label ourselves. 

Labeling only reinforces negative characteristics.  If you were to say to me, “Rick, you are a lazy person.”  Then I’d say, “Yeah, just watch how lazy I can be!” I would tend to perform up (or down) to your expectation.  If I were to say to you, “You are always a late person.”  You’d say, “Yeah, just watch!  Watch how late I can be!”  Labeling only reinforces the negative. 

But if somebody says to you, “You could be a great Christian. You could be a great mother. You could be a dynamic father.” Then all of a sudden you get excited, and you begin to visualize the potential.  You begin to see yourself in a new light.  You start moving toward that positive focus.  


Elijah took blame onto his shoulders that did not belong there.  Verse 10 tells us, “I have been zealous for God…”  He’s been preaching and praying and doing all these dynamic things that a prophet is supposed to do but, “They have rejected your covenant and broken down your altars and put your prophets to death with a sword.”  

In his depression, Elijah blames himself for failing to convert the entire nation of Israel.  He takes this big load upon his shoulders and says, “It’s all my fault.  I’ve been working like crazy and yet nobody’s changed.”  He took it personally.  That’s a heavy responsibility. 

When you start trying to assume responsibility for other people you’re going to get depressed.  You can be responsible to someone without being responsible for someone.  When you take responsibility for someone, you are in essence taking it away from them, and there is a danger they will never learn to take responsibility for themselves.  

This is what Elijah did.  He said the whole world hasn’t converted, therefore it’s my fault.  You’re not responsible for other people’s response.  When I first became a Christian, every time I shared my faith with somebody — witnessed to them — and they didn’t accept Christ, I thought I had failed.  What did I do wrong?  They didn’t become a Christian?  Then I realized that in planting seeds, some of it’s going to fall on hard ground.  No matter how you plant it, some of it’s not going to sprout.  We blame ourselves for things that aren’t our fault. You can influence people but you cannot control them.  They have a free will.  


 We blow it out of proportion.  All of a sudden “everything’s going wrong!”  Elijah says in the last part of verse 10, “… I’m the only one left!  And now they’re trying to kill me, too, Lord.”  This guy is having one giant pity party.  He’s having a great time feeling sorry for himself.  “Everybody’s against me! Everybody hates me.  Nobody loves me.  I’m going to go eat worms!”  

The fact is there was only one person who was fighting him.  That was the queen — Jezebel.  She had gotten jealous of Elijah’s popularity and power in the nation.  So the queen of the nation sent him a messenger and said, “If you don’t get out of the country, I’m going to have you killed within a few hours.” Elijah ran across the desert, hid in a cave and had his pity party.  There was only one person against him.  Through the mask of his depression, though, he feels, “Everybody’s against me!”  

If he had really thought it out, if Elijah had not listened to his feelings but looked at the facts instead, he would have thought, “Jezebel sent a messenger to warn me that she was going to kill me.”  If Jezebel had really intended to kill him, she wouldn’t have sent a messenger to warn him.  She would have just sent a hit man.  Why warn him?  Just go knock him off!  

But Jezebel was clever enough to know that if she killed Elijah that would only make matters worse.  That would make him a martyr.  Pretty soon he’d be a hero in the nation and might even cause a revolt among the people.  On top of that, Jezebel worried about what God would do to her if she touched God’s man.  So instead, she just thought, “I won’t kill him.  I’ll just embarrass him.”  So she threatened him and let him run away.  And then he runs off to be remembered as a coward.  One minute he’s the hero and the next minute he’s a zero. 

Have you noticed when you are depressed everything seems to go wrong?  Not just the thing you are depressed about, but everything goes wrong.  It is like the guy who fell asleep. While he slept, someone rubbed limburger cheese on his mustache. When he woke up he started running around and sniffing, running around and sniffing.  People thought he was going crazy.  They said, “What’s the matter?”  He said, “The whole world stinks!”  

That’s the way it is with our attitudes.  Anytime you say the whole world stinks, check your own nose!  Check your own attitude.  The whole world does not stink.  There is a lot of good going on in the world.  But when we have a bad attitude, we get this pessimistic outlook that everything is going to the dogs.  

Elijah said, “I’m the only one,” and God said, “No, you’re not.  I have reserved 7000 in Israel who haven’t bowed their knees to Baal.  There are 7000 people in this nation that haven’t followed this false god, this idol.  They’re still true to Me.  They’re still faithful.  They’re living the right way.  You’re not the only one.  There’s 7000 people.”  

But that’s typical.  When your life becomes filled with fear, resentment, low self esteem, anger, loneliness, and worry, you are headed for burnout.  Then, if you focus on your feelings, and you compare yourself to others, and you accept responsibility for everybody else, and you exaggerate the negative, you’re only going to make matters worse.  

Next month we will look at how the Bible tells us to resist burnout and climb out of this hole of despair.

Rick Warren is the senior pastor of Saddleback Church and the best-selling author of many books, including The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life.

The PDSGN – A Dream Realized

August 10, 2009

by Cheryl ShiremanMCj04396120000[1]

The Purpose Driven Small Group Network is the dream of Steve Gladen, Pastor of the Small Group Community of Saddleback Church. After receiving questions from so many Small Group Point People over the years, many ready to throw in the towel, Steve began to wonder how he could help all of these people beyond a short phone conversation or email. As he began to explore possibilities, he realized, beyond an occasional conference, very few of these leaders had contact with any other Small Group Point People – even those that lived just a few miles from each other. At that point, he started to dream of a free Network that would connect all of these people to each other. It is Steve’s goal that no Small Group Point Person ever stands alone. To this end, he created the PDSG Network to connect Small Group Point People across North America so that they might build relationships, encourage one another, and share resources and ideas.

The PDSGN began in 2007. It had a rocky start. There was such an overwhelming response that some people “fell through the cracks” – the very last thing Steve wanted. As more leaders stepped in across the country, however, the Network began to take shape. These men and women became Area Point Leaders, State Point Leaders, and Regional Point People.

There are currently twelve Area Point Leaders. The Area Point Leaders each oversee a group of State Point People in their area. For example, the Midwest Area Point Leader oversees Michigan, Ontario, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky and encourages each of those State Point People.

In turn, the State Point People each encourage Regional Point People in their state or province. For example, the Indiana State Point Person encourages all of the Regional Point People in the state of Indiana. The amount of Regional Point People per state (or province) varies according to the size of the state, but generally, we are aiming for one Regional Point Person per county.

The Regional Point People are the people “in the trenches”. They are the men and women doing the real work of the Network – gathering Small Group Point People in their area for “huddles”. A huddle is an informal gathering of Small Group Point People. It may be as simple as a few people meeting for coffee, or as elaborate as a group meeting during a small group conference. Whatever the venue, the idea is to build relationships, encourage one another, and share resources and ideas. All too often, Small Group Point People are isolated from their peers who do the same work. These huddles give them the opportunity to build personal networks of support by meeting others who live relatively close. Want to know what curriculum others are using? Want to know what other churches are doing about training? Want to know how to start new groups? A huddle is your chance to ask!

Steve’s idea of a network to connect Small Group Point People has taken root and is flourishing. Today, Small Group Point People of varying denominations and backgrounds are joining the Network on a daily basis. Some are serving as State Point People (we still have a few state positions available), some are serving as Regional Point People (want to have your own huddles?), and some are just showing up for coffee. All of them have one goal, however – developing healthy small groups. Our goal, is to help them do so.

Cheryl Shireman
Cheryl Shireman is the PDSG Network Coordinator. Interested in becoming a State or Regional Point Person? Contact her at  Interested in joining the PDSGN – click on this link and join today!  JOIN PDSGN



The Importance of Gathering Your Small Group Leaders

August 10, 2009

by Steve Gladen

There are two questions inherent in every small group ministry: How do you get people connected into new groups, and how do you sustain existing groups?”  There are two crucial areas you need to consider in sustaining your Small Group Ministry.  One is how you do infrastructure; not sexy, but needed if you have over ten groups in your church.  This topic will be discussed in next month’s issue. The second area, and the topic of this article, is Sustaining Gatherings.

What in the world is a Gathering? Why are Gatherings important and why should your church do a Gathering?  How do you do a Gathering?  Are Gatherings just for large Small Group Ministries?  Each of these questions needs to be answered in order for you to sustain the small groups you start.

What is a Gathering?  MLM’s (Multi-Level Marketing) or companies doing a “pyramid” strategy have known the value of bringing together their people for a rally for some time.  At these gatherings, the companies cast vision, share values, and get their people excited about the future. This is a valuable lesson we can learn from.  The church, however, reaches far beyond any MLM or “get rich quick” pyramid program.  The focus of the church is people and their eternal destination.

A Gathering (Appreciation Event, Small Group Night, Connection Rally, or whatever you want to call it) is bringing together all your small group leadership (current and future) under one roof so they can see the big picture beyond their individual small group. Current leadership consists of those doing the small group ministry, from those working the infrastructure to those leading the groups—anybody and everybody that plays a part.  Future leadership are those that are going to play a future role, but don’t know it yet.  Now don’t spoil it for them, they don’t need to know it now. So, how do you determine who to invite for future leadership?  A couple weeks before the event, ask all of your existing leadership to answer the question, “If you were to be gone tomorrow, who would do your role for the church?”  That is who they invite to the Gathering.  If they don’t know “who”, which is the case more times than not, get them thinking and praying about who to ask.

Why are Gatherings important and why should your church do a Gathering?  People need to be valued and to know what they are a part of.  What is the macro part they play beyond their small group or helping the Small Group Ministry?  A Gathering helps reinforce your church’s vision, values, and reinforces why those in Small Group Ministry are doing what they do.  At Saddleback, we do two Gatherings a year.  We do one in the late summer to get the groups ready for our Fall Campaign.  We do another one after the holidays in January or February to get our groups out of the holiday funk. Our infrastructure has gotten so large now, that in the summer we do a Gathering for our Community Leaders (our infrastructure that oversees all of our 3,500+ adult small groups) and one for Small Group Hosts (leaders).  We call our Gathering just that, Small Group Host Gatherings. 

Here is what a Gathering can do for your church:

  • United people under the same focus
  • Cast vision repeatedly
  • Reaffirm “why” they do what they do
  • Honors—shows value for what they do
  • Connect them with body—all the other people doing what they do
  • Alignment behind common vision & goal of the Pastor
  • Help them see what part they play in that vision
  • Give people a chance to see their leadership up close and personally – hear from heart & ask questions
  • Gain ownership – pulling people together creates a sense of shared ownership in the vision
  • An opportunity to recruit new volunteers
  • Empower your leaders – newbies seeing leaders take hold of vision
  • Instill discipline and motivation to carry it forward. They will sacrifice for a vision not a task.
  • Motivation & inspiration, alignment & direction = fuel toward vision
  • Demonstration of community produces excitement
  • Show the authenticity & integrity of leadership
  • Begin to teach your leaders how to think out of the box 

Getting people together to share a common vision is a powerful thing. This is a quote from someone who just attended our last Gathering: “I was inspired to feel such a personal connection with other people in the room including the pastors who greeted and hugged each guest. I knew in my heart this must be the foundation of Saddleback’s small groups, making each person feel as though they belong while sharing the love of Jesus Christ” -Heidi Harjer (guest from the Rock Church San Diego).

How do you do a Gathering?  Here are some practical suggestions based on what we have learned at Saddleback.  Regardless of the size of your small group ministry, most of the same things need to be done.  The only difference is size and scope. 

  1. Set a date – we all need a deadline to do anything.  A Gathering is no exception.  Avoid major holidays and other church events.
  2. Get your Senior Pastor there to speak.  Make sure that the date works for the Senior Pastor and put him or her in front of the core leadership of the church. 
  3. Have good worship and a flow that has energy, heart and a message.
  4. Make sure the Gathering aligns for optimum impact for the launch of small groups on the calendar.
  5. Provide food or dessert not pot luck.  When at all possible, invest in your leaders.
  6. Budget the Gathering.  When you look at where you spend money, you see what you value.
  7. Make it a big deal to elevate emphasis of importance.  Everyone has 168 hours a week.  Make sure they know their hours are needed.  If you don’t, something else will creep in.
  8. Word of mouth advertising.  It is important to put your Gathering in the bulletin, mailers, email, social media, etc., but the best invitation is a personal invitation.  Nothing else works better.
  9. Keep creative, fresh & new by building on a theme.  It doesn’t have to be expensive and resemble an art festival; but building a theme keeps your message in front of your people.   
  10. Personal recognition in program.  It costs you nothing to recognize people.  Recognize the newest, the oldest, the longest doing group life, the youngest…you get the idea, think of a reason to highlight them!  Be sure to recognize spouses—they are the unsung heroes!
  11. The more personal the better.  Create low-key & high spirited events. Sizzle fizzles. Let your people see you (authenticity and enthusiasm). Focus on tenor & tone of the presentation to do that.
  12. Have them take an action step.  What do you want them to do with what they heard that evening?  Minimally, let them know of upcoming events. 
  13. Follow up on their action step after the Gathering is over.   At Saddleback, we follow up with the guests each leader brought to see if they want to be a part of the ministry.
  14. Send all participants a personal thank you note for coming, or save the postage and place thank you notes at the tables instead of place cards.
  15. Celebrate after the event.  Gather those that planned the event together and write down what worked, what didn’t and what’s next.

Are Gatherings just for large Small Group Ministries? You may be thinking, my church isn’t as big as Saddleback, so do I really need to do a Gathering?  Bottom line – yes!  If I had five groups, I would do a gathering at my house and have them bring “up and coming” leadership—basically, do everything I do for thousands, but scale it down.  Think about it and go set a date for your Gathering!

Steve Gladen newsletterSteve Gladen is the Pastor of the Small Group Community of Saddleback Church and the founder of the Purpose Driven Small Group Network.