Technology and Community

March 24, 2010

by Reid Smith

Can technology help Small Group Ministry Point Leaders build community? Do you see it as something that enhances or competes with what you do?

If you’re hesitant, skeptical, or even curious – wondering how to use technology to grow biblical community – then I hope this article will help you envision possibilities of what you could do using tools that have never been available until now.

Today, there are more people connected online than ever before. The use of technology is on the rise all around the world. Each new generation uses more types of technology to communicate and connect. Yesterday’s technology – such as the cell phone or computer – is today’s tool, and churches that don’t use the tools of technology become increasingly irrelevant as the years go by.

Take a look at some of these statistics about the influence of technology on our culture and communication:

  1. Social networking now accounts for 11 percent of all time spent online in the US. Both social networking leader Facebook and Twitter both posted triple-digit growth in ’09.
  2. Nearly four out of five US Internet users visited a social networking site in December 2009 (according to comScore’s “The 2009 U.S. Digital Year in Review”)
  3. By 2010 Gen Y will outnumber Baby Boomers….96% of them have joined a social network
  4. Years to Reach 50 millions Users: Radio (38 Years), TV (13 Years), Internet (4 Years), iPod (3 Years)…Facebook added 100 mil users in less than 9 months…iPhone applications hit 1 bil in 9 mos.
  5. Facebook claims that 50% of active users log into the site each day. This would mean at least 175m users every 24 hours… A considerable increase from the previous 120m.
  6. If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s 4th largest between the United States & Indonesia
  7. Twitter now has 75m user accounts, but only around 15m are active users on a regular basis. An increase from the estimated 6-10m global users from a few months ago.
  8. LinkedIn has over 50m members worldwide. This means an increase of around 1m members month-on-month since July/August last year. % of companies using LinkedIn as a primary tool to find employees….80%
  9. 1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. last year met via social media
  10. 2009 US Department of Education study revealed that on average, online students out performed those receiving face-to-face instruction. An increasing number of accredited institutions are increasing their online options in the face of the present economic downturn.
  11. 1 in 6 higher education students are enrolled in online curriculum
  12. 80% of Twitter usage is on mobile devices…people update anywhere, anytime. 25% of Americans in the past month said they watched a short video…on their phone.
  13. Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passé…In 2009 Boston College stopped distributing e-mail addresses to incoming freshmen
  14. 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations
  15. In the near future we will no longer search for products and services they will find us via social media

There are a lot of benefits to using technology to build community. But there are challenges as well. Although I believe technology can be used to magnify the ministry & mission of the Church, I don’t believe it satisfies every dimension of human need and communication like human touch. But it comes pretty close.

I’ve tried to outline what I see as some of the benefits and challenges of using technology to enhance people’s experience of community:

You’re reading this article now because you’re using technology to connect. You’ve probably shared resources and insights with those you lead because of content that was disseminated by today’s technological tools. Just as a microphone amplifies the speaker’s message so technology can amplify the experience of community. Social media, for example, can be leveraged in ways that can exponentially increase meaningful contacts and those we reach with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Web 2.0 is a term that describes the trend of Internet usage and design that seeks the enhancement of creativity and collaboration among users. If you’re a Christ-follower who wants to maximize their missional impact, you’ve got to be 2.0. Explore today’s technological tools and seek to influence the millions of people immersed in the new social phenomenon of today’s online community.

Local churches and parachurch organizations must continue developing partnerships to advance The Great Commission and social networking is critical to that process. Leadership and social circles must overlap and interact for effective Kingdom collaboration. The more this happens, the more leaders can use the influence God has given to them to advance His purposes on earth. Here are some online tools that can help in this process (unless otherwise noted, all tools below are “.com”):

  • Social Networking = Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Wisestamp (to create signature block)
  • Video-chat/conferencing = Skype, Tokbox, Wetoku, Google
  • Autosend text-msging =jarbyco or tatango // text from computer = 3jam
  • Automated msging service = freeconferencecall or call-em-all
  • Evite = evite, mypunchbowl (create audio postcard from phone & send via comp w/yodio)
  • Public/Private Blogging = blogger, wordpress
  • Audio / Video podcasts (Flip video) > embed into blogs
  • Streaming = ustream or livestream
  • Find/Start a group = meetup
  • Online project collaboration = google docs, campfirenow
  • Email blast (html) = mailchimp, contact
  • Video/File/Photo-sharing = YouTube, Flickr, PhotoBucket, br.st
  • Bible Study & Discussion = YouVersion

(See this month’s Resources For You for links to sites mentioned)

Read Luke 15 and let me ask you these questions: If the shepherd in Jesus’ parable (vv. 3-7) could have viewed satellite images that would have helped him locate his lost sheep, do you think he would have used the technology? If the woman in Jesus’ parable (vv. 8-10) had a metal detector to help find her lost coin, do you think she would have used the technology? If the father in Jesus’ parable (vv. 11-32) had social media to reconnect with his lost son, do you think he would have used the technology?

Leaders are learners. The more unwilling you are to learn, the less influence you will have. (I think the opposite is true as well.) Leaders are missional – they’re the first to engage in search & rescue. They’re the early adopters of anything they think will help to reach ‘one more’. This is the heart of one who desires to spend their life so that some might be saved (1 Corinthians 9:22-23). This is the heart of our Heavenly Father who remains on the lookout for the one who has yet to come home. I believe this evidences itself in a willingness to reach out in new ways, search in new places, and to use new tools.

Reid Smith is the Community Life Pastor of Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He is also the  PDSGN Area Point Leader for the state of Florida.


Resources for you: Technology and Community

March 24, 2010

All of the links below were mentioned in Reid Smith’s article, “Technology and Community”.

Facebook social networking

Twitter social networking

LinkedIn professional network to exchange info and opportunities

Wisestamp customized email signatures for any webmail service

Skype free video calls (1 on 1) via your computer and webcam

Tokbox free video chat (up to 20 people) and video messaging

Wetoku video interviews that can be embedded into blogs

Google Video search and watch millions of videos

Free conference call 24/7 unlimited free conference calls

Call em all phone tree service enables you to make automated calls

Evite free online invitations and cards for holidays and events

My punch bowl free online invitations and party planning

Blogger free blog publishing tool from google

WordPress free blog site

Ustream broadcast live video or watch thousands of shows

Livestream broadcast live video

Meetup connects groups of people with shared interests

Google docs share documents online for group collaborations

Mail chimp email marketing service

You tube free videos

Flickr photo sharing

Photobucket image hosting, free photo and video sharing

YouVersion online bible study and community


Steve’s Tips

March 24, 2010

by Steve Gladen

How can you encourage your groups to become healthy and balanced? How about providing them with suggestions for balancing the biblical purposes? Pass these on to your Small Group Leaders as ways to promote balance and encourage your groups to go beyond the meeting!

Fellowship – Communicate to group members via Internet. Consider having an enewsletter or Facebook page to keep people updated on each other’s lives, remind members what to study next, notify members of any details about the next meeting, report prayer requests and praises, and provide group members an opportunity to share news with other members.

Discipleship – Talk with your group members about the unity of your church. Is there true unity within your church? Have members explain why they answered as they did. Also consider whether your group is proactively promoting unity within the church. List some ways your group can foster unity, and perhaps even community, within your church family.

Ministry – Who at your church is going through a crisis? Have the group prepare a meal for that person or family. When you deliver the meal, be sure to pray with and for the situation and the people involved. Your presence and your prayers may mean more than you will ever know. Also, ask someone from the group to follow up with a phone call a few days after your visit to see how the family is doing.

Evangelism – Invite your neighbors and friends and children to an Easter egg hunt at a group member’s home. Serve some light refreshments and let the kids go hunting. Make sure you have plenty of extra eggs (not hidden) for those saddened children who don’t find as many as other hunters do. Keep the time short, fun, and focused: “We are a group of Christians celebrating new life in Christ this Easter season. Thanks for joining us.”

For more tips like these, read 250 Big Ideas for Purpose Driven Small Groups!

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


Twelve Tips for a Successful Campaign

March 24, 2010

by Steve Gladen

A lot of people have written about our Campaign Strategy, but let me give you look behind the curtain. Having lived through nine Campaigns (running point on five) in my twelve years as Small Group Pastor here at Saddleback Church, I have discovered a strategy is only as good as the foundation and follow-through. As they say, the devil is in the details. When you do one of our Saddleback Church Campaigns (found at http://www.saddlebackresources.com/en-US/Campaigns/CampaignOverview.htm), it comes with full instructions on how to do the Campaign from start to finish. The instructions explain what type of teams you need to develop, and provides a calendar timeline and training DVD’s.

A Church Wide Campaign is an exponential experience for a church. It can be exponentially positive or negative, depending on how you approach it. Based on my experience, and a few battle scars, here are twelve tips to ensure a positive outcome.

  1. What’s the compelling question? When you do a Campaign, you need to know question the Campaign will answer. To give you an example, for our 40 Days of Purpose Campaign the question was “What on earth am I here for?” The compelling question gives your people a reason to join a small group and attend the corresponding weekend services. It provides your small group leaders with motivation to invite others into their small group. Without a compelling question, the congregation won’t understand the central theme or the reason for the Campaign.
  2. Align Children, Student and Adult ministries. A lot of churches that do a Campaign miss the alignment by only doing it for the adults. When your children and student ministries memorize the same scriptures, are reading similar themes, doing projects together and listening to the same weekend message, everyone is on the same page. Discussions naturally flow into the home from parent to child and child to parent.
  3. Stick to the principles and apply your own methodologies. As it goes for the Children, Student and Adult ministries—so it goes from church to church. When aligning your Campaigns for children and students you need to adapt the material to their learning level. So if the adults are memorizing a scripture, the children may learn part of the same scripture instead of the whole scripture—because that is appropriate for their level. The same principle needs to be applied to your entire church. Weekend messages need to be adapted to your church context and culture. Small group questions can be adapted to your needs. If there is a church-wide project or small group project it should serve your particular church and community. If your church has a strong presence in the homeless community, for example, then stay true to your culture and serve those same people with your Campaign projects.
  4. Language matters. One of the most significant things we learned through recruiting for our Campaigns was language matters! Campaign material is delivered through small groups, so it is vital that you have plenty of people ready to “lead” a small group. When we asked for Lay Pastors, that didn’t work well because people didn’t feel they were pastors. We then changed the term to Shepherd Leaders, which failed because they didn’t connect with the term “shepherd”. Next we tried Small Group Leader, but nobody wanted to be the leader due to perceived inadequacies or lack of time. Then we asked for H.O.S.T.’s. We told people, if you have a Heart for people, are willing to Open your home, can serve a Snack and Turn on a DVD player; then you can host a group of people. All of a sudden, we had plenty of volunteers! Interestingly enough, we never changed the duties of a small group leader, just the language. It was enough. All of the preconceived notions of what it takes to be a “leader” just fell away. If a Host continues with the group after the Campaign, then we enter them into our Small Group Leadership Development Pathway http://www.smallgroups.net/ltkit.html. This pathway then provides them with the relationships and resources to nurture and build their leadership skills.
  5. Employ various avenues of learning. The Campaign Strategy takes a common theme and helps people learn that theme through different learning styles. People learn through listening to the weekend services. People learn through discussing topics in their small groups. People learn through doing hands-on projects. People learn through memorizing scripture. And people learn through reading as they work through the Campaign materials in their small groups.
  6. Once a year is enough. I am a college football fan. As much as I love the college football season and hate to see it come to an end, there is something about the wait and anticipation of the next season. If college football was off for a month and then back on, it wouldn’t be as good from month to month (because players couldn’t prepare) and when the fall season would come, I would not be looking forward to it. It is the same way with Campaigns. When you do too many Campaigns in a year, two things happen, your volunteers who pulled it off, won’t be able to manage doing another Campaign so soon and your congregation won’t experience the anticipation of an upcoming event. At Saddleback we do one Campaign a year and trust me, we all feel that yearly Campaign comes around very quickly!
  7. Provide a clear start and end date. Our Campaigns last forty days. This is a short enough commitment that most people are willing to make it, but long enough to instill good habits. When you have a clear start and end date, it gives people an end in sight and they are more willing to come along for the ride.
  8. Expect high intensity for staff, volunteers, and members. The secret of a successful Campaign is sustaining high intensity for forty days and then backing off to allow staff and volunteers time to recover and giving members time to process the experience. Let your church calendar return to what it was and give your small groups time to stabilize. For a Campaign to happen successfully you must clear the calendar for the duration of that Campaign. You need to stop programs and events that could be distracting. Sometimes “good” programs can stop “great” things from happening in a Campaign. Also, with a Campaign comes the beginning of many new groups. After the Campaign you need time to assess where those groups are at. Some will continue and some will stop. But without the margin and infrastructure to check in on these groups, you will start a lot of groups and lose the same amount.
  9. Remember and celebrate! So often the church does a great job of recruiting and getting the job done, but a terrible job celebrating a job well done. After the Campaign, be sure to hold a celebration and express your gratitude for all of the hard work done by staff and volunteers. Take time to remember and celebrate God’s work. Share stories of success and gratitude. When you don’t take the time to celebrate, you are increasing the possibility of burnout in your staff and volunteers. In the Bible we read of many instances when God had people stop and remember the miracles He did. Why? Because He knew people would forget. When you celebrate, you etch God’s work on your people’s heart. Often we give little reminders such as key chains so when people see them, they will be reminded of that God movement. Help your people remember and celebrate the Campaign they put so much time and energy into!
  10. Understand the Delivery System—small groups.
    > At Saddleback we have two delivery systems, weekend services and small groups. Acts 5:42 gives us that one. It is a two punch system to help people not just learn, but also apply the word of God. Our small groups are the delivery system of all the components of the campaign. Group life is not optional at Saddleback. It is vital.
    > We use a funnel to depict the strategy behind how we apply the five biblical purposes throughout the church. The weekend service establishes the five biblical purposes through the preaching of the word. The CLASS system explains the five biblical purposes.
    > Small groups give people the opportunity to experience the five biblical purposes. The life of the indivdual (a Purpose Driven Life) express the purposes. The small groups are the application process of your church. They take information and turn it into transformation.
    > You need have an infrastructure in place. An infrastructure helps your new groups not go it alone. You don’t have to be an expert, just one step ahead of that new small group leader. At Saddleback we have Community Leaders who oversee new small groups. What do they do? Simple, just check in on them and offer encouragement and prayer. For a new group in the Campaign, they don’t need a lot; but they do need encouragement and prayer. The DVD curriculum provides the material, but the Community Leader gives the moral support.
    > A Leadership Development Pathway needs to be in place. Your small group hosts/leaders need to know where you want them to go. If they continue to lead, what will be their journey and final destination? Not providing clear direction is like asking someone to come over to your house and only giving them a city, not the address. They have enough information to get to the general area, but not enough to get to the intended destination. Churches sometimes give their small groups the same type of vague direction.
    > When we did the 40 Days of Community we assigned groups to do a project together. We discovered a group that does a project together, regardless of what the project is, builds a bond in those group members that holds a group together. In 40 Days of Purpose we had 68% retention rate of small groups that started. In 40 Days of Community, with a project to do, our group retention rate went to 86%. Were there other factors? I’m sure there were. But clearly, having a project to do was a big one.
    > Give your groups a next step. Before you let a group get through a Campaign, have them make a decision on what their next step will be. Will they continue or part ways? Around week four of the six week Campaign, we encourage groups to determine what their next study will be. We give them curriculum suggestion and encourage them to get the new material as soon as possible. Very often, just avoiding “down time” can make the difference in whether a group continues or not.
  11. Give people an “out” after the Campaign is finished. Chances are, even those who drop out will eventually be back in a small group. In a Campaign you need to give people permission to stop their group. I know this feels counterintuitive, but it will serve you. Now, let me be clear, I want them to continue and I want to give them every possible reason to stay together; but on the other hand I don’t want them to feel guilt if their group doesn’t continue. Why? Because when they do what you have asked, you need to reward them and thank them, not pour on guilt for not continuing. I have learned when you give people permission to stop meeting at the end of the Campaign, they will be there for the next Campaign. And during the next Campaign, they just might stay with that next group!
  12. Budget to remove financial obstacles. When we do a Campaign, we pay for everything. We provide the devotional reading books, memory key tags, prayer guides, small group DVDs and small group study guides to anyone who joins a small group. If people commit to a small group we give them everything to make a spiritual impact on them—they just need to join a small group to get them. It’s a lot of money up front, but brings huge dividends on the back side. Invest in your church. It shows your people you not only care about them, but you are also willing to put your money where your heart is.

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


Leadership Lifter: Biblical Leadership Principles

March 24, 2010

by Rick Warren

Last month we began looking at the biblical principles of leadership. We looked at the principle of identification. This month we will continue our journey by looking at two more: Clarification and Motivation.

2. Clarification. Know what I want to accomplish. I must know what I want to accomplish. I must clarify what God has called me to do in life.

This is so important because the direction of your life is your choice. If you don’t like the direction your life is headed right now, change it. Nobody’s holding a gun to your head. Nobody’s making you a victim. Nobody’s forcing you to go a certain way. If you don’t like the direction you’re headed right now, change it. 

Leaders know not only who they are, they know where they’re headed. They know what God has called them to do. They know what they want to accomplish. When you clarify your goal in life, your purpose in life, then you are set free from the tyranny of the urgent. You know as well as I do that what’s urgent and what’s important are often two different things. A lot of things that are urgent won’t even matter a week from today. But what’s important is going to matter forever and ever and ever. So we have to distinguish this.

Jesus knew exactly what He was called to do. He knew what He wanted to accomplish. He was a straightforward leader. And He established clear-cut goals. Again, from His own words in John 8:14b Jesus says, “I know where I came from and I know where I’m going.”

Do you ever get to the end of the day and wonder whether you accomplished anything? There’s a big difference between activity and productivity. You can be busy but just spinning in circles. Beware of the busyness that binds up your life and results in activity without productivity.

The thing that turns activity into productivity is purpose! When you have a purpose in what you’re doing you are able to be more strategic.

Jesus was not only straightforward, He was a strategic leader. In Matthew 10:16b He tells his disciples, “Be shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.” Honestly, that doesn’t even sound like something Jesus would say. He’s telling you to be shrewd. Shrewd as serpents and harmless as doves. He’s talking to His own people, to believers, to you. What does He mean here? He’s saying, “I want you to be strategic.” Some of us think that shrewdness, that wouldn’t be something that’s Christlike. Yes, it is. He says, You should have a strategy for your life. He says, I want you to be innocent as doves. I want you to be pure. Your motives are clear. You’re not manipulating anybody. But you need to be strategic with your life because you’ve only got one life and this is preparation for eternity. Be strategic in how you use your time.

Jesus had His clear purpose. He knew not only who He was but what was He trying to do with His life. He was a purpose driven leader. Luke 4:43 tells us, “I must proclaim the good news about the kingdom of God…for I was sent for this purpose.” Notice He says I have a purpose and I must fulfill it. He doesn’t say he should or might or could, He says he must. And God has a purpose for your life and if you don’t fulfill it, you have wasted your life. Because you weren’t put on earth to live for your ideas. You were put on earth to live for God’s purpose. You need to not only know who you are and what you want to be but where you’re headed.

You know what the first recorded words of Jesus were? He was twelve years old and when He said, “I must be about My Father’s business.” That’s the first public statement of Jesus. In other words, even then He already knew what He wanted to accomplish with His life. And at the end of His life on the cross He said, “It is finished.”

Friends, those are the bookends of a successful life. I know what God wants me to do with my life and I did it.

3. Motivation. Motivation, the third principle of biblical leadership is knowing who you are trying to please.

You can’t please everybody. Have you figured that out yet?

The other day I was talking to Kay about this. I said, “Leadership is the art of managing disappointment.” That’s what it is. It’s the art of managing disappointment. I am acutely aware as a leader that I am constantly disappointing a lot of people because I can’t please everybody. Every time I say yes to one appointment I’m saying no to a dozen others. Every time I say yes to one phone call I’m saying no to a dozen others. Every time I say yes to one project I’m saying no to other projects. You cannot please everybody, because everybody has different expectations of you. If you are going to be a leader you are going to have to ask God to give you a tough skin and a tender heart.

How did Jesus handle this? He lived for an audience of One. The only person he tired to please was God the Father. In John 5:30b Jesus tells us, “I seek not to please myself, but him who sent me.”it says this, “I only try to please the One who sent Me.” Every one of us needs to learn the same lesson. If you are going to be an effective and great leader then you have to learn to not care about so many different opinions. Care about God’s opinion and focus on that. Life is a marathon and when you are running the race there are people in the stands who will both cheer you and jeer you. If you pay attention to either one you’re going to get sidetracked. You are going to stumble and you are going to lose the race. Don’t listen to the criticisms or the compliments. Just focus on what God has called you to do.

If you are going to be in ministry, and especially if you are in a very public ministry, you will have more than your share of criticism. I was talking to Billy Graham one time and asked, “What do I do with all this criticism?” He said, “Rick, if you wrestle with a pig, both of you are going to get muddy. But only one of you is going to like it.”

One of the big myths that keeps you from being effective – you as a leader – is this: I have to be liked by everybody in order to be happy. That is a myth, friends. You don’t. You don’t have to be liked by everybody in order to be happy. The fact is God already loves you unconditionally. He will never love you any more or any less than He does right now.

Some of you are still trying to get the approval of somebody who has never given it to you. From your dad. Or from your mom. Or from a husband or from a wife. You’re living to get the approval of somebody. The truth is, if you haven’t got their approval by now you’re probably not ever going to get it. It doesn’t say anything about you. It says a lot about them. It’s their problem. It’s their hang-up. You’re not going to get it because of who they are and not because of who you are. The hurt’s in their heart.

But here’s the good news. You don’t need their approval to be happy. Just live for an audience of One. God loves you and God has a purpose and a plan for your life. Learn to please Him.

Here’s my question: who are you depending on for your happiness? “If my husband would just change then I could really be happy… If my girlfriend… If my boyfriend… If my wife would just change then I’d really be happy … If I just had a different boss then I’d be happy… If I could get married then I could be happy.” No, you won’t! That’s the truth. The fact is you are a sinner and you marry a sinner and there’s no way you’re going to have a perfect relationship with two sinners getting married. You’re going to have problems in marriage just like you have problems in the single life.

What is the ultimate motivation in life? It’s the motive that Jesus modeled for us, the only perfect leader. In John 17:4 He says this “I have brought You [talking to God, the Father] glory on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do(NIV).” I accomplished what You put me on earth to do and I brought You glory. That is the ultimate motivation in life. Living for the glory of God. That is the highest motive.

You have to settle this issue of motivation because leading is hard work and if you don’t know why you do it, you’ll give up. When you figure out the why in your life God will show you how.

Join me next month as this discussion continues.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church.