Small Group Studies from Saddleback

May 29, 2010

Some of the most popular, and most effective, small group studies have come from Saddleback Church. This month and next month we will be sharing them with you – click HERE to go directly to Saddleback’s website and order. Enjoy!

The Purpose Driven Life.

Imagine the life change that could come from aligning your weekend messages with small group studies. Combine the Purpose Driven Life sermon series with this small group study and personal reading of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren to help you focus your congregation on the foundational principles of living your life based on God’s design.

The Purpose Driven Life is available as:

  • a book
  • a small group study
  • a sermon series

Join pastor and author Rick Warren for a chapter-by chapter study of The Purpose Driven® Life. The official Purpose Driven Life Small Group Series serves as an excellent tool for those who haven’t read the book. This forty-week series is designed to lead a small group through one chapter of the book each week in a 15-minute video lesson with Rick Warren. A small group study guide for each of the six series helps your group internalize God’s five purposes through a time of reflection and application.

This curriculum is video-based. Each small group will need one DVD (which provides the teaching), and one study guide for each participant. One copy of the book, The Purpose Driven Life, is also recommended for each participant.

The Purpose Driven Life Small Group Study Series. Join pastor and author Rick Warren for a chapter-by chapter study of The Purpose Driven® Life. The official Purpose Driven Life Small Group Series serves as an excellent tool for those who haven’t read the book. This forty-week series is designed to lead a small group through one chapter of the book each week in a 15-minute video lesson with Rick Warren. A small group study guide for each of the six series helps your group internalize God’s five purposes through a time of reflection and application.

This curriculum is video-based. Each small group will need one DVD (which provides the teaching), and one study guide for each participant. One copy of the book, The Purpose Driven Life, is also recommended for each participant.

40 Days of Community – Better Together.

Imagine the life change that could come from aligning your weekend messages with small group studies. Combine the Better Together sermon series with this small group study and personal reading of the Better Together devotional to help you focus your congregation on rewards of living out God’s purpose of fellowship.

Better Together is available as:

  • a devotional book
  • a small group study
  • a sermon series

God’s Answers to Life’s Difficult Questions. These six sessions, taught by Rick Warren, help us deal with the realities of stress, failure, crisis, loneliness, and change. The study takes you inside the Scriptures to see what they reveal about twelve of the most pressing questions people ask. They are questions you yourself either have asked or most likely will ask.

Wide Angle. In this six-week study, Rick Warren and Chuck Colson examine worldviews as they relate to the most important questions of our day. This is one of the most powerful and timely topics you can bring to your church. Combine a powerful weekend sermon series with the reading of a best-selling Colson book, then give people a place to discuss it through the gripping video-based small group study featuring dialogues between Chuck Colson and Rick Warren where they explore such key issues as truth, tolerance, terrorism, reconciliation, and the purpose of life.

Dangerous Surrender. In three sessions, Bible teacher, Kay Warren, challenges us to become dangerously surrendered, to expose evil, and to do good in Jesus’ name. Kay Warren had a plan. Together with her husband, Rick Warren, author of the megaseller The Purpose Driven Life, she planned that after her kids were grown, she’d travel the world, teaching and encouraging couples in ministry. It was a good plan. But it wasn’t what God had in mind for her.

In a startling wake-up call, Kay discovered the shocking realities of the AIDS pandemic in Africa while reading a magazine. She cried out to God, “Why are you bothering me with this? There’s nothing I can do about it. I’m just an ordinary person. What could one person do about such a gigantic problem?” That began the struggle—first to avoid God’s call and then to surrender herself to God.

Giving in to God isn’t easy. It’s not for cowards. It’s the boldest, riskiest step you’ll ever take. This dangerous surrender can bring both joy and pain, both heartache and ecstasy, but it enables you to know God in a far deeper way than ever before. A rare book by an uncommon woman, Dangerous Surrender will shake, challenge, and stretch you to become more than you’ve ever imagined. Your world is waiting.

I Promise. Taught by Dr. Gary Smalley, this six-week study will help you to develop a marriage where you both have the freedom to be open and secure without fear of being criticized, blamed, or judged by each other. Based on 5 years of research by Drs. Gary and Greg Smalley, this small group study will help you to develop a marriage where you both have the freedom to be open & secure without fear of being criticized, blamed or judged by each other. Learn how to make your marriage a safe place where your relationship grows deeper naturally.

This six-week small group study you and your spouse will:

  • Discover five core promises that will double your security and marriage satisfaction in one week!
  • Learn three powerful ways to improve your relationship with God.
  • Learn the biggest marriage mistake that most couples make.
  • Find out why marital trials and irritations are the secret to intimacy.
  • Develop six levels of communication (most couples only get to the second & third level).
  • Find three ways to help your spouse win every argument…while you win.
  • Discover a new way to serve your spouse by identifying their key needs.

The Way of a Worshiper. These four sessions, taught about Buddy Owens, are not about music, but about discovering the secret to friendship with God.

Are you looking for God? The pursuit of God is the chase of a life time. In fact, it’s been going on since the day you were born. The question is: Have you been the hunter or the prey? This book, study and sermon series is not about music. It’s not even about going to church. It’s about living your life as an offering of worship to God. It’s about tapping into the source of power to live the Christian life.

Life’s Healing Choices. This study offers freedom from our hurts, hang-ups, and habits through eight healing choices that promise true happiness and life transformation. Using the Beatitudes of Jesus as a foundation, Senior Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and John Baker, who is also a pastor at Saddleback, developed the eight choices shared in this book.

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A free network for leaders of Small Group Ministry!

May 29, 2010

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, from all sizes of churches, and of varying denominations, are joining the Network on a daily basis. In a period of less than a year, we went from 200 members to almost 1300 and that growth shows no signs of stopping. 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.

Join us next month as we share our future plans for the Network!

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


Leadership Lifter – Principles of Leadership: Meditation and Relaxation

May 29, 2010

by Rick Warren

For the past few months we have been looking at Principles of Leadership from Jesus. This month, I will wrap up our discussion with the principles of Meditation and Relaxation.

Meditation

Meditation is listening to God. Listening to God continually and throughout your day. Make listening to God a habit of your life.

The Bible tells us in Mark 1:35, “Very early in the morning while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place where He prayed (NIV).” We think prayer is talking to God. But that’s only half-right. Prayer is conversation. And in a conversation you both talk and listen. What if you had a conversation with a friend and you did all the talking and they never talked back? Or they did all the talking and you never talked back? That wouldn’t be called a conversation. That’s a monologue.

You hear about people who pray thirty minutes a day. You think, “How do they do that? I run out of stuff to say after ten seconds. What do I say?” How about this? Talk to God for ten minutes then sit still and be quiet for the next twenty. Some of you are frightened by silence. Perhaps you have never sat still for twenty minutes in total silence. In our world, it is a rare moment when we do not have radio or television playing, even it is in only background noise. How many of us listen to music on our computers while we work? Silence is rare. When we fill our world with noise we can’t hear what God wants to say.

We use the excuse of busyness. We just don’t have the time to get alone and sit in silence. I think we would all agree, though, Jesus was pretty busy. No matter how busy He was, He always took the time for solitary meditation. That verse from Mark tells us Jesus went to a solitary place to pray. If you are a leader, you will have people surrounding you, always wanting something from you. That is the definition of leadership. You can’t lead without being around people. But you also need time away from people. I find that the bigger Saddleback gets, the more I love solitude. The truth is you need both. You need time with people and you need time alone. Alone with God.

Luke 5:15-16 tells us, “Now news about Jesus spread even more and crowds came to hear Him and to be healed. But Jesus often slipped away to be alone so that He could pray (NCV).” Jesus was in the habit of slipping away from the crowds to pray alone with God. If Jesus felt the need to get alone and listen to God, don’t you think that you need to? You need quiet times to reflect, to renew to recharge. Pascal said, “All of man’s problems come from his inability to sit still.” That’s true. Psalm 46 God says “Be still and know that I am God.” You can’t know God unless you be still.

If you are always moving and you are always busy and you are always listening to something, you are making it more difficult for God to speak to you. Noise can be a source of stress. Look for ways to quiet the noise in your life and listen to God. You need time to just get alone and be quiet and listen to God.

Many, many times, several times a week I will pray a three-word prayer. It’s often in the middle of the day. I’ll just stop, pause, and say this: “Lord, what’s next?” Three words. That’s all I pray. Then I just stop and I listen. I listen to God and just be quiet. Sometimes an idea or inspiration will pop into my mind. Then I’ll go and act on it. Sometimes nothing happens. When nothing happens, I just go on with my planned schedule for that day. But I give God the opportunity to rearrange it. I ask, “Lord, what’s next?”

As a leader you want to ask, What’s next? What’s next for my family? What’s next for my business? God, what do You want to do next in our church? What do You want to do next with my small group? What do you want to next with the Small Group Ministry? What do You want to do next in this relationship that I’m in? You give God the opportunity to give you advice. And you provide the silence to listen and meditate on His answer.

I have never heard God speak verbally – out loud. He doesn’t need to. He goes directly to my mind. When the devil speaks to you, he puts an idea in your mind and we call it temptation. When God speaks to you, He puts an idea in your mind, and we call it inspiration. That’s what inspiration is, God speaking into your mind.

Colossians 2:7 says this “Plant your roots in Christ. Let Him be the foundation for your life. [And, by the way, the foundation for your leadership] Be strong in your faith just as you were taught (CEV)”. This is the foundation of good leadership. You can’t lead like Jesus until you know Jesus personally. You can’t know Jesus personally unless you spend time alone with Him.

The single greatest source of stress in your life is when you get disconnected from God. Anytime throughout my day when I get disconnected from God, there’s always a warning sign. It’s called stress. Stress is the warning light that at that moment in my life I’m disconnected from God. And I need to get reconnected. Stress is the sign that says “Hello! You’re out of contact with God at this moment. You’re not walking in the Spirit. You’re walking on thin ice. You’re not connected to the source.” When I get disconnected I get angry and cantankerous. I get irritable. It creates all kinds of problems like fear and worry and shame and guilt and loneliness and bitterness.

If you’ve never opened your life to Christ you need to do it today. That’s the starting point. We can’t help you become the leader that Jesus needs you to be if you don’t have Jesus in your life. So you say, “God, I don’t understand it all but today I want to open my life to You. I’m saying yes.” Let me tell you what a Christian is. A Christian is giving as much of myself as I understand, to as much of Jesus Christ as I understand, at this point in my life. That’s what it means to be a Christian. Giving as much of myself as I understand to as much of Jesus Christ as I understand at this point in my life.

Whether you’ve been a leader for 25 years or this is your first year in leadership, I invite you to follow me in this prayer. In your mind just say, “God, I want You to use me. I want to make a difference with My life. I want to influence others instead of being influenced. I want to become the leader that You want me to be. Help me to know who You made me to be, who I am. Help me to clarify what You want to accomplish with my life. Help me to focus on pleasing You and not worry about everybody else. I want my life to bring glory to You, Lord. Help me to work with our small groups, to build a team, to not try to do it all on my own. God, help me to focus on what’s important. Forgive me for the times I get distracted. Teach me to listen to You, continually through my day, to pause, to take a minute and just listen to You. I want You to be the foundation of my life. I want to plant my roots in You.”

To be an effective leader, you must not only give direction, but you must take direction – from God.

Relaxation

There’s one more very, very important principle of leadership we can learn from Jesus. It’s a fun one. It’s the principle of relaxation, which means take time to recharge.

Take time to recharge. Why? Because leadership is draining. Leadership is hard work. And leadership means you have to, in the long haul, take time to recharge.

Mark 6:31 says this “Crowds of people were coming and going so that they [that’s the disciples] did not even have time to eat [that’s pretty busy!] He said to them, ‘ Come away by yourselves and we’ll go to a lonely place to get some rest’” (NCV). Jesus looks at the disciples. They’d been ministering. They’re tired. He says, “Fellows, you deserve a break today!” He says, “I want to take you out.” I love the King James Version. It says, “Come ye apart for to rest.” If you don’t come apart to rest occasionally you’re going to come apart.

Rest and recreation are never wastes of time. They’re so important that God put them in the Big Ten. I’m talking about the Ten Commandments. The Fourth commandment says this: Every seventh day you take a day off. God wired the human being on a six-day cycle. He says I want you to work six days and on the seventh day you take a day off. He said this is so important He puts it right up there with Don’t murder anybody and Don’t commit adultery. You would never think of murdering anybody. You’d never think of committing adultery. But leaders violate the fourth commandment, and I do too, all the time. Because what you do is on your day off you end up catching up on work that needs to be done. That’s not rest. That’s work. God says every seventh day you take a day off. My day off is Monday. Monday night we do something fun. It is important, but I have to build it into my schedule or I won’t do it.

Jesus modeled this. Matthew 11:19 says, “But the Son of man goes around eating and drinking…” (CEV). The original Greek tells us the Pharisees were accusing Him saying that Jesus was a glutton and a wine bibber – a glutton and a drunk. The worst thing that the Pharisees could accuse Jesus of was that this guy was a party animal. Why? Because Jesus knew life was meant to be enjoyed, not just endured.

As a leader you will carry the load of your leadership. But that doesn’t mean you walk around all the time frowning. You are to enjoy life, not just endure it. Take time to recharge just like Jesus did. He served and He pulled back. He had times of rest.

Kay and I have learned this the hard way. If we don’t schedule time to recharge, we never will rest. There will always be something more urgent and more pressing. Have you discovered this to be true? If we both know that we are facing a particularly busy week, we might schedule a three-day get away after the busy week. But we have to schedule that ahead of time or something else will come up and steal that time.

Years ago I learned a little formula that is the key to lasting in leadership. It’s this: Divert Daily, Withdraw Weekly, Abandon Annually.

Divert Daily means every day you do something fun. I don’t care what it is. Just do something. Get a hobby. You want to paint, play the piano, sing, go shoot some hoops, work out, go work in your garden, or wrestle with your kids. Whatever relaxes you. Different things relax people differently. You need to have a little bit of fun every day in your life. Divert daily.

Withdraw Weekly. Take a day off every week to relax and restore. Turn off your phone and don’t check your email.

Abandon Annually. Go away once a year for an extended period of time like a week or two. Don’t give work a thought. Abandon yourself to the moments of rest and relaxation.

As you continue on your journey as a leader, look to Jesus for principles of leadership. Your ministry is not larger than His, or more demanding, or more time consuming. He meditated on direction from His father. He took time to rest and relax. If you want to be an effective leader, not just for today or this year, but for the long haul, you must do the same. As you lead, follow His lead.

Rick Warren is the author of internationally best-selling books such as The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church. He is also Founding Pastor of Saddleback Church.


Soul Searchin: Weary and Burdened?

May 29, 2010

by Rick Warren

Matthew 11:28-30 tells us, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (NIV). In this beautiful and short passage Jesus says three things: come, take, and learn. That’s all you need to know about stress management.

1.  Come to Jesus

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. In the Bible people came to Jesus for many different reasons.  Some people came for forgiveness.  Some people came for answers.  Some people came for healing.  Some people came to Jesus for salvation.  Some came to Him for eternal life.  But Jesus says “You could come to Me for rest.”  Release from stress, release from overload.  He says, “Are you weary?  Overloaded?  Come to Me.”

He says “I will give you rest for your souls.”  This is much deeper than physical rest.  Your greatest problem is not overloaded muscles.  You’re overloaded in your mind.  You’re overloaded in your spirit.  You’re overloaded in your emotions.  You need soul rest far more than you need physical rest.  You need release from worry.  You need release from tension.  You need release from stress, from guilt, from fear, from bitterness, from anxiety.  This is soul rest.  And He says, “If you’re worn out, if you’re tired, overloaded, come to Me and I will give you soul rest.”

Who or what do you naturally turn to when you are exhausted, when you are depleted, when you’re overloaded?  You may be a Christian, but I doubt that your first choice is Jesus.  You may turn to food when you’re exhausted.  You may turn to television and prop your feet up.  You may turn to a drink or a pill.  You may turn to some other form of escape.  But none of these things can give you soul rest.  Only God can give you that.

Notice what the Bible says, in Isaiah 40:29-31: He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint (NLT). It says new strength. It’s not just strength you had and you didn’t know about.  It’s strength from God you do not possess without Him.

The antidote for your overloaded soul is not a plan for time management.  It’s not a program for stress reduction.  It’s not a philosophy on how to simplify your life.  It’s not a pill.  It’s not even the church. Jesus does not say, “Come to church.”  He does not say, “Come to small group.”  He does not even say, “Come to the Bible.”  He says, “Come to Me.” The answer for your overload is Jesus Christ.  None of these other things can give you soul rest.  What you really need is that deep down soul rest when you’re exhausted emotionally, spiritually, mentally.

How do you do that?  Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace (Matthew 6:6, The Message). Get alone by yourself so you’re not pretending. When you are not acting in front of other people, you will begin to sense His grace.

Why don’t we do this?  Why don’t we turn to Jesus more?  Why don’t we come to Christ?

1.  We think we can handle it on our own.

2.  We often forget what God is really like.  We forget God is a loving Father who cares for us like a father cares for a small child.  God isn’t going to scold you when you come to Him for rest.  He’s going to love you.  But you’ve got to turn to Him.  That’s the first step.

2.  Take his yoke and give up control

Jesus says, My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. The reason why you get so tired, the reason why you get so overloaded is because you think you have to be in control of everything.  You think, “It all depends on me.  I’ve got to pull all the strings.  I’ve got to make it happen.  I’ve got to be in control.” Wrong! Everything is in God’s hands. “Control” is just an illusion.

The need for control and increased levels of stress go hand in hand. Are you a control freak? Do you have to have your finger in all of the pies? You will not lessen your stress level until you are willing to partner with Jesus and take up His yoke.

This is Jesus’ second solution to your stress.  He says, Take My yoke upon you. You say, “Wait a minute!  That doesn’t sound too relaxing.  That sounds like more of a burden.  It sounds like I take something else on my shoulders.  You don’t know what I’m already carrying.  I’m carrying way too much.  How can I take Jesus Christ’s yoke on me?”

Let’s go back and review what a yoke is. A yoke is a wooden beam that attaches two farm animals together to lighten the load so they can work together as a team. This lightens the load on the individual animals. So, why does Jesus use the symbol of the yoke? Because, first of all, a yoke is a symbol of partnership. It is Jesus’ way of telling you, I will help carry your load. He says, My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Why? Because it is a shared load. Psalm 55:22 tells us, Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall (NLT).

If you are overloaded, it is because you are not yoked to Christ.  You can be a Christian or even a Christian leader, and still slip that yoke off.  You’ve got to put it on moment-by-moment and say, “Jesus share this with me.”  Every time I get detached from Jesus Christ my stress level goes up.  Every time I get reattached to Jesus Christ my stress level goes down.  It’s that simple.  “Come to Me – Give up control.”  Those are the first two things.  The yoke is a symbol of partnership.  God says, “I will help you out.”

It is also a symbol of control because farmers use the yoke to guide and direct and control the farm animals.  Where oxen are yoked together they are controlled by the master.  When you are under the yoke of Christ you are controlled by God.  You have given up control.  The load is lighter but you have given up control.

When I’m yoked with Christ we move together in the same direction and at the same pace.  When you are yoked to Jesus Christ you can’t go in a different direction than Jesus.  And when you are yoked with Jesus Christ you can’t go any faster than Jesus goes.  He sets the direction and He sets the pace.

You do need direction in your life but you need far more than that.  You need a pacesetter.  All of us have a tendency to go faster than we really should, especially leaders.  And Jesus knows better than you do what is the adequate, accurate pace for your life.  Every time you get away from the yoke of Jesus and you start going another direction you get in trouble.  Every time you get out from under the yoke with Jesus and you start going at your own pace you get overstressed.  That’s why He says, “Come to Me,” and then “Take up My yoke”.  Give up control.

How do you do that? Galatians 5:25 tells us, Since we live in the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (NIV). Follow God step by step. Who is setting the pace in your life right now? Are you following God’s agenda or your agenda?

Let God set your agenda and pace.  When Jesus is connected to you and you are connected to Jesus, you’re going to slow down.  Why?  Because Jesus was never, ever in a hurry.  I’ve read through the Bible many times and not one time have I ever read, “Jesus ran to this place.”  He never ran.  Never, ever ran.  He always walked.  In fact He kind of sauntered.  One time He had a friend die about three miles away and it took Him three days to get there.  That’s slow walking.  Why?  He knew God had a plan.  God didn’t want to heal a sick man.  He wanted to raise a dead man.  So He wasn’t in a hurry to get there and in those three days the man died and was buried.  A greater miracle.  God had a better idea.  God had a plan.

Many times you’re rushing to meet a deadline that if you missed the deadline, God had a better idea.  You’ve got to give up control if you want to lower the stress in your life.  You have to let Him be the pacesetter.

The truth is you’re going to be yoked to something in life.  Years ago Bob Dylan wrote a song, Gotta Serve Somebody.  You’re going to give your life for someone or something.  You may be yoked to your career.  You may be yoked to the desire to acquire great wealth.  You may be yoked by the expectations of other people.  All of those are heavy burdens.  They’re heavy yokes to carry on your shoulders.

Jesus says, “Take My yoke upon you.” So what do you do?  You take off your heavy yoke, the burdens that are on your shoulders – you drop those – and you put on Jesus’ yoke, which is light and easy.  The truth is you don’t have one yoke on you.  You have a dozen.  You’re carrying expectations of a lot of different things and people and events.  You’ve got a community yoke.  You’ve got a family yoke.  You’ve got a business yoke.  You’ve got a church yoke.  You don’t have just one yoke.  You’ve got a dozen.  If it were a cartoon there would be a dozen of them piled up on your back.  Jesus said, “Throw all of those things off and put on my yoke.  It’s easy and light and well-fitting.”

If your burden is heavy, if your load is not light you’re not yoked to Jesus right now.  You’re doing something that is out of God’s will for your life.  You may be doing the wrong things.  You may be doing the right thing in the wrong way.  We think the answer to our stress is escape.  I’m overloaded – I need a vacation.  God says, no, that’s not it because when you go on vacation you take you and you’re the problem.  You can go to Tahiti but your mind is going with you.  We think the antidote to stress is escape.  God says the antidote to stress is give up control.  Every time I give up control, God gives me His peace.

3.  Learn to trust

That’s the third key to stress management.  Learn from Me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.” Jesus is the outstanding model in history of how to live a life of purpose and peace.  He is our model.  The third step is learn to trust by following Jesus’ model.  Watch how He lived and then do it.

Study how Jesus lived and do what He did and you’ll have the same kind of peace that He had.  If you want balance, if you want health, if you want sanity in your schedule, and in your life, follow the model of Jesus.  Learn.

Learning is a process.  Learning doesn’t happen instantly.  Learning takes time. You didn’t get into the mess you are in overnight. The habits of a hurried, worried lifestyle didn’t start yesterday. You have had years of practice in this. You have developed a lifestyle of overload, a lifestyle of stress, a lifestyle of hurry and worry. You are not going to change that overnight. There is no magic pill you can take. You have to unlearn some things and change some bad habits. You are going to have to learn from Jesus.

What can we learn from Jesus?  He tells us, Learn from Me for I am gentle and humble in heart. Gentle and humble. You are probably thinking, how is that going to help me with stress? Perhaps courage and stamina might be better traits for stress reduction. Or confidence and strength. Power and self-assurance.

But God says, if you’re overloaded you need to learn gentleness and humility. Why? Because the two greatest causes of overload in your life are aggression and arrogance.

Aggression – we get in a hurry.  I’ve got to have it now, even if I can’t afford it.  So we overextend.  We buy things we can’t afford so we have to hustle to pay for them.  We don’t want to wait.  We don’t want to pause, we don’t want to delay, we don’t want to consider.  We want it now.  We want to be assertive.  We want to be aggressive.  We jump into projects and we get way over committed before we could possibly fulfill all those commitments simply out of assertion and aggression.  We get in a hurry.  I’ve got to do it now!  We only go around once in life.  So you’re out there pushing and not in a gentle way.  In an aggressive way – dog eat dog, competition.  Even in ministry. Sometimes, especially in ministry! We’ve got to do it now.  We’ve got to do it first. We’ve got to do it best.  You’re overloaded because of aggression.

You’re also overloaded because of arrogance.  Ego is responsible for a lot more stress in your life than you want to give it credit for.  Ego is responsible for a lot more stress in my life than I want to give it credit for.  We think, “I can handle this!” and we take on another responsibility.  Ego and arrogance is why you try to control everything because you think you know better than everybody else.  You think you know better than God.  You try to do it all.  You try to have it all and you try to be it all and you try to please everybody.  Arrogance will prompt you to attempt more than you can possibly fulfill in terms of commitment.

Jesus said, “If you really want soul rest here’s the antidote – gentleness and humility.”  You need to remind yourself daily that you are not everybody’s savior.  You can’t solve everybody’s problems.  You can’t even solve all your own.  You need to remind yourself that you are not the manager of the universe.  Jesus is.  You need to remind yourself that you’re just a tiny cog in a very, very, very big universe.  Let’s put it in perspective.  Have a degree of humility, which brings sanity, which brings release from stress.  Be gentle, be humble.  How do you learn that?  By following Jesus.  Jesus was gentle and humble.

What was Jesus’ secret of peace? I read through the book of John this and found twelve times where Jesus says, “I only do what the Father tells me to do.  …  I only say what the Father tells me to say…  I think what He wants me to think…  I go where He wants me to go…  I stay where He wants me to stay…  I do what He wants me to do…” Jesus lived a life of simple humble obedience to the Father.

Do you think that would change the stress level in your life if you began to live that way? We all get invitations  – wedding invitations, graduation invitations, dinner invitations.  But this invitation from Jesus is the greatest invitation you’ll ever get in your life. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Some of you are at the breaking point from overload.  Ministry can be tough and draining. Turn to Jesus.  Give up control. Learn to trust.  You will find rest for your soul.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church.

Join us next month for Lance Witt’s article in Soul Searchin. Lance is the founder of Replenish Ministries, an organization devoted to ministering pastors to help them become healthy, holy, and humble. He also serves as the Pastor for Strategic Development at Thomas Road Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.


Steve’s Tips

May 29, 2010

by Steve Gladen

Are your small groups getting in a rut? Looking for a way to take their relationships with God and with each other to a new level? Give them suggestions for incorporating the biblical purposes into their small groups!

Fellowship

Meet with another small group either from your church or another church. A shared Bible study like that can be a tool for Christian growth as well as an opportunity to establish fellowship with another group. Discuss with the other group any unique aspects of their meetings and glean ideas for new ways to approach your own Bible study time.

Discipleship

Conduct a group experiment: Commit to turn off your televisions for one week. Encourage members to include their children in this experiment and to explain to them why they are doing this. Each day use one of the hours you would normally spend in front of the television to read the Bible or a classic book on Christianity. If you aren’t sure which book to choose, ask one of your church leaders. At your next group meeting, take some time to discuss your experiences with living a “television-less” lifestyle.

Ministry

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. How well does your group function as a body? What could you do to improve your teamwork? What role can and does the Holy Spirit play in the functioning of the body of Christ? Also discuss which part of the body of Christ different people in the group represent. For example, if Mary is a good listener, she would be an ear in the body of Christ.

Evangelism

Plan a special small group meeting that is designed with seekers in mind (friends of yours who are open to the gospel and seeking the Truth). You’ll definitely want to think outside the small group box in order to help a seeker feel at home. Work hard to create a comfortable, no-pressure environment.

Worship

During group time make a house call to a member or two who haven’t been able to attend. Stop by for a few minutes, drop off some goodies, and move on. You could say, “We missed you coming to the group, so we brought the group to you!” Be sure to ask how you can pray for the person you’re visiting and pray right then and there.

Join me next month for more suggestions!

Steve Gladen is the Pastor of Small Group Community at Saddleback Church and founder of the PDSGN.

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


How to Increase the Health of Your Sunday School

May 29, 2010

by Steve Gladen

After the number of responses from last month’s article, Small Groups Versus Sunday School, I decided to dedicate the next two months to this important issue of Sunday School and small groups. This month I will discuss how you can bring health to your small groups. Next month, I will be discussing the question, How can I add small groups to my Sunday School church?

Once your church has decided how to define a healthy follower of Christ (for Saddleback it is someone balancing the Great Commission and Great Commandment in their heart—fellowship, discipleship, service, evangelism and worship), then there are some practical steps you can take to help your Sunday school class maximize health. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Strategically set up your room. Use round tables with participants facing one another instead of the traditional classroom setting with everyone facing the teacher.  Using round tables accomplishes two things. First, it will facilitate stronger discussion through since people will be face to face. Second, it will help you indentify a table leader if you don’t already have table leaders identified. If your church can’t afford round tables, just set your chairs up in circles or horseshoes (open end of the horseshoe to the front of the classroom).
  2. Understand ratios. If your class size is over ten people, then you will need to start thinking about who can help you build health into class members. If one of your goals is to know the spiritual health of each person in your class, and then encourage them to take their spiritual next step; realistically you can’t know and follow up on each person. Raise table leaders or people who have a passion for discipleship to help you encourage everyone to grow.
  3. Build consistency at the table. Once you set your room in tables, circles of chairs, or horseshoes, you will start to see people sitting with the same folks. Encourage that so they can get to know one another. When a group of new people come into the class, start a new table. People will not dive beneath the surface level conversation and feel safe enough to share what’s really going on in their lives unless they build authentic relationships with one another. This will only happen over time.
  4. Set the table for evangelism and it will build attendance accountability. First, if your tables or circles seat eight, don’t fill the table full of eight people. Fill it with five or six and ask class members who they could invite to fill the table. Also, once you are seated in smaller circles, attendance accountability is a natural by-product. Why? When a group of six is sitting together it is pretty hard to not notice when someone is missing! This will build an organic accountability through your classroom.
  5. Know your sheep; help your sheep know themselves. Plan a time for everyone to take the Spiritual Health Assessment and build a Personal Health Plan.  When your class members take the Spiritual Health Assessment, they will see which biblical purpose (Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry, Evangelism and Worship) is their strength and which area they need to grow in. Then, table members can help each other to build an individual planner to help class members grow in their spiritual formation.
  6. Build spiritual accountability. Once people have identified areas in their life that need growth, have them pair up with someone who will help them by asking the question, “Did you accomplish what you set out to do?” This check up should be done as a natural part of the relationship. No set time, but the question should happen at least monthly. The Sunday school teacher and the table leader don’t need to know “what” everyone is working on, just that everyone has a “who” that is checking in with them.
  7. Develop ownership. Have those who are strong in a purpose, help your class in that area. If someone is strong in the area of Fellowship, they can help keep track of birthdays and anniversaries around your table or help your class plan social events. If someone is strong in Discipleship, give them the responsibility of making sure everyone at the table (or the entire class) has created a Spiritual Health Plan and has someone in their life asking the question in number 6. Or people who are strong in the area of Discipleship may even want to help with the teaching time. See these recourses to help you build the purposes in your class (See 250 Big Ideas for Purpose Driven Small Groups and Don’t Lead Alone). Also when your class works on each area, they help individuals grow in the area they were weak. If you are weak in the area of evangelism and your class as a whole does an evangelism project, then that will help you grow.
  8. Know your limits. Realize what you can do in the class time and what needs to be done outside of class hour. Generally in a Sunday school hour you can you can only do discipleship. You can do some fellowship and maybe you can take a class hour to only do worship. Here is the key, though. You can’t and shouldn’t do all the purposes in your Sunday school hour. Instead, determine what you can do during class time and have tables or a group of tables work together to do a purpose outside of class time. Release your people to develop themselves. If you keep everything in the classroom, you will suppress creativity and the Holy Spirit!
  9. Think transformation, not just information. Sunday school originally started in England to teach literacy to children on Sunday because they worked in the factory Monday through Friday, sometimes through Saturday. Thus, Sunday School. Over time, biblical teaching was added and, eventually, the secular teachings were dropped as Labor laws were created and enforced and public school education became a part of life. Once you understand the roots of a movement, you can see why so much emphasis is placed on “teaching”. Teaching is not a bad thing, but just as time brought biblical education and secular education fell away, another phase needs to be added to round out the missing piece of discipleship or spiritual formation—application.
  10. Don’t under-estimate the power of discussion. When you give people time for discussion, you are helping them work through the biblical teaching. Once you have set the truth, let them chew on it. Discussion gives class members the opportunity to talk through issues and create their own plan with input from others. Accountability starts to form between class members (whether they realize it or not). Your greatest challenge as a teacher is to give your class time to discuss and own the principles you have taught. I would work on a 60/40 format – 60% teaching and 40% time to apply it.

Join me next month as I discuss how you can add small group to your Sunday School church.

Steve Gladen is the founder of the PDSGN and the Pastor of Small Group Community at Saddleback Church. His website is www.smallgroups.net.


Resources For You: Small Group and Leadership Resources from Steve Gladen

May 29, 2010

Now available through one website, these small group and leadership resources from Steve Gladen have been used by thousands to develop healthy small group ministries. Brief descriptions are included here, and all may be ordered by clicking on this LINK.

Designing a Healthy Small Group Ministry

This 6 DVD set and workbook will teach you the essentials of implementing a Small Group Ministry at your church. Learn from Steve Gladen, Pastor of the Small Group Community at Saddleback Church, with over 20 years in Small Group Ministry and on staff at Saddleback Church since 1998. During this time, Saddleback’s Small Group Ministry has grown from 280 adult small groups to over 3,500 adult small groups balancing the Great Commission and Great Commandment and growing individuals in spiritual health.

Discover how you can take these learnings and apply them to your Small Group Ministry. This resource comes with an electronic workbook and the sessions include:

HOW TO DEFINE SUCCESS
It’s best to start with the end in mind. What are you really trying to accomplish through your small group ministry? Do your small group leaders clearly understand their assignment? How do you know if you are being successful? How do small groups fit into your church’s overall strategy and vision?

HOW TO CONNECT EVERY PERSON IN YOUR CHURCH
Most churches consider themselves successful if they have half of their weekly attendance in small groups. But the truth is that every person needs a small group family. No matter what the size of your church, you can dramatically increase the percentage of your members in small groups.

HOW TO DISCIPLE PEOPLE, NOT JUST LEAD GROUPS
Have you ever noticed that Christians tend to know more than they practice? Do you want your small group leaders to learn to help transform people instead of just informing them? See how small groups can serve as perfect incubators for spiritual growth.

HOW TO MOBILIZE YOUR GROUP FROM SITTING TO SERVING
Research has shown that people fail to serve, not because they don’t want to, but because they haven’t been asked or haven’t been offered specific opportunities. Learn how small groups are the perfect tool to catalyze and mobilize your people for ministry.

HOW TO MOVE FROM MAKING FRIENDS TO REACHING FRIENDS
How do authentic community and passionate evangelism fit together in small group life? Can they? Research says that most Christians place evangelism low on their list of God’s biblical purposes. So how do you get people to reach out beyond their comfort zone of Christian friends?

HOW TO EXPERIENCE “GOD MOMENTS” IN YOUR GROUP
Do you think of worship as listening to the latest CD in your car? Is it just the first part of your weekend church service? What does worship look like in a small group? Worship is more than music. Discover how to create an environment that will help your groups experience the awe of God.

Building Healthy Small Groups

What do you do after a churchwide campaign in order to build a strong and dynamic small group ministry?

This collection of four audio CDs is for pastors and small group point people. In it, you’ll get the answers the most commonly asked small group questions from pastors and leaders who have completed a churchwide campaign.

Each CD contains strategies, tools, and insights to help you harness the momentum of small groups that began during a churchwide campaign. As you emerge out of the whirlwind of the campaign, these CDs will help you as a pastor sustain the momentum of building a healthy small group ministry in your church. After listening to pastors around the globe who have completed churchwide campaigns, four questions quickly rose to the top: Where do small groups fit in my church? How do I set up a healthy small group structure? How do I turn Hosts into Leaders? How do I sustain the momentum?

If you have completed a churchwide campaign or are considering one in your church, Building Healthy Small Groups in Your Church is a must! This CD series is taught by Pastor Lance Witt and Pastor Steve Gladen Between the two of them, they have over 30 years of experience leading small groups.

The Small Group Leader Training Kit

The Small Group Leader Training Kit will help you train your small group leaders to balance the biblical purposes from the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. This resource is designed for you, as the point person for the small group ministry. Inside this kit you will find everything you need to train Small Group Leaders at your church. All files are provided in electronic form so you can tailor our Leadership Development Pathway to your small group system with your logo, your information, your program.

Includes the following:

Leader Training 1: This is our foundational training, offered to every small group leader (Host) at Saddleback. It provides them with the basic training necessary to lead an effective small group.

Leader Training 2: This is our continuing advanced leader training that begins with modules based on the five biblical purposes.

  LT-2 Character focuses on the biblical character traits of leaders and how they intersect with your life (Worship)

  LT-2 Skills teaches common skills needed to build a healthy small group community (Fellowship)

  LT-2 Health focuses on how to build a healthy Purpose Driven Small Group that strives to balance and fulfill all five biblical purposes in small group community (Discipleship)

  LT-2 Empower gives Small Group Hosts the vision and tools to mobilize their small group for service (Ministry).

  LT-2 PEACE focuses on how small groups can be an instrumental part of the PEACE Plan (Evangelism).
Each training module in this kit includes:

  1. Audio File
  2. Instructor Guide
  3. Student Guide
  4. PowerPoint
  5. File with transcript of the training.

Also included in this kit are the Spiritual Health Assessment and Spiritual Health Planner that are used in Leader Training 1.

DVD Small Group Leader Training

In this 3 DVD and PDF workbook set Pastor Steve Gladen trains your Small Group leaders how to foster spiritually healthy small groups by balancing the Great Commission and Great Commandment in their groups.

Steve helps leaders understand how groups fit into the overall church plan and then teaches them how to make their group a Biblical model of what Jesus taught throughout the New Testament.

The first lesson is about discovering the essentials. Leaders need to get a philosophical overview of small groups and know where they are taking their group. To lead a group, you need to know where you’re going. Beginning with the end in mind will help them be a successful small group. This interactive first session will help your leaders answer critical questions such as, what’s the philosophy for small groups in our church and what goals do we want to achieve?

Next, Steve helps small group leaders determine their group’s purpose. A successful group balances all five of the Biblical purposes not only in the group but also in the lives of each member. How can you measure the “health” of a small group? And how do you help leaders measure group health and begin to chart a course for balance? This session includes discussion time on practical tools to measure the health of your small groups. Each group will also develop their own plan to grow their group in health.

Spiritual Health Assessment and Planner

The greatest challenge in most churches today is the ability to measure the human heart. The Spiritual Health Assessment and Health Planner is the one tool that helps measure the level of spiritual health in the human heart and gives individuals an action plan to help people grow in their walk with Christ.

The Purpose Driven Spiritual Health Assessment and Spiritual Health Planner includes:

  • A self-assessment
  • A Friend Feedback assessment to be filled out by a spiritual partner or mentor.
  • A Spiritual Health Plan form
  • A table for each purpose containing recommended crawl, walk, and run steps for every question on the assessment
  • Resource pages for each purpose with recommended books, small group studies, and practical suggestions
  • All the files on CD to customize the planner and print for your church including: a Personal Health Assessment, which includes a copy of the assessment you give to friends to help assess your life, and a Personal Health Planner which gives practical crawl, walk, and run suggestions for each of the questions on the assessment.

Your groups and group members can test themselves to see how they are balancing the biblical purposes. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give your groups a tool to get regular checkups . . . Test it out. 2 Corinthians 13:5 (The Message) “To maintain your physical health, you need regular check-ups with a doctor who can assess your vital signs—blood pressure, temperature, weight, and so on.” For your spiritual health you need to regularly check and balance the five vital signs of a healthy Christian life:

  • Worship: You were planned for God’s pleasure.
  • Fellowship: You were formed for God’s family.
  • Discipleship: You were created to become like Christ.
  • Ministry: You were shaped for serving God.
  • Evangelism: You were made for a mission.

This tool will give your groups and group members a snapshot of their spiritual health, pinpoint areas that may need attention, and help them develop a plan to bring God’s five purposes for their lives into balance.

Don’t Lead Alone CD Set

What do you do after a churchwide campaign in order to build a strong and dynamic small group ministry?

This set of six CDs will give your small groups the empowerment they need to get everyone in their small group involved. This is the easiest way for groups to get every one of their members to “own” the group.

The small group leader listens to CD 1, then selects people within the group to whom to give each of the five “purpose” CDs. As each person listens to the CD given them, they get an idea of what God might do through them as they champion one of the biblical purposes in the group, and they are challenged to take on this important ministry function.

This CD set will absolutely launch your small groups into doing amazing things for the Kingdom.

This kit includes six training CDs, complete with pastoral instruction, practical examples, proven strategies, personal insights, and printed cards to help Small Group Leaders recruit and empower their group members to become purpose champions in their small group.

CD 1: An overview for the Small Group Leader on the Purpose Driven Small Group model.
CD 2: An orientation for the Fellowship champion.
CD 3: An orientation for the Discipleship champion.
CD 4: An orientation for the Ministry champion.
CD 5: An orientation for the Evangelism champion.
CD 6: An orientation for the Worship champion.

250 Big Ideas for Purpose Driven Small Groups

250 Big Ideas offers small group leaders 250 innovative and proven-effective ideas to help cultivate the five purposes in their small group: Fellowship (Creating True Community), Discipleship (Cultivating Spirituality), Ministry (Caring for Each Other), Evangelism (Communicating Christ to the World), and Worship (Celebrating our Lord).

When the group needs to grow in one of the purposes, the small group leader can simply flip to that section of the book and use any of 50 great ideas for that purpose to help stimulate growth in that area.

This book will give your leaders new tools to bring balance their small groups. Balanced groups are healthy. Healthy groups grow.