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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Steve’s Tips

May 5, 2010

by Steve Gladen

Looking for a way to promote health and balance in your small groups? Give them suggestions on how to balance the biblical purposes in their lives. Your groups will not only appreciate the suggestions, it will add a new dimension to their group life!

Fellowship – Always acknowledge your group members’ birthdays and anniversaries. Be sure that when people come to your group, you not only get their name, address, email address, and phone number, but you also get their birthday and anniversary (wedding and/or salvation). Save money by ordering birthday and anniversary cards in bulk form from a card catalog. A card in the mail or on their chair when they arrive lets group members know that their special day is special to you.

Discipleship – Set aside a specific Sunday for the whole group to practice the Sabbath. Let it be a day of total and God-focused rest. At the end of the day, gather for a relaxing meal – one with absolutely no agenda.

Ministry – Choose another church in your town to pray for – and then pray! Intercede for the pastor(s), the ministries, and the members and friends of that church. Then have group members sign a card letting the pastor know that your group spent some time praying for his church. What an encouragement that card will be!

Evangelism – In America, we don’t have to be missionaries to a foreign country in order to reach another culture. Other cultures often come to us! Contact a local college to find out if an international student needs a host home. Offer as a group to host a “Welcome to our Community” party for international students in the fall. If it goes well, you might consider having another open house at Christmas and during other breaks. Most international students don’t return home for the holidays. They are lonely and eager to make new friends.

Worship – Bring a poster board to your group meeting and together list truths about God and his wonderful character traits. Then spend time in prayer praising God for who he is.

Steve GladenSteve Gladen is the Pastor of Small Group Community at Saddleback Church.

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

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.

Steve’s Tips

February 25, 2010

by Steve Gladen

Looking for ways to bring health and balance to your small groups? Why not give them some suggestions on how they might balance the biblical purposes in their groups?

Fellowship: Find out when and where another group from your church is meeting. Show up unannounced at the beginning of their meeting and explain, “You have been selected to be ambushed with love!” Unveil some treats you have brought for them, give a few hugs, and leave. Return to your usual meeting spot for some laughter, fellowship, and your own Bible study and prayer time.

Discipleship: Take a small garbage can to your group meeting and set it in the middle of the room. Then talk about the unhealthy thoughts, songs, movies, television shows, radio programs, websites, books, magazines, etc. that we allow into our minds. Ask group members to write down those things God is calling them to stay away from. As people tear up the pieces of paper and throw them in the trash can, have them make a prayerful commitment to God to think on Philippians 4:8. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

Ministry: Matthew 6:1-4 tells us, Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Ask each person to respond to Jesus’ teaching by accepting the challenge to anonymously meet a need in the coming week.

Evangelism: Draw the street where you live and at least ten houses on your block. List on each house the names of the people who live there, including the children. Then note each family’s “spiritual address”: where are they with the Lord? When you’ve finished, use this map as a prayer list. By the way, if this exercise helps you realize that you don’t know the people you live around you, start introducing yourself and inviting people to your house for dinner!

Worship: Have each group member find a favorite verse about God’s love and read it to the group. This sharing may encourage others to open up and read their Bibles, to do some research, and to interact with one another.

For more suggestions like these read, 250 Big Ideas for Purpose Driven Small Groups by Steve Gladen.

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

Steve’s Tips

January 28, 2010


Want your small groups to be healthy and balanced? Why not offer them some suggestions…

FELLOWSHIP – Write some fun and easy to answer sharing questions on small pieces of paper (one for each group member including yourself). Tape them under each group member’s chair before your next small group meeting.


  • What was your favorite outfit when you were a teenager?
  • What is the most annoying TV commercial?
  • What is your favorite chair in the house? Why?
  • If you could learn one new skill this year, what would it be?

At the beginning of the meeting, have each person pull a question from under their chair and answer.

DISCIPLESHIP – Have group members talk about how they came to Christ as well as their spiritual journey since coming to Christ. Ask them to highlight the defining moments or key turning points along the way. You might plan to hear from two or three people each week for a month. Don’t rush this exercise. It is a great way to get to know and better understand your group members.

MINISTRY – Some of the strongest evidence of our love for Christ is our ability to love those who aren’t easy to love. Jesus said in Luke 6:27 To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst (Message). Ask your group members to think of someone who annoys or irritates them and then accept Christ’s challenge to serve that person in love this week.

EVANGELISM – At one meeting have everyone tell how they got connected to the church or plugged into the small group, and who was instrumental in those decisions. Use these shared stories to remind people once again of the power of the invitation.

WORSHIP – If your church allows small group leaders to serve the Lord’s Supper, then this idea is a must. Talk about what the elements mean to each one of your group members now. Ask them to reflect on the day they turned their life over to Christ. In what ways, if any, did Communion mean something different to them then? Next, discuss the role that Communion plays in your relationship with the Lord. After a time of prayer for the gift of Communion and the sacrifice of Jesus’ death on the cross, share the bread and cup together.

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

For more ideas like these, read 250 Big Ideas for Purpose Driven Small Groups by Steve Gladen.

Steve’s Tips – December 2009

December 10, 2009

by Steve Gladen

Looking for ways to help your small groups achieve health and balance? Here are a few suggestions that you can pass along to them.

FELLOWSHIP – Have members of the group write and mail encouraging notes to each other. Give everyone 3×5 or 4×6 index cards. Help group members get started by writing on one side of the card the beginning of a sentence, something like – “You are an important part of our group because…” Address the cards and mail them the following week.

DISCIPLESHIP – At least once a year, spend an entire meeting giving members the opportunity to assess their own spiritual health. Encourage honesty and authenticity. Ask each other, “Where are you strong and where do you need to grow?” Allow some time for members to work on an individual health plan and to map out a strategy for their spiritual growth.

MINISTRY – Talk about the difference between consumers and contributors. Then ask group members, “What evidence of a consumer mindset do you find in the church in general today – and why is this mindset an appealing option?” In contrast to that consumerism, point out some people in your church who are servant-contributors to God’s kingdom work. Close by asking people to prayerfully consider the ways in which they are consumers at church and ways they could be more effective (not busier!) servant-contributors.

EVANGELISM – Volunteer to build homes for the needy and the homeless. Do this in your area on Saturdays, or coordinate vacations with one another and take a week to build a home together. Contact Habitat for Humanity for project sites near you.

WORSHIP – Find the words to Amazing Grace and print out a copy for each group member. At a group meeting, either sing the song together, or read the lyrics aloud. Ask the people in your group which verse of the song means the most to them and why.

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

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

Steve’s Tips – October 2009

October 12, 2009

by Steve Gladen

The key to health in a small group is balance of the biblical purposes. Here are some suggestions to pass along to your Small Group Leaders.

FELLOWSHIP – Never cancel a meeting due to the number of people who might be absent. Remember that every single meeting is a divinely arranged appointment for you to minister God’s grace and love to whomever He brings. If just a few people show up for your meeting, be sensitive to their needs. Don’t hesitate to tailor your lesson and/or group time to the few who show up. Appreciate the opportunity that this smaller group gives you to get to know each other better.

DISCIPLESHIP – Plan a weekend group walk though a park or along a nature trail. Decide on a time and location. Encourage group members to take along a Bible and even a lawn chair or blanket. When everyone arrives, instruct each person to go off separately and be alone with the Lord for an hour. When everyone returns to the meeting place, ask for volunteers to talk about their experiences. What did they realize about the value of this time? What did they sense God was saying to them? How hard was it to be quiet, and to focus on the Lord? How might this experience help you develop a regular time?

MINISTRY – Which group member has a neighbor with a need? Perhaps the yard could use work, some baby-sitting would be helpful, or the car could be washed and waxed. Meet that need, whatever it is – and be sure to take along some cookies or brownies when you put your love into action.

EVANGELISM – We human beings have a God-given responsibility to take care of the earth (Genesis 1-2). Spend some time talking about what that stewardship assignment means. Then, to put into practice what you’ve learned, be good stewards of the planet by doing one of the following:

  • pick up litter along a highway or in a park
  • plant a group garden and share in the work as well as in the produce
  • start compost by recycling vegatable wastes (rinds, peels, pulp, and seeds)
  • recycle newspapers, plastic, paper and aluminum and use the cash for a mission project

WORSHIP – Ask group members to bring a favorite worship CD to a meeting. Take turns sharing a much-loved song. Encourage group members to either sing along or to enjoy a quiet time of worship as they follow along with the words. Never be afraid to include music or singing in your group time.

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

Steve Gladen newsletter


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