Rethinking Care Teams

Many Sunday Schools have organized the class to better meet the needs of the group. The goal of care teams usually centers on making sure specific needs of group members don’t go unmet, or they function as a tool for keeping up with all the people in the group. There is nothing wrong with these objectives, and they both have value.

Let’s look back at Flake for a moment. Flake emphasized that everyone can serve in some way in and through the Sunday School. What if we thought of care teams as a means of providing a vehicle for people in the group to serve as opposed to only as a way of discovering needs?

If we begin to think in terms of finding ways for people to serve, then we may also realize the fallacy of the teacher doing it all. We may be able to keep up with everyone in the group, but at what expense? We have people in the group who can serve, and we are cheating them out of the opportunity by not letting them do so. The greater goal is not about keeping up with the group. The greater goal is helping the people in the group develop and grow spiritually, and serving is a means of accomplishing that.

Creating Care Teams

Let’s look at the steps we may need to take to establish, re-institute, or redefine care teams.

We need to begin by defining what we are trying to do. In the past we may have defined the purpose in terms of keeping connected with everyone on the ministry list. Instead, we need to find a way of bringing serving to the forefront. We might use terms like providing a vehicle for serving, for making a difference in the lives of others, and growing through serving others.

The purpose of care teams is different from the prayer partners suggested in Chapter 2. Prayer partners are about building community while care teams are about providing a means for serving. Both involve prayer, but they do so with a very different focus in mind. We could combine the two with prayer partners being assigned within care groups, but doing so may impact the fostering of community within the group as a whole.

How can you redefine for your group the purpose of care groups in terms of serving?

After we articulate the purpose, we can then focus on the specifics. We need to define the expectations for each care group leader. Do we expect them to simply contact the people on their lists and offer to pray for them or will we expect them to do more? What do we consider a contact—text, call, or personal visit? We may want to incorporate a monthly prayer time at the end of the group time for care groups to pray together. If we do that, then potential care leaders will want to know that they are responsible for facilitating that prayer time. Communicating clear expectations to potential care leaders helps them know when they succeed.

Next, we can focus on determining how many care groups we will need. If we lead a co-ed group, we need at least two care groups, one for the men and one for the women. A good rule of thumb would be one for every four to seven group members of the same sex. The number of people assigned to each care group needs to be manageable and allow for more to be added as the group reaches more people.

Some may choose to exclude those who never attend, missionary members, prospects who have yet to attend, or those who attend every Sunday. It makes sense that we include everyone on the ministry list. The smaller the number of people we include, the less the opportunity to serve. We may want to create a care group made up of only missionary members (people who would be in our class if they were not teaching elsewhere), but we need to include them in some way.

If we have nineteen on our ministry list, plus four missionary members serving in other groups, we will need four to six groups (if starting with groups of seven, 19 + 4 + us = 24; 24 ÷ 7 = 3.4 so we round up to 4; if you start with groups of four people, 24 ÷ 4 = 6).

Once we know how many care groups we need, we can then consider how we will secure these care leaders. Every option comes with pros and cons to each. We can present the idea of care groups, asking for volunteers to approach us. Some who we never thought would be interested will express interest, which can be a pro or a con. We can identify people who could (and should) serve and approach them individually until we secure the number we need. This puts the burden on our backs, but we know the people we approach will be vetted. We might even consider a three or six month rotation system, giving everyone the opportunity to serve as a care leader in the course of one or two years. The only problem is not everyone will want to serve, so this leaves some holes. Some have even utilized an alternating month approach to involve more, but this also can create an inconsistent atmosphere.

What approach of selection do you believe will best serve your group and why?

While we are on the subject of rotation, we need to consider the length of time we are asking care group leaders to serve. Providing a set end date makes it more inviting for the recruit. In most cases, a commitment of one year works best. We can give them the opportunity to do it again after a year and may even give them a different group for which to care. If a group has a difficult time committing to a year, we might even consider a six-month commitment. The issue is setting a time that works for the group and then sticking with it.

Re-Engaging Your Sunday School or Small Groups Ministry – Pt. 1

Part One – the Introduction

Are you like me, growing weary of hearing or talking about Covid 19? When are we ever going to get back to normal? Even so, it is our current reality, and we talk about it because it affects our everyday lives.  But, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be talking about and planning for Sunday School and Small Group Ministry to resume on our church campuses. “When” and “how” are important questions that we must use to address, plan, and prepare.

In our planning and decision-making, we need to be mindful of the following: 1) Sunday School and/or Small Group ministries in our churches’ are foundational to the health and growth of our churches. The longer we go without regular, on-campus or online meetings, the harder it will be to re-build our ministry. 2) It is important to make sure that our members and guests are able to come back to a safe, clean and healthy environment. 3) As we maintain or restart our ministry, we must ensure that it is biblically-based, ministry-focused and continues to connect new people to the Gospel and a small group of people that will teach and minister to them.

So, on Monday, August 10th and Tuesday August 11th, Louisiana Baptists will host our first ever, Digital ReGroup Conference. Not only will this be a timely message for those who lead the Sunday School and/or Small Group Ministry in their church, but ESPECIALLY for all those who lead a class or small group every week. We need to prepare these wonderful lay people who have the responsibility of making disciples through their class or small group for the New Normal.

We are asking you to commit to one hour. Below, you will see the schedule and the people who can help us understand the opportunities and challenges we face for the next few weeks and months. The webinar is free. All you have to do is register and watch. If you can’t participate in the live webcast, you can view it online. The recording will be available by Friday, August 14th on our website at www.LouisianaBaptists.org/ReGroup20Recap.

  • For Pastors/Staff/Key Ministry Leaders – Monday, August 10th from 6:00-7:00 PM
  • For All Adult Leaders – Monday, August 10th from 7:30–8:30 PM
  • For all Preschool/Children’s Leaders – Tuesday, August 11th from 6:00-7:00 PM
  • For all Student Leaders – Tuesday, August 11th from 7:30-8:30 PM

Mark these dates and times on your calendar and make every effort to join us live…you’ll be glad you did!  Stay tuned for more details!

Scattered

COVID 19 Update—Be a lamp.

When the Stay at Home order was first given in March of this year, I was anxious and fearful. What kind of impact was this going to have on me, my family, my work, my church, and our world? I was not prepared for all that would happen. But, I do trust God, don’t I?

God has a way of getting our attention. In the midst of this pandemic, I focused on doing one thing every day–“to just keep going and trust God.” I do not control my circumstances, but I do control my actions in the midst of them. I determine who I trust and in whom I place my faith.

In my daily Bible reading and prayer time, I searched for purpose and meaning to it all. Then I remembered that in the book of Acts “the church was scattered.” I saw lots of parallels to what was going on in my life and in our world. I re-read Acts chapters 6, 7, and 8 and was struck by the boldness of the early church. The church was growing daily, in spite of all that was happening around them. In these chapters of the book of Acts we are introduced to the story of Stephen. At his death, persecution broke out and the church was scattered.

Of course, I would not call the Coronavirus a persecution, but it is a pandemic. It scattered us to our homes. We became isolated and separated. But, the church didn’t close. We are the church. We began to meet as a congregation in our living rooms. We met in groups via Zoom or on the phone. We prayed for each other and checked up on one another. We found hope in the midst of a pandemic! The church was still open and doing His will.

Change is not fun. But ask yourself, what is God wanting us to focus on? Did God allow us to scatter so that we could focus on spreading the Gospel to our families, to our neighbors and to our peers, like never before? Has God strengthened you spiritually? Is He working in the lives of your family and friends? What is God preparing us for, in the days ahead?

Acts 8:1,4 (CSBBible)

1 Saul agreed with putting him to death. On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria. 4 So those who were scattered went on their way preaching the word.

My Sermon Outline

  1. The Cause for the Scattering – a severe persecution.
    1. The opposition came from the religious leaders.
    2. The Church grew in-spite of the opposition – In Acts 2:41, 2:47, 5:14, 6:7, we learn that the Gospel was spreading.
    3. Stephen Stoned to death – All restraint was removed and Saul led an all-out attack on the church.
  2. The Act of Scattering – Separated, set apart.
    1. They scattered – Some because of grief and some because of fear
    2. They left everything.
    3. Everywhere they went, people were hungry for the gospel, for the truth.
  3. The Action of Those Scattered – They preached the Word.
    1. The Gospel was spread throughout Judea and Samaria
    2. When the persecution started, it moved the spread of the gospel to parts it had not reached before.
    3. One author described the movement as lamps. As each lamp scattered, more lamps were lit.
    4. They left because God called them to be a light in a dark world.

Note: This past weekend, I preached this sermon at Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville, LA. You can view the entire sermon on Facebook at facebook.com/pbcministry. Soon, it will be online at video.pbcministry.com/.

ReGathering Anxiety: Should I Go Back to Church?

This past weekend, hundreds of churches opened their doors and invited their people back. My church was one of those. Normally, my church has two worship services and two Sunday School hours on Sunday morning. We chose to re-establish worship first and continue our groups via digital format, in homes. We offered 4 different worship times. I chose the Saturday night service.

To be honest, driving to church that night, I was anxious. My apprehension was both selfish and congregational. Who would show up? Would they be wearing a mask, like me? Would I be the only one wearing one? Will people follow the guidelines of social distancing? How have the staff and church leaders prepared for this regathering? Will it be safe?

I was blown away, in a good way, not bad. Walking up to the building, I was still anxious, until I started seeing people wearing a mask, like me. Then, I began to recognize people behind those masks. Everyone was waving and excited to see one another. The staff and volunteer leaders did a great job of preparing the church. Greeters were stationed throughout the process from entry to seating to exiting. The church was cleaner than I had ever seen it. I literally touched nothing except my seat. There was an intentional process for how people would arrive, where they would enter, where they would sit, and how they would exit.

After finding my seat, waving at people and getting ready for worship, I was still anxious. Would this be like it used to be? Well, no it wasn’t. People were spread out wearing masks. BUT, once the service started and we began singing, it was incredible. I felt the Spirit of God moving and working. I sensed God was there, in the middle of it all. I WORSHIPPED. It felt so good to be with God’s people, worshipping Almighty God, together, in the same place and at the same time. It felt like “coming home again.”

I hope you experienced the same thing. It was good to be in the house of the Lord. It was good to once again be with my church family. COVID 19 did not take anything away. If anything, things are so much better. We are getting used to a “new normal.” It will not always be this way. One day, I’ll be able to shake hands, hug necks and pat people on the shoulder or back, again. And oh, what a great day that will be.

Until then, don’t be anxious. Place all your cares upon HIM. Go back to church. Nobody can make you, but, you’ll be glad you did.

Can Our Sunday School Class or Small Group Re-gather?

Maybe a better question is, “SHOULD our Sunday school class or small Group Re-gather”? We should know this week (May 11-15) what guidelines the State of Louisiana will suggest in order to Re-gather. Regardless of how you feel about those suggestions, the main question is, can you Re-gather your Sunday school class or small group SAFELY?

If you are considering Re-gathering your class or group, I have one question to ask: Will you do whatever is necessary to make sure that your members have a clean and safe environment in which to interact? Here are four ideas of what your preparation should look like:

  1. Clean obsessively – Clean like you always have. Then, clean some more. Then, clean it again.
  2. Set up for social distancing – Make sure the chairs are 6 to 8 feet away from one another. The further apart, the safer it will be. Don’t expect your members to abide by social distancing if you do not prepare the environment for it.
  3. Create a Non-Touch environment – A great way to communicate that, is, “if you didn’t bring it, don’t touch it.” I know that sounds extreme, but, better someone accidentally touch something than you spend all your time policing actions of people who are touching things they shouldn’t. No food. No coffee…unless they bring it for themselves, of course.
  4. Put up a sign saying, “This is a clean and safe environment”. Put people’s fears to rest. Show them that you have done everything you can to make sure they don’t have to worry.

If you are not willing to commit to “at least” these four things, maybe it would be a good idea to wait a little longer before starting your Sunday school/small groups. Continue to meet digitally and connect weekly. Make sure that people are being cared for and prayed for, regularly. This has been a very difficult time. For some, it has been more difficult than others. Just because someone says we CAN do something, doesn’t mean we SHOULD do something. 23 “Everything is permissible,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up. 1 Corinthians 10:23 (CSBBible)

Just remember, when you do Re-gather, spend most of that time catching up with one another and praying for one another. Get ready for a new normal. Everything has changed. Embrace it. Do you really want everything to go back to the way it was before the pandemic? I don’t. I want to see revival in the church and in every Sunday school class and small group. I want to see a Spiritual Awakening in our State, our Country and our World. Don’t you?

Is it Worth it?

COVID 19 Update – Is what we have been going through worth it?

The answer to the Christian is a resounding yes. I know it is hard.  I have cried out to God myself, WHEN will this be over? Is all the pain, frustration and agony we have experienced during this pandemic really worth it? If one soul becomes a believer because of COVID 19, it is worth it. If a local church is revived because of this, it is worth it. If our country or any country around the world experiences spiritual awakening because of this, it is worth it. Even if we cannot see one positive thing from this experience, it is still worth it.

God is a God who cares. He would never allow this to happen if it were not part of His plan. If nothing else, it is worth it if our hearts are turned to God. Give glory to God. He KNOWS what He is doing. Imagine how Jesus felt the night He was betrayed. As He knelt in prayer while the disciples slept in the Garden of Gethsemane, He felt the weight of the world. 39 Going a little farther, he fell facedown and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39 (CSBBible). In that moment, Jesus asked His Father, is it worth it? Jesus already knew it was worth it. He died for the sins of the world. It is always worth it when it is part of God’s plan.

In Acts 7, Stephen preaches his final sermon and soon afterward, he was stoned to death. The next verse states: 1 On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria. Acts 8:1 (CSBBible). We are going through a tough time. Maybe it’s nothing like what the early disciples experienced, but, look at what happened to the church. When the persecution broke out, the Gospel spread like wildfire. Even today, the Gospel is being spread all over the world. It is reaching places none of us could ever have imagined.

I know that many of us long for the return of what we once had. We long for things to go back to normal. But, that was not what Jesus prayed the night we was betrayed. He prayed, Yet not as I will, but as you will.” It is time for a new normal. Pick your head up. 36 When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:36-38 (HCSB)

God is at work. Join Him. IT IS WORTH IT!

Be Careful What You Ask For

Covid 19 Update: Ask and you shall receive!

This morning as I prayed, I asked God for things to please return to normal. I miss my family, my friends, my church, my co-workers, and even my schedule. I long for a return to those things I love the most. I desire the freedom to roam, greet others along the path and minister the way I have for decades. But then, I regretted ever praying that prayer and asked God to lead me to discover a “new normal.”

Things will not and should not go back to the way they were, before the pandemic. Yes, some things will return. We will once again have the freedom to go to work, to church and lots of other places. We will be able to meet and greet people, and, even minister like we use to do.  BUT, we are learning a “new normal.” Let’s not lose it! Things like…

  • Worship in our home with our family.
  • A deeper and more meaningful time alone with God in Bible study and prayer.
  • Connecting with people in new and exciting ways.
  • Discovering new tools and resources that allow us to minister in ways we never thought possible before.

These are just a few of the “new normal” highlights.  Be careful of trying to go “back to normal” in your ministry. If you so, you will discover that there will be no room for the “new normal”.  I have learned that, previously, I did not adequately prioritize my time with my family, with God, with people and in using new tools and resources. Now, I need to find a “new normal” that incorporates all of the great things I have learned and new habits I have developed. I DON’T NEED THINGS TO GO BACK TO NORMAL.

God has allowed us to pass through this trial together. I could not handle this if it were not for my God, family, friends, co-workers and church. Why not allow yourself to learn a “new normal”–one that incorporates the priorities and areas of focus God has taught you during this season? Don’t long for the way things used to be. Instead, long for God to bring revival to the church and spiritual awakening to our country and our world.

When Will This Be Over?

Covid 19 Update: Are We There Yet?

I don’t know about you, but Covid 19 is now a dirty word in my vocabulary. When social distancing first began, over a month ago, I had no idea of what was ahead.  Now, my greatest challenges lie in my personal life, not in my ministry. Don’t get me wrong, I know God is in control. I trust Him. He will see me/us through it. But, my life is different now.

To know what I am feeling, you need to know a little about my personality. I am a people person. I thrive on social interactions. These exchanges feed my spirit, soul and body. This time separated from family and friends is difficult.

I am grateful for my wife. Her constant love and affirmation carry me through this ordeal. And, I truly appreciate the technology that allows me to see my children and my grandchild. Technology has allowed me to stay connected in ministry and to my own church. But, it is not the same. I miss the hugs from my girls. I miss the playful interactions with my granddaughter. I miss the hugs, handshakes and lighthearted punches of friends at work and church. This is hard.

It grieves me to think of the thousands of people who are dying or have died from this virus; unable to have family surround them during their final moments on earth. It pains me to hear of people worried about losing their jobs and how to provide for their family. We have awakened to a new world. What will happen next? How long will this last?

The more important question should be, God, what do I need to learn from this experience? God takes us through the valley and prepares us for the climb up the next hill or mountain. He is molding and making us into the very image of God, through Jesus Christ. I will be stronger, more empathetic, wiser, and more sensitive in my walk with the Lord.

So, what have I learned so far? I have learned that I love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and body. I have learned how much I appreciate my church–not the building, the people. I love and value my family and my friends. I have learned that my calling has not changed. If anything, my calling is stronger and my passion for ministry has grown. It’s not about me. It’s about HIM.

So, what have you learned? Will your life be “different” when this is all over? I certainly hope so. I would hate to think that God allowed us to go through this and not learn something more about His character, His love, His grace and His plan.

God, send a great revival in the church. God, send a spiritual awakening to our communities, our state, our country and our world. AMEN.

Are We Doing Everything RIGHT?

COVID 19 Update – How do we know we are doing everything right?

For the past few weeks, one of my top priorities has been to contact Pastors and check on them, their families and their congregations. I am one of many who are doing this. We are all checking on one another.

I have also had video conferences with leaders of churches who are responsible for Sunday School and/or Small Group Ministry.  There are two recurring statements in their responses: 1) we have never done this before and 2) we are not sure if we are doing it right.

The church has had to make significant changes in the way we do church. Online worship services, live or recorded. Recorded Bible studies and devotions. Bible study via conference calls or video conference calls…all of these are ways of doing Bible study in the midst of this crisis. These adaptations are our way of trying to stay connected; our way of making sure the church is still worshipping and studying God’s Word together. But, are we doing it right?

I’ve discovered there is no right or wrong way! In video conference calls this past week, with Ministers of Education across the state, I learned we are all doing things differently. Thankfully, the common element among all these leaders is that they are doing something. To be honest, some Pastors and staff are working overtime to discover and implement ways of keeping classes and groups functioning during this odd and strange season. So. what should our objective be and how do we measure effectiveness?

The first objective should be to make sure that our people are staying connected. The best way to do that is to call every member, every week to check in and pray over them. Many are discovering needs and are doing their part to meet those needs. Our second objective is to encourage people to stay in God’s Word daily. When you check on people each week, remind them of the scriptures being covered in the current lesson and encourage them read their Bible. It helps if you can gather small groups/classes together via a conference call or video conference to engage in Bible study together. There are multiple ways to stay connected and do Bible study together. Remember, this season will not last forever.  But for now, make sure you are accomplishing these two things, at least. There is so much more that can be done.  But, how do we measure how we are doing?

Here are two points of measurements:  1) Is every member of every group/class being contacted every week?  A phone call is better than an email or a text. (NOTE: an email or a text is better than nothing at all.); 2) Is every class/group providing some way, weekly, to involve as many people as possible in Bible study and discussion?

There is no one way or perfect way to do everything right. My question and challenge to you is this–What are you doing to make sure your groups/classes are staying connected with one another and God through His Word?

What Have We Learned?

COVID 19 Update – How does our current situation impact your small group ministry?

Everything is changing. And, like it or not, things will continue to change. Once we get past the COVID 19 Pandemic, things will not go back to normal. That might happen for some churches, but for most of us, things will look and be different than before. Digital is and will be a part of our new normal. You can fight it or join in, but eventually, we all must change.

God, His Word and the church will always exist, but how we do church will change. Think about it, in the book of Acts the early church looked very different than it does today. Change is not always bad. People will still need the church. BUT, how we do“church” must change. People will still need community. Most likely, we will still attend a worship service and a small group every week. But, many will begin to do church differently. We will need to adapt to our new environment. So, how will this impact our small group ministry?

In the book of Acts, the church functioned almost entirely out of small groups. As the gospel spread, people met in small groups. The only places you could assemble larger groups were in Synagogues and places of business. Most groups met in homes or outside. The history of the movement of God in North America is largely a story of small groups. Small groups will always exist in some form or another. Most adaptations have been made for large and larger groups.

For most of us, church has been a commitment of one or two days a week. We have typically spent two to five hours a week at church. Yet, there are 168 hours in a week. On average we spend 56 hours of the week sleeping, and another 56 hours at work or school. This leaves the average person 44 hours a week to spend however they want; that is a little more than 6.3 hours a day. My point is, why shouldn’t the church be the church every waking moment of our day? That’s 112 hours a week, 16 hours a day. How can God use your small group to connect people to God and to one another in this timeframe?

Going forward, staying connected will provide the greatest opportunity for your small group or Sunday School ministry. During this season, we have discovered new ways to connect with one another—let’s make that trend continue. Our ministry should be thought of as more than one hour a week at the church, a home or wherever. Our ministry is to do more than teach a Bible study. We are shepherding a small group in their walk with Christ.

What can we learn from our current experiences and begin right away adapting to our new reality? Get your group accustomed to connecting during the week, not just during the Bible study time. Discover new ways of connecting people who can’t attend your group during a particular week. Begin to utilize new resources that you are discovering how to use for the first time. Practice them now, while you have the time. Develop some new habits of Bible reading, prayer, discussion, mentoring, exploring, etc.

There is so much FREE stuff available right now–why not research and try something new? Who knows, these new tools could become an important part of your Sunday School or small group ministry now and well into the future. Don’t be afraid, just try it. We learn best when we are trying.

Don’t be afraid of our future. God is and will always be on His Throne. Allow God to use you AND your digital self to impact people in ways you have never done before.

Below are some new resources to try: