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Growing a Garden of Jesus Followers

A metaphor that has helped me understand and lead small group ministry is this: Growing a small group discipleship ministry is like growing a garden. Small group coordinators and leaders must ask gardening questions. How would you answer these questions about your small group ministry? 

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Alpha: An Answer for a “Kingdom Advancing Church”

Looking for a way to mobilize more people in evangelism in 1999, a few of us at church stumbled on to the Alpha Course. We were drawn to it because it offered a simple way to involve people in bringing the Gospel to their friends. We got a small pilot group together, followed the instructions, and went for it. 

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What Is Alpha?

Alpha is a practical introduction to the Christian faith, where guests can explore the meaning of life and ask questions in a non-threatening, relaxed setting. The traditional Alpha course is 10 weeks long and includes a day or weekend-long retreat half-way through the course. 

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What Do Ferns and Small Groups Have in Common?

Ferns and small groups are both fractals. Fractals are complex forms made up of simple repeated patterns. Small groups are formed by repeating patterns or values. What patterns are you building into your small group? Are they positive or negative?

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Five Missional Themes of Coffee Break

The Coffee Break idea started forty years ago and has grown into a missional movement of the CRC and many other denominations. Hear are some themes that might ignite kingdom growth in Coffee Break and small groups today.

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Scarecrows

Imagine small group leaders and teams standing as scarecrows over our groups and ministries to guard against Satan’s assaults. Farmers place scarecrows in gardens because the farmer expects birds to go after his seeds. It is naïve of us to not be ready for Satan’s attempts to wreak havoc in our Christian communities.

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Small Group Experiments

Look for group practices that grow people more in love with God and each other. Here are a couple of small group experiments that I am currently trying out and learning from.

Small Groups
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Bringing People Into the Presence of Jesus

The small group leader was overwhelmed and exhausted. She did not see what she had expected: she was tired and discouraged. She had to do more but she didn’t have a clue what that should be. She cried out to God in prayer.

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Small Groups, Big Opportunity

On April 15-17, thousands from the CRC will be gathering to pray for our denomination at the 2013 Prayer Summit and in homes and churches across North America and around the world. Your small group can participate in this growing movement by hosting a “Watch and Pray” event in the comfort of your home or join by using the daily Prayer Guide.

Small Groups
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Growing Process

In my small group role for Home Missions, this is the most frequent question: “Our church wants to start small groups in order to grow community and disciples, what is the best method?”

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Leading From a Posture of Prayer

Growing a discipleship ministry is an ongoing process, much like growing a garden. Good gardeners are aware that they need to cultivate particular practices in order to develop a healthy, vibrant garden. If they faithfully plant, water, fertilize, etc., they will yield a good crop. Maybe.

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What Are We Going To Grow?

If you were going to plant a garden, what would you do? I have asked this question many times at small group discipleship training.  The first answers usually are: dig, plant, water.  What else: weed, fertilize, pick.  What else? Buy seeds.  What kind of seeds will you buy? Oh, we have to decide what we are going to grow!

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People are not Potted Plants

Planning for ministry is much more complex than planning for a garden and often causes frustration for leaders and participants. Just like in gardening, there is not a one-size-fits-all plan.

Small Groups
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Praying Together in Small Groups

It is easy to get in a rut. Here are a couple of small group prayer ideas. Experiment with them in your group. Share your experiences and other prayer ideas. “Let us spur one another on...”

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Karibu Coffee Break

The Bible League of Kenya developed a partnership with Coffee Break to share the materials and method in order to encourage small group Bible discovery. Most often, ‘Bible Study’ in Africa means teaching.  People learn about the Bible through teaching in sermons, Sunday School and small groups. 

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Preparing to Plant

Preparing includes all of the leadership tasks between Planning and Planting. Sounds obvious! What tasks need to happen to be ready to plant or begin discipleship ministries?

Small Groups
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Planting Groups

What can we learn from gardening about small group discipleship leadership? Gardeners study their environment. They plant in season. What is your churches growing cycle? When does it start? How long is the season? How many seasons do you have? 

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The Parable of the Neglectful Gardener

The parable is about my gardening experience this year. The lonely tomato is on the counter in my kitchen. The parable also speaks about the current situation in many church small group discipleship ministries.

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Developing Leaders for the Future

I am so glad that our loving Father is the one who prunes because we can trust his motives and methods. As we consider leading a group or ministry, what can we learn about the pruning process?

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Harvest Time!

The Michigan summer has been great for apples. My favorite farmers market is brimming with baskets of fresh, crispy  apples – Honey crisp, Zester, Macintosh – and zucchini, peppers, melons, corn, peaches. Is your mouth watering? Harvest time is so exciting. 

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John's Spiritual Gifts Adventure

A couple of weeks ago, my friend John Rozeboom emailed a question: “Sam, can you recommend or point me to a member spiritual gift inventory that can be self-administered, is simple and straightforward.”

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