GroupLife Midwest: Ten Essential Awarenesses… with Rick Howerton

Ten Essential Awarenesses…Small Group Leadership That Transforms with Rick Howerton





  1. All of us have fallen or will fall into every one of the life situation categories at some time in our lives.
  2. Tribal group members may have a Mark 9:24 perspective of Scripture.
    1. God is a person, not a genie in a bottle.
    2. Faith is belief + doubt and acting on the belief part, and letting God be God.
  3. Tribal group members will “investigate then embrace” the truth rather than “embrace then investigate” it.
  4. Tribal group members need to discover truth in community.
  5. Tribal group members are comfortable firmly planted in a Deuteronomy 29:29mindset.
    1. It’s ok to live in a mystery, I can’t think in the same dimension as God.
  6. Tribal CMC members today are more likely to have emotional trigger points than before.
    1. When we recognize triggers, we can lead them to healing.
  7. Most welcome dialogue but will shut their minds off if the Bible study, by design or not, becomes a monologue.
    1. If group members cant speak openly/honestly about what they think, they wont hear what you are saying.
  8. Tribal group members are hearing “voices“ that are not in the room.
  9. Tribal small-group members will not always accept that the author of the study or the lecturer on the DVD is the final authority.
    1. If they have baggage with the local church, they probably wont hear the pastor as an authority.

10. Tribal small-group members need the freedom to discuss other belief systems.

Spiritual growth begins with discomfort.

Many times Jesus left people with a ? instead of an ! Allow time for people to process what they are hearing.

When God’s opinion is hard, help them accept a hard opinion.

Give your small group members time to investigate truth, they will embrace it in God’s time.

GroupLife MidWest: The Character of Leadership with Steve Gladen

The Character of Leadership: FOUR questions everyone needs to answer to last in ministry
by Steve Gladen


Picture                         MOSES

  • Moses knew and embraced who he was and who he was not. (Exodus 3)
  • Moses was honest about his heritage and who God had created him to be, and he exchanged luxury and power for a life of rejection and humiliation’ and God honored him.
  • God made you for a purpose; God has a plan for my life – unique to anyone else on earth (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • Identify the truth of who God created you to be from the lies of what Satan and the world are selling.

TRUTH: Solving the identity crisis…

Principle                        JESUS

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in Him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

  • The branch exists for the sake of the vine; it has no other purpose.
  • Branches just hang around and bear fruit. When the branch is attached to the Vine, the Vine is responsible for the branch, and the Vine will see that the branch bears fruit.
  • Your responsibility as a branch is simply to abide/remain in Christ (the Vine).
  • Every day, you will choose whether or not to live out your identity (branch) and your priority (remain) for the sake of the Vine (Christ).

In light of who you are in Christ, answer the next question…

2. THE PRIORITY QUESTION: What is really most important?

Picture                        MOSES

He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” Hebrews 11:26

  • The world values power, pleasure, and possessions. Moses valued God’s purpose, people, and peace.
  • Personal disgrace for the sake of Christ was reasonable to Moses.
  • Moses lived in light of eternity; he saw the bigger picture; he was looking ahead to his reward.

Principle                        JESUS

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:8

  • Jesus identifies your top priority as God’s Glory! And the way you glorify God is by bearing fruit.
  • The by-product is that you will show yourself to be Christ’s disciple.
  • The key to bearing fruit (and thus giving God glory) is knowing who you are (branch) and remaining in Christ (the Vine).

Leadership Principle: Pray for a Big Picture mentality. Base your values on what you know to be true for eternity. Once you decide to follow Christ and surrender your life to Him, you’re in this for the long haul. People may disappoint you; they may misunderstand you and criticize you. But regardless of hard circumstances and hard people, submit yourself to loving Christ, loving His people, and looking ahead to your promised reward.

Questions: What do you value most? What implications do your values have to your eternal goals?

Now with your identity confirmed and your priorities set, determine your choices and responsibilities.

3. THE RESPONSIBILITY QUESTION: What will I do with my life?

Picture                        MOSES

He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” Hebrews 11:25

  • First Moses refuses the comfortable life because it was not God’s plan.
  • The choices you make will determine your character and the state of your heart….and that will determine how much God is able to use you.
  • Choose to identify more fully with Christ by accepting responsibility; every day you have the choice; your plans for you or God’s plans for you.
  • You are as close to God as you choose to be.

Principle                        JESUS

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4

  • Jesus clarifies that your first responsibility is to remain in Him.
  • What you do with your life will be determined by continually remembering who you are: a branch of the Vine.
  • Understanding who you are will shape your inner thoughts, intentions, values, desires, affections and motives (all issues typically associated with character).
  • Focus on remaining in Christ to shape your being to drive your doing, which results in producing either good or bad fruit. Galations 5:22 says that if you focus on the remaining, the Holy Spirit will take responsibility for bearing the fruit in you: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Leadership Principle: Remember that this is God’s small group, not yours. He is entrusting it to you as part of His plan for your life. Continually ask Him, “God, what do You want to happen in this small group? What can I do to better serve You and the people You have entrusted to me?”

Questions:             What has been the focus of your life recently?
What has been the fruit?

Know who you are, why you are, what you’re responsible for, and finally…

THE PERSEVERANCE QUESTION: How far am I willing to go?

Picture                        MOSES

“By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11:27

  • Faith is the prerequisite for spiritual leadership.
  • Faith does not stop with the initial believing; you must persevere through life by faith (Colossians 2:6).
  • Perseverance as a function of perspective: you will persevere to te end o=if you keep in mind Christ for who He is (the Vine), and keep perspective of who you are (a branch).
  • Live for an audience of One: the “invisible” One.

Principle                        JESUS

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” John 15:16

  • God has chosen you and appointed you to bear fruit on His behalf.
  • Remain focused daily on Christ and who you are because of Him.
  • Don’t get side-tracked from your primary responsibility to stay connected to Christ (and bear fruit through the Holy Spirit). Only then will you lead others spiritually.
  • Prioritize your life according to God’s values (like Moses) and persevere to the end by remaining (abiding) in Him.

Leadership Principle: Are the embers of your small group committed followers of Christ? Do they see themselves as branches of the Vine? Are they continuing to live by the same faith with which they came to Christ? Are you living by that faith? Keep it simple. Continue to live and lead by that same childlike faith. Take a small group meeting and teach your group the “abiding” truths in this outline.

Questions:             What are the things that are in your way of ultimate faith and perseverance?
Other than the Holy Spirit, who is going to help you to abide in Christ?

Following is the twitter stream from this session from various tweeters…

There’s no movement without the first follower.

“The enemy of the best is the good”

Every movement needs a leader, but remember, it’s about the movement not the leader.

Often in ministry we don’t want to embrace who we are.

Embrace who God has made you… God wants you to be YOU!

God wants you to be original in your ministry. Big statement for us who are early in ministry

You never know who is in your small group and the destiny that resides within.

Identify the truth of who God created you to be from lies of what Satan & the world r selling

The branch exists for the sake of the vine; it has no other purpose. Jn 15:5

What we teach about tithing & God using our 90% we miss in our teaching about sabbath.

The vine will see that the branch bears fruit

We bear fruit for a season. There is a time for pruning.

Every day u will choose whether or not to live out your identity & your priority 4 the sake of the Vine (Christ)

God wants you to be an influencer. Satan wants you to be influenced.

Personal disgrace for the sake of Christ was reasonable to Moses.

Life isn’t always gonna look pretty. But there’s joy in the imperfections. –

In the game of life it isn’t going to be pretty for the follower of Christ but we can find joy in the imperfections of this world

The key to bearing fruit is knowing who you are (branch) and remaining in Christ (Vine)

Every day you will choose whether or not to live out your identity and your priority for the sake of Christ.

You want God to use you – glorify Him in the small things.

The third- the Responsibility Question: What will I do with my life?

Choices we make determine our character and the state of our hearts–that determines how much God is able to use you.

Are you going to choose your plans for you, or God’s plan for you?

You are as close to God as you choose.

God’s economy is not equity. It’s more about eternity.

How important are people? How far are you willing to go to reach them?

Faith does not stop with the initial believing.

Perseverance is a function of perspective

Creating Missional Communities – Velocity Pre-conference

Michael Stewart, Pastor of Missional Community at Austin Stone Church, not only explained the tri-perpectival Gospel (adapted from Tim Keller), he had us read and discuss the material in small groups. What better way to present on a topic about small groups. But these aren’t just any small groups, they are what Michael refers to as “Missional Communities.”

What is church?

  • a service
  • spiritual family
  • community

Austin Stone found that the “One-anothers” referred to in the bible just couldn’t be accomplished on Sunday morning. The structures in place weren’t facilitating mobilizing people toward mission. So the question was, “How do we engage people in the mission of God?” They decided that about 33% of their ‘missional’ communities were actually missional, and they needed to help the other 67% deconstruct their idea of church and the consumer mentality that existed.

Alan Hirsch’s communitas definition – “If you shoot for community, you geth neither mission, nor communtiy. If you aim for mission, you get both.” Hmmm.

Jesus said, “Follow me, and I’ll make you fishers of men.” We are meant to be Missional (sent).

Everything we struggle with is a gospel issue. Missional Communities embrace the Tri-Perspective Gospel as foundation to Mission.

3 perspectives of the gospel


good news vs good advice – need to give people the good news, not just ‘how-to’s
Jesus lived the life we should live and died the death we should have died.


we are a new person in Him
gospel is not just a truth about us that we affirm with our minds, it is also a reality we must experience in our hearts and souls
we ‘know’ by grace “Think on that grace until you are changed into generous people by the gospel in your hearts.”

“Sonship” “We are more flawed and sinful than we ever dared believe, yet we are more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope at the same time.”
the gospel is radically different than religion. Religion operates on the principle: “I obey, therefore I am accepted”. The gospel operates on the  principle: “I am accepted through Christ, therefore I obey.”

kingdom/social aspect

The gospel is not just about individual happiness and fulfillment. It’s not just a wonderful plan for ‘my life’ but a wonderful plan for the world. Those who receive salvation are not the strong and accomplished, but those who admit they are weak and lost. A complete reversal of the values of the world with regard to power, recognition and status.The gospel liberates us from bondage to the power of materail things and worldly status. The way to real power is to give up coercive power and serve others. The way to get rich is to give it away. the way up is down

Small Groups and Social Media

Wordle: small groups

Are you a group leader who connects with members through the week on facebook? Are you a group director that has established a facebook group for your coaching team? Do you have a group twitter or blog? Does your group connect through online bible applications like YouVersion?  Are you a group that has created a ning page?  If you have other ideas… the rest of us small group leaders would love to hear them. Maybe you know of someone else who’s using Social Media to enhance their ministry? Please have them share their thoughts with us as well.

Just enter in the comments below. This can be an amazing resource for small group ministries!

How Great Minds Work

About 2 months ago, my friend, Cynthia Ware (Digital Sanctuary), recommended I follow Tony Steward (Online Community Pastor at since our church was exploring the idea of an Internet Campus.  I am so happy I took that advice. Since then, I participated in LifeShare, a 7-day online challenge, and I’ve had the privilege of being in an online LifeGroup that Tony is leading over the last 6 weeks. We are the United Nerd LifeGroup. Haha. More about that in this previous post.

It’s a wonderful things to see great minds at work, so I like to pick Tony’s brain. Last night in a Facebook chat, he was bringing more vision…

11:10pmTony: so we are in the process of transitioning into a ministry model that best fits online, because of what we now realize is capable and natural.
make sense?
no, the internet has its own real estate (web addresses), leaders, politics, community etc.

11:11pmMary Beth: hmm wrapping my mind… but one internet, right

11:11pmTony: right but it is a place now
a place to gather, actually many many places to gather
and you will never reach the most people by More…

What do you think about this?

Why couldn’t I sleep last night???

There are lots of reasons I have trouble sleeping… family issues, work plans, scary movies. But last night I found a new reason to toss and turn – anticipation.  You see, last night my online group (United Nerd LifeGroup) that I have been part of for 6 weeks was issued a mighty challenge. More on that coming.

We meet every Tuesday night at 9pm CST online. We’ve worked through the idea of being unplugged, not letting our online connections take time away from our most important connection with God.  Tony Steward ( Online Community Pastor) leads the group via ustream as the rest of us participate in the chat room.

Last night we became a tribe (thanks Seth Godin) as Tony challenged us with becoming part of a kingdom-minded movement. He asked if we would consider becoming moderators of an Open Source Love Movement whose rally cry is JESUS! Let me unpack that a little. Our goal is to reach people online for lifechange. Free of denominational borders, become church without walls, or church with a capital ‘C’.  To become a movement, because a movement is not controlled. A movement has the freedom to grow exponentially, to be bigger than we can imagine, to be something that is only possible because God orchestrates it.

But how does that happen? Tony has already influenced this tribe and has offered to give us some basic training over the next six weeks to equip us to multiply the impact on our own. It boggles my mind to think how big this can become. Anticipation!

Is God calling you to become part of a movement that reaches people online?


Friends – as a first-time blogger, would love your input and suggestions, please leave me a comment!