Category Archives: Create Relational Momentum

Adding Meals to Your Scorecard

One of our Cultivate Training  groups was recently discussing the concept of relational momentum, and how to encourage it in the early days of starting a church.  The question was: How do you know if you’re really gaining momentum?  What do you use for a scorecard?


The conversation worked its way around to food.  Which is an interestingly Biblical destination.  Jesus was constantly sharing meals with his disciples, the Pharisees and – much to their disdain –  tax collectors and sinners.  The early church “devoted themselves to the breaking of bread.“  The Corinthian church ate and drank so much that Paul accused them of gluttony and drunkenness!


There is just something about eating together.  We most often share our meals with family and close friends.  We seldom eat with strangers. What better way to know if strangers are becoming friends and family, than to pay attention to how many meals we are sharing with them?  I would suggest that you add meals to your church plant scorecard by asking these questions regularly of your core team:

  • How many meals have we shared with others?
  • How many meals have we eaten together?

You will know you are creating relational momentum when, instead of planning which nights you will invite others over for a meal, you’ve reached the point where you have to schedule which nights you will eat alone.


3 Tips for Mobile Ministry

Did you know that 90% of all americans are within 3 feet of their cell phone at all times?

Drew Goodmanson shared that stat last night at the Biola Digital Ministry Conference. It really got me thinking.

Is your church ready for mobile ministry?  Here are a few simple tips to get you started.

Use mobile communication to build, not replace, face-to-face relationships and community.

The church is not a list of people who follow a feed, much less a personality.  Church is people who do life together centered around Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Groups and teams can easily use mobile communications to share prayer needs and answers to prayer, as well as pass along important information.  Given that people respond to text messages within minutes instead of hours or days, as they do with email, it’s also a great way to pass along important information about activities, events and meetings.  This will increase their time together, rather than inhibit it.

Use mobile communication with permission.

The physical mailbox is the place you receive paper you don’t want – I watch my neighbor go to his mailbox, walk to his garbage can and then go back inside empty handed. What you send people in the mail has a lifespan of about 10 steps.  Email has become almost the same thing, and filters mean that I probably see only half the emails sent to me. Yet I probably only miss 1 out of 100 text messages.  Why? Because only people I know, and want to hear from, text me.  So, before you start spamming people’s phones with details about your next meeting, get their permission. Simple tools like this can make it easy:

Use mobile in the right social space.

Edward Hall introduced the concept of Proxemics back in the 50′s.  He refers to public (such as in public speaking), social (with acquaintances), personal (close friends) and intimate (hugging, whispering) spaces. How do we translate this concept of physical space to mobile/digital settings?

I would suggest this:

  • Your church website is public space, a billboard for all to see.
  • Your church Facebook page is social space, an online porch where likeminded people hang out and share activities and interests.
  • Mobile communication, on the other hand, is personal space, a virtual conversation that normally would have taken place face to face, over coffee or a meal.  Using mobile communication in the right space means not violating someone’s personal space by using it to spam people with promotional messages.
  • It also means not expecting it to deliver more than it is capable of – because intimate space requires touching, and you can’t do that with a cell phone.


Creating Life Changing Small Group Culture

The Starting Place of People

Are the people where you live struggling with relational trust, loneliness, brokenness, insecurity or shame? What about these struggles: addictions, abortions, adultery, sexual attractions, anger, …the list could go on.  No one is perfect. Certainly not me. Certainly not you.

When I was in high school my favorite community to hang out with was the Brew Crew.  The Brew Crew got together on the weekends getting hammered drunk and doing drugs. For us a 4.0 in school was not our grade point average…it was our blood alcohol level.

But eventually, I recognized the pain I was causing myself, and others around me, was far outweighing the pleasure I was receiving from partying. Eventually, three of my best friends were in rehab for chemical and alcohol addictions.  We were all totally out of control.

Interestingly, at the same time I was in the Brew Crew I was also in a Small Group. It might seem odd to you that I would go to a Small Group but I was. Some friends of mine invited me to attend a large weekly gathering of Christ followers that met during the week.  It was a big group of about 100 or so kids. The ministry leaders of this big group would do skits, songs, talk about the Bible, etc. In this crowd of kids I heard about a Small Group and decided to join one, with some buddies, led by a young professional named Scott.

I was reluctant about the group at first because I didn’t grow up in a Christian family. I didn’t have a biblical frame of reference for life.  I didn’t know anything about spiritual practices, how to find a Bible verse or what to say in a prayer.  I was insecure about the expectations of needing to know about these things.

Scott was new at leading but he was a great Small Group leader. He created a safe plus for everyone to be real about his or her life.  I felt like I could be authentic about who I was, I was open about the parties I went to and the craziness of my lifestyle. I never felt judged or confronted by anyone there.  Scott helped me feel like my presence in the group was really important. It was through the relationships in this Small Group, and with Scott, that after three years I put my faith in Jesus and started actively following him.

What I want all of you to hear is the power of a Small Group community and what God can do when you create the right culture. Jesus was the master at creating the right culture for messy people – Jesus went to the party at Matthews House in Matt. Ch. 9, where the sinners were partying – Brew Crew.  Jesus is comfortable with chaos of people’s lives.

Let me try and summarize some of the things Scott did well that made his Small Group so effective and life changing. Here are five principles that you can use as a New Small Group leader in creating a Small Group culture where “No Perfect People are Allowed” and life change can happen.

1. Authenticity Starts With You

Don’t be fake.  Fake people are like wax fruit.  Wax leaves a bad taste in people’s mouth. So do wax people. Don’t try to manage your image as a person who has it all together as the leader because you think that is what the leader is supposed to do.  Be authentic.

2. Be Vulnerable First

Set the pace for the group by exposing your weaknesses first… The reason people hide, and pretend in front of others, is usually because of shame or pride. These are both extremely dark and powerful emotions.  They keep people stuck from experiencing the freedom Christ came to give us. You can lead them to overcoming this by being vulnerable as the leader. Share your stories of struggle. I know you think you will lose respect by sharing your struggles but trust me…you will gain greater respect and admiration through vulnerability. Let the promise of James ch. 5 be true in your group where it says, “Confess you sins to one another so that you may be healed.” Let this verse be an accessible practice in your group. Here are some examples of what you might share vulnerably:  Share your addictions – alcohol, sexual, food related addictions.  If you come from a broken home…. you could share about feeling unlovable and the insecurity that comes with it. The key to this principle is you exposing some of the mess of your life to the rest of the group first.

3. Expect Messy People.

We live in a relational broken world. Divorce shatters relational dreams, abuse of all kinds, and abandonment have all taken a huge toll on people’s ability to relate in healthy ways with one another. Here are some of the realities from eight couples in my Small Group right now.

  1. 10 Divorces (4 from one guy).
  2. 4 Sexually abused: one by football coach when he was 8 yrs. old, the same man molested three other boys. Later in life all three of those boys committed suicide.
  3. 4 are in recovery for addictions.
  4. 3 have had abortions.
  5. 1 guy was previously involved in four different cults.

Don’t be surprised by pain in people’s lives. We live in a messy, pain filled world.  Embrace creating a culture where people can share the story of their life, be fully know, accepted and loved. Here is what you need to look out for:  If people in your group are answering the question of how they are doing with: “Doing Great!” or “Couldn’t be Better!”  then repeat principle one and two…….their lying to you on some level.

4. Have a Process View of Growth.

Spiritual growth takes time. Transformation of the heart that results in new behavior is the goal and you can’t rush or microwave this process. As a Small Group Leader you can never cause spiritual growth in a person. Only God can do this. Look at 1 Corinthians 3:5-7

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

It took me being in a Small Group 3 years before I even said ‘yes’ to following Jesus.  Is three years too long?  Should someone have given up on me sooner?  Take the pressure off yourself that you are responsible for people’s growth. It’s not up to you. You are just creating a culture for God to work.

As you are waiting and looking for growth in people be sure and celebrate when you see growth in someone.  Point it out to them.  Give credit to God for it.  Affirm where you see God at work.

5. It’s Not Always What You ‘Know’ But it is How You ‘Love.’

One of the greatest fears of a new small group leader is the fear of not knowing an answer to a question or how to handle a situation that might come up in your group. Love is going to trump right answers.  A leader of love that seeks to serve others in the group will be more important than any of the content you share with them.  Especially early on in the life of a group.  If you don’t know an answer to a question about the Bible – just say “I don’t know the answer to that.”  If someone is asking for advice and you don’t know what to do, “Say, I don’t know…but I am committed to trying to help you.”  I believe content is very important but as a new group leader you will often feel inadequate.  Love will lead a group to good places.  I couldn’t tell you a single thing that I learned in my first small group…but I remember the love I was given. As a group gets to know one another deeply it will be easier to speak truth into each others lives from a place of love.

Creating Life Changing Culture in Your Small Group

I hope you were able to see and understand the value of some of these principles for leading a Small Group. Being intentional with these principles will create a culture where God grows people and you can see success at leading a Small Group where “No Perfect People Are Allowed.”

Life Change in Vegas

At ELI we get the incredible pleasure of hearing amazing stories from church planters such as yourselves, people tearing down walls and building bridges into people’s lives. Here is a fresh story that will inspire you (from Verve church in Las Vegas, as told by Krystal Altman):

Tommy recently had the honor of baptizing our friend Mike. Who is Mike? Well, almost 2 years ago, Brodie met a little boy named Adam at Verve. I soon set up a play date with Kristina – his mom – to get the boys together. Kristina, Adam (3) and her daughter Miley (5) were living with Kristina’s boyfriend, Mike.


We hit it off right away, but soon Kristina pulled me aside.


“I have to tell you…we’re moving. We’re moving to Washington State at the end of the month.” We were bummed! They were moving. However, try as they might, they were struggling to rent their existing house in Vegas and find a new one in Washington.


About a week after our play date, Kristina was at my house in tears.  Mike had gone out one night and not come home. She confided some of his story to me. Mike had a history of addiction, having just spent 7 years in prison for cocaine; he was also an alcoholic. So, occasionally, wouldn’t come home.


I immediately began to try to help Kristina and her kids. We offered our home for them to stay so she could get on her feet. It wasn’t an easy situation for several reasons. First, she had only been attending Verve for a couple of weeks, and did not know God, coming from a completely unchurched background. Secondly, she loved Mike and didn’t want to leave him. Thirdly, Mike is an engineer; he earned well and provided for them so she hadn’t had to work. Kristina decided to stay with Mike, but not move to Washington.


I spent a lot of time with Kristina, who is in one of my Micro Groups. She began to discover who God is and that he loves her unconditionally. I soon had the honor of baptizing Kristina as she  made the decision to enter into a relationship with God. Weeks later, Mike finally agreed to come to church, because, “I have to meet this best friend “Brodie” that Adam keeps talking about.” Mike was very skeptical. He’s intellectual and felt he couldn’t blindly believe in God.


Over the last year and a half our families have done life together. We’ve had birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I was in Kristina and Mike’s wedding. We have prayed a lot for Mike. He has watched skeptically over the last couple of years and discovered that our God is real and that he wants a relationship with Him.


And so, Tommy had the awesome honor of baptizing Mike a few weeks ago.


Mike’s words? “I’ve been watching. And I’ve seen the changes in the lives of those around me. I would like to have that also.”


We say Verve is a “church for people who don’t like church” and it very much is. Because of this, we reach people who are really far from God. Most of them take a very long time to grow in their relationship with God before they are ready to trust Him and decide to follow Jesus.


Mike is a perfect example of this. It took him two years of observing the life change in Kristina and observing Tommy and I to see if the God we followed was “real.”


I have seen Mike go from the cocaine addict/alcoholic living with his girlfriend to a man who is now Kristina’s husband, completely free from drugs and alcohol, who loves God, studies his Bible, comes to church, sits in the front row (when he’s not serving in the tech booth) and doesn’t miss a week. This radical transformation never gets old. Thank you for being a part of what God is doing here. Thank you for giving sacrificially and allowing God to use us to reach those here who are very far from God.


And thank you, Altmans and Verve, for that encouragement!
[Some of the names in the story have been changed.]

Spiritual Formation

What is a simple, repeatable, transferable and meaningful way to communicate the most important concepts for spiritual formation as a Christ follower? We have been using the term, “the way of Christ,” for spiritual formation at Gateway Church for a number of years.  Jesus invites people to not only ‘believe’ in Him but to follow in His ways. The early disciples were called followers of the Way (Acts 9:2).


Way of Christ

We define four aspects of the “way of Christ” to bring a simplicity to people’s experience of what a life of following Jesus looks like. The four aspects of the way of Christ are; Love God (GOD), Build Character (ME), Love People (YOU), and Be the Body (WE).


Jesus, himself, tried to simplify the Law in his teaching by boiling it down to two points – Love God and Love your Neighbor.  I don’t think Jesus meant to minimize his full teachings through his summary statement (Matt 22:36-39) but rather as a statement of clarity, simplicity and transferability of the big idea.


Power of an Image – Icon

I am learning about the power of icons and symbols as the means of portability of an idea or language. Icons provide a representative symbol for something. It provides easier memory recall. I am trying to add an icon to the spiritual formation language that is already present in our church culture, “the way of Christ.”   I want the language to be more memorable, repeatable, and transferable.


I am hoping the icon of an X allows these four aspects of the “way of Christ” to be quickly recalled for an individual, a Small Group or a Network about what God is up to and discern where they are going next.
An X gives a framework for the “way of Christ” that allows us to centrally remember that the work of the church is first and foremost about Jesus at the center and that only through Him do these four aspects connect with each other.



GOD – Love God

The greatest commandment given to us by Jesus himself. Loving God is about recognizing the priorities in our life that have squeezed God out of the center in the way we live. Living out the greatest commandment is the process of putting God as our first love and priority in life. Jesus says the greatest commandment quite simply is to:

“’Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’” Matthew 22:36-38


ME – Build Character

Without a doubt, most of us look at ourselves and desire varying degrees of change. We see anxiety where we want peace. We see fear where we want courage. We see addiction where we want self-control. Transformation happens not by applying the latest self-help fad but by understanding and implementing the full richness of inner life change at a heart level. Jesus produces this change in each of us by his power and influence on our heart and ultimately resulting in changed behaviors.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23


YOU – Love People

Truth be told, relationships bring about the best and worst of life. Our greatest joys consistently involve people. Our greatest pains consistently involve people. How does love for God impact and influence our love for people? Christ gave two great commandments. First, we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And second, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Life is rich when we increasingly practice truly loving people—not put up with people, not walk over people, not use people or avoid people—but truly love people.

“’Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied …. And the second is: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:36-39


WE – Be the Body

The world is a beautiful place, but it is also a broken place. How can we, with our limited time and resources, really make a difference together in a world overflowing with needs? As a community of Christ followers we are liberated by a love for God, set free from enslavement to living for instant gratification or the accumulation of things, and can passionately pour love and grace into the world around us. Astounding things happen when followers of Christ discover their spiritual gifts and mobilize into action by partnering with the body of Christ around them.

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”  Romans 12:4-6


Way of Christ – Holistic Spiritual Formation

We know the current realities of church language.  We are about community.  Or we are about mission.  Or we are about the gospel. Or we are about the Bible. This is all useful language, especially when creating higher value priorities for a church to give intentional focus for its people.

The reality is we must holistically go and make disciples.  I like the “way of Christ” language because it has holistic aspects that are critical for spiritual formation in individuals, Small Groups and medium sized Networks.


Multiplying X

An X is one image, the simple crossing of your fingers, that can give a clear grid of thinking about:

  • GOD | Who is God (his attributes and my relationship with Him through Jesus)
  • ME | Who am I (as an identity and growing character)
  • YOU | What am I/We Doing on in Life and Mission Together (to love our neighbors)
  • WE | Who are We (as a community with gifts in the body)

An X is a symbol for multiplication.  I want these core aspects to be simple, repeatable and transferable so that multiplying generations of disciples can be intentional about growth in the “way of Christ.”

What are the most common icons and language in your church or ministry setting that are sticky?  Are you seeing them get passed down to multiplying generations simply and easily?  Why or why not?