Think even smaller small group

I have been reading a book by Michael Mack entitled The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership. In this book Mack offers a lot of great insight on how to do ministry in small groups. He sympathizes for the small group lay leader who has 13-20 people in his group yet he alone is responsible for planning the group, calling and praying for his members, preparing the materials and food, hosting at his house, teaching and facilitating the group and all of the other administration tasks associated with this ministry. Not only does Michael suggest to expand the the leadership team to help delegate tasks and share responsibility for each small group, Mack goes further and suggests that each leader should really focus in on only two to four others.

Mack is not the first or only ministry leader to think of this idea. Robert Coleman in his books The Master Plan for Evangelism and The Master Plan for Discipleship, noticed that Jesus “made disciples” of only twelve disciples. Sure there were hundreds of causal followers but Jesus spent the majority of his time with  twelve. Looking even deeper in the Scriptures, Coleman shows that Jesus even focused more on three in particular. Mack agrees. Imagine if in each small group of 15-20 people, there was a leader (or shepherd) for every three or four people?

Imagine sharing life with a respected elder or someone even slightly further along the journey then you…Imagine having weekly time with a few other close friends who also love Jesus. Not only would you be able to dig deeper into the Word together, get personal attention to life’s struggles and questions, intimate prayer, but also serve God together and evangelize together! That is an amazing picture of ministry and small groups!

It reminds me of my days in Campus Crusade for Christ (or Cru) at Ohio University. This ministry is built on Coleman’s ideas. There is a weekly large group meeting for worship and teaching but the majority of the ministry is in smaller group ministry teams and Bible Studies through-out campus. Even more, as a Bible Study leader and leader on some other teams, I had the opportunity to do some one-on-one training/mentoring, we called it “discipleship.” I loved it. I meet with an older student who was discipling me. Then I also meet two younger students individually and discipled them. It is interesting now to think about it, but part of what I was doing as I discipled these young men was spiritual formation life coaching, which is something I still do today. In fact, I’ve made a career out of counseling and coaching.  

Testimonial Monday

I was struggling with time management, stress and achieving major life goals. Alex helped me by teaching me tools and applications on how to deal with stress, now as a result I have been able to focus on priorities, what’s really important and how to deal with stress!
As an extremely busy person I especially love the fact That we don’t have to talk or hang out everyday but when we do get together we can pick up right where we left off.

-Nate T., Central Ohio

Christian Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

I am a counselor-in-training. I find myself using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in almost every session with my clients. CBT is a great theory for counseling. It has been proven to be very effective and it is straight-forward and simple enough to explain what we are doing in therapy with my clients. In fact this educational aspect is an important part of CBT.
I am also a Christian interning at a private practice site with other Christians. We integrate faith in sessions if the client is comfortable and desiring to also integrate the Christian faith in their sessions.
I have been studying how faith-based CBT is often more effective than just regular/secular CBT where faith is not involved. I have searched hard to find a handbook or manual of “how-to” do a faith-based CBT different from a regular or secular CBT. I have not found an actual workbook or guidebook with examples and interventions for a Christian or Bible based CBT.
I have some ideas of my own and I will share those but I am very curious to know if such a resource exists. In my mind there has to be. There continues to be a steady flow of research comparing faith-based CBT with non-faith based CBT, so I imagine that the researchers put together a manual or book of interventions based on each group they were studying.
While these researchers may not have been able to sale those plans and books for ethical reasons, I would think that someone else would have thought about making money by creating a “Christian Cognitive Behavioral Manual” by now. Since I am not finding this resource, I am contemplating making my own!
So the point of today’s post is to help me think through what some of the keys to such a resource would be:
-use of Scripture to dispute irrational thoughts
– use of Scripture to replace irrational thoughts with Biblical insight
-use of prayer through-out the process, in-session and out of session as homework
-the advantage of positive, healthy Christian fellowship to help against depression
– the insight of Scripture on topics such as stress, anxiety, depression, emotions, behaviors, and the list goes on
-the advantage of having Biblical morals to stand on
-the opportunity for Christian accountability between partners, friends and/or pastors

Let me know if I am on the right track and if you have some more ideas. Thanks.

What I learned selling books door to door

Alright, so during the summer of 2006 I sold books door-to-door in Columbia, Missouri in an attempt to pay for college tuition and rent. As it turns out, I was not much of a salesman. That summer was one of the most challenging summers of my life. I learned a lot about myself, how to sell and ho to work hard no matter what.

While I did not walk away from the experience as a rich man, as others actually did, I did grow as a person in four major areas: time management, positive self talk, self-care and a having a business mentality or mindset.

Let me explain: In time management, I learned to break days into manageable sections. Selling books door-to-door, my team woke up everyday at 5AM. We showered, ate breakfast and drove to our locations. We had to knock on our first door at 7AM. Then we were not allowed to come back home until 10AM where we ate diner and went to bed. This routine started over again Monday -Saturday. Sundays were hardly a day off, since we had to travel three hours to get to an all-day business meeting with other link-minded book salesman in the same larger geographical region.

The thing about time management, first was focusing in. Focus on the first 3 hours. Map out a game plan and work hard for 3 hours. Do not think about lunch or tomorrow, push hard and focus in on the next potential customer.
The second time management tip is the more obvious stuff. There is no time for emails, going to movies, museums, football games, etc….This is not tourism nor a vacation. This is earning wages and working hard.

During the week-long training in Nashville, before heading out to Columbia, we were given a lot of training on selling, thinking like a business person and  we did a lot of practice role-play to get ourselves ready for the actual summer. After the role-plays, mentors and business experts gave us a lot of tips and feedback. They taught us to think positively. They showed us how to do positive self-talk. In between doors, on our drive from home to our locations and even during potty-breaks we were suppose to sing or shout, “It’s going to be a great day!” and “I am a selling machine!” I was pretty unfamiliar with this idea of positive self-talk up until this point in my life. Especially after a complete rejection from a potential customer who is threatening to call the cops, it really is encouraging to look at the positives instead of getting our psyche thrown off by a ragging homeowner. Even if the positive self-talk was just lies, it was still encouraging.

Okay, well with self-care, I learned how to control my energy level. These were long days, even longer weeks. And as I mentioned earlier, I was not very good at selling. So often times, I came away empty handed. The first few weeks I was adjusting to the ridiculous schedule I was not able to focus in on one three hour time block at a time. I was worried about the entire day and that was draining my energy level. Once I figured out how to focus in on the three hour time block, I was able to get my mind off of the worries of the day and just focus on the next street. Each street was a treasure hunt to find a customer. My positive self-talk told me, “someone on this street was going to purchase books today!” I am blessed to have learned this crazy skill of energy preservation. I used this skill again just this past week at a youth-group lock-in. All of the teenagers were napping by 4AM, I stayed away the entire night and didn’t nap until after the lock-in was complete and I was in my bed at home. Mental self-care was all about focusing in on the successes, that was the only way to survive mentally.

Another part of self-care is that I learned that I do not want to be a salesman. I do not want to be a workaholic that does not have time for anything other than making money. I found my true self and many things that I am not passionate about during this summer. But by going through with the experience I can now relate to people who are feeling burn-out of long work days and of the burn-out of sales.

Finally the main thing I learned is about the business mindset. The company, I sold books with, who will continue to go unnamed, had excellent training materials. I still look back at the sales manual today. The training was a great experience. I am thankful for that. I am thankful for not waking up to the dreaded day of selling books in the summer heat of the Midwest.
So I am blessed to have learned a great deal from my time there that summer. Now I can put these things and other things into practice even today. I encourage others to learn also from my experience instead of through the hard way!

Mindfulness Links

There are a ton of resources out there regarding mindfulness, here are a few:

Mindfulness – What is it? Does it really work? – Lifehacker

Mindfulness Helps Undergraduates Stay On Track – Science Daily

Mindfulness Stops Negativity From Sticking To You Like Glue – Huffington Post

Mindfulness: 6 Steps to Better Memory, Verbal Reasoning and Improved Concentration – PsyBlog
Mindfulness:living in the moment– Visual.ly

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for bipolar disorder: a feasibility trial  – PsyDir