Archives For Community

5 Secrets On How to Encourage People Join Your Small Group (and Stay Plugged In)

Leading a small group or Bible study can be one of the most rewarding choices you make—pouring into others, fostering community, diving into God’s Word and the opportunity to hone your leadership skills. Small groups are places where people are pastored, encouraged, loved on, and do life together… when people show up.

On occasion, creating and growing a healthy small group or thriving adult ministry can feel challenging. Maybe your group is having a case of the:

Jam-packed-schedule blues.
Lack-of-commitment flu.
No-one-actually-reads-the-material bug.
Or Why-won’t-they-come virus.

You’re not alone.  Many small groups, Bible studies, churches, and ministries wrestle with these issues:

Here are steps to take to encourage people to join your small group (and stay plugged in): [Tweet this] Continue Reading...

Giveaway: Bread and Wine @sniequist @Zondervan

This week, I'm giving away THREE copies of my friend, Shauna Niequist's new book Bread & Wine. Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, Aaron, and their sons, Henry and Mac. At, Shauna writes about family, friendship, faith, and life around the table. I recently had the chance to ask Shauna a few questions about her new book:

Margaret: What do you hope will happen in the reader’s heart and mind after they finish Bread & Wine? Continue Reading...

Are you Spiritually Asleep? (Plus What in the World is Wonderstruck Wednesday?)

As Wonderstruck hit the shelves, we invited you to join us as we spent 21 days praying for wonder and living wide awake to the way God chose to respond. The 21 Days of Wonder left people awestruck by how God reveals himself—God is truly busting at the seams to display his power, love, and might in our lives. [Tweet this]

Each Wednesday, we’re challenging you to find the wonder in your life— those moments of spiritual awakening that spark our curiosity to know God more. [Tweet this] We’re praying that each week you cup your hands in prayer and scrunch your face against the vault of heaven in childlike expectation. As you pray for wonder, may you be wonderstruck.

But if I’m honest with you, despite the breathtaking and transformative moments of God that I’ve experienced, all too often I live in a spiritual deep sleep, missing the moment. Continue Reading...

Why is Church So Messy?

Margaret —  November 17, 2012 — 85 Comments

Community is Messy

My friend, Heather Zempel, is a stellar communicator, a gifted leader, and the discipleship pastor at National Community Church in D.C., where she serves on the teaching team and regularly preaches at weekend services. She's also author of Community is Messy: The Perils and Promise of Small Group MinistryI recently had the opportunity to ask Heather about what it takes to navigate the messiness of community
Q. Why did you write Community is Messy?

A. Anyone who has led a small group for more than two weeks has discovered that mess happens. For those who serve as small group directors, discipleship pastors, and volunteers who champion group life in their churches, navigating mess is often the unlisted but most demanding part of their portfolio. I wrote Community is Messy to encourage those group leaders and group ministry leaders that mess may not be a hindrance to community but a catalyst to the cultivation of deeper community. My prayer is that leaders can embrace the mess and the promise that God can write his story of redemption through the mess. 

Q. You had an unorthodox path going from engineering to ministry. How does your background inform your understanding of community?

A. I have two degrees in environmental engineering—not a very traditional path into ministry. But small group leaders and environmental engineers have a lot in common. Both strive to engineer environments where growth happens. When I think about community, I picture treatment lagoons and pig farms. When I think about spiritual growth, I consider the differences between static friction and kinetic friction and remember the diversity of strengths in physical properties reflected in the modulus of elasticity. That’s all in the book.

Q. You talk in the book about valuing people over programs. Why is this important?

A. In the church, we tend to invest lots of time, energy, and resources into developing and maintain programs. I think we do that because programs are easy to measure. The problem is that people aren’t discipled by programs. They are discipled by relationship. I would much rather pastor people than manage programs, but that takes focus and regular examination of priorities

Q. What’s a story of mess from your own life that reveals God’s redemptive work?

A. There’s always mess in my life, and I think it gets especially messy when we wear multiple hats with people—pastor, mentor, leader, boss, friend, etc. Here’s one that happened just a couple months ago. I was talking to a young leader about her calling, and I sincerely thought I was building her up with encouragement. When I came to the end of everything I knew to affirm her, I said, “I don’t know what else to say.” She responded with a look that seemed to be a mix of anger and hurt and said, “You’ve said enough.” At that moment, I didn’t know whether to jump across the table to strangle her or to hug her. Everything in me wanted to strangle her, but the little pastoral instinct I possess informed me that the words I had intended for good had been received negatively. That situation led to a number of productive conversations about how I lead, how she grows, how I grow, and where God is at work polishing off the rough spots in both of us. Many times, messes that are navigated with prayer, honesty, and a commitment to honoring the other lead to growth on all sides.

Be sure to follow her on twitter, @HeatherZempel, here.


Thanks for reading and connecting through the comments. Enter your email address in the box in the right–hand column and you'll receive delivery of Margaret’s posts laced with encouragement, wonder, and much love. 

5 Things to Know about Living in Alaska

This past week we had the opportunity to return to Alaska and visit Leif's family in Sitka as well as spend the weekend in Juneau as part of Chapel by the Lake's annual church renewal. We had a delightful time and I was reminded of some of things I had forgotten about living in Alaska: Continue Reading...