Building a Small Group Story Brand – Part 1

A few weeks ago I purchased a copy of Donald Miller’s new book ‘Building a Story Brand‘ because I saw that others on social media where recommending it. Selfishly the reason for my purchase was to check off a goal for the year of reading a certain number of books, but once I got into it, I found it was so much more. I was recently asked to share what I discovered from reading this book and I will attempt to do so in this post. Stick with me because I will have to lay some ground work, but I hope to show you when I am finished that this book is a must read for Small Group pastor’s and point people.

Why aren’t people joining?

As I was looking through Amazon and social media to purchase a book that would get me to fulfilling my goal, I ran across this new book by Donald Miller. I had heard Donald speak at Catalyst Cincinnati in 2016 on this very subject and I was very interested in hearing more about it. The thing that sold me on the purchase and the thing that makes this book so important is the subtitle ‘Clarifying your message so Customers Will listen’. At the same time as I was preparing to purchase the book, our Small Groups team had been making plans for 2018. We also had been looking at numbers and outcomes from 2017 and began to ask the question ‘why aren’t more people joining a Small Group?’

I began looking at our message ‘Join a Small Group’ through the lens of Miller’s StoryBrand framework. In this framework (which he describes in the book) the goal is to take your company, organization, product, etc and look at it through the lens of a story. Every story, Miller writes, follows a predictable pattern and includes a hero and a guide. The hero (the customer) has a problem that they must solve and needs the assistance of a guide (that’s you!) to help them. I immediately resonated with the members of our church being the hero and our Small Groups being the guide in the story, but I became stuck on the problem. I was convinced that we were trying to solve the wrong problem.

Identifying the problem

In our marketing and the language that we had been using about Small Groups, we had gravitated to using phrases like ‘join a Small Group because it is the place that you are going to meet and make friends’ and this was falling on deaf ears. What I had identified through Miller’s Storyboard framework was that we had been trying to solve the wrong problem. Our ‘customers’ did not want to ‘buy’ the solution we were selling by joining a Small Group.

To often in our approach to encouraging people to join a Small Group we fail to answer the crucial question of ‘why’. Just like the consumer at the store choosing between buying product A & B, we need to give them a convincing reason to buy what we are selling. With so many forces and factors in play for the people in our churches time and attention, ‘we have to speak to the parts of their brain that make it easy for them to digest’.

Survive & Thrive

In pages 6-7 of Building a Story Brand, Miller relates a conversation that he had with Mike McHargue about how the human brain processes information. Reckoning back to our first class in Psychology 101, McHargue re-acquaints us with Abraham Maslow. If you need a refresher, Maslow said that there was a pyramid that built on each other and it all centered on fulfilling certain needs and our brains are ‘wired’ to do this without a second thought. The first of these needs being survival. Then it is safety. Then our brains turn to relationships and once our relationships are taken care of, then it turns it attention to ‘pursuing a greater sense of meaning’.

The problem we encounter is that our message to our customers does not meet the framework that our simple brains are trying to pursue–survive and thrive. As a result it is ignored. This was our reality. We had failed to understand what message need to be communicated to people so they would, at a subconscious level, want to buy our product.

So what did they want to buy? How could we reframe our message to better communicate the problem they need us to solve?

In part 2, I will diagram how we went about identifying our current problem (which we were not solving) to identifying the problem we needed to solve going forward.


An Essay on Community from a Chipotle Drink Cup

CultivatingThought2Cups_Kingsolver02I was eating lunch yesterday at Chipotle with my family and I happened to notice this short essay on my drink cup. It’s from an author named Barbara Kingsolver and it is apart of a series of writing called Cultivating Thought. Here is what she wrote,


The ancient human social construct that once was common in this land was called community. We lived among our villagers, depending on them for what we needed. If we had a problem, we did not discuss it over the phone with someone in Mumbai. We went to a neighbor. We acquired food from farmers. We listened to music in groups, in churches or on front porches. We danced. We participated. Even when there was no money in it. Community is our native state. You play hardest for a hometown crowd. You become your best self. You know joy. This is not a guess, there is evidence. The scholars who study social well-being can put it on charts and graphs.

The happiest people are the ones with the most community.

In the last 30 years our material wealth has increased in this country, but our self-described happiness has steadily declined. Elsewhere, the people who consider themselves very happy are not in the very poorest nations, as you might guess, nor in the very richest. The winners are Mexico, Ireland, Puerto Rico, the kinds of places we identify with extended family, noisy villages, a lot of dancing. The happiest people are the ones with the most community.

Many people will read this essay and agree with the author’s general point. The world is not what it was. The simpler times that we once knew are no more and many of us long to return to them. While I agree that the picture that the author paints is of a time and place that I can remember in some aspects. What I take away from this essay is the last line.

“The happiest people are the ones with the most community.”

The people who I know who feel the most happiness in this life are the ones who choose to spend it with other people. To let other people into our lives and walk with us is one of
the smartest and at the same time one of the most humble things we can do. As a Small Group Pastor I have seen firsthand the power of this played out in the lives of the people who I pastor and also in my own life.

The world is desperately in need of community! Not the kind of fake, I know you online but have no clue what happens in your life from Monday-Friday kind of community! Invite others into your life. Make lunch and coffee appointments with someone and watch your level of happiness rise. We were never made to make this journey alone! Seek out the happiness you may be missing by connecting with other people around a table, sharing a meal, and enjoying the blessing of community.

What Makes a Good Small Group Pastor? – Part 4 of the Changing Nature of the Small Group Pastor’s Role


Many men & women who are currently serving in full-time time ministry often entertain the thought of ‘jumping into small group ministry’. Often this is coming from a place of frustration with their current role or the ‘warm-fuzzies’ they have experienced from being in small group. As Ben Reed so nicely wrote in a blog article[1] “But being a groups pastor isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Or if that’s not your thing…it’s not all coffee and bagels. Turns out, this is hard work…” Small groups deal with people and their mess! As Heather Zempel has noted in her excellent book “Community is Messy”[2] that many were ‘stirred’ into getting involved in small groups because of a talk, sermon, or lesson that focused on how great community is and how it fits neatly into the “New Testament” Pattern. But then something happened – people came to our groups! Whenever people are involved things always get messy! Why? Because people bring their hurts, hang-ups, and habits into our perfect communities. Without getting too far off track discussing the nature of Small Group Ministry and how to negotiate the challenges of ministering to people in their mess, the question of what makes a good Small Group Pastor is still on the table.


What makes a good Small Group Pastor? In my opinion, the role of the Small Group Pastor must be filled with someone who posses a make-up and gifting that is vastly different today than it was even just a few years ago. The challenge is finding candidates who posses the right qualifications and makeup to be successful in the role. Bill Donahue & Russ Robinson have correctly observed[3], “Small group point leaders aren’t churned out by the seminaries. The position is still under development across many churches and there’s not a vast pool of veteran small group champions looking for employment.” So what characteristics or qualities make a good Small Groups Pastor? We answer this question by looking at gifting and core competencies over the next several days.


Question: What qualities or characteristics make someone a good Small Group Pastor?





[1] Ben Reed, “10 things Nobody Told Me about Being a Small Group Pastor” November 26, 2012.

[2] Zempel,Heather . “Community is Messy” . IVP. (2012) . 23-24.

[3] Donahue, Bill & Robinson, Russ. Building a Life-Changing Small Group Ministry. Zondervan.(2012), 50.

Our Churches are Becoming Larger – Part 3 of the Changing Nature of the Small Group Pastor’s Role

The ‘Megachurch’ as we know it is a phenomena that was only been around for about 20 plus years, but in that time it is growing both numerically and in influence. According to Robert Crosby[1] in 1980 there were only 150 megacchange-ahead-hrhurches compared with 1,600 today. Also when you look at the total number of people who attend a church regularly, 50% of these people attend a megachurch, ‘though megachurches] only account for 10 percent of American congregations’[2]. The numbers show that these ‘big churches are getting even bigger’[3] so it would stand to reason that if a church wants to make small group ministry a priority in their church, they must find a way to incorporate a small group system or ministry on a much larger scope than they may have had to in the past.



Question: What effect has the megachurch phenomenon had upon Small Group Ministry?




[1] Crosby, Robert. “MegaChange: 10 Trends ReShaping the American Megachurch” Outreach Magazine. (September, 2013).

[2] ibid

[3] ibid

Relaunching my blog



Spurred on by my having read Michael Hyatt’s book ‘Platform‘ I am re-launching a redesigned and updated blog today. To coincide with my blog re-launch, I will be publishing a series of posts that will be taken from an article that I recently completed called “The Changing Nature of the Small Group Pastor’s Role.” It is my hope that these posts will spurn further discussion about this topic and help contribute to this article’s further development. I invite you to follow my blog and contribute to the conversation.

Great thoughts from my friend Ken. If you are a pastor of a church in need of a consultant I highly recommend Ken


Do you need help getting unstuck? Learn about The Cycle of Healthy Transformation
Romans 12:2 (NKJV) – And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

  • Why do some people seem to constantly be moving forward in life while others seem stuck?
  • What are the people who are growing and becoming more healthy doing, that others are not?
  • What causes some people to get off track while others are able to stay intentionally focused?

These questions and many others just like them are common in my line of work. I usually get the phone call from people or organizations when they are running out of answers to those kinds of questions. They are tired from trying all that they know to try. Or possibly, they are struggling to find the ongoing motivation to continue to try and figure it…

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The Next Chapter

Earlier this month, the leadership of Westridge Church announced that a decision had been made to cease operating the West Paulding Location where i have served for the past two years as a staff member. When this decision was announced I began to seek counsel as to what God was calling me and my family to do and it appears that God has opened up an amazing opportunity at another church in my area. While I am not ready to make the name of that church public yet I do feel confident in this decision.

I want to take a moment and thank the leaders and staff of Westridge for the amazing opportunity that was offered to me to be a part of the staff at the West Paulding Location. The team of leaders that I served alongside and lead are some of the most dedicated and talents leaders that I have had the privilege of knowing. To my Pastor Brian Bloye and his amazing wife Amy I count it my honor to have been under your leadership for a season.

I look forward to announcing my next ministry opportunity in the coming weeks and for what God is going to accomplish next and I get to witness and participate in.

Who are healthy?

In the Gospels both Matthew {Matt 9:1-13} and Mark {Mark 2:16-18} record an occasion when Jesus is challenged by the religious leaders as to who he was spending his time with. His response was that he had come to bring health and healing to those who were not receiving it. It is easy for us to look at this incident and cast our agreement with Jesus for calling out the religious leaders while not taking the time to examine our own lives. In the Matthew accounts Jesus, says, “ But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice…” he is speaking in a way that his listeners had forgotten or not understood the phrase “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” which was taken from the book of Hosea. To desire mercy over sacrifice is to understand that we must love and heal before we can instruct and disciple. And so we are left to examine ourselves each and every one of us in the light of what Jesus has said and how he lived. Are you relatively healthy? Do you require the services of the great Physician Jesus? Or perhaps you have simply forgotten who you have been called to reach? A doctor can only help others if he is healthy and the Church Health Partnership exists to help those who are ministering to the unhealthy by helping those who are called to be doctors to be healthy themselves. Are you yourself unhealthy and trying to work among those who are just like you? Consider your own healthy before considering others and make the choice to become healthy.

West Paulding Campus :: Launch Sunday

We had an amazing first Sunday at the West Paulding Campus with over 400 in attendance on the first day. Thanks to everyone who has been praying for our launch. Now the work of broadening our base and getting the word out that we are there begins.

Here are a few pictures that I took on Sunday:

Launch Sunday of the West Paulding Campus of Westridge Church