Image courtesy of Faithlife Media
Pastors and church leaders all over the United States have been doing some really remarkable things, and I’m not just talking about taking weekly services online. (more…)
So you want to facilitate a thriving online community for your church. You understand the value of having a private place to ask big questions as a church or for small groups to share curriculum. You know your church wants to talk about the Bible more and share what they’re learning with the rest of the congregation.
Related post: Take Your Church Beyond Handshakes and Hellos
Sometimes getting your congregation to do anything new might feel like crying out in the wilderness. But it doesn’t have to. With the right perspective, and the right strategy, you can be the catalyst that helps propel your church into a vibrant online community they’ll keep coming back to—because it’s your church, online.
Here are four ways to grow your church’s Faithlife Group:
Elyse Fitzpatrick has been counseling women since 1989. She’s a retreat and conference speaker and the head of Women Helping Women Ministries. She has a certificate in biblical counseling from CCEEF in San Diego and an MA in biblical counseling from Trinity Theological Seminary.
For some, not knowing the people in their church can be a significant barrier to church involvement. When it’s hard to find a familiar face in your church, it’s tough to see that Christian community as family. Unfortunately, this can become a self-perpetuating cycle—you don’t know people, so you don’t get involved, so you don’t meet people.
That may or may not be true for you, but I think we can all agree on this:
Weekly handshakes and hellos are not enough to get to know your church.
If your church desires to be a community that feels like family, your congregation needs opportunities to build relationships.
Recently, Faithlife found itself experiencing a similar situation. With over 420 employees, Faithlife is larger than the average church (though certainly smaller than many churches). We’re big enough to know that people who have worked here for years still haven’t had a chance to meet everyone.
Eric Olson has been with Faithlife for over 10 years, and he says, “Many years ago I knew all 60 people in the company, but now that there are over 400 of us, there are many people I’ve never met.”
We have numerous departments and teams within those departments which build close friendships through daily interactions. But beyond that, how do you get to know all those people you have so much in common with, yet never see?
To solve this problem, Auresa Nyctea, a developer, created a special Faithlife Group open to all Faithlife employees. Its purpose? Facilitate opportunities for employees to meet people they’ve never met or worked with. Each week, employees who have joined the group are put into a group of four people from other departments. From there, it’s up to the individuals in the group to coordinate their schedules and settle on a time and place to meet and chat.
“I don’t get to interact with very many people outside of my department on a regular basis,” says Lynnea Fraser, an editor from the publications department. “I’ve been at Faithlife just over two years now, and I still don’t know a lot of my coworkers throughout the company.”
Lynnea was among the nearly 50 employees who were eager to meet new faces. Lynnea says, “I haven’t spent additional time with anyone I’ve met yet. But I do say ‘hi’ if I see them around campus now. And I actually know their names, which makes it less awkward.”
Having some context for meeting new people makes it easier to connect and share. “During the first meet up, we took turns giving a three-minute summary of our personal history—where we grew up, where we went to school, our families, and how we came to work at Faithlife. We took turns talking about our role at Faithlife—what projects we work on, what our typical day looks like, etc.”
These meetings have no structure. There is no curriculum. Just people. Every meeting looks a little different because they happen organically.
“Gathering together around food or coffee is my ideal way to get to know people better,” says Michael Schoonmaker, a developer at Faithlife. “That kind of fellowship runs deep in my family, my faith, and among my friends.”
Now imagine what this could look like for your church.
Groups like this take little upkeep—people join because they want to get to know each other. By creating the group and pointing people to it as a church, you get to be the catalyst that helps people build community. If you’re staff is already stretched too thin, delegate the group to a member of your congregation—just don’t delegate the responsibility to tell people about your group.
If you want people to join your group, make it clear that the church is recommending it. Slip it into your announcements. Include it in your contact information. Send an invite in your newsletter, or share the link on social media. Show people that the Faithlife Group is a place the church suggests you go if you would like to get to know other members in another setting.
You’ll also want to adjust your group’s privacy settings so that anyone from your church can find the group and join.
If you or someone at your church has time to invest in the group, it’s easy to add curriculum, share church documents, or encourage further learning or serving opportunities. You can add official documents right to the group to keep all of your crucial information in one place.
If you want these group meetings to have more structure, create some sample questions designed to spark meaningful conversations and help people get to know one another.
Your Faithlife account is free.
All Faithlife Group features are free.
Join Faithlife Groups today, and get started with your church.
Small groups are some of the best places to dig into life’s deepest questions. In a good small group with close friends and fellow believers, you can share what you really think without being attacked or belittled for your opinions. It’s one of the safest settings to honestly discuss theology.
But how and when do you start these conversations?
If your small group has any dominant personalities, then having a theological discussion in person makes it hard for everyone to speak their mind.
Group messages can get messy, and even annoying. It’s too hard to track who is responding to what. A really active group message traps everyone in the conversation.
Email conversations can be a nightmare, flooding your inbox with one conversation. When each response creates a separate chain for the conversation, it’s too easy to get lost, or accidentally ignore someone’s thoughtful response.
If your small group has a Faithlife Group, these deep conversations are easy.
The “discussions” tab is your small group’s own personal forum. As with everything in your Faithlife Group, you determine who can see your discussions (in this case, you probably want “members only”).
In “discussions,” you can create a new thread on any topic you want, and your group can see the most active topics at a glance.
Your conversations stay organized within the thread, and the threads are neatly tucked in the discussions tab—so the conversation can continue on the side without taking over your small group.
Say you want to have a conversation about Christian dating.
These conversations can be great in person, but creating a discussion in your Faithlife Group lets everyone take as much time as they need to thoughtfully respond.
After people answer, you can skim over the responses to quickly get a sense of everyone’s thoughts.
If your small group wants to discuss a topic together, a Faithlife Group is a great way to test the waters and see where everyone is at, before diving in together at your next meeting. It’s also a good way to make sure you don’t open a can of worms in the middle of Bible study.
Right now, one of my good friends is exploring Catholicism. He gave me Rome Sweet Home as part of a wedding present.
Having a conversation about the book using a Faithlife Group means that when he quotes Scott Hahn‘s argument about 2 Thessalonians 2:15, I can use Logos to pull up everything in my library on that verse and take the time to produce a thoughtful, educated response, rather than drawing from my immediate reaction.
Even within the comfort of your small group, people’s convictions can create barriers to discussion. Knowing the people in your small group helps you decide if it’s a good idea to bring up a particular topic.
Use your discussions to build each other up (Proverbs 27:17), not to tear each other down (2 Timothy 2:23).
What are you discussing with your small group right now? Tell us in the comments!
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If your small group isn’t using a Faithlife Group yet, you’re missing out on prayer lists, shared reading plans, Community Notes, and more. Faithlife Groups are the ultimate church communication tool. The best part is, they’re absolutely free.
Who would dare criticize the Charles Spurgeon, the great prince of preachers? Maybe more people than you think. The Spurgeon Commentary: Galatians opens with a brief biography of his ministry.
This passage might surprise you:
When 19-year-old Charles Spurgeon was called to the New Park Street Pulpit in 1854, London newspapers derided him as a brash upstart. Critics complained that his plainspoken, direct speaking style was too edgy—and dangerously innovative. A secular magazine referred to his colloquial speech as “slang.” A newspaper editorial categorized his preaching as “ginger-pop sermonizing.” One particularly harsh critic wrote:
He is nothing unless he is an actor—unless exhibiting that matchless impudence which is his great characteristic, indulging in coarse familiarity with holy things, declaiming in a ranting and colloquial style, strutting up and down the platform as though he were at the Surrey Theatre, and boasting of his own intimacy with Heaven with nauseating frequency. His fluency, self-possession, oratorical tricks, and daring utterances, seem to fascinate his less-thoughtful hearers, who love excitement more than devotion.
During that first year, pundits regularly predicted an early end to Spurgeon’s ministry in London: “He is a nine days’ wonder—a comet that has suddenly shot across the religious atmosphere. He has gone up like a rocket, and ere long will come down like a stick.”
Spurgeon’s critics were wrong, but they weren’t silent. They attacked him, slandered him, and fiercely opposed his ministry. They called his successes flukes and his failures proof of his character.
What did Spurgeon do? He just kept preaching. He kept writing. He kept sharing the truth of Scripture as plainly and directly as he could for 30 years of faithful ministry.
Though he only wrote commentaries on two books—Matthew and Psalms—he wrote and spoke extensively enough that a team here at Logos is compiling a commentary from his preaching ministry. The first volume, Galatians, is available right now. The rest of the New Testament letters are available for pre-order. Get Spurgeon’s insights in your Faithlife Study Bible—pre-order the Spurgeon Commentary Collection today.
Prayer lists add unique functionality to Faithlife Groups. Here’s a quick primer on what they can do, and how to get the most out of them.
Faithlife Groups offer five levels of access, and empowers you to set privacy settings that suite your group’s unique needs. In the group settings panel, determine which members will be permitted to connect to group prayer lists, create and share new prayer lists, and remove requests.
Regarding prayer lists, you have three decisions to make:
For a more detailed explanation of all privacy controls and user permissions on Faithlife.com, check out the post “Understanding the Privacy Settings on Faithlife.com.”
It’s easy. Select “Prayer lists” from the documents menu, give your list a title and start adding requests right away. You can set frequency and duration for each request and add tags so that your prayer requests so you can find them again later.
Then, visit Documents.Logos.com to share it with a group. The “Collaborate” option will give a group ownership of your prayer list, so that members can add their own requests to it.
You could, for example, create a prayer list about a missions trip that your small group plans to make together. You would create the list in Logos 5, seeding it with some general requests like “financial support” and “safe travels.” After announcing the trip, you could share the list with your group at Documents.Logos.com, and then members could connect to it and add their own more specific prayer requests.
Though a prayer list may belong to a group, it may still not appear on the group’s page. A group administrator or moderator can add group lists to the sidebar for all to see. Tab over to the “Sidebar” section of the group settings menu, and drag a prayer-list widget to make shared prayer requests visible to all group members.
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Faithlife Groups are the digital home for your faith community. It’s free to join and invite others. Tools like prayer lists, reading plans, Community Notes, and a group newsletter make it easier than ever to communicate, collaborate, and fellowship around the Word of God. Join today at Faithlife.com.
You have a lot of control over your Faithlife Group’s privacy settings. Use this guide to get your group’s privacy settings tuned exactly right.
When you create a new Faithlife Group, you can choose between three different privacy levels. At any time, group administrators or moderators (more on what those roles entail in a minute) may change the group’s status.
Open—Anyone can find the group. New members can join immediately. Best used for churches or other groups that are open to new members at all times.
Closed—Anyone can find the group. New members must be approved before joining. Best used for small/home/community/connection/cell groups (or whatever else you might call them) that are only open to new members at certain times of the year.
Secret—Only members can find the group. New members must be invited. Best for groups that are not open to new membership like support or addiction-recovery groups. I also recommend that the church leadership team collaborate inside a secret group.
Faithlife Groups offer five levels of accessibility that you can adjust to suite your needs.
You can also disable the lowest two permission levels using check boxes if you don’t expect to use them.
Notice the vertical black line on each slider. These are the default privacy settings, marked so that you can return to them should you wish. You can, of course, drag the slider left or right to tune the privacy settings to suit your group’s needs and culture. I administrate several Faithlife groups, and here’s how I prefer to set the user permissions:
Faithlife.com is the digital home for your faith community. It’s free to join and invite others. Tools like prayer lists, reading plans, Community Notes, and group newsletters make it easier than ever to communicate, collaborate, and fellowship around the Word of God. Join today at Faithlife.com.
Confrontation is challenging. It’s even more challenging when it’s with someone whose relationship you highly value. When the time comes to raise a difficult subject, use these six questions to prepare:
What do you want to achieve? Be better understood? Curtail a certain behavior? Improve communication? These are valid reasons. But pointing out a problem without reasonable solution will likely just end with hurt feelings and resentment.
Could bringing up this problem sever the relationship? Could it sever other relationships as well? Are you OK with that happening?
When a problem arises, don’t dig into it until you have the chance cool off and evaluate from a less emotional perspective.
What are the most important points to bring up? Are they logical? Do they honor God?
Play devil’s advocate with yourself before addressing the problem out loud. What will the opposing reasons be? Do you agree with any of them? If so, let the person know. It shows humility that you’re actually striving to reach an agreement—not just clinging to your argument (and your pride).
The first priority is to have this problem addressed through voice communication. Dialogue with the other person. In-person conversation is by far the best, but if that isn’t possible, phone or Skype are the only other allowable options. Texting? No. Emailing? No. Too much is lost in translation.
The second priority is to make sure the setting is place where there will be minimal distractions and interruptions. This will not only allow the conversation to flow better, but it will also help keep emotions in check.
Remember: “Words that soak into one’s ears are whispered, not yelled.”
When disagreements arise, it’s easy to let tempers flare. Make a pact with yourself that you will not raise your voice, and that you won’t take on sarcastic or undermining tones. Addressing a problem from a platform of love, grace, and empathy will be your most successful approach.
Faithlife.com serves as the digital home for your faith community. You can organize groups, plan events, and share documents—because we learn best when we learn together. Create an account and get started at Faithlife.com.
Last month, we passed two important milestones on the Logos forums—500,000 posts and 100,000 users. To celebrate, we’re giving away a free book and $20 in one-time Logos.com credit to everyone who completes our user survey and their Faithlife.com profile.
Whether or not you’re actively using the forums, this credit is an easy way to unlock new commentaries, study resources, or translations for your Faithlife Study Bible, or save some money on a Logos 5 upgrade.
Use the coupon code 500k to download the Understanding the Bible Commentary: Mark for free. This offer is only available for the next five days, so get your free book now!
We make tools for people like you, and your feedback is an integral part of our improvement. Fill out our survey at Logos.com/UserSurvey to help us get to know you better.
Another way we can get to know you better is through your Faithlife.com profile. A complete profile makes you more accessible to other Faithlife.com users and more visible in Faithlife searches. Keep information like your denomination, website, profile picture, and contact information current so that your friends can find you.
When you complete our user survey and your Faithlife profile, you’ll get $20 in Logos credit that you can use to buy resources or collections on Logos.com!
To help you get the most out of your Logos credit, we have a selection of key resources on sale, including:
For the complete list, check out today’s post on the Logos blog.
Get your free book, $20 in Logos credit, and special savings—celebrate with us today!