Gulf Coast Leaders,

This Fall we’re encouraging our congregations to give this series a try.


Robert Schnase’s “Five Practices” are radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service, and extravagant generosity. Schnase is a Methodist bishop.

The centerpiece is the book, “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.” The leadership team reads this in advance of the series.

The five booklets to the left of this photo each have three sessions for leaders of the ministries that oversee these areas. Session 1 is a Bible Study on one of the five practices. Session two delves into the practice. Session 3 is “What Can We Do?” Each session has a worksheet to evaluate the practices in your congregation and make a plan to move forward. I would envision the stewardship doing the generosity sessions, evangelism doing the hospitality sessions and so on.

The “Cultivating Fruitfulness” participant book is a five-week all-congregation study, one week for each practice. The idea is you invite everyone in the congregation to participate in a short, 5-week small group experience. They key is finding and prepping the small group leaders.

There are 35 daily devotions (5 weeks times 7 days). Congregational members are invited to engage in daily prayer and reading for 35 days.

The notebook contains a Leadership Manual and six DVDs. The leadership manual has a timeline that starts six weeks before the series begins and extends through Celebration Sunday. It has job descriptions for each team. It includes a congregational work day and a pledging component. The DVDs contain videos, teaching sessions, presentation slides and publicity materials. This leadership package (one of everything) costs about $100.

I remain convinced that life groups are the key to deepening a congregation’s spiritual life and also to closing the back door. People who have life-long friends don’t quit easily. They will weather hard times and tough conversations.

This is different than the catechumenate because it involves the entire congregation, or all whole are willing to participate. Increase your small groups by a factor of 10. If you have 3 small groups, prep for 30, by recruiting and training 30 leaders. Think of Jesus’ sending of the 70 in Luke 10.

If new members of a church don’t connect to a group and make friends, they will leave within six months. Worship alone simply doesn’t provide enough opportunity for people to interact beyond a introductory level. Growing a congregation in depth and breadth requires intentional ministry in groups.

Finally, there is tremendous synergy in getting a whole congregation doing the same thing at the same time for a couple of months. It seems we only do this for capital campaigns. What if we spend that amount of time, energy and organization on spiritual growth?

If you’ve used these materials before call me. I’d love to know how they worked in your context. If not, consider a mid-fall series this year. More to come.

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