This month we are doing an interview with Steve Gladen whose long-awaited book, Small Groups With Purpose: How to Create Healthy Communities is now available. Experienced at leading one of the largest Small Group Ministries in the country, and with over 25 years of leading Small Group Ministry in various sized churches in various denominations, Gladen’s book will be a welcome addition to the bookshelves (or Kindles!) of many Small Group Pastors.
Q: After over 25 years of working in small group ministry, why did you decide to write a book now?
A: Well, a few things came into play. First, it just didn’t feel like it was the right time till now. I have learned so many times, “God saves me from myself” and what I think is the right thing or right timing. Second, for the first 15 years what I did really didn’t work and wasn’t worth writing about. The last 10 years we were so busy making it work, it was hard to find the time to get it on paper. And I wanted the book to be about proven principles done in the church. Thirdly, I needed to overcome my own inadequacies and know if I stepped out to write it, He would be with me each step of the way. I think we call that faith! 🙂
Q: What differentiates Small Groups With Purpose from the many other books available about small group ministry?
A: Well, there are ten of them and I listed them in chapter two. Some of the biggies are the book is framed with the Small Group Point Person in mind. It is a step by step guide to designing your own small group ministry. It has practical suggestions. You will find answers that your paid or volunteer team can go through to unpack the principles in the book. And this book is unique in that it is a real life journey. I have lived this book.
Q: What was the most difficult thing about writing the book?
A: Having to cut stuff out. Literally. Due to length, I was forced to cut two chapters out!
Q: What are the three most important things you have learned about small group ministry?
A: First, you need to be in it for the long haul. Drift will always happen in the church. It is discouraging, but you need to outlast the critics. Leave only if God leads. Second, you need to have a plan and strategy. This sounds like a no brainer, but ask yourself, what are your goals for this quarter and how do they fit into your year plan? Do your leaders know what they are trying to do? My third thing is make sure you don’t sacrifice those you love for ministry. There will always be ministry to do. God gave us a Sabbath for a reason. It’s also interesting that in the new Testament how you run your family is one of the top tests for being a pastor, not how you run the church. Sometimes we get that backwards.
Q: If you could pass along one small group tip from the book, what tip would you pass along?
A: Chapter 20. Seriously, it’s my favorite chapter and has nothing and everything to do with small groups.
Q: What is the biggest “mistake” you have made in small group ministry?
A: Getting comfortable with where we were at. Complicacy is an ugly place.
Q: What is the biggest “success” you have had in small group ministry?
A: Having the right people around me. The team we have could lead any small group ministry on this planet. They know I am not always right, nor are they. But together we are a gift to each other and, hopefully, to Saddleback Church.
Q: Rick Warren wrote the forward of Small Group With Purpose. What is it like to work on Rick Warren’s staff?
A: He is the real deal. I have seen the good, bad and the ugly. The man lives for God and no one else. Is he perfect? Nope. But his calling is clear, his passion is contagious, his vision is God anointed and it’s a blast to press ahead with him. No, I haven’t drank the Kool-Aid, But I have witnessed it first hand for 14 years.
Q: What is the most important lesson on leadership you have learned from Rick Warren?
A: Don’t let problem solving interrupt decision making. Rick’s strongest gift is faith. He understands what God wants and goes for it. If you think too much about it, you’ll miss a God opportunity.
Q: So, what is next?
A: Another book! Small Groups with Purpose is written with the leaders of small group ministry in mind – those hardworking paid and unpaid men and women who direct and coordinate the small group ministries in their churches. I also wanted to write a book for the small group leaders (or hosts) who each lead an individual small group. The success of every small group ministry rests on their shoulders. If they do not understand the vision of the small group ministry, they cannot carry out that vision. I am in the final stages of preparing that book and it will be available for small group leaders February 1st of 2012.
Small Groups with Purpose: How to Create Healthy Communities is available at Amazon!