A Day in the eLife…

You don't have to be computer guru to take advantage of the tremendous amount of information on the World Wide Web

I plead with you to believe me when I say that I am not a bit-head. Everywhere I go people make the assumption that because I direct SmallGroups.com, I dream in "HTML" color, drink "JAVA" coffee, and speak in "PERL Scripting Language." Well, it is not true! That is why I have asked our Smallgroups.com webmaster to contribute to this article.

Now that you all feel less like a technophobe around me, like we are on level ground, let me tell you, from one semi-tech-challenged person to another, how I use the eWorld in my everyday life of small group ministry. While I do not do all the technical stuff, there is much technology that you and I can use to further the Kingdom of God! So here is a day in my elife…


There is plenty of online tools to help you spend dedicated time with God. Daily devotional readings abound on the Internet. One of the best sites to help me to get into the Word is http://www.biblegateway.com/. There are additional tools available at Crosswalk.com. Bryan checks in daily with Harold Sala's "5-minute commentaries" at Guidelines.org.

Email newsletters

Now for the big confession…I have signed up to receive a lot of them, and I read far fewer than I receive! OK, now I feel better getting that out in the open.

Each day, sometimes first thing in the morning, I browse through email newsletters that I have recently received. I could be described as a "nugget miner." I try to scan through several email newsletters and dig out nuggets that might apply to and help my ministry. The following is certainly not an all-inclusive list, but here are several of the email newsletters, from a variety of sources and a variety of perspectives, that I use for "prospecting."

-Small Group Dynamics-Byte Size

-DJ Online News

-Building Church Leaders

-Leadership Network Explorer

-Publish World Update

-Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox

-LifeTogether Today


-Christian Bible Studies

-The Family Room

-Business Reform

-WCA News Flash

-The OozeLetter

-ABF Resources Email Update

-Fresh Insights

-House2House E-newsletter

-SpaceWeather News (Okay, maybe I am a little bit of a nerd.)

Online groups

After browsing through a few email newsletters, I am ready to get in on the discussion. I check to see if I have gotten any emails from the few online communities that I am a part of. Some of these online groups are just part of my local church community—small group leaders, servant leadership team, etc. There is no formal system or software that we use for these other than our personal email and the "reply to all" button. Someone throws out a topic for the rest of the group to think upon or an idea to review. Each person reads, decides what he/she wants to say in reply, and then hits the "reply to all" to make his/her input known. It is kind of like a face-to-face meeting in slow motion, sometimes taking several days to work through an issue, but it has proven to work well for us, particularly in our local church where nearly everything is done in a team leadership environment.

On a bigger scale, I am part of other email groups that have thousands of members all over the world. Sometimes these are called Email Listservs. When registered with the listserv group, replying to an email sent from someone on the list automatically posts your reply to everyone on the list. I am mostly known as a "lurker" on these lists (someone who listens but does not say much). One of my favorite listservs is the Easum, Bandy, and Associates "Advanced Track Leadership" which discusses many contemporary and ancient issues in ministry.

By the way, if you are one of those who thinks email is too cold and emotionless, try adding feeling to it with emoticons ;).

There are also many excellent online discussion forums. These are not email driven, but happen on web pages. SmallGroups.com has a discussion forum called "SmallTalk" which I believe is still the finest online forum about small group ministry there is. Many ministry sites have online forums available that are great ways to get answers to the questions that you are having.

Getting down to business

As I try to organize my schedule and my day, I use the free services of Yahoo Calendar to help me. I enter appointments and "to do" lists and then have Yahoo Calendar email me reminders of phone calls I need to make, jobs I need to complete, and family events I need to remember. I can also view my calendar page to see what I have coming up in the days ahead. There is an option to make parts of your calendar open to view by the public, which makes it a good tool for our church community to use as well.

Bryan uses a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) to keep things organized. He's got access to contact info for every small group member, as well as Bible searches in various translations, a full featured appointment calendar, and even an electronic mileage tracker to keep up with mileage to and from those lunch meetings with group members!

Occasionally, I need to develop an email newsletter to send to my small group leaders at our church (or SmallGroups.com members!) that includes pictures and graphics. I am not an expert at designing or creating email newsletters using HTML, but a WYSWYG (what you see is what you get) editor like MS FrontPage allows me to create web pages and email documents that look great. It is about as easy as creating a word processing document. Once I have created my email newsletter, I click one button and FrontPage converts the document into a page of HTML code. I copy and paste the whole mess into an HTML enabled email application (MS Outlook Express will handle this) and press SEND. Voila! The person receiving the email gets the nice looking product including color and graphics.

Prepping for small group

Each week, as our small group gathering approaches, I have several online tools that I use. As I plan the small group agenda, I lean heavily on www.SmallGroups.com resources.

-For an ice breaker, I select one from the SmallGroups.com Barrier Breakers.

-For a small group worship and prayer idea, I use SmallGroups.com Worship Works.

-For a Bible study tip or technique to use during group time, I check out ideas from SmallGroups.com Bible Bytes. I can find further group Bible study guides and can do research when needed at http://www.biblemaster.com/ or http://www.studylight.org/. You can also find great ideas, illustrations, and study outlines at http://sermoncentral.com.

-And for small group outreach and service ideas, I rely on SmallGroups.com Outreach Options.

Once I have the small group agenda in hand, I will contact my group members by email to remind them about our schedule that week and to give them any preparation details for our small group gathering. To manage our small group member contact information our church uses ChurchTeams.com. I can just login to our ChurchTeams.com account and select my small group from the list. From there, I can update our group study information, meeting times, etc. as well as make any updates to member's personal information and even take group attendance. I can also simply click a button to create an email to send to group members with information for that week.

I hope we've convinced you that you don't have to be computer guru to take advantage of the tremendous amount of information on the World Wide Web. With a little surfing and a little digging (try Google!), you'll be more equipped to lead your group, and your church, in life-changing small group community!

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