The Best Conference You Will Ever
Attend Is at the Coffee Shop

by Josh Hunt

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"Never attend a conference you could have taught," said the trusted old pastor. This wise old pastor spent a lot of time hob nobing in the hallways at conferences rather than attending the conferences themselves. Why? Because he had learned a long time back that he could teach most of the conferences that were being taught better than the person who was leading them. "Why don't you lead some conferences? You have a lot of wisdom. You have tasted more than your share of success." "Let the young guys do it," he replied with a smile. "Their egos need it. I have some things I want to learn while I am here. And if I can sit down for forty five minutes with Bob, I think we can figure it out." This pastor spent a lot more time in the coffee shop than he did in the conference room, and he was one of the most successful pastors I have ever known. What did he know about learning to be a pastor that most of us don't?

Life change happens best in the context of relationships. Formal, Greek style teaching has its place. It is a great place to set out a body of truth to a body of people. But, to get that truth applied to the people where they live, they are going to have to go to the coffee shop and talk about it.

This is why we have Sunday School, isn't it? Because we believe that we will not make disciples out of people who are sitting in straight rows. Preaching is a necessary ingredient of the process, but it is not the only necessary ingredient. The other ingredient is talk. Until people talk about it, they don't learn.

What does this mean with reference to this book and the Double Your Church in Five Years or Less system? Just this: Unless you get together with some friends and talk about what you like and don't like about this book, you will probably not apply very much. You may want to go through this book with your staff, assigning each staff member a chapter a week to discuss. This can be a great addition to your staff time each week. What better to do than to learn together how to more skillfully steward the holy things we have been intrusted with? I have included discussion questions at the end of each chapter to help you with this.

You may want to go through the book with your deacons. As long as we have a congregationally ruled system, we need to work hard at educating the membership--and especially the leadership--on church growth principles. We cannot expect people to make decisions that will contribute to the growth and healthy of the church unless we are continuing to teach them how churches grow. Pastors don't necessarily have to lead these classes. They do need to attend. This is a high leverage area. If the pastor will attend, his sheer presence will influence many of the deacons to attend themselves. The pastors attendance at a deacons' church growth class is almost as good as the pastor leading it himself. There are certain advantages to a trusted laymen who can teach leading the deacons through a class on church growth. He will probably be trusted better than the pastor. And people feel more open to freely discuss honestly how they feel if someone other than the pastor is leading the discussion. Again, each chapter's questions can help with this. Let me suggest one other format for making this material part of your life.

The most useful retreat I ever went to was the most informal. It was also the most inexpensive. I had just completed the manuscript to Let It Grow! I sent copies to several of my ministry buddies. I asked them to meet me at a retreat site where we just talked about the dream of leading churches to become multi-congregation churches. We met together for an informal time of fellowship. We basically hung out together for 2 days to see what God would do. We have very little agenda. We just sat around and talked about the dream. We discussed what problems and offered solutions. We laughed. We cried. We sang. We played some games. We ate together. We prayed together. And we talked. We talked a lot. We mostly talked. And we learned a lot. It was one of the most helpful skill building event of my professional life. I want to suggest you do the same.

I want to suggest you call up 6 or 8 of your buddies and invite them to an informal retreat for a couple of days. Allow them to invite a few friends, but limit the whole thing to a dozen or so people. Go off some where so you can be alone. Go someplace that you will be together the whole time--perhaps a denominational camp.

The discussion questions at the end of each chapter would provide too much material for such a meeting, so I am providing here and abbreviated version of the questions. Don't feel any obligation to answer all these questions. I mean to have more questions than you could use in a month. The point is not to answer a lot of questions. The point is to get a lot of answers. The point is to create community. The point is life change.

Ice breakers/ general questions

1. What is one thing going on in your ministry that you feel really good about?

2. What is the biggest obstacle between you and where you want to go in your ministry?

3. On a scale of one to ten, how pleased are you with your family life right now? Why. How would your wife answer this question?

4. What do you find yourself pondering in your spare time, related to ministry?


Nothing Happens Unless First a Dream

5. Does dreaming come easy for you?

6. Why is a vision so important. Let's come up with ten reasons.

7. What is the relationship between faith and dreams?

8. What is the relationship between faith and goals?

9. What is the relationship between faith and confidence of healthy self-esteem?

10. What outlandish thing are you dreaming about happening this next year?

11. What kinds of things tend to stimulate your faith and confidence?

12. What kinds of things tend to put a wt blanket on your faith and confidence?

13. Take ten minutes by yourself. Make a list of things you would like to believe God for. Write them down even if you don't have the full faith to believe God for them. Pray, "God help my unbelief." We'll get together in ten minutes and share some of the things we wrote down.


14. React to the statement, "All good ideas degenerate into work." Do you think this is something Jesus might have said? Do you think it is true?

15. Which comes easier for you, dreaming great dreams, or following through in the work?

16. React to this one: "God did not call me to be successful. He called me to be faithful." Do you agree or disagree? What does faithfulness mean in this context? Does God want us to be a success or a failure? We know God called us to "bear much fruit; fruit that last." Is fruit success?

17. What is your plan for accomplishing your dream? State your philosophy of ministry in 500 words or less.(1)

The Double Your Church Plan

18. Get honest: do you share the party line on the importance of the Sunday School?

19. What frustrates you about Sunday School?

20. What are the benefits of growing a church through the Sunday School?

21. React to this statement: much of what it means to be the church happens in, through and around small groups.

22. What has been your involvement in Sunday School?

23. What do you think of the idea of taking a class and trying to model how to grow a class yourself. Would this work in your setting.

24. What are the dangers of the pastor not attending Sunday School? What kind of message does this send?

25. Someone explain the math of what it takes to double a church every five years or less. How will a pastor doubling a church every two years or less help?

26. If you don't plan to grow a church by using the Sunday School and modeling growing a Sunday School through personal involvement, what is your plan?

A short course on doubling your class

27. What are the four underlying principles of the double your class plan.

28. What are the 5 steps of the plan. Hint: they spell the word TIGER.

29. Why is good teaching so important to growing a class?

30. How would you evaluate the teachers in your Sunday School in terms of their ability to teach?

31. What are some things you can do to help teachers teach better.(2)

32. Let's quote together the invite every member formula: You Can Double your class every two years or less by inviting every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month.

33. Why are each part of the formula important?

Why every member?

Why every prospect?

Why every month?

For how long?

34. Why is persistence so important in reaching people?

35. Give an example of a time when you "Gave Friday nights to Jesus?"

36. What are some differing examples of this plan?

37. If giving Friday nights for Jesus is so effective, why don't we do more of it?

38. What are some ways we can encourage other people to give Friday Nights to Jesus?

39. What are some ways you have found to effectively recruit people toward ministry?

40. Have your found public appeals or private appeals more effective? Why?

41. What are some ways you have found to encourage people in ministry to stay in ministry?

42. What ideas have you seen work in helping get new groups started?

43. Why is creating new groups so hard?

44. How do you communicate a vision for reproduction?

The Real Issues of Church Growth

45. Good plans to grow a church are a dime a dozen. What are some of the real barriers to churches growing. What are some things in other pastors or churches that you have seen that hurt the growth of a church?

46. One broad category of growth-blockers is people skills. How many of you have known and example of a pastor or staff member with a lot of talent, but such poor people skills that he could hardly get anything done? Anyone like to share an example?

47. What are the issues behind the issues in your church? What is really keeping your church from growing faster than it is. What are the issues on the table right now that are impending your church's growth? Here are some examples:

Tension or lack of support in your marriage.

Staff tension

Tension with the deacons

Power struggles

Immorality among key leaders

Apathy and boredom

Does anyone here want to get honest and talk about what is really going on in your life and your church?

Multiplying the dream

48. What problems facing society seem worse today than when you were in the sixth grade?

49. What is God's solution to the problems?

50. What obligation, if any, do we have helping the church at large be obedient to the great commission? Is it enough for us to grow our churches, or does God expect us to help grow others as well?

51. Brainstorm with me. What if each of us were to gather 12 pastors in another city together to host a weekend like this. Suppose half of them were to host other weekends and half of them were to reproduce as well. How many churches would we have impacted in the fourth generation of multiplication?(3)

52. Can anyone quote 2 Timothy 2:2? What would keep you from gathering a group together and going through this material with them as we have done?

Keeping the fire alive

53. Would it be helpful to anyone here to get together again?

54. Let's discuss two key issues related to this:

About how often would you like to meet?

Who would like to be the leader of the group who will set up the meetings?

1. You may want to get the group in groups of about 4 for these kinds of questions.

2. One of the most important is for the pastor to lead a group through The Seven Laws of the Learner video series.

3. Assuming 12 people present and all of them get a group of 12 is 144. If half of them get a group together is an additional 70, for a total of 214. If half of them participate, you now have 107 more for a total of 321 churches. If there were 100 people in each of these churches, we would impact 321,000 people by the 4th generation. The real explosion is in the next four generations.