toolMore churches will continue to grow every year by at least one new adult profession of faith, at least one more person in worship, at least one additional small group, and at least one more ministry that reaches into the mission field.  Every single church—regardless of its size—can be vital and reach its mission field with excellence and passion.

The content of this Ministry Toolbox is crowd-sourced.  Do you have an article, book, or resource that will assist congregations “Grow by One”?  If you have a resource recommendation for the Toolbox, please send it to

The Arkansas Conference does not endorse all the ideas presented in these resources, but wishes to provide pastors and congregational leaders with a variety of helpful tools to grow the church through professions of faith, worship, new small groups, and new ministries that reach the mission field.  

Please also see the free ShareChurch Resources provided by the UM Church of the Resurrection.


Evangelism: Articles, Handouts, and Websites

Evangetality: Best Practices For Evangelism And Hospitality by Jim Ozier.
This article is featured in the Evangelism Versus Hospitality: Do They Come? Do They Stay? (May/June/July 2015) issue of Circuit Rider.

Reach New Disciples Resources, Lewis Center for Church Leadership
Through engaging videos, presentations, and supplemental materials, The Lewis Center Provides explores strategies your congregation can use to reach beyond its walls with worship, community events, ministries, and service.  Print, DVD, and online video resource kits.

Nine Principles of Relational Evangelism by Randall Neighbour

This article was adapted from The Naked Truth About Small-Group Ministry. Each principle has a few discussion questions for a small group to examine their own practices and equip one another to be community missionaries.


50 Ways to Welcome New People, Lewis Center for Church Leadership
The “50 Ways to Build” Series provides quick tools for leadership teams

50 Ways to Take Church to the Community, Lewis Center for Church Leadership
The “50 Ways to Build” Series provides quick tools for leadership teams

Evangelism: Stories from United Methodists of Arkansas

Evangelism: Books

“Get Their Name:  Grow Your Church By Building New Relationships” by Bob Farr, Doug Anderson, Kay Kotan
As a church leader, you are (probably) targeting the wrong people with your ‘evangelism’ efforts. You are operating a model that no longer works, because it is too passive, too polite, and focused in the wrong direction. You are not making new disciples, not adding significantly to Christ’s transformation of the world. And you—or at least your congregation–are (probably) unaware of this fact.

There is hope, and you will find it in these pages. Farr, Kotan and Anderson reveal the ways most churches unwittingly misdirect their reach into the community. The authors show in practical terms how to change the habits of leaders and entire congregations, so that invitation is natural, constant, systemic, genuine, and easy. Get Their Name clearly demonstrates how your church can change, and equips your people to share their faith in a way that is effective, biblical, and transformational.

Available at Arkansas Conference Office $10.00 (Good for Small Groups)


“CATCH: A Church-Wide Program for Invitational Evangelism” by Debi Nixon
Do you sometimes feel that you’re spinning your wheels trying to attract visitors and welcome them into your church? Help is on the way. Catch is a comprehensive program for invitational evangelism developed by the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, one of the fastest-growing churches in the U.S. This newly revised and updated resource shows you how to attract visitors to your church, connect them with your faith community, and help them learn to know, love, and serve God. Boxed Kit includes Program Guide and DVD-ROM, Small Group Participant book, 4-week program Leader Guide with DVD, and Implementation Guide.



“Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism” by Martha Grace Reese
Based on a major, four-year study of superb evangelism, funded by the Lilly Endowment, Unbinding the Gospel sparkles with life, practicality and spiritual depth. Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism is a book for pastors who want to know the truth about the state of evangelism. Recently selected by The Christian Century as a featured “Take and Read” book (2007 book issue), Unbinding the Gospel is a book for Christians who want a hopeful, powerful, joy-filled way to learn to share their faith. (It’s also a book for people who cringe when they hear the “E” word!) Unbinding the Gospel, 2nd ed. is the foundation of the Unbinding the Gospel Series, which can lead to a six-week, all-congregation saturation study with individual prayer, small group study and all-church worship and prayer dimensions. See Unbinding Your Heart (the 6 week version of GOSPEL, with a different 40 day prayer journal) and Unbinding Your Church (the Pastor’s Guide). Follow up your all-church saturation study (the “E-vent”) with a small group based Experiment in Christian Prayer & Community using Unbinding Your Soul. Small groups will double when members invite their unchurched friends into the Experiment. The new second edition contains a personal 40 day prayer journal. Order one copy for each small group participant. From the Unbinding the Gospel Series.


“Faith Sharing: Dynamic Christian Witnessing by Invitation” by H. Eddie Fox & George E. Morris
After careful evaluation of the original Faith-Sharing: Dynamic Christian Witnessing by Invitation with pastors and laypersons, Fox and Morris have revised and expanded this textbook on the why, what, who, and how of sharing the good news of Christ Jesus. Designed to help persons be competent and confident in witnessing for Christ Jesus, Faith-Sharing has been published in English, Portuguese, Estonian, and Russian and is a bestseller with over 150,000 copies sold. Use it in conjunction with The Faith-Sharing Congregation by Roger K. Swanson and Shirley F. Clement and Faith-Sharing New Testament with Psalms available through Cokesbury.




“Evangelism After Christendom: The Theology and Practice of Christian Witness” by Bryan Stone

Most people think of evangelism as something an individual does–one person talking to one or more other people about the gospel. Bryan Stone, however, argues that evangelism is the duty and call of the entire church as a body of witness. Evangelism after Christendomexplores what it means to understand and put to work evangelism as a rich practice of the church, grounding evangelism in the stories of Israel, Jesus, and the Apostles. This thorough treatment is marked by an astute sensitivity to the ways in which Christian evangelism has in the past been practiced violently, intentionally or unintentionally. Pointing to exemplars both Protestant and Catholic, Stone shows pastors, professors, and students how evangelism can work nonviolently



“The Apostolic Congregation: Church Growth Reconceived for a New Generation” by George G. Hunter, III
A church in the heart of Manhattan and a congregation among the Inuit people of Northern Canada would seem to have little in common with one another. Yet in one way they are surprisingly similar: They are both apostolic congregations, churches whose every program exists for the purpose of presenting the gospel to non-Christians, and making disciples of Jesus Christ.

What is the secret of churches like these; how have they learned to make evangelism central to everything they do? In studying apostolic congregations around the world, George G. Hunter III has discovered a set of perspectives and practices that they all share. With the passion and insight for which he is so well known, Hunter demonstrates how your congregation can learn to focus on the one thing that most matters: bringing people into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.


“Clip In: Risking Hospitality in Your Church” by Fiona Haworth and Jim Ozier
When a cyclist clips into the pedals, a huge risk is involved because he or she must learn a new way to achieve balance and momentum. Creating a culture of hospitality within your church involves the same intricate process. Not only do balance and momentum go hand-in-hand, one can’t exist without the other. Growing a church requires the same kind of delicate interplay: balancing attention toward existing members and generating momentum through reaching new people. Without both, the church won’t grow. Creating a culture of hospitality involves risk and relearning old habits, but facilitating both will yield fruitful results.


“Witness: Learning to Share Your Christian Faith” by Ron Crandall
We’re all witnesses to something or someone,”” writes Crandall. “”As Christians we’re Christ’s witnesses. It’s our identity, not merely something we do or don’t do.”” Witness guides you to learn more about your faith and to speak invitationally with others about beliefs. Crandall has outlined a 25-week small group study that focuses on the important parts of faith. Through Bible study and group interaction, you’ll identify your gifts for ministry and learn to witness to others in a natural and effective way. “”Witness is the perfect resource to persuade people that witnessing is a personal (and possible!) faith mission. Using Witness as our sole programming … helped our members achieve a greater comfort level in faith conversations,”” writes one pastor. Embark on a journey where you’ll be challenged to discover who you really are, what you believe and what really matters in your life.


“Just Walk Across The Room: Simples Steps Pointing People to Faith” by Bill Hybels
What if you knew that by simply crossing the room and saying hello to someone, you could change that person’s forever? Just a few steps to make an eternal difference. It has nothing to do with methods and everything to do with taking a genuine interest in another human being. All you need is a heart that’s in tune with the Holy Spirit and a willingness to venture out of your “Circle of Comfort” and into another person’s life. Just Walk Across the Room brings personal evangelism into the twenty-first century. Building on the solid foundation laid in Becoming a Contagious Christian, Bill Hybels shows how you can participate in the model first set by Jesus, who stepped down from heaven 2,000 years ago to bring hope and redemption to broken people living in a fallen world. Now it’s your turn. Your journey may not be as dramatic, but it can have a life-changing impact for someone standing a few steps away from you—and for you as well, as you learn the power of extending care, compassion, and inclusiveness under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The highest value in personal evangelism is cooperating with the Spirit, says Hybels. This means playing only the role you’re meant to play—walking when the Spirit says to walk, talking when he says to talk, and falling silent when he suggests that you’ve said enough. Hybels encourages you to “live in 3D” … Developing friendships, Discovering stories, Discerning appropriate next steps … as a means of learning to understand the Holy Spirit’s promptings. With fresh perspectives from his own reflections and experiences collected during his most recent decade of ministry, Bill Hybels shows with convincing and inspiring clarity the power of this personal, richly relational approach to evangelism. The stakes are high. The implications are eternal. And you may be only a conversation away from having an eternal impact on someone’s life—if you will just walk across the room.

4 Session Study with DVD Resource


“The Evangelistic Love of God and Neighbor: A Theology of Witness and Discipleship” by Bishop Scott J. Jones
There are, it seems, as many definitions of the term “evangelism” as there are people doing the defining. For some, it means proclaiming the gospel to those who have not heard it. To others, it means making disciples of Jesus Christ. To others, it means working for the transformation of the world into the kingdom of God. For still others, it has principally to do with building vibrant, healthy congregations. Underlying this confusion is a fundamental inability to locate the practice of evangelism within one’s overall theological convictions. We will never understand the part that proclamation, disciple making, kingdom building, and church growth play in evangelism until we first ask a more important question: What does evangelism have to do with who God is? What is it we know about God that makes evangelism a central part of what it means to be Christian? In this comprehensive theology of evangelism, Scott J. Jones proposes to ground the practice of evangelism in an understanding of God’s love for the world, specifically as seen in the incarnation of God in Christ. In Jesus, God took on all of what it means to be human.  Because of this, evangelism must be a ministry to the whole person. The typical distinctions between soul-winning, social action, and church growth evaporate; individual conversion and acts of mercy are part of the same ministry of bringing persons more fully into the reign of a loving God.


“Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith” by Henry H. Knight III & F. Douglas Powe
Because of the more aggressive and confrontational tactics we hear about, evangelism has developed a bad connotation. Doors are shut hurriedly, phone calls end abruptly and emails left unanswered. After all, isn’t this a task better handled by the pastor? Perhaps it’s time to re-examine John Wesley’s model of evangelism as a full, natural circle – where it’s a communal beginning point rather than an solitary end. The central motive of authentic evangelism is: Having received a message that’s made all the difference in our lives, we desire to share that message with others in the hope it will transform their lives as well. Wesley models an evangelism that reaches out and welcomes, invites and nurtures, and speaks to both head and heart. “”Evangelism is about relationship,”” the authors write. “”How we are in relationship to God, who is able to transform us into new beings. How we are in relationship to our neighbor, whom we must love like ourselves.”” As one reviewer says, “”Knight and Powe have given us a relational book. They describe the deep connection between John Wesley’s thoughts, Charles Wesley’s hymns, scholarly thinking about evangelism and biblical understandings of the gospel – all in relation to the needs, concerns and hopes of everyday people.”” Learn on your own or as a congregational group from this practical study on living an evangelistic life that demonstrates the transforming power of loving God and neighbor.


“VIRAL: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival” by Leonard Sweet
The gospel is nothing without relationship. And no one gets it like the Google Generation.  God came to earth to invite us, personally, into a relationship. And while Christians at times downplay relationships, the social-media generation is completely sold on the idea. In “Viral, ” Leonard Sweet says Christians need to learn about connecting with others from the experts–those who can’t seem to stop texting, IM-ing, tweeting, and updating their Facebook statuses. What would happen, he asks, if Christians devoted less attention to strategies and statistics and paid more attention to pursuing relationships?

The current generation is driven by a God-given desire to know others and to be known by others. Most of them, in seeking to connect in meaningful ways, have found a place of belonging that is outside the organized church. Why not bring the two together?

Those who are sold out to relationships can teach Christians how to be better friends to people who need God. At the same time, members of the social-media generation can learn how to follow their desire for belonging, straight into the arms of God. It’s time for relationship to be restored to the heart of the gospel. And when that happens, can revival be far behind?

“Organic Outreach for Churches: Infusing Evangelistic Passion in Your Local Congregation” by Kevin Harney

Nearly all churches and ministries consider themselves dedicated to evangelism, and many explicitly include outreach in their mission statements. But few are actually bearing fruit. Kevin Harney diagnoses this problem and offers guidance for multiplying the outreach impact of churches. Organic Outreach for Churches provides direction for local congregations to weave evangelism into the fabric of the church. Commitment to the Great Commission is not simply about sending money and prayers to missions or holding occasional events to reach out (although these things are good). Organic outreach happens when evangelistic vision and action become the domain of every ministry and the commitment of every person in the congregation. This will not happen accidentally. There is huge spiritual and practical resistance to such changes. But the only way evangelism will become an organic part of a church is when every leader and each member is gripped by a commitment to proclaiming the gospel. This book is a roadmap for pastors and leaders who wish to infuse evangelistic passion into every aspect of their church’s life.”



Preaching/Homiletics: Articles, Handouts, and Websites

“Ministry Matters: Preaching” –
Ministry Matters™ offers practical and immediate inspiration for preachers, teachers, and worship leaders. With thousands of original articles and blogs, unique book reviews, and weekly worship and preaching helps in the This Sunday area, provides both community and inspiration to Christian leaders. Tens of thousands of pages of full-text research and reference materials are available in the Ministry Matters Premium Subscription–everything from The New Interpreter’s Bible and the Abingdon Old and New Testament Commentaries to devotions, prayers, and sermon starters.

The Text This Week –
TextWeek provides a lectionary study desk of crowd-sourced preaching and worship helps: Commentaries, liturgies, movie references, art references, and sample sermons.  Click on a date to find direct links to a wide variety of contemporary and historical resources for study & liturgy for each lectionary week and pericope, or check out the Scripture Index to locate links to study resources relating to specific passages.

Discipleship Ministries: Preaching –
Discipleship Ministries (the UMC General Board of Discipleship) provides preachers with weekly lectionary-based preaching commentaries and sermon starters

50 Ways to Increase Worship Attendance, Lewis Center for Church Leadership –
The “50 Ways to Build” Series provides quick tools for leadership teams

Preaching/Homiletics:  Books

“Unleashing the Word: Preaching with Relevance, Purpose, and Passion” by Adam Hamilton
Imagine announcing a new series of sermons and seeing worship attendance increase by 1,000 people on the first Sunday of the new series. Or consider a pastor developing sermon plans two to three years out. What kind of pastor sits in a bar with a notepad just looking for ideas for sermons? Or has as his aim to preach the best prepared, best researched sermons his congregation has ever heard? In Unleashing the Word, Adam Hamilton helps pastors and church leaders consider the purpose, planning, and execution of excellent preaching. He offers detailed descriptions of the sermon planning, writing and preaching process behind one of the fastest growing churches in the United States. He includes numerous personal anecdotes and enough sermon ideas to keep the average pastor busy for years! Finally, after you have read how sermons are planned and prepared at the Church of the Resurrection you can watch the included DVD which features four full-length sermons and other resources to help you apply what you’ve read in the book.

“Speaking Well: Essential Skills for Speakers, Leaders, and Preachers” by Adam Hamilton
The thought of speaking in public strikes fear in the hearts of many. And yet we are often called upon to speak, teach, preach or make presentations in our work and personal lives. Adam Hamilton knows a thing or two about what it takes to be an effective speaker; he’s delivered nearly 6,000 sermons, speeches and lectures and is an acclaimed presenter around the globe. In Speaking Well, he offers powerful principles that can significantly improve the reader’s effectiveness as a speaker in any setting. These principles are shared in succinct, easy-to-digest chapters that include examples and real life illustrations, helping the reader to immediately build skill and confidence.

  • “From Pew to Pulpit: A Beginners Guide to Preaching” by Clifton F. Guthrie
    A down-to-earth, practical introduction to the ins and outs of preaching for lay preachers, bivocational pastors, and others newly arrived in the pulpit. Recent years have seen a considerable increase in the amount of financial resources required to support a full-time pastor in the local congregation. In addition, large numbers of full-time, seminary trained clergy are retiring, without commensurate numbers of new clergy able to take their place. As a result of these trends, a large number of lay preachers and bivocational pastors have assumed the principal responsibility for filling the pulpit week by week in local churches. Most of these individuals, observes Clifton Guthrie, can draw on a wealth of life experiences, as well as strong intuitive skills in knowing what makes a good sermon, having listened to them much of their lives. What they often don’t bring to the pulpit, however, is specific, detailed instruction in the how-tos of preaching. That is precisely what this brief, practical guide to preaching has to offer.  Written with the needs of those for whom preaching is not their sole or primary occupation in mind, it begins by emphasizing what every preacher brings to the pulpit: an idea of what makes a sermon particularly moving or memorable to them. From there the book moves into short chapters on choosing an appropriate biblical text or sermon topic, learning how to listen to one’s first impressions of what a text means, moving from text or topic to the sermon itself while keeping the listeners needs firmly in mind, making thorough and engaging use of stories in the sermon, and delivering with passion and conviction. The book concludes with helpful suggestions for resources, including Bibles, commentaries, other print resources and websites.

Worship: Articles, Handouts, and Websites

“Ministry Matters: Worship” –
Ministry Matters™ offers practical and immediate inspiration for preachers, teachers, and worship leaders. With thousands of original articles and blogs, unique book reviews, and weekly worship and preaching helps in the This Sunday area, provides both community and inspiration to Christian leaders. Tens of thousands of pages of full-text research and reference materials are available in the Ministry Matters Premium Subscription–everything from The New Interpreter’s Bible and the Abingdon Old and New Testament Commentaries to devotions, prayers, and sermon starters.

The Text This Week –
TextWeek provides a lectionary study desk of crowd-sourced preaching and worship helps: Commentaries, liturgies, movie references, art references, and sample sermons.  Click on a date to find direct links to a wide variety of contemporary and historical resources for study & liturgy for each lectionary week and pericope, or check out the Scripture Index to locate links to study resources relating to specific passages.

Discipleship Ministries: Worship & Music
Discipleship Ministries (the UMC General Board of Discipleship) provides worship leaders with quality United Methodist music, liturgy, and preaching resources for faithful and vital local church worship.

Seven Trends in Worship Service Times by Thom.S. Rainer –
If your church has one service at 11:00 am on Sunday mornings, it is likely in the minority. In a recent reader survey LifeWay conducted with 1,649 responses, slightly over half of the congregations had only one worship service on Sunday morning, and the times of that single service varied.  The “sacred hour” of 11:00 am is no longer the worship time for a majority of churches.

Worship: Books

“Overflow: Increasing Worship Attendance & Bearing Fruit” by Lovett H. Weems, Jr & Tom Berlin
Our churches exist in order to glorify God and to share God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Thus, worship is at the center of the congregation’s life. And improvements in worship tend to spur improvements in the church’s other ministries. When a church’s worship is not vital, what happens to that church? Church leaders and laity know too well the dismal answer to that question.In Overflow, Lovett Weems and Tom Berlin share research-based insights and tactical ideas that result in improved worship attendance and in fruitful congregations.  The authors identify practices that lead to increased attendance. They offer clear instruction, showing church leaders the areas where we must pay attention throughout the year, and demonstrating new ways to approach worship planning. Weems and Berlin present church leaders with another resource that is at once foundational and practical, convicting and accessible. Church leaders yearn to see more people worshipping God; Overflow provides encouragement and equipping to bear such fruit.


Small Groups: Stories and Examples

Journey 101 : Church Program Kit by Carol Cartmill, Jeff Kirby, Michelle Kirby
Church of the Resurrection Discipleship Pathway
Knowing God, Loving God, and Serving God: Steps to the Life God Intends
A three-part small group study designed to create environments where people experience growth and support as they engage in the discipleship journey.

Hyde Park United Methodist Church, Tampa, Florida
Hyde Park United Methodist created an intentional discipleship pathway which provides a framework for uniquely Methodist disciple-making.

Small Groups: Articles and Websites

5 Essential Elements of a Transformational Small Group Environment” by Ed Stetzer
Transformational discipleship involves moving from the row of chairs in your church or church pew where you are simply in proximity to one another, to sitting in circles, to then being in community with one another. There are five elements of a transformational small group environment: mission orientation, word-driven mentality, multiplication mindset, stranger welcoming, and kingdom focused.

“15 things Alcoholics Anonymous can teach the church” By Rebekah Simon-Peter
Alcoholics Anonymous has forever changed the church. And it has done it right under our noses. Or better put, in our church basements, classrooms and meeting rooms. AA introduced the concept of spirituality apart from religion. It took away the middleman. It has put into place the most successful self-duplicating, small group model in recent history. And it has done this by emulating the model of the early church. Included are the top 15 things AA can teach the church.

Small Groups: Books

“Revival: Faith As Wesley Lived It” by Adam Hamilton
Wesley’s message and his faith continue to speak to 21st-century Christians—calling for a revival of our hearts and souls so that our world might be changed.

Join Adam Hamilton for a six-week journey as he travels to England, following the life of John Wesley and exploring his defining characteristics of a Wesleyan Christian. Wesley’s story is our story. It defines our faith and it challenges us to rediscover our spiritual passion. Leader, participant, and DVD resources available.

“The Big Book on Small Groups” by Jeffrey Arnold
What’s so big about small groups? With proven results in drawing people into community and helping them grow to maturity in Christ, small groups have established themselves as a crucial ministry of the church to its members and its mission field. But whether leading a small group, coaching small group leaders or implementing a churchwide ministry, you need vision, knowledge and skill to minister effectively through small groups. Jeffrey Arnold knows the pressures of small group ministry, but he has also seen the power of small groups in many ministry settings. In this revised edition of The Big Book on Small Groups, he breaks down small groups so that you can see them from all angles. The first four chapters focus on the structure and benefits of a small group ministry. Further chapters explore the basics of Christian community–prayer, worship, Bible study, outreach and mission, as well as how to multiply groups. Resources for further reading, ideas for coaches and trainers, and curriculum to photocopy for small group sessions are also included. A constant companion throughout your small group ministry, The Big Book on Small Groups will give you the basics to get you going–and the support and nurture you need to make small groups effective as a strategy for outreach and discipleship.

“A Community That is Christian: A Handbook on Small Groups.” By Julie Gorman.
Over the past thirty years there has been a boom in small groups, both in society at large and within the church. From Bible studies to MOPS to Alcoholics Anonymous, it is estimated that four out of ten Americans belong to a small group that meets regularly for the care and support of its members. But are these groups creating true, biblical community, or do they settle for self-focus and personal gain?

Julie Gorman has studied small groups for decades and presents her analysis, insights, and suggestions in Community That Is Christian, an essential resource for building community in church-based small groups. This comprehensive book serves both as a text for those who equip leaders or lead small groups and as an interactive manual for small-group members, helping them transform their relationships into Christ-centered community.

The book begins with biblical support for coming together, contrasting it with our often individualistic mind-set that undermines community. Gorman then sets forth the goals of community and describes the process of transformation. She draws from extensive research to address the why and the how of small-group ministry, giving special attention to gender and cultural distinctions. Community That Is Christian provides readers with charts, discussion questions, and inventories to further help them establish community within their small groups.

Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life.” By Marjorie J. Thompson
Few books in Westminster John Knox’s publishing history have been so embraced and so loved as Marjorie Thompson’s Soul Feast. First released in 1995, this spiritual classic continues to be a best-seller, as thousands each year accept her invitation to the Christian spiritual life. Offering a framework for understanding the spiritual disciplines and instruction for developing and nurturing those practices, Soul Feast continues to be a favorite for individual reflection and group study. Now engagingly redesigned to appeal to contemporary spiritual-seekers and repackaged for easier use in study and reflection, Soul Feast is a must-have.

“Guide for Covenant Discipleship Groups, “ by Gayle Turner Watson
Guide for Covenant Discipleship Groups by Gayle Turner Watson is the latest of the new generation of Accountable Discipleship books to be published by Discipleship Resources. This book is the new basic resource that every pastor and all members of covenant discipleship groups needs to read. It is well written, clearly organized, concise, and user-friendly. Gayle Watson has given a valuable gift to the church in this book.

Guide for Covenant Discipleship Groups is organized in four parts. Part One provides an excellent account of the Wesleyan heritage that is the foundation of Covenant Discipleship groups. Part Two explains the nature, purpose, and goal of the groups. Part Three provides the “nuts and bolts” or the “how to do it” section of the book.

In Part 4 Watson provides many useful helps for covenant writing and interpreting the groups for the congregation. She also provides an excellent bibliography of other resources that will support group members in their journey of discipleship.

Groups that Grow Series by Bill Donahue

“Leading Life-Changing Small Groups”
“Coaching Life-Changing Small Group Leaders: A Comprehensive Guide for Developing Leaders of Groups and Teams”
“Building a Life-Changing Small Group Ministry: A Strategic Guide for Leading Group Life in Your Church”
“Equipping Life-Changing Leaders: Focused Training for Group Leaders, Coaches and Pastors” (DVD)

Like nothing else, small groups have the power to change lives. They’re the ideal route to discipleship—a place where the rubber of biblical truth meets the road of human relationships.  Regardless of whether a person is leading for the first time or has been for years, the leader resource will help a small group leader more effectively facilitate group discussion and encourage and support group members in a way that leads to authentic and lasting life change. The unique, ready-reference format highlights the requirements and responsibilities of a small group leader, gives helpful insight into the process of group formation and answers practical questions about meeting preparation and how to encourage group participation. It includes a model for discipleship within a small group and suggestions for dealing with some of the common roadblocks and struggles that most groups encounter. The “Leading Life-Changing Small Groups” workbook can be used as a stand-alone resource, along with coach and pastor training materials, or partnered with the eight-session training videos taught by the author, available on the Equipping Life-Changing Small Groups DVD. For those who want to lead small groups with excellence and truly witness life change in their small groups, this go-to guide offers practical answers and inspiring examples.


Missions: Articles, Handouts, and Websites

“Keeping Missions Fun And Fruitful” by Eric Van Meter

“Minimize Brick, Maximize Mission: Budgeting For Missional Mobility” by Mike Slaughter

Serve Your Neighbor Resources,  Lewis Center for Church Leadership
Many congregations today find renewed vitality in Christ’s command that we serve one another with love. The Lewis Center’s Serve Your Neighbor resources help you build ministries of service outreach that can transform your church and community. Planning Kits, online video, and print resources.

50 Ways to Engage Local Schools, Lewis Center for Church Leadership
The “50 Ways to Build” Series provides quick tools for leadership teams

“How to Make Missions Trips More Effectiv” by Michael Simmelink
Real mission work, what Jesus was really talking about when He said “go,” is a long-term commitment to preaching the Gospel while serving other children of God. It’s not quick; it’s not easy. The trouble begins when short-term projects try to mix the positive vibes of good deeds with ministry. We should not be discouraged from taking these life-changing trips, but encouraged to do them smarter.

“Things No One Tells You About Going on Short-Term Mission Trips: A few ways to make sure your mission trip is effective.” By Michelle Acker Perez
For me, short-term mission trips were kind of like camp. Every summer I had the chance to go somewhere new and “help people.” For my husband, hosting short-term mission teams in Guatemala was part of what he and his family did.

We have learned that perhaps how we go might matter more that what we do. This article shares a few things you may not have heard about being more effective on short-term mission trips:

Missions: Books

“Externally Focused Church” By Eric Swanson & Rick Rusaw

If Your Church Vanished, Would Your Community Weep? Would Anyone Notice? Would Anyone Care? Learn from churches that have made serving their communities a priority–with dramatic results. Your church can be a firm pillar in your community because of the unwavering truth and love of its members. Use case studies from churches that have mastered community service, and apply the action steps to: attract new believers and reach hurt and skeptical people through service; use the resources your church already has to impact those in need; learn how churches have made community service a part of their DNA; help your members deepen their spiritual commitment through service; and discover practical ways to change your community–starting now

“101 Ways to Reach Your Community” by Steve Sjogren

You don’t have to be the apostle Paul in order to share your faith. Relatively few of us are gifted in the area of evangelism. In fact, many of us have a rather dismal track record when it comes to sharing our faith. And yet, in spite of our evangelistic shortcomings, we want to share Jesus with others. Is there a way we can be involved in sharing the gospel without preaching like the apostle Paul? You may not be a gifted evangelist, but you do have the gift of servanthood. You can use that gift to reach out to your community with the love of God. For years Steve Sjogren has successfully used a simple approach called “servant evangelism” that allows any believer-regardless of gifting-to be involved in sharing God’s love with others. One of the great things about this approach is that you don’t have to do it alone. Sjogren offers 101 simple and effective ways your church or small group can demonstrate the love of God to those in your community. And when people see the love of God in action, they want to know more about Him. You can share your faith successfully — here are 101 ways to get started!

“A Ready Hope: Effective Disaster Ministry for Congregations” by Kathryn M. Haueisen and Carol Flores
A Ready Hope: Effective Disaster Ministry for Congregations is an introduction for people of faith who are new to the ministry of disaster preparedness and response. Authors Kathy Haueisen and Carol Flores have both personal and professional experience dealing with the tropical storms and hurricanes that have roared through the Gulf Coast region the past decade. Residents of Houston, Texas, they have worked closely with ecumenical faith-based and other nongovernmental networks, governmental groups, judicatory leaders, and congregations as they have assisted those affected by these disasters. A Ready Hope provides an overview of existing disaster-response networks, details the predictable phases of disaster recovery at both the individual and community level, lifts up helpful and unhelpful ways that congregational leaders and members can be involved in disaster response efforts, and provides resources to prepare congregations to respond appropriately to a disaster in their community. A variety of organizations bring help when disaster strikes. Faith-based organizations also bring hope to the survivors of the disaster and to the other rescue and relief workers who leave home to assist. This book will help people of faith equip themselves to be part of God s heart and hands when a disaster occurs.

“Helping Without Hurting in Church Benevolence: A Practical Guide to Walking with Low-Income People” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
The best way to serve the poor when they ask your church for help.  Jesus was generous, but he was also wise. When the blind beggar asked him for mercy, Jesus gave sight, not money; He knew what the beggar truly needed. The church desires to be like her Savior and give the poor lasting relief. But the issues of poverty are so complex that we often don’t know what to do. Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert understand this well, and have written a tool to address this exact dilemma. “Helping Without Hurting in Church Benevolence “is a guidebook for walking with someone who approaches your church for financial assistance.

Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert with Katie Casselberry
“When Helping Hurts” is a paradigm-forming contemporary classic on the subject of poverty alleviation with over 300,000 copies in print. Now, this stand-alone resource applies the principles of “helping without hurting” specifically to short term missions.

“Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions” is aimed at the preparation and debriefing of short-term missionaries. It will take the fully-formed ideas of “When Helping Hurts” and apply them to short-term missions with theory, application, examples, and reader interaction through questions and journaling. It is an ideal resource for churches to use in preparing people to serve in a short term capacity without hurting the poor they are trying to serve. With eight units, six of which are built around free, online video content, Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions ” is the ideal short-term missions team resource for training, discussion, application in the field, and reflection on the experience after returning.

“Loving the World with God” by Rebecca Dwight Bruff
You’ve completed your Walk to Emmaus. Now what?  Drawing from 25 years of international and local mission experience, Rebecca Dwight Bruff invites you to continue your journey with Jesus after completing your Walk to Emmaus or other spiritual mountaintop experience. She guides you not only to explore the what of serving others but also why and how to live as the hands and feet of Christ.  From the Introduction: “This book is about loving the world with God – fostering compassionate, courageous lovers; people whose lives are defined and shaped by God. It’s about being the church – not the institution but the body of Jesus Christ. … Truth be told, I wanted to title this book ‘So you had a nice weekend with Jesus. Now get over yourself and go love the world already.’”

“Who Is My Neighbor?  ¿Qéuien Es Mi Vecino? Learning Spanish as Church Hospitality” by Joyce Carrasco, Ngoc-Diep Nguyen, Ruth Cassel Hoffman
Who Is My Neighbor? is a field-tested resource through which English speakers of any church and congregation can learn basic Spanish-speaking skills to be able to communicate and provide a welcoming atmosphere to the Hispanic communities surrounding them.

The six-session resource developed by the Northern Illinois Conference covers basic conversational Spanish, and simple and easy to follow Spanish-language worship material. The program encourages openness toward Spanish-speaking neighbors, understanding of different cultures, and compassion for those who struggle to learn English.

This resource is easily implemented by congregations of any size, and it results in a program of hospitality that will help include Hispanic communities in your church congregation.


Leadership: Articles & Websites

“Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First” by Susan Beaumont
On airplanes, adults are told to put their mask on before helping others so they will be fully conscious. In churches, adults need to attend to their own spiritual consciousness before they can ably assist children and youth with faith formation.

The Alban Institute at Duke Divinity School
For 40 years, the Alban name has been synonymous with building up congregations and their leaders.  Founded in 1974 by the Rev. Loren Mead, The Alban Institute pioneered new ways of enabling congregational leaders to be agents of grace and transformation that could shape and heal the world. Through its publishing house, educational offerings and consulting practice, it tackled vexing issues, such as conflict, transition, and mission in congregational and ministerial life – creating a rich, valuable resource for congregations, pastors and individuals alike.  In 2014, the Alban Institute transferred all of Alban’s intellectual properties to Duke University.

Rowman & Littlefield works with Alban Publishing to produe books on congregational leadership, development, and governance under the combined Rowman & Littlefield and Alban imprint (

“Equipping Board Leaders with Behavioral Expectations” by Susan Beaumont
How does your congregation prepare new board members for their role? Many congregations offer board member orientation, but often the training has more to do with denominational polity and congregational policy, and less to do with the interpersonal demands of the role. And yet, the thing that most frequently trips up the new board leader is a lack of awareness about behavioral boundaries.  This article shares some of the behavioral expectations we should create for our board leaders.

50 Ways to Build Strength, Lewis Center for Church Leadership

Need practical, actionable strategies to reach people more effectively?  The popular 50 Ways to Build Strength series provides tips for building strength in multiple areas of ministry that are vital to church growth.

“The Life Cycle and Stages of Congregational Development” by George Bullard

This article explores the ten stages of development in the life cycle and stages of congregational development.

Leadership: Books

“Renovate or Die: Ten Ways To Focus Your Church On Mission” by Bob Farr with Kay Kotan
Be the Church Jesus calls us to be. Bob Farr asserts that to change the world, we must first change the Church. As Adam Hamilton says in the Foreword, “Read [this book] carefully with other leaders in your church. . . . You’ll soon discover both a desire to renovate your church and the tools to effectively lead your church forward.” If we want to join Robert Schnase and claim radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service, and extravagant generosity, we must also engage pastors and motivate churches. We must renovate and overhaul our churches and not merely redecorate and tinker with our church structure.

With straightforward language and practical tips, this book will inspire and help you organize your church for new life on the mission field. Learn how to grow your church and discover the commitments that denominational leaders must make to guarantee the fruitfulness of local congregations.

Available at Arkansas Conference Office $10.00

“Vital Churches Changing Communities and the World” by Jorge Acevedo
What behaviors do highly vital congregations have in common? How can all congregations move toward greater vitality? In Vital, Jorge Acevedo passionately and effectively reveals how Grace Church in Cape Coral, Florida, has developed behaviors that result in vital and fruitful ministry. Focusing on spiritual pastoral leadership, lay leadership development, worship, small groups, and service and mission, Acevedo both inspires and coaches. He helps leaders of congregations act in their own contexts to develop behaviors essential to vitality, as identified by the recent study of 32,000 United Methodist congregations. The book includes brief summaries of learnings from the research written by Amy Valdez Barker, project manager for the Vital Congregations Initiative, as well as stories from other congregations illustrating vital behaviors in different settings.

“Revival Culture: Prepare for the Next Great Awakening” by Michael Brodeur and Banning Liebscher
We all want revival. We talk about it, pray for it, and devise every evangelism strategy imaginable. We read about the Great Awakening and recall the Jesus Movement. And today we stand at the precipice of another sweeping spiritual outbreak that could reach the ends of the earth. But are we ready? Revival Culture is an inspirational, biblical, and empowering manual for the next generation of revivalists. Michael Brodeur and Banning Liebscher have been witnessing a spiritual renewal at Bethel Church in Redding, California, and through Jesus Culture, that goes beyond slogans and high hopes to actually reaching. They have learned that transformation happens when we see the unreached as Jesus sees them and when we make revival a part of our lives rather than an event. This is the full picture of revival culture.

In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri Nouwen
Henri Nouwen was a spiritual thinker with an unusual capacity to write about the life of Jesus and the love of God in ways that have inspired countless people to trust life more fully. Most widely read among the over 40 books Father Nouwen wrote is In the Name of Jesus. For a society that measures successful leadership in terms of the effectiveness of the individual, Father Nouwen offers a counter definition that is witnessed by a “communal and mutual experience.” For Nouwen, leadership cannot function apart from the community. His wisdom is grounded in the foundation that we are a people “called.” This beautiful guide to Christian Leadership is the rich fruit of Henri Nouwen’s own journey as one of the most influential spiritual leaders of the 20th century.

“Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate: A New Vision for Financial Stewardship” by J. Clif Christopher
People don’t give to church because we don’t offer them a compelling vision of the good their giving will achieve.

Hearing a young attorney speak of the faith-based reasons for which he had just made a substantial monetary gift to a community youth center, Clif Christopher asked the speaker if he would consider making a similar contribution to the congregation of which he was an active member. “Lord, no they would not know what to do with it” was the answer. That, in a nutshell, describes the problem churches are facing in their stewardship efforts, says Christopher. Unlike leading nonprofit agencies and institutions, we too often fail to convince potential givers that their gifts will have impact and significance. In this book, Christopher lays out the main reasons for this failure to capture the imagination of potential givers, including our frequent failure simply to ask.

Written with the needs of pastors and stewardship teams in mind, Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate provides immediate, practical guidance to all who seek to help God’s people be better stewards of their resources.

“Rich Church, Poor Church: Keys to Effective Financial Ministry” by J. Clif Christopher
Does your church have the necessary funds to do ministry? In Dr. Clif Christopher’s nearly forty years in ministry as a pastor and President of Horizons Stewardship Company, he has witnessed the financial stewardship practices of thousands of churches. A few have exceptional records in acquiring and managing the necessary funds for mission and ministry, but the vast majority struggle every year to get by. In this important new work made even more relevant by our economic times, Christopher contrasts the traits of the most productive congregations with those who perennially fail to secure the funds to perform transformational ministry. Some churches practice the necessary financial habits that form the foundation of successful ministry, and others waste valuable resources and undermine ministry opportunities. Through Christopher’s insight born out of years of experience and consultation, readers can assess the financial condition of their own churches.

“Size Transitions in Congregations,” edited by Beth Ann Gaede

Congregations that seek growth are often frustrated at hitting a plateau-caught in a transition zone between sizes. The Alban Institute has long been recognized as a leader in size transition research and learning, and this anthology offers an in-depth collection of resources, through new articles developed for the book as well as previously published and highly regarded pieces that inform and provoke.

“Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations” by Bishop Robert Schnase
People are searching for a church shaped and sustained by Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service, and Extravagant Generosity. These fundamental practices are critical to the success of congregations. Their presence and strength demonstrate congregational health, vitality, and fruitfulness. By repeating and improving these practices, churches fulfill their mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Additional committee, small group, and devotional materials are also available.

“Leading Beyond the Walls: Developing Congregations with a Heart for the Unchurched” by Adam Hamilton
Good pastoral leadership is not a “by the numbers” proposition. It is a matter of heart and soul, of devoting the whole self to the vision God gives for the congregation in which one serves. Yet neither is it purely intuitive; it requires hard, careful thinking about the directions and details of the path down which God calls. When Adam Hamilton became pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, its membership consisted of himself and his family. Ten years later the church averages between five and six thousand worshipers per weekend. Throughout this remarkable period, Hamilton learned many serious lessons about both the broad visions and the specific details of pastoral leadership. Bringing a depth of analytical skills often lacking in visionary leaders, in this book he goes beyond simply telling the story of Church of the Resurrection. He shares the questions that he learned to ask about the largely unchurched population to which Church of the Resurrection has reached out. Further, he demonstrates what he learned by listening to the answers to these questions, and how doing so has made possible a number of strategically crucial decisions the church has made. One of those crucial decisions was to make more traditional forms of worship and praise the center of the congregation’s life. The result is that the example of Church of the Resurrection offers pastors and church leaders (especially those in mainline denominations) the realization that they need not completely change their liturgical and theological identity in order to reach out to the unchurched. Drawing on his own experience, as well as the detailed research on the characteristics of highly successful congregations he undertook during a sabbatical leave, Hamilton offers pastors and other church leaders solid, substantive thinking on steps that congregations can take to become centers of vibrant outreach and mission.

“Falling Upward; A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life” by Richard Rohr
A fresh way of thinking about spirituality that grows throughout life.  In Falling Upward, Fr. Richard Rohr seeks to help readers understand the tasks of the two halves of life and to show them that those who have fallen, failed, or “gone down” are the only ones who understand “up.” Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling down can largely be experienced as “falling upward.” In fact, it is not a loss but somehow actually a gain, as we have all seen with elders who have come to their fullness.  This important book explores the counterintuitive message that we grow spiritually much more by doing wrong than by doing right.

“Never Call Them Jerks”by Author Paul Boers
No church is immune to the problems that can arise when parishioners behave in difficult ways. Responding to such situations with self-awareness and in a manner true to one s faith tradition makes the difference between peace and disaster. In this short book, Boers shows how a better understanding of difficult behavior can help congregational leaders avoid the trap of labeling such parishioners and exercise self-care when the going gets rough.

“Conflict Management in Congregations,” edited by David B Lott
This anthology of articles gathers 20 classic Alban works on congregational conflict into a single, indispensable volume. Conflict Management in Congregations harvests the collected wisdom of many of the key thinkers on this topic, including such past and present Alban consultants as Speed Leas, George Parsons, Margaret Bruehl, Gil Rendle, Alice Mann, and Roy Pneumann. Much of the material found here has long been unavailable but is still much in demand. Divided into three sections that explore the dynamics of conflict, conflict management techniques, and dealing with conflict in specific contexts, this book serves as a comprehensive primer for pastors and congregational leaders.

“Raising the Roof: The Pastoral-to-Program Size Transition” by Alice Mann
Pastoral-to-program size change is frequently described as the most challenging of growth transitions for congregations. Now Alban senior consultant Alice Mann, author of The In-Between Church: Navigating Size Transitions in Congregations, addresses the difficulties of that transition in this resource designed specifically for a congregational learning team. Conceptualized and developed by Mann for an Alban on-line seminar program test event conducted with 12 congregations in transition, her newest book features a five-step process enabling the learning team to engage a wider circle of congregational leaders and members in study, discernment, and planning. Never-before published resources include discussion of a major new concept—passive barriers to growth—plus Mann’s “System Change Index” tool to help congregations measure their progress from pastoral-size to program-size ways of operating. From preparing the congregation’s board and members, selecting the person to guide the learning process, and recruiting the learning team, to creating and celebrating a plan for congregational learning and action, Mann provides all the resources a congregation needs to address this significant size transition period.


"Creating vital congregations that make disciples of Jesus Christ,who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities and the world."

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