Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Book Notes: The Big Idea

Another one of the books I read during my study-break was Dave Ferguson's The Big Idea. Dave is the lead pastor at Community Christian Church in the Chicago, Illinois area. He also writes a great blog that I follow regularly. This book is primarily about how the church can make a bigger impact in people's lives by slimming everything down to one main message per weekend. The team at their church then works to get children's ministry, student ministry, small-groups, worship ministry, and preaching all making the same point each week. Ferguson makes the claim that this multiplies impact throughout the families in the church.

Of course, it has take their church years to get to the place where every part of the organization can work together. But one of the great challenges I took away from Ferguson's book was to do sermon writing and planning earlier - work ahead! This sounds easy, but it is not common among teaching pastors. Ferguson's group does some things I think are strange in sermon-planning (group-preparation) and some things I don't agree with philosophically (topically-driven 4-6 week sermon series), but they do great work in getting their work done far in advance. This in turn helps the creative people on their team to have time to supplement the message with additional communication elements. I really enjoyed this work and appreciate their impact for the kingdom - also a great church-planting church (started the New Thing Network). Here's a summary of The Big Idea:
  • Ferguson’s main theme is that people are overloaded with too much information throughout their daily life, and that this process continues at church, where many small ideas are communicated through unaligned ministries. He advocates aligning ministries and messages into one Big Idea every weekend that focused on application of biblical principles, not just communication of biblical truth.
  • One big question is whether the different ministry areas of the church that are overseen by different ministry leaders/staff are all heading the same direction and aligned in their purpose – are we helping or hurting families by our efforts?
  • Ferguson advocates that small-groups use discussion guides built on the sermon each week and gives the following five reasons for this alignment:
  1. Increases likelihood of application of biblical principles
  2. Diminishes people’s fears of leading a small group
  3. Eliminates the question, “what do we study next?”
  4. Makes the group another venue to communicate vision
  5. Increases the quality of the small group experience
  • The benefits of the Big Idea process each week:

  1. Less energy and better product
  2. New ideas and good ideas (brainstorming weeks ahead, critiquing weekly)
  3. Cross-generational in appeal
  4. Targeted and reproducible curriculum
  5. Planned and spontaneous creativity
  6. More believers and more maturity (obedience)

  • Ferguson argues for starting Basic (with just the weekend service, planning far ahead), then adding additional components as possible (different ministry areas), then collaborate with church-plants on planning series**.
  • CCC’s team does a 12-month ministry plan for Big Ideas, starting with a huge brainstorming session to generate 3-6 week series ideas. Then, a small group of decision makers meet to set the Big-Idea calendar for the next 12-months. This group spends time praying together, talking through the flow of the calendar, talking through the various topical series, then putting the Big Ideas on the calendar. After the 12-month calendar is complete, the teaching pastor puts together a weekly Big Idea summary sheet to lead the creative team in their planning.
  • CCC’s timeline to pull off creativity around their Big Ideas:
  1. 10-13 weeks out: Big Idea graph sent to each department
  2. 9 weeks out: Big Idea creative planning meeting
  3. 5 weeks out: Big Idea reality check (can we pull this off?)
  4. 3 weeks out: Big Idea teaching team meeting & study-guide production
  5. 2 weeks out: Sermon Manuscript 1.0 and media completed
  6. 1 week out: Final run-through with all resources in place

  • The impact of the creative-planning process will work best with three elements: advanced planning that gives the creative people time to work, proximity to each other as staff (they work in offices with no walls), parameters for the creative elements (do they help or distract from the Big Idea?
  • For a good creative-team meeting, creative songs, video ideas, and sketch ideas need to be brainstormed before the meeting, everyone needs to lay down their egos so that the best ideas can be selected, the team needs to work through the graph overview from the teaching pastor, then use active brainstorming to generate ideas. Select good ideas, then put together the service order – don’t get stuck in a rut of dong the same things over and over again!
  • CCC uses a teaching-team approach where they generate most of the teaching material in a teaching-team meeting (105 minutes), then the teaching pastor for that week takes the next two to revise the manuscript to its final form.

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