This Is How I Small Group is a periodic series getting to know members of the small group. Some will have decades of experience, others will be brand new to small group ministry. Each one has a unique perspective that makes them invaluable to their church and to the small group network.
Name: Franco Martinez
Current town: Agawam, MA
Current church: Bethany Assembly of God
Current job title: Connections Pastor
How long you’ve been in that role: 2 years
One word that describes how you work: Inquisitively
Q. How did you come to be here? Share about your background.
A. I’ve been at Bethany for 2 years now. I had 3 months to settle into my role before COVID shut everything down for a few months.
As for how I got to Bethany, it’s honestly a mind-blowing story of God’s faithfulness. My wife, Jackie, and I prayed for God to make our steps clear when it came to my ministry assignment, and He did exactly that. These first 2 years of being Connections Pastor have been incredible, and I’m looking forward to all that God has for me in this season here.
January 2022 will be 12 years in ministry for me. Bethany is my 3rd church I serve at. My previous 2 churches were Kids and Youth Ministry focused, but after 10 years of that, I felt ready for a change. When I stumbled across the job posting for a Connections Pastor at Bethany, I was instantly hooked. I wanted the job, and fortunately, it was God’s will for Jackie and I.
Q. What does a typical work day look like for you?
A. So as the Connections Pastor, I oversee:
Next Steps – Comprised of “First Steps” which is our new believers class, and “Partner Track” which is our membership class.
Christian Education – Our Sunday School Program, which for right now is not happening. It will potentially be redesigned/re-envisioned and brought back later once Connect Groups have been firmly established.
Every workday starts with 20-30 minutes of just planning/strategizing the day/week/month ahead. Those 20-30 minutes define my day every single time. I tried a system of taking one day of the week to focus on a different aspect of my responsibilities, but that was just an irrational dream. So, typically it’s 1–2-hour chunks per day on my different responsibilities.
I described my work style as inquisitive. I said that because I’m always curious not just what other churches are doing, but why they are doing it that way. I love researching that stuff because it helps make sure that I don’t let my thoughts/ideas/plans develop one-dimensionally.
So, with that said, I fully admit, I can be working on something for Bethany, and my curiosity takes me down a google search for more information. It’s not just information for the sake of information, but to serve as the foundation of praying through what I believe is the best fit for Bethany’s Mission and Vision as it pertains to these ministries.
Q. What about groups ministry have you been the most fulfilled by?
A. I feel like I’m cheating by saying the people, but honestly, that’s what it is.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love being a strategy/ideas person, especially at Bethany. Our church is a church in a major transition period. We are just over 2 years into the leadership of a new lead pastor, which also saw 3 pastors retire and 1 move on to another ministry position. All 4 of those pastors had anywhere from 15-28 years invested at Bethany. When I say major transition period, I do not think I am overstating that. So I’ve enjoyed the reimagining, re-envisioning, restructuring of ministry that has happened so far at Bethany, but the most fulfilling part has been the people.
Hearing people tell me how their Connect Group was their support system for a tough time they were going through, or how attending their CG was the highlight of their week is always incredible. It makes me even more grateful for our Connect Group leaders who have jumped fully into this ministry. I’ve heard stories of people who have attended Bethany for a while saying, “I’ve always seen that person, but all I ever said was hi, and now I’ve gotten to know them, and they are great!” It’s those connections that really are so rewarding. Our mission for Connect Groups is to grow in 3 levels of Connection: Upward, Inward, and Outward. I’ve always been a fierce believer in people knowing that church is a place they absolutely belong. I want people to come to a Connect Group or come to church, and experience a genuine, authentic love from our people, so that when they hear about the love of God in the sermon, they know that His love is real. They know it’s real because they experienced it through their Connect Group leader, their Connect Group friends, the hospitality team at church, or their visit at Guest Central. I hope that Bethany can be a place that is known for being as passionate for people as we are for the gospel.
Q. What tools, apps, subscriptions, etc are most helpful to you?
A. I haven’t been able to shut up about how much the iPad Pro/Apple Pencil combo has been a huge game-changer for me.
With GoodNotes5, I am organized like I have never been before when it comes to work. My 20-30 minutes to start my day all happen in GoodNotes5, and it has been a massive, helpful improvement in my productivity. I know it’s a pretty penny, but I highly recommend it.
In terms of ministry, I am a massive fan of Text In Church and MinistryGrid. I have a lot to learn for both of those tools, but I love them, and can’t wait to grow in my use of them.
Also, huge shout-outs to Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel for their churches offering their Small Group curriculums for free.
Q. What are your best work tips or productivity hacks?
A. Get an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil and GoodNotes5. (I told you I can’t shut up about it.)
Q. What have been your biggest questions since you began your role and how would you say they’ve been answered?
A. How do I continually, repeatedly cast this vision without being stale and redundant?
What does successful taking root of Connect Groups at Bethany look like?
What’s a healthy trajectory of growth look like?
Am I communicating as clearly as I can with clear steps for progress/advancement/partnership?
Q. What is your current biggest struggle?
A. Let me tell you about this one person…
I would say it’s a common conundrum pastors face all over:
How do I enact change in a church that needs change with people that say it needs change whose people maybe don’t love change?
If you have the answer, let me know. STAT.
Q. Would you describe yourself as more of a processes person, or strategy/ideas person, or something else?
A. Absolutely a strategy/ideas person. I love big picture stuff and am growing (or at least trying to grow) in the details/small stuff.
Q. Are you currently in a small group, and if so, what makes your small group unique?
A. Our Connect Group semester ended 11/21 with a Friendsgiving Potluck and it was an AWESOME end to a great semester of Connect Groups.
I had the honor of running our Indoor Soccer Connect Group this past semester, and I absolutely loved every second of it. Well, maybe not every second, since in Week 3 I severely sprained my ankle. I couldn’t play the rest of the semester, but I was there, and we had such a great group of people come out and play! We would take some time to chat about the week’s sermon, pray for each other, and then the games would begin. I love the idea of activity-based groups and I am thrilled I got to host the first one at Bethany. Jesus, Soccer, and People combined? Doesn’t get better than that. (I lied. Add food. After the running around. That’s the pinnacle.) *Scribbles notes for next semester’s group in GoodNotes5 with Apple Pencil on iPad Pro*
Q. In your time in your role, what are you most proud of?
A. My improved productivity because of Good…Never mind.
If you’re still reading at this point, thanks for putting up with me. (Pray for Jackie, who is 16 weeks pregnant with our first, and has to live with me.)
I am most proud of the improvements our Hospitality Team has made, and the genuine buy-in of our Connect Group leaders.
I love when teams buy in and accomplish things together, with unity, love, and passion. We have grown a lot, we have plenty of growth opportunities ahead as well, but all in all, I’m proud of those teams and their buy-in. Change isn’t easy. It has its bumps and rocky moments, but these 2 years have gone decently well with those 2 areas.
Q. If you could offer someone starting day one as a small group point person, 1 piece of advice, what would it be?
A. Share your vision and passion like Dwight did for his Salesman of the Year speech, remembering that blood alone moves the wheels of history. (That has a Jon Acuff Jesus Juke just waiting to be used. You’re welcome)
This is something I am walking through right now: Why?
It’s easy to give the “what” we do.
It’s the “why” we do it that needs to be clear and compelling. If it doesn’t excite you, it won’t excite them.
Why are you doing what you do ?
Why should they partner with you?
Why? Why? Why?
Q. Who would you most like to see answer these questions (either because you want to know what they have to say or because you think everyone else should hear what they have to say)?
A. I want to hear from the person who has more people in their small group ministry than they have in church on Sunday. (That is, if they actually exist.)
Founded by Saddleback Church’s Global Small Group Pastor Steve Gladen, the Small Group Network is an International and Inter-denominational community that “exists to connect personally with and resource strategically Small Group Point People to impact globally to build healthy biblical communities in their local church”. We currently serve ten’s of thousands of small group point people in over 100 different countries.