3 LAST MINUTE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO LAUNCH MORE GROUPS THIS FALL

3 LAST MINUTE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO LAUNCH MORE GROUPS THIS FALL

If you’re like me…you’re what seems like moments away from starting the biggest opportunity you have all year to launch new groups.  Of course I’m talking about mid-September to early October.  And we’re just a few weeks away.

But are there still last minute things you can do to launch more groups?  Absolutely!  Here are 3 that will make a difference:

3 LAST MINUTE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO LAUNCH MORE GROUPS THIS FALL

First, ask your existing groups to take a small group vacation.  

It’s an easy idea.  It’s also a powerful idea.  You know how when you look at many of the best groups in your small group ministry there are members who could be leading?  Maybe should be leading? And you know, like I know, that those members who should be leading will often tell you that their group is where they receive? That they’re contributing elsewhere (children’s ministry, student ministry, greeting, etc.)?

You’ve seen this, right?

Here’s the quick workaround:

Invite them make a 6 to 8 week commitment to lead a brand new group this fall. Assure them that it’s only a 6 to 8 week commitment and you’ll help them spot a leader who can help the group continue beyond the first study.

You will occasionally need to live up to your agreement, but it is much more common for these short term leaders to insist on staying with the members of the new group. It’s just that kind of experience.

See also, Take a Small Group Vacation.

Second, take advantage of testimonies to recruit hosts and/or members.

Nothing is better than personal story to help people see the value of community. Whether you leverage last year’s story of someone who invited a couple friends to join them for the study or another who simply said yes to joining a group, who can argue with it?

When you find the right person, whether a recent host or a recent member, there story is really all you need. Yes, you do need to give potential hosts or potential group members a way of responding that will help them say yes (drop insert in the offering, click the link in the email, etc.), but it’s an easy adjustment.

Personally, I’ve found I like the video version better (I can edit for effectiveness, add music to soften the mood, etc.), but it also works fine live. If you choose to use live testimony, I’d definitely suggest having the testimony written out and rehearsed.

See also, Take advantage to testimony to recruit hosts.

Third, plan a late September or early October Small Group Connection.

Have you run up against what might be the most common small group ministry roadblock? Not enough leaders?

Don’t know who to ask to lead a few new groups?  No matter. The Small Group Connection strategy identifies leaders at the event!

If you’re stumped, you need to spend some time with this article. There’s no question in my mind that the very best way to launch the largest number of groups and connect the largest number of unconnected people is with a small group connection.

The beauty of a small group connection is that the event itself forms groups from the attenders. Don’t have enough new leaders in your back pocket? No matter. Let the connection process do the heavy lifting.

One of my most common conversations is with the small group pastor or senior pastor who admits they do not know everyone. In fact, it is very common for churches averaging more than 200 to have a growing number of attenders that no one knows. Think about it. If 10% of the unknown attenders have leadership potential…it could be that the best potential leaders you have in your church are people you don’t know.

Want to find them? Learn how to run the small group connection strategy. You will be amazed at how consistently it identifies the best candidates in the room.

See also, How to Launch New Groups with a Small Group Connection.

Set up a coaching call:

Need help with this?  Sometimes the best move you can make is to bring in a strategic outsider with fresh eyes to join the conversation.  I’d love to help you.  Why not Email Me to find out how easy it is to get started?

Friday’s List | August 18

fridays-listEvery Friday I post a short list of the things I’m reading, listening to, loving and wrestling with:

Here’s what I’m reading right now:

7 THINGS TO ASK WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN by Michael Hyatt. I love questions and this post is packed with great questions.

3 Easy Ways To Know The Quality Of Your Leadership by Carey Nieuwhof. Some great insights here.

4 Regular Habits Of Relational Leaders by Jeremiah Ravindranath on Vanderbloemen.com. (HT Tim Stevens). This short read is a must if you need to build habits.

Eyes to the Skies: What the Total Solar Eclipse Means for Your Church by Ally Siwajian on Church Marketing Sucks. This post has some very good ideas for North America’s first total solar eclipse in 99 years.

Eclipse: Who? What? Where? When? and How? on the NASA website. Very informative on the upcoming solar eclipse.

The Magnificent Story: Uncovering the Gospel of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth by James Bryan Smith. Read slowly. Savor.

Here’s what I’m listening to:

Eugene Peterson On Why He Wrote The Message, The Rhythms Of A Reflective Life + Mark Batterson And Adam Weber On Peterson’s Legacy on the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast. Very rewarding conversation.

Jesus Heals Two Blind Men by Mark Clark, Village Church, a multi-site church in Surrey, BC. (HT Carey Nieuwhof).

Dr. Tim Elmore—Meet Generation Z on the EntreLeadership podcast. Very interesting on the next generation and a new era. Note: There is a story about 33 minutes in that is absolutely stunning. Don’t miss it!

Making Work That Lasts (with Ryan Holiday) on the Accidental Creative podcast. Great conversation. If you’re a creative..listen to this.

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future Audible Audiobook – Unabridged by Kevin Kelly. Very interesting. One of the books I’m recommending on my 2017 Summer Reading List.

Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You. I reviewed the DVD and Study Guide in 2014. Loved that part of the project and this one is very good too. 

Quotes I’m wrestling with:

“Our best hope and our responsibility is to create organizational cultures that recognize rather than resists uniquely better.” Andy Stanley

App I’m using:

I’m learning to consistently leverage Evernote as my go-to place to store ideas, quotes, and content. I’ve had this app for several years and always mean to use it more.

My own post I hope you’re reading:

FAQ: WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO LAUNCH NEW SMALL GROUPS?
What’s the best way to launch new small groups? Ever asked that one?  I get asked that question a lot…probably more than any other question. And for good reason, after all, who isn’t trying to increase the number of groups (and the number of people in groups) in their church?

FAQ: WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO LAUNCH NEW SMALL GROUPS?

FAQ: WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO LAUNCH NEW SMALL GROUPS?

What’s the best way to launch new small groups? Ever asked that one?  I get asked that question a lot…probably more than any other question. And for good reason, after all, who isn’t trying to increase the number of groups (and the number of people in groups) in their church?

So what’s the answer?  It’s not as easy as that. I could tell you what think, but I’d rather lead you through a way of thinking about it so that you can make up your own mind. Ready for that? Okay…here’s how I talk about it.

First, a couple assumptions.  Here they are:

  1. There is no problem-free. This is a very important realization. What it means is that no matter what situation you’re wrestling with, all of the possible solutions to that situation have issues. All of them. There is no problem-free.  You just have to choose which of the problem sets you’d rather have.
  2. There’s an upside and a downside to everything. In some ways this is a corollary to the first assumption. What it means is that nothing is without some of both (positive and negative). You may want to argue that there are some purely negative things. I’ve not run into one but I’m not going to argue it.  Just take it for what it is. Turns out there’s even an upside and a downside to the assumption!

5 Common Methods of Launching New Groups:

Now the answer to the question: “What’s the best way to launch new small groups?” Remember that we’re going to walk through a way of determining that for your own congregation. To do that, you need to know that there are several common ways that groups are being started.

  1. The Old Fashioned Way: A leader is recruited (either from an existing small group or out of the congregation) and usually given some kind of training.  Those who sign up to be join a small group are assigned to the new leader once training is completed. A slight variation of this one is where people who would like to lead a small group can sign up to be trained. Either way, a leader is either recruited or signs up on their own. This method is probably the most familiar. Whether you’re a cell church, embrace the meta model, or are totally into affinity based small groups, this is your method at its root.
  2. A Small Group Fair is another slight twist on the old fashioned way. After being vetted and trained, new leaders are given the opportunity to take part in a kind of meet and greet where potential new members can mingle with leaders, get a feel for the leader and the kind of group and choose a group to join.
  3. Small Group Connection Event: An event is used to gather potential small group members and then a process sorts prospective members by some kind of affinity. In the Saddleback version, the newly formed group is led to choose a leader from amongst themselves. This is often referred to as a “small group connection.”
  4. GroupLink is a North Point version of the connection strategy designed to utilize preselected and prequalified leaders for the new groups (a backup option in the strategy enables new groups to form without a prequalified leader when there are not enough leaders to connect the number of new members looking for a group to join).
  5. The HOST Strategy (as part of a church-wide campaign): Hosts (as opposed to “leaders”) are recruited to open their home for the length of the campaign series (often 6 weeks) and invite a few of their friends to be part of the group. The recruiting process can be done by tapping the shoulders of the “usual suspects” or as a kind of invitation in the worship service itself. The way you recruit has an effect on who hosts and ultimately whose friends get invited. Ordinarily, the church does not provide members, instead they are personally invited by the Host. A version of the strategy enables Host volunteers who have been vetted and trained to be listed as open groups ready to receive unconnected people looking for a small group.

Problem Sets:

Now that you know some of the most common ways that new groups are started, let’s develop the problem sets for each of the strategies.

The Old Fashioned Way (including a small group fair)

  1. Sometimes difficult to get apprentice leaders to leave their existing small group when it’s time to birth.
  2. Difficult to find qualified leaders who are not currently in a small group.
  3. Challenging to find enough leaders to provide the number of groups needed.
  4. Some who volunteer to lead have alternative motives.

The Small Group Connection Strategy

  1. Uncertainty about the maturity or appropriateness of the person chosen to lead.
  2. Lack of control about the quality of the leader candidates.
  3. Those chosen to lead may be unwilling to commit to leading.
  4. Might necessitate an honest conversation if the group chooses someone with insurmountable issues.

The GroupLink Strategy

  1. Need to build a process that identifies, vets and trains potential leaders in advance.
  2. Challenging to identify, vet and train enough prequalified leaders to connect the number of potential members seeking a group.
  3. Possible false starts in cases of groups beginning without prequalified leaders.

The HOST Strategy

  1. Uncertainty about the maturity or appropriateness of the person who volunteers to host
  2. Lack of control about the quality of the HOST candidates
  3. Those who commit to host a group may not wish to continue beyond the campaign series.
  4. Might necessitate an honest conversation if the host candidate doesn’t meet your qualifications

Conclusion? Based on these problem sets, which way do you go?  You can surely see that there really isn’t a problem-free solution.  Which set would you rather have?  In some ways it may depend on things like how concerned you are about your unconnected members and attendees, how effective you’ve been at recruiting and developing new leaders, or how well you know the unconnected people in your congregation.

What do you think?  Have a question?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Further Reading: 

Top 10 Reasons Saddleback Has Connected Over 130% In Groups

Top 10 Reasons North Point Has Connected Over 72000 in Groups

Top 10 Reasons North Coast Has Consistently Connected Over 80%

Skill Training: 5 Practical Tips for Getting the Most out of Your Next Study

Skill Training: Practical Tips for Getting the Most out of Your Next Study

If you don’t need to choose your group’s next study yet, it’s just a matter of time. Eventually, every group finishes what they’re studying and begins the next one.

Here are 5 practical tips for getting the most out of your next study:

How long your group has been meeting determines whether you should seek group members’ opinions or not.

Groups that have only been meeting a short time (three months or less), may not have the relational strength to survive a discussion, debate or vote about what to do next. If your group is relatively new, it is usually best to ask your small group or director for a single recommendation (i.e., “What would be the best study for our group to do next?”).

More experienced groups often enjoy choosing what’s next from a short list of three or four options.

Give some thought to choosing a study that meets your group members’ growth needs.

Think about your group members. Do they have some obvious areas of challenge? How’s their spiritual growth and development? Do they have some spiritual muscles that are underdeveloped?

Some churches find Saddleback’s Spiritual Health Assessment and Plan to be helpful in encouraging group members to self-assess and choose a study that will help shore up an area of weakness. This assessment is based on the 5 purposes (Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry, Mission, and Worship) and helps group members complete a very simple evaluation.

See also, Skill Training: Equip Leaders To Help Members Plan To Grow.

Consider which of your members may be ready for a new challenge (and invite them to take a next step).

Beginning a new study is an excellent time to invite one or more of your members to take a turn leading the discussion or serving as a sub-group leader. As you make plans, simply have a conversation and invite them to “give it a try in an upcoming session.”

You’ll want to ask them privately (not in front of everyone). Promise them the help they need to feel comfortable. And sometimes, asking them to lead a part of a session is just the right amount of challenge.

In addition, a new study might be a great time to invite someone else to open up their home for group meetings. Coordinating snacks, leading prayer time or keeping a prayer list are other ways that members can be encouraged to take a next step and share the load of leading.

The best time to invite a few new members is when you’re preparing to begin a new study.

If you need to add a few new members it can be helpful to keep that in mind as you choose what to study next and when to begin. Never forget that the topic of your study plays an important role in determining who will say “yes” to attending.

Begin inviting potential new members a few weeks ahead of beginning a new study. Giving them time to say “yes” will help more people make arrangements to attend.

Consider planning a social event just before the new study begins. A backyard cookout or themed potluck and trivia night goes a long way toward helping potential new members ease into the group.

See also, Skill Training: 10 Steps to Help New Group Members Connect

Take a look at the calendar before beginning a new study.

Timing is everything! Pulling out the calendar and looking ahead at the next couple months can help your group make plans to complete the study you choose.

Noting that spring break or Thanksgiving is a few weeks away shouldn’t deter you from beginning a new study, but it should cause you to plan for a break in the action (i.e., “I’m noticing that spring break is the week before Easter. Should we plan to take that night off and resume the following week?”).

Many small group ministries provide a game-plan for “surviving the holidays” or ideas for staying connected during the summer.

See also, Skill Training: Help Your Life Group Survive the Holidays and Skill Training: Help Your Newest Groups Survive the Summer.

Further Reading:

Top 10 Simple Skill Trainings for New Small Group Hosts

See my collection of Skill Training articles for group leaders and coaches right here.

Would this help you launch more new groups this fall?

Would this help you launch more new groups this fall?

If your church is like most churches, the fall ministry season is an important part of your annual strategy. As school begins and summer vacations come to an end there is often an attendance bump. In some communities the end of summer and the beginning of fall is accompanied by the largest number of new attendees as new residents begin to look for a church.

If your church is like my church, your fall ministry season hasn’t kicked off yet, but it’s just about to begin. Here at Canyon Ridge we’re one weekend in to a six weekend onramp to our fall groups launch.

We’re definitely close enough to the fall to see how it’s shaping up and make a few last minute tweaks to our strategy.

Need a few ideas?

Need some ideas that might help your fall ministry season?  Here are a few articles:

Can I help you further?

I regularly coach churches on preparing for church-wide campaigns and growth initiatives. While I am sometimes available for an onsite consultation, I can also schedule a series of video conference calls to guide your team through the process.  Find out how a one hour coaching call could help you! .

Friday’s List | August 11

fridays-listEvery Friday I post a short list of the things I’m reading, listening to, loving and wrestling with:

Here’s what I’m reading right now:

5 Unfortunate Trade-Offs Churches Are Making Today by Austin Savage on TonyMorganLive.com. Very interesting.

The Content Battle: When Google Has the Answers to Questions the Church Should be Addressing by Tiffany Deluccia on TonyMorganLive.com. Great insights into a very real dilemma.

5 Ways Tracking Church Attendance Messes With Your Soul by Carey Nieuwhof. A little scary, but better to get this out of the dark..

Productivity Secrets From Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Susan Wojcicki, And More by Stephanie Vozza on Fast Company. First, the Fast Company email newsletter is great. Read this and then subscribe. Second, there is some great stuff in this short article.

The ONE Big Key to Becoming a Successful Person by Brandon A. Cox.  I see a pattern developing on my feed this week.

13 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR EMPLOYEES PULL THEIR HAIR OUT by Michael Hyatt. A little convicting and a little affirming. I’ll take both and improve.

The Magnificent Story: Uncovering the Gospel of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth by James Bryan Smith. Read slowly. Savor.

Here’s what I’m listening to:

Mark Clark On Apologetics For Post-Christian, Post-Modern Young Adults: Sex, Hell, Science And So Much More on the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast. I may have found a new favorite communicator.

The Developer’s Dark Side by Craig Groeschel on the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast. This is talking about the dark side of people development.

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg in Lead, Lead Again on the Masters of Scale podcast with Reid Hoffman. If you heard Sandberg at the Global Leadership Summit, this interview will round out your sense of her leadership. A very compelling conversation.

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future Audible Audiobook – Unabridged by Kevin Kelly. Very interesting. One of the books I’m recommending on my 2017 Summer Reading List.

Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You. I reviewed the DVD and Study Guide in 2014. Loved that part of the project and this one is very good too. 

Quotes I’m wrestling with:

“Our best hope and our responsibility is to create organizational cultures that recognize rather than resists uniquely better.” Andy Stanley

App I’m using:

I’m learning to consistently leverage Evernote as my go-to place to store ideas, quotes, and content. I’ve had this app for several years and always mean to use it more.

My own post I hope you’re reading:

5 MISTAKES THAT CAUSE SMALL GROUP LAUNCHES TO MISFIRE

Most likely you are about to launch new groups. Read this one to avoid these 5 mistakes.

New from James Bryan Smith: The Magnificent Story Is a Great Addition

My review copy of The Magnificent Story by James Bryan Smith arrived a few days ago and I’ve been spending some great time with it. A new book from Smith is something I can’t wait to see and regularly come back to. I read and give away a lot of books. I never part with one of these.

James Bryan Smith is Associate Professor in the Religion and Humanities Department at Friends University and the author of The Apprentice Series (The Good and Beautiful God, The Good and Beautiful Life, and The Good and Beautiful Community). A part of the Renovaré community, his writing has a Dallas Willard feel to it with a healthy dose of John Ortberg readability.

The Magnificent Story: Uncovering the Gospel of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth is anchored by a simple idea, a simple thesis:

“There is a magnificent story, which is the most important thing happening on this earth. It is our only hope as individuals, communities, countries, and a species. But for a variety of reasons the gospel message we often hear, the story often told, is shrunken and distorted. This is why we see so many frustrated, disappointed Christians. It is not that they are bad people, but they have never heard the magnificent story in its fullness (p. 13).”

Like Smith’s previous books, The Magnificent Story is a book to be experienced with a group. Every chapter is a rich experience, exploring an important element of the overall idea (the magnificent story) and is followed by a soul training exercise.  The exercise is designed to “deepen the ideas and narratives you will be learning.” A well-written set of discussion questions for each chapter are included in the built-in study guide.

Every chapter is an exploration of an underlying narrative; A false narrative told by many, if not all. And a true narrative at the essence of the magnificent story. Smith’s style is quite readable, interspersed with story and reference to illustration. And at the same time, I find myself reading paragraphs again in an attempt to squeeze every last idea from them. Most chapters end up quite marked up, underlined, and starred, because I know I’ll want to come back and revisit a number of ideas.

I like the reading pattern Smith encourages. Spend a week with each chapter, journaling your insights. Read and engage in the soul training exercise. Then come and discuss with your group.

If you’re looking for a book to hand to some of your more reflective and contemplative groups (we all have them), I highly recommend The Magnificent Story. If you can’t think of groups that have this flavor, consider starting one with this book. You will definitely find people who will savor this one.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

HELP YOUR NEW AND EXPERIENCED SMALL GROUP LEADERS THIS FALL

HELP YOUR NEW AND EXPERIENCED SMALL GROUP LEADERS THIS FALL

There are a few things you can do to help your newest leaders and your most experienced leaders this fall.

Help them choose the right study for their group.

Obviously, if you’re launching a church-wide campaign you’ll be encouraging all of your group leaders to use the study that goes with it. Keying on getting the most our of the weekend series and the importance of having the same conversation as everyone else will help them say yes to setting aside any previous plans and joining in.

If your church isn’t doing a church-wide campaign, give some thought to a few well-selected titles and point experienced leaders in the right direction (3 to 5 is a good short list. The more you add the harder it is for them to choose). It’s easy if you use RightNow Media. It’s just as easy to put together an email with a list of 3 to 5 ideas.

Remember, the newer the group, the fewer choices the better (I choose the launching study and the follow up study for our new groups). When they get to their 3rd study, I begin to give them 3 to 5 to choose from.

Bring your coaches into the loop on the studies you are recommending. They can be much more helpful when they’re recommending the same studies.

See also, Here’s a Sample Recommended List.

Help them add new members to their group.

While I don’t recommend match-making or taking responsibility to resupply experienced leaders with new members to fill up their groups, I want to do what I can to help experienced leaders and new leaders learn to “fish for themselves.”

Our new leader orientation materials include the handout, Top 10 Ways to Find New Members for Your Group. We also send the article out to experienced group leaders on an annual basis.

This is also an area your coaches should be trained in, as it is one of the most common skills new leaders need to learn.

See also, Skill Training: How to Invite a Few Friends to Join You for the Study and Skill Training: 10 Steps to Help New Group Members Connect.

Help them think logistically about when to start new studies.

This may not come naturally to all of your group leaders (new and experienced), but it should at least be an acquired skill for you. In light of holidays, school schedules, and the natural rhythms of your church and community, there are often train wrecks lurking that are avoidable.

Give them ideas for group serving opportunities. 

Serving together is a great community building activity. If your church already has a set of local partners (shelters, food banks, etc.), take advantage of it. If you don’t, you might recruit a team to investigate opportunities in your area and build your own list.

Many churches establish an expectation that groups would find 2 to 4 serving opportunities every year and build that into the normal activities of their groups.

Give them ideas for fun things they can do together.

Some groups will come up with fun things to do together without any help from you. Others? They just need a little help.

Providing a short list of fun activities they can do together and then teaching them how to build it into their routine will help keep things fresh and give them built-in opportunities to invite unconnected friends to join in.

Further Reading:

Top 10 Skill Trainings for New Small Group Hosts

4 SURMOUNTABLE CHALLENGES FACING MANY SMALL GROUP MINISTRIES

4 SURMOUNTABLE CHALLENGES FACING MANY SMALL GROUP MINISTRIES

About 3000 years ago King Solomon pointed out “there is nothing new under the sun.” The wisest man in the world was correct then and it turns out he is still right.

The problems, issues, and challenges faced by small group pastors and directors everywhere turn out to be ubiquitous.

Instead of some phenomenon resulting from the individual quirks and nuances of an individual church or the community in which it is located, it turns out the problems, issues and challenges are virtually identical everywhere.

And it turns out they are not insurmountable. In fact, they are quite surmountable.

One of my go-to quotes for many years was something Alan Kay, the noted computer scientist said:

“Perspective is worth 80 IQ points.”

Why do I say that so often? Easy. All of us have experienced the aha moment of finally looking at a problem from another angle.

The aha moment is the sudden burst of an additional 80 IQ points.

4 SURMOUNTABLE CHALLENGES FACING MANY SMALL GROUP MINISTRIES

I can’t find enough leaders.

A daunting challenge. Until you look at it from a new perspective.

My friend Brett Eastman was right when he observed that there is a “relative shepherd” in every circle of 10 people. When we stop looking for Jesus Jr. and simply begin identifying the person who is a step or two ahead of the others in the group or at the table, suddenly the leader is not hard to spot.

I also regularly point out that once a church grows beyond about 200 adults in regular attendance it becomes more and more likely that there are lots of people attending that no one really knows. When that happens, it becomes quite likely there are many unidentified leader candidates who are simply slipping in and out of the auditorium unobserved.

If you can’t find enough leaders it is almost certainly that you’re not using a leader identification method appropriate for your situation.

Solution:

The introduction of the small group connection strategy and the HOST strategy changed the game. Both strategies flip the dilemma on its head and allow potential leaders to be easily identified (either by group members or self-identified).

See also, How to Launch New Groups with a Small Group Connection and Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again.

I can’t find enough coaches.

Could it be you’re looking for the wrong thing? The ideal coach is really someone who simply able to effectively do TO and FOR the small group leader whatever you want the leader to do TO and FOR their members.

Now, granted, the most common scenario is for small group pastors to report multiple failed tries at building a coaching structure. There are very predictable reasons for that.

Solution:

When the challenge is specifically finding enough coaches, it is almost always a result of looking for the wrong people, in the wrong places and for the wrong reason.

The right people are simply those who can do TO and FOR your leaders whatever you want your leaders to do TO and FOR their members.

The right place to look for them is almost always among your current crop of group leaders (but in some circumstances might actually be members of healthy groups).

The right reason, the right role of a coach is about care and about spiritual mentoring. After a very brief season (perhaps 3 or 4 months) where the role of a coach is about coaching better technique, the role shifts to investing in the spiritual growth of the leader (so they can eventually do the same for their members).

Can’t find enough coaches? Change who, where and what you’re looking for.

See also, How to Identify a Potential Coach.

My pastor won’t be the small group champion.

First, this is not unique to your situation. Many senior pastors are reluctant to take on the role of small group champion. Some merely misunderstand the significance. Others believe you were hired to be the champion. And a few just see themselves as teachers or preachers (and doing anything else is compromising their shepherding role).

Solution:

Sometimes it is enough to begin to educate them in terms of what it means to be the champion. After all, it is really nothing more than being the chief spokesperson and leveraging the most influential person in the congregation makes the most sense. Helping them to see it from that angle is often what is lacking.

Other times, focusing on being an excellent behind-the-scenes leader/manager, orchestrating the details in advance, setting the table with excellence, allows you to simply ask your senior pastor to tip the first domino. When they see the role of champion from the angle of influence, they will almost always come around.

The most difficult to persuade are those who see themselves as teachers/preachers only and view serving as champion as somehow cheapening their commitment. Still, this is a rare situation and even it can be helped by regularly passing on stories of transformation that can be used in sermon preparation and delivery.

See also, Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups and Top 5 Things Every Senior Pastors Needs to Know (about small group ministry).

The unconnected people at our church won’t join a group.

When you’re stuck at 25 to 35% of your adults connected in groups, and the barrier seems insurmountable, it’s easy to believe there is something unique about your congregation causing it. It’s easy to believe…but it’s just not true.

The truth is, all churches have a group of people who are more inclined to connect in community and they will form groups organically with or without (and sometimes contrary) to your help. It may be that the ordinary percentage who are wired that way is 25 to 35%.

In order to connect beyond the usual suspects (25 to 35%) you must present the opportunity to connect in a way that appeals to the less inclined 65 to 75%.

Solution:

A number of factors play important roles in connecting the less inclined 65 to 75%.

First, this is where leveraging your senior pastors influence is so important. The right language with the right placement can persuade less inclined and unconnected attenders to put a toe in the water.

Second, the topic selected for your campaign or connection must appeal to the less inclined 65 to 75%. Can you see some topics matter almost universally and others appeal only to the already convinced?

Third, offering a short-term commitment (6 weeks is ideal) helps less inclined and unconnected people say yes to joining in. “We can do this for six weeks. Right?”

Finally, offering an on-campus study on a topic that interests or meets a critical felt need experienced by unconnected people (i.e., marriage, margin, parenting, relationships, etc.) always results in first steps in the direction of connection.

See also, Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer?, 5 Things You Need to Know about Unconnected People, and How to Launch a Short-Term On-Campus Strategy (that leads to off-campus groups).