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Category: Small Group Strategy (page 1 of 74)

Community for Everyone (re:group Conference Day One)

everyoneI might be sharing key insights from re:group 16 for days. So good! I wish you had been there!

One of the two or three most powerful takeaways I came away with is a very good way of thinking about the importance of making community (available) for everyone.

To set the stage, here is the introductory paragraph in the session notes for Community for Everyone:

“If we want everyone to experience life-changing community, we need to make space in groups for people with a variety of lifestyles and theological beliefs. How do we create avenues for opportunities for dating couples living together? How do we help LGBT people experience a growing relationship with Jesus through community? In this breakout, we’ll explore what we’re learning as we try to move a diverse population from rows into circles.”

Think with me for a moment.

Like the North Point Ministries churches, our small group strategy is designed to form and launch groups for married couples, men (married and unmarried)  and women (married and unmarried). As a result, it is already more and more common for us to field questions from people who are trying to figure out if they fit or where they fit.

Are you answering those questions too?

Let me tell you, if you’re not yet wrestling with questions about “how can I/we participate or “I/we can participate” it is probably only a matter of time (a very brief time).

Again, I love the thinking behind North Point’s philosophy and strategy. Consider these three statements:

“Our mission as a church is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Check. That’s not how we say it but it is what we say. And you are probably the same.

“Our vision is to create churches that unchurched people want to attend.”

Check. I resonate with that vision and you probably do too.

Stop and think for one moment, through, before we continue.

Follow the thinking right here:

If you want unchurched people to attend and are praying that unchurched people to attend and God answers your prayer and unchurched people do attend…doesn’t it stand to reason that these same unchurched people will arrive with lifestyles and habits (and much more) that are consistent with and shaped by the culture?

How are you doing? Still with me?

Okay, so here’s the third statement:

“We believe for people to grow spiritually, they must be connected relationally.”

Check. I’m with you. We are with you.

And now, what must we do to make community available for everyone?

In our case, I’m certain we can’t easily fit everyone into our three categories. At least, not without a lot of forcing men and women to fit.

What do we need to do? What will we do?

We’re already on it. Stay tuned.

If you missed yesterday’s post, here it is: 18 Great Lines from Andy Stanley (re:group Conference Day One).

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

Image by Thomas Hawk

FAQ: What If My Senior Pastor Won’t…

what if my senior pastor wontFAQ: What If My Senior Pastor Won’t…

I get questions. A lot of questions.

My most frequently asked question? Probably has to do with “what if my senior pastor won’t…”

There are all sorts of these questions:

  • “What if my senior pastor won’t be the small group champion?”
  • “What if my senior pastor won’t narrow the focus, trim the belong and become menu, and prioritize now over then?”
  • “What if my senior will only preach expository sermons through books of the Bible?”
  • Etc.

As you can see, there are all sorts of these questions.

What if my senior pastor won’t be the small group champion?

Why don’t we start with this one: “What if my senior pastor won’t be the small group champion?”

First, it might help your senior pastor if they understood the role of the small group champion (what it is and what it isn’t).

Step One: Make sure your senior pastor knows that the role of the small group champion is simply to be the number one spokesperson for small groups: the optimal environment for life-change. Also, make sure they know the role of the small group pastor is to take care of the planning, the organization, the design, etc., making it easy for the senior pastor to simply focus on the champion role. See also, Essential Ingredients of Life-Change and Life-Change at the Member-Level.

Second, it might help you to determine the background for their reluctance. There may be several reasons why they won’t take on the mantle.

  • They may misunderstand what the small group champion does.
  • They may not understand why it is important for them to be the small group champion.
  • They may have been burned by a previous small group pastor who didn’t take care of their end of the bargain.
  • They may feel like their small group pastor is better qualified.
  • They may truly believe it is the small group pastor’s job.
  • They may not want to play favorites.
  • They may not want to seem to be playing favorites.
  • etc.

Step Two: Determine why, exactly why, they are reluctant to be the small group champion. How to go about this may require some gentle trial and error. Depending on your relationship with your senior pastor, your tenure on the staff, etc., determining the background for their reluctance may have to be learned over time. But…it is worth learning. See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #1: A Doubtful or Conflicted Senior Pastor.

Third, it may be that this is a game of inches, not yards (or miles). If every season is a step in the right direction, you will eventually arrive in about the right place.

Step Three: Be sure you are doing everything you need to do. Do the planning well in advance (i.e., What weekends could the small group launch be highlighted? What is the best sign-up method? How will the follow-up happen?) Fine tune the details (i.e., When must the sign-up form be printed? When will the names be entered into the database for follow-up? How will you be able to email sign-ups on behalf of your senior pastor? etc.). Script the ideal version of what you would like your senior pastor to say. See also, 6 Ways to Help Your Senior Pastor Make the Small Group Ask.

Conclusion: You can only do what you can do. Remember, your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing. Make your plan. Run the strategy. Determine results. Evaluate your strategy and begin to plan the next attempt.

In my own experience, the best results are actually developed over multiple efforts after careful planning, best-case execution, and thorough evaluation to discover the steps that could be improved.

Bad Idea #1: Let’s Call Everything a Group!

bad ideaIn yesterday’s post I wrote about 5 Stupid Things Churches Need to Stop Doing (in the name of small group ministry). In the post I pointed out that one of the stupidest things churches do is decide to call everything a group. Probably because I didn’t spend a lot of time explaining why it’s a stupid thing to do, I got a couple comments that deserve a response.

Why is calling everything a group a stupid idea? Why is it a bad idea?

Maybe we should examine the motivation first. There are several reasons churches decide to call everything a group.

  1. They have several belong and become options on their menu and they genuinely want to make it easy for unconnected people to find their next step. For example, they have adult Sunday school classes (or ABFs), a class like Precepts, and some off-campus small groups and they simply want unconnected people to choose one.
  2. They get complaints from their adult Sunday school classes when they only promote off-campus small groups as the best next step. They decide to call everything a “group” in the attempt to appease the guardians of the status quo.
  3. They have introduced new options but can’t bring themselves to eliminate options that no longer meet their objectives.

There are probably other reasons churches decide to call everything a group, but these are the most common reasons.

Here’s why calling everything a group is a bad idea:

First, calling everything a group is a bad idea because it lumps things together that don’t accomplish the same thing. For example, if your off-campus groups meet in circles, have rich discussions, are led by shepherd leaders who genuinely care for their members and do life together, while your adult Sunday school classes meet in rows, listen to master teachers, and mingle over a cup of coffee and a donut when their class dismisses at 10:15, but that is the extent of their experience…can you really call them the same thing?

What if they do accomplish the same thing? Then feel free to call them the same thing! See also, What’s the Difference Between a Sunday School Class and a Small Group? and Groups of All Kinds and the Essential Ingredients of Life-Change.

Second, calling everything a group is a bad idea when it simply puts off a necessary conversation. When your become and belong menu includes options that are no longer effective (or not the best way to do something), the wisest thing to do trim the menu. It is not the easiest thing to do, but it is the wisest thing to do. More options do not connect more people. More options make it harder to choose and harder decisions are procrastinated.

What if it’s a really hard conversation? Conversations like this are about stewardship. While stewarding resources (budget, facilities, promotional bandwidth, etc.) is important, nothing is more important than stewarding the opportunities we are given to make disciples. See also, Think Twice and Thing Again before You Approve the New Menu Item.

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

Further Reading: What’s Better? Rows or Circles?

Image by Daniel Lobo

 

5 Stupid Things Churches Need to Stop Doing (in the Name of Small Group Ministry)

stupidLast year I wrote 5 Stupid Things Small Group Pastors Need to Stop Doing. What about the stupid things churches need to stop doing (in the name of small group ministry)?

5 Stupid Things Churches Need to Stop Doing (in the name of small group ministry):

Calling everything a group. The decision to call everything a group is usually the result of compromise. Rather than ruffle feathers and prioritize only the things that produce exactly what is hoped for, some churches blink and simply call everything a group. This puts rows and circles, learning and becoming, fellowship and discipleship all in the same category and further muddies an already muddy decision process.

Far better for churches to invest the time for a thorough evaluation of their belong and become menu and then call everything what it actually is. See also, Top 10 Signs Your Small Group Ministry Is Schizophrenic.

Naming small group involvement as essential but budgeting for it as if it is an elective. Calling members and attenders to make three (or four) commitments is a common practice. “Attend a worship service, serve in a ministry, and be involved in a small group” is an example of the way many churches talk about the things they believe are important.

Doesn’t it stand to reason that churches would budget accordingly? See also, Top 10 DNA Markers of Churches with Thriving Small Group Cultures and Budgeting for Your Preferred Future.

Promoting small group involvement once a year. Many churches have an annual groups push or campaign. Many churches only promote small group involvement during their annual groups push or campaign. And many of those same churches underestimate the damage of limiting promotion to once a year. These same churches frequently misdiagnose the reason their small group ministry is struggling.

Doesn’t it make sense that churches should talk about things that are truly important all year long? Churches that are building thriving small group ministries never stop talking about the importance of small groups, integrating life-change stories and references to upcoming opportunities to get involved every week and all year long, using every medium possible (sermon references, announcements and bulletins, website, email, etc.). See also, 5 Simple Mistakes that Sink Small Group Ministries.

Delegating the small group champion role to the small group pastor. One of the most important characteristics of churches that are building thriving small group ministries is that their senior pastors serve as the small group champion. As the most influential and visible person in the congregation, it only makes sense that they leverage their influence and visibility to draw attention to the critical importance of being in a small group.

“Then why do we have a small group pastor?!!” is the cry of senior pastors who seek to delegate away the role of the small group champion. This rarely has roots anywhere other than a misunderstanding of the true role (and the greatest contributions) of the small group pastor. See also, Rethinking the Role of the Small Group Pastor.

Failing to connect design and results. Love is blind and falling in love with a model, system or strategy is stupid. Churches should never lose sight of the fact that results are directly connected to design. “Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing (Andy Stanley) is never more true than when it comes to the connection between the design of your small group ministry and the results you are experiencing.

Churches that are building thriving small group ministries are keeping a steady eye on a dashboard and fine-tuning their approach as they go. See also, 5 Signs Your Small Group Ministry Design Is Inadequate.

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

Image by Matt Hollingsworth

FAQ: What If a New “Leader” Doesn’t Meet Leadership Standards?

high standards

FAQ: What If a New “Leader” Doesn’t Meet Leadership Standards?

I get questions. A lot of questions. Sometimes they come in by email. Other times as a comment to a blog post.

I try hard to answer them all. When it’s a question many are asking, I try to answer them here on the blog.

I bet I’ve answered today’s question about a hundred times a year for the last 10 years. No  joke.

Here’s the question:

“In order to be a leader at our church, you have to be a member. What do I do if someone who doesn’t meet our leadership standards ends up being chosen as a group leader in a small group connection (or volunteers to invite a couple friends to do the study that goes along with our church-wide campaign)?”

Here’s how I answer the question:

Important Note: There are at least two parts to my answer and I always encourage churches to consider both parts at the same time. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” This is not quite the same thing and I realize this is asking a lot, but it is important. Stick with me.

First, every church must determine for themselves the standards a person must meet in order to be considered a “leader.” At the same time, and at the risk of an unintended offense, every church ought to be open to carefully re-examining the standards a person must meet in order to be considered a “leader.” Let me explain what I mean.

While there are clear biblical standards for certain leadership roles (elders and deacons are an example), other roles are much less clearly defined (for example, Sunday school teachers and small group leaders). Can the same standards be applied across the board, regardless of role? While the same standards could be applied, should they be applied?

If the same standards need not be applied, what should the standard be for a small group “leader”?

While every church must determine for themselves the standards a person must meet in order to be considered a small group “leader,” it is my contention that every church ought to open to carefully re-examining the standards they have determined.

Second, I believe the best way to connect the largest number of people is to make it easy as possible to take first steps into leadership and nearly automatic to take the steps that lead to becoming an authentic shepherd.  I believe the same principle applies whether being chosen at a small group connection or inviting a couple friends to do a study.

I’ve referred to this idea many times as lowering the bar in terms of who can be a “leader” and simultaneously raising the bar in terms of the coaching and development the leader receives.

So…are there times when a person chosen to be the leader at a small group connection or who volunteers to invite a couple friends to do the study turns out to have some potentially disqualifying characteristic? Absolutely. And when they do, it makes necessary (and possible) a challenging conversation. Remember. There is no problem-free strategy or solution. Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.

My Summary:

Do the hard work of re-examining your church’s standards for leadership. It is good to have standards. It is also good to realistically assess the appropriateness (and the consequences) of the arbitrary standards you have chosen.

Remember: “Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing (Andy Stanley).” If you don’t like the results (trouble identifying enough leaders or difficulty starting enough new groups), you must see the connection between design and results. The standards you have set for leadership are part of the design.

Further Reading:

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

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Top 10 Reasons Your Small Group Ministry Is Tanking

tanking

Top 10 Reasons Your Small Group Ministry Is Tanking

Is your small group ministry struggling? Do you feel like you’re spinning your wheels; not gaining traction; going nowhere fast?

When a small group ministry is struggling–tanking–there is almost always a combination of the following issues.

  1. Your senior pastor is not the champion. The role of small group champion really cannot be delegated. In order to build a thriving small group ministry your congregation (and crowd) must hear about the importance of being connected, of community, from the most influential person in your church. In almost every case that is your senior pastor. See also, The Real Reason Saddleback Connects So Many in Small Groups.
  2. You have too many connecting and/or disciple-making options on your menu. It has been conclusively demonstrated that offering more options (a buffet) does not lead to more people connected. More options makes it more difficult to choose; to decide what to do. Narrowing the focus, making the step into community easy, obvious and strategic, results in a larger number of people connected. See also, How Would You Rate the First Steps out of Your Auditorium?
  3. You aren’t identifying enough new leaders. An important key to building a thriving small group ministry is launching enough new groups to connect a growing number of unconnected people. In order to launch enough new groups to do that you must be able to identify enough new leaders. If you aren’t identifying enough new leaders it is almost never because there aren’t enough potential leaders. It’s almost always because you just can’t spot them. See also, How Can I Find More Leaders.
  4. You’ve made it too hard to become a leader. Raising the bar in terms of the steps that lead to becoming a leader (i.e., must be a member, must attend the 8 week class, must know the secret handshake, etc.) does not actually ensure the safety of the flock or prevent dissension or much of anything. Raising the bar does ensure that it will be harder to recruit enough new leaders and new leaders are essential if you want to start enough new groups. See also, Top 5 Keys to Starting New Groups. Lots of New Groups.
  5. You’ve made it too hard to join a small group. There are a number of barriers that make it more difficult to join a group than it needs to be. Not offering connecting opportunities frequently enough, not making the information easily available, and not talking about small groups often enough are just three of a long list of barriers that make it hard to join a group.
  6. You’re not talking about small groups and the value of community often enough. Unconnected people are almost always attend less frequently. If you aren’t talking about small groups often enough, it is quite likely they will not be there when you are talking about groups. See also, 5 Things You Need to Know about Unconnected People.
  7. You’re not doing the things that enable the largest number of new groups to survive. It is not enough to start enough new groups. If you want to build a thriving small group ministry you must also be doing the things that help the largest number of the new groups you launch to sustain into their second and third study. See also, 5 Steps to Sustaining the New Groups You Launch.
  8. You’re not developing and discipling your small group leaders. A well-launched new group will come with a built-in support relationship with a coach. While most new leaders will quickly figure out the basics of leading a group (within a few months), they will continue to benefit from a spiritual mentoring relationship with someone a few steps ahead. In addition, the best way to ensure that the leader is doing the right things TO and FOR the members of their group is to focus the right attention on the leaders of your groups. See also, 7 Things You Must Do TO and FOR Your Small Group Leaders.
  9. You’ve prioritized adding new members to existing groups over starting new groups. When I’m diagnosing struggling small group ministries, few issues crop up more frequently than this one. In order to build a thriving small group ministry, prioritizing new groups is an essential practice. See also, Critical Decision: Add Members to Existing Groups vs Start New Groups.
  10. You haven’t paid enough attention to the needs and interests of the crowd and community. Another very common issue in struggling small group ministries is paying too much attention to the needs and interests of the core and committed (the usual suspects) and not enough attention to the needs and interests of the crowd and community (unconnected people). When you’re choosing the topic for your church-wide campaign, don’t miss this important issue. When you’re choosing the topic for your small group connection, pay close attention to what an unconnected person might see as a helpful study or an interesting study. See also, 5 Subtle Differences between Thriving and Struggling Small Group Ministries.

Image by Dave Wilson

FAQ: How Far Ahead Should I Be Planning?

FAQ: How Far Ahead Should I Be Planning?

4249518893_32cf9577c8_bI get questions. A lot of questions. Some are very particular to specific churches. Others are such common questions, they really beg to be answered here on the blog.

One of my most frequently asked questions is, “How far ahead should I be planning?”

Here’s how I answer that question.

There’s an element of planning that is an annual process with a view to a 12 month period. There is another element that happens in rolling 4 month segments.

There are several key components to our planning process:

First, we start with a year-long calendar approach where we pencil in the major pieces of our annual strategy to launch new groups. Although some of the details are exact and fine-tuned, some of the strategies that are farther removed from the planning process will be fine-tuned later.

  1. We intend to run a church-wide campaign every fall. It is without question the very best way to launch the largest number of new groups. The fall ministry season is the easiest time to recruit the largest number of new leaders and unconnected people.
  2. Late January/early February is another very good window to launch new groups. We like to schedule a small group connection at the end of January or the beginning of February. With its shorter promotion requirements (3 weekends as opposed to the 6 to 8 weeks required to properly promote a church-wide campaign), it makes sense to block in a connection.
  3. We drop base-groups (a 6 week on-campus strategy that launches off-campus groups) into our calendar once or twice a year, fitting them in in late spring and early summer.
  4. We’ve had very good success with running a “book club” approach off of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Generally, we like to begin promoting a week before the special day and start the “book club” about 10 days after the special day.

Second, we are committed to developing and discipling our leaders and leaders of leaders. You can see that these dates are pencilled in with an annual view.

  1. Twice a year we hold an on-campus event on a Saturday morning called Lead Well. The combination of a slate of breakouts (sometimes by ministry area and other times by topic) and a plenary session featuring our senior pastor or a guest speaker allows us to invest in our leaders and leaders of leaders.
  2. 8 times a year we hold a Saturday morning gathering for community leaders (our term for coaches) and groups directors (our term for leaders of leaders of leaders).

Third, after the strategies for launching new groups and developing and discipling our leaders are pencilled in, we begin fine-tuning with the nearest four month segment. For example, this article posted on April 18th. The fall ministry season (September through December) will begin to be fine-tuned in mid-May (Note: The promotion sequence planning for our fall church-wide campaign [June through August] is happening as we speak).

Fine-tuning includes the following:

  1. Reserving on-campus space for priority events (small group connections, location for Groups Central booth, Lead Well plenary and breakout sessions, etc.).
  2. Scheduling communication elements (promotional videos and pre-service slides, service host and sermon references, church-wide emails, bulletin inserts, website content placement, etc.).
  3. Planning meetings and discussions with weekend teachers to clarify the “ask” for recruiting hosts and participants for church-wide campaigns.

Summary

As you can see, this description of our planning process is very specific to our work at Canyon Ridge. Will your planning process be different? Most likely. The key is that there is an annual planning element and a shorter term component. Both are essential.

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

4 Things Small Group Pastors Should Never Settle For

settlingHave you settled? I think we’re all familiar with the idea of settling for something less than we’ve hoped for or settling for something less than we deserve.

But have you ever examined your small group ministry for signs of settling?

I believe there are some things we should never settle for.

4 Things Small Group Pastors Should Never Settle For

  1. Belonging without Becoming. In order for a group to truly be the optimum environment for life-change, something far beyond mere connection must take place. Unless we have some other plan for making disciples (and I believe the search for or the creation of an additional thing that makes disciples is almost always ineffective), the group must offer both belonging and becoming. If we’re not doing the right things TO and FOR our leaders and equipping them to design their group meetings for life-change we’ve settled.  See also, Life-Change at the Member Level and Skill Training: Design Your Group Meeting for Life-Change.
  2. A static percentage connected. Every congregation has people that have a natural bent for community and connection. They will end up in groups despite ineffective small group strategies. They will end up in groups even when there is no system or strategy. Connecting beyond the usual suspects requires intentionality and effort. When your small group ministry struggles to increase the percentage connected beyond those with a natural bent, it is often a result of settling for what happens without intentionality and effort. See also, What Is Your Urgency Level for Connecting People? and 5 Symptoms of Healthy Small Group Ministries.
  3. Knowing without Becoming. In the sense of balancing the purposes, small groups naturally gravitate toward fellowship and discipleship and struggle with worship, ministry and evangelism. To be clear, few groups do much more together than gather to be together and learn something from a study they are studying. We’ve settled for imbalance when we’ve done nothing to help rebalance the purposes. See also, Balancing the Purposes.
  4. Hosts or facilitators but not leaders. It is not any great challenge to find people willing to open up their home and invite a few friends or even welcome in a group assembled by the church. It’s not much of a challenge to find people willing to facilitate a discussion (or at a minimum, watch a DVD and read the questions out loud). Finding the number of leaders needed to truly care for the members of their group is never easy. Once you conclude that life-change happens best in circles and it becomes your ambition to connect everyone in groups, developing and discipling leaders becomes an essential and never-ending activity. If you only launch groups when you have leaders in place (as opposed to hosts or facilitators), you’ve often settled for what can be found or discovered as opposed to developed or discipled. See also, How to Help a HOST Become a Small Group Leader and 4 Obsessions of Extraordinary Small Group Pastors.

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

Image by Kerry Lannert

Are We There Yet?

are we there yetAre we there yet?

I’m positive we’ve all asked the question. As children. From the back seat. On a road trip with our parents.

Many of us have answered the question. As parents. From the front seat. On a road trip with our children.

Are we there yet?

The Question

Have you ever been asked the question as a small group pastor? Or maybe asked it as a senior pastor? In a way, it is kind of a preferred future question. Can you see it?

I had a conversation last Sunday that had echoes of the “are we there yet?” conversation.

A groups guy from a church in another state was in town and dropped by Canyon Ridge on Sunday. It was great to catch up. After a few minutes, he said, “I need to ask the key question.”

“What’s the question?”

“What’s your percentage connected?”

Now admittedly, it’s not the exact same question. But can you see how it is related?

And it is a key question, don’t you think? After all–if we’re truly in the business of connecting men and women in groups where they can grow in Christ, love one another and further the work of the Kingdom–wouldn’t we keep track of this very important number?)

The Answer

Here’s what I said:

“We had a very high percentage connected in the fall. We started 85 new groups at our connection events and over 350 people picked up Host Kits so they could “do the study with a couple friends.” And we sold just under 5500 copies of the study guide.

“And then when the dust cleared we had added over 100 new groups and connected another 1000 to groups.

“And that puts us in the range of 60% of our average adult weekend worship attendance in groups. Not bad for a 4 year run. Another 3 or 4 years and we’ll be pushing the 100% threshold.

The Truth

The truth is, arriving at the preferred future of more than 100% of your average adult weekend worship attendance in groups is something that happens in waves over multiple years. It can’t be done in a single move or a couple tries.

If you wan’t to arrive at this preferred future you must commit to the long run. I’ve written about this several times. You can read about Saddleback’s commitment to the long run right here:

I hope you can make the commitment to the long run! When you arrive at this preferred future is truly a destination worth the journey!

Image by Brandon

What Can I “Require” of My Small Group Leaders?

leader requirementsI get a lot of questions. Most I just answer with a quick email and a link to one of my almost 1900 articles.

Some questions are fairly common, truly a frequently asked question, and they end up as blog posts.

“What can I require of my small group leaders?” is that kind of question.

What Can I “Require” of My Small Group Leaders?

That’s a good question, don’t you think? You may have wondered the very same thing. You may have a small group leader “job description” and wonder whether you’re asking your leaders to do the right things. You may also be wondering if what you’re asking them to do is unreasonable.

I think the answer to the question, “What can I require of my small group leaders?” depends on who your leaders are and what you want them to become.

Who Your Leaders Are

I’ve written before that I want to make it as easy as possible for people to step into leadership and nearly automatic that they step onto a leader development conveyor belt. Should the job description of the new leader be the same as the job description of the veteran? Or could what you expect of your leaders depend on where they are on the leader development conveyor belt?

Example #1: In our last church-wide campaign (Transformed) over 350 people heard our invitation to do the study with a couple friends and picked up a Host Kit at Group Central. We said, “If you have a couple friends you’d like to do the study with, we want to help you, We’ve made it easy and affordable and you can do it.”

What did we require of them?

  • They had to fill out a form giving us their name, best email, best phone, and they had the option to indicate the type of group they would be hosting (by the way, that was the only mention of “group” in the invitation or the form).
  • They were sent a series of emails with tips, ideas, and information designed to help them (and those they invited) have a great experience.
  • They were invited to the Host Rally.

Can you see that filling out the simple form was the only requirement?

Why were the requirements so minimal? We wanted to make it as easy as possible for as many as possible to step into leadership and nearly automatic that they step onto a leader development conveyor belt.

Opening and reading our regular emails encouraged them to step onto the leader development conveyor belt. Attending the Host Rally encouraged them to stay on the conveyor belt.

As the Transformed campaign unfolded these new hosts (and their members) learned about a study we were recommending if they wanted to continue. They could see it at Group Central. If they chose to continue they were assigned a coach. At that point it became the coach’s responsibility to begin to do TO and FOR the host the things we want our leaders to do TO and FOR their members.

Can you see there could be the essence of a job description shift at that point?

Example #2: In preparation for our last church-wide campaign (Transformed) our existing leaders were invited to attend a leader briefing the first weekend of June (to hear about the September launch of Transformed). We had good attendance (about 40% of our existing leaders). We recorded the preview and made portions of it available for replay and then emailed the link to the video to the leaders who did not attend the briefing.

Were our leaders required to attend the briefing? No. They were invited.

Existing leaders are connected to a coach and responsive to requests for information about their group. In order to remain in our system they are required to have a certain level of responsiveness. We don’t keep unresponsive groups in our system.

Example #3: As the Transformed campaign ramped up, existing leaders (of groups in our system) were invited to pick up their DVD and leader packet at Group Central, which was prominently placed on our campus. Only existing leaders (of groups in our system) were allowed to pick up the DVD and leader packet at Group Central. “Leaders” of groups that were not in our system were required to complete a simple form to rejoin the system and receive their DVD and packet.

Completing the form and rejoining the system renewed our ability to send them the series of emails with tips, ideas, and information designed to help them (and those they invited) have a great experience.

Why did we make it that simple? We want to make it as easy as possible to begin and nearly automatic that they step onto our leader development conveyor belt.

What You Want Them to Become

The answer to the question, “What can I require of my small group leaders?” depends on who your leaders are and what you want them to become.

Can you see that what you want them to become is not really about requirements?

Requirements have more to do with what you want them to be.

I believe we have a better chance of keeping them on the leader development conveyor belt if we focus on doing the right things TO and FOR our leaders.

Conclusion

Can you see that I really believe we need to focus less on what we require and more on what we will do TO and FOR the leaders of groups? Focusing on requirements is the wrong angle. Focusing on development results in leaders who will do the right things TO and FOR their members.

Further Reading:

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