One of the books that shaped my understanding of small group ministry was Leading Life-Changing Small Groups by Bill Donahue. When it was originally published in the mid 90s it quickly became the most important tool in my leader training efforts. With the 3rd edition (published in May, 2012) it’s even better!
One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Leading Life-Changing Small Groups is the fact that it really begins at the beginning…literally; the introduction develops a very understandable theology of community. As you’re beginning to build a small group ministry this is an essential ingredient.
Another aspect that makes this book so valuable is that Bill Donahue is truly a practitioner. Don’t miss this key. He wrestled with developing small group leaders for years in one of the most interesting grouplife laboratories anywhere (Willow Creek Community Church). The practices and principles included in this book aren’t theoretical, but practical and proven.
The layout of the content also provides a very helpful leader training roadmap. Beginning with a chapter on clarifying your purpose, every chapter develops an important concept, building block by building block establishing a strong foundation. Covering many of the basics, Leading Life-Changing Small Groups could become the core curriculum for the ongoing leader development that needs to be done in many small group ministries. Here are topics covered:
- Clarifying Your Purpose
- Sharpening Your Leadership
- Developing Your Apprentice
- Pursuing Spiritual Growth
- Leading Life-Changing Meetings
- Measuring Group Progress
- Caring for Members
- Impacting Your World
In the 3rd edition the chapters include a variety of reflection activities, assessments, and assignments, providing a rich experience that goes well beyond a reading exercise. This is a great development, really taking it to a whole new level.
One of the most exciting aspects of this 3rd Edition is the companion resource, Equipping Life-Changing Leaders (I’ll be reviewing this resource next week). With a DVD-driven design, it’s not difficult to imagine the two forming a core curriculum for leader development in many churches.
I’ve been using Leading Life-Changing Small Groups for years (I actually have a worn-out, dogeared copy of the original version produced in-house by Willow Creek in the mid 90s). I’ve used it to train leaders and I’ve used the content to shape training exercises of my own. I’ve got to say though, this new version is definitely new and improved. I like it and I think you will too!