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The Number One Reason Leaders Don’t Want a Coach

3445359649_ab1d30be07_bThe Number One Reason Leaders Don’t Want a Coach

I’m often told by small group pastors and directors that the main reason they don’t have a coaching structure is that their leaders do not want a coach.

Ever thought that? Ever said that?

Here’s what I’ve found. Most of the time, if not 100% of the time, the small group leaders who say they don’t want a coach are actually experienced small group leaders who have retroactively been assigned a coach. New small group leaders are almost always very grateful you’ve provided them a coach.

Why do you think experienced small group leaders almost never want a coach?

Three key reasons

First, experienced leaders (especially those who have been retroactively assigned a coach) know intuitively that what a coach has to offer can’t be essential to survival…or their group would not still be alive.

Can you see how that is at the heart of the issue? Makes sense, right?

Second, most coaching strategies mistakenly focus on providing guidance on technique at best. That is, the best case function of a coach is very often limited to simply helping the leader improve their basic skills (leading more dynamic discussions, helping less extroverted members participate, or providing counsel on dealing with an extra-grace-required member).

In almost every case, a group leader either learns how to do these things in the first few months or the group dies.

Finally, many coaching strategies utilize coaches as fact-checker accountants. This is the worst case scenario where the only function of a coach is to monitor leader’s who might slip off the rails and not complete their attendance form or attend the monthly coaching huddle.

What experienced group leader needs that?

What’s the Solution?

What is the solution?

Focus the role of a coach on developing and discipling small group leaders.

Don’t miss this. Although small group leaders rarely need help with technique longer than a few months, they will always need regular contact with someone that is a few steps ahead who can do TO and FOR them whatever you want them to do TO and FOR their members.

Can I Ask You a Question?

Can I ask you a question? Do you have a coach?

If it’s true that your leaders will always need regular contact with someone a few steps ahead (and that’s why they really need a coach)…

And if it’s true that your coaches will always need regular contact with someone a few steps ahead (and that’s why you need to be developing and discipling your coaches)…

Isn’t it also true that you will always need regular contact with someone a few steps ahead of you?

Who is that for you? Do you have a coach?

Can I Offer a Suggestion?

If you don’t have a coach…you need to find one.

Maybe you need to join a huddle (the Small Group Network has huddles almost everywhere). You can find one near you right here.

Or maybe you need to set up a coaching relationship with someone like me (I almost always have 5 to 10 small group pastors I coach by phone). You can find out how to set up a coaching call right here.

If you don’t have a coach…you need to find one.

Further Reading:

Image by C.B. Photography

Don’t Miss Happy Hour – Hugh Halter’s Newest Book

happy hourThe newest book from Hugh Halter arrived this week. I’ve loved every one of his previous books (especially Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth) and couldn’t wait to see this one.  Happy Hour: Etiquette and Advice on Holy Merriment is a simple book–just 58 pages–“that will give you a little theology, a little missiology, a ton of stories, and all the best practices of how to throw a party Jesus would want to being his friends to (p. 11).”

Happy Hour is a very inspiring read with an introduction and five short chapters:

  • Party as Sacrament: The Theology and Missiology of Party (You may have never thought about it in quite this way, but true hospitality is a central element of Jesus’ gospel culture.)
  • Public House: How to Party at Home (Tremendously practical, this little chapter is packed with ideas and tips on how to make your home a warm and inviting place where people feel welcome.)
  • Party Favors: It’s 5:00 Somewhere (This chapter includes a great set of options when it comes to the kind of party you might throw. Happy hour, liming, pot luck, and dinner club are all options and each are different.)
  • Party Killers: How NOT to Cross the Line (What about alcohol? This is a really practical chapter written to help you navigate the space between “set apart” and “sent.”)
  • The Last Call: The Best Party I’ve Ever Thrown (This is my favorite chapter because it explains the real goal of the party. “For me (the goal) is simple–people will want to party again. I’ve come to realize that the spiritual growth of any person is a long process. The conversion of the heart and soul never happen overnight. People find God because they first have God’s people. Belonging therefore leads to believing, so the party is the pathway for social and spiritual connection (p. 54).”

Happy Hour is available in bundles of 5 because it really is the kind of book you’re going to want to read “with friends, small groups, or a church plant team.”

Please don’t miss this one.  I have to tell you, I love this little book! I’ve added it to the short list of must-reads for anyone who hopes to connect with neighbors and co-workers in the 21st century (along with The Next Christians, The Art of Neighboring, and a few others).

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.”

Quotebook: John Ortberg on Finding a True “Just As I Am” Church

just as i am“If ever there were a true ‘just as I am’ church, if ever there were a community where everybody could bring all their baggage and brokenness with them without neat and tidy happy endings quite yet, if ever there was a group where everyone was loved and no one pretended — we could not make enough room inside the building.” John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be

Image by David Amsler

The Best Training for Small Group Leaders

best trainingIn yesterday’s post I updated an older article about how we’re training new small group leaders these days.  The article generated several good comments and questions. Here’s a little more thinking on how to provide the best training for small group leaders.

First, 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. If you miss this, you’ve probably missed the point of a lot of what I train small group pastors to do.

I believe many churches have built an imposing barrier to entry that is actually counter-productive. Believing that by making it harder to qualify as a leader they ensure the safety of the flock, they simply ensure a leadership shortage. See also, Small Group Ministry Myth #4: High Leader Entry Requirements Ensure Safety in the Flock.

Second, making it as easy as possible for people to step into leadership should be accompanied by a limited set of constraints that mitigate risk. For example, when we make a group starter kit available for those who would like to “do the study with a couple friends” we don’t provide members and we don’t legitimize the group by adding it to our online finder. In order for a group to begin this way, the new host must fill the group with their own friends. See also, Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again.

Third, making it nearly automatic that new “leaders” step onto a leadership development conveyor belt comes with a set of understandings and expectations. For example, depending on where they step onto the conveyor belt, they’ll either be added to a set of coaching emails or connected to a coach.

  • Adults learn on a need to know basis. When new leaders are chosen at a small group connection, they have an immediate need to know and are quite receptive to coaching. When people respond to the invitation to pick up a host kit and “do the study with a couple friends,” they have a natural interest in the set of coaching emails.
  • Coaching is primarily about doing TO and FOR leaders whatever you want them to do TO and FOR their members. Developing and discipling leaders has little to do with completing a study or curriculum and a lot to do with life-on-life interaction between  mentor and mentee. See also, 7 Things You Must Do TO and FOR Your Small Group Leaders.
  • Those who pick up a “host kit” are added to a set of coaching emails that provide tips, ideas and guidance as they begin meeting. Upon completion of the launching study, they will be connected to a coach.
  • Those who are chosen as leaders in one of our small group connections are immediately connected with a coach.
  • The combination of one-to-one interaction with their coach, huddle opportunities with other leaders, and twice yearly on-campus leader gatherings helps move leaders in the direction we want them to go (from host to shepherd leader).

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

Further Reading:

Image by Chris Blakeley

FAQ: How Are You Training New Leaders These Days?

leader trainingI get questions. A lot of questions. Some come in a comment right here on the blog. Others come in an email. And some come when I’m speaking at a conference or workshop.

Here’s a very frequent question:

“How are you training new leaders these days?”

Great question! I love it because in the question you can see that the asker already understands that times change and what may have worked in the past may not work today.

A Short History of My Leader Training Journey

When I stepped into the small group ministry role at Fellowship of the Woodlands in 2000 there was an 8 session small group leader training class already in place. I’m sure it may have been a good idea at one time. However…I ran it one time and then determined that requiring potential leaders to complete an 8 session leader training class as a prerequisite to leading was not a good idea.

It was not a good idea for three reasons:

  • First, it was a serious barrier to entry to many reluctant leaders (and as you know, the best leader candidates almost never volunteer to be a leader).
  • Second, it turned out that competing the class was not a good predictor of who could attract and retain group members.
  • Third, adults learn on a need to know basis. On-the-job training is much more effective because as adults lead they will be confronted with many situations that will inspire an eagerness to listen to a coach.

Enter the Small Group Connection Strategy

Shortly after we realized the 8 session leader training class was an ineffective strategy (both for identification and training), we discovered the small group connection. We learned that the small group connection was a much better leader identification strategy. We also discovered that the leaders who were identified were very coachable.

How did we train the leaders who were identified at the connection? We invited them to a 90 minute leader orientation meeting that consisted of some coffee, donuts and very basic training. We also connected them to a coach who provided on-the-job training as required.

Enter the HOST Strategy and Church-Wide Campaigns

One of the limitations of the small group connection strategy is that it only connects the people who attend the connection. Self-evident, I know, but it is a limitation.

How to connect people who don’t (or won’t) attend the connection? Invite people who…

  1. Have a HEART for unconnected people (that’s the “H” in HOST).
  2. Will OPEN their home six times (that’s the “O”).
  3. SERVE a simple snack (you get the idea).
  4. TELL a few friends.

How do you train people who volunteer to HOST a group of their friends, neighbors, co-workers and family? For a number of years we required them to attend a short HOST orientation meeting at a convenient time. Very similar to the small group connection strategy.

Is There a Better Way to Provide Training?

The best way we’ve discovered to provide training today is by distributing a set of short videos that cover “the need to know” skills a new leader needs right out of the gate. I tripped across a couple hints of how this could work back when I interviewed Steve Gladen about Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway. We make them available on our website and on a thumb drive that is distributed in the HOST kit.

Want to see a very good sample of what the video looks like? Saddleback is leading the way in this innovation and you can see their videos right here: Saddleback’s Video Training for New Hosts

A Few Concepts That Made This Change Inevitable:

There are several factors converging that make it obvious that a change is needed:

  • People are busy and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to get new, toe-in-the-water hosts to make time for an orientation.
  • It’s more and more common for people to come from further than 20 minutes away, making meeting times even more difficult to schedule.
  • Mobility is a key to training and leader development.  If you’re not yet providing mobile options for training yet, you will have very little choice in the very near future.

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

Further Reading:

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A Values-Driven Culture Is Essential

culture“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Often attributed to Peter Drucker, this is a line right at the heart of an important challenge for all of us. We work hard on choosing our small group model, system or strategy and that is a very good thing.

Strategy is important. But at the end of the day, at the end of the ministry season or year, if your culture is toxic or unhealthy…you’re going to have a very hard time getting to your preferred future.

I’ve been studying culture for many years.  I’ve come back to it many times, recognizing again and again that creating culture and influencing culture is my number one priority.

Here are some resources that you need to know about as you do the same in your own environment.

Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast

I love the new Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast. If you aren’t yet subscribed, you need to stop what you are doing right now and sign up to get this podcast. You can do that right here.

In March and April, Craig shared some tremendously valuable thoughts on creating a values-driven culture. Oh my! So good.

“Healthy cultures never happen by accident.”

“Your culture is a combination of what you create and what you allow.”

“The number one force that shapes your culture is your values.”

“What we value determines what we do. Your values shape what you do.”

“If you want a different culture, change what you value.”

“Strong values attract the right people and weed out the wrong people.”

Creating a Values-Driven Culture, Part OneShow Notes

Creating a Values-Driven Culture, Part TwoShow Notes

Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast

Another podcast you ought to be subscribed to is the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast. Seriously, if you aren’t listening to this podcast you are so missing out! You can subscribe to it right here.

Back in May, June and July of 2013 Andy talked about culture and behaviors (

Better Before Bigger

Defining Your Organizational Culture, Part One

Defining Your Organizational Culture, Part Two

Granger Community Church

Granger Community Church reworked their values several years ago. Very thought-provoking stuff. Take a look at their values as you are learning about culture and values.

Core Values: Shaping the Way We Think and Act (This is a very good article on the importance of core values from Tony Morgan)

Granger’s Mission and Values


I hope you’ll take the challenge and spend some time with this! I’m convinced, and I hope you are or soon will be, that creating a values-driven culture is at the root of how we build thriving ministries.

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A Beautiful Design: God’s Unchanging Plan for Manhood and Womanhood

beautiful designSpent some time this week with a new DVD-driven study from Matt Chandler. A Beautiful Design: God’s Unchanging Plan for Manhood and Womanhood is classic Chandler. Straight from the Bible, the lead pastor of teaching at The Village Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex tackles one of the most important issues of our time.

“What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? In our society today, there is a massive amount of confusion about manhood and womanhood. Is there a difference between them? If so, what is the difference? The answers our culture offers only further serve to muddy the water. Is there a clearly defined picture? If so, where can we find it? (from the introduction)”

Is this a conversation you’re having anywhere? No doubt it is happening in your world every day and over and over. I have to tell you Matt Chandler handles this topic in a very intelligent and with a sensitivity that is quite powerful.

A Beautiful Design is an 9 session DVD-driven study.  The video segments are classic Chandler.  31 to 42 minutes each, this is weekend sermon footage recorded live at The Village Church in 2014.  Chandler is a powerful speaker in the way few preachers are and these messages are no exception.

The member book (also referred to as the Bible study workbook) includes:

  • A video viewing guide that is designed to help members focus attention on the teaching, capture important ideas, and take notes.
  • Discussion questions for each session that will guide your conversation about the video and also about learnings in the weekly Bible study.
  • Each week includes three personal Bible studies that will take members deep into the topic.
  • A Family Discipleship page offers an opportunity “to craft a vibrant family discipleship experience around three key elements: time, moments, and milestones.

Chandler is a very powerful speaker. Very smart, he easily captures and holds attention Although deeply theological, his messages always break through my personal bias toward seeker sensitive in the first few minutes and I find myself listening intently, caught off guard and fully immersed in what God’s word has to say to me.

I begin my review of every Matt Chandler study with my own bias completely in control and within minutes find myself thinking about all of the small groups that really need this study.  A Beautiful Design is a must add to your recommended list.  This is a conversation your group members are immersed in every day and they will richly benefit from this study. I highly recommend it.

How Personally Are You Taking It?

take it personallyIn the closing message at re:group Clay Scroggins reflected on the incident in Mark 2:1-12 where four friends brought a paralyzed man to be healed by Jesus. Remember the story? Here’s the paragraph he spent most of his time on:

Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

In a series of statements, Scroggins shared something so important for all of us:

“Jesus was moved not by what they believed, but by what they did because of what they believed.”

“Jesus was moved not by their model of community but by their decision to model community.”

“When you begin to take community personally you’ll learn how to make community better.”

So…how personally are you taking community?

Image by Samuel King Jr.

How Are You Managing the Tension Between Theology and Ministry? (re:group Day Two)

manage tensionI came away with a number of profound insights from this year’s re:group Conference. One of my most eye-opening moments happened toward the end of Training Leaders to Engage Culture, a second day breakout.

Pointing to Jesus’ ability to focus on core issues of the faith while moving time and again “toward the messes,” Tim Cooper emphasized that we need to treat core issues of the faith differently than peripheral ones (as Jesus did when he went to Matthew’s house).

“Address core issues of the faith differently than peripheral ones.”

To help train their leaders to distinguish between core issues and peripheral issues North Point developed a “beliefs assessment” that measures a leader’s ability to make the distinction. You can see their beliefs assessment right here.

Here are some tips to help distinguish core versus peripheral (from the Beliefs Assessment):

  • Core issues are beliefs that are essential to faith.
  • Christians have considerable differences of opinion about peripheral beliefs.
  • While core issues have endured over time, many peripherals have changed over time.
  • Even if something is peripheral, that does not mean it is unimportant.
  • Statements about core beliefs can be pronounced publicly in the local church, but conversations about peripheral topics are many times better handled privately.
  • Whether a topic is core or periphery determines how much energy and emotion it warrants.

In explaining the thinking behind the beliefs assessment, Cooper pointed out that “the more issues that are core to you the harder you make it for people to turn to God.”

“The more issues that are core to you the harder you make it for people to turn to God.”

You can see their beliefs assessment right here.

Can you see their thinking? Have you ever thought through this tension? Have you ever trained your leaders to manage this tension?

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

Further Reading:

Image by Luke Addison

Influencing Culture: Jesus’ Model vs the Pharisees’ Model (re:group Day Two)

influence cultureIn yesterday’s post I gave you a quick overview of a second day breakout called Training Leaders to Engage Culture. If you haven’t read it, you might want to go back and catch up.

One of the big takeaways was embedded in a careful look at the difference between Jesus’ model for influencing culture vs the Pharisees’ model for influencing culture. Sharing an insight into Jesus’ model, the presenter (Tim Cooper) talked about an incident that Matthew records in Matthew 9:9-13:

“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'”

Pointing to verse 13 and citing an insight from Richard Beck’s Unclean, Cooper noted that sacrifice is intentionally moving toward purity (away from what is impure) while mercy is moving toward what is different.

“The Pharisees, seeking purity, pull away from the sinners. Jesus, seeking fellowship, moves toward the sinners.” Richard Beck, Unclean: Meditations on Purity, and Mortality.

And once again, I have to circle back to a great question from the breakout: “What’s encouraging your small group leaders to push through their natural instinct to avoid people God is trying to influence?”

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

Further Reading:

Image by Rachel Kramer

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