Skill Training: How to Develop More Leaders

Help!  I can’t find enough leaders!

I don’t know about you…but that is the most common complaint/concern I hear when I talk with small group champions.  And the most common question I hear is “How can I find more leaders?”  I’ve written a number of articles in answering that question.  You can see them right here.

Today I want to talk about how to develop more leaders.  This is an essential skill for all small group leaders but it’s not intuitive for most and it will rarely happen naturally or on the initiative of your existing leaders.  If you want it to happen system-wide, you must teach the concept and develop the expectations and skills that make it happen.

Basic Concept

The basic concept is that every group has multiple people who can lead (or help lead) a group.  I’m not suggesting that everyone can lead.  I’m simply pointing out that there are many group members who actually could lead a group if they were given the opportunity and motivated somehow to try it.

Do you believe that?  I hope so.  If you believe that, then the next step is to help your existing leaders begin to practice the skills that will allow and encourage everyone who can lead to give it a try.

Leader Development Practices

There are several practices that will help more adults give leading a try.

  1. Make it a fun experiment!  As you begin a new study, let everyone know that “we’re all going to take a turn facilitating this one.”  To do that, you’ll need to select a study that requires little preparation and comes very close to leading itself (which is always a great idea).
  2. Begin by handing off sections of every session.  “Bob, why don’t you lead the Connect section next week?”  “Sue, next week I’d like you to lead the prayer time at the end.  Watch how I do it this week and then you do it next week.  Okay?”  Starting members out with bite-sized assignments will ease a toe into the water of leading.  Always a good place to begin.
  3. Practice sub-grouping as often as you can.  Start when you have 7 members.  Never stop.   You can begin by random sub-grouping (I’ve tried everything from counting off by threes or drawing numbers from a hat) and move to more intentional (affinities that might ultimately result in a new group).
  4. Meet separately from time to time or on a regular basis.  Many groups have developed the practice of meeting together twice a month and separately twice a month (i.e., let the men and women have their own time on occasion).  This helps develop additional leadership capacity…as long as you don’t just recruit the usual suspects.
  5. Broaden the invitation list for leader training events and meetings.  Encourage all of your group leaders to bring additional facilitators to your leader training events.  Include a breakout designed for new facilitators in the skill training section on your meeting agenda.

Want to develop more leaders?  Start making leader development a priority.  Better yet…start measuring the number of groups that do what we’ve talked about here.  You’ll begin to see development.

Click here to see the rest of my skill training articles.

Top 5 Articles on Finding More Small Group Leaders

“I can’t find enough leaders” is easily the most common concern for small group champions everywhere.  Here are five  of the most popular articles I’ve written on identifying and recruiting small group leaders (okay…there’s actually seven):

I’ll be adding a new article tomorrow.  Skill Training: How to Develop More Leaders will detail 5 practices that your existing group leaders can use that will help more group members to test-drive leading.  Want to make sure you read it?  Click here to sign up to get the update automatically.

Introducing: Steve Gladen and

Like very few others, Steve Gladen is a name in small group ministry that you probably already know.  But you may not know about some of what he’s doing.  Here’s my best shot at an overview:

As the Pastor of the Small Group Community at Saddleback, Steve’s given leadership to a small group ministry that’s had a remarkable run over the past decade.  With over 4500 groups and 28,000 people participating in last fall’s Life’s Healing Choices, this is a huge ministry.

In addition to his work at Saddleback, Steve’s also been the guiding force behind the Small Group Network (formerly the Purpose Driven Small Group Network).  The vision in 2006 was to create a network that would support small group point people.  Today there are regional huddles across the United States and Canada.  Click here to find a huddle in your area.

One of the best features of the Small Group Network is their monthly newsletter.  You can take a look at a recent edition right here or sign up to get it monthly right here.

Looking for training or just a chance to hang out with some other small group point people?  Take a look at Saddleback’s Community U series of conferences.  Steve speaks at the plenary sessions and there are breakouts offered to meet the needs of several levels of development.  There are four remaining 2010 dates in St. Louis, Seattle, Washington-Baltimore, and Miami.

Steve is also the general editor of Small Group Life, an innovative curriculum series in development by Lifeway.  It’s the only subscription based curriculum that I know of and offers a 3 year study plan.

You can find out more about Steve’s speaking and consulting ministry at  You can also follow him on Twitter and connect on Facebook.

You can catch up on my other GroupLife Introductions right here.

Things I’ve Learned Never to Say

I’ve learned there are some things I should never say.  That’s true in life, too.  But right now I’m talking about small group ministry.  There are just some things that you should never say.  I think most of the things you should never say are pretty obvious.  But some of them might surprise you.

From now on…

For example, I’ve learned to never say, “Here’s how we’re going to do things from now on.” Do you have that line on your “never say” list?  It’s an important one to have on your list because the small group leaders in your ministry are always forming an opinion about your leadership.  And every time you say “blah, blah, blah from now on…” and then change your mind later, your leaders chalk it up to one more time that you said something that wasn’t really the case.

Need an actual example?  How about this one: “From now on we’re only going to ask our groups to join us for one church-wide experience a year.”  Now, I think you should only be doing one a year, but as soon as you say “from now on” it’s only a matter of time until a unique situation or opportunity causes the need to change to bubble to the surface.

That’s a crazy idea…

Another thing I’ve learned never to say is “that’s a crazy idea.” Admittedly, I might utter those words to myself, but out loud I’ve learned it’s better to say, “Tell me more about what you’re thinking.”  First of all, when someone comes to me with an idea, I need to encourage that behavior.  And second, I’ve just learned that some of the concepts that I initially said were crazy now shape my philosophy of ministry (i.e., the small group connection and the HOST strategy).

That will never work…

This one is probably a no-brainer for most of us, but it’s a big one.  I’ve just found that being open to possibilities is the best course of action.  If my first reaction is to say “that will never work,” I’m going to miss out on some of the ideas that change the landscape.  And so are you!  Far better to say, “what am I missing about that idea?”  Or even, “There’s an upside and a downside to everything.  What’s the upside that I’m missing?”  Or to say, “What would have to happen for this to work?”

Your Thoughts?

Those are just three of the things I’ve learned never to say.  And in the interest of full disclosure, there are probably still times that I say them.  But I try really hard not to.  And it makes ministry a lot easier and much more fun.

How about you?  Are there some things you’ve learned never to say?  Use the comment section to chime in!

Top 10 Articles on Small Group Coaching

Over the last several years I’ve written a number of articles on small group coaching, an essential but challenging grouplife building block.  Here are my top 10 articles on coaching:

  1. How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure (part 1)
  2. How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure (part 2)
  3. How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure (part 3)
  4. How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure (part 4)
  5. Where Can I Find New Coaches?
  6. Who Makes the Best Coach?
  7. Making Coaching Work
  8. How to Implement Coaching for Existing Leaders
  9. Diagnosis: The Coaches in Your System
  10. Recruiting Coaches: When Not to Compromise

FYI: I’ve also developed a down-loadable four session coaching program called Building an Effective Coaching System  that includes mp3 audio and outlines.  Click here to find out more about it.

Top 10 Reasons to Take the Summer Off

After last weeks Top 10 Reasons Taking the Summer Off Is a Bad Idea, I thought I’d better provide equal representation.  Here’s my best shot at the flip side:

  1. After a full year together, it’s definitely time to move on to a new group of friends.
  2. My summer schedule is so jam-packed with my family and my real friends that I can’t possibly fit my group members in!
  3. I’m all about 100% commitment.  If I have to miss a meeting because I’m out of town on vacation…I’d rather just call the whole thing off!
  4. My pastor is taking a study break…and so am I!
  5. If I don’t get my beauty rest, 2 or 3 months off over the summer, I’m just no good to anyone!
  6. You’ve got the All Star Game, the World Cup every four years, NFL training camps, the Olympics…how can anyone possibly keep up if you’ve still got a weekly meeting?
  7. I’m so committed to real Bible study that if we just met to hang out, eat some good food, and watch a movie…well, it just wouldn’t be the same.
  8. Daylight Savings Time!  Gotta love it!
  9. Wouldn’t want to let our hair down and just party together.  What kind of example would that set for our kids!
  10. Whatever you do, don’t use low-pressure summer days to invite some of your old friends to hang out with some of your new friends.  Awkward!

Review: And: The Gathered and Scattered Church

How would you describe your church?  How would you characterize the model your church has adopted?  Are you an admittedly attractional church?  Are you an externally focused church?  Do you have missional aspirations?  Are you attractional but want to be missional when you grow up?

One of the most challenging and inspiring books I tripped across in the last few years was The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay.  Last year I reviewed The Tangible Kingdom Primer, a “spiritual formation tool designed to prepare your heart for mission.”  If you haven’t picked those two books up, I highly recommend them.  I’m pretty sure you will also find a lot there that inspires and challenges you (a desirable confluence of emotions).

While at the Exponential Conference in Orlando earlier this year I had the chance to hear Hugh and Matt talk about their newest book, And: The Gathered and Scattered Church.  I have to tell you, I immediately was captivated by what I took to be the central idea or acknowledgment.  Here it is:

Although many of us who will read this book are admittedly part of the gathered church, we know we need to be missional if we’re going to truly reach the unchurched majority (whether you’re talking about the world in general or the United States in particular).

There are several things I really appreciate about And.  First, I love the fact that And approaches the issue from both sides of the equation.  Where most books that would be described as being written from a missional perspective are almost exclusively that (they often ignore the fact that we’re already gathered), this one includes a way of looking at the other side of the equation (i.e., how to move from gathered to gathered and scattered).

A second very important thing about And is that for Hugh Halter and Matt Smay this isn’t theory.  In fact, this is the developing story of Adullum, their church in the Denver area.  And answers the question, “What do you do if a more missional, more organic approach actually works and you begin to gather a church?”  How do you help what you’ve gathered remain engaged in scattering?

Third, although there is plenty here that is practical and it delivers both a biblical understanding of the calling and a practical illustration of their methodology…And acknowledges that it is very much a work in progress.  I think that might be what I appreciate the most about Hugh and Matt.  They’re intensely engaged in the life themselves, but as they’re working it out they don’t claim to have all the answers…only the calling.

If you’re looking for help in moving your gathered church into a more scattered lifestyle, I highly recommend And: The Gathered and Scattered Church.

You can read the rest of my book reviews right here.

I found this promo video from Zondervan helpful in understanding the basic idea of And:

Introducing: Bill Donahue and

Some names within the small group community really need no introduction.  This is one of them, but there are some things you may not know.

For example, after an 18 year run as one of the early architects and longtime builders of grouplife at Willow Creek Community Church and the Willow Creek Association, Bill stepped out on his own a few months ago to devote more of his time to writing and consulting.  It’s paying off for all of us because he’s blogging regularly at

He’s also an author and has several books that ought to be on your bookshelf (Leading Life Changing Small Groups, Coaching Life Changing Small Group Leaders [with Greg Bowman], Building a Church of Small Groups [with Russ Robinson], The Seven Deadly Sins of Small Group Ministry [with Russ Robinson], and Walking the Small Group Tightrope [with Russ Robinson]).  If you don’t already have most or all of these books…you’ve really missed out on some of the foundational thinking of so much of small group ministry as we know it.

Another resource that you might want to take a look at is ReGroup, a combination DVD and study guide produced in collaboration with Henry Cloud and John Townsend.  Published by Zondervan, ReGroup was designed to “establish a whole new training paradigm—one that equips leaders and groups simultaneously and gives them everything they need to start and sustain a life-changing group.”

If you want to connect with Bill you can find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

You can find the rest of my grouplife introductions right here.

June’s Most Popular Posts

Need to catch up with the conversation?  Here are the most popular posts in June:

  1. Top 10 Things To Do This Summer To Maximize Your Fall
  2. 10 Essential Small Group Leader Skills
  3. Skill Training: Top 10 Ways to Learn to Pray Together
  4. The Perils of the Well-Worn Path
  5. Book Review: Exponential
  6. Breaking the “Mythical” 150% Participation Barrier
  7. The X Factor Is Near the Edge
  8. The Small Group (Office Style)
  9. Top 10 Reasons Taking the Summer Off Is a Bad Idea
  10. 5 Keys to Finding More Leaders

File This Under Connection Ideas

I’ve written in the past about how to use special days (like Father’s Day) to launch groups.  Just thought I’d give you an update on how it works out when you actually do it.

This year on Mother’s Day we launched a strategy to jump start some new women’s small groups.  We used the following ingredients:

  • We chose four studies that we thought would appeal to women (Bad Girls of the Bible, Parenting, The Me I Want to Be, and Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch).
  • We chose a date for a women’s small group connection that was two weeks after Mother’s Day.
  • We put the event on the website (where you could click to register), in the monthly newsletter available in the lobby, in the bulletin (both an announcement and a spot on the tear-off to register).
  • Our Senior Pastor worked the importance of being connected into his message, referred to the bulletin, and encouraged the women to sign up (“drop the tear-off in the offering or take it to our guest and information center”)
  • We announced it again at the end of the service
  • We announced it again the following week at the end of the service
  • We announced it on the day of and said “whether you signed up or not, we have room for you at the women’s connection.

Outcome: We launched 7 new women’s small groups using the small group connection strategy.

Approaching Father’s Day, things looked a little different.  Two weeks after Father’s Day was the July 4th weekend.  Not a good time to hold a connection, so we tweaked the strategy.  Here’s what we did:

  • We chose a book (The Measure of a Man, by Gene Getz) and planned to launch an a.m. and a p.m. “summer book study” on Tuesday, July 6th.
  • We announced it on the website (where you could click to register), in the monthly newsletter available in the lobby, and in the bulletin (as both an announcement and on the tear-off).
  • On Father’s Day our pastor worked it into his message and encouraged men to sign up to be a part (“It’s easier to become the man God wants you to become when you’re connected with some other guys going the same way”).
  • We announced it again at the end of the service and encouraged men to drop their form in the offering or take it to the guest and information center.
  • We repeated the process for the next 2 weekends (mention in the message and announcement at the end).

Outcome: We had our first a.m. and p.m. sessions yesterday.  We had about 60 signed up and 92 men show up.  Here’s what we did during the first session:

  • They signed in, put on a name tag, and paid for their book.
  • When they came in, they found a seat at a table with 4 to 6 chairs.
  • We had them introduce themselves and tell the group how they came to Parkview and what made them come back.
  • We sorted them out geographically and had them move to a new table with a few guys who live near them.
  • At the new table they shared what prompted them to sign up for the book study and what they hoped to get out of it.
  • They also shared if they’d ever been in a group before and what was their experience like.
  • At the end of the session we talked briefly about their assignment for the week and then had them get the name and phone number of the person to their right and commit to call them during the week to check in.
  • We prayed to close the meeting and dismissed.  Many of the men hung out and talked for 5 to 10 minutes (and some much longer).  Few knew each other before the session.

What’s the point?  You can connect people year-round if you look for ways to do it.  Change it up.  Adapt your concept to fit the calender.  Don’t be afraid to try it a different way.

And one other thing…let us know what’s working!