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Top 10 Articles on Identifying and Recruiting New Group Leaders

finding-searchlightI’ve been doing this awhile. I was thinking about this not too long ago and realized that my first try at building a small group system was in 1984. I don’t know what you were doing in 1984, but that was the year Apple ran the 1984 commercial during Super Bowl XVIII. Ronald Reagan was elected to his second term as President of the United States. Terms of Endearment won the Best Picture and crack cocaine was first introduced in Los Angeles.

I’ve been doing this awhile.

And there are a few questions that I’m asked over and over and again and again.

One of the most frequently asked questions is, “What’s the best way to find and recruit new small group leaders?”

Ever wondered that? Ever researched that question?

Here’s how I answer it when I have a few minutes: When I began I did what most people do. I was leading a college ministry and had been influenced by Campus Crusades “student led, staff driven” philosophy, so I thought about the students I knew who might make good leaders and asked them if they’d lead a group. That worked pretty well. Most of the guys and girls I recruited were a little more spiritually mature than average. I don’t remember any significant train wrecks.

This was my strategy for the next few years. It worked until I was in a church where there were more people that I didn’t know than people I knew. I began asking my existing leaders if there was someone in their group that might make a good leader. And that produced a few new leaders from time to time. In that particular case it didn’t produce enough new leaders to connect the number of people who had signed up for a group.

Ever been there?

The challenge of finding enough new leaders to connect a growing number of unconnected people forced me to begin running a bulletin blurb offering a training course for people who were interested in leading a small group. It was a reasonable strategy that seemed like a good idea at the time but really didn’t work very well. Certainly, some of the sign-ups were good people, but I discovered that many of the people who signed up for the course often had their own agenda and were really not suited to lead.

Ever been there?

Then, in 1999 I ended up at a church that had grown very quickly in its first few years and hadn’t really connected anyone. The first thing they did when I said I’d help them was hand me a stack of sign-up forms from people who wanted to be in a small group. The stack of forms was from the last several months and was 6 or 7 inches tall.

Ever been there? Maybe not exactly there, but you’ve had waaaay more people who are unconnected than connected and no way to find enough leaders to start enough groups to connect that many people?

You know how they say that “necessity is the mother of invention?” Maybe you’ve thought it was “desperation is the mother of invention?” I know I did when I saw the stack of sign-up forms!

Actually, the stack of sign-up forms created enough angst on the part of our senior pastor and staff that they were ready for a solution. “Any solution! Just get these people connected!”

I had heard about a strategy that Saddleback was using called a small group connection that would identify leaders from amongst the people who wanted to join a group and attended the event. Like everyone else, they had tried just about everything to find enough leaders to connect the people who wanted to join a group. At some point, you simply can’t know who everyone is and therefore you can’t know who the best available leaders are.

So…I was given permission to try Saddleback’s small group connection strategy. I took the stack of sign-up forms and contacted them to invite them to an event on a Sunday after the 11:00 a.m. service. We also ran an announcement in the bulletin and announced the event from the platform for 2 or 3 weeks.

We had a very large group sign up and a large group show up. I don’t remember the specifics for that one event, but over the next 15 months we started around 150 groups and kept 120 of them going. That is, we ran an event that helped about a thousand people identify over a hundred leaders. Leaders we didn’t know. You can read about the small group connection strategy right here.

In late 2002 we tried our first church-wide campaign. We were one of the first churches to try Saddleback’s host strategy. I shook my head when I heard what the plan was. It seemed crazy at a time when the connection strategy was working so well. But…when Kerry Shook asked our congregation who would be willing to host a group in their home nearly 1000 people stood up. Hello!

Now, don’t get me wrong. Both the connection strategy and the host strategy have problems. They are not problem-free. But they also find leaders, good leaders, when every other method has struggled or failed outright to keep up with demand.

Over the last few years we’ve continued to innovate. The connection strategy and the host strategy look different than they did when we first used them. And we’re still looking for the next wrinkle. In the fall of 2014 we tweaked the language of the host strategy and had amazing results. You can read about it in Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again.

Top 10 Articles on Identifying and Recruiting Small Group Leaders

I’ve organized these articles chronologically, so you can see the progression.

  1. Problem-Free Leader Identification and Recruitment (March, 2009)
  2. Small Group Leaders: Finding, Recruiting and Developing (February, 2010)
  3. The Upside of Reluctant Leaders (February, 2013)
  4. My Top 3 Ninja Ideas for Recruiting Small Group Leaders (June 2013)
  5. Three Realities in the Hunt for Small Group Leaders (October, 2013)
  6. 8 Secrets for Discovering an Unlimited Number of Leaders (December, 2014)
  7. 8 Things You Need to Know about Small Group Leaders (February, 2015)
  8. How Can I Find More Leaders? (August, 2015)
  9. True or False: Leaders with Apprentices Leads to More Groups? (June, 2016)
  10. Has Blind Spot #1 Limited Your Small Group Ministry? (July, 2016)

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Friday’s List | November 18

fridays-listFriday’s List: November 18

I’ve been meaning to do this for quite awhile. I’m asked for recommendations all the time. I’ll be posting a short list every Friday.

Here are the things I’m reading, listening to, loving and wrestling with:

Here’s what I’m reading right now:

7 Ways a Pastor Should Think Like an Entrepreneur by Brandon Cox. Very good stuff.

Church Attendance Decline? There’s a problem with your product by Tony Morgan. Spot on and right on target.

10 Easy Ways to Blow Your Influence in Leadership without Even Trying by Carey Nieuwhof. Another really important post.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney. This is a great book! You can read my review right here.

Here’s what I’m listening to:

This American Life: Very annoying and one of the best produced podcasts going. Makes me frustrated but can’t stop listening.

 

Quote I’m wrestling with:

“How do you make sure that what you know doesn’t limit what you can imagine?” Bill Taylor, Simply Brilliant

My own post I hope you’re reading:

5 November Actions that Impact January/February:  Now’s the time! What you do now will make the new year better.

The Most Important Book I’ve Read This Year: The 4 Disciplines of Execution

4-disciplinesI’ve been working my way through The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney over the last few weeks. Can I tell you something? This book, the ideas and practices in this book, truly have game-changing qualities. You need to drop what you’re doing and order it right now.

I really think, whether you lead a team (or are leading up to make things happen), reading and applying the principles and practices of The 4 Disciplines of Execution ought to be on your daily to do list. Just set time in your schedule and get it going.

Why am I so high on this one? Here’s the bottom line: All of us are working hard to get from where we are to the preferred future we’ve identified. Right? Most of us have done the hard work of identifying the problems and organizational junk cluttering our present and we’ve at least begun teasing out the shape of the preferred future. We might have even begun charting a course and laying out the first few milestones we need to reach. And what’s standing in the way? Actually doing the things that will get us from where we are to where we need to go.

Applying the principles and practices of The 4 Disciplines of Execution will help you get from where you are to where you want to be. Period.

Broken into three sections, the book lays out very practically an overview, how to install 4DX with your team, and how to install 4DX with your organization. If you’ll dig in, I promise you your copy will be just as marked up, underlined, starred, and dog-eared as mine. There is real gold in here!

The essence of the book? It really is as simple as 4 disciplines:

  1. Focus on the wildly important: Discipline 1 is the discipline of focus. You choose 1 (or at most 2) “extremely important goals” and focus on them instead of trying to improve everything at one. This will take resolve and determination. But it will change the game.
  2. Act on the lead measures: This is the discipline of leverage. By focusing on the lead measures, the actions that have the greatest impact on achieving the goals you’ve identified, you will see progress in the right direction.
  3. Keep a compelling scoreboard: This is the discipline of engagement. “People play differently when they are keeping score.”
  4. Create a cadence of accountability: This is the discipline of accountability. “The cadence of accountability is a rhythm of regular and frequent meetings of any team that owns a wildly important goal.”

If you are like most of us, you are already thinking about the goals you’ve identified (or that have been handed to you). You may have taken multiple runs at achieving the goals. And it may be a single goal or a long list of goals. But heres what I can tell you. I think digging in to the principles and practices of The 4 Disciplines of Execution will finally make a difference. I hope you’ll take this step today.

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.”

5 November Actions that Impact January/February

five5 November Actions that Impact January/February

There are certain things I do in November that have a definite impact on January and February results.

  1. Check our teaching calendar for alignment opportunities. This is a high priority in November. Our teaching team has determined the weekend message series and this very often points to a hand-crafted one time experience that leads to a connecting opportunity.
  2. Check our ministry calendar for alignment opportunities. Our NEXT team has determined the dates of the experience that is our best first step out of the auditorium for new attenders and attenders ready to take a next step. Since the NEXT experience allocates about 25% of the time to the importance of being in a Life Group, we always want to line up a connection or short-term group to follow in a timely manner. See also, How Would You Rate the First Steps out of Your Auditorium?
  3. Plan the events and/or strategies we’ll use to connect unconnected people. January/February always presents one of the best opportunities all year to connect unconnected people, it makes a lot of sense to pay close attention to the planning of these events. We want our events and strategies to be in the best rooms, on the best days and at the best times. We want the promotion of the events and strategies to be highlighted as something of utmost importance (not second to other events or programs that simply turned their requests in earlier than we did). See also, 5 Reasons to Launch New Groups in January/February.
  4. Evaluate the effectiveness and engagement of launch-phase coaches who helped sustain new groups in our fall campaign. Our best strategy for identifying new coaches is to recruit the best candidates to “help us” by taking 2 or 3 newbie leaders under their wing for the 8 to 10 weeks of the fall campaign. This easy opportunity allows us to watch them in action and see whether these “launch-phase coaches” are a good fit and should be invited to continue. It allows them to make a difference by helping 2 or 3 new group leaders get off to a good start. See also, How to Identify a Potential Coach.
  5. Plan our Christmas party for coaches and directors. Our coaches and directors (from a span of care sense, the men and women who coach coaches) invest much time and energy in doing TO and FOR the leaders they care for. We want our Coaches Christmas Party to reflect our appreciation for the vital part they play in developing and discipling our Life Group Leaders (and ultimately helping our leaders develop and disciple the members in their groups). See also, Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Your Leaders.

Other than the fall ministry season, January and February gives you one of the very best opportunities all year to connect unconnected people. Don’t miss it! Investing time in planning will pay off.

By the way…the importance of January/February is why I’m launching my newest mini-course. How to Jumpstart January: Plan, Launch & Sustain More New Groups than Ever Before.

how-to-jumpstart-january-banner

Image by Tim Ellis

5 Reasons to Launch New Groups in January/February

new-years-resolutions5 Reasons to Launch New Groups in January/February

If you want to build a thriving small group ministry it’s important to remember that you need to have a year-round approach to launching new groups. While the fall definitely presents the very best opportunity to connect the largest number of unconnected people, there are absolutely several other very good times every year to launch new groups (and connect people who for many reasons did not connect in the fall).

Late January/early February is another very good time to launch new groups. This season comes with certain motivations that aren’t part of the equation in the fall and need to be taken into consideration.

5 Reasons to Launch New Groups in January/February

  1. Every December finds another wave of unconnected people who realize they’ve got to make some changes. They’ve overspent on Christmas. They’re tired from trying to cart their children around to too many holiday commitments. They’ve overeaten and partied too much. They’ve let their exercise programs fall by the wayside. There is no better time of year than January/February to invite them to turn over a new leaf by getting involved with some other folks who are determined to have a better next year. That motivation provides an opportunity to use a study that appeals to people looking for a fresh start.
  2. The first of the year brings people who’ve just resolved to get involved in a church.  A very different motivation than the fall.  They’re not new to the area.  Just to the idea of attending.  That motivation provides an opportunity to choose a study that appeals to people who are new to your church.
  3. At least some of the new groups from your fall church-wide campaign did not survive the holidays, It is fairly common for a number of people who were part of a group in the fall (and loved finally being connected) to find themselves unconnected again. Establishing the mindset that sometimes it takes more than one try to connect with a group that really clicks will encourage unconnected people to try again.
  4. The first of the year presents an excellent opportunity to focus your congregation on your vision and mission. Many churches select a theme for the year and then choose a church-wide campaign or stand-alone study that will help get everyone on the same page.
  5. Not everyone is ready to respond to an invitation to join a small group. Some unconnected people are resistant to that invitation but very open to a lesser (or different) commitment. An on-campus “class” on the right topic present an easier first step out of the auditorium. Improving your marriage (Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage) or learning about relationships (The New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating) are just two examples.

My Newest Mini-Course: How to Jumpstart January: Plan, Launch and Sustain More Groups Than Ever Before

If you need help planning and launching a wave of new groups in January/February, please take a look at my newest mini-course:

How to Jumpstart January: Plan, Launch and Sustain More Groups Than Ever Before

Don’t let this key season slip by without taking advantage of the opportunity! Take a hard look at my newest mini-course! Whether you can participate live or you need to take in the sessions on your schedule…it will definitely be worth every penny!

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Jumpstart January: Plan, Launch and Sustain More Groups Than Ever Before

how-to-jump-start-january-2Jumpstart January: Plan, Launch and Sustain More Groups Than Ever Before

Late January/early February is one of the very best times to launch a wave of new groups and connect lots of unconnected people. Second only to late September/early October, late January/early February is a very big opportunity.

When you plan effectively and execute the plan skillfully, you have the potential to launch and sustain a lot of new groups.

Do you need to launch more groups and connect more people in 2017? Would you like to learn the best way to do it? Want to set in motion the strategy that will start the new year the right way?

Join Me for How to Jump-Start January

I’ve packed everything you need to know in my new three session mini-course, How to Jumpstart January: Plan, Launch and Sustain More Groups than Ever Before.

Here’s what you’ll gain:

  • A crystal clear understanding of exactly how to design the timeline for maximum impact
  • A calculated strategy to reach deeply into the congregation, crowd and community
  • A new understanding of how to choose a study that will appeal to unconnected people
  • A time-tested strategy to recruit the coaches you need to sustain 60 to 70% of your new groups
  • Before we even begin I’ll send you my “What to do right now” checklist

What’s Included:

  1. Three 75 minute sessions (60 minutes of content + 15 minutes Q&A)
  2. Downloadable outlines (allowing you to capture every detail)
  3. My “What to do right now” checklist
  4. Each session is packed with actionable takeaways
  5. All sessions are downloadable to share with your team
  6. Access to a password-protected site with additional supporting resources.
  7. 100% money back guarantee.  If you’re not completely satisfied…I’ll refund your money.
  8. Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $125)
  9. Questions?  Email Me for information.

When, Where and Other Details:

  • The first session is on Tuesday, November 29th at 11:00 a.m. pacific.
  • Sessions 2 and 3 are on December 6th at 11:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. (Pacific)
  • Regular pricing: $49.95
  • Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $125)
  • Questions?  Email Me for information.

Are you ready? I’d love to teach you how to plan, launch and sustain more groups than ever before in January.

You can do it. Your senior pastor will be glad you learned how…and so will your church!


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Click here to register (if you don’t see the registration form)

Friday’s List | November 11

fridays-listFriday’s List: November 11

I’ve been meaning to do this for quite awhile. I’m asked for recommendations all the time. I’ll be posting a short list every Friday.

Here are the things I’m reading, listening to, loving and wrestling with:

Here’s what I’m reading right now:

Panic at the Church: Dealing with Less Frequent Attendance Patterns and How One Church Leans in to Less Frequent Attendance: Panic at the Church, Part Two by Tony Morgan. A helpful series on an important topic.

Saddleback’s Pathway for New Groups by Ben Reed. Helpful insight into Saddleback’s pattern for new groups.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney. I’m about 2/3 of the way through this book and it is adding an important new understanding to my leadership approach.

Here’s what I’m listening to:

He’s With Me: The Lord Is My Shepherd  This is part one of a great series on the Flatirons Community Church podcast. If you’re not familiar with Flatirons, they are known for their effectiveness at reaching men and their podcast will help you begin to understand how.

Visioneering: Part One and Visioneering: Part Two: Andy Stanley takes a two part look at the building blocks of a compelling vision. If you’re not subscribed to the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast, you are missing out on some great content.

Quote I’m wrestling with:

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” Winston Churchill

My own post I hope you’re reading:

How to Take the Pulse of Your Small Group Ministry:  In this post I took a four step look at how to take the pulse of your ministry. I’ve also linked to several other articles that will help you understand the process.

innovation“Pure pragmatism cannot imagine a bold future. Pure idealism cannot get anything done. It is the delicate blend of both that drives innovation.” Simon Sinek

You can read more from my Quotebook right here.

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How to Take the Pulse of Your Small Group Ministry

pulse

How to Take the Pulse of Your Small Group Ministry

If you want to build a thriving small group ministry you need to slow down long enough to periodically take its pulse. Yes, you need to keep one eye on the preferred future and the other eye on the next milestone, but taking an accurate pulse of your small group ministry provides an important gritty reality to what otherwise can be an exercise in mere fantasy.

I love this line from Winston Churchill:

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

Taking the pulse of your small group ministry does several important things:

  1. It ensures that you are still on the right trajectory
  2. It helps determine progress
  3. It can provide clarity about the effectiveness of strategic initiatives
  4. It helps you plan the next season or the next year

How to take the pulse of your small group ministry:

There are 4 basic steps to taking the pulse of your small group ministry:

  1. Determine what you will measure. Here are a few measurements and there certainly could be others:
    • How many active groups do you have? Choose a measurement you are comfortable with (i.e., are currently meeting, have met 4 times in the last 60 days, etc.).
    • How many people are actively attending your groups? Again, you choose a measurement you are comfortable with (i.e., have attended 4 times in the last 60 days, etc.).
    • How many new groups do you have? Depending on how frequently you plan to take the pulse, this could be “new this season” or “new this year.”
    • How many active coaches do you have (i.e., are they actively interacting with the leaders in their huddle)? It’s important to confirm activity. Coaches “in name only” may impress your supervisor, but it doesn’t build a thriving small group ministry.
    • How many people are actively taking a turn facilitating group meetings (whether the whole group or a subgroup)?
    • How many groups are serving together (pick the frequency you want, could be monthly or quarterly, etc.)?
  2. Determine how you will measure:
    • Create a survey (your survey could be a paper form or an electronic survey, Google forms are easy to create).
    • Determine your process (i.e., will you make a first pass by email and then a follow-up pass by phone?).
    • Set a completion date
  3. Take the survey
  4. Debrief what you learn:
    • Use the 4 Helpful Lists exercise (What’s Right, What’s Wrong, What’s Missing, What’s Confused).
    • Use what you learn to chart the course for the upcoming season or year.
    • Determine your goals for the next season or year.
    • Determine the lead measures that will help you arrive at the next milestone.

An annual or semi-annual pulse-taking exercise is a best practice you should establish. Being able to track year-over-year numbers is very beneficial. Having hard numbers at your disposal enables more accurate planning and accountability.

Further Reading

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FAQ: What Should We Be Measuring (to build a thriving small group ministry)?

measuring

FAQ: What Should We Be Measuring (to build a thriving small group ministry)?

I’m asked all the time “what we should be measuring in our small group ministries?” Actually, more often than not, when I’m talking with small group pastors they tell me what they’re measuring and then ask me what I think.

Can I let you in on a little secret? They’re often measuring the wrong things. See also, Are You Working on the Right Things (to build a thriving small group minisry)?

It turns out that most of us are tracking what are called lag measures (i.e., percentage connected, number of groups, number of people in groups, span of care, etc.). Now don’t get me wrong. Lag measures need to be tracked. It’s just that they are the results of the strategies and tactics that actually need to be measured.

What needs to be measured? Lead measures.

“‘Lead’ measures, on the other hand, are different: they foretell the result. They have two primary characteristics. First, a lead measure is predictive, meaning that if the lead measure changes, you can predict that the lag measure also will change. Second, a lead measure is influenceable; it can be directly influenced by the team (p. 46-47).”

So if focusing on lead measures will help us achieve the major goals of our small group ministries…what might be an example or two of the right lead measures?

Example:

Let’s say your wildly important goal (WIG) is to move from 35% of your average adult worship attendance in groups to 55% of your average adult worship attendance in groups by November 15, 2017.

If that’s your goal, then the questions are:

  • “What are the strategies and tactics that are predictive (that is, if the lead measures change, the lag measure will also change)?”
  • “What are the strategies and tactics that are influenceable (that is, can be influenced directly by your team)?”

Predictive:

What are the activities (strategies and tactics) that will predict more groups and more people connected in groups? How about the following:

  • Plan and implement at least three successful launches that will start new groups between 11/7/16 and 9/15/17 (i.e., small group connection with all the trimmings in late January/early February, a short-term on-campus strategy two weekends after Easter ’17, and a church-wide campaign in September ’17).
  • Identify, recruit and develop a team of launch-phase coaches that will help your newest groups get off to a great start and continue meeting into their 3rd curriculum.

Influenceable:

The right lead measures are influenceable. That is, your team can do the things that provide the greatest opportunity for success. And they can be measured.

  • Plan and implement at least three successful launches that will start new groups between 11/7/16 and 9/15/17. There are steps that can and must be taken to ensure that the launches are on the calendar; that the launches are promoted skillfully; and that the launches are not in competition with other events/programs. Need coaching? Consider signing up for my mini-course: How to Maximize YOUR Church-Wide Campaign.
  • Identify, recruit and develop a team of launch-phase coaches. Again, there are steps that can and must be taken to ensure that you have identified, recruited and developed a team that can actually do what needs to be done. Consider signing up for my mini-course: How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.

I’ve been reading a great book. 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney. A fantastic book. I highly recommend it.

Resources to help you achieve these lead measures:

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