I’m frequently asked how to find potential small group coaches. It happens all the time but often right after I’ve spoken or written about the fact that without coaching in place it will be next to impossible to build a thriving small group ministry. And unless you have so few groups that your small group pastor can personally disciple and develop your small group leaders…well, you get my point.
If I were hiring a small group pastor, I’d look for the habit of identifying, recruiting and developing high capacity leaders of leaders. See also 5 Habits I’d Look for If I Was Hiring a Small Group Pastor.
So, how do I identify a potential small group coach? Here’s how I do it:
How to identify a potential small group coach
First, I begin my search for potential coaches within my group of existing small group leaders. Why? Because brand new small group leaders often need access to someone who knows how to lead a group. The promise of a weekly check-in with someone who knows the ropes is very reassuring. When you introduce the coach to the new leader it is a tremendous advantage to be able to say, “Bill has been leading groups for a long time and really knows what he is doing.”
With me so far? That’s the first filter.
Second, I run my existing small group leaders through a capacity filter. I got the idea from something Bill Hybels said years ago as he spoke about Jesus’ line about the relative capacity of a seed (30, 60 or 100 fold) from Mark 4:1-20. Jesus isn’t talking about the maturity of a seed. He isn’t challenging 30-folds to become 100-folds. He is simply observing that there are seeds that have a higher capacity.
When I’m on the hunt for coaches I begin with my existing leaders and run them through the capacity filter. I ask myself, “Which of them are just head and shoulders above all the others in terms of their capacity?” Sometimes I imagine locking all of my leaders in a large room over a weekend and speculate who would emerge as leaders of leaders. Those are the hundred-fold leaders. That is what you’re looking for.
Now, if you really worked the exercise this way, once you pulled out your hundred-fold leaders, you’d begin to notice that there is another group of leaders who have more capacity than the average leader (thirty-fold) but less than the hundred-folds. They’re a sixty-fold leader and they also can make a good coach.
See where I’m going? That’s the second filter. See also, 6 Characteristics of an Effective Small Group Coach.
Third, I run my list of hundred-fold and sixty-fold candidates through a spiritual maturity filter. This is an essential step. Knowledge about how to lead a group is most important in the very beginning of the relationship between a coach and a new small group leader. Once a new leader makes it through the first few months, the need for coaching on technique is rarely important. What endures is the coach’s relationship with the leader. When the coach can say, “follow me while I follow Christ” you have the essence of a powerful mentoring and discipling relationship.
This is an important filter. I believe whatever you want to happen at the member level, will have to happen to the leader first. In most cases this is about what the coach is doing to and for the leader. The coach’s spiritual maturity makes this possible. See also, Life-Change at the Member Level, Model What You Want to Happen at the Member-Level, and Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciples Leaders.
Still with me? That’s the third filter.
Finally, I run my candidates through an availability filter. The right people are almost always busy people. They are rarely sitting at home watching television. They often are already committed to several ministries. For a high capacity leader with the right level of spiritual maturity to be a legitimate coaching candidate, they will have to make room for a 10 to 13 week commitment (I’ve learned that the best way to recruit a potential coach is with a test-drive, and I explain that in part two of this series).
If you want to build a thriving small group ministry, you need to know how to identify, recruit and develop high capacity leaders of leaders. This is how I identify potential coaches. Tomorrow I’ll tell you how I recruit them.
Image by Kevin Dooley