5 Ways Senior Pastors Can Affirm the Value of Small Group Leaders

In yesterday’s post I wrote that a very important thing a small group leader needs to know is that they are appreciated by their senior pastor.  Can it happen in churches of all sizes?  Absolutely.  Whether your church is small, medium or large, your senior pastor can do a short list of things that will affirm the value of small group leaders.

Here are 5 ways senior pastors can affirm the value of small group leaders:

  1. Talk about the value of small group leaders in their weekend messages.  This may seem like a small thing, but choosing to make heroes out of small group leaders goes a long way toward affirming their value.  Sharing stories about their essential role helps them know they are valued.  See also, Life-Change at the Member Level Begins with You and The Role of the Senior Pastor.
  2. Be present at small group leader rallies and training gatherings.  Merely being present at training gatherings demonstrates appreciation and affirms value.  Opening the training with a brief word of encouragement speaks loudly.  When the session is followed by warm handshakes and pats on the back, you have a recipe for affirmation.  See also, Steve Gladen on the Power of HOST Gatherings.
  3. Welcome new small group HOSTs at their orientation.  The time to begin affirming the important step of becoming a small group leader is at the moment of the first step.  Sending a personalized email to everyone who signs up to host a group takes only a few minutes to set up.  Making a brief appearance at new HOST orientations (could be a 2 minute welcome) will go a long way towards establishing the value of small group leaders.  See also, HOST Orientations that Launch Groups.
  4. Greet small group leaders warmly with a high five or a hug.  In smaller churches it may be easy to know personally all of the small group leaders.  In larger congregations it may be the simple request at leader trainings and orientations to “be sure and introduce yourself the next time you see me (i.e., “Hi Pastor Mark, I’m Bob Smith and I lead a small group here”).”
  5. Ask small group leaders about their group.  Showing interest communicates loudly about their value.  Simply asking, “What’s the best thing happening in your small group?” or “What’s the most challenging thing about your group?” provides leaders a brief opportunity to talk about their group.  More importantly, a pattern of brief conversations affords the senior pastor a window into the life of the congregation’s optimal environments of life-change.

You can read about the other 9 things every small group leader needs to know right here.

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

10 Things Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know

There are a few things every small group needs to know.  Battle hardened veterans and wet-behind-the-ears alike, every small group leader needs to know these things.

10 things every small group leader needs to know

  1. Their senior pastor appreciates them.  This is a very, very important thing for a small group leader to know.  It ought to be communicated over and over again.  Senior pastors who understand this and act on it are able to build enduring armies of small group leaders.  See also, The Role of the Senior Pastor and 5 Ways Senior Pastors Can Affirm the Value of Small Group Leaders.
  2. Who cares for them.  Carl George expressed the truth of Exodus 18 this way: “Everyone needs to be cared for by someone but nobody can care for more than (about) ten.”  Every small group leader needs to know experientially that someone cares for them.  If all they know is that someone “is over them” organizationally, you cannot expect their members to feel cared for either.  See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #5: A Leadership Development Disconnect.
  3. They belong.  I believe this is an essential ingredient if you want to build a thriving small group ministry.  Creating a sense of family and an esprit de corps isn’t automatic.  It must be created and passed on.  See also, Life-Change at the Member Level.
  4. How to take their next step.  This may not be known at the very beginning but must be an early learning.  In order for every small group leader to know this it must be built in at the earliest opportunity.  See also, From Here to There: The Preferred Future for Small Group Leaders.
  5. How to use the study.  Especially in systems and strategies that make it possible for anyone to invite their friends and lead their own group, knowing how to use the study must be basic instruction.  Although launching studies ought to be nearly just-add-water, this little bit of coaching will help new leaders (and new groups) have a better experience.
  6. What to do when they don’t know the answer or what to do.  This ought to be basic training for all leaders.  If you don’t know the answer or what to do, simply say, “I’m not sure, but I know who I can ask.  Let me find out and get back to you tomorrow.”
  7. How to fill their own group.  Every small group leader should be trained to fill their own group.  Setting up the expectation that someone else will find members for their group (often the small group pastor) is a recipe for trouble and should be avoided at all costs.  See also, Skill Training: Top 10 Ways to Find New Group Members
  8. How to share the load.  Every small group leader (no matter what you call them) should know from the very beginning that recruiting a co-leader is step #1.  They should also know that inviting group members to take turns facilitating, opening their homes for meetings, signing up to bring a snack, and keeping track of the prayer list are normal activities.  See also, Skill Training: Rotating HOST Homes.
  9. How to help their members belong.  Every small group leader needs to know how to help their members develop a sense of family and belonging.  This rarely happens without an intentional effort.  This skill must be part of a leader’s normal expectations.  See also, Do Your Small Groups Cultivate This Powerful Ingredient?
  10. How to help their members take their next step.  In order for a small group to truly be the optimal environment for life-change, the leader plays an essential role.  Few small group leaders will intuitively play this part.  Almost all group leaders can be trained to “do to and for their members what is being done to and for them.”  Caught, not taught, helping their members take next steps is the essence of the leader role.  See also, 8 Habits of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader and Skill Training: Equip Leaders to Help Members Take Their Next Step.

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

Top 10 Posts of August, 2014

Miss a day?  Here are my top 10 posts of August, 2014.  Can you spot the theme?

  1. How to Launch Small Groups Using a Small Group Connection
  2. New to Small Group Ministry? Start Here
  3. How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure
  4. Habits of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader
  5. HOST: What Does It Mean?
  6. How to Choose a Small Group System or Strategy
  7. If I Was Starting Today
  8. 5 Things Every New Small Group Pastor Needs to Know on Day 1
  9. 5 Totally Obvious Reasons Small Group Ministries Fail
  10. Need a Funny Video to Promote Small Groups? Check Out The Bible Study

Skill Training: 5 Simple Steps to Starting a New Group

You’ve been thinking about starting a new small group.  Whether you’re a veteran small group leader or this is your very first group, there are a few things to keep in mind.  What you do first determines so much about how things end up.

Want to get your new group off to a great start?

Here are 5 simple steps to starting a new group:

  1. Recruit a co-leader (who is not your spouse).  This is very important!  Don’t try to do this on your own.  Think about who you’d most like to share this experience with…and invite them to help.  Don’t compromise.  The right person is not an in name only kind of co-leader.  They’ll really be in it with you.  You need someone who is both enjoyable and can help share the load.
  2. Choose a day and time that really works for both you and your co-leader.  You will be tempted to begin inviting right away and then figure out the best time for everyone.  Do not do that!  The easiest thing to do is compromise and agree to meet when it’s not the best time for you.  If the day and time don’t work for you, it will be very difficult to stay with it.  Far better to pick the best time for you and your co-leader.
  3. Choose a small group study that meets the needs and peaks the interests of the people you hope to connect.  The study you choose will play a big role in who will say “yes” to joining your new group.  Be sure you’re paying attention to the real needs and actual interests of your potential members.  See also, Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer?
  4. Make a list of friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members you would like to invite.  Sometimes it helps to think about groups of people that you already hang out with (i.e., the softball team, the bunco group, the other parents on the T-Ball team, etc.).
  5. Host a casual get-together as your first gathering.  Nothing lowers defenses like a casual get-together.  Whether you fire up the grill, order pizza from a great pizza joint or invite everyone to bring their favorite dessert, it’s just easier to meet a few new friends while you’re holding a fork or a spoon.  See also, Skill Training: 10 Keys to a Great 1st Meeting and The ABCs of a Great Start.

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

7 Signs Your Small Group Ministry Has a Bad Design

If it’s true that “your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing (Andy Stanley),” the corollary is that if you don’t like the results you are currently experiencing, you need to acknowledge that you have a bad design and change it.  After all, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (Albert Einstein).”

Let me say that again.  If you don’t like the results you are currently experiencing, you need to acknowledge that you have a bad design and change it.

Here are 7 signs you have a bad design for small group ministry:

  1. Your percentage connected is flatlined.  Whether your weekend attendance is increasing or not, a flatlined percentage connected (the percentage of your adults who are connected in a group) indicates that your small group system is inadequately designed.  See also, Breaking the Mythical 150% Participation Barrier and The Catch a Moving Train Scenario.
  2. You have trouble finding enough leaders.  This is a common symptom of designs that depend on selecting new leaders from the usual suspects.  Once your congregation is larger than about 250 adults it will become increasingly common that your senior pastor and platform staff will be recognized at the grocery store and restaurants by people they don’t know.  When this happens your strategy must be able to recruit from the adults you do not know because some of the highest capacity potential leaders will be unknown.  This phenomenon is what makes the HOST strategy and the Small Group Connection strategy so effective.
  3. You have leaders ready but not enough interest to fill their groups.  This is often an indication that there are too many options on the belonging and becoming menu (i.e., Sunday school, discipleship training, Precepts, off campus small groups, etc.).  It can also be an indication that your congregation sees the weekend service as everything they need.  See also, Small Group Roadblock #2: A Bloated Belong and Become Menu and Determining the Minimum Required and Recommended Dose.
  4. Your coaching structure does not work.  This is a common symptom of bad small group ministry design.  The wrong people or the wrong job description can both play a part in the implications of a bad design.  See also, How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.
  5. Your senior pastor is reluctant to champion the importance of community.  Although there are several other reasons a senior pastor may be reluctant to be the small group champion, a common reason is they don’t see your system as effective.  See also, 5 things Senior Pastors Need to Know about Small Group Ministry.
  6. Your small groups deliver a sense of belonging but rarely produce becoming.  Small group strategies that make it easy to connect but aren’t designed to make disciples are poorly designed.  See also, 5 Keys to Building Small Group Ministry at the Corner of Becoming and Belonging and Would You Rather: Connect More People or Make More Disciples?
  7. Only a small percentage of your new groups continue meeting after they’re launched.  This design flaw is a leading indicator for flatlined percentage connected.  Strategies that struggle to launch and sustain new groups need an immediate overhaul.  See also, 5 Keys to Sustaining New Groups.

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

Quotebook: Self-Awareness

How aware are you of your own tendencies?  Are you aware of those times when your own preconceived ideas and certainties serve as a blockade to anything unfamiliar or different?  I love this line from Ed Catmull, current president of Pixar.

“There is nothing quite as effective, when it comes to shutting down alternative viewpoints, as being convinced that you are right.”  Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.

When I read this and allow it to penetrate my own prejudices I remember my own resistance to ideas like the small group connection, video curriculum and the HOST strategy.

Could My New Short Course Help Connect the Rest of Your Adults?

What percentage of your average weekend adult attendance have you connected?  30%?  50%?  80%

What if I could give you an idea that would help you add another 10 or 20%?

What if I could give 4 or 5 ideas that would help you connect the rest of your adults?

You’re Invited!

I want to invite you to join me for my new 4 session short course: Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry.  Based on my most requested and most popular workshop, it draws more positive comments and rave reviews than anything else I talk about.

Here’s what you’ll gain:

  • An accurate diagnosis of your current situation (limiting factors, barriers, untapped resources and advantages)
  • The tools that will help you identify future opportunities with the most upside.
  • Resources that help you craft a preferred future that will help your ministry move in the right direction
  • The strategies that will help you move in the direction of your preferred future and stay on course.

What’s Included:

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

When, Where and Other Details:

  • The first session is on Thursday, September 11th at 11:00 a.m. pacific.
  • Sessions 2 thru 4 are on September 18th, September 25th and October 2nd.
  • Regular pricing: $49.95
  • Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $100)
  • Questions?  Email Me for information.

Registration Options (pulldown)

The 7 Biggest Problems Facing Small Group Pastors

What are the problems you face?  I’ve been at this a long time.  I’ve pretty much seen it all.  Here’s my list:

The 7 biggest problems facing small group pastors:

  1. A senior pastor who is reluctant or ineffective as small group champion.  This may be the most under-the-radar problem facing small group pastors.  After all, a significant number of senior pastors will tell you, “We hired a small group pastor to be the small group champion!”  Do you face that problem?  Does your small group pastor?  See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #1: A Doubtful and Conflicted Senior Pastor.
  2. The small group pastor position is too low on the org chart.  Building a thriving small group ministry depends on the right decisions being made at the right time.  When the most knowledgable and most passionate person is 2 or 3 rungs down from where decisions are made it is irresponsible to assume the best outcome.  Are you there?  Is your small group pastor?  See also, 5 Habits I’d Look for If I Was Hiring a Small Group Pastor.
  3. Equal status and promotion for every ministry and program.  When everything is important, nothing is important.  Churches that promote everything equally should not expect anything to thrive.  How does your menu look?  See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #2: A Bloated Belong and Become Menu.
  4. Unrealistic expectations.  Churches with thriving small group ministry cultures have build them over years, even decades.  The belief that you can arrive at your preferred future, that you can move from where you are to where you want to be, in a single move or even a few moves, is unrealistic.  To cast as vision unrealistic expectations leads to idea fatigue.  See also, 5 Easily Overlooked Secrets to Building a Thriving Small Group Ministry and Wash, Rinse, Repeat and the Long Run.
  5. Acceptance of the status quo.  Remember, your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.  If you want different results, you must disrupt the status quo.  Failure to break free from the stranglehold of the status quo dooms you to remain stuck.  Is that your world?  See also, Beware the Lure of the Status Quo.
  6. Codependent catering to the usual suspects.  The easiest thing to do is to satisfy the already connected.  The wisest thing to do is to become preoccupied with the needs and interests of the right people (i.e., the still unconnected, unreached people in your crowd and community).  Who are you catering to?  See also, Preoccupied with the Needs and Interests of the right People and Design Your Connection Strategy with Unconnected People in Mind.
  7. Strategic mismatch between the small group system or model and the percentage unconnected.  This problem plagues both the small group pastor and senior pastor alike.  Falling in love with systems or models without acknowledging and even choosing the set of problems that come with them often comes back to haunt.  Have a high percentage unconnected?  Be sure you are paying attention to the number of new groups you are actually launching every year.  Problems finding enough new leaders?  Be sure you are connecting that result to the design of your system.  See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting People?

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

Rick Warren: My Small Group Pulled Me Through Dark Days

I’ve written many times about the role of the senior pastor as small group champion.  I’ve also pointed you to what I believe is the real reason that Saddleback has so many in groups. Can’t see the video?  You can watch it right here. You’ll find a great collection of Saddleback small group videos on this free download page.

Steve Gladen on Aligning “Affinities” with Small Groups

Do you have gender-based ministries or programs?  For example, do you have a Beth Moore Bible study for women?  And maybe a monthly men’s breakfast and Men’s Fraternity?  How about a couples’ date night?  Singles’ events?  Do you have ministries or programs designed to minister to these affinities?

How are they organized?  Do you have a cohesive strategy?  Or do your affinity ministries really function as individual silos?

I had the opportunity today to talk with Steve Gladen, Saddleback’s small group pastor, about the way their small group ministry is structured and how they’re handling gender-based ministry.  It was a conversation I  know you’re going to want to listen in to.

Here’s my conversation with Steve Gladen

Need some background?  Here’s a very helpful article from Steve on the same topic: Aligning Affinities to Your Small Group Model

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

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