In a recent two-part series Steve Gladen talked about Saddleback’s Small Group Coaching strategy. In that previous series Steve mentioned their Leadership Pathway and I asked him if he’d be willing to provide some insight into the way they help people who have volunteered to simply host a group grow over time into a committed group leader who is truly invested in their members’ spiritual growth.
Mark: We know that many of the small groups that form at Saddleback begin as H.O.S.T. homes during a church-wide campaign. What does the Leadership Pathway look like at the very beginning?
Steve: To start it’s important to know the philosophical premise of our training. We see Jesus called the disciples in Matthew 4 with a requirement of “Come and see”. Three years later in was “Come and die”. Jesus took them on a pathway that took them from “come and see” to “come and die”. Slowly letting them see they may bring more to the puzzle than they think. Most churches start with “come and die” recruiting and scare everyone anyway—no leadership development process is in place. In our language we want to start with crawl and help them run, not start with run. Now back to your question.
New H.O.S.T.s often take their first steps on our pathway without knowing it. In this initial stage we look to make sure they have a commitment in faith as Christ as Lord and Savior and call Saddleback their home. Notice there’s not a member requirement, yet. We give them the opportunity to lead a small group with very little commitment. We provide a New H.O.S.T. Home Kit that includes everything they need to get their new group started, including a DVD entitled “How to Start a Small Group.” In addition to the kit, we also give the H.O.S.T.s access to 8 online training sessions (each lasting less than 10 minutes), which are available through our small group website.
Mark: So they get started with very little formal training, but they’re in the game. They meet for the 6 weeks of the campaign series. What happens next?
Steve: Two things happen if they want to continue past the initial H.O.S.T. stage. First, we start the process of getting the new Hosts to be members of the church. And second we invite them to Leader Training 1. This is a basic training session for all of our continuing H.O.S.T.s. It’s held several times every year and consists of one 3-hour session. We offer the session both on campus and online. Interestingly, less than a year into offering it online we’ve had more students in our online training than in our on campus training. The course gives new H.O.S.T.s a strategic overview of our small group ministry, explains a few basic survival techniques for hosting a group, and shares the support structure we have in place for them.
After they’ve completed Leader Training 1 and signed the document with the small group guidelines and leader values, the church sends the H.O.S.T. a letter of congratulations and a certificate that marks their completion of this first step. Because relationships are a vital ingredient in the success of our small group leaders and we want them to know they will not be alone in their journey, the next important step is connecting each H.O.S.T. with a mentoring community leader (CL) —a seasoned member of our small group ministry who gets it and lives it. From that point on, each H.O.S.T.’s community leader starts playing a key role in his or her growth process. The CL walks with the H.O.S.T. through each remaining step of the leadership pathway.
Mark: So they’ve moved from the baby steps of a 6 week commitment to a decision to continue, attended a 3 hour course and now are connected with a mentoring community leader. Sounds good so far. Do you have a sense for the percentage of your hosts that go on to the next step in the Leadership Pathway?
Steve: I can tell you that prior to our latest Fall Campaign, 82% had continued past the Campaign for 3,736 groups.
About Steve Gladen: I’ve said this a number of times, but I want to be sure and say this again. Steve is a couple of things. First, he’s one of the smartest GroupLife guys on the planet. He’s also one of the most helpful small group experts on the planet. Seriously. While we’re on the subject, I want to suggest again that all of you pre-purchase Steve’s upcoming book. Here is the link: Small Groups with Purpose and here’s more info about the book.