More on Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway

Today we have the continuation of yesterday’s interview with Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway.  If you’ve ever wondered how Saddleback helps people who simply sign up to host a six-week small group become a full-fledged leader…you’ll find a lot of answers here.  If you missed part one of the interview, you can read it right here.

Here’s Part Two:

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.  What happens next?

Steve: The third step along the leadership pathway is Leader Training 2.  This five-module training course is led by the H.O.S.T.’s community leader and is often held in the CL’s home. It focuses on deepening the five purposes in the lives of the leaders and showing them how to balance the purposes within their groups. These five modules can take up to two years to complete.  We don’t want H.O.S.T.s to take the next module until they are actually putting the previous one into practice.  The five modules are:

  • Health—developing discipleship and helping your group and individual group members to be balanced.
  • Character—deepening your heart toward worship.
  • Skills—diving below the surface to understand true community.
  • Empower—helping you do ministry inside your group or with other groups, believer to believer.
  • P.E.A.C.E.—directing your group toward the P.E.A.C.E. Plan, which is our church’s mission arm and is done personally, locally, and globally.

Mark: It’s my understanding that in the same way your coaching structure is designed to provide a kind of customized level of care for each leader, the way Leader Training 2 plays out is different depending on the maturity of the leader.

Steve:  That’s correct.  As H.O.S.T.s enter the Leader Training 2 phase, they start the discipleship module called Health. This them the value of balancing a group in the five biblical purposes. Once they have completed LT2 Health, they proceed down one of two paths. If they are leading a new group, they will focus first on the LT2 modules of Character and Skills, which compliment the new journey they are on. If their group is more seasoned, we direct them toward LT2 Empower and P.E.A.C.E.  These modules are a bit more challenging and designed for the small group with a strong foundation in place.  Once H.O.S.T.s have completed Leader Training 2, they are official leaders.

Mark: So once they’ve completed Leader Training 2 they’ve had quite a journey.  They might’ve invested as much as a couple years in the process.  What happens next?

Steve: The fourth step along the Leadership Pathway is our Gatherings where we show our leaders how much we care about them.  These gatherings also keep them tied to the vision.  Remember, if you have multiple sites (one church in different locations), you can also use Gatherings as a way to unify the sites around the common vision.

Mark: It’s been a great privilege and an honor to have your insight on this, Steve!  Thanks so much for your willingness to contribute your wisdom and knowledge to our growth!

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.

Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway

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.

Don’t Miss Part Two! You can read part two of this interview right here.  If you’re not signed up to get my updates, you can do that right here.

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.

Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Coaching Strategy

In last week’s series of articles on small group coaching I shared an idea that I got from Steve Gladen and my friends at Saddleback.  Wanting you to get the info straight from the source…I’m really honored to have Steve’s responses to some questions I emailed him last week.  Here’s how it went:

Mark: Saddleback gets a lot of attention for the large numbers of groups launched as a result of church-wide campaigns (40 Days of Purpose, Life’s Healing Choices, Decade of Destiny, etc.).  But, I don’t think you get as much attention for the way you provide care for as many group leaders as you have.

By the way, how many groups do you have currently?

Steve: We have 4,576 adult groups coming out of our Fall Campaign, but we know that number will drop….

Mark: One of the things I really like is the thinking you guys have done, recognizing that not all groups are the same; that there really are four kinds of groups.  How have you classified them?

Steve: As we looked at our groups, we started to see a pattern. We found the groups could be classified in one of four categories: (1) new groups, (2) seasoned groups, (3) veteran groups, and (4) stubborn groups. Looking at these categories, we realized all of the groups required some form of care, but not all groups required the same type or amount of care.

Mark: Makes sense.  How does that affect the kind of care you provide for new groups?

Steve: We launch a lot of new groups at Saddleback. We give them what we call Priority Care. They are full of questions and unsure of themselves in the beginning, so we stay in close contact with them to give all of the support they need. They love the connection with community leaders and the community leaders love serving them. The goal here is to get them through Leader Training 1 (Steve talks about the Saddleback Leadership Pathway right here) to get the strategic overview, their survival guide and the systems we support them with.

Mark: What happens once they make it through those early days?  Do you do anything different?

Steve: Once they know the ropes, we provide Personal Care.  Seasoned groups are often early adopters and are still open to connecting with their community leader in person.  They are excited and ready for direction and encouragement. Here we teach them “how” to balance the purposes in their small group and develop a plan. They are good enough to be dangerous!

Mark: What about the Phone Care category?

Steve: These are the groups that have been in the game for quite a while and they know what they are doing. They’re not immune to issues.  But when a problem comes up, they’re veterans and know to whom they should go to. These are the groups who want communication to be done primarily through phone or email, they tell us which. They are also typically mid-adopters. They have been meeting together for quite a while and are doing our continued education which we call Leader Training 2 (Steve will be sharing about their leader training strategy in an upcoming article).

(You can read part two right here!  And if you want the whole story, be sure and read about the Saddleback Leadership Pathway.  If you’re not signed up for my updates you can do that right here.)

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.

Imagine If Your Coaching Structure Was Like This

In yesterday’s post I described what I think are some key aspects of the end in mind when you’re developing a coaching structure.  Today I want to help you imagine your coaching structure as a finished–but steadily developing–product.  Sounds like a contradiction in terms, I know, but I just follow me for a moment.

I want you to imagine that in your congregation with an average worship attendance of 325 adults you’ve got 28 groups.  You want to add more groups this year, because you know that your Easter adult attendance of 475 adults means that you’ve got a lot of people who don’t come every week.  And you want to get as many of them in a group as you can.

I also want you to imagine that in addition to your 28 small groups you’ve got a coaching structure that’s coming along.  In fact, over the last two years you’ve built a team of 5 coaches and they’re all doing great.  They really are focused on encouraging and caring for their leaders in a way that helps the leaders experience first what you want happening at the member level in your groups.

Don’t forget that before you even got started on your two year effort to build this coaching team you had to do a few things first.  You had to develop and implement a coaching job description and then meet individually to talk through responsibilities and expectations with the 4 coaches you inherited.  See also, Diagnosis: The Coaches in Your System.

If you remember, you were a little squeamish about it at the time.  It was more than a little uncomfortable setting up the 4 meetings.  But you worked through those conversations and then over a 6 month period helped 3 of the 4 realize that they were a better fit for a different role.  In fact, 2 of the 3 that you helped reposition are now really excited about their new ministry opportunity.  One’s not your friend anymore…at least right now…but that’s the life of a small group champion.  See also, Recruiting Coaches: When Not to Compromise.

So you actually had to recruit and test-drive 8 coaching candidates in order to end up with the 5 that are doing great.  But…you were smart.  When you recruited potential coaches you invited them help you with an upcoming church-wide campaign and assured them that it was a 10 to 13 week commitment.  You gave them the launch-phase job description and evaluated their effectiveness during the campaign.  When the campaign was over you met individually with each of your launch-phase coaches, expressed appreciation for their efforts and commended the ones that had worked hard and done well.  Then, you asked them the key questions:

  • What did it feel like to know that 2 of their 3 campaign groups had decided to continue?
  • Did you enjoy working with these new leaders?
  • Is this a role in which you’d like to continue?

If they said yes, you got really excited, and began going over the responsibilities and expectation for an ongoing coach.  If they said no, you thanked them for helping and that was that.

And then there a few (3 of the 8 you recruited) that really didn’t do what they were supposed to during the campaign.  They came to the training.  They came to the new leader orientation.  But they really didn’t make their phone calls or follow up with their new leaders.  So…when you had their exit interview, you thanked them for helping with the campaign but didn’t offer them a chance to continue.  And they really didn’t care, because it wasn’t a good fit for them anyway.

And now, here you are!  You’ve got 5 coaches that are doing a good job.  But you’re hoping to add another 8 groups at the upcoming small group connection.  And you know you’re going to need at least a couple new coaches.  So what do you do now?  That’s the subject of the next post in this series.  We’ll cover that aspect next.  If you’re not signed up to get my updates, you can do that right here.

The End in Mind for an Effective Coaching Structure

Ever gotten part way into a story and realized that in order to really tell the it properly…you needed to go back and fill in a few details?  Maybe you thought you could give an overview or sketch the big picture, and then as you were telling the story it got crystal clear that without the details, the nitty gritty details, it just wouldn’t be an accurate telling.

Ever had that happen?  It happened to me yesterday.

I started out yesterday giving you three keys to a coaching tune-up.  I wrote it and then published it.  And then several hours later I got an insightful comment that said:

“Loved 1 & 2 but #3 really?!? Help me understand the ‘ask If you can count on them in the future.’ you’re basically firing them and I was hoping for some tips on doing that more delicately… Any other suggestions?” (If you missed yesterday, you might want to go back and read it to catch up)

And when I read the comment…I realized that I had assumed you all were already thinking about coaching the way I think about it.  And I realized that I had assumed that you all were already setting up your coaching structures the way I work to set them up.  And if you want to know the truth, I said, “Dohhhhhhh!  Missed it on that one!”

So today I want to begin to talk about how I want things to look and feel when coaching is developed properly (at least, according to me).  Continue reading “The End in Mind for an Effective Coaching Structure”

3 Keys to a Coaching Tune-Up

You made it through the holidays.  You’re getting ready to start the second best run for new groups (see How to Build an Annual GroupLife Calendar).  Now is a great time to evaluate the performance and readiness of your coaching team.

First Key: Evaluate Your Coaching Team

You’re really looking for two things.  First, you’re looking for fruitfulness.  You want hundred-fold players that are actually doing to and for your leaders what you want your leaders to do to and for your members.  It’s as simple as that.  After all, this is not a role that you want to fill slots just to have a certain number of coaches.

Second, and this is just as important, you’re looking for fulfillment.  It’s not enough to find people that are fruitful…but unfulfilled.  You really want both.  You really need both.  Coaches who are fruitful and fulfilled stay in their role for a long time.

Why not run a simple yes/no evaluation on how closely your coaching team members match what you’re looking for?  You can see that it’s pretty easy to determine whether they’re fruitful, right?  Did their groups survive?  Are their leaders flourishing?  Do they have chemistry?  You can think up the right questions.

Second Key: Invite the Right People to Continue

Once you’ve determined fruitfulness, you’re ready to move on to testing for fulfillment.  So…what about fulfillment?  If they need both, how can you test for fulfillment?  Here’s how I do it.  Once I’ve determined whether they’re fruitful, I simply ask them “what it feels like to know that their effort, their engagement in the lives of the leaders in their huddle has made a difference?”  Sometimes I’ll say, “4 of your 5 new groups are continuing!  How’s it feel to know that you made that kind of difference?  Is it something you’d like to continue doing?”

The ones that are both fruitful and fulfilled get asked if they’d like to continue.

Continue reading “3 Keys to a Coaching Tune-Up”

Recruiting Coaches: When Not To Compromise

I’ve written a lot about coaching.  You can see quite a few articles right here.  Today I want to warn you about something you might find surprising given my reputation for advocating a “lowered bar” approach for group leaders.  I want to really encourage you not to compromise or lower the bar in terms of who you recruit as coaches and what you expect of them.  Let’s talk about those two subjects:

Who To Recruit As Coaches

In an earlier article I wrote about the kind of person that makes the best coach.  The short version is that your candidate needs to be passionate about grouplife and they need to be at least a 60 fold person.  I’m referring to Jesus’ use of the 30, 60 and 100 fold idea in Mark 4 and other places.  It only makes sense that you can’t expect a 30 fold person to lead (or coach) and 60 fold person.

In addition to their competence, another very important qualifier is that the coaching candidate be in agreement with your small group philosophy.  You need to be on your guard on this issue because it’s one of the places we’re most likely to compromise.  For example, if you are trying to build a small group ministry on the idea that by lowering the bar in terms of who can lead and one of your coaches is constantly fretting over whether you’re allowing the wrong people to lead…you’re going to have problems.  Make sure that your coaching candidates are in philosophical agreement and do it before you invite them onto the team.

I’ve listed a whole set of recruiting ideas right here.

What To Expect of a Coach

Developing and communicating expectations is another place where compromise will definitely come back to haunt you.  Developing a job description is an important step.  A periodic review that measures the coach’s activity is essential.  If you inspect what you expect, a lot more will end up happening.


This may sound like an oversimplification, but developing expectations (both in terms of philosophy and performance) on the front end and then sticking to them will go a long way toward producing a coaching structure that works.  Will it be perfect?  Not hardly!  But it doesn’t need to be perfect.  Don’t compromise on these two things and it will be more than good enough.

How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure, Part Four

(This is part four of a series.  You can read part one right here.)

Once you’ve developed a clear job description for your coaching team, carefully selected the right people and recruited them skillfully you’re in position to help them get off to a great start in their coaching relationship.  This is a very important step that makes or breaks many coaching strategies.  Done well, you’re off and running.  Implemented poorly and you’re toast before you begin.  Here are some keys to beginning well:

  • Remember that it’s always easier to connect a new coach with a new group leader.  Attempting to retrofit a new coach with an existing small group is only occasionally effective.  Groups that have survived on their own (without a coach) rarely clamor for a coach.  More often, they are resistant to the idea that it could be helpful.
  • Great opportunities to connect a new coach with a new group leader are at new leader orientations or host orientations.  Seating new leaders at a table with their coach, recognizing your coaches and highlighting the advantages of having a coach, then releasing the tables to get to know each other is a very effective first step.  In fact, I’ve often set up first contact as the invitation (or reminder) phone call to attend the orientation.  Let the new coach make the call.  Here’s the basic script: “Hi, this is __________ calling from __________.  Just wanted to remind you about the new leaders orientation this Saturday at 9:00 a.m.  Are you going to be able to make it?  Great!  Why don’t you guys sit with me?  I’m hosting a table at the orientation and would love to hear a little of your story.”  Important: Notice that they don’t introduce themselves as a coach.
  • With new leaders seated with their new coaches it’s a slam dunk to recognize coaches as a real value add.  “We’re so excited about the new groups that are beginning in the next week or two.  We really want you to get off to a great start.  One of the things we’ve found makes a big difference is to connect each of you with someone who has done what you’re about to do.  We’ve spent the last few months recruiting a great team of experienced small group leaders who will be available every week to help you when you need any help.  These guys and gals have led really effective groups, they’ve been through it, and you’ll really benefit from their knowledge and experience.  If you’re on our coaching team would you raise your hand?  Why don’t you take the next few minutes at your table, just to get to know each other.”  If you build up your coaches in the eyes of your leaders it will make it much easier to get them connected.  Important: Notice that you recognized and recommended your new coaches.
  • Connecting existing leaders with a coach poses a greater challenge.  I’ve found it much easier to focus on connecting brand new leaders with a coach and develop a strategy that assists existing leaders to connect with other leaders in a way that leads to a kind of mutual care.

I’m developing an article describing how to help existing leaders grow.  If you’re not subscribed to my blog, you can do that right here.


Finding the Flow: A Guide for Leading Small Groups and Gatherings

finding_the_flowLooking for a leader training resource?  Finding the Flow: A Guide for Leading Small Groups and Gatherings, by Tara Miller and Jenn Peppers, is one you should take a look at.  New from IVP, it’s full of great leader training ideas, practices, and philosophy.  This is a book length training guide.  At over 240 pages (including a very helpful appendix), it is not a skim through manual.

When selecting a training resource, practical, hands-on experience, is very important.  Written in a very conversational way, this is also the story of two group life practitioners.  The authors [quote]served at Pathways Church in Denver where Tara Peppers was the Small Groups Pastor and Jenn Peppers is an elder.  They’re also the co-founders of Flow, whose mission is “to resource emerging leaders who facilitate group conversations that lead people closer to God.”

Looking over the contents you can get a pretty good idea of the style.  Chapters on knowing yourself, stages of group life, listening to God and others, asking good questions, navigating group conflict, developing new leaders and spiritual transformation let you in on the fact that this is not really a book about technique.  In fact, in the forward by Joseph Myers we learn that, “This is a field book for spotting the patterns people use to connect.  This is not a guide to clone groups.  This is a guide to help you develop environments where people can connect in organically ordered patterns.”

The book is based on the idea that small groups are “like a river.”  Out of that idea comes the notion that like a river, small groups need a water source, they need help charting their course, there will always be undercurrents and times when the waters are stirred.  The metaphor works very well because Finding the Flow is really more of a travel journal written by two very experienced travelers.  In the stories that are shared on almost every page you can sense that the depth is based on hands-on participation.

In addition to a liberal supply of great stories and illustrations, you’ll also find a steady supply of “Do This” tips that are very practical and will easily move from great idea to implementation.  Paired with a really practical set of appendices you’ll definitely get your money’s worth out of this resource.

If Finding the Flow has a downside, I think it’s that it will mostly be used by small group pastors and directors to develop training experiences and practices…as opposed to being used by group leaders as a work-through-and-discuss journal.  In my world of busy small group leaders, reading a 240 page journal is not high on the list of probabilities.  The upside?  You need this book.  Your coaches probably need this book.  It is the kind of reading that will inspire you to try a few new things.  And some of those new things will become part of your system and that will change the flow for groups in your church.

Growing Small Group Leaders

Growing Small Group LeadersMy copy of Growing Small Group Leaders arrived over the weekend.   If you’re trying to build a coaching structure that works, I’m thinking you’re probably going to want to pick up a copy.  Developed by Seacoast’s leadership development expert Mac Lake, this tool is packed with some very good plug and play training ideas, tips and an overview of a very workable structure.

I particularly like the fact that this workbook is the product of in-the-field development as opposed to a nicely worked out theory that hasn’t actually been tested.  I think you’ll like the well thought out and systematic approach, knowing that you’ve got the building blocks that will help you put together a coaching structure of your own.

Covering everything from how to assess your coaching style and set a coaching schedule to how to conduct effective one-on-one meetings and lead an effective huddle, Growing Small Group Leaders is a tool that will make your job as a point leader much easier.  In addition, an enhanced CD with many of the assessments and forms discussed in the workbook is included.

The one issue of concern with this resource is the price.  At $69.00 it will more likely be added to the point leaders reference library and used to develop coaches (who will in turn develop leaders) as opposed to a workbook that each of your coaches will receive.

Overall, this is a resource you will get a lot of use out of.  If you’re looking for ideas that will help you build a very effective coaching structure that actually develops small group leaders, this is a tool you’re going to want to add to your toolkit.