7 Core Ideas about Small Group Coaching

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Have you established a coaching model in your small group ministry? Better, what's the most recent coaching model you've implemented? Even better, what coaching model are you leaning toward implementing next?

It would be funny if it weren't the truth for many of us.

Still, it might pay to do some basic thinking about small group coaching philosophy before you make your next move (or your first move in the case of a new small group ministry).

Here are 7 core ideas about small group coaching:

1. Jethro's wise advice to Moses in Exodus 18:13-27 is often cited as the basis for the idea of span of care.

Essentially, Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, pointed out that Moses couldn't possibly care for everyone. Instead, he needed to have leaders of 1,000, leaders of 100, leaders of 50 and leaders of 10).

Carl George provided a good shorthand nugget for Jethro's advice to Moses with this pithy line: "Everyone needs to be cared for by someone and no one can care for more than (about) ten." It follows from this simple statement that leaders aren't the only ones who need care. Someone will need to provide care for your coaches as well.

Everyone needs to be cared for by someone and no one can care for more than (about) ten. —Carl George Share on X

2. Coaching is primarily about care.

While there may be a need for how-tos in the very beginning of a new leader's experience, a small group leader rarely needs help with technique after their first 3 or 4 months in the role. Asking four basic questions from the beginning of the relationship will help establish a caring connection that will endure beyond the leader's need for technique.

3. The coaching relationship is often positioned incorrectly as primarily about communication and data integrity.

Positioned incorrectly, the bulk of the conversation between coach and leader centers around things like, "How many members do you have?" and "How many times did you meet this month?" When that happens, the relationship never grows into the mentoring, discipleship-oriented, doing TO and FOR (and WITH) the leader whatever you want the leader to do TO and FOR (and WITH) their members.

4. Positioned correctly, the coaching relationship can be about discipleship and mentoring.

If it is true that whatever you want to happen in lives of group members must happen first in the lives of group leaders, the essential role of a coach is to do TO and FOR (and WITH) the leaders whatever you want them to do TO and FOR (and WITH) their members. When that connection does not develop, you cannot expect the leader to deliver something they have never experienced.

If it is true that whatever you want to happen in lives of group members must happen first in the lives of group leaders, you cannot expect the leader to deliver something they have never experienced.. Share on X

5. The most receptive coaching recipients are new small group leaders.

It makes sense. They're unsure of themselves. They have questions. They don't know all the answers. New small group leaders are almost always glad to hear that you're providing an experienced guide for them.

6. The least receptive coaching recipients are experienced small group leaders.

After all, once they've survived the first few months, they've usually encountered all of the most common pitfalls (my article How to Implement Coaching for Existing Group Leaders addresses some of the issues surrounding assigning coaches to existing leaders).

7. It's much harder to get someone out of a role than into a role.

That said, wise point leaders create a test-drive experience that invites a prospective coach to help out on a short-term basis (i.e., Would you help us take care of a new leader or two when we launch new groups with the fall campaign?). My article, Recruiting Additional Coaches for Church-Wide Campaigns provides the nuts and bolts that make this concept work.

Need to take some next steps? You might want to sign up for my 4 session mini-course, Building an Effective Coaching Structure - 2019.

Image by Bluedharma

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  1. Brian on November 24, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    Mark, do you know what the percentages are of LifeGroup survival rates when the Coach or Community Leader build a relationship with the LG Leader at the very beginning as opposed to meeting a few month later?

  2. markchowell on November 25, 2014 at 6:35 am

    Hi Brian…thanks for jumping in here! You’re actually asking a couple of great questions.

    First, I can tell you that when we do everything right, including connecting a new leader to a coach at the very beginning we can regularly sustain 70 to 75% of our new groups into a second study. When they start without being connected to a coach their sustain rate is much lower. Depending on how many groups you launch, you can track those numbers as well.

    Second, retroactively assigning a coach to an existing small group leader is one of most common reasons small group coaching structures fail. The longer the new group leader leads without a coach, the more sure he or she becomes that they don’t need a coach (not understanding that the primary role of a coach is about care not coaching in the sense that it’s commonly used). Can a coach be assigned 30 days later? Probably. 60 days later? Probably. 90? Depends. 120? Probably not.