Coaching FAQ: How to Add Value to Experienced Small Group Leaders

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"None of my experienced group leaders want a coach.  In fact, some of them seem mad that I assigned them a coach.  And on top of that, the coaches that I assigned to existing small group leaders are already thinking about quitting because they don't think they're needed."

Ever said something like that?

If I were to make a list of the top 10 most frustrating issues in building an effective coaching structure (note to self, that would make a great post), the frustration of assigning coaches retroactively to existing small group leaders would probably be #1 or #2 almost every time.

So...can anything be done about it?  Or, are we just stuck?

Here's how I tackle the issue:

First, I acknowledge that once a new leader has made it through the first 3 to 6 months, they rarely need help with technique.  The fittest and most adaptable new leaders emerge still standing.  Ill-equipped, or otherwise not-ready-for-primetime new leaders rarely make it through the first 3 to 6 months.  Their groups die.

With me?  This isn't the time to be idealistic.  The hard truth is that once a new group leader makes it through the first few their minds they don't need a coach.  After all, if they needed one, how did they make it without one?

Second, while they might not need a coach, they might respond to an opportunity to gather with a few other leaders to share what's working and what's not working (for more on this idea, see How to Implement Coaching for Existing Groups).

Third, I need to reposition the role of a coach in the minds of existing leaders and the coaching team.  This is an essential understanding.  What I want for my experienced small group leaders isn't about technique or best practices.  What I want for every one of my leaders is care.

Remember, "everyone needs to be cared for by someone, but no one can care for more than about ten."  Carl George and Jethro were both absolutely spot on in their diagnosis.  Everyone needs care...and a span of care of about 10 is where we max out.

3 Simple Steps to Add Value:

1. Change the way you introduce a new coach to an existing group leader.  For example, instead of a phone call that says, "Hi Bob, I'm your new coach!" introduce the practice in a leader's meeting by teaching Exodus 18.  Emphasizing the concept of care (not accountability and not technique) will help your existing leaders embrace it.

2. Train your coaches to see their role through a new and different lens.  If they see their role correctly, they'll have an easier time (See Skill Training: Four Questions Every Coach Should Be Asking for more on this idea).

3. Make sure you talk about the person who provides care to you.  If you're a solo need to change that.  Adding a shepherd to your own experience is an essential ingredient (see How to Equip Leaders to Help Members Plan to Grow for more on this practice).

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  1. Cathy on April 12, 2012 at 7:59 am

    You mention groups dying after 3-6 months. I am new to a church which majors on deep relationships, telling life stories and authenticity. Current volunteers leading the SG ministry want leaders trained before taking a group. There seems to be a fear of  a “damaging” experience for participants if the group disbands…or if it continues with a less than stellar facilitation. Do you have any thoughts about helping  culture like this take a risk? I mean…there was only one small group with a perfect leader (disciples with Jesus)!!

  2. Anonymous on April 12, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Thanks for jumping in here, Cathy! You’re asking some great questions…and I do have thoughts! First of all, “How’s it going?” is always a good question to lead with. In other words, it’s one thing to have idealism and conviction. It’s another thing entirely to maintain convictions (i.e., allowing fear of “damaging” experience to limit solutions). Second, a great place to begin your thinking is my article, Problem-Free Leader Identification and Recruitment ( Take a look at it and let me know what you think! And you’re right…the only perfect leader was Jesus!