Customized Leader Requirements and Benefits

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If you've been following the conversation here for very long you know that I am an advocate for lowering the leader bar. In fact, I've found that one of the primary reasons many churches struggle to identify and recruit enough small group leaders to take care of the demand is that they're looking for Jesus Jr. instead of Peter, Thomas or Matthew (all of whom had issues...if you recall).

Still, every church has to decide what the leader requirements will be. In a sense, every church customizes the leader requirements to fit their culture.

Common forms of customized leader requirements:

1. Only members can lead a group. And by the way, membership means very different things from one church to another. At some churches you attend a one hour class and sign a covenant. At others, you attend a series of four hour classes.

2. Anyone can lead a group and all leaders are given equal treatment. Everyone can have their group listed in the catalog or on the website.

3. Anyone can lead a group but requirements and benefits are customized to fit the situation. For example, anyone can pick up materials and fill their group with friends and neighbors they've personally invited. Inclusion in the catalog or online group finder is available only to those groups that meet additional, more stringent requirements.

Full Disclosure: I am a fan of option 3. Making it easy for everyone to reach out to friends, neighbors, family and co-workers just makes sense. It's not problem-free.  There is no problem-free. But I'd rather have the messiness that come with this solution than the problems that come with a too high leader bar.

How Customized Leader Requirements Could Look

If you think about it, one of the first realizations every small group champion ought to have is that you can't really control who leads a small group. It's a free country!  At least, here in the U.S. it's a free country. It doesn't matter whether you fully approve of the leader of any individual group. Once they've gathered a few of their friends or neighbors...they're a group.

At the same time, you can control certain things and you can guide certain outcomes. For example, you get to choose what requirements must be met in order to be included in the group catalog or on the online group finder.

The fact that anyone can lead a group has no bearing on who can be included in the catalog or online finder. Any number of requirements could be on your list. For example, in order to be included in the online finder you might require leaders to have a background check on file, be a member of the church, attend certain required meetings and participate in church-wide studies.

What about additional levels of control? Although it allows significantly less leverage, it makes sense that to be recognized as "an official group" a leader might need to maintain adequate communication with their coach or the small group pastor.

Can you see how all of these stipulations could be part of the essential requirements for "official groups?" Where you set the bar is up to you and your church's culture. Lowering the bar shouldn't have to mean anything beyond who can open their home and inviting a few friends.

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

Image by Saul Davis

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  1. Pastor Rod Kesselring on October 24, 2011 at 9:03 am

    OK Mark here we go 🙂  I have one this (option 3) in the past.  Quite frankly out of necessity more than strategy.  We are a fairly young church 8 years and one of the first people that lead one of our groups was a single lady and her best friend.  We used 40 days of purpose to launch but after that we didn’t really have much direction on where or how we wanted to proceed.  so we just started letting people pick there own studies and do their own thing.  Once we finally got some direction and started asking people to raise bar of what it meant to lead.  (come to training, communicate with coach and/or pastor) this leader would just not do it.  I sat down with them and talked with them but nothing changed.  The kicker was that this group has never grown past  2 people (there have been occasional spurts of 4 but it always returns back to the se 2 women).  So I made the choice to tell them I was not going to list the group in a catalog since it really does not look or function like a group.  That was a lead balloon!  They still meet and they still ask every semester why they are not listed in the catalog.  It would be comical (the movie… office space) if it were not so sad.  How do you deal with issues of that kind of system.  

  2. Anonymous on October 24, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Good example, Rod! We all have them. Remember, there is no problem-free solution. With #3, you can raise leader sights to higher expectations, but they won’t all play along. You’ll still have to have conversations to explain (and re-explain). At the same time, adopting a version of #3 allows confidence that your overall group system is healthier.


  3. Rich Stone on October 24, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Darn – just when I was all set to argue, you gave options and pros and cons to each one.  A very balanced view.  Thanks.

  4. Anonymous on October 25, 2011 at 7:00 am

    Thanks for jumping in here Rich!


  5. Alan Danielson on October 28, 2011 at 9:35 am

    STELLAR POST!!  Love it, Mark!!

  6. Anonymous on October 28, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Thanks Alan!