“How can I take care of my small group leaders?” Ever asked that one? You’re not alone!
There are at least two main schools of thought on this subject as I write. Neither solution is problem-free. But since there is no problem-free, it’s simply a matter of choosing the set of problems/issues you’d rather have. Take a look:
(1) Faithful practitioners of the metachurch model of small groups would install a layer of care and coaching that would consist of a coach for every 5 small group leaders. The role of the coach would be designed to provide a frequent point of contact for each of their small group leaders. In well implemented systems the coach would serve as a mentor/discipler for each of their small group leaders. Rather than simply checking in on the leader, the coach would primarily be a kind of spiritual encourager…much as you’d hope your small group leaders would be to their members. Larger ministries would install a layer of leadership often called a Community Leader (or Division Leader) who would care for the coaches. In some cases this would be a staff person. Willow Creek’s early implementation used a full-time Division Leader for every 10 coaches.
Issues: Finding the kind of person who will commit to investing their time as a coach is one part of the challenge. Even tougher? The arbitrary assignment of a small group leader to a coach is problematic. This is especially true when the assignment is attempted after the small group has been in existence for longer than about 3 months. If they’ve made it this long without your help…they will almost always resist the idea that they need what you’re offering. Works much better when the assignment is made at the very beginning or where there is an existing relationship that has a mentoring quality.
(2) An alternative being attempted in some larger ministries is to eliminate the coaching layer and depend on Community Leaders to provide mentoring and care for small group leaders. North Point is an example of this strategy, using a full-time Community Leader for every 60 to 75 small groups. An alternative is being implemented at Saddleback where a part-time Community Leader is expected to provide a similar level of care to a smaller number of leaders.
Issues: To say nothing of the degree of difficulty of budgeting for this salary, it assumes that an ordinary person (not a vocational minister) can’t have the skill sets or gift mixes necessary to serve in this capacity. The one thing they don’t have is the time to care for 60 to 75. Can they take care of a smaller number? Absolutely!