Do you have a small group ministry problem?
It turns out that there is a relatively simple solution to almost every small group ministry problem. And, the set of problems faced by small group pastors and directors is not extensive. It's a fairly short list of problems.
Note: There is a difference between simple and easy. Simple can be the opposite of complex or complicated (i.e., "It was a simple solution that only required one change."). Easy, on the other hand, is the opposite of hard or difficult (i.e., "Solving the problem was easy. It hardly required any effort.").
Problem Solved: I Can't Find Enough Leaders
One of the most common problems faced by small group pastors and directors is the challenge of finding enough small group leaders.
There are several underlying issues that cause the problem and make it very common.
6 Underlying Issues and Solutions
1. High Standards
The minimum qualifications for leadership can often be an unnecessarily high barrier to entry. For example, requiring a leader to be a church member is still fairly common. Requiring a group leader to be a tithing member limits the number of qualifying candidates.
Reviewing minimum leader qualifications is step one. Are they necessary to produce the result you hope for? If lowering the minimum leader qualifications is not an option, creating a 30 to 90 day pathway upon entry leading to the eventual qualification(s) may be an effective solution. A common solution to the leader standards problem is to develop different leader requirements for different types of groups (i.e., if a prospective group leader invites their own friends vs a group where the church provides the members).
A common solution to the leader standards problem is to develop different leader requirements for different types of groups (i.e., if a prospective group leader invites their own friends vs a group where the church provides the… Click To Tweet
2. Prohibitive Job Description
What a leader has to be able to do to begin is sometimes a barrier. For example, when a small group ministry model requires the leader to devote extensive time to prepare, an unnecessary challenge is created.
Review the job description requirements. Are the requirements necessary? Or is there a simpler way of producing the same or similar effect? For example, making video content available reduces or eliminates the teaching requirement. Providing a well-written leader resource can limit or eliminate extensive preparation requirements. Well-written discussion questions can often lead themselves.
3. Experience Prerequisite
Some small group ministries require a prospective leader to have been a member of a group. Some small group ministries require a prospective leader to have been an apprentice. While there may be exceptions (i.e., an experienced group leader joins the church), both situations add a limitation that restricts leader recruitment.
Give careful thought to this prerequisite. Especially in churches where the majority of the congregation and crowd are unconnected, it is almost certain that the largest number of prospective leaders are not currently in groups. If you want to provide a quicker way of starting new groups and connecting more people, you need to eliminate the group experience prerequisite.
4. Training Prerequisite
Requiring prospective group leaders to attend a training event or a training class presents its own challenges. First, the willingness to complete a class is not an indication of fitness to lead others. Second, the frequency with which it is offered (or infrequency) can be an unnecessary limitation.
Consider providing a one-time new leader orientation/on-boarding accompanied by on-the-job and just-in-time training. The one-time new leader orientation/on-boarding can be provided live and by video. The video can be provided online or on a USB flash drive. The on-the-job and just-in-time training can be provided by combining the availability of a coach and an annual leader development strategy.
5. Small Group System Limitations
Every small group ministry system or model comes with its own set of problems. Some systems place a limitation on the kind of group a prospective leader can lead. For example, in a sermon-based system, a prospective leader may not be free to choose their own study. In a semester system, the next on-ramp may not coincide with the prospective leaders availability.
While some systems or models limit the full range of prospective leaders, there are workarounds. For example, a sermon-based model can still provide other options and a semester-based model doesn't prevent organic beginnings.
6. Leader Identification
Last but not least, you may not know how to find prospective leaders. This actually may be the most common problem. Apprenticing rarely produces new leaders in a way that matches supply with demand. Leader training classes attract ineffective or even inappropriate candidates along with those with potential. Tapping shoulders is limited to the willingness of prospective leaders to leave their existing group.
Launching strategies that identify prospective leaders at events in real-time or that make it easy for new groups to form organically make leader identification a non-issue. The Small Group Connection strategy and GroupLink both leverage the connecting event to identify prospective leaders. North Point's GroupLink leverages the beginning small group study to help members nominate a leader candidate. Saddleback's HOST strategy (or the "If you've got a couple friends" strategy) enables new groups to form organically and leverages a leadership pathway that moves new leaders in the right direction.