Skill Training | Priming the Leadership Pump

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  • “I can’t find enough leaders to take care of the number of people who want to be in a group.”
  • “Many of the people with the most potential to lead are just sitting in groups as members and won’t leave to start a new group.”

Sound familiar?  Those are two of the most common complaints of small group pastors, directors and champions.  You might as well admit it…we’ve all made those observations at one time or another.  I was right there with you until I discovered the secret of priming the leadership pump.  Here’s what I do:

First, I begin training every group leader to rotate facilitators.  This little step seems innocent and really not a big deal, but it is huge.  By training group leaders to rotate facilitators you counteract one of the most common objections of potential leaders.  “I could never lead a discussion” is an objection that melts away once a member begins to take a turn leading now and then.

I actually begin talking about the importance of rotating leaders in the HOST or Leader orientation.  I have them pull out the Small Group Agreement, work my way through the agreement, and tell them how to make rotating facilitators happen right out of the gate.  “If you start your group by asking one other person to help you lead it, you’ll be way ahead.  That’s assignment #1 as you leave this orientation.  Think about who you’d most like to have in your group and ask them to help you co-lead the group.”

The next thing I train new leaders to do (once they’ve recruited a co-leader) is go over the Small Group Agreement with their group, talk about the value of rotating leaders (30 seconds), finish session one of their first study, and then have everyone turn to the small group calender (provided if their group isn’t using curriculum with a built-in calender).  One of the columns on the simple calender is a sign-up opportunity to take a turn facilitating the group.  When the leader asks if anyone would like to take a turn, the co-leader can be the first to say “yes.”  That often gets at least one other “yes.”

An obvious requirement: In order to pull this off you’ve got to be using curriculum that makes it easy to lead.  DVD-Driven is a great choice.  You’ll find some good possibilities right here.  The key is to choose curriculum that has a just-add-water format that emphasizes discussion and downplays the importance of teaching a concept.  Look for transformation, not information acquisition.

The second thing I do is downplay the birthing idea.  I do like the idea of apprentice leaders and groups that birth.  I’ve just found that in practicality it rarely works.  Better to celebrate groups that develop rotating leaders and are becoming what Brett Eastman calls a “crockpot of leadership development.”

The third thing I do is create regular opportunities for groups to take a vacation and help start new groups.  I’ve written about how to build in the idea of a small group vacation into your annual calender right here.  Essentially, all you’re doing is leveraging an annual church-wide campaign to ask existing groups to consider not meeting for the six weeks of the campaign and instead, step out and help launch some new groups.

By building these three elements into your system you’ll be able to overcome the two biggest complaints of small group point people and raise up a nearly unlimited number of small group leaders.

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  1. Ben Reed on December 2, 2009 at 7:49 am

    Great job answering questions that small group leaders are truly asking. You’re right on point, Mark.

  2. Mark Howell on December 2, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Thanks Ben!