Small Group Leaders: Qualifications, Hoops, and Lowering the Bar

Share via:

One of the most pressing challenges in developing a pervasive groups ministry is finding enough leaders.  It may be the #1 challenge (just ahead of finding enough coaches).  Let me say two things.  First, it is a challenge.  Second, your success will be determined by the answer to a few questions.  Here they are:

  1. Are you willing to recruit leaders from outside the core or your existing group structure?  This is a key question.  Many group systems struggle to recruit new leaders because they have a requirement that you have to be in a group before you can lead a group.  Although it seems like a way to ensure culture continuity, there are several problems with this requirement.  The biggest problem is that it depends on your ability to persuade existing group members to leave their group to lead another.
  2. What are the requirements to lead (or host) a group?  Obviously, the more stringent your requirements, the more difficult it will be to find enough leaders.  Thinking about it in terms of a continuum should help.  The question you must ask yourself is, “What are the minimum requirements to produce the environment we feel good about?”  Remember, you can set criteria that determines where their members come from, what material they use and how to pick it up.
  3. Where will the group members come from?  This is a very important question.  If you’re going to advertise the group on your website or send members via a sign-up, you may feel like you need to pre-qualify new leaders by running a background check or having leader candidates complete an application or questionnaire.  Additionally, you may require them to be members or attend an orientation.  At the same time, if new hosts are inviting their own friends to join their group, if the group isn’t promoted on the website or catalog, you may feel fine with the requirement that they attend an orientation, complete a questionnaire, and establish contact with a coach.  Where their members come from is often a key to who can lead or host and it is now common practice to have a range of options in the same campaign (i.e., anyone can pick up the curriculum to start a group with their own friends but if you want to be on the website you’ve got to be a member, attend the orientation, etc.).

There are other questions.  The key to recruiting enough leaders is to set the qualifications at a level you are comfortable with…and accept the consequences.  If you set the bar very high, it is unreasonable to expect unlimited leaders.  If you lower the bar, you’ll need to establish a set of support features that will reduce your anxieties (i.e., attend orientation, use preapproved curriculum, connect with a coach, fill your own group, etc.).  Like everything else, there is no problem-free solution.  Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Josh Hunt on February 4, 2010 at 10:56 am

    I never struggled to find teachers after I started writing Good Questions.

    Josh Hunt
    Good Questions Have Groups Talking

  2. Mark Howell on February 4, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Providing easy-to-use curriculum is definitely a factor in recruiting leaders. Thanks Josh!


  3. Ben Reed on February 5, 2010 at 6:20 am

    Great stuff here, Mark! I agree with you on setting the bar “low.” I use that same terminology.

    But as I was leading a training the other day, and I said those very words, I caught myself. Yes, the bar is “low” in one sense, but in another, very real sense, it’s extremely high. Here’s our bar:
    1. Be growing in your love of God.
    2. Be growing in your love of people.

    I completely get what you’re saying about a “low” bar. It’s lower than what local churches usually use to determine if a person is qualified to teach/lead a group. But I’m not sure if the Bible would say that’s a low bar.

    Keep up the good work, Mark. Love reading your blog.

  4. Mark Howell on February 5, 2010 at 6:26 am

    Great insight Ben! I really like the idea that we’re lowering the bar in one sense but keeping it high in another. That makes a lot of sense.


  5. Andy Lie on February 10, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Thanks for this post, Mark. Being in a small church (90-100 total weekly attendance), we believe that it should be easier to connect a higher percentage of our congregation in small groups, but that’s not currently the case (we have 3 small groups and 3 very small discipleship groups…with some of the same participants in small groups).

    I think we might have to take a “low bar” risk as you say, but with the qualifications that Ben shares!

  6. Mark Howell on February 17, 2010 at 6:56 am

    Thanks for jumping into the discussion Andy! Every church must arrive at its own comfort level. Just stay aware of the consequences of your decisions. You can always adjust as you go along.