My Top Small Group Ministry Learnings 2016 – 2017

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I like to think of myself as a learner. On the StrengthsFinder tool I am also futuristic with a twist of ideation. I’ve been called a mad scientist (and it’s one of my favorite tags). At one stop I almost convinced my boss that my new title should be The Destructor of the Status Quo.

Here’s my list of top learnings from the 2016-17 ministry year:

  1. The best time to connect a new leader with a coach is at the very beginning. And I mean the VERY beginning. When a new leader is chosen at one of our Life Group Connections, they are introduced to their coach in the stand-up meeting that follows the connection. See also, Skill Training: The Best Way to Connect a New Leader with a Coach.
  2. We don’t yet know how to sustain a high percentage of “host” groups. By “host” groups I mean the groups that we launch by inviting people to “do the study with a couple friends.” We’ve regularly launched hundreds of new “host” groups in conjunction with our fall church-wide campaigns and always sustain some of them into a follow-up study. We’ve tried coaching them with a weekly  email and invited them to our host rally…but clearly have room for improvement. See also, Saddleback Changed the Church-Wide Campaign Game…Again.
  3. Language matters. This is more of reminder. Whether you’re inviting people to consider “doing the study with a couple friends” or challenging them to join a six-week Life Group where they can get everything possible out of the message series,” language matters. Every word matters and results are quantifiable. See also, 5 Tiny Language Tweaks that Make a Very Big Difference.
  4. We need to do a better job of identifying the lead measures that predict discipleship outcomes. We are clear on the relationship between design and results. We have a good understanding of the lead measures that result in toes-in-water, we’ve only partially identified the steps that lead to better disciples. See also, FAQ: What Should We Be Measuring (to build a thriving small group ministry)?
  5. We need to codify the things that must be done to and for leaders. What some on our team do intuitively must be defined in a way that can be learned and is transferable. Translation: Everything must scale. See also, 7 Things You Must Do TO and FOR Your Small Group Leaders.
  6. Building an effective coaching structure doesn’t make caring for leaders easier. Adding a layer of high capacity leaders who do to and for leaders what you want leaders to do to and for members creates a challenging environment that requires greater attention to personal discipleship. The outcome of an effective coaching structure is greater capacity to make better disciples, but intensifies the effort required from top to bottom. See also, Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Leaders.
  7. Transitioning from silos to full alignment is a never ending process. Aligning affinities (couples, singles, men and women) is step one and easier to understand and compel. The payoff of aligning broadly (missions, next generation, evangelism and worship) is temporary and quickly forgotten. Enduring alignment is conversation intensive, painstaking, and never ending. See also, Insight: Repositioning Affinity Ministries Helps Create Alignment.
  8. Adding a multi-site philosophy is a beast unto itself. Like the alignment transition, developing and supervising is a daily endeavor. It is conversation intensive, painstaking, and never ending.
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