7 Must Have Resources for Training Small Group Leaders

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A while back I posted an article about resources that equip small group coaches.  Last week it dawned on me that I had never put together a similar resource for equipping and training small group leaders.

Note: I should point out that just like in my article about resources that equip small group coaches, I believe that point leaders should be devouring these books to better equip themselves to craft a customized leadership development pathway that fits their small group ministry.

Must-Have Resources for Training Small Group Leaders

Here's my best shot at a list of must-have resources for training small group leaders:

leading small groups with purposeIf you're looking for a resource that captures the essence of the church-wide campaign driven small group model, Steve Gladen's Leading Small Groups with Purpose is packed with real-life illustrations, how-tos, and ideas is a must-have.  Gladen, Saddleback’s Pastor of the Small Group Community, is no stranger here, having contributed many times with insightful interviews about how things work at in what might be the largest small group ministry in the United States.

Gladen’s earlier book, Small Groups with Purpose, was an excellent resource for point leaders (whether from the purpose driven camp or not). The same is true for Leading Small Groups with Purpose. The content is so relevant, it works regardless of the type of small group system in use.

Whether you’re leading a small group or leading a small group ministry, Leading Small Groups with Purpose is a great addition to my must-have list. I loved it and I know you will too! You can read my full review right here.

leading life-changing small groupsBill Donahue's Leading Life-Changing Small Groups is another must-have in my opinion. Donahue is truly a practitioner. Don’t miss this key. He wrestled with developing small group leaders for years in one of the most interesting grouplife laboratories anywhere (Willow Creek Community Church). The practices and principles included in this book aren’t theoretical, but practical and proven.

One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Leading Life-Changing Small Groups is the fact that it really begins at the beginning…literally; the introduction develops a very understandable theology of community. As you’re beginning to build a small group ministry this is an essential ingredient.

You can read my full review right here.

nine-keysSome books get scanned and end up filed away in a bookcase. Others are read thoroughly–maybe even marked up–but still just get shelved and forgotten. And then there are books like Carl George’s Nine Keys to Effective Small Group Leadership. Originally published in 1991, this is a great book and one you’ll use again and again.

Carl George is the father of the Meta Church model and a true genius whose work has influenced the underpinnings of virtually every small group system or model.

While Nine Keys is written from a higher leadership bar perspective*, it has the potential to serve as the curriculum for leader development beyond the initial test drive stage. One of the most compelling aspects of the nine keys is that they’re not primarily skill training, but heart and mindset development.

You can read my full review right here.

simple small groups largeWritten by Bill Search, a veteran small group practitioner, Simple Small Groups is a great resource designed to make effective small group ministry simple.

Rather than over-complicate the subject, Search isolates three simple and essential ingredients that every effective group must have, identifies them with a single word, and then proceeds to explain the role played by each of them. The best part? He goes on to flesh out the nuts and bolts of how it works.

There are a number of really helpful sections. My favorite aspect is that each section concludes with a diagnostic set of questions to help determine what your next step is in the development of each essential component. I can easily see this getting a lot of use!

If you’re like me, you’re looking for resources that are about how it can be better. Simple Small Groups is one of those. You can pick up your copy right here.

Leading Healthy Groups: A Guide for Small Group Leaders by Allen White is the newest addition to my list of must-have resources. Allen has been a guiding influence to many churches both as a practitioner and a consultant/coach.

I added this book to my list because his approach is so practical for churches of all sizes. You'll also find it extremely actionable.  


field guideSam O'Neal's Field Guide for Small Group Leaders is a book written by a writer who is also a practitioner. O'Neal, now with LifeWay but the managing editor at SmallGroups.com for 5 years, is no stranger to groups. His focus for the Field Guide is “a group leader’s responsibility to prepare for and lead small group meetings (p. 14).” A little further along, he defines the primary role of a small group leader as preparing “for small group meetings, both short-term and long-term, and leads his or her group members through the essential activities of those meetings in submission to the Holy Spirit (p. 32).” While my sense of the role of a small group leader includes what happens in the meeting but isn’t limited to the meeting, I think there is so much here that will help group leaders prepare for the meeting. I also really like Sam’s coverage of a wide variety of angles.

A real plus to the Field Guide for Small Group Leaders is its focus on a number of details that I'm not sure I've found elsewhere. Hospitality, learning styles, ice-breakers, and crafting great discussion questions are just a few of the topics covered. Read my full review right here.

Missional Communities are at the epicenter of one of the most important current trends in grouplife and the work of Mike Breen and 3DM is at the heart of it.

Leading Missional Communities takes the concept far beyond launching.  Leading Missional Communities is designed to explain “how to lead [missional communities] well so they become a reproducing hotbed for discipleship and mission in churches.”

You can read the rest of my review right here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. In addition, I am a small group specialist for LifeWay. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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1 Comment

  1. Michael C. Mack on October 22, 2016 at 8:00 am

    Thanks, Mark. Great resources for every ministry leader. I use the first two as required reading in my Small Groups & Discipleship Seminary course, and list 6 in the bibliography. I need to add “Leading Missional Communities” by Breen.