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Benchmarks: Training Group Leaders

Definition: Benchmarking is a tool used to measure or compare your work or progress with others who are doing the same thing. Benchmarking is a powerful tool because it overcomes “paradigm blindness”—the mode of thinking that says, “The way we do it is the best because this is the way we’ve always done it.”

Because it is difficult to get a handle on what is going on in other small groups outside of your own (or your own church), SmallGroups.com has conducted live surveys on a variety of small group topics. The purpose of these surveys is to uncover a sense of what is going on in small groups around the world and particularly in North America.

These surveys are not intended to be a scientific sample of those involved in small groups. And benchmarking—or comparing your small group to other small groups—is not intended to be a substitute for the Holy Spirit’s work and guidance in your group. However, knowing what other small groups are doing can be a helpful diagnostic tool and can show what God is up to within the larger small group movement.

With that in mind, here are some results of SmallGroups.com surveys on the subject of training small group leaders.

Training Strategy

When asked what the “primary” small group leader development strategy was in their church:

• 44 percent of respondents use apprenticeship under another group leader

• 27 percent use frequent group leader training gatherings coupled with one-on-one follow-up

• 14 percent said their leaders are responsible for their own training (books, Internet, conferences, etc.)

• 12 percent form short-term training small groups (turbo groups) to train leaders

• 3 percent said they recommend curriculum or video resources that train leaders on the job.

When asked how often group leaders in your church meet together specifically for training or leadership community:

• 28 percent said at least once per month

• 17 percent said once every two months

• 21 percent said once per quarter

• 15 percent said once or twice per year

• 19 percent said almost never.

When small group leaders were asked how recently they had attended a group leader training event hosted or sponsored by their church:

• 49 percent said they had attended one in the past 3 months

• 12 percent said it had been 3 to 6 months since they had attended one

• 5 percent said it had been 6 to 12 months since they had attended one

• 13 percent said it had been more than a year since they attended one

• 21 percent said they have never attended one.

When church leaders were asked whether their small group leaders attend any “outside” training events (retreats, off-church campus events, conferences, and so on), 38 percent said their leaders never attend these events, and another 38% said their leaders attend one of these events per year.

In addition, 89 percent of small group ministry directors who responded to the surveys said that e-mail and Web pages are important or very important resources for ongoing small group leadership development. And 40 percent of group leaders and ministry directors said they seek small group ministry information from e-mail or the Internet at least once per week.

Barriers and Evaluation

When asked, “How long has it been since your small groups did an intentional evaluation of their life-changing effectiveness?”:

• 47 percent said they had never evaluated their individual small groups

• 13 percent said they had done an evaluation within the last year

• 29 percent said they had done an evaluation within the last 6 months

• 11 percent said they had done an evaluation within the last month.

When asked, “What is the biggest barrier to starting more small groups in your church right now?”:

• 37 percent said there were not enough leaders available to start new groups

• 21 percent said that unconnected people resisted joining a group

• 17 percent said existing groups were stagnating and not multiplying

• 12 percent said church leaders do not promote or cast vision for new groups

• 7 percent said they do not have enough coaches/overseers to support new group leaders.   

Dan Lentz; copyright 2007 by the author and Christianity Today International

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Toni Ridgaway is a content editor for the Outreach Web Network, including churchleaders.com and SermonCentral.com.