Home Small Group Leaders Articles for Small Group Leaders FAQ: How Are You Training Leaders These Days?

FAQ: How Are You Training Leaders These Days?

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I get questions. A lot of questions. Some come in a comment right here on the blog. Others come in an email. And some come when I’m speaking at a conference or workshop.

Here’s a very frequent question:

“How are you training new leaders these days?”

Great question! I love it because in the question you can see that the asker already understands that times change and what may have worked in the past may not work today.

A Short History of My Leader Training Journey

When I stepped into the small group ministry role at Fellowship of the Woodlands in 2000 there was an 8 session small group leader training class already in place. I’m sure it may have been a good idea at one time. However…I ran it one time and then determined that requiring potential leaders to complete an 8 session leader training class as a prerequisite to leading was not a good idea.

It was not a good idea for three reasons:

• First, it was a serious barrier to entry to many reluctant leaders (and as you know, the best leader candidates almost never volunteer to be a leader).

• Second, it turned out that competing the class was not a good predictor of who could attract and retain group members.

• Third, adults learn on a need to know basis. On-the-job training is much more effective because as adults lead they will be confronted with many situations that will inspire an eagerness to listen to a coach.

Enter the Small Group Connection Strategy

Shortly after we realized the 8 session leader training class was an ineffective strategy (both for identification and training), we discovered the small group connection. We learned that the small group connection was a much better leader identification strategy. We also discovered that the leaders who were identified were very coachable.

How did we train the leaders who were identified at the connection? We invited them to a 90 minute leader orientation meeting that consisted of some coffee, donuts and very basic training. We also connected them to a coach who provided on-the-job training as required.

Enter the HOST Strategy and Church-Wide Campaigns

One of the limitations of the small group connection strategy is that it only connects the people who attend the connection. Self-evident, I know, but it is a limitation.

How to connect people who don’t (or won’t) attend the connection? Invite people who…

1. Have a HEART for unconnected people (that’s the “H” in HOST).

2. Will OPEN their home six times (that’s the “O”).

3. SERVE a simple snack (you get the idea).

4. TELL a few friends.

How do you train people who volunteer to HOST a group of their friends, neighbors, co-workers and family? For a number of years we required them to attend a short HOST orientation meeting at a convenient time. Very similar to the small group connection strategy.

Is There a Better Way to Provide Training?

The best way we’ve discovered to provide training today is by distributing a set of short videos that cover “the need to know” skills a new leader needs right out of the gate. I tripped across a couple hints of how this could work back when I interviewed Steve Gladen about Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway. We make them available on our website and on a thumb drive that is distributed in the HOST kit.

Want to see a very good sample of what the video looks like? Saddleback is leading the way in this innovation and you can see their videos right here: Saddleback’s Video Training for New Hosts

A Few Concepts That Made This Change Inevitable:

There are several factors converging that make it obvious that a change is needed:

• People are busy and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to get new, toe-in-the-water hosts to make time for an orientation.

• It’s more and more common for people to come from further than 20 minutes away, making meeting times even more difficult to schedule.

• Mobility is a key to training and leader development.  If you’re not yet providing mobile options for training yet, you will have very little choice in the very near future.

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.