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Five Sure Fire Ways to Grow Small Group Leaders in Your Church

Jesus spent three years preparing those who would be leaders of the Christian movement. He didn’t take this responsibility lightly nor did He hesitate to do whatever was necessary. He was vividly aware that the time and energy spent in equipping leaders was the key to generations of individuals experiencing Christian community that transforms. Let’s face it, as go leaders so go those who follow them. The only way our ministries are going to flourish is if we prepare small group leaders well and make available learning opportunities for them ongoing.
Small group pastors, we don’t have the luxury of being face-to-face everyday with the small group leaders we are raising up as Jesus did. But a few of the five methods below should be effective. Just choosing two or three and doing them well will greatly enhance the growth of your leaders.
 1. Utilize a Coaching system. There has been a lot of talk lately about whether or not coaching is effective. After interviewing 3,000 small group leaders from 21 countries and 200 churches, Jim Egli and Dwight Marable point out that their “research demonstrates that coaching is the most pivotal factor in the health of small group ministries.” They also concluded that, “Coaches meet personally with their leaders to encourage them in their spiritual growth and leadership, they are aware of the leader’s needs and are praying for them, they gather their leaders for ministry and problem solving, and occasionally visit their groups.” This information came from the book, Small Groups, Big Impact
2. Make resources available for ongoing learning experiences. A small group leader is most apt to be passionate about learning when the moment of crisis comes. That is, when something happens with a group member or in the group that needs attention. Alerting leaders to blogs, on-line videos, on-line articles, etc… will help in the training of small group leaders for sure. You can also give each of your small group leaders a few books they can turn to that answer the questions they’re asking.
A few books you might consider giving your small leaders are listed below.

Leading Life Changing Small Groups by Bill Donahue
Connecting in Communities by Eddie Mosley
Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual 

3. Face-to-face, close to home training led by an expert. It’s a fact… When someone who is called an expert is invited to do training for you and/or the churches in your area, is carrying a briefcase (or has a backpack thrown over his/her shoulder), and has driven more than 100 miles, your leaders believe they will have a superior training experience. And, if you choose your trainer well, they certainly should.
An experienced and effective trainer has the ability to captivate and educate a group of small group pastors. I am of the opinion that you ask a trainer to join you and your group leaders when, 1) you’re needing establish or remind the group of basic principles and practices, 2) you have been trying to get your leaders on the same page with you but they are just not joining you on the bandwagon where your paradigm exists, 3) you are hosting your annual training experiences, 4) you are needing to reinvigorate your leaders.
If you’d like to talk about my joining you to lead a training experience feel free to e-mail me at rick.howerton@navpress.com.
4. Collaborative learning experiences. Leaders conversing with leaders in a well-designed experience is one of the most effective ways to educate small group leaders. Gather your leaders together, put them in circles of four to six, and ask each group to negotiate two questions they’d like to discuss then have them write those questions on a 3 by 5 card. Take up the cards. When you have all of the cards, make the entire room aware of one of the questions then ask each group of six to determine what they would do in that situation. Give them a time limit. Let each group report their response to everyone in the room. You’ll be shocked at the incredibly wise answers to the questions come your way.  
A few wonderful outcomes… 1) Group leaders will learn to process situations when they arise, 2) Group leaders will begin to build a relationship with other leaders who they can gain wisdom from when necessary, 3) group leaders will find out that they needn’t call a church staff member to find out what to do in a given situation.
Not only will you have an incredible learning experience, you’ll also have a list of questions you didn’t have time for that you can answer via your blog or via e-mail.
5. Attend small group conferences together. Few things are as effective in training leaders and inspiring them as leaving the area together and attending a conference. Between sessions, at meals, and after the group heads back to the hotel there will be discussions concerning specific situations, the health of a person’s group, and healthy evaluation of the group ministry.
Taking a group away to a conference may be financially impossible. Getting together for an on-line conference can have much the same effect. If you can’t take your group away, watch closely, there may be a small group leader’s on-line conference that you could watch together at your church.
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Rick has one passion… To see “a biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet making disciples that make disciples.” He is presently pursuing this passion as the Small Group and Discipleship Specialist at LifeWay Church Resources. Rick has authored or co-authored multiple books, studies, and leader training resources including A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic, Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual, The Gospel and the Truth: Living the Message of Jesus, Small Group Life Ministry Manual: A New Approach to Small Groups, Redeeming the Tears: a Journey Through Grief and Loss, Small Group Life: Kingdom, Small Group Kickoff Retreat: Experiential Training for Small Group Leaders, and Great Beginnings: Your First Small Group Study, Disciples Path: A Practical Guide to Disciple Making. Rick’s varied ministry experiences as an collegiate minister, small group pastor, teaching pastor, elder, full-time trainer and church consultant, as well as having been a successful church planter gives him a perspective of church life that is all-encompassing and multi-dimensional. Rick is a highly sought after communicator and trainer.