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Coaching: How to Add Value to Experienced Small Group Leaders

“None of my experienced group leaders want a coach.  In fact, some of them seem mad that I assigned them a coach.  And on top of that, the coaches that I assigned to existing small group leaders are already thinking about quitting because they don’t think they’re needed.”

Ever said something like that?

If I were to make a list of the top 10 most frustrating issues in building an effective coaching structure (note to self, that would make a great post), the frustration of assigning coaches retroactively to existing small group leaders would probably be #1 or #2 almost every time.

So…can anything be done about it?  Or, are we just stuck?

Here’s how I tackle the issue:

First, I acknowledge that once a new leader has made it through the first 3 to 6 months,

they rarely need help with technique.  The fittest and most adaptable new leaders emerge still standing.  Ill-equipped or otherwise not ready for prime time new leaders rarely make it through the first 3 to 6 months.  Their groups die.

With me?  This isn’t the time to be idealistic.  The hard truth is that once a new group leader makes it through the first few months…in their minds they don’t need a coach.  After all, if they needed one, how did they make it without one?

Second, while they might not need a coach,

they might respond to an opportunity to gather with a few other leaders to share what’s working and what’s not working (for more on this idea, see How to Implement Coaching for Existing Groups).

Third, I need to reposition the role of a coach in the minds of existing leaders and the coaching team.  

This is an essential understanding.  What I want for my experienced small group leaders isn’t about technique or best practices.  What I want for every one of my leaders is care.

Remember, “everyone needs to be cared for by someone, but no one can care for more than about ten.”  Carl George and Jethro were both absolutely spot on in their diagnosis.  Everyone needs care…and a span of care of about 10 is where we max out.

3 Simple Steps to Add Value:

  1. Change the way you introduce a new coach to an existing group leader.  For example, instead of a phone call that says, “Hi Bob, I’m your new coach!” introduce the practice in a leader’s meeting by teaching Exodus 18.  Emphasizing the concept of care (not accountability and not technique) will help your existing leaders embrace it.
  2. Train your coaches to see their role through a new and different lens.  If they see their role correctly, they’ll have an easier time (See Skill Training: Four Questions Every Coach Should Be Asking for more on this idea).
  3. Make sure you talk about the person who provides care for you.  If you’re a solo operator…you need to change that.  Adding a shepherd to your own experience is an essential ingredient (see How to Equip Leaders to Help Members Plan to Grow for more on this practice).
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Mark Howell serves as Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV. He founded SmallGroupResources.net, offering consulting and coaching services to help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries. He spent four years on the consulting staff at Lifetogether and often contributes to ministry periodicals such as the Pastor's Ministry Toolbox and ChurchCentral.com.