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8 Secrets to Finding ENOUGH Small Group Leaders

Help! I can’t find enough small group leaders!

One of the most common challenges for small group pastors is finding enough small group leaders.  To top it off, just when you think you’re getting a little bit of traction, you learn that some of your best leaders are moving away or taking a break.

Can you relate?

Here are eight secrets to finding an unlimited number of small group leaders:

  1. Leverage your senior pastor’s influence. It is impossible to overstate the potential of your senior pastor as small group champion.  When your senior pastor learns to make the HOST ask effectively you will have unlocked a powerful secret.  Until you are learn to leverage your senior pastor’s influence you will be playing with both hands tied behind your back. See also, 6 Ways to Help Your Senior Pastor Make the HOST Ask.
  2. Set leader requirements at an entry level.  Setting your leader requirements too high only ensures you will not be able to find enough leaders. Jesus himself was not looking for Jesus Jr. when he recruited the twelve.  See also, The 12 Were Not Chosen from the Core.
  3. Keep your most important strategies focused on the edges. There is nothing wrong with insisting that every leader have an apprentice. It is a good strategy. It is a biblical strategy. It just has limited potential in most churches. In most churches the largest number of potential group leaders are not currently in a group. In addition, the least connected people in your congregation are often the most connected in the community.  See also, Do You Know This Game-Changing Connection Secret?

  4. Provide just-in-time coaching for new leaders. You’ll retain more new leaders when you connect them to a coach (who knows the ropes) from the very beginning. Remember, adults learn on a need-to-know basis and brand new leaders definitely have a need-to-know. See also, 7 Core Ideas about Small Group Coaching.
  5. Get over the idea that the best candidates are people you know. As your church grows it becomes increasingly less likely that your pastor and staff will know everyone. This makes any leader identification strategy that depends on the personal knowledge of staff doomed to fail. This make a small group connection (where the event itself identifies leader candidates) or the HOST strategy (which recruits people who know at least two other people) excellent strategies. See also, HOST: What Does It Mean?

  6. Don’t expect the best candidates to volunteer. A widespread trend in America is for people to migrate from smaller churches to larger churches where they will have access to more attractive opportunities. Within the migration are many who were the 20 percent who did everything in their old church. In many cases they are temporarily happy with the opportunity to arrive at 10:55, drop their kids in an excellent children’s program, sit in on a weekend service where they are anonymous, and be pulling out of the parking lot at 12:20 on their way to lunch. They may respond to an opportunity to join a small group, but they will rarely sign up to lead one. This trend makes a small group connection a very effective strategy because the event is designed to identify leader candidates. See also, How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection.
  7. Create first steps that are short-term no-obligation test-drives. You will engage many more leader candidates when you learn to create and implement first steps that feel like a test-drive. If it feels like a lifetime commitment, you will miss out on many, many people who are reluctant to say yes. See also, How to Design Next Steps and First Steps.
  8. Create mission opportunities with built-in end dates. At the same time many of the best leader candidates are people you don’t know, we all know that some groups are full of people who should be leading. You know who they are. You’ve probably even tried to recruit them to lead a group. When you’ve tried they’ve said, “This group is how we are fed!” Or maybe they’ve said, “We are already serving in two other ministries. This is where we can get our own needs met.” Sound familiar? In my experience those same people will often respond to an invitation to “help start a new six-week group and then you can go back.”  Essentially when you ask them to take a six-week vacation.  See also, Take a Small Group Vacation.
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mark@smallgroupresources.net'
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.