If you're in charge of small groups at your church I believe you will find this helpful. I've had to learn these skills the hard way and they do work, believe me.
NOTE: the links in this article. I know you'll appreciate those as well.
“I can’t find enough leaders!”
Have you ever said that? If you have, you’re in good company. It’s one of the most common complaints of small group ministry point people.
Here are the five most common reasons you can’t find enough small group leaders:
- You’re asking for the wrong thing. I think this is one of the easiest parts of the challenge to fix. If you’re not very careful, it sounds like you’re asking for a lifetime commitment to something that requires a lot of energy, hours of preparation, and a selfless quality rarely found apart from Mother Teresa. Remember, the best candidates are already busy. They’re already overextended in their work and at home. If you want to add leaders you’re going to have to make it easier for the best candidates to ease their toe into the water. This is one of the main reasons that the HOST and Small Group Connection strategies work so well. They’re designed to start out as test drives. The first key is to ask for the right thing.
- You’re not looking in the right places. Most small group champions spend their time looking for potential leaders among people who are already in a group. After all, a lot of small group strategies have as a core premise that in order to lead a group you first have to be a member of a group. The truth is that in most cases the majority of potential leaders are not yet in a group. Unless your church is already pushing beyond 60 to 70% of your adult worship attendance in groups, the likelihood that your best candidates are already connected is pretty slim. Again, this is why the HOST and Connection strategies make so much sense. It’s also why a well-executed church-wide campaign can jump start leader identification and irrevocably change the landscape in your congregation. The second key is to look in the right places.
- You’re asking the right people the wrong way. There are obviously some great people who are already in groups who ought to be leading a group. All of us see that. One of the earliest assumptions I developed was that many of the best leader candidates are pre-wired to be drawn to community and they end up in groups even in churches where there’s no real emphasis in group life! You don’t have to give them a reason to get connected. They’re already in a group. You need to give them an inspiring reason to leave their group for a few weeks. This is why the idea of inviting your existing groups to take a small group vacation works so well. It’s not permanent. it’s a few weeks. And it has the potential to help many of the right people experience what it’s like to move from consumer to contributor. The third key is to ask in the right way.
- You’ve put up barriers that are keeping the right people from saying “yes.” For example, if I’ve got to be in a group first before I can lead a group, that’s a barrier. If I’ve got to attend a 12 session leader training course before I can lead…that’s a barrier. If the only curriculum I can use requires 2 or 3 hours of preparation, that’s a barrier. Think very carefully about the barriers you put up. Eliminate all but the most essential guardrails. Think test-drive. Think baby steps. Think about making it easy to get started. You can help new leaders get started with an easy to attend orientation. You can build in on-the-job coaching. You can offer decentralized skill training huddles led by your coaches. The fourth key is to remove every unnecessary barrier.
- The wrong person is doing the asking. The churches that are having the most group life success, that are building the most effective systems, are the churches where the senior pastor is the small group champion. End of story. If you're not getting your senior pastor in the game on a full-time basis…you’re missing out on the best way to enlist more of the very best people as leaders. This is why building in a message series with built-in host recruitment before your church-wide campaign makes so much sense. Don’t miss this important trick! It will make a huge difference in your situation. The fifth key is to use the right person to make the ask.
The last time I said, “I can’t find enough leaders” was about 10 years ago. That’s when I began discovering the strategies that started me on the boundary-free path.