Recruiting Small Group Leaders: The Who, Where, and How of It

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Who to Recruit for Small Group Leadership
It’s been said that every organization eventually becomes a reflection of its leaders. Assuming this is true, churches need to pay special attention to the character traits of its leaders, including those who lead small groups. What makes a good leader? What are the character traits of effective leaders? While there are scores of articles and books written around these questions, a simple exercise may help you discover the answers.

Think of a leader who has been influential in your life. What characteristics have you appreciated about that person?

Typical answers include words such as trustworthy, caring, fun, spiritually alive, keeper of confidences, encourager, honest, humble, listener….and the list goes on. Naming the characteristics of influential people in our lives helps us understand what makes a good leader.

One of the ongoing roles of a Small Group Coordinator or a Small Group Leadership Team is the recruitment of small group leaders. The more leaders recruited and trained, the more small groups can be offered. What leadership traits are important in order to develop and lead a healthy small group?

Larry Osborne, in his book Sticky Church, names two essential small group leadership traits, spiritual warmth and relational warmth. Spiritual warmth has to do with being warm toward God. A spiritually warm person is in a growing relationship with Jesus. This is demonstrated by an obedient life to the teachings and directions of the Bible. A spiritually warm person is ready and willing to grow in relationship with Christ and others. She or he is able to discern and follow the Spirit’s leading.

The second trait, relational warmth, is demonstrated when interacting with people. People enjoy being around a relationally warm person because he or she knows how to makes others feel comfortable. They can engage others in simple conversations, have a positive attitude and smile more than they frown. We all like relationally warm people.
Each church needs to consider these two traits and give them further definition for their setting. Those in leadership need to ask questions such as these in order to come to further qualifications for small group leaders:

  • What spiritual markers will we pay attention to?
  • What character markers do we see as important?
  • What amount of past small group participation do we expect?
  • What skills and abilities do we see as important?
  • From whom will we look for recommendations for a future leader?

While these questions are helpful when defining the qualifications of a small group leader, it’s important not to raise the bar too high. Remember that when leaders are entrusted to God, He can do more than we even think to imagine or ask. As N. Searcy writes, If Jesus could trust a couple of fishermen to be His disciples and Paul could trust inexperienced believers to oversee the ministry and teaching of new churches, surely we can trust our followers of Jesus with our small groups even if they are average people.1 Ongoing support and training from a Small Group Leadership Team or coach will help new leaders develop over time.

                              Examples

Where to Find Small Group Leaders
Once the qualifications for small group leaders are defined, it’s time to start finding people to recruit. Where are potential leaders found? Consider these suggestions:

  • Ask present small group leaders or small group members to suggest potential leaders from within their groups.
  • Consider those who are intentionally being mentored as apprentice leaders.
  • Consider those who are serving as small group hosts or assistants.
  • Often those on the periphery of a church’s ministry are open and looking for a new and greater challenge. Look beyond those who are already over-involved in ministry.

How to Recruit Small Group Leaders
Asking a person to be a small group leader in a prayerful, careful, vision casting way will cause the potential leader to seriously consider the call to leadership. It also elevates the role of a small group leader to one of importance. Consider these suggestions when recruiting new leaders:

  • Pray that the Lord will impress on you the names of potential leaders.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of “the ask!”
  • In a one-on-one conversation, cast the vision for small group ministry. Honor potential leaders by naming the characteristics you observe in them that equip them to be a small group leader.
  • Present the role of small group leader as an opportunity, not an obligation.
  • Present the basic requirements of the role. Asking for too much too fast may scare off the potential leader.
  • Ask the potential leader to join you in prayer about the call to be a small group leader for a designated amount of time. Be sure to follow-up on the agreed upon date.
  • You may decide to invite groups of potential small group leaders for an evening of good food and allow them to dream about a small group they’d like to lead. Remember that people own what they help create.


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