by Reid Smith
Training is not a one-time exercise with group leaders. It is one among many facets of how you provide ongoing care and development for your leaders. This is important to remember as you look ahead to the fall and consider how you want to equip your leaders to start and stay strong with their groups.
The fall is a primetime opportunity to invite people to start or join a group. However, before somebody can start their own group, they need to be vetted and trained. Don’t make this a complicated process because you want to make it easy for people to engage in your community life (as a leader or participant) any time of the year. At my church, we tell people they can begin the process of starting or joining a group 365 days of the year and we will come alongside of them to help.
Howyou train depends on whoyou’re training. For pre-existing leaders, it’s more about connecting with other leaders, celebrating Kingdom wins, and delivering targeted training with an inspirational element. For new leaders, the training component would be more intensive, ensuring everyone is equipped, clear, and excited about their next steps. Another whole article could be devoted to howyou choose to identify, invite, interview (screen), and initiate new group leaders – all of which will influence how you train new leaders.
There are two general pathways: Initial orientation and ongoing equipping (leadership communities) and here are the suggested topics you could cover with each:
(Greater frequency, smaller gatherings)
(Less frequency, larger gatherings)
A third option is “turbo groups.” This is a short-term group experience designed to build relationships and leadership among participants, each of whom start with the expectation they will launch out and lead their own group. (The list of topics covered under “Initial Orientation” can serve as an outline for a turbo group, an example of which is available through Christianity Today’s smallgroups.com HERE.) This can be a first step toward developing a core team that will ultimately serve the growing body of groups at your church.
Lastly, there are three keys to success to keep in mind as you’re planning your equipping experiences:
- Awareness over Assumption–Don’t assume you know what your leaders-in-training need. Survey the people you plan to invite before you invite them and find out what would make your training timely, relevant, and most meaningful to them. The best experience for participants is when they walk away with their felt-needs addressed and burning questions answered.
- Interaction over Information– Reserve your training time to engage and talk with participating leaders and promote peer-learning through conversation versus unilaterally dispensing information in a lecture format that you could alternatively convey digitally so they can refer back to it repeatedly and customize it for future use.
- Rhythmic over Sporadic– It instills confidence in your leaders when you preplan predictable rhythms for initial orientations and leadership communities. Think through how to thread training throughout the ebb and flow of your church’s unique family and ministry calendar. Schedule a full year’s worth and then communicate all of your dates together with a clear explanation of why it’s important they’re a part of leadership gatherings. At my church, we offer new leader orientations every month and leadership communities for active leaders every other month.
You might even have an annual gathering or retreat with all group leadership to celebrate what God has done, love on your leaders, and cast vision for the year ahead. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula to this so find what works best for your church and stay with it for at least a year. Don’t change things too often on your leaders or your voice will begin to lose its potency.
One of things I’ve learned to stress with leaders, especially as they get started, is the importance of communicating with the person who looks after them (e.g. a “coach” or “community leader”) and staying connected with the larger community of leaders at your church. The foundation for this to happen consistently begins with monthly “connects” between coaches and their group leaders, which can happen in the way that’s most convenient for your leaders.
Satan loves to isolate leaders. Whereas God sets us apart forHis work, the enemy seeks to set us aside fromGod’s work. When this happens, the devil knows victory is within sight and the leader’s soul-care becomes a long, painful uphill battle. Conversely, when leaders are interconnected relationally and faithful to communicate with one another, it forms a shield wallthe enemy struggles to penetrate.
Plan ahead and create predictable leadership equipping rhythms that provide on-ramps and touchpoints to ensure everyone continues to run healthy and strong. This fall can serve as the entry-point for leaders to connect with one another and plug into a larger system for ongoing care and development of allof your leaders!
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