Note: this article has been excerpted from the SmallGroups.com training resource Recruiting Reluctant Small-Group Leaders.
Sales and service are two basic values for every successful business. I watched my dad, a small business owner, be pulled between these two directions to make his small business flourish. He hired people to service his existing customers, but he knew the best use of his time was to be on the sales floor.
In reality, sales and service are also two essential basics for small-group ministry. To make a small-group ministry successful, we not only care for our current leaders, but also recruit new leaders. Because many potential leaders need to be recruited, and unless you regularly find new group leaders, your ministry will always struggle to grow—if it grows at all.
So, here are a few basic principles for successfully recruiting new small-group leaders.
Decide What You Are Looking For
Before you can begin to recruit someone for small-group leadership, you need to ask a couple questions:
- What qualifications are required in order to lead? If you just need warm bodies for your small-group ministry, then anyone will do. But most likely your requirements will be a little more stringent. Ask yourself what base qualifications does a leader need to meet? Will you require church membership, training, or new member classes? Some of these qualifications can be fulfilled prior to recruiting a potential leader; others can be fulfilled after a person agrees to lead.
- What are the expectations and responsibilities of a group leader? When you ask someone to lead a small group, it would be a mistake to assume that he or she knows what is expected of them. It's important to do your homework. Write down what type of character you expect the potential leader to display. Write down the core responsibilities of a small-group leader in your church. Good leaders don't accept leadership positions without first finding out what is expected of them. For the best results in defining these expectations and responsibilities, work with other leaders in the church, including staff, elders, or deacons.
Decide Where You Want to Look
After determining what to look for in a small-group leader, the next step is to decide where you will look for the best people to lead. Here are some options:
- From existing small groups. Existing small-group members have experienced the blessing of small-group community. They are probably your ministry's biggest fans, and they don't need to be sold on the value of small groups. Therefore, these can be some of the easiest and best people to recruit as leaders. It's a good idea to seek the advice of current group leaders when it comes to finding current members who may be ready to take the next step.
- From people new to your congregation. Never underestimate the potential of those new to your congregation. In the past, many churches wouldn't let someone lead unless they were given time to work their way up the church leadership ladder. This approach leaves many sitting on the sideline and wasting their God-given abilities. Many times, these new folks come from other churches where they gained valuable experience being a small-group member or leading one. Once you have determined the leader qualifications, expectations, and responsibilities, it's safe to recruit from those new to your congregation.
- From those who have led in the past. Keep a list of past small-group leaders. Bring the list out during seasons of recruiting. If they met expectations the last time, they probably will meet expectations again.
Determine What You Are Recruiting For
People need something compelling to be a part of. You may be recruiting potential leaders for a short-term group or a long-term group. But simply asking someone to lead one of those two types of groups does not give them a forceful reason to say yes.
Determine what is so compelling about becoming a small group leader. Rather than recruiting to fill a role, recruit by casting vision for what someone could be and accomplish if they took the opportunity to lead. If you are going to convince them, it's important to have your purpose, goals, and direction for small-group ministry well defined.
Decide How Many Leaders You Need
Set and plan numerical goals. Otherwise, you may not have enough leaders when new groups begin. Numerical goals also keep us motivated and focused on meeting the need for more small groups.
You've probably heard it said that if you aim at nothing, you will hit nothing. Have something to aim for and then go for it! In sales, it may take one hundred "No's" before a salesman hears one "Yes." For this reason, make sure your list of potential leaders is significantly larger than the number of new leaders you need.
Decide When to Recruit
There's a saying when it comes to elections: "Vote early and vote often." It's the same when you are looking for new small-group leaders: recruit early and recruit often. This will likely ensure a positive experience for you and for the new leader. The reason to act early is that the recruiting process takes time; therefore, plan for recruiting to take twice as long as you anticipate.
Also keep in mind that there are times not to recruit. Don't plan big recruiting efforts in December or around busy seasons. Use the events of the busy season to network and build relationships. Get to know people who could become future leaders when it's time to recruit again.
Decide How You Will Approach Potential Leaders
There are several ways you can have a conversation with a potential group leader. The best way is the old fashioned way: face-to-face conversations. Remember, you have to sell the vision of a small-group leader, and it's hard to do that through an email or text. A conversation, whether in person or on the telephone, is the most effective way to communicate.
How do you start the conversation? On the telephone it might sound something like this.
Hello, this is [your name]. Is this a good time to call for a moment? I want to ask if you would consider leading a small group for us for the next [weeks/months]. We have an opportunity to [share the vision for your groups and ministry]. I believe you would be a strong group leader and able to meet the needs of your group members. Would you consider and pray about this opportunity? I will call you back in a week and answer any questions you have.
Then, call back when you say you will. If they say yes to your request, then follow up with a face-to-face meeting. If they say no, be sure to thank them for their consideration and let them know you hope that they will join you in the future.
Retaining the Leaders You Recruit
The final part of recruiting new leaders is retaining them. There are several things you can do in this regard, such as providing care, casting vision frequently, equipping them with resources, and getting feedback regularly.
These things help develop the leader's ownership in your church and small-group ministry. And when you have their ownership, they become more than just leaders. They become ministry partners and allow you more time to recruit!
—Mark Ingmire is the Small Groups and Adult Education Pastor at Savannah Christian Church in Savannah, Georgia.