Top 10 Small-Group Training Tools of 2017
Image: Lightstock

Top 10 Small-Group Training Tools of 2017

Our most popular resources of the year—picked by you!

As 2017 draws to a close, we’re reflecting on the past year of ministry. In so many ways, this has been a tough year to minister to people. With seemingly daily tragedies and a bounty of tough questions, many of us have lost at least a little sleep wondering how best to care for the people in our flock.

On the other hand, 2017 has been like any other year in ministry—small groups continue to be a prime way that people learn about God, grow in their relationship with him and others, and experience life transformation. And so we keep on, doing everything we can to equip our leaders, choose great curriculum, and develop a great ministry strategy. It’s no surprise that our Small-Group Leader Training Program tops the list this year, but it’s also great to see newer resources like Train Your Group in Relational Evangelism make the list. See our most popular training resources of the year below.

1. Small-Group Leader Training Program
Set a firm foundation for your new small-group leaders.

It can be difficult to train new small-group leaders. What exactly do brand-new leaders need to get started? How can you help them feel confident as they begin leading? And how can you train them effectively with as little stress as possible?

With the Small-Group Leader Training Program, we've done the hard work for you. You'll get all the tools you need to implement an engaging and practical training in a half-day workshop, a five-week turbo group, or a variety of other formats. Included, you'll find a comprehensive Leader's Guide, five video sessions, and information on how to order the accompanying Participant Workbook for your leaders.

2. Create Sermon-Based Studies
How to write engaging group studies that tie into your pastor's sermons

Churches across the world have had success with small-group campaigns that link the sermon with what small groups study during their meetings. But you don't need a specialized campaign to make sermon-based small groups work. In fact, you can offer great sermon-based small-group guides to your leaders year-round.

This Training Tool will show you how to take your pastor's sermon notes and turn them into easy-to-use guides that can help your small-group leaders facilitate transformational discussions. And it's easier than you might think.

3. Develop a Group Strategy
Expert advice on creating a custom plan for your ministry.

Recent research reveals that less than 50 percent of churches have a well-defined strategy for small-group ministry. Yikes! But we understand—it's really hard to find a structure that fits your context well. Often our first instinct is simply to cut and paste what's working at another church. But then when it fails, we realize it never fit our church to begin with. We'd like to show you a better way. This resource will give you the tools to create a customized strategy for your context. Learn from the experts what it takes to have a thriving ministry and how to get there from your current reality. With their tips, you'll create a structure that not only fits your context, but also meets your goals for group life.

4. Leading 101
The basics of leading a small group

There's a reason college students are required to take 101 classes—they set a foundation for more in-depth classes they'll take later. These classes give the basics and serve as a survival guide for the subject. When small-group leaders begin their first groups, they need a 101 class, too. That isn't to say they won't ever need more in-depth training, but they need a base—something to help them get off to a great start and navigate the responsibilities of their role.

That's exactly what this resource is designed to do. This incredible resource gathers some of our best articles for small-group leaders. Learn how to prepare for group meetings, lead discussions, handle challenging group dynamics, welcome new members, and apprentice new leaders. Use this resource to train yourself, or use it with the small-group leaders you coach. Either way, it's a valuable resource.

5. Creative Leader Training
Think outside the box and your leaders will want to attend training events.

Regardless of the small-group leader training offered to new leaders at your church, there are issues and needs that come up that require additional training. And many churches like the idea of training events where all the small-group leaders are present. But too often these events are poorly attended and elicit negative feedback from leaders.

In this resource, you'll learn the secrets to holding training events that small-group leaders want to come to. Learn from the experiences of people who have been training leaders for years. Plus, we offer several field-tested activities you can incorporate into your next training event.

6. Orientation Guides
Resources for specific roles in small-group ministry from director to leader

Getting started as a brand-new small-group director, coach, or leader is no small task. That's why we created our popular orientation guides. These guides, each for a specific role in the ministry, lay out job descriptions, key knowledge, and even encouragement for leaders as they get started. They're the perfect place to start on our site. We also offer our two most popular guides in Spanish: small-group director and small-group leader.

7. Plan a One-Day Retreat for Leaders
Leaders need a break to re-focus and refresh.

Leaders are notorious for serving ourselves into burnout. We neglect our own spiritual health in order to give all we have to the people in our care. But God cares so much more about who we are than what we do—and that includes our work for him. He first and foremost desires an intimate relationship with us. And, quite honestly, we're better leaders when we lead out of an overflow of our personal relationship with Christ.

This training tool is designed to help you lead a meaningful retreat for small-group leaders. You'll find articles and Bible studies to prepare you for a retreat, tips on preparing a time and place, and even a participant's guide that will serve as a roadmap for your leaders on the day of the retreat. The content for the retreat is all ready for you—you just need to pick a day and location.

For many of the same reasons, it’s also a great idea to get away with your small group. To plan a day specifically for your group, use Plan a One-Day Retreat for Your Small Group.

8. Market Your Small-Group Ministry
Communicate about small groups in a clear, compelling way that draws people into groups.

Whether you're just starting your ministry, relaunching it, or simply continuing a healthy ministry, small-group point people need an intentional strategy for marketing the small-group ministry. Experts like Steve Gladen, Mike Mack, Carter Moss, Will Johnston, and Ben Reed have contributed to this incredible resource, sharing the wisdom they've gained from leading small-group ministries. Learn how to develop a marketing plan, communicate effectively, keep small groups in front of your congregation regularly, and pull off a successful campaign.

9. Unlock Spiritual Gifts
Help your group members discover and use their spiritual gifts.

Whether your theology includes 16, 23, or even more spiritual gifts, your group is missing out if you're not talking about them. This Training Tool will show you how to help your group members discover and embrace their spiritual gifts. The first two articles will give you a great foundation for talking about gifts—whatever your theology. The rest of the resource includes articles that help identify spiritual gifts, give creative ideas for using your gifts, and share how you can model using your gifts appropriately.

10. Train Your Group in Relational Evangelism
It’s a whole lot simpler than it sounds.

Just the thought of evangelism can send chills down the spine of many Christians, but relational evangelism, bringing the hope of Jesus naturally into your relationships, really isn’t scary. In fact, it can be really simple. Your group members are in relationships every day—with their family members, coworkers, neighbors, and friends—and you can help train them in easy ways to intentionally incorporate the Good News of Jesus into their relationships. They don’t need a tract or a gimmicky method. They just need to welcome people into their lives, and share stories, ask good questions, and be a good listener. This resource is designed to help small-group leaders guide their group members to learn what relational evangelism looks like and put simple steps into action.

—Amy Jackson is associate publisher of SmallGroups.com.