In launching the Coffee Shop Church, we are striving to build a system for enabling small group leader success. (The Coffee Shop Church is an off-church campus small group network in Lansing, Michigan that reaches out to the un-churched. Our motto is, "Connecting with God in a comfortable place at a comfortable pace." For more information, please visit www.CoffeeShopChurch.com.)
Over the summer we recruited 10 leaders, using announcements on the local Christian radio station. These are busy people who attend other churches, but they volunteered to be Coffee Shop Church leaders because they wanted more out of their spiritual walk with Christ. We formed two "turbo groups," calling them Espresso Groups, and trained them in our approach of leading outreach small groups.
Our major emphasis in training leaders:
- The group is there to provide the leader with a personal ministry.
- The leader's main objective is to care about the group members and their spiritual situation.
- The leader serves as facilitator for the Holy Spirit, who does the work.
- The responsibility for spiritual growth is up to the individual, not the leader.
By keeping the requirements of leading a group simple, we are trying to take the pressure off the leader—and his or her inherent qualities for leadership—and place it on the system. We define this as an "anti-hero" approach. Simply defined: No one should have to sacrifice themselves for the success of the group. This places the pressure on us, the Coffee Shop Church organizers and coaches, to structure the groups to function properly, regardless of who the leader is. This is no easy task.
We are still testing our "anti-hero" approach, making modifications as needed, but we have seen promising results:
- Gina, my wife, stepped forward to lead the training, allowing me to focus on developing the organization. This naturally transitioned into the coaching phase, where Gina coaches the 6 women leaders and I coach the 4 men.