Leadership Support – Keeping it Simple

If our churches are going to be healthy, then we have got to have healthy leaders.

"Get your small groups here! Sign up for small groups here! Be a leader for small groups here!" Sometimes I think we are so good at marketing our need for leaders and our desire for people to join small groups that we forget why we have small groups to begin with. We take on an initiative to connect people to small groups, and then we breathe a sigh of relief that X amount of people are now connected. However, the success of a small group ministry is not measured by meeting our goals or quotas. The success of a small group ministry depends on its leaders and the support they receive. If our churches are going to be healthy, then we have got to have healthy leaders.

Small group leaders, whether they are seasoned vets or fresh rookies, have the same needs when it comes to leadership support. Here is a breakdown of what we have done at our church.

  • Leaders need relationships too—Keep the main thing the main thing—It's all about Relationships.
As your small group ministry grows—there is no way one person can spend the time they need with each leader. In training, prayer time, etc, the dynamic is far too difficult for a large group setting. That is why small group ministries must have someone who maintains a relational connection. That person in our structure is called a "coach." With a coach in place, each leader gets that personal touch that lets them know they are not a "number", but a person with real needs, whose voice can be heard.
  • Do some creative "coaching" in your structure.
We have about 25 small groups, and we have them divided into 5 huddles of about 5 groups each. Each huddle has an assigned couple who serves as their "coaches." Most coaches are also small group leaders. We try to have a peer-to-peer coaching strategy because we do not have enough people to dedicate someone solely to a coaching position. We believe in keeping things simple and not adding a bunch of unnecessary meetings. This allows our coaches to handle their own small group and to meet the needs of the leaders in their huddles as well.
  • How often you meet (for training) is not nearly as important as what you do when you meet
We used to meet once every month—rain, sleet, or shine. We then felt that it was too much and reduced it to once every other month. This gives the individual huddles a chance to meet in the "off" month, or coaches can check in individually with leaders during that month off.
When each huddle meets during our Training, they break down whatever topic we discussed earlier in the meeting. They make personal applications of what those things would look like in each group. This is where each small group leader increases their "skill set", gets exposed to new ideas, and contributes new ideas to their huddle.
Another component of our huddles is the opportunity to share and receive prayer for any personal needs and the needs in their groups. It is in a "small group" that leaders feel safe to share and pray for each other.
  • Keeping consistent with our values
In our huddles, we also go over our "Basic Discipleship Guidelines for Leaders" which include: 1) Maintaining a growing walk with Christ, 2) Honoring your family, 3) Moral purity, 4) A heart of giving (tithing), 5) Unity, 6) Serving, and a few others.
This serves as a heart check for our leaders to make sure they are not out of balance. Having a healthy heart and being challenged to have a healthy heart by people you love and trust is a key component of our leadership support.
  • Regular communication and encouragement
As the Pastor over Small Groups, I send out a weekly email to all of our small group leaders. It is usually short and succinct, but I use it to:
- Remind them of what is coming up—keeping them informed so they feel connected to the bigger picture.
- Celebrate victories of the previous semester/quarter/week/year—to be encouraged about how God is moving in people's lives.
- Encourage / Challenge them with several quotes I call "Thoughts for the Week"
- Provide instant access to me at the click of the "reply" button. If they have a question or an idea, I am "right there!"
  • Schedule time for refreshing
Small group leaders often serve years without a break. A few years ago, we decided to take one or two months off in the summer. The leaders cheered, and the congregation moaned (even though summer attendance for small groups drops in half). It gave many leaders the spark they needed to refire, refresh, and continue in that role beginning in the fall, and guess what, the congregation survived over the summer!!! This way, every leader knows they get a break, and there is no expectation to pull off 12 months in a row. It energized our leaders, and creates a "plus" in the recruiting column for new leaders.

Leadership support is more of a process than a science. There is not a "formula" we have found that works for every church or every leader. However, in a church like ours where small groups are the fabric of church life, the health of our small group leaders determines the health of our church.

Do not complicate leadership support. Churches can create so much structure that it becomes life-draining instead of life-giving. Keep it simple, and you will have healthy leaders and a healthy church.

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