A Game Plan for Coaching Small-Group Leaders

A framework of topics and questions to help guide you towards victorious coaching.

When you think of coaching, what is the first thing you think about? Is it a football coach roaming the sidelines ranting and raving at some official? Maybe it is a coach from high school that either did or did not like you and treated you accordingly. Maybe when you think of the word "coach" you think of a mentor that has guided you through some life decisions and it is a very positive feeling. Hopefully, the concept or the mention of the word "coach" leaves you with warm fuzzies all over. What about if you are the coach or the leader of coaches? What framework of topics and questions do you have to guide you and your team to victory? The following pointers come from years of working with coaches and leaders:

Vision—I love the quote by Marilyn Grey when she said, "We know not where our dreams will take us, but we can probably see quite clearly where we will go without them." What are you dreaming about right now? A better job, kids who clean up their rooms, a wife… well we will not go there, because what goes around comes around. Dreams and vision are very similar, and, for the most part, real vision comes from God. You, as the leader of leaders, need to share what God is birthing in your heart. A dreamer who acts upon his or her dream is a dangerous person. Listen to what Thomas Edward Lawrence has to say on that subject, "All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible." There is a difference between the 'dreamers of the day' and the 'dreamers who dream at night.' Make sure you are one of the ‘dreamers of the day' and challenge your leaders to become dangerous as well.

Goal Setting—Zig Ziglar made famous this quote, "If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time." That sounds a little bit like Yogi Berra's quip, "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there." If you do not set goals, how will you know if you are making progress? As a leader of leaders, that is why I suggest that you spend part of your time talking about and setting some S.M.A.R.T. goals. This has been around for a while, and it still works:

Specific—Try to get your leaders to talk in terms of how many, how often, when, where, who, and how. One of my favorite sets of questions to coaches and leaders is this: Whom are you meeting with? When are you meeting? What are you doing when you meet? This is a real simple way of cutting through a lot of smoke.

Measurable—Again, this is not brain surgery, but you need your leaders and coaches to set some specific and measurable goals. Goals like—How many contacts with the members of your group did you make this week? How many new invites did you make this week for new people to come to the group? How much time are you spending in prayer for your leaders? Measurable does not mean that you hit people over the head with these goals, but you are using the goals to see if you are making progress in the key areas of successful small group life.

Awe-inspiring—When I teach on this principle, I remind my students (I teach Small Group Leadership at Liberty Seminary), that people do not want to be bored with easy or bland goals. A few years ago I read a book entitled, "It's a Sin to Bore a Kid!" Well that is not only true for children; that is also true for adults. Dreams and awe-inspiring goals have a way of sparking imagination and ingenuity. We are in the most exciting business and endeavor ever undertaken by man. More exciting than putting people on the moon, we have the privilege of putting people into heaven. That is awe-inspiring. Stretch your leaders to take some risks in their goal setting. Do not settle for "us four and no more." Remind them that God left the comforts and safety of heaven itself for our sake. There is a definite connection between risk and faith, and we are to walk by faith.

Relevant—Relevant just means that the goals need to be related to the overall project. Keep it real. Challenge your leaders in areas that are important to leaders and coaches. Dave Earley has written a great book called "Eight Habits of Successful Small Group Leaders." Dave and I were partners in ministry for over 18 years at New Life Church in Columbus, Ohio. While there, I was the Small Group Pastor and Dave was the Senior Pastor. We worked hard at developing and supporting our leaders and coaches. I can tell you from personal experience that the eight habits work, and they can get your leaders moving in a positive direction quickly. If you are a pastor, a coach, or a small group leader, this book is a must to cover in your leadership meetings.

Timed—We have all heard the statement, "Timing is everything." In goal setting, having timed goals is critical to again measure whether or not we are making progress. Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile in 1954 at Oxford University. He accomplished that remarkable achievement by meticulously keeping track of every race run and making detailed records of his personal best marks. He also was extremely methodical in his training preparation. As a medical student at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, Roger Bannister chose to use his lunch hour for a 9 minute jog to Paddington track, where he ran 10 X 400 m in about 60 s with two minutes rest; then he ran back to work. The whole procedure took 46 minutes, leaving him 15 minutes to eat his lunch. Roger did all this to receive an earthly crown. How much more should we be involved in heavenly efforts and achievements?

Spiritual Weapons—One of the things I work on the most with the coaches and leaders that I work with is the difference between secular leadership and Christian or spiritual leadership. Listen to what the Apostle Paul had to say in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 in regard to spiritual weapons: "For the weapons of our warfare are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ and we are ready to punish all disobedience and bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." Again the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:10-12 says, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." Small Group leadership is spiritual leadership. Leadership in its final analysis is influence. To influence men and women in a spiritual dimension, you must be willing to pay a spiritual price and use spiritual weapons. Jerry Falwell puts it this way when he says, "Nothing of eternal significance ever happens apart from prayer." Prayer is a spiritual weapon and tool that we need to bring to bear on the hearts and minds of our leaders. Here are a few tools/weapons that you need to be talking about when you gather leaders together:

Word of God
People of God (The power of examples)
Walking in the Spirit
Patience and steadfastness

These tools and weapons need to be covered and re-covered with your leaders. Without them the enemy will have too much influence in our leader's and member's lives. Put these weapons and tools into practice and watch what God can do!

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