About two years ago we fired our coaches. OK, truth be told, we didn't really have any coaches to fire. Two years ago we liberated our small group staff to coach the small group leaders directly—without the aid of a lay coach.
First, let me recognize that this will not work in every environment. I believe that small group structures and systems are not universally applicable. Principles may be, but strategies must be malleable and customizable. If, however, you are a church on the path to become a church "of" small groups, you have at least one staff member who is dedicated to the groups ministry, and you are deepening your commitment to groups, this is a viable alternative to the traditional lay-coaching model.
Let me begin with the Ada Bible Church story. About 15 years ago we hired our first small groups pastor. As the church grew, so did our groups ministry. We were able to develop leaders and provide groups for those who wanted to be in them. Several years ago we developed a connections process that ended the endless waiting list of people who wanted to be in groups. We added additional small group staff, wrote our own all church campaigns and small group curriculum.
But the one thing we have never successfully developed is lay-coaches. By all accounts we should feel great. We have small groups for everyone beginning at age 4. At Ada Bible Church we have more than 2,000 kids and adults in groups. While children's, singles', and women's ministries have lay coaches, men and couples groups are without lay coaches.
When I joined the staff in 1998 I was told that my job was to coach coaches. This meant I had to convince leaders to become coaches or recruit non-leaders to be coaches. It never worked at Ada. The second ...