Turn Your Small-Group Hosts into Leaders

Here is a step-by-step approach that has been proven to work.

Steve Gladen is Pastor of the Small Group Network at Saddleback Church. He will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming Saddleback Small Group Conferences. Click here for more information.

"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:6–7).

No matter what age we are—5, 25, or 55—none of us wants to fail. The desire to avoid failing never seems to leave us. We always want to succeed. Our fear of failure is therefore one of the enemy's most effective weapons. He uses it to keep us from following God's lead.

That's why I love 2 Timothy 1:6–7, especially the critical phrase "fan into flame." As Paul writes to Timothy, he talks about doing something that will fan a spark into a flame. If you've ever gone camping and had to start a fire, you know that fanning a little bit of an ember is key to having a roaring campfire. That possibility of fanning into flame your hosts' leadership potential stands in sharp contrast to their fear of failing. Which road will they choose—the road toward leadership or, because of their fear of failing, a dead-end alley? They're going to go down one or the other.

When we launched the 40 Days of Purpose campaign at Saddleback Church in 2002, we started out with 3,000 people willing to be a host. Many were nervous about the prospect of leading a small group. Most likely, these new hosts were not going to become "leaders" in time for the campaign, which was just a couple of months away. Instead, we asked them to be willing to simply "host" a group, which meant have a heart for people, open their home, serve a snack, and turn on the video or DVD. We felt any weekend attendee could do that.

Then we devised a process of "on-the-job" training for the months after the campaign. At Saddleback, we call this plan the "Small Group Leadership Pathway." It helps us fan into flames the leadership potential of our small-group hosts. You may find this pathway helpful as you look to move small-group hosts into the leadership of your own church.

Leader Training 1

The first step on our leadership pathway is what we call Leader Training 1. This is a monthly basic training session for all new hosts or leaders who want a review. The course shares with our hosts a strategic overview of our small-group ministry, explains a few basic "survival" techniques for hosting a group, and shares the support structure we've put into place for them.

After people have taken Leader Training 1, the church sends the hosts a letter of congratulations and a certificate, which marks their completion of this step. This affirms the hosts for this important step they've taken along the leadership development pathway.

Community Leader

The second step along the leadership pathway is connecting the small-group host with a mentoring community leader (CL). From that point on, each host's community leader starts playing a key role in the growth process. A community leader is a seasoned member of the church's small-group ministry and a person who the church has identified as someone who "gets it and lives it."

During that time, the community leader will help the host realize that he or she is not alone in the journey along the Small Group Leadership Pathway. Instead, community leaders will walk with the host each step of the way.

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