Editor's note: The author primarily refers to "small-group hosts" throughout the bulk of this article. However, the ideas mentioned can be easily adapted for small-group leaders, apprentices, and any other label that your church may use to describe those people who lead others in Christian community.
Every high-school graduate loves to see the cap and gown. They have endured English and math courses throughout their school career for this moment of graduation, and they are now ready to get out and start something new!
Launching hosts into the world of small groups can have the same appeal.
Unfortunately, fear is a sure killer to small-group growth. Fear of rejection and failure often hinder people from taking the step from small-group member to small-group host. That's why it is crucial for current coaches and hosts to actively cultivate new leaders so that small-group communities can grow and meet the need for relationships among their congregation.
The following suggestions offer coaches, pastors, directors, and seasoned hosts an opportunity to calm fears while investing in and developing upcoming hosts.
Provide a Host Kit
There are many common reasons why people choose not to host a group. "My house is not clean." "My home isn't big enough." "I don't have enough time," and so on.
But I have also run across a surprising element of financial fear in my efforts to recruit new leaders. Many people feel they don't have the money to purchase material for the study or to provide snacks and drinks for their group. They having a willing heart, but financially they are unable to follow through with their desire.
To calm those fears, John Haigler—Executive Pastor and co-coordinator of small groups at the Simple Church—suggests creating a "Host kit" that will help new hosts launch their first meeting without a financial burden. The kit can contain items such as copies of the study, boxed snacks, drinks, and a gift card for a neighborhood pizza place.
Such a kit will help hosts start their small group without the initial fear of not being able to provide for their guests. Going forward, group members can then be encouraged to participate in bringing snacks or drinks for future meetings.
Launch 'Em and Leave 'Em
I am a planner and promoter by nature. I enjoy launching an event or small group, but I also enjoy watching someone else take the leadership role. That's why each semester I co-host a group with someone new. As a small-group coordinator, I reach out to someone who is hesitant to lead a group and offer to co-host with him or her. I help launch the small group in the home and usually lead the study with the host. Then, after things get settled, I take a passive role and allow the host to "fly solo." This process allows the host to realize that he or she is indeed capable of leading and ministering to the people in the group.
One more thing: while I am in the process of stepping back, I keep on the lookout for other potential hosts. If I see someone with potential, I encourage my co-leader to reach out to that person—offering assignments or tasks throughout the course of the semester. This encourages the confidence of the current host while strengthening the confidence of the potential host at the same time.
Read All About It!
When promoting your small-groups ministry, it is important to offer something that will capture people's attention. One option is providing the church with a small-group catalog featuring a different theme each semester.
For example, our current catalog contains pictures and bios of our hosts. It provides the study titles along with day and time for each small-group meeting. The catalogue also offers fun pieces of information about our hosts, which allows people interested in joining a small group to see that the hosts are no different from them. The catalog also provides members with the opportunity to look at many different options for a small group and to connect with a host on a Sunday morning. Putting a picture with a face really is "worth a thousand words."
You don't have to do a printed book, of course. You can provide the same information online. Either option calms fears on both sides.
Hosting a small group requires a host to have an open heart and home. With so much brokenness in our world, and sometimes in our small groups, new hosts may feel overwhelmed. While it is important to provide potential hosts with the necessary skills to handle everything a small group requires, it is also important to provide them outlet for all they encounter.
So do something nice for your new hosts after they begin their responsibilities. Give them a play day! This is so much fun and so encouraging to hosts.
For instance, provide hosts with a dinner and then have everyone go bowling together. If you have a "Party Central" area, take them to play putt-putt or ride go-carts. Simply provide them a night of joy.
When we do an evening out with our hosts, we ask current hosts to invite potential hosts. This allows those who are unsure of hosting to have the opportunity to speak with other hosts about how to lead a small group, which studies are best, and so on. It also provides potential hosts an idea that hosting does not equal perfection. It simply means being willing to share your home and hearts with others.
—Peri Sandifer is the Small-Group Coordinator at The Simple Church in Bossier City, LA. Copyright 2011 by the author and Christianity Today International.