With a slower pace and natural breaks in the ministry calendar, now is the time to invest in your hard-working small-group leaders. Rather than bog them down with training events and meetings all summer, treat your leaders to creative, intentional times of development.
1. Meet with your leaders one-on-one.
After a long year of ministry, take time to meet with each of your leaders one-on-one. (If you have a large ministry, coaches can meet one-on-one with leaders, and you can meet one-on-one with coaches.) Take time to catch up and hear about their life—both ministry and otherwise. Then give feedback on their leadership. This is a great time to encourage your leaders and thank them personally.
But don't stop there! Give leaders a chance to give you feedback, too. Ask what they like and dislike about the ministry. What do they wish they could change? Then ask how you can better support them in the coming year. This give and take will deepen your relationship and set a tone of humility and learning. And you may find that you'll get some great tips!
2. Thank your leaders.
It's time to thank your leaders for all their hard work and sacrifice this year. Plan an event or retreat that does not include any training or official ministry business. Make it a time to invest in your leaders and let them recharge. For some creative ideas, read "Great Ideas for Honoring and Thanking Small-Group Leaders." Or plan a meaningful time away for leaders with Plan a One Day Retreat for Leaders.
3. Train new leaders.
If you're planning on launching several new groups this fall—or relaunching your whole ministry—summer is a great time to train brand-new leaders. There are a few ways to do this. Our top recommendation is to use our Small-Group Leader Training Program, which includes five video sessions to help new leaders begin with confidence. It includes a Leader's Guide to help you customize the experience by adding in your own church-specific details and following a schedule that works for your ministry—whether that's a turbo group setting or a half-day training event.
Curious about the turbo group method? The idea is to form a small group of potential leaders for several weeks. The process allows them to experience a healthy small group, discuss important leadership topics, and practice leading in a small-group setting. It's a great way to invest in several leaders over a period of time. Summer is the perfect time to launch one—you'll have plenty of time to meet before fall launch.
I highly recommend the Small-Group Leader Training Program, whatever method you use for training your leaders. The videos and workbook will help you pull off great training with little work.
4. Hold special training sessions.
If summer is a slower time at your church, you might put off large training events until the fall, but there are other ways to continue training in the summer. When you meet one-on-one with your leaders, you'll likely hear about some topics that your leaders need additional training in. Rather than plan big training events during the busy summer months, plan several low-key, optional training sessions that cover various hot topics.
When getting together is just too difficult, or only one or two leaders are interested in a given topic, I recommend e-mailing your leaders one of our training tools. They can work through it on their own or with a few other leaders. Better yet, sign up for a multi-user subscription and give all your leaders access to SmallGroups.com. With their own log in, they can download the training they need most and work through it on their own.
Whether you hold training sessions or simply send out training, the best topics are those that your leaders bring up themselves. That said, there are several key topics that come up in most ministries:
Conquer Common Meeting Problems
Develop Real Relationships
Find the Right Study for Your Group
Ministering to Difficult Group Members
5. Throw a launch party.
Before fall hits, invest in your leaders by throwing a launch party for your ministry. A few weeks before you begin pushing small groups, gather all your leaders together for a few hours. Use the time to cast vision for the ministry year, clearly state your expectations, pray for the Spirit to move, and get everyone excited for a new year of group ministry. Make it festive with food and decorations.
It might also be fun to have a theme like "Deep Roots" and keep the decorations related (think trees and plants). You could even provide a small trinket for leaders—like a seed packet or a keychain with a tree on it—to remind them to pray for small groups throughout the year. Get creative and make it fun, but more than anything, make it clear that you deeply appreciate your leaders, and you're rooting them on! (No pun intended.)
—Amy Jackson is managing editor of SmallGroups.com.