As 2015 draws to a close, let's take a look at the most popular Training Tools of the year. At SmallGroups.com, we're honored to help bring you practical training that allows you to lead your small-group ministry with confidence. Whether you're brand-new to our site or a long-time friend, I recommend checking out these favorites. Small-group pastors, coaches, and leaders will all find something helpful in this list.
1. Develop a Group Strategy
Expert advice on creating a custom plan for your ministry.
Recent research reveals that less than 50 percent of churches have a well-defined strategy for small-group ministry. Yikes! But we understand—it's really hard to find a structure that fits your context well. Often our first instinct is simply to cut and paste what's working at another church. But then when it fails, we realize it never fit our church to begin with. We'd like to show you a better way. This resource will give you the tools to create a customized strategy for your context. Learn from the experts what it takes to have a thriving ministry and how to get there from your current reality. With their tips, you'll create a structure that not only fits your context, but also meets your goals for group life.
2. Creative Leader Training
Think outside the box and your leaders will want to attend training events.
Regardless of the small-group leader training offered to new leaders at your church, there are issues and needs that come up that require additional training. And many churches like the idea of training events where all the small-group leaders are present. But too often these events are poorly attended and elicit negative feedback from leaders.
In this resource, you'll learn the secrets to holding training events that small-group leaders want to come to. Learn from the experiences of people who have been training leaders for years. Plus, we offer several field-tested activities you can incorporate into your next training event.
3. Leading 101
The basics of leading a small group
There's a reason college students are required to take 101 classes—they set a foundation for more in-depth classes they'll take later. These classes give the basics and serve as a survival guide for the subject. When small-group leaders begin their first groups, they need a 101 class, too. That isn't to say they won't ever need more in-depth training, but they need a base—something to help them get off to a great start and navigate the responsibilities of their role.
That's exactly what this resource is designed to do. This incredible resource gathers some of our best articles for small-group leaders. Learn how to prepare for group meetings, lead discussions, handle challenging group dynamics, welcome new members, and apprentice new leaders. Use this resource to train yourself, or use it with the small-group leaders you coach. Either way, it's a valuable resource.
4. Orientation Guides
Resources for specific roles in small-group ministry from director to leader
Getting started as a brand-new small-group director, coach, or leader is no small task. That's why we created our popular orientation guides. These guides, each for a specific role in the ministry, lay out job descriptions, key knowledge, and even encouragement for leaders as they get started. They're the perfect place to start on our site. We also offer our two most popular guides in Spanish: small-group director and small-group leader.
5. Conquer Common Meeting Problems
Say goodbye to low attendance, bad studies, childcare issues, shallow relationships, and more.
You've gone through leader training, picked a great study, and formed a group of people you're excited to get to know. And then you actually start meeting—and you wonder why you ever wanted to be a leader in the first place. Whether it's spotty attendance, a study that bombs, awkward relationships, childcare woes, or another common meeting problem, you're ready to turn in your resignation. But there's hope! We've gathered advice from the experts to help you get back on track.
6. Market Your Small-Group Ministry
Communicate about small groups in a clear, compelling way that draws people into groups.
Whether you're just starting your ministry, relaunching it, or simply continuing a healthy ministry, small-group point people need an intentional strategy for marketing the small-group ministry. Experts like Steve Gladen, Mike Mack, Carter Moss, Will Johnston, and Ben Reed have contributed to this incredible resource, sharing the wisdom they've gained from leading small-group ministries. Learn how to develop a marketing plan, communicate effectively, keep small groups in front of your congregation regularly, and pull off a successful campaign.
7. Group Discipleship Strategies
Holistic discipleship in small groups is possible.
When we start our small groups, we set out with high hopes. We want to see people grow, lives change, and deep relationships form. Without intentionality, though, these things simply don't happen. If we want to see our group members grow, we have to incorporate holistic discipleship strategies into our group meetings. From prayer to Bible reading and from mission to work, discipleship is about our whole lives moving closer to God. This is the sacred work of discipleship—and it's often a lot different from what many of us experience in groups.
Since the beginning of the church, though, God has been using small groups to form his people. The Bible is clear: discipleship happens in community. This training tool will help you understand the importance of discipleship within the context of community and also provide practical tips for incorporating discipleship strategies into your group.
8. Recruiting New Small-Group Leaders
Find the right people to lead your groups.
If there's one thing that every small-group ministry needs, it's small-group leaders. Unfortunately, it can be tough to find the right people for that job. And even when you find the right people, it can be tough to convince them to serve! With expert advice from Tom Bandy, Fred Smith, and others, this download will help you both recruit and "raise up" new small-group leaders from within your congregation.
9. Eliminate Barriers to Community
Structure your groups for maximum participation.
As small-group point people, we'd love to see everyone in our churches involved in small groups. We want them to experience the life-changing power of biblical community. Unfortunately, there are often barriers to community the keep people from joining a group. But there are things we can do to help more people get connected. This resource will show you how to break down common barriers that keep people from checking out groups—and how to keep them coming back.
10. Empower Small-Group Leaders
Release your leaders to lead without micromanaging or giving total freedom.
If we want effective, healthy, growing ministries, we have to depend on our small-group leaders to carry out important leadership tasks. We simply can't do it all, so we have to empower our leaders to actively lead and shepherd their group members. This requires us to strike the right balance with leaders where they fully know what's expected of them, have all the tools they need, and have some autonomy in carrying out those tasks. In other words, we must steer clear from the extremes of micromanaging and giving leaders total freedom. It's a tricky line to walk, but this Training Tool will show you how.
Bridging the gap between faith and work.
By far, the most popular resource on SmallGroups.com in 2015 was Redeeming Work. This combination Bible study and training tool is resonating with church leaders around the world. The premise? Work matters to God—even though it often feels like there's a gap between our faith and our work. This resource includes a 6-session group study with powerful video sessions that feature guided conversations, interviews, and documentaries to show real-life examples of Christians engaging their calling and pressing into how God can use their unique skills, experiences, and gifting. Plus, to help train your church to better engage this topic, we've included articles and videos just for leaders to better understand the connection between faith and work.