1. The message is simple.
The more complex the message, the more people tend to shy away. When the message is short and to the point, however, it’s easy to remember, and people are more receptive. As we recruit small-group volunteers, then, we must communicate simply and clearly what we expect them to do.
2. The message is believable and accurate.
While the message can be short and simple, it must be believable. For example, if we expect our leaders to shepherd their group members, it’s not totally believable for us to say that leading a small group is as easy as having a heart for people and opening your door to others. There are many facets to leading a small group, and it isn’t always easy; therefore, it’s important to accurately share the reality of what we expect volunteers to do. If we expect them to simply host, we should say that. If we expect them to shepherd, we should communicate that. And we need to be mindful of asking them to do too much on their own.
3. The message is multi-dimensional.
We want to hold true to the reality of what we expect of our volunteers, so we need to make our message multi-dimensional and communicate each action in relation to felt needs. Leadership becomes less intimidating as we explain why we need their help and why we’re asking them to do specific things.
4. Volunteers have to own it.
As people believe the truth in the message and take a step of action, they are owning, or buying into, the message of leadership we are providing. They believe that they can make a difference and that their story and hope can reach others. We have to communicate how our volunteers can uniquely impact others, empowering them for the role.
Set Them Up for Success
Often the biggest battle is simply communicating what we’re asking of our volunteers and convincing them they can do it. Once people buy in, we must set them up for success by effectively training them. Whatever you’re asking your volunteers to do, they’ll need some level of training to help them excel.
Toward that end, we should create developmental training that allows us to share our ups and downs as leaders as well as helpful techniques for hosting or leading. During this training, we must continue to communicate what we expect: not perfection, but helping people grow in their relationship with Christ. Rick Warren offers four steps to leadership training for small-group volunteers that we use at The Simple Church:
1. Train volunteers on small-group basics.
On a Saturday before the start of the small-group semester, we conduct a two-hour training session informing leaders of our mission and goals for small groups, discussing common situations leaders face (e.g., fear of prayer, the person who dominates conversation, etc.), offering various solutions to these questions, role-playing scenarios, and practicing these techniques. (For ready-to-use training curriculum, try the Small-Group Leader Training Program.)
2. Connect volunteers with mentors or coaches.
We have established eight coaches that reach out to leaders, encourage them, and answer any questions they have as they lead their group throughout the semester. Even if your volunteers are just hosts, they can benefit from having someone they can contact with questions.