Small Groups: Training your leaders

In my opinion, the best way for us to train small group leaders is to intentionally train them. Let’s throw back to 1999 and pull out our WWJD bracelets. Got it out? Good! Now, let’s ask the question:

How would Jesus train small group leaders?

We don’t need to look much further than the first couple chapters in the Gospels. Jesus goes up to various men and asks them to follow him. Notice that he didn’t put up signs or have the scribes jot down a quick announcement in the Pharisee weekly. In all likelihood Jesus knew these men. I mean, let’s face it, Jesus grew up in a small town and everyone who has lived in a small town knows that you know everyone. So, we have Jesus walking and asking these guys to follow him. They probably thought that they weren’t smart enough or of the right background to lead, but Jesus saw through that. He observed these guys and chose in a very particular way. Look at Matthew 9 and the calling of a tax collector.

Tax collectors were considered below human in Jewish culture. They stole from their own people and the Jewish law even said that they weren’t required to treat them like children of God. They could lie to them, make fun of them, and ignore them. So when Jesus called Matthew people noticed. Matthew had all the training that any Jewish boy would have had. He just hadn’t made the cut. No one believed in him. I’m assuming that’s why Matthew became a tax collector. He was idle.

Jesus saw this spiritually idle man and called him to something amazing. Matthew isn’t the only guy Jesus called and yet each time, Jesus was just as particular. He knew these guys BEFORE he called them to serve. Despite their rough edges, they were eager to learn and place their faith in Christ.

The first step to training your small group leaders is to know them.
Be particular and then once you’ve chosen leaders, invite them to follow you. Jesus was with these guys all the time. They did life together and Jesus took advantage of opportunities to train and prepare them to lead his sheep. We need to take that approach.

Here are some questions to think about:
Do you know the people that are leading your small groups?
Have you spent time with them over a meal?
Have you casted vision and called them to something greater?

If you haven’t, get on that.

But, what’s the next step?

It’s simple, take intentional time to live life with them and speak into their lives. None of us are even close to being like Jesus, but we can emulate his leadership style. Just like Jesus was intentional with what and how he taught the disciples, we need to be intentional in what and how we teach small group leaders.

Here are 15 things that I think you need to impart and equip your small group leadership with:

1. Small group leaders are pastors, not facilitators.
Just because you have the degree doesn’t mean you’re the only pastor. Call these men and women to something more. Tell them that they are not facilitators, but pastors. If you can’t, maybe you have a problem.

2. Be clear with communication expectations. Let them know when, how, and what they need to communicate to you. Good communication doesn’t happen naturally.

3. Leaders need to be leaders and not the “best friend.” I’ve had leaders that just wanted to be best friends with everyone in their group. The problem with that–when the leader needs to lead he/she can’t. Students need leaders not more friends.

4. Implement a Facebook policy with your leadership. Let them know how you expect them to communicate on Facebook. The last thing you need is small group leadership posting pictures of a party or venting about their marriage or friendship. Students see that type of stuff. Be smart.

5. Clearly explain what they need to tell you and what they can keep confidential. My leaders wanted to know what they needed to share with me about situations they’ve overheard or what’s been confided to them. Be clear with that type of stuff.

6. If you can help it, don’t lead your own small group. We ended up having to lead groups, but in the end, I would have preferred the flexibility to jump around and visit groups. Josh Griffin does “Drive by Cookies”.

7. Pair your leaders with another leader. It’s best to have two leaders per group. That might be tough, but if you can swing it, make it happen. It’s practical if one leader is sick or out of town. It’s also a way to train leaders to take on new groups the following year.

8. Switch your leaders up every one/two years. It’s my personal opinion that if one leader has the same group for 7 years, that group will become a super exclusive group. That’s not healthy for other students.

9. Set a maximum number of people per group before splitting birthing a new group. Prayer time will become a killer if your group is huge.

10. Separate guys/girls. You need to talk to guys about sex, masturbation, porn, wearing deodorant, etc. You can’t do that with the opposite sex around.

11. Do something special for Seniors. Consider making a Senior only group for at least half the year. Use that time to prepare them for college and life after youth group. (This would be the only exception I would make for YOU, the youth pastor, leading a group.)

12. From the very first meeting, tell your leaders that they need to encourage the students to invite their friends. Then tell them to mention it every week.  Groups shouldn’t just be for those initial people. Numerical growth is a key indicator to healthy systems (not the only indicator either) .

13. Encourage leaders to assign (adult picked) prayer partners. Instead of doing your prayer time in one big group, leave time for their partners to get together and pray. Try to put people that don’t know each other together. This will go a long way to breaking exclusivity.

14. Take the summer off. Everyone needs a break.

15. Don’t be lazy. You are the best person to know your ministry. Don’t farm out training to a website or another ministry. Yes, get tips from people and even a couple ideas, but don’t pay $15.00 for a training guide. You are the minister for a reason. If you haven’t already, get your act together and do more than hang out with students. Prepare, plan, and personally train your leaders.

So, how do you train leaders? Did I miss something? Agree or disagree? Leave a comment below!


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