Search Results for: coaching

Group Coaching

Small Group Ministry Coaching Groups

Remember when you were a kid. You were full of excitement and chased a vivid imagination. Nothing seemed impossible. You could do anything — an astronaut, a fire fighter, a supervisor at Hallmark Cards. Okay, maybe not that last one. Are you living that dream? Or did reality come crashing in on you? Or did God call you into ministry?

What are you dreaming about now? Unless your careful even a dream of ministry can turn into a rut. Let’s not go there. Dream with me for a few minutes.

Imagine connecting the majority of your congregation into small groups this Fall. Everyone in your church is connected and growing spiritually. People you never imagined have stepped forward to lead. Your senior pastor is more excited about small groups than he has ever been. Your church is energized and ready to serve your community. You haven’t seen this many people going the same direction for a long time, if ever. It could happen. How would you feel?

Then, reality sinks in. How many leaders would you need? Where would they come from? How would you recruit these leaders? How would you form groups? Whose going to process all of those sign up cards? How would you get everyone on-board? How would you coaching and train all of these new leaders? Now, the feeling is not so great. But, what if you had help?

What if there was no guesswork in getting your small groups from where they are to getting everybody in a group? What if you could launch out into something new without falling on your face? What if you found a way to  success that minimized the risk? You could connect your people into small groups and live to tell about it.

What I am talking about is my next Small Group Ministry Coaching Group that starts on June 22, 2016. You will have my help in planning your group launch, starting or expanding your coaching team, connecting people into groups, then executing a proven timeline to successfully connect as many people as possible into groups this Fall. But, we won’t stop at the launch. You will be coached throughout your Fall group launch and have a plan in place for your new small groups to continue into 2017. Our coaching will take you all of the way through December 31, 2016.

Are you ready to get started? For the full details on the next Small Group Ministry Coaching Group, click here.

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact us: or 949-235-7428.

7 Reasons to Join a Mastermind Group from Forbes Magazine.

Advanced Coaching Group (By Invitation Only)advanced mastermind group - future

If you’ve been launching groups with church-wide campaigns since the original 40 Days of Purpose, this group is for you. This group is limited to 5 thought-leading pastors who want to drill down into strategies you will never find in books or hear about at conferences. If you are ready to get down and dirty with what others will hear about 10 years from now, let’s put our heads together.

If you have the chops, you’re in. If not, then I’ll recommend the Small Group Mastermind (described above), then you can join the Advanced Mastermind at a later date. If you have any questions, please contact us: or 949-235-7428.

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Individual Coaching

Strategic Personalized Small Group Coaching Social Media Pic - lower res

Small group strategies abound, but which one will help you recruit your entire congregation into community and help you recruit all of the leaders you will need. If you are suffering from information overload and would like a coach to walk you through the most effective and proven strategies, our Strategic Small Group Coaching is a great solution for you. Starting with an assessment and custom strategy for your church, you will be coached by expert, proven leaders to accomplish your goals. Take the guess-work out of small group ministry. Get a coach in your corner.

Interested in Strategic Personalized Small Group Coaching? We have programs for any size church and budget, please contact or call Allen at 949-235-7428.

“Allen White, and the team have come along side of us to produce better leaders, better polished curriculum, better groups, and maybe best of all, lots more groups.  We are grateful for their partnership.”  —Gene Appel, Senior Pastor, Eastside Christian Church, Anaheim, CA and former Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, IL and Central Christian Church, Las Vegas, NV

Virtual Small Group Pastor

Hiring the right small group pastor can be difficult, so don’t. Rather than hiring someone who may or may not work out or who you have to train yourself, the Virtual Small Group Pastor option provides all of the strategy, support and logistics to effectively recruit new leaders, connect your members into groups, train new leaders, and develop a coaching structure to support the groups ministry. The Virtual Small Group Pastor will function as a staff pastor at your church participating in staff meetings, planning sessions as well as oversight and responsibility of the entire small group ministry. Interested in a Virtual Small Group Pastor? Please contact or call Allen at 949-235-7428.

“Allen White is our small group superhero! Allen’s wisdom and insight helped us put all the pieces together for taking our small group ministry to a whole new level. Allen is able to see the big picture and was the key to helping us build healthy systems for a sustainable small group ministry.”                                                                                                                                                            Matthew Hartsfield, Senior Pastor, Van Dyke Church, Lutz, FL


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Here are some ways I can help you and your church:

Over most of the last 12 years, I’ve done a lot of high end consulting with some of the largest churches in North America. What I realize is by focusing on churches who are 2,000 members or more, there are a good number of the 400,000 churches in North America who could not access the consulting I offered. My mission is to offer effective strategies and reliable service at affordable prices to every church. Whether you choose on online course, a coaching cohort, or affordable personal consulting, we offer a plan that will work for you and your church. Here are our options:

Group Coaching

We are offering two levels of Mastermind Groups for small group coaching. One for pastors and directors who want to learn and implement effective strategies for launching and retaining groups. The second for pastors and directors who either I’ve worked with previously or who have vast experience in small groups. For more information, Click Here.

7 Reasons to Join a Mastermind Group from Forbes Magazine.

If you have any questions, please contact or 949-235-7428.

Individual Church Coaching

Consulting is for pastors and churches who are looking for an individual, custom designed plan to connect your congregation into community. This option will lead you through producing your own curriculum, recruiting and training coaching, recruiting and training groups leaders, connecting members into groups, retaining groups for the long haul, plus all of the training aadvanced mastermind group - futurend coaching they need along the way. Designed to help a church start and sustain an exponential number of group, we will come alongside a church for 12 months and personally guide them through every step. For more information, Click Here.

If you have any questions, please contact or 949-235-7428.

Free Webinars

Webinars are offered on various topics of interest for small group pastors and directors, Senior Pastors, and other key staff. For a current listening of webinar as well as archived webinars, please Click Here.

If you have any questions, please contact or 949-235-7428.

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Why Small Group Coaching Fails

By Allen White Image

Almost every small group pastor or director will agree coaching small group leaders is important. Yet, many of those pastors would also admit they don’t know how to adequately coach their small group leaders. Having tried and failed at various coaching structures many times myself, I have found three key issues in unsuccessful (and eventually successful) coaching.

Unclear Expectations

Many coaching structures fail simply because no one knows what a coach is supposed to do. Is the coach an administrator or record keeper? Is the coach a trainer? Is the coach a figurehead so we can say we have a coaching structure? What do we expect our coaches to do?

If we need coaches to train leaders, then why are small group pastors still running centralized training meetings? Do we really need coaches to collect rosters and reports? Don’t we live in the 21st century? After all, will solve all of these administrative issues. (In an effort for full disclosure, I believe ChurchTeams is the best small groups’ database on the planet. Boyd Pelley did not pay me to say that. He did buy me an ice cream once.)

What do we need coaches to do? We need coaches to do the things we can’t do ourselves. If we had, say, five small groups, then what would we do with those leaders? We’d call them on a regular basis. We’d get together for a cup of coffee. We would personally encourage them, answer their questions, and pray for them. We would invest in the relationship. What if our coaches started there? Coaching is based on relationship. If there’s no relationship, not much coaching will take place.

Unreasonable Requirements

A friend of mind called me a while back. He was frustrated because many of his coaches were quitting. I asked him what he was asking them to do. He wanted his volunteer coaches to hold a monthly training meeting with their leaders on the church campus. Then, I asked him if he’d ever driven in his city?

This was a major metropolitan area. So, think of requiring volunteer small group coaches to hold monthly training meetings in the middle of one of the 10 largest cities in the U.S. It wasn’t working, and his coaches were quitting.

Face to face meetings are great. If you can pull them off with all of your leaders together, that’s really great. But, most people can’t. Fortunately, there are some alternatives.

Why not meet “together” with small group leaders on or Skype? Every day I coach small group pastors across the country over the phone or by teleconference. I’ve met few of them in person, but we connect on a weekly basis. We have a relationship, and they have seen success in growing their groups. This works with leaders locally too.

Facetime is necessary (the real, in-person version). Again, coaching is built on a relationship. But, maybe the face to face meetings are with one or two group leaders and not all of them. We can use other means to connect at other times. Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating a simple “Like” on Facebook or a bulk email to all of the leaders at once. The connection must be personal to grow the relationship.

Lack of Accountability

None of us likes to make people uncomfortable. Some of us avoid this discomfort to the point of not asking our coaches if they’re coaching. Then, we discover not much coaching is taking place. We shouldn’t be surprised.

Only what we supervise gets done. Now, we don’t have to come down on our coaches like a ton of bricks, but we do need to ask. Rather than asking, “Have you contacted your leaders?” we should assume the good, qualified people we recruited to coach are actually coaching. The question could go like this, “What are you learning from your leaders?” They won’t get defensive.

They might respond, “Well, I haven’t contacted any of them lately.” That’s okay. Give them a deadline, “I understand you’re busy, but connect with your leaders in the next two weeks, then I’ll check-in with you again.” Presuming the best about our coaches both honors and motivates them. Giving them accountability helps them keep their commitment to coaching and eliminates the guilt of not fulfilling their commitment.

Effective Coaching

Effective, motivated coaches need direction that is clear, reasonable, and accountable. How do I know? A good coach taught me that…as he was resigning. Do your coaches know your expectations? Do you know your expectations? Are your requirements reasonable? And, if it’s truly important, are you holding them accountable? These three simple words will transform your coaching structure.

Other Posts on Small Group Coaching:

Small Group Coaches Are Not Bureaucrats

Recruiting Small Group Coaches without Resumes

The Role of a Coach

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Exponential Groups Book

Exponential Groups: Unleashing Your Church’s Potential

by Allen White; Foreword by Chip Ingram

Published by Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MAnew-cover-exponential-groups-200x299

“Everyone is already in a group.

“When I saw “group,” something from years of church Bible studies comes to mind. You might protest that there are plenty of people who aren’t in groups like this. But it’s true. Everyone is already in a group, it’s just not the group you have in mind. People are in groups called families, friends, coworkers, neighbors, soccer moms, and many others. If your question is how are these church groups? I want to suggest you change your question to what can these groups do intentionally about their spiritual growth?”

— excerpt from the Introduction

Download the Introduction and Chapter One by clicking here.

Pre-order your copy of Exponential Groups at Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

From the Foreword by Chip Ingram:

“Allen offers practical insights and proven steps to start new groups in your church, whether you’ve been at groups for a long time or are just getting started. These are principles from the trenches, not unproven theories. What Allen has done in his own churches and in our church will work for your church as well. This isn’t a cookie cutter strategy that treats every church exactly the same. No two churches are really the same. The variety and flexibility you will discover in this book will help you make a custom fit for your congregation.”

– Chip Ingram, Senior Pastor, Venture Church, Los Gatos, CA and Founder and President, Living on the Edge

What Others are Saying about Exponential Groups:

“Wouldn’t it be great to have ALL the people in our churches connected to groups in which they can do life together, learn about God, and encourage each other? The problem is that we might be standing in the way of that happening without even knowing it. If you want to learn how to empower your people to step up and serve, and effectively reach those outside of the church, pick up a copy of Exponential Groups by Allen White. Your people have the power to impact the lives of others for God in the long-term, and you can help them discover it.”

– Greg Surratt, Founding Pastor,  Seacoast Church, Mt. Pleasant, SC

President, ARC and  Author of Ir-Rev-Rend

“Pastors know Christ-centered groups make thriving disciples. The hard part is developing a clear, workable strategy that empowers leaders, launches groups and connects people. Allen’s book just made the hard part a whole lot simpler! A true gift”

– Dr. Bill Donahue, best-selling small groups author and leadership coach.

“Allen has written a terrific book from the seat of a practitioner. Having helped countless churches start and maintain small groups ministries, Allen’s voice is one to be trusted. But beware: only read this book if you’re ready for your small groups to grow!”

– Steve Gladen, Saddleback Church, Small Groups Pastor

Author, Small Groups With Purpose and LEADING Small Groups With Purpose

“I’m thankful Allen White has leveraged two decades of leading, launching, coaching, studying and unleashing the power of small groups. Every church leader who would like to take their small groups ministry to the next level will benefit from his insights and experience.”

– Gene Appel, Senior Pastor, Eastside Christian Church, Anaheim, CA

“Just when I thought it had all been said, Exponential Groups shows up. Not only does Allen reveal real-life stories that will inspire, he unearths principles and practices that will grow your ministry – EXPONENTIALLY!”

– Rick Howerton, Regional Consultant, Kentucky Baptist Convention and formerly at Lifeway and NavPress

“Allen is a groups genius and Exponential Groups is a gift to churches serious about building meaningful community.”

– Caleb Anderson, Author of Favor with Kings, Lead Pastor of Mariners Church Huntington Beach

“Allen is the real deal, bringing insightful, strategic, & practical help for an area of ministry he is passionate & experienced in. Timely resource!”

– Doug Slaybaugh, Paterson Center, and Past President of Purpose Driven Ministries

Exponential Groups brings to light a plethora of ideas and practices for the Small Group Point Person.  You will walk away with new approaches to your Small Group system as Allen shares transparently from his ministry’s successes and failures.”

– Eddie Mosley, Small Group Pastor, LifePoint Church, Smyrna, TN

Author of Connecting in Communities, Understanding the Dynamics of Small Groups

Download the Introduction and Chapter One by clicking here.

Pre-order your copy of Exponential Groups at Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

Exponential Groups is a powerful, biblical resource that puts Allen White’s decades of experience leading group life into your hand. No matter the size of your congregation, Allen’s mindset and hard-won strategies will open a new chapter in the life and growth of small groups in your church community.”

– Herbert Cooper, Senior Pastor of People’s Church, author of But God Changes Everything

“Allen White is one of the world’s leading thinkers in Small Group Ministry.  The practical tools he presents in Exponential Groups coupled with his easy-to-read writing style will keep your attention and equip you for better Small Group ministry.  If you want your small group ministry to achieve greater things faster, then this book is for you!!”

– Alan Danielson, CEO at Triple Threat Solutions, a ministry consulting firm

Former Small Groups Pastor, Life.Church, Edmond, OK

“Allen White shows ministry leaders how to develop a practical yet very relational strategy for developing groups exponentially. His step-by-step plans plus real-life stories make this one of the best books on small group strategy available today.”

– Michael Mack, Owner, Small Group Leadership (

Author of World’s Greatest Small Group, Small Group Vital Signs, and others.

“Allen’s guidance and wisdom has been a rich blessing to our staff and our congregation enabling us to expand the reach of our small group ministry in tremendous ways. With Allen’s coaching we have doubled the capacity of our small group ministry and also enhanced our ability to equip and encourage those who serve on the front lines of this ministry as small group leaders. I would highly recommend his insight and coaching for you to take your small group ministry to the next level.”

– Rev. David Alexander, Senior Pastor, First Methodist Mansfield, TX

“Absolutely loved getting my hands on Allen’s new book!!  His insights on expanding and growing small groups in a different way were just what NorthStar needed at just the right time!  Huge read for any pastor or small group leader that is looking to re-think groups for the future!!!  Excited now to apply some of his awesome ideas!!”

– Mike Linch, Senior Pastor, NorthStar Church, Kennesaw, GA

“This book, Exponential Groups, is one of the most practical, applicable books on small groups that I have ever read.  As a Lead Pastor, I have believed in small group ministry as a key competent of effective local church ministry for over 25 years.  Small Groups, however, are always more messy and challenging to manage. Allen White’s thinking on this subject is clear, compelling, and effective.  At Allison Park Church, we are using the plans laid out in Exponential Groups, as a manual for how to execute on a high level than ever before.”

– Jeff Leake, Senior Pastor, Allison Park Church, Allison Park, PA

“Allen is a respected and diverse practitioner, who cuts through the rabbit trails of unrehearsed theory, and offers his hard-earned wisdom with disarming wit and piercing clarity. Exponential Groups captures his balance of being a can-do strategist that is realistic and honest about what works and what doesn’t. By standing on his shoulders, you will be empowered to grow healthy group life and reach more people with the Gospel.”

– Reid Smith, Director of Discipleship – Christ Fellowship Church, West Palm Beach, FL

Download the Introduction and Chapter One by clicking here.

Pre-order your copy of Exponential Groups at Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.


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Celebrating Our First Year!

By Allen White

Photo by Andor Bujdoso

Photo by Andor Bujdoso

One year ago after following a nudge from the Holy Spirit, which felt move like a shove, my wife and I formed our own coaching organization. It was a big step. After working for two churches and then two stints at Lifetogether Ministries with Brett Eastman, it was time to go out on our own. And, what a year it’s been!

Exponential Groups, my first book on small groups, will be released on February 1, 2017 from Hendrickson Publishers. Writing this book was something I just felt compelled to do, even if my mom is the only one who reads it. It’s the stories and best practices from the over 1,500 churches I’ve coached and the two churches I served on staff. Why Exponential Groups? When we recruit individual leaders, we grow by addition. When we train apprentices and “birth” new groups, we grow by multiplication. When we engage our entire congregation in the Great Commission, we grow exponentially. You can preorder Exponential Groups at, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online outlets. Hint: The book is $5 cheaper at (my publisher owns it). (Download the first chapter Here). But, this isn’t the best part.

I have the privilege of coaching some of the great churches across North American and helping them grow their groups exponentially. Here is a partial list of churches I’ve worked with in the last 12 months in various ways.

Coaching Groups — 19 Churches including:

C4 Church, Ajax, Ontario

Christ Tabernacle, Queens, NY

Discovery Church, Orlando, FL

Eastlake Church, Chula Vista, CA

Manna Church (ARC), Fayetteville, NC

Next Level Church (ARC). Ft Myers, FL

Peninsula Covenant Church, Redwood City, CA

St. Johns Lutheran Church (LCMS), Orange, CA

The Branch Church (COC), Dallas, TX

Victory Worship Church (AG), Tuscon, AZ

Ward Church (EPC), Northville, MI

Onsite Assessments

Bayside Community Church (ARC), Bradenton-Sarasota, FL

LifeBridge Christian Church (ICC), Longmont, CO

St. Matthew Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Individual Coaching

Allison Park Church (AG), Pittsburg, PA

Bethesda Pentecostal Church, St. Johns, Newfoundland

Mariners Church, Huntington Beach, CA

The Rooted Network, Mariners Church, Irvine, CA

Venture Church, Los Gatos, CA

Online Courses including:

Love of Christ Church (ARC), Bear, DE

Overlake Christian Church, Redmond, WA

Salem Lutheran Church (LCMS), Tomball, TX

The Life Church, San Angelo, TX

Speaking: Keynote, Retreats, Workshops, Conferences

Thousand Hills Church (AG), Corinth, TX (Leader Retreat)

Georgia District Council (AG), Macon, GA (Pastors’ Conference)

Video Curriculum Production

Chip Ingram and Living on the Edge (multiple projects)

Doug Fields and Intentional Parenting (Discussion Guide)

Lutheran Church of the Atonement (ECLA), Barrington, IL

Kingdom Life Church, Baltimore, MD

Wow, when I stop and look at the list, I realize it truly has been an amazing first year. I also serve churches in some low cost ways:

My Blog:

An Hour with Allen

We’ve had a great first year and have seen great progress in the churches we have served. My hope in the coming year is not only to help more churches grow their small groups, but also to help more churches grow their people. In the Great Commission, Jesus charges every believer with the responsibility to “Go and make disciples…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” The word we are keying in on for 2017 is “obey.” Jesus didn’t tell his disciples (including us) to “teach them…everything.” He commanded us to “teach them to obey everything.” An obedient church is a growing churches. Priorities will change. Chains will fall off. Communities will be transformed. Believes will be empowered. New leaders will come out of the woodwork. Without building another building or hiring another staff member, we can change the world.

Thanks to all of you who’ve allowed me to play in your sandbox and have taken this work seriously. You and your church will never be the same.

God bless,


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Small Groups Assessment

What is the actual need for groups in your church?

What is keeping you from connecting 100% of your members and attendees into groups? 13193885_s

What do you need to shut down in order to get more people into groups? (Answer: Nothing!)

By collecting data from your congregation, your current group leaders, and your church staff, Allen White will analyze your current small group system, help you identify potential group leaders who are interested in leading, help you avoid obstacles to the growth of your groups, and create a strategic plan for the next 12 months of your small group ministry.

The Assessment can be presented either over GotoMeeting to you and your staff or Live and In-Person at your church (travel expenses are invoiced separately. After the presentation, Allen will give you and your church 30 days of additional coaching to help you implement your strategic plan.

For more information:

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Your Campaign Launched, but Day 41 is Coming

By Allen White 

A lot of great things can happen during a 40 Day church-wide campaign, then comes Day 41. If you’ve just launched groups in the last few weeks, it’s time to think about what’s next.

Several years ago a small group pastor joined our coaching program. He had gone from having no small groups in his church to actually launching 233 groups for a 40 day church-wide campaign. At the end of the campaign, when it was all said and done, he ended up with three groups. What a heartbreak!

Over the years, in the laboratory of hundreds of churches across the country, we’ve learned a few things about keeping the momentum going and helping to sustain groups for the long haul.

1.       Groups Need a Next Step.

Most new groups do not have an opinion of what they want to study next. How many times has a new group leader presented a selection of curriculum to the group only to hear, “They all look good. Why don’t you pick one.” Happens almost every time.

Of course, the other issue here is the fact you invited folks to join a group for six weeks and not for the rest of their lives. For some strange reason, once the six weeks ends, they feel like their commitment is up – because it is.

We launched groups at our church in California for the first time in the Spring. Our fear wasn’t just Day 41, but also days 42-96. It was a high hurdle over the summer. We gathered the new leaders mid-way through the Spring study and invited them to join our next series which began on the second Sunday of October. Then, we held our breath. It’s a long stretch from mid-May to mid-October. October held a big surprise.

When we gathered groups in the Fall to give them a sneak peek at the Fall curriculum, 80 percent of the groups who started in the Spring were right there to join the Fall study. You could have knocked me over with a feather. By giving the groups a next step, even a huge step over four months, is key to helping groups sustain. If I hadn’t experienced this first hand, honestly, I wouldn’t have believed it.

Wendy Nolasco, Small Group Pastor at New Life Center, Bakersfield, California, found a similar result. After successfully launching 100 groups in the Spring, they gave their groups a heads up on their Fall campaign and then said a prayer. This Fall 75 of those groups are continuing into the next step Pastor Wendy gave them.

If you are in a Fall or New Year’s campaign, the next step is not quite so daunting. They don’t need to wait three months for another study. They can start a new study the following week. Once a group does two back to back six week studies, usually they are good to continue from that point forward.

2.       Give Your New Groups One Specific Next Step

If you send your new group leaders to the internet or the local bookstore, they will get lost in the plethora of selections. In fact, it will take them so long to make a decision, more than likely the group will falter before they can choose their next step.

If you started the group with a video-based curriculum, then the next step should involve a video as well. Again, if you invited folks to form groups with the idea that they didn’t have to be a Bible scholar, because the expert was on the video, they will need that strategy again. Whether the next series aligns with the Sunday sermons or not, a specific next step will take them past Day 41 and into a longer group life.

Now, you may ask, “How long can groups continue with video-based curriculum?”

Carl George put it this way, “As long as there are DVDs.”

3.       A New Study is a Great Time to Recruit New People to Your Group.

The beginning of a study is a natural time to invite new members into a group. The group could host an open house or a barbecue to invite some friends and neighbors who might be interested in joining the group. Everyone likes to start on the ground floor. A new study certainly provides that opportunity.

4.      If the Host Can’t Continue…

Well, you could go the guilt route: “If you love Jesus and want to go to Heaven…” But, I wouldn’t recommend that.

If the hosts legitimately cannot continue, they are probably not considering other possibilities for the group to continue. they think if they can’t go on, then the group can’t either. But, that’s not necessarily true.

When a host informs you around Day 24 of your current campaign that they won’t be able to continue with the group, have their coach begin to investigate whether another member of the group would like to step up and host the group. If the group has been rotating leadership during the study, someone may very easily take over leadership of the group so the group can continue.

Oh, and how do you get your hosts to state their intentions around Day 24 or so? You ask them. I’ve used both a mid-campaign survey as well as a mid-campaign host huddle to determine who is interested in continuing and who isn’t. Before I walk into the huddle meeting, I like to know what to expect. Often I will send the mid-campaign survey first. It serves as what John Maxwell calls the “meeting before the meeting.” Then, when you walk into the room, you know who plans to continue and who needs to be given some options for their group to continue.

All in all, Day 41 is just the beginning of group life. With the right encouragement and next steps, groups who started to only complete a six week study, can find themselves enjoying quality group life for many studies to come.

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Help, My Groups are STUCK at 30 Percent!

By Allen White
If you have managed to connect 30 percent of your adults in small groups, then congratulations are in order! You are among the top one half of one percent of all churches in America! Go ahead and pat yourself on the back! You deserve it!

Now that you’ve been congratulated, let’s get to work. Quite a few things could contribute to your state of stuckness. Here are the biggest factors in small groups getting stuck.

Stop Handpicking Leaders

If you are still personally recruiting every leader, you have completely maxed out this method of starting groups. When our groups got stuck at New Life in northern California, we had 30 percent in groups. I had handpicked each leader over the course of seven years. I had asked the same question for seven years: “Would you like to become a small group leader?” And, for seven years, many people turned me down.

Now, if I had 100 years to catch up with the connection needs of our growing congregation, then I would have been in good shape. The problem is that well before we reached the 100 year mark I would be dead along with most of the people who needed to be connected into groups. While I thank God for the groups I had, the recruitment strategy had to change in order to recruit more leaders faster. We changed it and doubled our groups in one day.

Consider an Alignment Series

One of the fastest ways to propel your groups forward and get out of your stuckness is an alignment series where the senior pastor’s weekend messages are aligned with the small group study. You can either purchase a curriculum like My Near Death Experiment  or Transformed, or you can create your own curriculum. Either will work. The key is to tie what’s happening in the small groups with the weekend message and particularly tie the small group study to the senior pastor.

Only Your Senior Pastor Recruits New Small Group Leaders

The first time my senior pastor stood up in a weekend service and invited our people to host groups, we doubled our groups in one day. [You can read the whole story here.] After seven years, we had 30 percent in groups. After one weekend, we jumped to 60 percent in groups.

Other than Jesus Christ, the reason unconnected people attend your church is because of your senior pastor. They like his personality. They laugh at his jokes. They enjoy his teaching. Now, don’t mention this to your worship pastor. It will break his heart.

When the senior pastor stands up and offers curriculum based on his teaching (or at least aligned with his teaching, if you’re going the purchased route), you are giving your people more of what they already like — your pastor’s teaching. Then, when the pastor invites the people to open their homes and host a group, they will follow his leadership. Believe me, I’ve been an Associate Pastor for most of my 25 years in ministry. If I made the same invitation in the service, I would get 30 percent the result of our senior pastor. Once my pastor starting recruiting from the platform, I never handpicked another group leader ever again.

Get Your Coaching Structure Started

Many churches have given up on small group coaches. Even very large churches who are well-known for their small group ministries have abandoned coaching or use paid staff to coach. This is a mistake. First, most churches could never afford to hire all of the staff they need. Second, if you are not personally caring for your leaders, your leaders will eventually stop leading. I was able to coach my leaders up to about 30 percent connected into groups, but to be honest, I didn’t do it very well. But, I learned not to beat myself up.

When we doubled our groups in a day, I was in a coaching crisis. Then, it dawned on me, since we doubled that meant half of the small group leaders didn’t know what they were doing, but the other half did. I matched them up like the buddy system, and it worked. Then, I built the rest of the coaching structure on that. Read more about small group coaching here.

Leave Established Groups Alone

Now, here is what I didn’t do. I didn’t invite my established small group leaders to do the new series. I didn’t ask my established small group leaders to change anything. In fact, I didn’t even tell them. Why?

I already had them. They didn’t need to change. They just needed to continue. If it ain’t broke… Now, many of the established small groups did participate in the alignment series, but I never asked them to. They asked me!

If you are killing yourself and only have 30 percent of your adults in groups, it is time to make a change. Now, you could change to another church who has no groups and become a big success by connecting 30 percent of their people into groups. Or, you could change up your strategies of how you recruit small group leaders and make huge progress right where you are.

Where are you stuck?


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5.5 Questions with Greg Atkinson

By Allen White Greg Atkinson

Greg Atkinson is the founder of Worship Impressions and author of Church Leadership Essentials, Strange Leadership, and Secrets of a Secret Shopper. Over his 20—plus years of ministry experience, Greg has served as the director of WorshipHouse Media and editor of Christian Media Magazine, as well as serving as a worship pastor, technical director, and campus pastor. Greg has worked with churches of all stages and sizes, including some of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the country, as well as with businesses, non-profits, and organizations such as Josh McDowell Ministries.

Q1: You’ve done a lot of ministry in a lot of places over the last 22 years. How did you land on Guest Services?

I was coaching church planters through ARC (Association of Related Churches), and the President of ARC was Billy Hornsby. Billy and I were talking in a hotel lobby one day and he said, “Greg you ought to be a secret shopper.” At the time, I only new of one other secret shopper. Billy said, “You’ve been around the church for a while, you’ve served in various roles, and you know what to look for – you know what excellence looks like.” “And,” he said, “I’ll give you your first endorsement.” So Billy sent out a mass email to all the ARC churches telling them they ought to bring me in. Churches started contacting me and the rest is history.

Q2: What does your “Secret Shopper” process look like?

I evaluate everything as it relates to the weekend services. I start with an online presence evaluation before I ever arrive at the church in person. I evaluated the church’s use of social media, and I thoroughly go through their church website and offer feedback. Once I arrive on campus, I start with the parking lot and from there to everything you can imagine – from greeters and ushers, information center, children’s ministry, security, and a big eye towards the worship service itself (evaluating and giving feedback on music, sound, video, lights and the sermon – as well as service structure and flow). I even look at the restrooms and write about the smell of the facility. One church of 12,000 that I did a secret shopper for said, “He doesn’t miss a thing.” Another church of 17,000 said, “It was probably the best money we spent all year.” I take my job very seriously and it is my mission to turn first-time guests into second-time guests.

Q3: What are some common issues you find churches make with their First Impressions?

Of course, every church is different, but there are common issues that I see at a majority of churches. Things like: The wrong people serving in hospitality, assuming people know things (guest services, signage, communication), not taking security seriously, and not thinking through their website strategically. These are just a few of the things I notice frequently. I’m going to write a full feature article for Christianity Today on this subject and will go into much greater detail.

Q4: You’ve really learned a lot about what makes guests feel welcome. You should write a book.

Yes! I did actually. My next book entitled Secrets of a Secret Shopper is set to come out this September. I wrote this book for small to medium-sized churches that can’t afford to bring in myself or another consultant. I go into great detail of everything I look for when I do a secret shopper. There are things in the book that are beneficial and practical for large churches as well. This book is very practical and is something every pastor, church leader and guest services director and first impressions volunteers need to read. It’s a book that has been 9 years in the making. You can check my website: for details on the book release. You can also check my secret shopper website (, to read more articles on first impressions and find out about when the book releases.

Q5: What is the strangest experience you’ve had secret shopping a church?

Almost getting arrested would be one. Almost getting tazed would be two. And getting a background check ran on me would be three. For obvious reasons, I can’t tell what led to the following “fun times.” All I can say is that I will test your church’s security and find its weaknesses. I just did a church secret shopper consultation for a medium-sized church two weeks ago and their “security team” saw me walking around and going places I shouldn’t. They just watched me, but didn’t engage me. At the end of the service, with every one their security team’s eye on me, they watched me go straight down the center aisle and approach the senior pastor. They were relieved when I hugged him. They should have had a security person present, standing next to the senior pastor. I thought it was strange that they didn’t engage me and say, “May I help you?” – Those 4 words are the biggest weapon or deterrent that any person in a church has on any given week. Please don’t forget that.


Q5.5: Being a Greer, South Carolina boy, Clemson or Carolina?

South Carolina Gamecocks all the way. Ever since I started watching football games with my grandfather as a young child, I’ve been a huge Gamecock fan and am excited for our future.

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