Search Results for: coaching

Group Coaching

Small Group Ministry Coaching Groups
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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: info@allenwhite.org 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: info@allenwhite.org 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 allen@allenwhite.org 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 allen@allenwhite.org 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

Onsite Small Group Assessments

Spiritual growth and group success are difficult to measure. How do you know where your ministry stands? You probably have a sense it could be more, but what and where? This Onsite Ministry Assessment will help you identify your ministry’s current strengths and weaknesses. By surveying group leaders and members, interviewing staff and key lay leaders, and reviewing your group history and goals, we will create a plan for your small group ministries future success. For more information, please contact allen@allenwhite.org or  call Allen at 949-235-7428.

“Allen White was easy to work with, coached us through the entire process, and was a wealth of information that helped me recruit and develop leaders, cast vision and have an even bigger vision for groups at our church. I highly recommend him to churches who want to increase their reach into their congregations and into their communities through groups.” Pam Palmour, Groups Pastor, Copperfield Church, Houston, TX

One Hour Consultation.

What if you could bend the ear of a small group expert for an hour? You can. With this option, Allen White will give you a one hour consultation at an affordable rate to address any and all of your small group issues. Whether you are seeking proven methods for small group ministry, a sounding board for your current strategy, or an opportunity to share ideas, this option gives you access to both what’s worked as well as what’s ahead for small groups. This is perfect for small group pastors/directors who are not quite ready for a longer term coaching relationship.For more information, please contact allen@allenwhite.org or call Allen at 949-235-7428.

Curriculum Production Coaching

Over the years, I have discovered the power of multiplying the life and ministry of the senior pastor by producing video-based curriculum. This easy to use tool is a catalytic force in launching 50 percent or more of your church into small groups. While you could spend a lot of money and hire a professional production team, the reality is most churches have the ability with the staff, volunteers and equipment they have to produce a publisher-quality curriculum for themselves. Curriculum Production Coaching will take you step by step the process to not only give you a beautiful and effective new curriculum, but also to train your team and give you a “printing press” to continue creating curriculum in the years ahead. For more information, please contact allen@allenwhite.org or call Allen at 949-235-7428.

“Allen White coached my team and me through the creation and execution of Mt. Horeb UMC’s first in-house church-wide campaign.  He was a phenomenal coach providing step by step direction with patient explanations of not just the “how’s” but the “why” beyond various aspects of the project.  Our “More” Campaign was so successful that our work was used at a recent UMC conference event demonstrating the possibilities of home grown video resources.  Beyond that, we were able to provide our resources to other churches to inspire and encourage. Thank you, Allen for giving so many churches the tools to reach the world for Jesus Christ!”   — Claire Andrews, Mt Horeb United Methodist Church, Lexington, SC

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Coaching

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 info@allenwhite.org 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 info@allenwhite.org 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 info@allenwhite.org 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, churchteams.com 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 freeconference.com 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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Double Your Groups This Fall – Live Course

DOUBLE YOUR GROUPS THIS FALL DOUBLEYOUR GROUPSTHIS FAll

Live Online Course with Allen White

If your church is like most churches, you’ve tried everything you know to do to start groups and you have about 30 percent (or maybe 50 percent) of your adults in groups. You’ve often wondered…

If only my groups would develop an apprentice leader…

If only my Senior Pastor would get serious about promoting groups…

If only my groups would become unselfish and multiply/divide/give birth…

If only we could close the backdoor to our church…

If only we had more groups leaders to start groups...

You’ve read books. You’ve attended conferences. You’ve learned from the best and the brightest, but the lingering question is WHY DID IT WORK FOR THEM BUT IT’S NOT WORKING FOR ME? You are one well-educated and overly-frustrated person.

How do I know?

This is exactly what I was experiencing 12 years ago, then my groups DOUBLED in one day.

You can avoid the frustration. You can double your groups this Fall with all of the leaders you need and with all of the support your leaders need. What I would like to share with you are the six essential strategies I have learned over the last 25 years of ministry. My ceiling can become your floor!

Here’s the best part: You can customize the strategies to work in your church. You may decide to require more or less of leaders than others. That’s okay. We can still double your groups. Your church might create your own curriculum, or you might not. That’s okay. We can still double your groups. You may have tried large scale group launches before with mixed results. That’s okay. We can still double your groups.

Beginning Wednesday, July 13 at 1:30pm Eastern/10:30am Pacific, we will walk together on a six week journey to lay the groundwork for you to DOUBLE YOUR GROUPS THIS FALL.

Week 1: Setting God-Sized Goals and Making a Plan to Double Your Groups.

Week 2: Recruiting Your Launch Team and Finding the Help You Need to Double Your Groups.

Week 3: Recruiting the Group Leaders You Need to Double Your Groups.

Week 4: Connecting Your People into Groups.

Week 5: Coaching Your New Group Leaders.

Week 6: Training Your New Group Leaders.

Each week will consist of a 60 minute group coaching session with churches from across the country. You will receive both training and interaction in each session as well as practical tools to help you double your groups. From timelines to templates, you will have what you need to lay the groundwork for doubling your groups.

Four Options to Double Your Groups This Fall:

Option 1: The six weekly group meetings: $497.00

Option 2: The six weekly group meetings with 2 one on one consultations: $797.00

Option 3: The six weekly group meetings, 2 consultations, and a churchwide assessment: $1,297.00

Option 4: A SIX MONTH Coaching Group with two monthly group meetings, one monthly one on one meeting, and the churchwide assessment plus all of the information from the Double Your Groups This Fall Live Course: $1,497.00

PURCHASE


Online Course Options




 

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Avoiding Ground Hog Day This Fall

By Allen White

Photo by Nicolas Fernandez

Photo by Nicolas Fernandez

Most of us know the movie starring Bill Murray as a weatherman who is sent to cover the story of a “weather forecasting rat.” Obviously, this is not his favorite assignment. This time something is different. Every day when he wakes up, it’s once again Ground Hog Day. He’s basically having the worse day of his life over and over and over again. Until he finally gets it right.

Some churches had stellar Fall launches last year, then they failed to retain as many groups as they would have liked. The plan for this Fall is another big launch without a next step. The result will be Ground Hog Day.

Other churches are carefully handpicking leaders hoping to have an incremental increase in groups this Fall. I followed this strategy for seven years and got stuck with only 30 percent of our people in groups. After six Ground Hog Days in a row, I knew something had to change.

How will your Fall launch this year be different from your Fall launch last year? Now, you could do the exact same thing you did last year only louder, more frequent, and with great intensity, and you will probably gain a few more. But, the result will be far from exponential, and it will feel like Ground Hog Day all over again. Consider these six things as you prepare for your Fall launch:

1. What topic will attract more?

In working with over 1,500 churches over the last 11 years, some topics have been real winners in connecting not only congregations, but communities into groups. Other topics, well, not so much. Let’s start with the narrow topics.

If you’re church is going with a rather mature topic like fasting, giving, evangelism, or anything by Francis Chan, you will have a limited amount of new groups starting. After all, when most of us read Francis Chan, we wonder if we’re even still Christians. There is a place for more mature topics, topics with lots of homework, and anything to do with money, but it’s not in a Fall campaign where you have the biggest possibility of connecting people into groups.

Think about felt needs. What needs do your people and your community have? How could a Fall campaign help? Topics like parenting, relationships, stress, fears, hope, peace, and similar could certainly scratch where folks itch. This does not mean you need to cater to peoples’ needs in every curriculum you promote, but if you want to draw them in for a big Fall launch, that is certainly the direction to head. In fact, you might even think about creating your own curriculum.

2. What strategy will connect more?

What has worked in the past will not continue into the future. If your people are filling out sign up cards or web forms, get out of that business ASAP. This is the most time consuming, ineffective method of forming groups known to man. You do all the work of getting them into a group only to discover that either the leader never follows up with the person, the person never shows up, or the person doesn’t stick with a group where they have nothing in common with anybody else. In fact, this practice makes me want to change the analogy from Ground Hog Day to the definition of insanity!

Now that you’re giving up your sign up cards, how do you connect people into groups. Start with the group leaders. Who do they know that would enjoy the study? Personal invitation will go a long way to form healthier, long-lasting groups. If you have a lot of new people in your church or moving into your area, then create an environment where new people can meet group leaders face to face, then sign up for a specific group. Some people want to lead a group, but don’t want strangers coming to their house. Why not have them start a group by just inviting their friends? In fact, could your people “do the study with their friends” and not even mention “groups”?

3. What new method will recruit more leaders?

Are you still handpicking leaders? How stressed are you already about Fall? Are your leaders supposed to be training an apprentice? How well is that working? Are you still recruiting “hosts”? If you’ve been recruiting hosts for the last 14 years, your people are wise to you. They know “hosts” means leader.

Now, don’t get me wrong. These have all been very effective methods of recruiting and developing leaders. But, if you are continuing to recruit dwindling amounts of leaders with these same strategies, then you must face the fact that your people have effectively said “No” to these recruiting methods. What could you offer this Fall that they might say “Yes” to?

4. Who will coach your new leaders?

Just reading that question evokes a lot of guilt for most small group coaches. I know your coaching structure is not what you imagined or is non-existent. Some of you have even deceived yourselves into thinking that staff can handle the needs of group leaders. You’re sending out emails and inviting people to meetings. How are those meetings working out?

The most important person in the life of a group leader is his or her coach. I was the sole coach for all of my leaders for a long time. Technically, it worked. Practically, it didn’t. They didn’t receive the care and support they needed. In fact, one year all of them quit. That was not a Ground Hog Day I ever wanted to repeat, so we put coaching in place before we recruited another group leader.

The main focus of any small group pastor should be on two things: coaching and curriculum. Coaches are the only way to know what’s in the head and heart of a group leader. And, of course, coaches must be accountable to you or your small group team depending on the size of your church.

5. What training tool will be more effective?

Seminary taught me I needed to train leaders in meetings. I offered meetings. Some were better attended than others. Once I stood in an empty room at about 15 minutes after the start time questioning the call of God on my life because no one had showed up for my training. Then, I had a big realization: people hate meetings.

Heading into this Fall (and attempting to avoid another Ground Hog Day), are you in the training business or the meeting business? They are not the same thing. If your training is based on centralized meetings, then you are missing a good portion of your leaders. How else can you train? I started this blog by answering my group leaders questions. Some small group pastors create a 2 minute video they email to their leaders every week. What could training look like in your church?

A while back I was talking to a pastor who had a background in corporate training. He told me, “This might sound strange considering my background, but I’ve come to realize the best training comes from the person who is proximate to the group leader when they are facing a problem.” Now, we’re back to coaching.

6. How will more groups continue into the New Year?

Creating a lot of excitement and starting a bunch of groups for a six week series is relatively easy. The test comes at the end of the six weeks. For some reason when people are invited into a six week study, they get the impression that at the end of the six weeks their group is done. I don’t know where they would get such a crazy idea.

If we don’t challenge these groups to continue, then not only will we experience Ground Hog Day every Fall, we will have Ground Hog Day at the start of every semester and every group launch. In North America, people like to stay together. This is why the apprentice model is a struggle. This is also why semester-based groups which practice what I call “fruit basket upset” at the end of the semester create a lot more work and dissatisfaction among group members.

If you give groups an opportunity to continue in the middle of your Fall series, chances are they will take you up on it. If you execute all six points of this post well, you could have 80 percent or more of your groups continue.

Ground Hog Day isn’t just for February.

What are you willing to change this Fall that will increase your result and effectiveness in forming and retaining groups? What risk are you willing to take? Would you lower the requirements for group leaders temporarily? Would you try a new strategy to form groups? Could you try your hand at developing a coaching structure and reworking your training?

This Fall could be unlike any Fall launch you’ve lead before. Isn’t it time to get out of the cycle of Ground Hog Day. If you would like to learn more, please join me for an upcoming webinar: allenwhite.org/webinars

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Are You Personally Prepared for Your Groups to Multiply?

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By Allen White

I have to admit that I was and I wasn’t prepared for my groups to multiply. Of course, when my pastor stood up that Sunday back in 2004 and so many responded that we doubled our groups in a day, I was ecstatic. I was also a little afraid. I didn’t have the coaching structure to support such rapid growth. My training was not quite where it should have been. I wasn’t going to turn anybody down, but now I had to move fast.

Over the years I had picked up enough from John Maxwell, Peter Drucker, and others to know how to lead. In fact, I lead quite a few things at our church including everything involving adults and occasionally something random like a copier salesman. Now, I needed to put up or shut up. I could no longer hide behind the excuse that I had so much on my plate that I really couldn’t do more with groups. My pastor’s invitation blew that one out of the water.

Are you prepared to leave your comfort zone?

For most of us who’ve been in ministry for any length of time, we’ve kind of got it down to a system. Now, if you’re still running around like a chicken with its head cut off, you’re already in trouble, and you’re probably focusing on the wrong things like group member sign up cards. Get out of that business ASAP.

When I only had 30 small groups life was pretty much on cruise control. Now, I was also leading a ministry discovery process based on Network by Bruce Bugbee. (If you don’t have one, Bruce is about to release a 25th anniversary update). There was a little counseling, a Wednesday evening Bible study to teach, adult electives on Sunday morning, various other groups and studies, a discipleship pathway to manage, a new believers’ class, and about three hours a day just to read and study. Life was good. Ok, not completely.

Thirty small group leaders were way too many for me to manage alone, but I was in complete control, and that suited me just fine. Looking back, not only was I handicapping my leadership by not developing a coaching structure earlier on, I certainly was not helping or caring for the leaders to the degree they deserved.

Then, I hit a crisis. Not a bad crisis, it was a good crisis. Thirty groups became 60 groups, then grew to 103 groups in a congregation of 800 adults. I was completely unprepared.

If your groups doubled this Fall, who would you need to coach new leaders?

I wasn’t adequately coaching 30 groups, now I had twice the problem, and all of the guilt of not building a coaching structure. Now, I could have gone the easy way by just giving the new leaders a phone number to call if they got into trouble. But, the issue with a small group hotline is the new leaders are really not served, and you enter into the scenario of what I call “Disposable Small Groups.”

Then, in a stroke of insight and desperation, it dawned on me that I had 30 leaders with experience and 30 leaders without experience. I cashed in 12 years of leadership “credit” by sending a letter to my experienced leaders assigning a new leader to them. The instructions were “unless you absolutely can’t do this, I am counting on you.” And, they did it, well, except for one.

Close your eyes and imagine both a crowning achievement and an absolute nightmare — your groups just doubled. But, you have three months, so how would you prepare? Make a list of experienced leaders and mature believers who you could invite to coach all of these new leaders. You already need them, so you might as well get started.

How much training would the new leaders need and when?

Hopefully you’ve decided to delay some of the usual requirements for small group leaders this Fall. Otherwise, you should have started recruiting group leaders last Fall. Inviting people to open their homes and invite their friends for a six week commitment is a pretty low stakes undertaking for everyone involved provided you don’t advertise the groups.

The essentials of training new leaders focuses on how to gather their groups, how to lead their first meeting, and how to involve others in leading the group. That may not sound like much, but remember, you’ve already given them a coach. The experienced leader can easily fill in the gaps for the new leaders. If there happens to be an issue or question that is too much for the experienced leader, then you should get involved.

With the encouragement of the coach, a weekly two minute training video from the small group pastor should round out the training for the first six weeks of leading. By pushing the video training out in an email, the new leaders will be prompted to watch it when it arrives in their inbox. You could add a “free prize” in the video to make sure they watch it. Jim Herndon, small group pastors, Second Baytown in Texas does a giveaway in each of his videos. He used to put it at the end, then his leaders would skip to the end to find out about the prize. Naughty leaders. Now, Jim puts the “free prize” at a different spot in each video. Whoever finds it first and contacts Jim gets a gift card or some other kind of goodie. That may seem simple, but I think it’s simply brilliant! Have you tried getting your leaders to a meeting lately. Skip the meetings. Send video training.

If your pastor decided to create curriculum this Summer, are you ready?

It’s not too late to create your own curriculum for this Fall. In fact, I’m shooting two projects with a church next week. Of course, my advantage is I have a professional team. But, once upon a time, I coached a church of 50 people to create their own curriculum. Not only did they do a beautiful job, then connected 100 people into groups!

I think there’s a good, better, best of curriculum development.

The Good option is editing existing sermon video into a small group series like Andy Stanley’s series. Then, you just write the questions. Now, I say this is the “Good” option, but I really see this as the “better than nothing” option. Sorry, Andy.

The Better option is to shoot a five minute video with you senior pastor between the services on Sunday morning, then sending it out to your groups with a downloadable discussion guide. The content is still fresh in your pastor’s mind. You don’t have to create six talks in advance of the series. Just pray that no one gets sick.

The Best option is to shoot all six teaching segments in advance. You might even include a session host or some testimonies. If you start now, you could have professional looking curriculum (study guide and DVD) for this Fall. While this is a lot of work, the great thing about it is, the materials are a create recruiting tool. When your people see the effort you’ve put into the curriculum, they will want to join in!

If you need help with video curriculum, I can coach your team or send you a video production crew, or create your whole study from start to finish (or you could create your own video for one of my studies). For more info: info@allenwhite.org

What would need to change in your own leadership style?

I hate to admit it, but I really like being in charge of everything and having everyone report to me. No surprises. I had my pulse on my groups. I knew what was going on. Okay, I wish it had worked that well, but I thought it did. Like I said earlier, my need for control handicapped my small groups.

One week in our coaches meeting, Carlos spoke up and talked about how excited Rick was to lead a group. Rick told him it was the best thing he had ever done. I looked at Carlos and asked, “Who’s Rick?” That was a big day for me. I couldn’t have picked Rick out of a line up. But, I knew and trusted Carlos, and Carlos was getting to know Rick, so that need to be good enough.

What changes in your attitudes and actions reflected in your own leadership style might have to change to allow the coming growth of your small group ministry. What I learned about myself was that my attitude and actions were the main limiting factor in the lack of growth in our groups. When I changed my own thinking, which in turn changed my actions, then we experienced exponential growth in our groups.

Not too long ago I was working with a very capable small group pastor. We had successfully quadrupled the groups in his church. While I was celebrating, he was hyperventilating. In fact, at one point he said, “I can’t wait until this gets back to normal.”

While we had a great strategy in place to help groups continue, it wasn’t executed well. In fact, the small group pastor went on vacation during a crucial week of the plan. Pretty soon the groups dwindled down to something that was still double of normal, but way off from what it should have been. He wasn’t ready. He hadn’t mentally prepared for what was coming. Things leveled out at a comfortable place for him, but at what price?

Parting Thoughts

John Maxwell talks about The Law of the Lid. This takes place when a leader’s ability becomes the limiting factor in the growth of the organization. There are some options. Leaders can always grow their leadership through books, podcasts, seminars, and coaching. That’s what helped to grow my leadership. But, the other options are not so good. Either your ministry will stagnate under your current level of leadership, or your ministry will outgrow you. If you’re job outgrows you, then you’ll be looking for another job. Wouldn’t you rather grow your leadership?

By starting now to prepare for Fall, you can have a huge jump on what’s ahead. Start your coaching structure. Plan out your training. Then, when your groups begin to dramatically increase, you will be ready. If you need help, I can get you ready. Just ask: info@allenwhite.org.

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5.5 Questions with Alan Danielson

By Allen White Alan Danielson

My guest today is Alan Danielson, the Lead Pastor of a church that’s probably a lot like yours. New Life Bible Church is a church of a few hundred people, but not long ago he was on the executive staff of Life.Church in Edmond, OK. Now, along with pastoring New Life, Alan is a consultant and has worked with many of America’s largest churches. Alan founded Triple-Threat Solutions to help leaders of and churches of all sizes grow. Learn more from Alan at http://www.3Threat.net.

Q1: You’re not new at small groups. Over the years, what trends/methods/strategies in forming groups have stood the test of time?

Oh boy, I have several things that come to mind.  The first and most obvious answer is leadership.  Every group that lasts needs a leader.  There are “leaderless” methods for starting groups but these groups only last long-term when someone in the group demonstrates leadership.  They may never actually give someone the title of leader, but make no mistake a truly “leaderless” group won’t be a group for long.

The second thing that pops into my head is coaching.  I’m a huge believer in small group coaches.  I’ve heard lots of people claim that coaching doesn’t work, but that has certainly not been my experience.  By providing coaches to connect with and guide my small group leaders, I’ve given them all a lifeline and a partner.  I once asked my friend Dave Treat why some people are down on small group coaching when it has proven to be so important to me.  He said, “Coaching works, but people are lazy.”  What that means is that coaching is hard work and it only works if pastors and other leaders will put in the effort needed.

Thirdly, I think of church wide small group campaigns.  Campaigns are such a simple tool for launching new groups and getting new people connected.  If a campaign is followed up by capable small group coaches, the new groups can last a long time and provide a great platform for discipleship.

Q2: When you think about methods like church-wide campaigns and other ways of rapidly forming groups, do you see these srategies going the long haul? Why or why not?

I’ve seen both.  I’ve seen churches run campaigns, start a ton of groups, get bunches of people connected only to see those groups fizzle out after a few months.

I’ve also seen churches run campaigns, start a ton of groups, get bunches of people connected and then see the groups last and build tremendous relationships that change lives.

So what’s the difference?  The first two things I talked about after your first question: leadership and coaching.  At some point someone in the group has to take up the mantle of leader (whether they want the title or not).  The perfect person to guide the would-be leader through that process is a small group coach.  A well-trained coach can help people make the transition into leadership well.  Without leaders and coaches, small groups quickly implode, collapse, dissolve or just fade away.

Q3: You’ve served as a small group champion as both a small group pastor and a senior pastor. Where have you been the most effective in group ministry? What made it more effective?

Well, it depends on what you call effective.  When I was a campus small group pastor at Life.Church we developed 544 groups on a campus of 7,000 people.  544 groups sounds really impressive, but I was never impressed.  We averaged 8.45 people per group which translated 4,597 people connected.  That still sounds like a lot.  But when compared to our campus attendance of 7,000 it meant that just under 66% of our weekend attenders were in groups.  In school 66% is a D.

When I was promoted to executive groups pastor over all of our campuses we got to nearly 1,100 groups total for all of our campuses.  That came out to 9,295 people in groups.  At the time we were running 28,000 on all campuses meaning we had 33% of our total attendance in groups.  That’s an F.

Now I’m the lead pastor of a church of 300 and we have about 80% of our people in groups.  That’s much better.

What made the difference in these three different settings?  Leadership and coaching.  On the one campus where I led the small group ministry, coaching was a critical component.  When I was given charge of all 13 campuses, we were in the middle of implementing our coaching ministry on all campuses.  If I’d stayed there longer I believe we would have broken the 66% mark and gone even further.

Here’s the big takeaway: small groups and coaching work in all churches of all size.  Success is determined not by the slickness of the strategy but by the break-neck-work-ethic of every leader involved (from the pastor to the group leader) and high value of small groups in the church.  My current church will one day hit, and I believe exceed, the 100% mark because, as the lead pastor, I am committed to our strategy.  Then I hire staff who share that commitment, who recruit coaches who share that commitment, who train leaders who share that commitment.

Q4: What is different about Group Life in Oklahoma than in other places?

The Food!  When I was a pastor in Santa Fe, New Mexico, you could be sure that every small group had some form of green chile every week.  In Oklahoma there are lots of veggie trays, followed by some kind of meat and dessert.

Seriously though, I don’t really think there’s much difference.  People are people everywhere you go.  As I’ve consulted with churches all across the country I’ve noticed that people crave connection everywhere.  Every neighborhood needs groups who will care for the neighborhood.  Every person in every church needs healthy relationships and needs to grow spiritually.  The biggest difference is simply one of awareness.  In the Oklahoma (often called the buckle of the Bible Belt), more people in the culture are aware of small groups or Bible study groups.  In Portland, Oregon the average person hasn’t heard of such a thing.

Q5: When we first met, you were the small groups pastor at LifeChurch.tv (now Life.Church). What did you small group structure look like across multiple campuses? Were groups consistent across campuses or did that matter?

The goal was to have a consistent group strategy and structure on all campuses.  It was to be built on three basic building-blocks:  leaders, coaches and campaigns.  We did two campaigns every year, so we needed coaches on every campus who would develop great leaders in a very short time.  That’s a pretty over-simplified summary, but I think you get the gist.

Anyway, when I became the point person overseeing groups on all campuses, the group ministries did not have a very consistent look.  My predecessor had encouraged lots of experimentation on every campus, so there were definitely differences from one campus to the next.  These differences were both good and bad.  The good thing was that each of our 13 campuses was a laboratory where we could try different strategies and tactics.  The bad thing was the tendency of the campus groups pastors becoming too attached to their own way of doing things.  This led to quite a bit of tension.

Okay, before I continue I have to give you a little more context.  What I’m saying may sound like I’m running down Life.Chruch, but that’s most definitely NOT my intent.  Remember, when I was at Life.Church, the multi-site movement was still very new.  In many ways we were making things up as we went along.  We quickly became the biggest multi-site church in the country and had few examples to learn from, so we made a TON of mistakes.  That’s why I’m very comfortable sharing that we got an “F” for only 33% of our people in groups.  But in this case and “F” is not automatically a failure.  We didn’t necessarily view each experiment as “success” or “failure”, but as an “opportunity to learn”.  Even things that didn’t pan out like we’d hoped taught us a lot.

So through all of this I learned that the most important part of leading multi-site small group ministry came down to the campus small group pastor.  If the campus small group pastor was a teachable, team-player, he/she was far more likely to utilize the basics that we wanted to implement on each campus (the basics being the things I mentioned earlier:  leaders, coaches and campaigns).  The independent-type campus group pastors had a tendency to try to blaze their own trails.  Rather than building upon something proven effective, they often tried to start building from a new foundation.  This often led to slower success. Under my leadership, the ideal personality-mix for a campus group pastor was a creative person who is willing to learn from and follow their leadership.  Rather than being trail blazers (or sometimes even rebels), these types of campus group pastors implemented the basics and experimented with ideas only if they would enhance or improve the basics.

Q5.5: As the co-owner of the second largest Star Wars fan site in the world, what is your favorite Star Wars movie?

It’s episode V, The Empire Strikes Back!

 

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4 Questionable Practices in Small Groups

By Allen White

Photo by Lina Mikuckiene. Used with permission.

Photo by Lina Mikuckiene. Used with permission.

In leading small groups and tracking trends over the last 25 years, I’ve done all kinds of things to recruit leaders and get people connected into groups. Some of those things, I had to apologize for. Others, I simply avoided from the start. While this post is not meant to cast aspersions on other well-meaning practitioners, it might be time to slow down and rethink some of the things we’ve been doing.

1. Telling People, “Your small group will be your new best friends.”

Sometimes in our zeal of connecting people into community, we overreach and make unrealistic promises about small groups. Let’s face it, we’ve all been in small groups. Some of those groups rocked. Some of those groups don’t rock. The more random the method in forming small groups, the less likely people will become friends, let alone, close friends. I’ve actually had to apologize for this one.

Maybe a better way to say this is that prospective group members will meet some friendly people in groups. That’s a safer bet. But, you can even go one better.

Encourage people to form a group with the friends they already have. This way they are doing something intentional about their spiritual growth and getting together with their friends. This is much better than forsaking their current friends for a group of possible future friends. After all, why reconnect people who are already connected?

Now there may be some new folks in your church who honestly don’t know anyone. People who have just moved into the community or are new to your church might not get invited into a group. These tend to be the exceptions and not the rule. Make allowances for these exceptions, but don’t oversell groups in the process.

2. Recruiting Leaders by saying, “Hosting a group is simple.”

Fourteen years ago, we were introduced to a new strategy to recruit hosts instead of leaders. The idea was that if people would open their home, provide some refreshments, and push play, then they can very easily host a group.

Then, we ran into an issue — everybody is normal until you get to know them (Thanks, John Ortberg for that line). Once people got into groups and got to know each other, we discovered there were a few problems. These issues went well beyond pouring coffee and pushing play. Now, what do we do?

The issue really comes down to how well the hosts were prepared and what kind of backup you’ve provided. Starting with the first briefing or orientation the new host attends, they need to understand when something comes up, they will have a coach to turn to, and not just a phone number. They will also receive on-going training, and not just jump into the deep end and have fun! Something as simple as sending out a short training video on a regular basis to answer common questions or to direct hosts in where to turn for help makes for suitable backup.

The risk of not offering coaching, training, and help is hosts who end up with a bad experience, no group, and no plans for hosting a group again. These causalities can and should be avoided at all costs. Regardless of the whether the church has dozens, hundreds or thousands of new groups, it’s necessary to effectively support them. Otherwise, you end up with the dilemma of disposable groups.

3. Believing New Leaders can Survive Without a Coach.

One of the biggest factors in the failure of new groups is discouragement. The friends who a new leader invites can’t join the group. Twenty people signed up, but only a few showed up. The enemy beats the new leaders up and convinces them they aren’t good enough to lead. Discouragement is devastating to new leaders.

Most new leaders aren’t going to pick up the phone and seek out encouragement. In fact, if they did, they might feel they were confessing a fault rather than seeking help. But, a coach who checks in on them regularly is far more likely to hear the new leader’s need first and respond. The new leaders will be more open with their coaches, since they have a relationship.

Building a coaching structure is the real work of small group ministry. Regardless of the size of your church, if you follow the principles of Exodus 18, you will have more groups and better leaders. Neglecting new leaders is unwise.

4. Inviting People to Join Groups, then Making Them the Leader.

Years ago I came across a strategy where you put prospective members in a room, went through a series of exercises, then at the end of the evening, groups were formed including a newly designated leader chosen by the group. I’ll be honest. The first time I heard this idea, I put the materials in the bottom drawer of my desk and didn’t look at them again for three years!

While I am a huge advocate of inviting any willing soul to lead a group or to do a study with their friends, I have to admit, this idea of walking in as prospective members and walking out as group leaders makes me uneasy. I understand people need to be challenged to step out of their comfort zone. I’m not sure that putting them on the spot is the best way to do it.

In all of our efforts to recruit leaders and connect people into groups, I believe we need to be careful and not cross a line into questionable practices. There are plenty of strategies which will achieve better results that are more forthright. And, of course, launching new groups without a coach is just a bad idea.

There is huge potential for groups and group leaders in your church. And, I will admit, I am a big fan of anyone who will take risks to make that happen. But, rather than focusing on a short term win, we need to look at the long game. If someone gets burned in a group experience early on, how likely will they try it again? Let’s keep from over-promising and under-delivering in groups. Group life is so amazing, there really is no need for shortcuts.

Now, in today’s post, I may have picked on one of your favorite strategies. You may disagree with me. Let me know by leaving a comment. Let’s talk about it.

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The Primary Purpose of Small Groups

By Allen White Doug Howard successfully coached many small groups.

Theories and strategies abound regarding the primary purpose of small groups. There are so many great reasons to promote groups. Small groups solve the assimilation problem in a church. They increase connection and spiritual growth. People in small groups tend to serve more than people who are not in groups. And, people in groups also tend to give more than people who are not in small groups. (Based on research by Ed Stetzer and Eric Geiger in Transformational Groups and Robert Wuthnow in Sharing the Journey). But, none of these is the primary purpose of small groups.

The primary purpose of small groups is leadership development.

Small groups rise and fall on leadership development. Now, this isn’t just recruiting leaders for a six week churchwide campaign. That’s a start. Developing leaders requires training, coaching, and processing experiences. I would even go so far as to say leadership development is the end result of effective discipleship.

Meet Doug. When I first met Doug, he didn’t consider himself to be a leader at all. In fact, Doug had always thought he was dumb. You see he had never finished high school. Doug was now retired in his sixties and had spent his carrier driving and operating a construction crane. He drove this huge crane all over the San Francisco Bay Area, which to be honest, it’s difficult enough to commute there with a car sometimes — let alone a huge crane!

Doug and his wife, Kay, started a group during one of our churchwide campaigns. They were great. Very hospitable. They were naturals.

As our small group ministry grew, I developed a leadership team to help me oversee and coach our small group leaders. Around this time Doug was heavily involved in a multilevel marketing company. I noticed how well he managed relationships. He worked with so many people, yet kept in constant contact and kept both his down line motivated and his customers rolling in. I saw Doug had what it takes to coach others and serve on my small group team. I just asked him to keep his product out of the coaching. He agreed.

After working with Doug for a few years, first as a small group leader, then as a coach on our small group leadership team, it came time for me to leave the church I had served for 15 years. Doug left me with these words, “Thank you, Pastor Allen, for showing me I was the leader I never knew I was.” That’s probably the best compliment I’ve ever been given.

I don’t remember who was in Doug’s group or the leaders he coached. I don’t recall all of the great things that happened in these groups, but I do remember the great thing that happened in Doug. He went from a guy who thought he was dumb to a leader who multiplied his life in the lives of hundreds of other people.

If as a small group pastor or director, you focus on connecting a bunch of potential members into groups, you’ll end up with a huge stack of sign up cards and an ineffective system to manage them. Read about my hatred for sign up cards here. If your senior pastor gives airtime to small groups in the weekend service, recruit leaders. Don’t waste that precious commodity inviting prospective members to join groups. If the new leader has the stuff, they can gather a group.

You can spend all of your time creating curriculum. Curriculum is not a bad thing. But, then your groups turn into life on curriculum instead of life on life.

But, make an investment in your leaders, and you have something that will build your small groups life nothing else. As Simon Sinek says, “You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.” If you find people with a heart for others and the relational warmth to gather a group or reach out to group leaders, then you can equip them with everything they need to do it. Find the right people and make the investment.

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Free ebook Exponential Groups

Free ebook

EXPONENTIAL GROUPS

by Allen White

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