The key to successful church-wide campaigns has been lowering the bar on leadership. It’s time to stop.

Campaigns have seemed successful in the past. The numbers are up and to the right. Every campaign recruits more leaders and connects more people into groups. But, have you considered the attrition? How many people are no longer leading? How many group members are no longer in a group? If you look only at numbers and aren’t tracking the individuals involved, you are entering into a scenario of disposable small groups.

The problem with qualifying anyone to lead is that you’ll get just anyone to lead. They aren’t equipped. They are inexperienced. They might be new in the faith. How can they give what they don’t have? But, there is a way to recruit an abundance of new small group leaders without lowering the bar.

Where Are You Headed?

The goal of a church-wide campaign is not to create DVD-dependent hosts who can never open their Bibles and rightly divide the Word of Truth. In fact, many churches have experienced a diminishing return having launched campaign after campaign only to discover their group members are unchallenged and frequently forced back to “kindergarten” spiritually. There is a time to begin and a time to grow up.

Ultimately, small groups should be environments where disciples are made. How do you make a disciple? According to Mike Breen, “People learn by imitation, not instruction.” To make disciples you must make disciples of the group leaders. Felt needs topics on video-based curriculum is a great test drive for admitted non-leaders to try their hands at leading groups, but it’s not a long term strategy.

But, if you go back to “quality” groups, then what happens to connecting everyone into groups?

Where Do You Start?

The benefit of church-wide campaigns and small groups for that matter is leader development. The dilemma comes; however, most people don’t regard themselves as being any kind of leader. I’ve had numerous people turn down the invitation of “Would you like to lead a group?” It’s the wrong question. Many avowed non-leaders have leadership qualities that they haven’t recognized as leadership gifts. This is where the campaign comes in.

By offering a short-term opportunity for someone to gather people they are comfortable with and do a study together, they demonstrate the ability to lead a group without asking them to lead a group. Yea, but, didn’t that just lower the bar? This is more than semantics – you didn’t invite anyone to become a leader. You invited them to recruit themselves for a trial run at leading a group without saying “lead.” Unfortunately, this is where most church-wide campaign efforts stop. This is not the finish line. This is the starting line.

Now, It’s Time to Raise the Bar.

Once a “leader” and group have a couple of series or semesters under their belts, they are effectively indicating that they want to continue. Now it’s time to bring back the requirements you might have delayed initially. There’s a big difference between lowering the bar on leadership and delaying the requirements. When leaders have proven themselves and have fulfilled the requirements for leadership in your church, then it’s appropriate to call them a leader.

Calling anyone a “leader” right out the gate is risky. As Paul told Timothy, “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands…” (1 Timothy 5:22). Before anyone is commissioned or given a title, they need to prove themselves through some kind of trial run. If they pass the test, then invite them to more. If they don’t do well or exhibit the wrong attitude, then thank them for fulfilling their commitments. You see, there was something to that “host” strategy after all.

Grow your leaders. Grow your groups. Turn up the temperature in the curriculum and in expectations of the groups. Challenge them to take risks, to serve, and to do things that scare them. Encourage them to face hard conversations and to tell the truth – good or bad.

Jesus commissioned His disciples to “go and make disciples” – not connect people into groups and not to assimilate newcomers. That may be part of it, but how is discipleship coming along in your church? How many are connecting? How many are growing? How many are leading? Where is your bar set?

Want to continue the conversation? Join the Stop Lowering the Bar Webinar on Thursday, June 6 or Tuesday, June 11 at 2 pm EDT. Register Here.

Allen White helps Take the Guesswork Out of Groups. We offer booksonline coursescoaching groups, and consulting.

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