Episode 6: Mark Richardson from San Diego Rock Church on Developing and Multiplying Leaders and Groups

Episode 6: Mark Richardson from San Diego Rock Church on Developing and Multiplying Leaders and Groups

Show Notes

Mark Richardson is the Life Pastor at San Diego Rock Church, where he has served for 15 years. Rock Church has over 500 small groups and saw their groups increase by 211% in 2020. Prior to the Rock Church, Mark served as a board member and executive director at the Jireh Ministries Foundation and was an intern with the Christian Embassy to the United Nations. He holds a MA in Pastoral Studies from Azusa Pacific and an MBA from Point Loma.

Featured Resource

Well, 2021 hasn’t quite turned out the way that we thought it would. It’s not 2020, but it’s also not 2019. The world has changed. Our people have changed. Hybrid life seems here to stay. People are craving community. Keeping certain things virtual. And being pickier overall about how they spend their time. How do we move forward with small groups in 2021? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not by moving backward. That’s why I am offering the 2021 Small Group Reset: 5 Days to Reframe Your Ministry. This FREE On Demand Video Resource will help you navigate the changing culture within your church. Sign up at allenwhite.org/reset and start now. Fall 2021 looks to be the largest group launch opportunity you’ve ever seen. Let me guide you in getting prepared.

Related Resources

Mark mentions Jay Kranda from Episode 2

Mark was part of the Small Group Ministry Coaching Group in 2020.

Episode 5: Monica Lee from Radiant Church on Disciple-Making in Small Groups

Episode 5: Monica Lee from Radiant Church on Disciple-Making in Small Groups

Show Notes

Monica Lee is the Community & Discipleship Pastor at Radiant Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Radiant Church, led by Senior Pastor, Lee M. Cummings, is a multi-site church and is the parent of the Radiant Network of Churches.

Monica began her career in corporate America before transitioning into ministry staff. She is a life-long Michigander, and she loves to spend time with Matt, her husband of 19 years, and their two teenage children: Gavin and Taylor. Together, they share a love for family time, travel, and adventure!

Featured Resource

Well, 2021 hasn’t quite turned out the way that we thought it would. It’s not 2020, but it’s also not 2019. The world has changed. Our people have changed. Hybrid life seems here to stay. People are craving community. Keeping certain things virtual. And being pickier overall about how they spend their time. How do we move forward with small groups in 2021? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not by moving backward. That’s why I am offering the 2021 Small Group Reset: 5 Days to Reframe Your Ministry. This FREE On Demand Video Resource will help you navigate the changing culture within your church. Sign up at allenwhite.org/reset and start now. Fall 2021 looks to be the largest group launch opportunity you’ve ever seen. Let me guide you in getting prepared.

Radiant Church Links

Radiant Network of Churches

Arise Shine Conference

Radiant School of Ministry

Episode 4: Elliot Diaz from Manna Church on Church Multiplication at Every Level

Episode 4: Elliot Diaz from Manna Church on Church Multiplication at Every Level

Show Notes

Elliot Diaz has served at Manna Church, Fayetteville/ Fort Bragg since March 2013. He has served as the Small Groups Pastor, and is currently the Site Pastor of the Cliffdale Site and is a member of the Lead Team. Manna Church is a multi-site church of over 2800 people in weekly attendance led by Senior Pastor, Michael Fletcher. Elliot is a 19 year Army veteran, who currently serves as a Chaplain in the North Carolina National Guard.

Manna Church’s Multiply Conference

Analysis of the Free Market Small Groups Model by Mark Howell

Lifegiving Marriage Study

The Kingdom Study

Allen White’s Small Group Ministry Coaching Group

Curriculum Production by Allen White Consulting

Case Study: Hoboken Grace Church – From Stuck to Over 90% Connected in Groups

Case Study: Hoboken Grace Church – From Stuck to Over 90% Connected in Groups

Hoboken Grace is a church of eight hundred adults in Hoboken, New Jersey, near New York City. This region is known for young, single, upwardly mobile residents who eventually marry and move to the suburbs. The church is eleven years old and has offered small groups since its beginning.

The church’s previous effort at groups had connected about five hundred of their eight hundred members into groups. But the operative word here is effort. “At that point, identifying new group leaders was heavy apprenticing and heavy individual recruiting,” said Nick Lenzi, the church’s community director. “We had reluctance to church-wide campaigns. We felt it was really hard to create our own curriculum, or at least we thought the barriers for that were really high.”

For their first church-wide campaign, the church chose to purchase curriculum for their Be Rich series. The topic was finances, and the curriculum choice was from Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU). This was the direction the lead pastor was going, so the small group campaign followed suit.

What’s more, FPU required the facilitators to have advanced training. Nine months before the campaign, they let the group leaders know about the series. “In January, we had the pastor put together a vision video,” Lenzi said. “He told them, ‘I want you guys to get into FPU because we need as many qualified people this fall to take the entire church through FPU. If you know the material, you’re going to have a huge leg up and be able to help so many people.’ When our people heard from the lead pastor, they accepted that call to action.”

“We were starting community and talking about the most intimate thing in today’s society,” Lenzi admits. Yet, in this first alignment series, the church was able to connect a total of 91 percent of their adults into groups. They had connected an additional 28 percent of their adults into groups using a relatively difficult topic. (63% were previously in groups.)

With one series under their belt, the church took the next step to create their own teaching videos to align with a published series (with permission). “I got a teleprompter,” Lenzi said. “My pastor asked, ‘Where has this thing been my whole life?’”

The church also decided to try a new strategy in recruiting group leaders. “One of our values is that everyone in the church takes responsibility for their own spiritual growth. Now I’m looking for leaders who are able to encourage a group and support people in their own spiritual growth. When we invite people to lead groups, we invite them to encourage people and help these gatherings to happen. The church is going to partner with them. We’re going to give them the questions. We’re going to offer the video teaching. We’ll put the leaders in touch with the care pastors if something comes up. This has been so fruitful. My ‘close rate’ is 90 to 95 percent, because everyone believes they can encourage someone else. The nature of the groups is going from house to house, or restaurant to restaurant. We’ve found that we just need to get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit be the Holy Spirit.”

With their pastor’s video teaching and an openness to give their people permission and opportunity to lead these gatherings, Hoboken Grace continues to make a kingdom impact in a neighborhood of the biggest city in the United States.

Nick Lenzi and Hoboken Grace Church were part of the 2018 Small Group Ministry Coaching Group.

This case study is an excerpt from the Exponential Groups Workbook.

Case Study: Connect Church, Lawrence, Kansas

Case Study: Connect Church, Lawrence, Kansas

Connect Church is an 83-year-old Wesleyan Church of 400 adults in Lawrence, Kansas. In recent years, they’ve started groups through church-wide campaigns for the first time and knew they would need help to support the group leaders with coaches.

Photo by the Lawrence Journal-World.

“Before we didn’t have any kind of a coaching structure,” said Elizabeth Scheib, Connections and Communication Director. “I was caring for all of the leaders and not doing a very good job of it. I also tend to be a control freak. I wanted to control a lot of the processes and the things the leaders went through. But, we were stuck. We had plateaued.” The church at the time had an adult attendance of 350 with 165 people connected in 16 small groups. “It wasn’t impossible to coach 16 groups. It just wasn’t effective because the whole thing in coaching is about relationships.”

As the church began to embrace the Exponential Groups strategy of creating their own curriculum and making the Lead Pastor the spokesperson for groups, they knew many people would respond to host a group. They also knew these new hosts would need help. “If the host came out of a group, then their former group leader naturally became their coach since there was already a connection.” But many more people were about to host a group for the first time as well.

The established small group leaders were already in the practice of joining Elizabeth for a huddle twice a year prior to the two annual group launches. “I explained at the huddle that we wanted to grow our groups, so we were adding a layer to our structure called coaches. I asked them, if they had a heart to come alongside a new host and help them get off to a great start, we needed their help. Then, I explained the responsibilities and gave them a starter kit that included a coaching description and a coaching timeline.” Their leaders responded.

One new host almost immediately got cold feet after she had volunteered to start a group. “We asked those who wanted to host a group to come down to the front of the sanctuary after the worship service. We gave them the information about starting a group and matched them up with a coach.”

In this case, a woman had talked herself out of hosting a group by the time she had left the sanctuary. “I can’t do it,” she said. “My husband is an introvert, and he never wanted to do it, but I felt like we should.” Elizabeth encouraged the woman to give the group a chance. Her husband could be the “kitchen guy and hang back where the introverts hang out.” She could lead the discussion. Elizabeth also encouraged her to talk to her coach.

When the coach called her, they talked for an hour. “It was laborious, but the coach was so gracious and had such a heart for this couple.” They ended up leading a successful group for the eight-week commitment and even added a potluck each week so the husband had a valued role. “It would not have worked if they did not have constant encouragement and prayer from the coach.”

Another couple decided to host a group. They were extremely gifted and had considerable experience leading groups. In fact, they were involved in campus ministries at local colleges. But, they still needed a coach to serve and support them, not in skills training, but in their own journey as believers. “They knew how to lead a group. There were not foreigners to this. But, I also knew that if I was going to make the coaching structure work, I couldn’t give them a pass. I couldn’t be their coach. I knew from being in a women’s group with the wife that they were going through some stuff.” The couple was matched with another couple who coached them. “I assigned them to coaches I knew would be able to really establish a deep spiritual relationship with them.” Not long after the assignment, Elizabeth discovered the coaches had already called them, and they had gone to coffee together. They didn’t need someone to tell them how to lead a group discussion. But they did need some prayer, encouragement, and friendship. They didn’t follow everything in the coaching timeline, but they received the coaching they needed.

By recruiting experienced leaders to coach new hosts, Elizabeth discovered the church could provide the care the leaders needed, and she could provide the overall guidance for how the leaders were coached. By loosening the reins on coaching, the groups at Connect Church became unstuck. They went from plateaued to thriving.

To learn how to build a coaching structure in your church, we recommend the Coaching Exponential Groups course and the Small Group Ministry Coaching Group.

Case Study: Vertical Church, West Haven, Connecticut

Case Study: Vertical Church, West Haven, Connecticut

Vertical Church is an over 30 year old church in West Haven, Connecticut. The worship attendance is 1,600 adults in a diverse congregation made up of 38 different nationalities. No one ethnicity is dominant. Prior to implementing the principles found in Exponential Groups, the church had 34 groups following the Free Market model of groups.[

“The verbiage in the Northeast is small groups don’t work here,” says Randal Alquist, Discipleship Pastor. “Nobody wants to open up their houses. You’re not going to get them to join. We’re not a front porch community. We’re a back deck community with fences. We’re going into our backyards and have our own little space.”

After digesting the content of Exponential Groups, the church was challenged to add a new approach. “My biggest revelation was this idea that people are already in groups,” Alquist said. “There are distinctives we want to accomplish within a group. We want people praying together, people gathering together for community and to draw closer to Jesus. We’re activating faith together in the group. If we know that’s happening, and they’re attending church regularly and serving once in a while, then we know they’re growing. This revolutionized my approach in how to talk about groups and promote them.”

Previously, the church sought out people with high qualifications to lead a group. The new leaders were given a 52-page manual they were expected to follow. Alquist says, “We started giving people permission to jump in. We’re asking for people who love people and love God. We’re not asking for elders here. We want people who are willing to facilitate a healthy environment where connections can happen.” The 52-page manual was replaced with a 10-page manual and a short briefing meeting at the church. Training videos were created to answers common questions from the small group leaders. Each new leader received a coach to help them.

In their most recent alignment series, Vertical Church had over 90 groups with 920 group members. Additionally, another 240 people are involved in eight short-term Growth Groups at the church. “This approach opened up a world to us,” Alquist enthused. “We knew community was happening on the periphery, but we’ve been able to look at all of these little communities in our church and identify some basic things for those leaders to start practicing and to make sure it’s happening. It’s been amazing.”


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

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