These are the Most Read Posts for allenwhite.org in August 2011:
By Allen White
1. How Do You Know When God is Speaking to You?
2. Are You Discipling Your Online Followers?
3. Why Bother? (Smallgroups.com article)
4. The Power and Potential of Small Groups By Brett Eastman
5. How Can I Get My Group to Share at a Deeper Level?
6. How to Beat Small-Group Burnout
7. Is Pornography Adultery?
8. Is Worship in Small Groups Even Possible?
9. Connecting the Last 30 Percent: Engaging Introverts (3-Part Series)
10. How Do We Balance Developing Relationships and Completing Lessons in a Group?
These are the Most Read Posts for allenwhite.org in August 2011:
By Allen White
Rapidly growing groups during a church-wide campaign has a very positive upside. New leaders get their gifts in the game. New people are connected into new groups. Relationships are developed. Believers are disciple. There are awesome results all around. The problem comes in caring for new leaders when your coaching structure is already overwhelmed. Where do you get new coaches?
I ran into this problem a few years ago, when we doubled the number of our small groups in one day. We didn’t feel we were adequately coaching the first half. Now, we needed to help an equal number of newbies. Then, the light bulb turned on – if half of the groups are new and half of the groups are experienced, we just needed to match them up. We created a “buddy system” with experienced leaders helping new leaders. Never let a good crisis go to waste.
Over the years, this coaching strategy was finessed into an intentional approach rather than a last ditch effort. In advance of a new church-wide campaign, we expect dozens, if not hundreds, of new leaders or hosts to step forward. Otherwise, why would we do a church-wide campaign? In anticipation of this new growth, we also know that we will need new coaches to encourage the new leaders. Where do we get the new coaches?
At least a month before we start recruiting new leaders and host homes, we gather all of our existing leaders for a “Sneak Peek” event to reveal the Fall campaign curriculum. This is a great way to rally the troops and get our existing groups in on the new series. We explain all of the details of the series. We cast vision for new people connecting in groups and for new leaders starting new groups. Then, we present an opportunity for our existing leaders to walk alongside a new leader just for the six week campaign. Notice that we don’t use the word “coach” at this point.
The ask goes like this: “Once upon a time, you were a brand new leader who had a lot of questions and a few fears about starting a new group. Some of you had a coach. Some did not. All of us need someone in our corner to encourage us, to pray for us, and to answer our questions. Would you be willing to do that for a new leader or group host during this next series? The commitment starts when the leader attends the host briefing and goes through the six week campaign.” And, our existing leaders sign up to help every time.
The job description is simple. We ask them to do three things: (1) Pray for the new leaders. (2) Contact them every week in a way that’s meaningful to the new leader (not in a way that’s merely efficient for the new coach). (3) Answer their questions.
During the New Host Briefing, I match the new leaders and group hosts with their new “coach.” Usually I start the meeting by introducing the series content and the timeline, then I tell the new leaders, “Now, I would like to introduce some very important people to you who are going to help you get your group started. They will be available to answer all of your questions as you’re getting started.” I introduce the new “coaches” and pair them up with the new leaders according to the type of group they are starting or the geographical region where they live. The “coaches” take over the meeting at this point and give the new leaders all of the details of how to gather their group, what to do the first night, and answer any questions they have already. They exchange contact information and the “coaching” begins.
After the six week campaign, we check in with the new “coaches” about their experience. We ask three key questions:
- How important do you feel you were to the new leaders?
- How easy was it to keep in contact with the new leaders?
- Which of the new groups plan to continue?
The results are uncanny. If the new “coach” has the ability to coach, the answers are always come out: “My help was very important to the new leaders. Contacting them was easy. Most of the groups continued.” If the new “coach” doesn’t have it, the responses are: “My help wasn’t important. Contact was difficult. Most of the groups will not continue.” There is very little middle ground.
For the new coaches that answer positively, we invite them to continue coaching. For those who answer negatively, we thank them for serving for six weeks, and let them go back to leading their groups. You might be asking, “But, isn’t it risky to give a new leader to an inexperienced coach?”
It’s risky working with people period. Personally, I’d rather hire staff to do all of the coaching, but who has the budget for that? What’s more risky is sending out a new leader or group host without a coach. The payoff here is that new groups will be established, and new coaches will be recruited.
I’ve stopped recruiting with a job description over coffee. I don’t always do a great job choosing coaching candidates. What I have learned is that sometimes the most unlikely people make the best coaches and leaders. Let the trial run define who has what it takes to coach.
Other Great Coaching Resources:
Here are the Top 10 posts on allenwhite.org for 2011:
By Allen White
Back in the day, good studies were few and far between. Today, the problem is out of so many great studies, which do you choose? Here are a few resources that might help:
1. View Samples Online.
Online Booksellers like Amazon.com or Christianbookdistributors.com sometimes offer samples of study guides and often video content. If they don’t , then the publisher might offer these samples. A quick review of a sample lesson or video might give you a sense of whether the study would work for your group. Often you can print out a sample lesson for your group to review. At a minimum, point them to the website
2. Connect with Your Coach.
Your coach is an experienced small group leader who has led quite a number of studies over the years. Since coaches work with groups that are similar to yours, they will have suggestions based on what other groups have enjoyed. They can also help you in evaluating a study that is outside of the norm for the church
3. Check This Study Review Site.
The Small Group Studies site is a place where small group leaders can find information for the DVD-based studies currently available in the Small Group Library. You will find reviews from other small group leaders along with links to online curriculum samples.
4. Use a Message Discussion Guide.
A Message Discussion Guide is a great way to help people take their weekend into their week. The Discussion Guide gives group members an opportunity to take the truths learned on Sunday morning and apply them to their lives. There is no advance preparation apart from attending the Sunday morning service or viewing it online prior to the group meeting.
5. Follow a Church-wide Series.
At least once a year, the church will align a message series with a small group study. Like the Message Discussion Guide, this offers an opportunity to discuss and apply the teaching from Sunday morning. Usually the small group study will involve a teaching DVD. The DVD allows the opportunity for multiple members of your group to facilitate a lesson, since the pressure of teaching is relieved by the DVD.
These are just a few ways to choose a study. There are many more. The key is to find a study that your entire group is interested in. If there’s a difference opinion, then plan out the next two or three studies to incorporate everyone’s good ideas.
By Allen White
Selecting the right study for your group is important, but how you select the study may be more important. Adult learners learn best in the area of their felt needs. The best study in the world won’t work with an uninterested group.
To guarantee that a study is the right fit for your group, here are a few things to consider:
1. How long has your group been together?
If your group has just start or is less than six months old, chances are that your group members won’t have much of an opinion about what to study next. In fact, taking too much time to decide on the next study might cause your group to falter.
Over the years, I’ve heard the conversation go like this when the leader presents three or four possible studies:
Leader: “Which study looks good to you guys.”
Group: “They all look good. Why don’t you pick one?”
It happens every time. If you send the group to the Christian bookstore or to the internet, well forget it. There are so many choices. They will never decide.
As the leader, go ahead and choose the next study before the current study ends. Introduce the study to the group and ask them if they would like do it next. More than likely, the group will agree and you can move forward with confidence.
If your group is more than six months old, forget everything that I just said. If your group doesn’t have buy-in for the next study, they might be bored, they might be frustrated, or they might leave. Again, midway through the current study, ask the group what they would be interested in studying next. But, this time, don’t bring a study along with you, unless the church is offering a church-wide series. If established group members feel ownership in the group, they will want to have a voice. If they don’t feel ownership, then what in the world are you doing?
Ask the group to share topics of interest or even specific studies they are interested in doing. Have group members research the studies on the internet, view the video content online, and even print out the first lesson for the group to sample. Then, together as a group decide which study to do next.
2. Who’s in your group? New believers, maturing believers or Bible connoisseurs?
Newer believers will need more direction. More mature believers will need less direction, if any. Take the situational leadership model on this. The less knowledgeable the group, then the more input they will need from the leader. The more knowledgeable the group, then they will only need someone to facilitate the decision-making. But, don’t be mistaken—even experienced group members can drop the ball. As the leader, you must follow through in helping the group reach a decision. It won’t decide itself.
Then, there’s a third category – Bible connoisseurs. These are the folks who have consumed material from the best of the best. Any average Joe, poorly produced, old school Bible study will not do. They only want to learn from the pros. Their idea of going deeper is listening to the teacher who will tantalize them with a morsel of Bible trivia that they’ve never come across. Bible connoisseurs are in need of a service project, not “deeper” teaching.
3. Should you go with consensus or the majority?
If you want to keep your group together, go with consensus. If you would like to quickly form a new group, then go with the majority. If 60 percent want one study, but 40 percent want another and you go with the 60 percent, you have effectively split the group. If everyone agrees together on a study, then they will stay. But, what if they can’t agree?
If it’s a 60/40 decision, then you should do one study now and plan to do the other study next. There’s no reason to divide your group over choosing a study. Now, if you have one group member who likes to dictate to everyone else, that’s a whole other deal. You might want to read this post on dealing with difficult people.
4. If the study doesn’t connect, punt.
Sooner or later every group gets into a study that they just don’t like. Rather than persevere through a study that doesn’t connect, recycle it. I mean in the trash. Find another study. Nowhere in the Bible does it command, “Thou shalt complete every lousy study thy group commences.” Find something else.
“But, we spent 12 bucks a pop on the study guides.” Ebay, my friend, ebay.
Years ago, when I knew less about small groups, one group leader nearly faced mutiny. The group had not talked about plans for the summer. But, most of the group had assumed that they would take a break and do some fun things together. On the night of their last lesson in their study, the group leader showed up with a fresh set of brand new study guides under his arm. He wanted the group to get closer to Jesus that summer. From what I heard, the leader almost experienced it that night.
Needless to say, there was no group meeting that summer. There almost wasn’t a group, except that they really liked each other. The group continued on with another leader eventually. And, no, I was not the leader of that group. I just wasn’t a very good coach.
By following these steps, your group can certainly get closer to a study that will meet their needs and keep their interest. By avoiding some pitfalls as you facilitate the decision-making process, you can keep the group intact and keep your head, I mean role as leader.