Not everyone connects in the same way. Church leaders have found that offering multiple entry-points into their church’s community life helps more people build relationships and find a small group so they can be more committed to their ongoing spiritual growth. There are more approaches than ever to helping people connect and grow together in Christ, which create opportunities to attract and empower new small group leaders.
In other words, you can identify new small group leaders when you help people connect in different kinds of ways. As a result, individuals who never saw themselves as a leader will take their first steps in serving as a community-building agent for the Kingdom of God! This post will offer ten strategies you can implement so that you can attract and empower new small group leaders.
- Personal Invitation – There is no greater “strategy” than one friend encouraging another to journey with him in Christian community. This strategy involves small group leaders helping their group members invite others by encouraging it and equipping them with tools (print or digital) to do so. See “To Invite, or Not to Invite: That is the Question!” at www.reidsmith.org for more on this strategy. Invitation can be a group member’s first big step into their own leadership journey where they intentionally disciple others and eventually start their own group.
- Pair Up – If we follow the examples of Jesus and the Apostle Paul, we will purposefully develop others as they serve alongside us (Luke 6:12–13; 2 Tim 2:2). Build on the relationships people already have by encouraging those serving in any leadership capacity to ask a friend to join them in the journey. There’s good reason why Jesus sent out His disciples 2×2 (Luke 10). This also creates built-in encouragement so new small group leaders don’t drift away or drop-out (Ecc 4).
- Campaign Strategy + “Two Friends” Approach – As Steve shares in his book, Planning Small Groups with Purpose: “A campaign is forty days of intensive, churchwide focus on a particular aspect of spiritual growth for each age group.” (p. 110) It encompasses all activities in the church and one of the goals of campaigns is to start new groups. Saddleback then encourages anyone who has at least two friends to start a group with their video curriculum and begin to progress through their leadership development pathway after the first study (cf. 137).
- Turbo Groups – A “Turbo Group” is basically a small group of potential group leaders. Its purpose is two-fold: skill development and relationship-building. Once the turbo group is completed, each member launches out to become a leader or co-leader of a new group. It’s usually a short-term group that works through a carefully selected study and blends in their own leadership training, rotating the role of facilitation to each group member. For a helpful resource on how to do this, see “Effective Turbo Groups.”
- Sermon Discussion Guides – This strategy involves a person or team creating questions and action steps based on weekend messages. For example, see www.smallgroup.com and read Sticky Church by Larry Osborne. Some churches incorporate “big idea” / summary paragraphs or even “bonus” content delivered via video each week. (For an example, see www.life.church/talkitover/) By making this resource accessible to everyone, people get a glimpse of small group life and can be inspired to step out and lead themselves. This approach oftentimes engages people who have been apprehensive about getting involved in your group life because the material is easier to grab onto and use to circle up with people they already know.
- Shared Interest Connection Events – People who share an interest are naturally drawn to each other and genuinely interested in what the other has to say. Furthermore, people are more inclined to invest their time organizing and leading something they have an interest in doing themselves so this is a great way to identify latent leaders in your midst. Research and look for clusters of interest based on recreational activities, season of life like parenting young kids, movies / books generating spiritual conversations in our culture, or even spiritual giftings in your church. Then host gatherings that are interactive in nature and would be attractive to the affinity-based people groups, culminating with an invitation to be involved in a short-term group experience that continues with the theme of the event.
- Service Projects – Deep down, people want to be a part of something that’s bigger than themselves and make a positive impact on the world. Mission creates the ultimate experience in relationship-building and leadership development so offer opportunities for small groups to serve together in a variety of ways (homelessness / hunger / poverty; physical help – seniors / yardwork; schools / mentoring; young and old; environmental; crisis response). Outreach bonds people together, builds up believers, and breeds new small group leaders.
- Chat groups – Simple and reproducible. Chat groups meet weekly for 1-hr in local coffee houses or workplace meeting rooms where participants read and discuss a book of the Bible or work through a shorter-term study delivered through platforms like YouVersion’s Bible App or RightNow Media. These are casual and culturally-fitting gatherings that are attractive to people who want to start off with a lower-level of commitment and/or can’t take on an additional evening commitment for whatever reason. This approach is very portable and flexible and can help to engage people in the marketplace. Consequently, chat groups can call out new small group leaders you would have otherwise never known were there.
- GroupLink – This is a 1-2 hour “connection event” that allows participants to spontaneously start a new group together. Leadership can organize the room based on geography, marital status, or stage of life to increase the likelihood of people finding others with whom they can relate. Your job is to create the right environment, offer conversation-starting questions, and encourage lift-off with the participants engaging with each other. Small group hosts are appointed during the event itself and a short-term (4-6-wk) study is recommended/distributed that new small groups use for their first ‘season’ of life together.
- Online Groups – People are attracted to groups online for many different reasons. It could be they live at a distance from your church, they’re in the military or travel a lot for work, or maybe they have health conditions/concerns that prevent them from attending gatherings in person, especially in this day and age. Zoom, for example, enables people to host or participate in a group anytime, anywhere and share digital content with one another. Online groups enable more people to be involved in your church’s community life and allow more people to serve as small group leaders who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do so through local physical gatherings alone.