How to Find all the Group Leaders You Need

finding small group leader

Jesus said the harvest is plentiful by the workers a few. Workers have always been the bottleneck to the evangelism/ discipleship process.

Saddleback solves this problem with what they call the two-friends strategy. Steve Gladen and Derek Olson recently produced a podcast where they discussed this. Listen to the full podcast here.

Here are some highlights.

What is the two-friends strategy?

From time to time—and especially during campaigns—Rick Warren will stand before the church and ask, “Do you have two friends?” Everyone will raise their hands.

Now the kicker, “If you have two friends, you can start a group.”

That’s it. No training. No requirements. If you have two friends, you can start a group.

Immature Christian? You can start a group.

Mature Christian? You can start a group.

Lost? You can start a group.

Don’t have two friends? You can’t start a group. They can point you to a group you can join.

Now, to be clear, these groups don’t go on Saddleback’s webpage and Saddleback doesn’t funnel new people to these groups. But, they do encourage these groups to get started right away. They send a packet of material that will help equip them. They offer ongoing training to mentor them. And, yes, the will seek to win them to Christ if they are not already Christians. They will seek to disciple them and grow them up in the Lord. But, they don’t wait to encourage people to grab two friends and start a group.

Ninety percent or more of the new groups Saddleback starts are stated this way—most of them during campaigns. They will see a huge spike in new groups during a campaign and simply seek to maintain that spike until the next campaign. Rinse. Repeat. They started 3,000 new groups just this way during Covid-19.

Let me remind you of something you already know: the growth of your ministry is dependent on the creation of new groups. You don’t grow a small group ministry by making each group bigger. You grow a small group ministry by creating new groups. A central job of a small group point person is to oversee the creation of new groups.

Saddleback gets a lot of push-back on this idea. Steve Gladen says that when people question him, he answers with a question, “Imagine two or three lost friends wanted to get together and explore the Bible together. Would you encourage that or discourage that?” Every single person Steve has asked says they would encourage that.

That is the two-friends strategy.

What are the benefits of the two-friends strategy?

Saddleback has found at least four benefits of this strategy:

  1. It multiplies leaders rapidly. Saddleback asks new leaders to do four things (H.O.S.T.)
    1. Have a heart for people
    2. Open your home
    3. Serve a snack
    4. Turn on the television

Saddleback encourages video-based curriculum with discussion questions. The video is the master-teacher. The bar is low getting started. Saddleback will spend the rest of life raising the bar. Jesus started with, “Follow me.” Only much later did He say, “Take up your cross.”

  • It is organic and natural.  This is easiest to see when contrasted with forming a group of strangers. It takes a while for the group to jell. The group may never jell. Certain people just struggle to get along. When you employ the two-friends strategy, people are guaranteed to get along because they already get along. They are already friends.
  • It allows discipleship to go deeper faster. The depth of discipleship and the depth of relationship are closely related. People who are close to us can confront and challenge. New groups made of strangers are often too polite to do that.
  • It allows for on-the job training. People learn best when they need to know something. We learn by doing. Once someone starts leading a group training becomes a whole lot more interesting. They are already thinking, “How do I handle it when…”? The traditional model of front-loading the training before people start a group is not as effective.

Are there any dangers? How do I avoid them?

Of course there are dangers. There are always dangers in group life. Small groups are messy. But, you can organize for growth or organize for control. Saddleback organizes for control.

Saddleback has had to bust up a few groups over the years. They have had some groups go bad. But, the funny thing is, they were always led by people who had been through their training. They had been through the training for Small Group Leaders and they had been through the training for membership. Training does not ensure that a group will not go bad.

Years ago, missiologist Roland Allen wrote in The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church:

We fear it [Spontaneous Expansion] because we feel that it is something that we cannot control. And that is true. We can neither induce nor control spontaneous expansion whether we look on it as the work of the individual or of the Church, simply because it is spontaneous. The wind bloweth where it listeth,” said Christ, and spontaneous activity is a movement of the Spirit in the individual and in the Church, and we cannot control the Spirit.

By spontaneous expansion I mean something which we cannot control. And if we cannot control it, we ought, as I think, to rejoice that we cannot control it. For if we cannot control it, it is because it is too great not because it is too small for us. The great things of God are beyond our control. Therein lies a vast hope. Spontaneous expansion could fill the continents with the knowledge of Christ: our control cannot reach as far as that. We constantly bewail our limitations: open doors unentered; doors closed to us as foreign missionaries; fields white to the harvest which we cannot reap. Spontaneous expansion could enter open doors, force closed ones, and reap those white fields. Our control cannot: it can only appeal pitifully for more men to maintain control.

Need more leaders in your church? Consider the two-friend strategy.

Got questions? Post them in the Small Group Network Facebook group.


Have a question or an insight? Leave it below!

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Daniel Thomas

Connections Director


Daniel serves as Executive Pastor at Community Church of Mountain City, TN.  Daniel and his family are on a mission to establish roots within their community, fight for peace and serve well.  He serves as our Connections Director in laying the groundwork for Circles. He loves great coffee and traveling with his wife Tia and two children, Deklan and Aden



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