The 5 secrets of highly effective leader training – from around the world (part drei)

This is the third in a five-part series answering the top question posed by small group ministry leaders around the world, “How do I train our small group leaders so we get spiritually healthy small groups?” Here’s the third secret.

3. Leader training is not an event

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that regular training events and classes aren’t valuable. Of course they are. But they’re just one aspect of growing highly effective leaders, and maybe not even the most important one.

Remember, you’re raising leaders to your vision of what they should become. You want to prepare your leaders so they don’t just know the training, they’re ready to do the ministry. That means, don’t think leader training, think leader development.

What does that look like?

Highly effective leaders know the goal, they’re equipped with practical tools, and they have the right spiritual and attitudinal mindset. To help them get there, don’t stop with instruction. Instead, consistently surround your leaders with real life examples of highly effective leaders and spiritually healthy groups.

Use every means and every opportunity possible to train leaders. Surround them, but don’t smother them, with descriptions and examples of effective leaders, through emails and web sites and social media and texting and apps and every other communication tool you can, including online videos.

Every communication should reinforce what a healthy small group looks like with real examples and illustrations. Share stories of groups that are becoming healthier. Then talk about how the leaders helped those group to grow.

Don’t neglect the power of the pulpit. When your senior pastor uses a group as a sermon illustration it will have greater impact than almost any other message that you provide. It will also honor groups that are led by effective leaders, and at the same time showcase to the rest of the congregation what an effective group looks like. One side benefit, when your pastor does this regularly it also underscores to pastoral leadership the impact that small groups are having in your church.

One quick tip – habituation could render some of your messages less effective. Habituation (also known as “MEGO, or My Eyes Glaze Over”) is when you use one media and one style of communication too much and people start to tune them out. Regularly change how you communicate, and also what you say, in order to keep everyone interested and engaged.

By using as many various ways as you can to deliver the information to your leaders you’ll be employing one of the key secrets to effective leader development, and your leaders will grow faster than ever.

Remember, highly effective leader training is not an event, it’s really continuous leader development. Leader development doesn’t just impart head knowledge, it sets your leaders up for success with practical and consistent descriptions of what success looks like!

The key is to describe great leaders so often and in so many ways that this description begins to leak from them.

Want a quick way to know when it’s working? When you hear your leaders repeating back to you what you have been teaching you’ll know that they got it!


  • Ron Wilbur

    Ron is formerly the Pastor of Small Group Health at Saddleback Church in Orange County, California. Ron co-leads our connections team and leads the international team connecting SGN members outside of North America.

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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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