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

Secret 4. Train the entire group, not just the leader

Most of the time we hinge the success of our small groups on their leaders. But this assumes that all leaders are highly motivated learners that will remember and implement everything we teach them.

Secret number 4 actually implements a better way.

Rather than relying on the group leader to communicate to the group or implement everything that you want a highly effective group to do, teach them to everyone in the group. That makes everyone an owner of the group so they can help the group get to the destination.

In part three of this series we talked about all the different ways and means that leader training should communicate – website, emails, newsletter, classes, social media, sermon illustrations, etc. But here’s where we have to stop for just a minute and recognize a fundamental truth about effective communications. There are two things that every message must answer or the majority of the recipients will tune you out: First, is your message relevant to them (will they think that it relates to them?) and second, what value will they get out of reading and remembering it? I’ll discuss these in more detail in a future post, but for now, just remember to put yourself in their place and ask, “How does this pertain to me and what’s in it for me?”

Now, let’s look at how those two important message ingredients apply here.

You must train both group leaders and their members, but what is relevant and valuable will be different for each role. Group Leaders will relate to communications that say that they are for group leaders, and they will generally value those messages that show how their role could be easier and more effective – “How to lead an awesome small group without breaking a sweat.” Group Members will need communications that address them as members of a small group and help them recognize the positive benefits to being in a spiritually healthy small group -“Exciting news to make your small group experience even better.”

That doesn’t mean that you have to create two completely new messages for every communication. Just use the same communications that you send to group leaders but modify them slightly to send to group members. So, as an example, let’s say you want to send a email to encourage a particular activity or behavior. The leader version directs leaders to take action by saying, “make sure your group does x, y, and z” but the group member version says, “your group will be more satisfying when you do x, y and z.” This is a classic push-pull communications technique – the leader pushes group members toward the goal and your messages help pull them.

For classes, blogs, podcasts, etc. that both leaders and members will see, use inclusive language – words and statements that work best for all group members. So, for leader training, invite both leaders and members, and make your training suitable for every member of the group.

By training everyone in your groups you give everyone the vision for where the group should be headed. When you train the entire group, the leader doesn’t need to drag reluctant group members to some unknown destination because every member will know where the group is going and will feel responsible as an owner of the group to help the group get there. What’s really cool is when group members start making suggestions in their groups based on training that you provided to everyone!

Try this powerful secret and watch what happens in your groups. You’ll discover the power of equipping and empowering ALL group members to grow a spiritually healthy group.


  • 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 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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