Imagine with me for a minute. It’s the middle of your small groups semester. You have signed up new leaders and launched your first all-church campaign. Things seem to be going great—until you start hearing about groups that are no longer meeting, leaders who have left the church, and members who are frustrated with your church’s latest attempt at creating community.
Chances are, you didn’t plan to lead your new leaders after the launch. We tend to put a lot of time and planning into the front end of a small groups semester, but little after it has launched. If you’re not intentional, your leaders will quickly become frustrated and feel used by the church.
Here are five reasons why your group leaders may end up quitting on you.
1. Little communication from the staff
New leaders need continued guidance from the church leadership. It’s not possible to over-communicate with a new leader in the first few months of the group. There will be a point where you will be able to give them some space, but they need to know you are walking this out with them. Don’t leave your leaders on an island to fend for themselves.
2. No clear direction on what’s next
If you want your groups to continue after the initial weeks of a short-term study, they will need a plan for what’s next. That’s why leaders need a content plan that guides the group through a healthy discipleship journey. One of the tools LifeWay has developed for this need is smallgroup.com. Smallgroup.com gives churches the content and delivery system to make your groups’ next steps easy and obvious.
3. No breaks in the schedule
It’s critical to have clear breaks that give group leaders and members easy on- and off-ramps. They need to know up front that this does not have to be a lifetime commitment. Provide scheduled end dates where leaders can re-evaluate their commitment to another small groups season. Sometimes a couple of weeks between studies is all they need to catch their breath.
4. Lack of appreciation
It’s tempting to move on to the next thing and not take time to appreciate the effort your leaders are putting in now. They will be more willing to do it again if they feel like it was worth the effort. Budget in times throughout the year to show leaders how important they are. A well-timed coffee or free meal can go a long way with a struggling or tired leader.
5. No ongoing training
It’s easy to send off new leaders with curriculum and a DVD of basic training. But if you want them to continue and grow as leaders, they will need more than that. Develop a plan for next steps training that helps raise their leadership capacity. This is a great opportunity to start building your small groups leadership pipeline to develop your next leaders, coaches, and pastors.
If you work as hard at shepherding your small group leaders as you do planning the launch, you will have healthy disciple-makers in your church. And that should be the goal.