In my previous assignment in ministry I had the privilege to serve as the Spiritual Formation Pastor. This role was much like a Small Groups Pastor or Minister of Education role. One of my main assignments was to grow our groups ministry quickly but with a solid foundation that would help future growth and discipleship in the community. God worked and we were blessed to see our groups grow from 11 to 50 in just three months time. While this was all God’s doing, we did follow a strategy and there are elements of this strategy I believe can help any church that wants to effectively grow classes/groups in their ministries. The strategy revolves around getting new leaders to start your new groups. Here are three specific steps you can take to grow your groups quickly by finding leaders to launch them:
- See everyone as a potential leader. Begin to look at everyone in your church as a potential leader of a new group. While there will be many reasons you may not move forward with everyone as a leader, start as if they all have potential to lead. Often we discard potential leaders because we have a specific idea of who can and should be leading our groups. Over the years I have been blessed to have all kinds of leaders, introverts, extroverts, parents, singles, older folks, High Schoolers, newer Christians and those who have know Jesus longer than I have been alive. Because those we lead are so varied, our leaders and groups ought to be varied as well. Open your eyes to everyone around you and see them through the lens of potential.
- Go to them. One of the biggest mistakes we make when looking to start new groups is waiting for the people to come to us. For example, we want to start five new groups and as soon as those people give me a call and volunteer, we can launch them. Or, worse yet, we send a mass email or post card to everyone in the church asking them to step up and a lead. While these processes might produce a few leaders, NOTHING works better than scheduling time with potential leaders over coffee, lunch, breakfast, or any other place or time in which you can talk with them one on one. My wife and I would invite couples over to the house for dinner and I would present the challenge to start a new group to them if and when the time was right. But the environment is so important. When you make time for people, they are far more responsive to the need. More importantly, you get to know and connect with them in a way that you would not in your office, or at a group meeting.
- Clarify the role. One of the main reasons people don’t step up to lead a Sunday school class or small group is that they do not believe they are qualified. This is one of the top excuses. Often, potential leader think they need to know the bible from front to back. They think they need to be able to answer every question, give high level counsel to people in need, or teach at a seminary professor level. These expectations are a major barrier and you must help them get over or around it. Simply tell the potential leader what is expected. Tell them that they don’t have to have all the answers; they don’t have to be the most mature Christian in the church, and that they don’t have to have a doctorate to lead. At the same time, make sure they do understand your churches clear guidelines for being a leader. This will clarify what you expect and help every potential leader understand what it is they are getting into if they say yes.
Starting new groups is not always easy but with intentionality toward the process and a desire to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry; you can begin finding new leaders and launching new groups for greater impact in your community.