Monthly Archives: December 2012
In continuing the new leader theme, here is an email that I sent out to our leaders at the beginning of one of our semesters.
I’m A New Leader: What Now?
If you’re a new community group leader, you might be starting to panic a little right now. The groups kick-off has come and gone and now you are starting to get emails with names of people who would like to be in your group. Yes, that’s right, YOUR GROUP. The reality that you actually have a group is setting in, and that there will actually be a gathering of YOUR GROUP coming soon.
We are here to say: don’t panic. Please put away the knives and sharp utensils. Breathe. Breathe again. It’s going to be great.
We are here to help. We do this groups thing for a living.
Here are a few suggestions to help get you started.
- Contact the people on your list this week. They have signed up for this, so they will be looking for your email/phone call. You will probably have to make more than one contact. If you do not hear back after an email, give them a call. There are a few people who still use that outdated device. Your iPhone/Android has a phone calling app…somewhere.
- Plan your first meeting. This should be an informal, get to know you kind of affair. Don’t worry about getting into the study at this point. You have people to meet, stories to swap. It might be a good idea to do it somewhere less threatening than your house. Maybe a coffeeshop or a restaurant. Something based around food is always a strong choice.
- Start thinking about what study you would like to do. If you don’t have one picked out yet, try doing the Message Questions for a few weeks until you decide on a longer term study for your group. You might find that you like the Message Questions so much that you stick with that for the semester. Our team of super-smart writers would really appreciate that. If you need help picking out a study, we have a list of available studies that we would be happy to share with you. For a fee. Just kidding. Sort of. Our writers need to eat.
- Download the Groups Covenant and go over it with your group at your second meeting. This will be the ground rules for your group this semester, so you want to get that out there right away. Don’t forget the “No cheese whiz” rule. You’ll thank me later for that one.
- Pray for your group. That really should have been #1, but I didn’t want you to think that this was going to be one of those “super-spiritual” kind of posts and quit reading. But, it really is important. Don’t go without it.
It is going to be a great semester! We believe in you. Your mom believes in you. Thank you for helping people find lasting community at Cross Point!
With this post, I am going to give a very broad look at the process we have developed for new community group leaders. This is somewhat different from what it looks like for our Host Groups.
- Interview – The first step after we have identified a potential new leader is an interview with the new leader(s) and their campus Groups Director. At that meeting they will receive our new leader’s packet, which consists of: Leader FAQ’s, Leader Role Explained, and Ideas For Groups Leaders. The Groups Director will run through these with the leader and answer any questions. They will then talk through next steps for getting their group started. Note: not every interview results in a new group. The director may decided that they are not ready and suggest that they stay involved in a group for another semester before starting one.
- Training – The next step is to get started with the online training. Because we are a multi-site church, we have found that putting most of our nuts-and-bolts training online works best for us. We don’t require that they be finished with the training when their group starts, but we strongly encourage them to be working through it as the semester progresses. We use Right Now Training to host all our training sessions. Our online training currently has 6 modules:
- Why Do We Have Groups?
- The Heart Of A Leader
- Group Meeting Basics
- Dealing With Difficult People
- Groups On Mission
- Choosing A Study & Leading A Discussion
- Rally – Before each semester kick-off, we have a Leadership Rally with all of current and new leaders. Our August rally is all of our campuses together, while our January rally is individual campuses. This meeting is part inspiration, part information and part training. We try to shake it up each time so leaders will look forward to it. I encourage each campus to scale their January rally to what they can do really well. For some campuses, that’s a dinner with their leaders. For others, it’s a big group meeting at the campus.
- Coaching – Each new leader is connected with a more seasoned leader that we call a coach. They are simply there to be a resource to that new leader as the semester goes on. Anytime that the new leader has questions or issues with the group, their first communication is to their coach. We refer to it as “as needed coaching”. They can choose whether or not to continue with a coach after the first semester.
That is a very basic look at our new leader process. I will flesh each of those steps out more in future posts.
I want to dispel a few popular myths that exist about small groups:
- Groups are for everyone – all of the time. It’s ok for people to take breaks from group life occasionally. Even Jesus retreated away from his small group from time-to-time.
- Home groups are always better than Sunday School. I think that Sunday School type classes still have their place in some churches for certain people. A few churches do both pretty well.
- Group leaders have to be well trained before starting a group. We teach that leaders just need to be one step ahead of the people they are leading. I am a big believer in “as-needed training.” More about that in another post.
- Small groups are not weird. I guarantee that for most people, attending a small group for the first time was pretty weird. It was for me. But so was eating sushi.
- Groups have to meet every week to be effective. I do believe that groups who meet more consistently bond quicker, but we have successful groups that have met every other week for years.
- Only women really enjoy small groups. While it is true that women’s groups tend to gel faster, we have men’s groups that are changing the world.
- Small groups are no longer effective in churches. As long as it’s still true that Jesus created disciples in a small group of 12 guys, I am going to keep following that example.
- Groups are only for committed believers. More on this in a future post that may make you think a bit.
- There is a perfect groups system. Because there are no perfect people. Community is messy.
- A good community group can exist without food. This one may just be about me.
Anything that you would add?
One of the scariest thoughts for a new leader is “what should our study be?”. It should also be something that group pastors/directors take very seriously. The way that the Gospel is lived out will be greatly influenced by what is discussed and regurgitated during that weekly group time. There are some great studies out there – and there are some really bad ones as well.
Each church has its own system when it comes to curriculum for groups. Some churches have all of their groups do studies based on the sermons. Some have a list of approved studies. Some only do straight up Bible studies. Some allow their groups to pick any study that works for them (Free Market). We fall somewhere in the middle of all of those. Here is a list of what our groups do and the pros and cons for each one.
Message Notes – I love studies based on the Sunday messages – especially for brand new groups. A great resource for learning how to do message notes is “Sticky Church” by Larry Osborne.
- It doesn’t cost any money.
- No one has to teach the material.
- Group members have done their “homework” by just attending on Sunday or catching the podcast on the way to group.
- It re-emphasizes the message for the entire week. Most people have forgotten the points of the message by Monday (sorry, pastors, it’s true).
- The downside to message notes studies is that veteran groups will start hearing the same answers after about 2 years.
- The teaching is done by a trusted, talented communicator.
- They have study guides that help walk the group through a discussion.
- Most study guides have bonus material for group members to read during the week.
- There is usually a Leader’s Guide that has suggestions for helping the group work toward action points out of the study.
- Studies that are not creatively produced can end up boring the group before the discussion even gets started.
- Some studies can be costly.
Book Studies – A lot of books will have group study questions that follow each chapter, or at the end of the book. John Ortberg’s books always have great studies built-in.
- Great for people who learn best through reading.
- Some people need the extra motivation to read more.
- For me, this is the least effective kind of study. It is very difficult to get people to actually read the book (especially guys), and you spend half of the time catching everyone up on what they should have already read.
- It puts a lot more on the leader to be prepared. I have attended groups where the leader didn’t read the chapter. That’s a bad group.
Bible Studies – There are some great Bible studies for groups that just want to drill down on books of the Bible.
- Hard to go wrong with the Bible as your source material.
- Great for veteran groups that have just done message notes for a while.
- I would be careful with newer groups that have inexperienced leaders. They may not be prepared for some of the questions and rabbit trails that will inevitably happen.
- They will need more coaching than a leader that is doing message notes or a DVD based study.
I would suggest having an accessible list of approved curriculum with a mixture of all of the above. It’s also helpful to have a library with several different studies that leaders can check in and out for a semester. You might ask groups that have already purchased curriculum if they would be willing to donate it to the church when they are finished.
Friday is my day off every week, so when our kids are out of school, we call it Fun Friday and try to do something as fun as possible. I would like to continue that tradition here on the blog. So, for the first Fun Friday installment, I present a very silly video that I created for one of our leadership gatherings a couple of years ago. This is how not to invite someone to your small group.