New group leaders often find themselves submerged in murky waters. They’re not necessarily drowning but are trying to keep their heads above water. Why?
Just prior to their first meeting, the “cringe factor” scale peaks. And after the first meeting or two, the new group leader is certain she or he has gotten in over their heads.
So what do new group leaders need?
- They need answers to the questions that come up
- They need someone available to talk to and sympathize or empathize with them (the group pastor, a coach)
- They need encouragement and for someone who has already done what they’re doing to remind them that their feelings and questions are right, real, and normal
Here are four important principles to keep in mind:
- The newer a group leader is, the more of your time they are going to need. Give more of your time to new leaders than well-established leaders and it will pay off.
- New leaders can learn from veterans. If you don’t have a coaching system in place, you may want to connect a new leader with a veteran who has been in the ranks for a few years. This is a great way to meet the needs of the new group leader as well as to find out which long-term leaders will make good coaches. Use this system to find coaches and create a coaching system.
- Coaches have a window of opportunity to build a mentoring-type of relationship with a group leader in the first eight weeks like no other time. Coaches being available to answer questions, encourage, empathize, and sympathize with the new leader in this window will pay great dividends in the future. Coaches calling up leaders once a week at first to see if they can help them will establish the kind of relationship between coach and leader that you’re longing to create.
- People learn best when they “need to know”; not when you lead a training session for them. The best learning comes when the “cringe factor” is high. It is in these moments that people go looking for answers to their questions. New group leaders will have a lot of questions. Help them find a place or a person who can answer their questions.
Rick Howerton has authored many small group studies, is a highly sought after trainer and speaker, and is the author of Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual. His revolutionary book, A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic, released June of 2012. You can follow Rick on Twitter @rickhowerton.