Small Group Leadership Training

Sunday 18th November, 2007

Sunday School teachers and small group leaders will thrive in an environment where leadership receive encouragement and challenge by launching them with a time of training. Steve Gladen, who has been on the staff of Saddleback Church since 1998, has much small group experience. He has written an article entitled Building a Simple, Clear Small Group Leadership Pathway. In the article he shares six convictions that Saddleback leaders have come to in training and launching small group leaders.

Consider his suggestions. His convictions are in all capitals followed by my commentary:

  • DON'T GIVE TOO MUCH TRAINING UP FRONT; ENCOURAGE CONTINUED EDUCATION. This is actually two great suggestions. (1) If you give too much training up front, small group leaders may assume they don't need any more later. In addition, training that takes too long will discourage many great leaders from taking the first step. I like what Gladen said: "If you can’t get people into your small group training, you’re probably requiring too much training up front." (2) While I am not wild about Saddleback's practice of dropping their "leaders into the deep end of the pool" (launch them as leaders and they will discover quickly how much they need training), it makes some sense in encouraging the importance of ongoing education. Help them understand upfront about your expectation of their participation in training and the benefits of coaching.
  • ENCOURAGE YOUR LEADERS TO PASS ON THEIR TRAINING TO THOSE THEY LEAD. This is not only vital to multiplication of leaders and groups, it is also vital for working toward excellence. Those who will give away their training listen and learn better. I like Gladen's suggestion here: "Your training needs to be simple enough for your leaders to pass on to others." Expect them to apprentice others!
  • MAKE THE TRAINING AS RELATIONAL AS POSSIBLE. Get to know your leaders. Allow them to get to know you. You are the most important part of the training. Your relationship into the future can pay dividends. And from your example they, in turn, can realize the importance of investing in relationships as they apprentice others. Also, tailor your training to them--to their needs, problems, questions!
  • PROVIDE HIGH-QUALITY TRAINING THROUGH MULTIPLE DELIVERY SYSTEMS. What you do, do well! Invest in great preparation. Make it convenient. Make it memorable. Provide training in a variety of ways--in person, coaching, assignments, online, and more. Give it in small doses and check that they got it!
  • MAKE TRAINING AN EXPECTATION. Share this expectation from the moment leaders are enlisted. Make it a part of their "job description." Hold them accountable to fulfill expectations. Remind them to communicate this expectation to their apprentices. 
  • SPEAK TO THEIR HEARTS. Motivation comes from understanding the importance of what they are learning. Help them to understand what the training means and how it will help them to be more effective. Help them understand the impact it can have on lives! Help them to understand how they can make a difference for our Lord! Tell stories. Share testimonies. Touch their heart strings. They'll do the same when they train others; and they'll value the training more. Gladen added, "If you speak to their hearts during training, they’ll come back for more."

When will you train your leaders? What training will you give them? Does your system train them regularly? Does it include training in their expectations? in their job description s? Have you communicated your expectation that they pass along what they learn? What adjustments do you need to make on the basis of these convictions/suggestions? Read the Gladen article. Give your small group leaders your best efforts in training them! Give your best to God in training them for Him! Be revolutionary!

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