You need volunteers to support your small group ministry. You need to build your infrastructure. EVERY church does, including Saddleback! Infrastructures don’t build themselves, repair themselves, or naturally strengthen over time, whether we’re talking about physical structures or ministries we’re called to lead.
In Southern California, most homes are built on a concrete slab foundation, and the pipes are run through the slab. Which means that when a leak happens in a pipe, the concrete has to be cracked open so that the leak can be repaired. It’s a big, costly, invasive repair that will put your family out of a section of your home for a period of time. It hurts! There are ways to do maintenance on the piping in your house, ways to reroute it before the pipes break down, but most homeowners don’t do preventative maintenance. The piping infrastructure is “out of sight, out of mind.” In other words, since the infrastructure isn’t broken, they feel they can leave it alone.
Does your small group infrastructure need repairing? Or can you do a little preventative maintenance?
Part of your small group ministry’s infrastructure centers around relationships. You’ve got to have an army of volunteers to support and give care to group leaders. In fact, if you don’t…I can almost guarantee you have a “slab leak!” But if you already have a relational infrastructure supporting your ministry (Saddleback calls them Community Leaders, but you may call them “coaches” or or something else), a little preventative maintenance may save you a ton of resources.
Here are two “preventative maintenance” questions you can ask right now that will significantly shape your ministry…if you’ll be honest in your answers.
Do you have the right people on board?
If you have a relational infrastructure, do you have the right people support? Not everyone is shaped for leading in this capacity. We’re often tempted to pluck off the best small group leaders (we call them HOSTs at Saddleback) and make them Community Leaders (CLs), but being successful at small group leadership doesn’t guarantee success at the CL level.
But more than gifting, this question centers around vision. Are your CLs bought in to the vision and direction of your groups ministry? Are they passionate about supporting the mission that your church has developed for groups? Are they driven by that vision, and fired up to help accomplish it?
If the vision doesn’t capture their hearts, maybe it’s time to help them move on to another role. Or maybe it’s time to create a more compelling vision statement…but that’s another post for another day. ? The highest level of volunteering in a groups ministry deserves an “I’m all bought in” attitude!
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Are they in the right spot?
There are a myriad of hats that a CL often wears. And it’s easy to look at a CL and expect that they can wear each hat and wear it well, when in fact the hat they’re wearing doesn’t fit. We as ministry leaders are scared to call that out, though, for fear we’d lose a high capacity volunteer. If we’ve answered the first question above with, “They’re fired up!” then this is a volunteer that your ministry needs. The problem is that if you leave things as they are you’re either going to lose the volunteer or do major damage to the ministry…or both.
There are 3 major “roles” we put our CLs into at Saddleback that helps keep them serving where they’re gifted:
Weekend connector – these CLs are passionate about meeting people during the weekend services and helping connect them into small groups. They thrive on interacting with a myriad of people on any given weekend, and understand the pathway that goes from “unconnected” to “connected.”
Group Care – these CLs love making phone calls, sending emails, and/or texting group leaders to check in and offer care to groups. They love groups well, and help each group that they care for feel that love and support.
Training and events – these CLs are either natural trainers, or just love helping at events. They can share the teaching load and/or help plan and execute the lineup of small group gatherings that are necessary to pull of to help groups grow.
There may be seasons when CLs need to wear all 3 hats, but we try to ensure it’s only for a season, not a lifetime. The longer you wear a hat that doesn’t fit, the more your head begins to hurt.
Does your infrastructure need some preventative maintenance?