Do You Really Need an Onboarding Process?


What is your process for onboarding a new Small Group Leader? Is it the same for every new leader? Or is it more subjective based upon the leader’s experience? Is there a process at all or do you just figure it out new each time?

Most of the Small Group Point People I know are highly relational. That is probably one of the reasons God called them into Small Groups to begin with. Because they are focused on people, sometimes creating and evaluating processes can be onerous and frustrating. However, processes are the scaffolding that supports the connection process for small groups.

If you don’t have a clearly defined process, how do you know when a leader is ready? Or what someone’s next step is to become a leader?

I am going to share the process we use at our church with you. My hope is that you may be able to adapt it to fit your context.

Step 1 Interest: The heavens open and angelic choirs sing as someone says those magic words…“I might be interested in starting a group.”

Step 2 Application: The Small Groups Point Person emails an application to the prospective leader. This application includes questions about the prospective leader’s spiritual life and their schedule.

Step 3 Interview: The prospective leader sits down with someone from the Small Groups Point Person so they can get to know the prospective leader. This also allows the Small Group Point Person to assess the prospective leader’s leader potential and surface any red flags.

Step 4 Orientation: All prospective leaders (regardless of experience) go through Orientation which explains the vision behind small groups, how to invite people to your small group, what a typical small group does, and the administrative process.

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Step 5 First Study: All new leaders are encouraged to use our first study curriculum for their group. This study discusses who we are as a church, how to live life in community and how to share your story. It features videos of our senior pastor communicating straight to the group.

Step 6 12-18 months: This is not really a step. The next step for the leader is to lead their group for the next 12-18 months. This time allows for the group to become comfortable sharing deeper truths with each other. And allows the leader to identify someone for Step 7.

Step 7 Launch a new leader: This is the final step in the process. All leaders are expected to be developing a new leader within their small group and to launch a new leader every 12-18 months. The leader then coaches the new leader through the onboarding process.

Throughout the process the Small Group Point Person provides coaching and training to help new leaders succeed.

Reading through all of this you might be thinking, that is too much work. Or “Wow! That guy has too much time on his hands.” While that may be true, having a clearly defined process has made the onboarding of new leaders much easier. And has improved the likelihood that prospective leaders actually become seasoned leaders.


  1. A great process you have shared here. One element that I do at our church is to have that person(s) over to my home for dinner to get to know them better. We are a smaller church of about 200 people on the weekend and 19 small groups. So I am able to give extra interaction with the leaders. Thanks for sharing.

    • Christopher, that is fantastic. Building relationships with your leaders is so important and sharing a meal is a great way to start.

  2. One of the challenges we found with onboarding leaders was having them fall through the cracks or being unsure of where people were at in the process.

    We used to manage our process, which gives us reminders and how helps us ensure that prospective leaders are followed up with and on-boarded efficiently.

    • Jason,
      We are a bit more old school and have a spreadsheet with each new leaders name and what they have completed.
      Having clearly defined steps really helps with making sure new leaders are progressing and that we don’t overlook anyone.

  3. Thanks for the article, Steve. What are the best ways, from your experience, to identify potential leaders or to bring individuals to Step 1? We’ve done a special series (church-wide emphasis) multiple years and launched short-term groups for the series, with a plan to encourage longevity as the series wraps up. I’m curious if there are some other strategies you’ve found fruitful.

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