No matter how many groups you have, what group model you use, or what part of the world you are in, one thing is true in all of our ministries: group leaders need coaching!
Throughout my time hanging around the Small Group Network in our local huddle and at the Lobby Gathering, I’ve noticed that saying the word “coaching” in a room of groups point people gets a pretty wide range of reactions… from excitement to exasperation and everywhere in between! Luckily, this is not a wildly profound blog post about how I’ve solved the coaching question and know exactly how it should work!
It’s actually just one idea that I hope will be a solid addition to your toolbox as you care for leaders and equip others to do the same.
THE BIRTH OF THE FIRE PIT CHECK-IN
My first daughter was 18 months old yesterday. My wife and I are both on staff at a 5 year old church plant, so having a baby was a bit of a shock to our system… and schedule! In one particularly crazy season, I realized that I was low on time, lower on energy, and had a long list of group leaders that needed encouragement, direction, and to be reminded that they’re not going crazy.
So out of slight desperation I threw together a nighttime hangout around a fire pit with about 8 group leaders at someone else’s house. The idea was to knock out a bunch of individual check-ins with one broad stroke. In my mind, it was the least I could scrape by with while still doing my job… But as soon as we started, I realized how accidentally brilliant the idea was!
IT WAS ACTUALLY FUN.
Atmosphere is most of the battle when it comes to fun. Put together especially friendly people, a relaxing fire pit outside on a lovely night, and tasty snacks they wouldn’t normally get for themselves, and it’s easy to have some laughs and enjoy each other! And if anyone deserves a fun and relaxing night, it’s the people that are on the front lines of creating community!
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THEY ALL NEEDED TO BE HEARD BEFORE THEY NEEDED TO BE TAUGHT.
Creating community and helping people take steps toward Jesus isn’t necessarily a complicated goal – but it also isn’t an easy one. It’s hard to gauge success, it’s a long game without lots of tangible wins along the way, and it can be draining and defeating when it feels like you’re climbing uphill. So creating a space for leaders to hear the words “me too” and realize that they’re not alone was the biggest win of all. After all, circles are better than rows… especially for the ones out there creating the circles!
I DIDN’T HAVE TO BE THE SMARTEST ONE IN THE CIRCLE.
Crowdsourced knowledge is a powerful tool. Instead of the one brilliant coach, director, or pastor with all the answers, a group check-in pulls together everyone’s experience and advice so that leaders can piece together new ideas for themselves. It takes the pressure off of the coach AND gives more people the opportunity to equip and influence others, which is a big win in every way!
IT HELPED ME KNOW WHO REALLY NEEDED A ONE-ON-ONE.
Not all leaders need a one-on-one meeting regularly – people go in and out of phases and situations where they need coaching. Listening to leaders share safely about their struggles and concerns helped me pinpoint who really did need more time to process and learn in a more private setting. It helped me be even more effective with my time and energy and have the most important meetings first!
IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A FIRE PIT.
I know that living in Southern California gives me a skewed vision of reality when it comes to weather; sitting outside is actually an option here 12 months out of the year. but I’m a Chicago native, so I do understand that sitting in the snow together is not exactly relaxing. But whatever your context is, there’s a place or activity that is relaxing and conducive to a group conversation. Maybe it’s your basement, a coffee shop, a nice dinner out… whatever says “special” and “different” to your people.
LAST LEARNING: SET ONE GROUND RULE.
Creating a safe place is always important in a group setting, especially when people might walk in thinking they have to impress everyone with how great they’re doing. So knock that down before the conversation starts with one of my favorite phrases of all time: “success is faithful obedience – nothing more, nothing less”. Your conversation will go far if everyone remembers their worth as leaders is not about numbers, stats, attendance, or the “results” in general. Liberate them from the need to posture or inflate by making the ground level – the only thing we can all hope to do is remain obedient to a loving and powerful God.
This may be a lot of words to get across one simple idea, but that’s the summary: try a group check-in. Make it special, tap into the wisdom of your leaders’ experiences, and give your wonderful, faithful leaders the chance to hear 5 of the most helpful words around: “me too – you’re not crazy”.
PS: I say it was an accidentally brilliant idea… but this isn’t actually new in any way! Local Small Group Network huddles exist for EXACTLY these reasons, but FOR us as ministry leaders! If you’re not connected to a local huddle yet, find one today and enjoy those wonderful 5 words! Then recreate the magic for your own leaders!