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3 Keys to Maintaining & Improving a #LeadSmall Culture in Family Ministry

leadsmallcultureIn two posts last week I wrote about what #LeadSmall is and 4 questions to help you #LeadSmall in your family ministry. Making small groups the foundation of your children’s and student ministry is no easy task, but I believe it is the best way to minister to kids and students. The book Creating a Lead Small Culture is a great resource for making that shift, and in that book the authors suggest 1-2 years to make the transition, followed by a never-ending time of improvement.

3 Keys to Maintaining & Improving a #LeadSmall Culture in Family Ministry

Once we have established a culture of small groups, how do we maintain and improve upon it? Here are 3 keys we have found to be crucial in maintaining and improving small groups for kids and students.

Remove everything that competes with small groups

Just like with adults, there is a difference between a family ministry of small groups and a family ministry with small groups. Making small groups the foundation of our ministries requires removing anything that competes with that. Examples might include:

  • Sunday School or other programming that takes place during children’s ministry and pulls potential volunteers away.
  • Student ministry large group experiences that take the place of small groups.
  • Additional Sunday night or mid-week programming if it pulls away potential leaders.
  • Too many events that compete for time from staff, volunteers and families.
  • Staff hours dedicated to something other than small groups.

Transitioning to a #LeadSmall approach in family ministry may require making some hard choices. What choices do you have to make?

Develop a training system

Small group leaders are the pastors to kids and students in our ministries. They are on the front lines, in their lives, investing the most. We should train them accordingly. We currently have a specific training plan for children’s ministry volunteers and student ministry volunteers. One of the conversations we’ve been having is about creating a separate training system for small group leaders. How do you regularly train and develop small group leaders?

Invest in them like you want them to invest in their few

Our leadership structure includes a Coach role, which is a volunteer role dedicated to leading a group of leaders. Most Coaches lead a team of children’s ministry or student ministry small group leaders. We define the win for that role as:

Your few are cared for and equipped to invest in their few

The “do for a few” language comes from the Lead Small book and we want it to be common language in our family ministry. If we don’t invest in our small group leaders how can we expect them to invest in their few? We have a lot of room to improve in this area and that’s a big focus for us this year. What do you need to do to invest in your small group leaders more?

What keys have you found to be critical in maintaining a small group culture in family ministry?

  • Josh Davis

    What types of training do you guys do? What do you cover? How often do you guys train?

    • Great question, Josh. For our C3 Kids volunteers we do 2 big trainings a year. We celebrate and cast vision all together before breaking down into ministries (preschool/elementary) for more focused training. We will also do as-needed training with more specific groups as well.

      Volunteers who serve as coaches are part of 3 trainings a year specifically for them. In our leadership pipeline, coaches lead a group of small group leaders, who lead groups of kids/students.

      Our student team has a training every other month. In both worlds we cover whatever we feel like is needed.

      The on-boarding process also includes some training with an orientation, interviews, and apprenticing. I wrote this series of posts based on training that might be helpful to you.


      • Josh Davis

        Great. Thanks so much Nick!

  • Would love to hear what your training method is? The steps? When does each level go through them? How do you have them go through it? In person or online etc?

    • Todd, the biggest part of our training is onboarding and apprenticeship. So, we require people attend Starting Point (our intro class) to learn about the church, then do an orientation to help learn more about the ministry, then an interview, but after that they are placed and learn with another leader. I think they learn more from that than anything else.

      We have not yet created a full-on separate training system for SGLs, but we have done the Do For A Few training content from Orange (surrounding Lead Small) with all our SGLs. That’s a really easy training to do because it gives you teaching videos and discussion questions.

      Overall our training system right now includes 2 big trainings for C3 Kids volunteers and every other month for C3 Student volunteers. All in person and we typically build each one individually based on what we think is needed.

      That’s why we have talked about a separate track for SGLs only, where maybe it’s more regular and we develop a scope and sequence for it.