I had the opportunity last week to participate on a panel of “small groups experts” to talk about some of things that we have learned through the years in group life. One of the questions I was asked was, “If you were to start all over, what are some things that you would do differently in designing a groups system?”.
Here are a couple of things that I would focus on if I was starting over today:
1. Build care into the structure early.
There is always a rush to get as many groups as possible started as quickly as possible. This makes sense, because you want to connect as many people as you can to community. The issue becomes when you have not thought through what your system is for leaders to care for other leaders. We call this coaches, but it may look different in your context. Whatever that is, a structure that is long and wide will eventually collapse if there is not anything supporting the base. I would start very early on with the idea that we are not sending leaders out there alone to fend for themselves. They need to know that someone is there to answer questions, pray for them and give them support and accountability.
2. Lower the bar for leadership on-ramps.
It is tempting early on to create a lot of hoops for potential leaders to jump through before assuming the mantle of leadership. This will not only weed out the potentially bad leaders, but it will also scare off the potential strong ones. I would create a system early on that gives opportunities for different levels of leadership to grow. We do that through our HOST groups. Anyone can host a group for 6 weeks and start the journey of leadership. A few of those hosts will discover after 6 weeks that leading a group is maybe not for them. Most of them, however, will get a taste of community and want to continue down that leadership path. You will never be able help those people discover their leadership gifts if you don’t make the on ramp easy and obvious.