Tom Shefchunas

Fishing for New Small Group Leaders

by on in Leadership.
fishing

When I’m talking with people about Transit (North Point’s Middle School Ministry), one of the questions I’m asked all the time is “How do you get enough Small Group Leaders (SGLs)?”

Which is really funny to me… because we don’t have enough SGLs.

So, needless to say, those folks tend to get a disappointed look on their faces when I tell them I have no idea and that I’d appreciate it if they’d let me know if they figure it out.

Nobody I’ve ever met has enough SGLs.

So, while this may not be scientific, I believe for most of us, we can assume a few things about our ministries.

1. You don’t have enough SGLs.
2. If you ever did get “enough”… it would only be a matter of time before you needed more.
3. You’ll never be done recruiting SGLs.

And, in my ministry, we actually make it worse on ourselves.

We made the strategic decision to put two small group leaders per group (with a max of 20 kids on roll). This almost eliminates our need to get coverage when someone is gone and allows us to give leaders some time off when they need it without the group having to stop. But that’s a blog for another time.

So, in one logical and strategic moment, we actually doubled our SGL recruiting problem!

With that, we had no choice: we needed to change our strategy when it came to recruiting SGL’s.

For years, we had fished for Small Group Leaders from the same pond, with the same lures. But with this new strategy, we needed to think differently. Those old ponds had simply been fished out. 

We needed to find new ponds, with new fish.

So when you’re looking for some new “ponds” to fish for Small Group Leaders, here are a few to think about.

Empty Nesters

I used to think that middle school small group leaders had to be young and cool. I was so wrong. Many of our SGLs are empty nesters and the kids love them! Think about it. We introduce the kids to their SGL’s at the beginning of the 6th grade. They have not yet started to think of adults the way high school kids do. And so, if an SGL is consistent, patient, and loving (and willing to do things like a mud obstacle course) the kids fall in love with them. They establish relationships before they start judging people on a coolness factor. Think about the advantages of recruiting empty nesters…

  1. They are WISE. They understand relationships take time and patience.
  2. They are PATIENT. They have learned you can’t hurry a kid along… and you don’t want to.
  3. They probably HAVE BEEN PARENTS. An amazing resource for the young parents in your group.
  4. They have TIME. With their own kids out of the house, they love the interaction with a small group of middle schoolers. And if they they don’t have a ton of time, they will make the time.

Here’s another tip: go after empty nester couples! They love to serve together (in separate groups… guys and ladies) and you get two for one! Camps are no issue at all, they treat it like a weekend trip together.

High School Kids

At our church we have a huge number of high school kids that can serve. At first I doubted a high school kid could really lead a middle school student. I WAS WRONG. They are amazing leaders because middle school students love to follow them. You can hear a pin drop in small group when the high schooler is speaking. It really is awesome. And, you won’t believe the growth you will see in the high schooler as they lead. Double awesome.

Here are some tips when engaging high school kids in your middle school ministry.

  1. Have high expectations. Your interview process should be the same for adults as it is for high school leaders.
  2. Don’t let everyone in. This is hard but you can help kids who aren’t ready find other places to serve. This is the Special Forces of volunteering and it’s not for everyone.
  3. Prepare the adult SGLs to have high expectations of them as well.
  4. Match their time left in high school with the middle schooler. For example, we try to put 10th graders with 6th graders so they can stay together for the whole season of middle school before they go off to college.

Mens and Women’s Groups

I wish I would have thought of this, but they came to us! We had four men show up about 6 years ago. Their mission was simple. They had been meeting as men, working out their junk, and they realized that most of their issues happened in middle school and high school. They wanted to do what they could to influence young men in the way they wished they had been influenced at their age. AND… it has been absolutely awesome. We split them up into two separate groups. They show up on Sunday together to do their individual jobs, and then they meet together as men on Mondays to keep each other strong. Think about it. You can go after groups of people as opposed to individuals!

I’ve got some more ideas… but I’m way over my word limit. We’ll talk about some of those later.

What do you think? Where else can we fish?

  • Austin Walker

    LOVE using empty nesters. I had a training meeting with one from my campus this weekend. It was awesome hearing her passion for students. She also voiced her fears of, “will i be cool enough, will they like me?” It was a huge treat to be able to tell her, “You’ll never be cool enough. But they don’t want someone cool. Whether they know it or not, they want someone authentic and someone who loves them. and you can do that, and do that well.” She’s pumped.

    Great post shef.

  • Aaron Buer

    This is a great post. I agree with you about empty nesters. We’ve reached a point where we prefer older leaders because of the experience and wisdom they bring.

    We are moving in the direction of using high school students…sort of. We are still a little nervous about this idea.

    We also really push recruitment through our current volunteer base. This may be the pond that already been fished out that you refer to but for us it is a crucial resource.

  • TylerStill

    This is a huge help. Much of our leaders are college students, which has showed to be a huge complication…duh! They are wishy washy, emotions changing, calling changing every single day. But, we have found much success in finding older couples to lead our groups. I am awaiting a new group of high school students where we too will test it. Glad to know it is working well for you.