For years small group coaching has been a much-debated topic. Questions include: Should we have coaches for our small groups? What’s the purpose of a coach? Will my small group ministry survive without coaches? Are coaches paid or volunteer? What should the expectations of a coach be? And on and on the questions spin, right?
Well, I’m right there with you. For years I’ve struggled with recruiting and training enough coaches to care for the number of small groups in our church. I’ve always believed that Jethro’s advice to Moses in Exodus 18 is a coaching model that’s important not only for small groups but for all ministry areas. Biblical span of care is a non-negotiable. It’s a must. It’s a mandate to shepherd and care for those the Lord entrusts to us as ministry leaders.
I think we can all agree that, in a roundabout way, the bottom line of coaching is to provide each small group leader a caring person they can depend on for communication, information, and support. Each of those topics has a number of sub-points that may differentiate in a variety of ways. And I’m sure there are those of you out there that have less or much more to add. But my personal revelation lately has been that if I continue to try to recruit coaches based on a multiple-page ministry description, I may continue to struggle to have the number of coaches that the small group ministry needs on a regular basis.
Thus, the revamp. Consider the idea of increasing the number of potential coaches by minimizing expectations for a season to the bottom line of what we hope for and desire in a coach. For me, that is personal and relational verbal contact at least once a month. This contact may be by phone or by simply having a conversation at a weekend service. As small group shepherds, it is our role to know the sheep’s voice and to ensure that they know ours. This is done most effectively by delegating a certain number of groups to capable, caring coaches. Then each coach communicates to the small group director the voice and the pulse of each small group they coach regularly.
I’ve created two sets of expectations: the minimum and maximum. The expectations by which you challenge new candidates to coach are the minimum standards, but it also important to share that a coach can shoot for the stars and extend their shepherding to a maximum level. This would include one-on-one sit-downs over coffee, group visits, outreach project planning, retreats, and so on. But these things are all above and beyond what you’re asking of a brand new coach.
Check out this example. Recently I was meeting with a friend over coffee, and all of the sudden it dawned on me that this guy would be a great coach. I asked could I run something by him. I also shared and promised him this was not the premise of our meeting. He believed me, I hope. I asked if he would consider being a small group coach if the time commitment was less than 15 minutes a month. He asked what’s a coach. I explained it was someone that would call 1-5 small leaders a month, one or so a week, 3 minutes or less a call, checking on them for me. I also added that he would be invited to a monthly luncheon of other coaches that would be purely optional. I shared that the only other expectation was to attend a quarterly leadership dinner where all coaches and leaders come together for a meal, encouragement, and support. He said, really, that’s all? I said yep, just drop me a note each week after you call a leader and let me know how they’re doing. He said this was just what he was looking for as a volunteer opportunity.
Check out a printable PDF of the ministry opportunity description: Small Group Coach Duties.
Joe Windham is the Pastor of Ministries/Community at Harvest Church in Billings, Montana. With over 23 years experience in small group ministry, he is a respected small groups innovator, pastor, and Bible teacher with a passion for cultivating vibrant small group communities. Joe provides small group leadership and resourcing to churches that are part of the Northwest Regional Small Group Network. Joe has developed, implemented, and proven a small group growth strategy that centers on launching new small groups from a centralized medium-sized group environment. These environments create an effective platform to recruit, train, model, coach, and launch new small group leaders out into the community. Joe’s work on trauma-free group multiplication has been featured on smallgroups.com. Joe, his beautiful wife, and his three amazing daughters live in Billings, Montana. He enjoys hunting, fishing, and golf. You can contact Joe with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.