BP Toolbox

7 questions for creating a fall training event for group leaders

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Training is a vital part of your church’s group ministry success, and it’s a topic I’m passionate about. I’ve been in full-time ministry since 1992, and I have a 30-year history of providing ongoing training for the group leaders in four churches I’ve served as a discipleship/groups pastor.

Today, I train group leaders through in-person events, podcasts, webinars, an active group ministry blog, and articles. I guess you could say training is in my DNA. I’ve led two of my four churches to have the fastest-growing group ministries in two different states, and although there were multiple reasons for the growth, training was a strong constant in every case.

Fall isn’t that far away, and you can create an amazing training event to kick off your post-summer season of group ministry. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t provided training in a while. It’s time to make a commitment to support your group leaders by introducing a regular rhythm of training.

Aubrey Malphurs has said, “If we ask our people to lead any ministry of the church, we’re responsible to provide them with continual leadership training. If we can’t do this, we have no business asking them to serve, doing both them and the ministry an injustice. Without ongoing training, our recruits will struggle and often fail, and the rest of the ministry will experience the effects in the resulting leadership vacuum.”

If you don’t have a lot of experience creating ongoing training, have no fear. I’ll walk you through some key questions you need to ask to give your group leaders a training experience they’ll love—and want more of.

Question #1: When will the training take place?

Friday night  — This kind of training normally begins at 6 p.m. and concludes by 9 p.m., but you fight against several things that make the timing challenging. Fall high school football games are fierce competition for any church training event, plus your people may battle end-of-the-week fatigue after a busy work week.

Saturday morning — Popular in the past, churches have struggled to get leaders to attend Saturday morning training because of kid’s sports and the need for mom and dad to do house and yard work, plus other weekend chores and activities. This time slot can still work; it simply depends on the context of the church and the leadership culture there. For some churches, this fits the needs of their leaders quite well. For others, they wouldn’t get a crowd.  

Sunday after morning worship — This time slot is growing in popularity. People are already on the church campus, so why not ask them to stay through the lunch hour and just beyond? Churches have found success when they provide a noon meal for the leaders and their families, followed by 90 to 120 minutes of training. It doesn’t require another night out of the house, and people don’t have to sacrifice a Saturday.  

Sunday afternoon before evening activities — Many churches still find a late afternoon time of training works for their people. Meeting from 4-6 p.m. is the most popular time, but I’ve seen 5-7 p.m., and 6-8 p.m. work effectively too.

Wednesday evening — This may be a good time for mid-week training, but you may run into leaders who cannot attend because of work schedules, traffic, kid’s sports, kids’ homework, and general fatigue. The good news is you probably already have activities for kids and students, so every member of the family will have a group to attend. 

Question #2: How long will the training last?

The maximum time allotted for training shouldn’t exceed two hours. While it may be tempting to schedule training for three or four hours (I’ve led plenty of Saturday training events from 8 a.m. until noon), I don’t recommend it. Take the long view and know that even if you schedule an extended event, you still cannot possibly touch on everything your group leaders need to know. I like the adage, “A steady drop wears out the rock.” I would rather see you schedule more training events at two hours each instead of one big three- or four-hour event.

Question #3: Will all group leaders be together, or will they meet by age group?

If you keep all group leaders together, you’ll limit the kind of training you can provide. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just a reality. If all group leaders are together for training, you must think in terms of big principles that work in every age group. Breaking up your group leaders into smaller groups that meet by age division allows for much more specific training. As you develop your annual training plan, it’s not a bad idea to alternate between these two kinds of training options.

Question #4: Who will lead the training?

The answer to this question is partially determined by your answer to question three. If you decide to provide a training in which all leaders are together, you might invite the pastor, your associational missionary strategist, or another pastor or staff leader from a neighboring church to lead the training. If you go with the plan to divide group leaders into age group specific training, you’ll surely think about inviting leaders from your association or state convention to provide targeted training.

Question #5: What will be the topic and theme of the training?

This is going to be partially determined by your answers to questions three and four. Whatever you decide, make it relevant for your group leaders—all of them. People will give their time if they know the training will help them succeed as group leaders.

Question #6: How will you promote the training?

Once you answer the first five questions, you’ll still need to heavily promote the training event. Pull out all the stops and promote the event through your church website, email blasts to group leaders, worship service announcements, your church bulletin, text messages, and promotional posters placed around the church campus.

Question #7: Who will help you create a fall training event?

You don’t have to create a training event alone. With many advisors, plans succeed. Allow people in the church to use their spiritual gifts to help you plan and execute a great training event for your group leaders. There’s strength in numbers, and there are people in your congregation who are just waiting to be asked to serve.

Final things

Once you’ve created your event and gifted it to your group leaders, don’t let that be the end of your training efforts. Use the fall training time as a springboard to more training throughout the year. Your group leaders want to do a great job, and they’re earnest in their desire to be group leaders who help the pastor shepherd the flock. Give them what they need through ongoing training; you’ll be glad you did, and so will they.

To learn more about training your group leaders, listen to the Disciple-making in Community Podcast with Ken Braddy. Season three is all about training group leaders. Listen to Ken interview multiple guests on each of the seven episodes as they discuss the how-tos of training group leaders. You can subscribe at lifeway.com/dmcpodcast.