Created by Kenny and Elle Campbell of SHINE! Middle School Ministry of The Chapel at CrossPoint in Getzville, NY.
FILE TYPES: Editable in Microsoft Word and Pages, plus PDFs to view our finished products and meeting recaps.
If you've checked out any of our resources before, you probably have picked up on the fact that small groups really are the backbone of our ministry. Small groups (and, specifically, Small Group Leaders) are our primary means of discipleship, spiritual formation, community, and partnering with parents. So basically, they're really important. And because small groups are so important, it's absolutely essential that our Small Group Leaders are trained, equipped, and encouraged incredibly well. If we fail in our efforts to train our Small Group Leaders, well... it would be a problem.
So today we're going to give you a look at what we're currently doing to train our Small Group Leaders. We're always tweaking what we do but, right now, we're loving the system we have going. And since we love it so much, we wanted to share it in the hopes that you'll find something you love and can use....
There are 4 components of our Small Group Leader training strategy. There's a ton of information here (a whole year's worth, to be exact), so you might want to take a peek at the 1-Year Sample Schedule we provided in the download - it will help you see how all 4 of these elements come together in a typical year.
#1 - THE VOLUNTEER HANDBOOK
We've written an entire post dedicated just to the Volunteer Handbook, so we won't go into a ton of detail here. If you're interested in learning more about the Handbook specifically, check out that link.
#2 - WEEKLY INVESTMENTS
- WEEKLY CHECK-IN'S. Every week, we (well, specifically Elle, since she's our Small Groups and Volunteer person) make it a point to personally connect with a few of our Small Group Leaders to specifically ask how things are going. Whether it's an e-mail or a face-to-face conversation, these check-in's are essential in keeping the lines of communication open. They give both our staff and our Small Group Leaders opportunities to ask questions, express concerns, and ask for feedback. These check-in's have helped our Small Group Leaders because they are a reminder that there is always a standing invitation to give us feedback or ask for help. And these check-in's have also helped us our staff because they are opportunities for us, if necessary, to address any issues or concerns we might have with a Small Group Leader (maybe a question with their performance or judgment) naturally and casually.
#3 - LARGE GROUP MEETINGS
We meet with all of our Small Group Leaders in a large group meeting every other month - so that's a total of 6 times every year. We do two different kinds of large-group meetings...
- MEETINGS. Four of our six meetings are simple Small Group Leader Meetings on Sunday afternoons immediately following our weekly services. They're casual, quick, convenient for our volunteers' schedules, and always include an awesome lunch. (By the way, great food is an easy way to say that you appreciate your team, and it's also a great incentive for getting people to show up. We also invite spouses and kids to make it as easy as possible for our volunteers to be there.) At these meetings, we simply touch base with our team, announce anything upcoming and important, and give them a short word of encouragement or a challenge. Specifically, we almost always use these meetings to recap our current list of Small Group Leader Goals and check in on our Small Group Leaders' progress (if you'd like more information about those Goals, we've included it in today's download, and we've also done an entire post about it right here). Quick, simple, easy - but really effective for getting and keeping our team on the same page and showing that we value their hard work.
- RETREATS. Now the other 2 meetings we do each year are a little more intense. Twice a year, we get our Small Group Leaders together for Small Group Leader Retreats in August and February, where we spend an entire morning vision-casting, training, discussing, and recapping our goals and expectations for our team. These have been super effective for us and we've received great feedback from our team about the format and content of what we've done this year. In the download, we've included an event guide for our most recent Volunteer Retreat, including a detailed schedule and all the resources you'll need to replicate it.
#4 - COFFEE TALKS
The final aspect of our Small Group Leader training strategy might be our favorite. Because we have a team of around 70 Small Group Leaders, it can be really easy for volunteers to feel a little lost in the crowd if we’re not careful. So to prevent that from happening, every school year, we make it a point to get our Small Group Leaders together in smaller, more personal groups, where we can connect in a more intimate setting.
Unlike our large group meetings, which are focused on our staff providing training and teaching, Coffee Talks are entirely based on conversation and feedback from our volunteers. Our staff simply poses some strategic questions, and then we turn it over to our Small Group Leaders. They share with us what’s working and what’s not working so well. They voice their concerns and ask questions. They brainstorm and creatively problem-solve together. They tell us how our staff can make their jobs easier.
We recognize that our Small Group Leaders have a ton of wisdom, experience, and insight - and our entire team can benefit from it! But at some point, we also realized that, first, our staff needed to give them the platform and opportunity to share those things. One of the beautiful things about these Coffee Talks is the fact that they communicate how much our staff trusts and values what our Small Group Leaders have to say. They're a tangible reminder that our Small Group Leaders aren't simply warm bodies that we recruited to fill a need - they are valued, integral members of our team.
Here's what we've included in this download...
- A sample 1-Year Schedule (August - July) of our Small Group Leader Training plan.
- LARGE GROUP MEETINGS: An Event Guide for our most recent Small Group Leader Retreat. A schedule, detailed notes, and all of the editable handouts from our most recent Retreat, as well as a recap of the actual conversations we had with our Small Group Leaders at that Retreat (includes all of our team's thoughts, ideas, and suggestions).
- COFEE TALKS: An Event Guide, flyer, and a recap of the actual conversation from one of our recent Coffee Talks (includes the discussion questions and our team's thoughts, ideas, and suggestions).
Stuff You Can Use - Youth Ministry Resources