Your churches group leaders must know and embrace the same vision, have some common experiences, share a common language, and be well equipped to accomplish small group ministry. The question isn’t, “Is this important?”. The question is, “In what setting and when can a group pastor make this happen?”
I’d suggest every group pastor do an annual retreat at the church. Doing it at the church is affordable and makes it possible for group leaders to drive a short distance for the experience.
I know what you’re thinking… “They won’t come.” They will come if you’re leading them well and if you make personal contact with each leader, no matter how many phone calls that demands. You might even want to make this annual training event mandatory. Only you know if a mandatory experience is workable in your setting.
Keep this in mind… If you do an inspiring and exciting retreat the first time, your group leaders will be psyched to show up in the future.
Below you’ll find an outline for an inspiring and educational small group leader retreat. Feel free to use it verbatim!
Friday Night (tell them 6:00 to 9:00):
- 6:00 to 6:45 – Dinner (include welcome and prayer)
- 6:45 to 7:00 – A word from the senior pastor… encouragement, vision casting, etc…
- 7:00 to 7:05 – Groups Pastor introducing the weekend and thanking everyone for attending.
- 7:05 to 7:30 – An interactive experience focusing on issues group leaders are dealing with. Let them determine the topics and let them answer one another’s questions.
- 7:30 to 7:45 – Break
- 7:45 to 8:30 – Keynote/Guest speaker… Get a guest to come speak, a fresh voice, an expert that can cover a topic you know your group leaders need to hear about.
- Let them out at 8:30 instead of 9:00. Giving some time back always wins people over. Remind them to be back for breakfast at 8:30.
- 8:30 to 9:15 – Breakfast (Do each meal as big as you can, not just a continental breakfast. Remember, you’re thanking them for their work. You want them to leave feeling greatly honored and talking about the incredible food.)
- 9:15 to 9:30 – Devotional led by the Keynote/Guest speaker (Have them speak about the importance of personal time with God or the group leader’s spiritual health and/or journey.)
- 9:30 to 10:30 – Create another interactive experience by doing a workshop time slot, not a seminar. The difference between a seminar and a workshop is that, when doing a seminar someone talks and people listen. A workshop happens when someone or a few people model something then those in the workshop practice what they’ve seen done, debrief how they did, and learn from the experience. Workshop experiences keep almost any session from becoming boring and are truly effective ways to do training.
- 10:30 to 10:45 – Break
- 10:45 to 11:30 – Have the Keynote/Guest speaker do a talk on a topic that needs to be addressed.
- 11:30 to 1:00 – Lunch… If possible, give each person a 10.00 bill or 15.00 and have them go out to lunch with their coach. If you don’t have a coaching system send them off in groups of six. Whether they go as a group of six or with their coach, give each group a few questions dealing with complex issues small group leaders wrestle with to discuss during the meal. Tell them you’re going to get wise counsel from each group when they get back. Some of the questions might be… 1) What do you do when only a few people show up for a group meeting? 2) What do you do when someone gives their opinion but it contradicts what the Bible says? 3) How do I get my group to understand the importance of sending people off to start a new group? Etc…
- 1:00 to 1:30 – Debrief by discussing the questions each group talked about over lunch.
- 1:30 to 2:30 – Have the Keynote/Guest speaker lead a workshop experience with the group leaders. If you get someone who knows what they’re doing, they can create a really interesting experience that keeps the group’s attention even on the heels of lunch and the debrief.
- 2:30 to 2:45 – Break
- 2:45 to 3:45 – Surprise group leaders by having people from various groups give testimonies describing how the group has changed their life, their family, and their hearts ending with how much their group leader means to them. This takes some planning but will pay off huge.
- 3:45 to 4:15 – During the break have someone put large post-its on the walls. On the floor next below each post-it place a marker. Have enough of these to have about 6 people at each post-it. Have them go to the post-its. When they arrive there, tell them that we are able to lead others because of the influence we have with them and that we have influence with them because of how we have served them. Have them brainstorm the ways they can serve their group members. As they brainstorm someone chronicles what they’re saying. When they’ve finished brainstorming, allow one person from each group to share what they penned and why they believe that’s true. You speak into the responses each time something is mentioned that you can add to. You’re establishing yourself as an expert which is extremely important. This experience will be perfect to do following the 2:45 to 3:45 session.
- 4:15 to 4:30 – Break
- 4:30 to 5:15 – Vision Casting talk by Small Group Pastor/Point Person
- 5:15 to 5:30 – Prayer time in groups of four
- 5:30 – Dismiss
You may have noticed that I didn’t include any musical worship times. If possible, make that happen. But, if it’s too much trouble or too costly, you can still have and incredible experience without it.