Why you can’t afford not to have ongoing training for group leaders

Police. Firefighters. Lawyers. Teachers. Realtors. Electricians. The guy making your sandwich at Subway. What do they have in common? Their jobs require ongoing training and coaching. If you think about it, there is almost no job on the planet that does not require an employee to go through regular, ongoing training.

When it comes to the world of church, I am constantly amazed at how few churches actually have a plan for training group leaders. The lack of training may be because a staff leader lacks vision and drive for making this happen. It could be that the church doesn’t have a history of this. And it might be that the budget has never been adjusted to make ongoing training possible. The lamest excuse I hear is, “If we had ongoing training, no one would come.” That’s just not true, and it gives people permission to be lazy. Why is it that we who hold the Word of God, the Bread of Life, and God’s personal message to mankind think that we’ve got our role as group leaders all figured out? Why do we believe we do not need to be trained, when every other industry around us knows differently? How much longer will we let this terrible trend go on? For the sake of the church, I hope not much longer.

This PowerPoint slide from one of my recent training conferences showGeorgia Baptist training surveys an alarming, yet enouraging trend discovered by the Georgia Baptist Convention. They surveyed approximately 2500 churches in their state, asking the question, “How frequently do you train your group leaders?” Then the growth of the church over a 4 year period was examined, and the results were placed into the table. The big takeaway? Churches that have ongoing training either quarterly or monthly grew at a rate of about 13-14%. That should be enough to make anyone in church leadership perk up. Could there have been other factors like pastoral leadership in the pulpit? Possibly. But the one factor we can put our finger on is the frequency at which training was planned and conducted. Churches with less frequent training (annually) grew at a much smaller rate (4.2%), and those churches that chose not to train at all actually declined by 2.1%. Training matters.

With all of this in mind, may I wrap up this post by reminding us all of the main reasons to budget, schedule, and execute ongoing training for group leaders?

  1. Group leaders often determine whether or not people get plugged into Bible study groups. Your assimilation process depends, in part, on guests having a good experience in the classroom. If your teachers are well-trained, they’ll do a better job teaching and guiding people in Bible study. Guests will be more likely to connect with your church.
  2. Turnover will be reduced. As the confidence and competence of group leaders rise, they will be less inclined to quit teaching. Competence breeds confidence. If you are a pastor or church staff leader, you’ll save valuable recruiting time to focus on other important aspects of ministry.
  3. Growth seems to be tied to it. Look at Georgia’s chart again. How would you like to experience consistent growth? If your church committed to ongoing training and you began to grow again, what could you do with the additional people and the higher level of tithes and offerings that will also come?
  4. Excellence won’t happen without it. Too many churches settle for mediocrity in their groups ministries. George Barna, in his book Frog In The Kettle, said, “Churches must take a hard look at everything they do. In today’s marketplace, people are critical and unforgiving and often give a church only one chance to impress. In this kind of environment, churches would be better off focusing on a few things with excellence rather than many things with mediocrity.”


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