Small Group Leader Summit – January 20

I am privileged to lead the Small Group Leader Summit Saturday, January 20, from 9 AM to noon.

The event will be held at First Church, Burlington, Kentucky, 6080 Camp Ernst Road, in Burlington, Kentucky 41005.

SESSION 1: “Things Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know”: I will focus this session on how to avoid leader burnout, toward which small group leaders are often prone, and how to guide your group as a healthy, overflowing leader. (Some of the content for this session comes from my books The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership, chapters 1 and 2 of Small Group Vital Signs, and World’s Greatest Small Group.)

SESSION 2: “Mike’s Newest and Best Ideas for Small Group Leaders”: I’ll zero in on how to really disciple people effectively in a small group. This topic is, by a wide margin, the most-requested subject of small group leaders and point people (as it should be!).

This event is for new or experienced small group leaders, co-leaders, apprentices, core team members, ministry point people, and anyone interested in stepping up to lead a group in the new year. We want this to be a catalytic event to help leaders see beyond what they are presently doing, to help leaders who have hit a wall in their group, to teach leaders new strategies and tactics to use in their groups, and to show leaders how they can be used by God in new ways to carry out his mission in 2018.

For more information or to register, contact Kristen Flick at First Christian Church, Burlington, Kentucky, at 859.980.0250 or


Today Is the Last Day!

I just sent a quick email to our list of Small Group Leadership email subscribers, letting them know our special discounts on purchases of World’s Greatest Small Group end today, August 31, 2017, and immediately, a small group ministry director at a church emailed me:

“Boy, the summer has flown by. Thank you for reminding everyone to take advantage of your special purchase. I’d like a price on 25 books please.”

I wrote back and provided the discount code and simple directions.

I know how it is. Perhaps like this leader, the summer has flown by. Maybe, like her, you intended to purchase copies of World’s Greatest Small Group for your leaders.

Now is the time! Here’s the information you need:

2 Special OffersWorld's Greatest Small Group cover

  • Between now and August 31, you can take advantage of discount prices when you purchase World’s Greatest Small Group for yourself or your group leaders.

    25% off when you buy 1-19 copies.
    40% off when you buy 20+ copies.

    Click here for more details.

What is a small group leader?

Let’s make sure we’re on the same page right from the beginning. Perhaps it will help to start by looking at some potential small group leaders to show what a small group leader is not.

Hannah Hostess: A true small group leader is (or is becoming) more than a host or hostess who opens up his or her home to the group. While this is a very worthy role in the group, the leader has a different assignment.

Ferdinand Facilitator: Hannah and Ferdinand are related. A small group leader is more than just a discussion facilitator. This may be part of the role of a leader, but only a small part.

 Billy Bible Scholar: Billy might be a good small group leader, but his leadership is not based on his superior knowledge of the Bible or ability to quote large portions of Scripture. Remember, “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). (This verse provides an indication of at least one attribute you do need as a small group leader!)

Lisa Leader: Believe it or not, leadership may not be the most essential spiritual gift you need as a small group leader. You can use different spiritual gifts to lead a life-changing group, depending on the type, personality, and purpose of your group. God provides each person in the group with spiritual gifts to help the group function. Lisa’s job is to facilitate the use of these various gifts.

Teasley Teacher: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16, emphasis added). In a small group, everyone is involved in teaching one another! As a small group leader, Teasley needs to be more of a shepherd than a teacher. He does not have to be the group’s “Bible answer man.” Neither do you.

Eddie Educated: While a good education does not preclude Eddie from small group leadership, it also is not a prerequisite. Eddie’s heart is much more vital than Eddie’s education.

Chris “Super-Stud” Christian: In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were the super studs of the religious world. Jesus’ followers, on the other hand, were simple, run-of-the-mill, average Joes. Jesus spent time with some everyday people and made them extraordinary. Chris does not have to be the perfect Christian (whatever that means) to lead well.

What Is a Great Small Group Leader’s Role?

Perhaps the best job description for a small group leader comes straight off the pages of the Bible, from 1 Peter 5:2-4. The writer, the apostle Peter, knew what he was talking about, too. Peter followed the World’s Greatest Small Group Leader for several years. Look closely at this passage, print it out if you must, and underline the words or phrases that you think describe the attributes of an effective small group leader.

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:2-4).

This passage was written to elders in the first-century church (see v. 1). The principles for and attributes of leadership also apply to what a small group leader is called to do in today’s church.

In World’s Greatest Small Group, I refer back to this passage often and discuss the attributes in detail—all to help ordinary people lead extraordinary small groups!

-Michael C. Mack,
World’s Greatest Small Group

Click here to find out how to purchase copies of World’s Greatest Small Group.

BIG Discounts for SMALL Group Leaders

World's Greatest Small Group CoverBetween now and August 31, you can take advantage of discount prices when you purchase World’s Greatest Small Group for your small group leaders.

  • 25% off when you buy 1-19 copies.
  • 40% off when you buy 20+ copies.

Go here for more details.

Michael Keaton – Small Groups Pastor, Crossroads Church, Newnan, Georgia – is using World’s Greatest Small Group to train small group leaders.

Michael gives some reasons he is using World’s Greatest Small Group:

“I wanted to give my small group leaders a resource to read. As I considered the Fall ministry plan it seemed like a good fit to get the book at the beginning of our semester when we launch groups.

“Our plan is to give the book to leaders and then bring in Michael C. Mack for a talk a few months later. It will be a great intro.

“At first, the title caught my eye, but then as I read I realized Mack had a similar heartbeat, and I loved that. We are big on making disciples. I especially loved his emphasis on the leader’s spiritual vitality. That was huge to me and I connected to that and it is a similar heartbeat of mine.

“I loved the chapter on shepherding. The book was a great option because of its simplicity, length, topic, readability, fit with our focus, and it deals with practical advice and teaching on leading a small group.”

Why a Small Group Director / Minister Brings in an “Expert” Trainer

Kathy Stahlhut
Kathy Stahlhut

GUEST BLOG by Kathy Stahlhut,  Director of Small Groups at Greenwood (Indiana) Christian Church.



At Greenwood Christian, we are constantly striving to improve our small group leader training. We know that with good coaching, leaders function at their highest capacity. As directors or ministers of small groups, we can only do so much. For a boost, at least once a year, we try to bring in an expert on the development of small groups.

This year, Mike was our guest speaker, and he really challenged our leaders to become more outwardly focused. He emphasized how our personal mission should simply overflow out of our relationship with God. He talked about the importance of spending time with our Savior so our hearts could more reflect His. He taught us how to keep the group intentionally open to new people focusing on Matt 9:13 (The Mssg.), “I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” It’s what needed to be taught, but by someone other than me. I’m so thankful that Mike has stepped into the role of super coach or consultant. We need people like this to speak into our groups the hard things we can’t always say.

In return, our leaders really enjoyed it! Thanks, Mike. Here are a few comments:

“I loved it! It gave the leader practical ways of improving their group: have a plan, purpose, logistics, etc.; he gave ways to challenge us: using the six count, watching for ah-ha moments, etc.; and emphasizing the importance of prayer: writing names of lost friends on index cards and praying for them weekly.”

“It was an excellent training. Mike was a great speaker and discussion facilitator. He was able to help us think deeply about the mission and vision of our LifeGroups, while keeping us biblically focused.” 

GCC_Room“Mike’s training was excellent. He presents in a way that makes application in our LifeGroups easy. I will be incorporating a couple of ideas for group this week.”

“Mike’s experience with and passion for small groups were evident right from the beginning. He led us through very interactive exercises that allowed me to think about how I would integrate the concepts into my own group as we went along. I appreciate Mike’s ability to relate to us as group leaders and illustrate stories and information to help us better relate to our group members.”


“I enjoyed Mike’s emphasis on being a group where members invite people in. This is something the leader must keep in focus for the group so they may follow the Great Commission. I would like to hear him expand on the leader’s job to facilitate vs. teach. He emphasizes facilitating a discussion, not teaching a lesson. However, there will be situations where someone misinterprets Scripture (Misinterpreting 1 Corinthians 10:13 to say “God will not give you more than you can handle”) and the leader should know how to teach and correct (2 Tim. 3:16) so the truth of Scripture can be applied among the group.”


5 Ways to SERVE Your Leaders Well
10 Stupid Things That Are Keeping Your Small Group from Growing
What Every Small Group Leader Needs from their Small Group Pastor

Question-Able Training: Six Tips for Training Small Group Leaders (or Anyone Else)

When training leaders, use the teachable moment when they are primed to learn. Students signal their readiness to learn with increased eye contact, alert body language, and – most importantly – with questions.

Here are six tips for encouraging a questioning attitude in a training meeting.

  • Model a questioning attitude. At the beginning of a training meeting, ask leaders specific questions about their groups, what they need to learn to be a better leader, what plans they have for their groups. Throughout the session ask lots of questions. As you do training, for instance, ask how they have handled a situation in the past. Then throw out follow-up questions to everyone to continue allowing their minds to work. Other ideas:
    • Ask participants to solve a challenging small group problem. 
    • Use a real or fictional small group leader who has a problem any group leader could have. 
    • Have groups of three to five work on solutions together and then share possible solutions. Use this activity as a springboard to a discussion about solving that particular problem in real life.
      When people are active learners and feel like they learned something themselves rather than being spoon-fed, they retain the learning much longer. 
  • Pass out index cards at the beginning of the meeting. Ask everyone to write down a good question before the first break. They can choose to remain anonymous. Answer some of the questions at a break. Nothing helps people learn than to know their questions are being answered. This also shows you really care about what they need to learn, not just what you want to teach. 
  • Foster an atmosphere conducive to questions. Let leaders know their questions are welcomed. Respond with “Great question!” or “I’m glad you asked that.” 
  • Say something controversial or incorrect. This keeps participants on their toes. If they are paying attention, this should generate more questions. 
  • Allow yourself to diverge from your agenda. When someone asks a question, it is usually more important than your set agenda. (But use discretion, of course. Some questions involve such a small number of participants that if you answer it you’ll lose them.) If the question refers to something you plan to cover later, go ahead and jump ahead and answer the question, at least partially. If you wait until later, the inquirer may no longer be eager to learn it. Don’t miss the teachable moment! 
  • Keep it simple. If you take twenty minutes to answer one straightforward query, participants may be reluctant to ask more questions. You don’t have to teach all there is to learn (or all you know) on a particular subject at this time. Plus, if you say all there is to say, you limit their abilities to ask additional questions on the subject.

Use several of these suggestions at your next training meeting to help them learn, which, in turn, will make them better leaders.

What tip(s) would you add to this list?

Doctrinal Impurity in Small Groups

Today: Proverbs 14

As a “small groups guy,” people often try to suck me into a debate about doctrinal impurity that may come about in a small group discussion. In a recent discussion on a Facebook forum, one leader said, “Without the right leadership you end up with far too much ‘I think’ or ‘what this means to me’ and not enough solid truth.”

The guy is right; the “right leadership” is vitally important. But what is meant by “right leadership”? Others on the forum pointed to a need for high control by the church over what is taught in groups and by whom. Some believe that to be a small group leader you must first become a Bible expert so that you don’t unintentionally teach doctrinal error. And yet, doctrinal error has been taught by some of the most Bible-literate people in the world, like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, for instance.  Others believe that church leaders must select what curriculum every group will use and figuratively look over leaders’ shoulders in an attempt to guard what is taught. This high-control form of leadership leads to low trust in the leaders who have been called to shepherd the flocks entrusted to their care.

As I think about this issue, I have a few questions that I think are worth considering:

  • Who is the “right leader” for a small group? What skills, knowledge, personality traits, and heart attitudes does this person need?
  • How can church leaders equip and empower leaders to lead, and then entrust them to lead? How does good coaching help to equip, empower, and entrust?
  • Is the Bible to be read more for head knowledge or for wisdom and understanding? Do these two necessarily go together or can the latter be found without a comprehensive amount of the former?
  • Do the fears that people have about small groups fostering doctrinal impurity also apply to individuals reading the Bible themselves? (The same issue has been applied to individuals as to groups; some–entire religious bodies, in fact–have said that a person should not read the Bible without a religious expert in the room so that this expert can interpret what the Scriptures mean.)
  • What is the role of the Holy Spirit in groups and for individuals? (Jesus called the Holy Spirit the “Counselor” and the “Spirit of truth” [John 14:16-17] who would “teach you all things” [v. 26] and “guide you into all truth” [16:13].)
  • Have we come to a point where we trust Bible scholars more than the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our groups?

I am not against gaining knowledge of the Scriptures. If you are a leader, you should know how to correctly handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). But remember that knowledge is not your aim, love is (1 Corinthians 8:1; 13:2). Knowledge is a means to the end of getting understanding. As I am reading through Proverbs, it’s obvious that what God wants for us is wisdom and understanding:

Wisdom is enshrined in an understanding heart; wisdom is not found among fools (Proverbs 14:33, NLT).

 I believe God gave us his Word as a guidebook for how to live life the best way — his way — not merely as a book of doctrine (although it does contain the right doctrine). When we sit to read God’s Word, we come into a time of communion with God where we can hear from him, where we can get a glimpse into his heart and how he cares for us and how he wants us to live. As we read God’s Word, we allow his Spirit to work within us to show us things we would not see, to change us in ways we could not otherwise be changed, to give us wisdom for life that we would not otherwise have, to empower us with his love so that we may overflow into the lives of others around us.

As I begin reading God’s Word each day, I like to pray something like this: God, here I am, I’m listening. Through your Holy Spirit, guide me into your truth today. Show me what you want me to see today. Use your Word to transform me — to mold me into what you want me to be.

If you lead a small group, you can start out your group meetings in a similar way. Jesus is present with you when you meet in his name (Matthew 18:20). His Spirit will guide you if you let him.

Look at the bulleted questions above. How would you answer those?


Do small groups divide the church?

Back in December I blogged that healthy small groups are friends. (See post here.) I’m not sure why, but this has recently become the most popular post on this blog. It was picked up recently by (here), and Debra commented, 

Small groups often divide the church into cliques. The group forms, bonds, and no new people stand a chance of joining them. The more groups there are, the more segregated the church. New people see this right away, feel like an outsider, which they are, and don’t go back.

Debra may be right IF a church’s small groups have not been taught how to develop groups in healthy ways. I am working on Chapter 5 of my upcoming book 7 Vital Signs of a Healthy Small Group (available from TOUCH this Spring). This chapter is about healthy authentic community. A healthy community is never a closed clique. It is open, inviting, welcoming, outward-focused, and missional. Healthy community fulfills all of the Great Commandment by loving God, one another, and our neighbors as ourselves. See my blog, “Healthy Small Groups Are Friends with Non-Christ-followers.”

The Best Small Group Leader Ever called his group “friends” (see John 15:12-17). Jesus led a small group and modeled for them how to live in healthy community. He said about himself, “I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders” (Matthew 9:13, The Message). That’s what healthy small groups are here for, too!

A description of a healthy community is in Acts 2:42-47. The first five verses describe how these people were committed to Jesus and one another. The last verse shows the result. Their community life had the effect of “enjoying the favor of all the people,” and because of this, “the Lord added to their number daily those those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).

I love the way Richard Peace put this in his classic book, Small Group Evangelism:

In a successful [healthy] small group, love, acceptance and fellowship flow in unusual measure. This is the ideal situation in which to hear about the kingdom of God. In this context the “facts of the gospel” come through not as cold propositions but as living truths visible in the lives of others. In such an atmosphere a person is irresistibly drawn to Christ by his gracious presence.*

Debra described unhealthy small groups as what we might call “holy huddles.” The problem is not in the huddle itself, however. Every successful team needs a safe place to huddle to put our arms around one another, catch a short breather, and encourage one another before running the next play to accomplish the team’s mission. It breaks my heart to hear that these holy huddles are segregating Debra’s church instead of enjoying the favor of all the people. I pray they will become healthy, Christ-centered communities that stop coddling insiders and truly invite outsiders. 

Are your small groups closed cliques or healthy, Christ-centered missional communities? 

What are you doing to break the holy huddles?

* Richard Peace, Small Group Evangelism: A Training Program for Reaching Out with the Gospel (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 67, 68.

Revive Refocus Retreat Rewind

In October, 2010, the Northeast Christian Church small groups ministry partnered with the church’s prayer ministry to offer a retreat for our leaders. The retreat focused on connecting with God, abiding with him, and learning new ways to pray. Here are a few pictures to show some of what we did together.
Here are a few pictures from the retreat!
Chase Lackey led us in worship. Thanks, Chase.
Participants experienced personal, group, and corporate time with God.
Jay Close and the Northeast Prayer Team modeled “Community Prayer” in a group for us. Here, Jay gives a brief explanation.
At the end of the retreat, we were invited to do a prayer walk through the woods at Emerald Hills. For me, this was a highlight of the day. I came across this meadow, and though this picture doesn’t do it justice, this was a great place for me to stop and draw close to my Creator.
This is one of the many “prayer pagodas” along the trail. Many of the retreat attenders used these as prayer stations to stop and pray (individually or with a small group) about some specific Scriptural subjects dealing with our relationships with God.

Revive Refocus Retreat Review

Our Revive Refocus Retreat for Leaders yesterday was powerful. Our prayer team spent months praying for and planning this day and they did a great job leading it. Our numbers were lower than we had hoped for, but it wasn’t about numbers anyway. It was about what God would do when we made ourselves available to Him to work and move in us … and that he did.

As leaders we need to get away from the busyness and create space in our lives for God. Jesus did this on a regular basis. We don’t do it enough. Can’t wait till our next one. Planning starts tomorrow!