Small Group Leader TIPS of the Week: Jan. 2-6, 2017

This week’s TIPS come from my new book, World’s Greatest Small Group. Get your copy(ies) now for 20% off. Go HERE to get the discount code! 

Question: How would you define a GREAT small group leader? Scroll down and comment below! 

Read All Small Group Leadership TIPS here!



Small Group Leader TIPS of the Week: Oct. 10-14, 2016

Here are the Small Group Leader TIPS for the last week as Tweeted, posted on our Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and posted on LinkedIn.

This week’s TIPS focus on the Leader’s Spiritual Life and Overflow.


QUESTION: What is the biggest personal obstacle for you as a leader to receive from God and overflow? Please share your responses by clicking the Comment box below.

Read All Small Group Leadership TIPS here!




Get the BLANK Out of Leadership!

How does the way others think about you—or what they’ve said about you—affect your ministry? How does the way you think about yourself, perhaps based on those tapes that keep playing in your head of what others have said to or about you, affect your ministry?

If we are honest, my guess is that most if not all of our ministries have been affected greatly by what others or by what we think of us. I wonder if we even realize how much those voices have hindered our ministries. I know. I’ve heard and still hear those voices in my head. “You can’t …” “You’ll never …” “You aren’t …” “You don’t have enough …” “You’re not … enough.”

Jesus and the apostle Paul were particularly aware of and empathetic toward this issue, and both wanted to be sure followers of Christ didn’t fall for this trick of Satan. This morning I was reading 1 Timothy 4, and came across a significant encouragement from the apostle to his prodigy, Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” (v. 12).

What were people telling Timothy? “You’re too young. You can’t …” Paul was telling Timothy not to listen to them or pay too much heed to what they thought about him. (The New Living Translation translates it as, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young.”)

Timothy was young. That was probably just one of the supposed “obstacles” he had to fruitful ministry. What is it for you? How would you fill in the blank?

Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are _____.

What’s in the blank for you? What have others told you or what are you telling yourself?

It’s a trick! It’s a deception from the Deceiver himself. It’s a downright lie.

Don’t let anyone think less of you or look down on you for any reason.

“For our hope in in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers” (v. 10).

“[God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'” (2 Cor. 12:9). 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). 

“What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27).

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).

Everything. You can do whatever ministry God has given you to do—in your home, in your small group, at your church, in your neighborhood or workplace—not by your strength, but through Christ, who gives you strength.

Take what you put in your blank and give it to God. Surrender it. With God there is no such thing as “can’t.”

Then fill in a new blank:

For I can do _____ through Christ, who gives me strength.

QUESTION: I’d love to hear what you wrote in that last blank. What can you do through the power of Christ? Please respond by clicking the comments button, below.

The Best Small Group Coaching Resources

Every small group needs a coach to be healthy, grow, bear fruit, and eventually reproduce themselves.

I have tried every coaching model and system I could find, and I made up some of my own along the way. Several times I totally eliminated my whole coaching structure and started over with something new. All I wanted was something that actually worked with voluntary leaders and didn’t take up most of my time.

Along the way I’ve found 5 great resources I’ve used together to develop and lead a working coaching strategy. Here they are and how I used them. (I’ve linked each of these resources—the first four to Amazon—so you can check them out or purchase them yourself.)

Coaching Life-Changing Small Group Leaders: A Comprehensive Guide for Developing Leaders of Groups and Teams

By Bill Donahue and Greg Bowman

I used this book as a resource for training the coaches under my care and I also gave it to directors who also oversaw coaches. It’s the most comprehensive of the coaching resources and will provide you plenty of material for developing your coaches, continually training them, and resourcing them.

A Pocket Guide to Coaching Small Groups: Befriending Leaders and Helping Groups Produce Fruit

By Randall G. Neighbour

I bought these little books by the dozens and gave one to each coach. This book is (intentionally) concise, an easy read, simple to implement, and Christ-centered. Because of the book’s size, readability, and practicality, I knew I could get my coaches to read it, and when they did, they took more ownership in the process.


How to Be a Great Cell Group Coach: Practical Insight for Supporting and Mentoring Cell Group Leaders

By Joel Comiskey

I’ve used this book as an additional resource for equipping and continuing to develop my coaches. I used many of the very practical strategies, ideas, and tips throughout the book, conveniently placed in call-out boxes on almost every page. I’ve also quoted Comiskey quite a bit from this book. Often, when I’d meet with my coaches—either together in coach clinics or one on one—I’d use material from Comiskey’s book.


Ordering Your Private World

By Gordon MacDonold

Why is this book on a list with coaching resources? Because I gave one to each of my coaches. I considered this a big investment in these vital people in our small group ministry. This book was life-changing for me and I knew it could be the same for them. Truth is, if the private worlds of my coaches were disordered, I couldn’t expect much from them in coaching our leaders and groups. My prayer and plan was that upon reading this book, my coaches would begin to naturally overflow God’s wisdom and power out of a well-ordered heart. I also used parts of this book in my one-on-one meetings with coaches.


Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Coaching Strategy: PART 1 / PART 2

As I was experimenting with different strategies, I realized—and even wrote about the fact—that different leaders needed different types and levels of coaching. (Some leaders thought they didn’t need any coaching at all, but I still wanted to care for and support them.) About that same time I came across two short articles on in which Mark Howell interviewed Steve Gladen about his coaching strategy at Saddleback. From these articles, I then developed a system that really worked for us. It looked like this:


New Leaders/Groups or Unhealthy Leaders/Groups: Priority Care
(Ratio – ~1-3 leaders : 1 Coach)
New Leaders are full of questions and unsure of themselves; Unhealthy groups are off track in one or more of our 7 Vital Signs of a Healthy Group and need help getting back to health – Stay in close contact and give all the support they need: meet with leader, visit group, phone calls, emails, etc.

Seasoned Leaders/Groups: Personal Care
(~3-5 : 1)
Excited, ready for direction and encouragement, good enough to be dangerous! – Coach them how to be a healthy, Christ-centered, disciple-making group.



Veteran Leaders/Groups: Phone Care
(~10-15 : 1)
Know what they are doing but not immune to conflicts and issues – Touch base regularly though email, phone calls, texts, or Facebook; let the leader tell you which.

Stubborn Leaders/Groups: Supportive Care
(~25-30 : 1. We asked some older folks who had been in groups to keep in touch with them.)
Been at this for a while; they may say they don’t need to be coached, but still want to know where to go when issues arise – Leave them alone for the most part; leave a voice mail about once a month and offer prayer for them.

Small Group Leader TIPS of the Week for June 27 – July 15, 2016

Here are the Small Group Leader TIPS for the past three weeks as Tweeted, posted on our Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and posted on LinkedIn. Thanks for waiting while we updated to our new website!


Monday, 6/27: Lead w/ the end in mind. What behaviors will change as a result of discussion? Click To Tweet

Tuesday, 6/28: Lead with humility. Focus on what group members need, not on how well you present the lesson. Click To Tweet

Wednesday, 6/29: Remember: “The people in your group are the agenda!” @ralphneighbour Click To Tweet

Thursday, 6/30: Love group mbrs intensely (1 Pet. 1:22), but love God and his mission more (1 Jn. 5:21)! Click To Tweet

Friday, 7/1: Ask the group, What idols do we as a group worship? What do we put before God? (1 Cor. 10:14) Click To Tweet

Monday, 7/4: Help group members take their burdens, sins, addictions to Jesus. #real #independence Click To Tweet

Tuesday, 7/5: Never stop learning and growing as a leader. Take advantage of every equipping opportunity. Click To Tweet

Wednesday, 7/6: Always affirm ppl when they boldly share candidly and honestly. #authenticity Click To Tweet

Thursday, 7/7: Develop the trust and love ppl need to take off masks and be their real selves. #authenticity Click To Tweet

Friday, 7/8: Be a shepherd-leader 24-7, not just 90 minutes once a week. #Pray #care #invest Click To Tweet

Monday, 7/11: Priority 1: Follow the Master Leader. He'll teach you how to lead. (See 1 Cor 11:1) Click To Tweet

Tuesday, 7/12: Sit w/ Jesus, enjoy his presence. Ask him to lead you. Stay connected to the True Vine. Click To Tweet

Wednesday, 7/13: Want group members to grow spiritually? Pray for them daily. Vital practice for leader! Click To Tweet

Thursday, 7/14: Look on grp mbrs as friends, not students, participants, or people who come to weekly mtgs. Click To Tweet

Friday, 7/15: What is most important ingredient of a life-changing group meeting? The real presence of God! Click To Tweet

Go ahead: Tweet these (or post on your favorite social network, or just email them) to your followers! Or just share ALL of them by clicking a social button below.

QUESTION: Which of these TIPS create an “aha” for you, and why? Please leave a comment by clicking the Comment bar below.

Read All Small Group Leadership TIPS here!

Jesus’ Leadership Order

Jesus started his church by calling a few normal, workaday guys to follow him, and then he made a remarkable statement. He told these unschooled, unspectacular, blue-collar guys that he’d turn them into leaders who would make an eternal difference in people’s lives (see Matt. 4:18-20) and ultimately the world.

Jesus reiterated the point sometime later when he called together a bunch of the folks he had asked to follow him and asked 12 of them to take their following to the next level. He called these disciples to be a part of a select small group of “apostles,” men who would be enlivened, equipped, empowered, and entrusted to lead his church (Mark 6:13).

That’s what Jesus does, still, today. He takes regular, ordinary men and women and calls them; first as followers and then as sent leaders. It’s always in that order.

Someone who cannot be a humble follower should never become a leader. 

By following the Master Leader, you learn how to lead and how not to lead. As you spend time with him, you see his heart for people and you catch hold of that great compassion. As you abide with him, he pours his love and power and grace into you so that you can then overflow that same love, power, and grace into those around you.

In other words, following Jesus forges you into a leader. 

The anvil of real Christian leadership is a follower of Jesus who becomes more and more like Him.

Before you lead your small group this week, be sure to be a follower first. Spend time with Jesus and allow him to saturate your mind and heart with his love and wisdom. This may sound odd, but don’t pray—at least not in the way you usually think of prayer, as uttering so many words. Just sit with Jesus and enjoy his presence. Ask him to lead you. Then let him.

 Read More on this Topic


Schedule a 20-minute Discovery Call / Free Consultation with Mike

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

Is It Well with YOUR Soul?

As a shepherd leader, you are undoubtedly concerned about those you lead. You care about their souls. You pay attention to their spiritual conditions and want to lead them deeper with God.

At least I hope so.

Being in a small group is—or should be—good for your soul as well. But I’ve found, through my own experience and from talking to other leaders, that this is not necessarily so.

Last week I attended a regional gathering of small point people from Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. The theme was caring: for our leaders and ourselves. We began by worshiping together, singing several songs, one of which was “It Is Well with My Soul.”

I felt like a liar as I sang those words.

Because my soul has been troubled lately. I won’t go into all the reasons here, but, even as I sang, my soul felt . . . not well at all. It felt stressed, hurting, depressed, even lonely . . . as I stood in the midst of a bunch of fellow community and discipleship junkies.

And I knew I was probably not alone.

Allow me to digress for just a moment. When I take a step back and consider the big picture of my life, I realize how blessed I am. In the big picture, my soul is well. I have a strong relationship with my heavenly Father who loves me despite myself. He provides for me every day. I have a loving wife and four good kids. I have friends. My health is good. I could go on and on counting my blessings.

But let’s face it: our many blessings don’t always add up to a soul that is well.

When my soul is not well, I know I need at least four things:

  • I need more time with God in the “ordinary” disciplines of Bible study and prayer, perhaps extended time away from all my projects, to-do lists, etc. to be with God in a solitary place.
  • I need more time with my friends—the opposite of the above. I need a both-and solution, and I’ve learned this is a symbiotic relationship. Both of these makes the other one stronger.
  • I need to serve others, taking my focus off myself and putting it on other people. When I surrender, my soul grows stronger. (Does that make you think of the Grinch?)
  • I need more time doing some of the “out of the ordinary” types of disciplines. For me, this includes personal worship. Actually, I like to spend time on a regular basis worshiping God. Worship is a lifestyle, not an event. But I’ve learned that extended time in personal worship helps me more than just about anything else when it is NOT well with my soul.

Let me briefly discuss that last one a little more. I try to find different ways to worship God.

One way is to take a walk in a woods where nature sings to me the majesty of God, and I simply join in that worship.

Another way is something I did this morning: singing praise and worship songs to God. To help me do this, I created a YouTube channel that I play in full screen on my laptop. I chose praise songs that help me focus on God, ones that include the lyrics so I can sing along. If you like this idea, you can view it below. I believe you can also subscribe to it.

What other ideas have you used to attend to your own soul? Please share them below.


How to Start Every Day: This WILL Change Everything!
The Counter-Intuitive Cure for Leader Stress and Burnout
The Most Important Thing You Do Today: It’s Not Reading the Bible!
What Do You Do When Life Sucks?

What Small Groups Should Study and Direction from Above

I just read an interesting article by Eric Geiger at LifeWay. In essence, the article says that most small group leaders are given no direction in what their groups study. Read the article HERE.

Here’s my reply:

In some ways this is both bad news and good news. The bad news is that leaders and their groups definitely do need more support, equipping, and coaching than many churches provide. Some church leaders have the attitude of, “We have small groups that are meeting together, so discipleship must be taking place.” Not good.

But there’s some good news tucked away in there too. To borrow the illustration from the article, some pastors would not want an overarching group of leaders in the denomination headquarters telling them what to preach on Sundays. They might say that they know their people better than someone who has never spent time with them. They’d point to the principle of shepherding. In some ways, the same applies to small group leaders. Good, healthy leaders are primarily shepherds who know the sheep under their care, love them, invest in them, and prayerfully seek to lead them, as they follow the Great Shepherd. If these leaders have been well-equipped, church leaders should be able to trust them to shepherd their group members.

Note the IF. It’s essential. Shepherd leaders must be equipped, prayed for, loved, invested into, and coached. When they are, that’s good news for everyone involved!

One issue involved in this discussion is how we define leadership and oversight. Is the traditional top-down approach or a more decentralized, participative, bottom-up approach better?
I think this is an important topic, and it includes in it decisions about control, trust, the work of the Holy Spirit, vision, oversight, training, coaching, and more.
Please weigh in with your thoughts on this!


What Every Small Group Leader Needs from their Small Group Pastor
You’re A Shepherd, But Not The Shepherd
What’s Your Definition of a Small Group Leader?
The Psalm of the No-Good Shepherd

How to Kill an Unhealthy Small Group

How do you kill an unhealthy group?

I’ve been asked this question a number of times, but I believe it begins with a faulty premise. Yes, some small groups are unhealthy, but that doesn’t warrant killing them off.

Several years ago, my friend Brian Jones wrote a blog post, “Why Churches Should Euthanize Small Groups.” Many churches have lowered the bar of small group leadership to an absurd level, says Jones. I agree with him that hosts or facilitators cannot reproduce life and bring about spiritual transformation. Nondisciples cannot produce disciples. Yes, some small groups are unhealthy. They may have unhealthy leaders or unhealthy dynamics, or perhaps they have developed some unhealthy patterns.

Because some groups are unhealthy, Jones said he believes churches should kill off their small groups. I would like to offer a second opinion. Don’t euthanize your small group(s)!

As any good doctor would do for an unhealthy patient, I think church leaders should start by diagnosing the health of their groups. That’s what we did years ago at Northeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, through our Small Groups Health Assessment (the 42-question assessment is available at and is absolutely free). Once you have diagnosed the health of your group(s), you can make a prognosis. What needs to happen to help the group(s) become healthy? Good training and coaching are major parts of the treatment program for unhealthy groups. Be sure the small groups under your care are led by disciples who love God and his people and have shepherd hearts.

I wrote my book, Small Group Vital Signs, to help churches and groups diagnose and then improve the health of their groups. If you think your group is unhealthy, or if you are a church leader and you wonder about the health of the groups under your care, perhaps this book can help you. So put away the sterile needles and let’s work on some positive remedies!

More About Healthy Groups

The Secrret Sauce to Awesome Small Group Meetings: the 3 Main Ingredients
Jesus’ Small Group Was a Dysfunctional Mess
10 Stupid Things That Are Keeping Your Small Group from Growing