I’ve written before about this idea of making bigger asks from your volunteers – especially your small group leaders. I love this topic. But if you’re going to talk challenging your volunteers with higher expectations, you really should talk about the other side of that coin, too.

How do you ask your volunteers for big commitment… without scaring them away?

Well I definitely don’t have all the answers. But I took a stab at answering that question this week on the GoWeekly blog.

I told you about the Lead Small Culture Book Club, remember? Well, this week we’re talking about empowering and recruiting small group leaders, so we asked our Book Club members to submit their questions about how to do those things better.

Then I recruited a few really smart leaders, and we attempted to answer some of those questions together. Here’s my contribution…


This is such an important question. When I was overseeing a team of small group leaders, and trying to empower them to invest deeply in the lives of middle schoolers, I wrestled with quite a bit.

A few thoughts.

1. Have a conversation. I’ve found that, when you’re trying to cast this big vision to new (or even seasoned) SGLs, it happens best in a one-on-one conversation. A conversation with you gives them the space to ask questions, to express concerns, and to get clarity. And a conversation gives you the chance to determine whether or not this SGL is really cut out for the commitment you’re asking for. When we began making big shifts in our culture, our staff sat down with every single one of our leaders, old and new, and had a conversation. Three months and 60-something lattes later, I was Starbucks’ new favorite customer, and our SGLs were confident in their roles and excited for a new year of ministry.

2. Ask big. Try working this belief into your brain. I think it might change things for you: believe that every one of your small group leaders wants to do something significant. When you begin with that belief, you can begin to ask for bigger things with bigger confidence. Remember, when you ask your SGLs to make a big investment in kids, you’re not asking them to do a favor to you – you are helping them do something huge for the Kingdom of God. Something with an eternal impact. But you’ve got to start there and cast that vision. If an SGL doesn’t grasp the significance of their role, then yes – the job description might feel overwhelming. But if they understand the eternal significance they’re about to have in the life and faith of a child, they’ll know it will all be worth it.

3. Be clear. The role of an SGL is kind of weird, right? An SGL is kind of a teacher, kind of a friend, kind of a mentor-coach-parent. It’s a weird role. So after you’ve cast the big vision to your SGLs about what their role should be, get specific. When should they show up? What do they do in small group? What should they do outside of small group? Get specific up front. Paint a picture of what this could look like. And, remember, do this in a conversation so they can ask for clarity and you can listen to see if they’ve really bought-in.

4. Sometimes, say no. You don’t need everyone to be an SGL. You need the right people. Don’t be afraid to say no to people who can’t, or won’t, catch the vision. Kids needs invested, consistent leaders. There’s just too much at stake to compromise on this.

5. Provide support. If you want SGLs to invest deeply in the lives of kids, you need to invest deeply in them. You really have asked them to do something huge. It’s a big commitment. Show them how much it matters by giving them the support they need from your staff to succeed. Train them. Give them the tools they need to succeed. Be there for them. Pastor them. Do for your SGLs what you hope your SGLs will do for their few.

For more Q&A about empowering and recruiting small group leaders, check out the rest of this post on GoWeekly. You’ll hear from great leaders like Dan Scott, Jeremy Zach, Brooklyn Lindsey, and Ben Crawshaw.