Three Movements in Small Group Coaching

August 17, 2009 - Mac Lake - Small Group Leadership

Healthy structures are essential for healthy leadership.  I’ll be one of the first ones to admit that building and maintaining a small group coaching structure is difficult.  But I don’t believe moving away from a healthy coaching structure is the answer. There seems to be three movements away from the traditional coaching approach,while I don’t agree with any of these approaches I think we can learn something about improving the traditional model of small group coaching by taking a look at each. 

Hired Gun Approach

In this approach the church reasons that the role of the coach is too much for a lay person to do as a volunteer, therefore they hire directors to work 10 hours a week to oversee and manage around 20-30 small group leaders.  While paying someone seems like a great way to bring greater accountability for results, the truth is, the span of care is too large to provide the quality of spiritual oversight needed by group leaders. 

Remove the Middle Man Approach

The churches that are taking this approach are “firing” their coaches and ask their full time staff to oversee anywhere from 50-70 small group leaders.  While a staff member may have 40-50 hours a week dedicated to ministry, with a span of care this large it’s difficult to have meaningful relationships.  The staff member may be able to have monthly contact with each individual but the quality of care would primarily be on a superficial level. 

Call Me if You need Me Approach

Churches that take the “Call me if you need me approach” are sticking with the title of Coach but asking coaches to oversee anywhere from 20-30 small group leaders.  Instead of taking a proactive role, they serve in more of a reactive role with their small group leaders.  Group leaders are informed that they have a coach and can call on them if they have questions or have any difficulties with their group.  With this approach coaches are serving primarily as a resource rather than providing a relationship. 

Three Lessons

I still believe the traditional model which calls for a coach to oversee three to five small group leaders is still the best approach for small group coaching.  But looking at why people are abandoning the coaching model and seeing what they are replacing it with can teach us a few things.  Here are three essential lessons for any  small group coaching structure.

  1. Provide and maintain a span of care that is reasonable and realistic for your coaches
  2. Make the role less about resourcing and more about relationship
  3. Raise the level of significance of the role by emphasizing spiritual care of leaders

All this week I will be focusing my posts on the struggles and solutions of small group coaching. 

What struggles do you have with small group coaching at your church?

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Mac Lake


My passion is multiplying multipliers

3 responses to Three Movements in Small Group Coaching

  1. Great post, Mac. I need accountability to find these coaches and get them going. Have a great week!

  2. Hey, Mac, Thanks for post! Looking forward to your thoughts this week. With the exception of the first we have done some form of the other two and without much success. Really, look forward to this discussion.

  3. The main obstacle I see in what you are proposing is a people and time issue. It’s difficult to get leaders, much less people who are capable of quality coaching. To find as many coaches as it would take to cover all of your group leaders at 3-5 leaders per coach… that’s daunting.

    If you use existing leaders to do the coaching, then you run into the time issue. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on how to approach these dilemmas. I am hopeful!

    BTW – Look forward to digging into your new Growing Small Group Leaders resource.

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