Your Annual Teaching Plan Is Here — Meet The New Scope and Cycle 🗺️

Developing the Concepts for Leading Small

When I got my first job as a professional Christian there were two big strangely related tensions in my life. First, and obviously, I had a brand new job in a brand new culture in a brand new “industry.” Secondly, I wanted an iPad. Let me explain.

My new job was challenging. My title was Guys Groups Director for the middle school ministry at North Point Church in Atlanta, Ga. My job was to recruit and train the male small group leaders in our church. It was a very large church, so I had the luxury of having a focused job—which is extremely rare in youth worker world. But, the focus allowed me to, well . . . focus on the job description of being a small group leader to children and students.

When I would sit down with someone and try to explain what it meant, I kept using the word like. I would say things like . . .

Well, as an SGL, you’re LIKE a Sunday school teacher but not quite.
You’re LIKE a friend but . . .
You’re LIKE a coach except . . .
You’re LIKE a parent in some ways but . . .

That brings me to the iPad. When I first heard of an iPad it was explained as a new product filling the space between the iPhone and the computer. To which I immediately got “judgy” and proclaimed: who would spend $600 on that?!?!

The answer? Me!
What changed my mind? I held one.

Here is what happened for me in that moment: This mystery device that was LIKE a phone and LIKE a computer made sense to me when it was no longer LIKE anything. It was an iPad. And, I wanted one!

And . . . I wanted to do the same thing for SGLs. They deserved a job description that didn’t use the word LIKE. They needed to be able to hold and interact with something that told them exactly what they were.

After all, a small group leader can be one of the most important characters in the story of a kid. I think we should treat them like we believe that!

So, though I didn’t know what it would look like I started my mission to omit the world LIKE from the job description. The place to start seemed obvious. Let’s gather the best of the best and set them up to have a discussion. I gathered the biggest names from children and students ministries, sent some invitations, called in some catering, prepared some questions and set up a camera to record it. I had about 10 questions planned but I only ever got to ask one. It was this: “What advice would you give a brand new SGL?” They talked for two hours! Then we did that same dinner two more times with other SGL all-stars. When the dust cleared, I had six hours of video of the best-of-the-best leaders talking about how to prepare a new SGL.

So, my team and I made some popcorn, a deck of three-by-five cards, and started watching. We wrote down every big idea and put it up on the wall. To our surprise, as we organized the cards, it all came down to five big ideas.

In general they were:

Personal health
Showing up in their world and consistently
Creating safe places
Mobilizing ministry through your kids

We made up phrases that were a bit more “catchy” and used it for a few years and called it The 5 Essentials. A couple of years later, I found out one of my best friends, Reggie Joiner, had been doing a similar project over at Orange. We found out that we had come to very similar conclusions. And, as we compared notes, we gained more clarity and more excitement to create something that could be shared across different churches and different age groups.

So, here we are with a resource that I would love to take back in time and hand it to myself starting a new job. That would have saved me so much time and helped me create a better ministry faster. Oh . . . and I’d take him one of these killer new iPads. I would blow his mind!



New to Lead Small? Check out the book that started it all.

5 Big Ideas Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know:

Navigating Growth: 3 Trends Shaping Next-Gen Ministry in 2024

Your Guide to Annual Focus


Kickstart & Simplify Volunteer Onboarding

Don't Miss What's Next

Get free resources for today, and the latest thinking for tomorrow from Orange.