Over-trained and Overwhelmed Leaders

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Over-Trained and Overwhelmed Leaders
by by Caryn Rivadeneira

Since I’d heard some buzz about the book, I was happy to accept the invitation for GFL to part of its “blog tour” along with our sister site, SmallGroups.com. After reading the following passage from chapter 17 of Sticky Church, I became even more excited about sharing this with you all.

In it, author Larry Osborne describes “a common trap,” and certainly one that has kept me—as a leader who has to manage time wisely between motherhood, writing, speaking, and other responsibilities—from getting involved in certain leadership positions I might otherwise enjoy.

Can’t wait to hear what you have to say about this excerpt from Larry Osborne’s Sticky Church:

When we at North Coast Church began our small group ministry, we fell into a common trap.

We overtrained.
Our goal was to have the best-equipped small group leaders in America. So every fall, we hosted an all-day training event for our leaders and hosts. Every month we set aside an extra evening for building community and further training. Every week, we provided a cassette tape designed to prepare leaders for the coming week’s study.

We thought we were providing top-drawer training. But most of our leaders didn’t see it that way. For them, it wasn’t great training as much as information overload…..

Much of the problem stemmed from an all too common disconnect between those of us who are in professional ministry and those of us who volunteer for frontline ministry. We tend to view meetings and time commitments through very different lenses.

Most small group leaders have jobs that demand a minimum of 40 to 50 hours a week. Many have a lengthy commute. Some have kids in sports programs that demand hours each day and an entire morning or afternoon each weekend. Some even dare to have a favorite hobby or special interest!

But staff members tend to view job and church involvement as one. A monthly training meeting isn’t an extra night out as much as a part of the work week. In fact, some staff members take the afternoon off as compensation, or sleep in late the next morning to “recover.” It’s the same for things like our weekly training audio. It may take many hours of prep to put it together, but again it’s all part of the job. No one on the ministry staff listens to it during their off hours.

All this tends to make pastors and staff members insensitive to the time crunch that lay leaders feel. Whereas volunteers come to extra training meetings exhausted, staff members come ramped up, rested, and ready to do their thing.

The first sign that something was wrong with our approach to training was the increased amount of effort it took to get people to come to the meetings or listen to the weekly audio recordings. We tried adding incentives. We provided higher-quality refreshments. We brought in guest speakers. We made the meetings shorter. We tried drive-by guiltings. We tried making all of our meetings a requirement.

Nothing worked.

Finally it dawned on me that maybe we were asking too much. While our leaders wanted training (at least they told us so), they didn’t want it in the way we were providing it.

So, honestly, my first reaction to this passage was, “No, duh.” But the good news is, the chapter goes on to outline some solid, practical revisions to their training techniques. I wonder what ways you all have found that effectively train leaders without overwhelming them.

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