Do I need to be a "Bible Expert" to become a Group Leader or Host Home?
Definitely not! Many Life Group leaders begin as "Hosts" during a church wide small group campaign for 6-8 weeks. "Hosting" is when you make an initial short-term commitment to form and lead a group in your home, during a church-wide small group campaign. We put easy to lead DVD based materials with a discussion guide in your hands and walk you through the steps of forming and leading your Group. As a Host, the most important things that you need are a desire to serve the members of your group and to grow in your own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Your host responsibility is to invite people, and facilitate the discussion by asking the provided discussion questions. And it's OK to say, "I don't know" then research or call us for some help if you need it. When you take this step of faith, through prayer, God's Holy Spirit will give you what you need to be an effective Host/leader. If your group continues after the initial 6-8 weeks, you will go through the Basic Training and meet the other requirements for a Life Group leader.
If Hosting or leading an on going Life Group sounds good to you, then fill out this application form now...
What training is required to be a Small Group Host?
In preparation to Host a new Group during a short term campaign, there is a one-time orientation approximately three weeks before you start. And, if your new Host Home Group decides to continue long term as a Life Group after the initial study, you will then take the one-time, two hour Basic Training for Group Leaders class. Basic Training is required for all continuing Woodland Life Group leaders and is where you will learn the vision for Life Groups, be trained in the simple 10 Basic Steps for Groups. Beyond Basic training we offer more advanced Group Leader training to build skills, character, and group/spiritual health through our quarterly Life Group Leadership Rallies.
What are the requirements to Host/lead a small group at Woodland? A host/leader must be a member of Woodland Church or be in the process of joining. However, non-members can open up their homes and let a member lead the group, but the living arrangements must honor God's Word on marriage, and what is honorable in the sight of all men.
The character of a group leader... A leader must be able to answer that there are no problems with the following areas:
Leader must not have current habitual struggles or moral issues (addictions, cohabitation, etc.) that would bring shame on the name of Jesus Christ or on Woodland Church.
In addition, there must not be any serious current marital struggles (e.g. current separation, divorce in process, etc.). We want you to find healing and help first!
Finally, the leader must support Woodland Church's Core Beliefs and approach to small group ministry.
Other Frequently Asked Questions about Leading a Group
How Often Do Life Groups Meet?
We really recommend weekly group meetings. People seem to miss "every other week" Groups just as often as weekly ones. But we acknowledge it's possible to have a healthy community meeting every other week, provided things are done to insure community and care are happening between meetings
Where do you find your study material for your Small Group leaders?
We empower leaders to discern at what stage their Group and choose appropriate studies. We also have a list of Core Curriculum studies that are the top several dozen, arranged in spiritual development order. Any studies outside the Core Curriculum must be on the Approved List of studies. On the list, there are several hundred of the best small group studies at www.groupcurriculum.org that we would recommend. This site has the same two criteria we have: 1) a true small group discussion study with group discussion questions, and 2) doctrinally sound. We also keep a large sample of group studies in our Life Group office you can browse during office hours. And some materials you can borrow free and use. If you come across a study not on groupcurriculum.org submit the title and author to the Life Group office for review. If it fits the above criteria it will likely be approved.
When should my group meet? Groups meet at the time, place, and day of the week that best ministers to the needs of the groups. If you are starting a new group, you should choose the time and place that is convenient to you the leader, then people who can meet your schedule will be attracted to your group. Don't make the mistake of changing the group meeting night for the one couple who can no longer meet at the time that is good for you and everyone else. A business and professional group may choose to meet for breakfast or lunch.
How long should the average small group meeting last? A typical home small group meeting is around 90 minutes of “seat time” not counting fellowship before and afterward. Always start on time and end on time (so anyone who needs to leave can) and encourage people to hang around afterward for more snacks and fellowship. That hang out time afterward is vital!
Can we invite people to our Group who don't go to Woodland?
Definitely invite anyone not active in a church to be part of your Group! However, we ask you not to invite friends who are active at another evangelical church similar to Woodland. Instead, encourage them to be active in their own church's small group ministry. Our Life Groups are a part of our Woodland strategy, and we want everyone in Group to have the shared experience of our own weekend worship services, the teaching of our pastor, and a clear commitment to the vision here God has called us to.
I'd like to be a Host, but should I wait until I have more experience?
If you have a willing heart, a DVD player, and a few open seats in your living room, you are ready to be a Host. During a church-wide campaign (usually 6-8 weeks), Woodland''s small group material are "plug and play" so that any member with any level of experience can Host a successful group short term. At orientation we walk you through, give you step-by-step instructions and weekly coaching emails and audio downloads.
What if I am involved in another ministry?
Leading a Group is an important commitment. For most people with a job and kids at home we do not recommend leading a Group while also trying to hold other major ministry roles that require a lot of energy (i.e., where you are a key leader/organizer). You are always more effective doing a few things well, than many things poorly.
I'm an experienced small group leader, why do I need to go to Woodland's Basic Leader Training?
We want every small group leader to understand the distinctive principles of Woodland Life Groups, especially our 10 Basic Steps. Those distinctive principles are covered in Basic Training. Also, we believe that leaders are learners and we strive to provide advanced Leader Training and growth opportunities for our leaders.
Do people move from one group to another, or do they stay?
When people are first visiting your Group they may be trying several Groups. Long term, we encourage people to find a Group that fits and then stay long enough to make strong connections, build trust, and really get to know each other well. Spiritual growth works best in that kind of environment. Of course, as a leader you are constantly casting the vision and working to develop new leaders who will one day start their own group. Keep the outer focus! Don't get on the "conveyor belt of time" and spend the next 5 years just getting older together. In fact, most people need a change about every 18 months.
How do I raise up leaders?
This is a process where your group members can help and do small tasks and functions of your small group. From your first meeting use the Delegation Sheet we provide each week. Based on their giftedness, rotate leadership and have members lead a sub group. They can host when you are out of town and then they can be released to do their own group should they choose. Encourage your small group members to attend Woodland's Leader Training and Rallies with you so they can more effectively develop as hosts.
Do we use husband and wife leadership teams?
Yes, we do. We find it very beneficial to have both the husband and wife lead in couples small groups. Each one brings different gifts to the leadership position. They each fill in and compliment the other.
Do you have women leading groups with men in them?
Yes we do sometimes. We have women leading groups based on the biblical principle that the Pastors have given them the authority, so they are under the covering of that authority to lead that group.
What are effective ways to get small groups involved in bringing new people on a continual basis?
Celebrate the Empty chair each week and continue to pray that God will use group members to bring in new people, including seekers. We have found that although a group may be doing a study, a seeker can also gain benefit just from the relationships and being around other believers in a group. And many life topic studies are issues everyone deals with.
How should time be divided in the group?
Use the 10 Basic Steps for Home Groups. This will keep you on track. Always begin and end on time so you don't have to cut vital elements short. Don't give license to latecomers by starting late. Others are expecting you to start on time. It is a point of respect. If you start late you will have to cut vital elements out. Just start with the icebreaker when it's time, even if you know 3-4 people aren't there yet. They'll get in sync. If you need to move the start time, then do so as a group officially and then stick to that time.
I Live out of the immediate area of Woodland area. Should we still consider being a Host home?
Yes! If you live out of the area we would still love to support you as a Host. We presently have small groups all over Manatee County and parts of Sarasota. Since it is unlikely that we will be able to provide you with a list of potential group members, we would encourage you to pray about which neighbors, friends, coworkers and family members you could invite to join you for six weeks for your first study. We have had some very successful "neighborhood" groups. Focus on those "between" churches or unchurched. Encourage them to attend Woodland's worship while they are in the Group.
We have a small house or condo, can we still host a group?
Sure, all you have to do is say you are full or you can subgroup into smaller groups in several areas in the house. Subgrouping can actually be more fun for everyone, but it's really up to you. It's amazing how little space you need to get 8 people into a home.