I can still remember Jim and Lori walking into my office. They had that “deer in the headlight look” on their faces—the one people get when they know you’re about to ask them to do something. And they weren’t wrong.
That was exactly why I’d asked them to come in. I admit that I was nervous myself. I was a new minister at the church, not to mention that I wasn’t even married at the time.
After saying amen to the customary prayer, I simply painted the picture that our young adult ministry needed small group leaders and what it be would like if they said yes. For some reason—call it a nudge from the Holy Spirit—I looked at Jim and simply stated that some of the men could use his help in being a good dad.
I have no clue at the time why I made that appeal, but it worked. I would later discover that this statement was what convinced them to lead the group. He could remember when his children were young and not having anyone to mentor him on how to be a new dad. He needed support. After all, surviving this life takes a village.
Recruiting people to help volunteer in your ministry is one of the toughest things that we do as leaders. I believe there are six ways that we can recruit well, and help others discover their God-given calling in leading a small groups.
I know that this sounds like common sense for those of us in ministry, however, I believe that asking God who we should recruit is important. Prayer should be the first thing we do when we recruit someone to volunteer to lead small groups in our marriage ministry.
In my twenty years of doing ministry and recruiting leaders, I noticed that people love stories, especially stories they can see themselves in.
For Jim, it was the story of how he could help young dads. He saw himself in this story, because he remembered his own experience of having no one to lean on when he was a young father.
Yes, it should be a given that people think that leading a small group is meaningful and important. However, for many of the people that we would like to recruit their time is valuable and they don’t have a lot of time to give.
Therefore, when we go in for the big ask we need to clear on what we’re asking of them. Time is more important than money for a lot of people so making sure that a leader understands that their sacrifice is meaningful in leading a small group is important.
When recruiting your small group leaders, make sure you provide the leader with the proper information that they will need in leading the group. Set these volunteers up to win from the start.
Answer important questions like, “What does a win look like?” and “How should I handle conflict?” Explain exactly how much time they’ll be committing. Let them know how you’ll support them along the way. By setting clear expectations, we prepare volunteer leaders for success.
Every leader wants to rise to their best self. As leaders, it is our job to prepare new recruits with the best training materials that we can find.
In recruiting new leaders, we should provide the recruit with a summary of what materials they will get if they decide to sign up to lead. This could mean in-person trainings, video lessons, or reading material that will equip them to do their job.
6. Walk Away
When a leader says no to volunteering, don’t take it personally. They likely have a good reason for not leading the small group. And we can’t say yes to everything—so don’t burn that relationship for the future.
One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 55:8, God explains how to deal with rejection. Lean on this for patience and empathy as you continue to find the right person to lead small groups in your ministry.
How do you recruit small group leaders in your marriage ministry?
Maina Mwaura is a graduate of Liberty University and New Orleans Theological Seminary. Maina contributes to a number of online publications, including Lifeway, The Gospel Coalition, and ChurchLeaders.com. Maina lives in Atlanta, Ga., with his wife, Tiffany.
Marriages do not fail alone. There’s research that shows that the divorce of a relative or close friend can increase your likelihood of divorce up to 75%. Even if it’s a friend of a friend who gets divorced, that increases the risk as much as 33%.
I don’t know about you, but that’s scary. It’s enough to make you to not want to have any close friends or relatives. Because we all know someone who is divorced, or might be in the future.
So what chance does our marriage have of making it? And what can church leaders do when we constantly witness separations and divorces happen in couples we know and care about?
The Importance of Community
The good news is that the flip side is true as well—no marriage succeeds alone, either. Isolating you and your spouse from everyone else and from culture isn’t going to help you. In fact, it may actually make things worse for your marriage.
That’s because community is important to relationships. We can’t rely on our spouse to meet all of our relational needs. We need other people to support us and take some of that burden off of our spouse.
In her book Hold Me Tight, psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson says “We now ask our lovers for the emotional connection and sense of belonging that my grandmother could get from a whole village.”
It’s not whether or not you surround your marriage with other people that’s crucial—it’s who you’re choosing to surround yourself with. And that’s where you as a church leader comes in.
Building Community in Small Groups
It’s for this reason that we always create a new small group study every year. This provides content around which to create the context of community. Because we know that real life change happens in circles instead of rows.
You might call this context different things in your church—community groups, Sunday school, Bible studies, or life groups. We call them small groups, but they’re all the same thing. And they’re all equally as important.
That’s exactly the topic that we’re going to tackle in our latest quarterly leadership webinar—how to build a community within your marriage ministry. Here are all of the details:
Married People exists to help your church help marriages. We provide resources, training, and community to church leaders who work with marriages and families.
My church began our marriage ministry in 2014 after being introduced to the Married People strategy at the Orange Conference. Since then, it has been an amazing ride. We’ve tried new things, failed at some things, and have continued to tweak things along the way. I believe this is how good ministries become great—by constantly evolving!
Perhaps your marriage events have hit a stale patch on road. You feel like the events look identical to the one before it. You’re ready to change things up and take these events to the next level.
Since we’ve gone through the same experience at my church, I wanted to share a few things we’ve learned along the way. Hopefully you can learn from our mistakes and not hit as many potholes and detours along your marriage ministry journey.
Small changes can make a big impact
I’m not sure why we believe that to “innovate” and “evolve” we have to do a complete 180°. As if spending more time and money will automatically lead to better results. That’s simply not true.
Small changes or upgrades to your event can make a huge difference—if done intentionally and effectively. Here are a few examples that you can try for yourself:
- invite church members who own businesses to donate prizes
- bring in live music if you’ve been using recorded music
- have a local amateur comedian come in and do a 10-minute opening skit
- have dessert made and handed out by the children or youth of the church as a special gift
- make each centerpiece a unique prize that one couple at each table will win
Change up the games
We learned early on that games are one of the most critical pieces of these marriage events. Over time, we’ve allocated more resources and energy into quality games (and prizes!). And these efforts have paid off.
We found that playing a stage game and a table game is a must, because this accommodates the different personality types of people in attendance. “Minute to Win It” type games have been the most successful.
Thankfully, the games that come in the Married People events have all been very good. Put a little extra effort into personalizing the games and prizes at your event and you will reap the rewards. Couples want to have fun—so give them the fun!
Make it personal
Find a professional videographer and interview several of the couples attending the event ahead of time. Ask them to share a story in relation to your theme. For instance, for the “Have Serious Fun” segment ask them to share a story about a vacation they went on that was super fun.
Likewise, for “Practice Your Promise,” interview a couple in your church that’s been married over 50 years. Ask them what their secret is. Be sure to pick a lively couple for some great laughs!
Make these couples your special guests at the event dinner. After a while, couples will ask to be a part of your future videos. Remember to give them the video as a keepsake afterwards. And, if these are professional quality, you can use the videos to promote your ministry later.
It doesn’t always have to be what it’s always been
This was tough for my team. After a couple of years of successful marriage events, we felt comfortable in what we were doing. But, if we were to evolve, my team would need to feel safe trying new things and stepping away from what we’d always done.
It’s not always easy to implement change—especially in the church.
Last summer, we held a group wedding vow renewal ceremony instead of the traditional “Practice Your Promise” event. I officiated the ceremony in a robe. We decorated the event like a wedding reception. The couples dressed up and we had a professional photographer there to capture photos of each couple.
By far, this was one of the most popular events we’ve ever held. And, it took us stepping away from what we “always” did to make it happen.
Whatever you choose to start with, just start with one thing that changes for each event. Remember—small changes are good! Before you know it, your event will be a fun surprise for participants and something all couples enjoy attending. The anticipation and excitement of what you’ll do next will entice more couples to come check it out!
How do you plan on taking your next event to the next level?
Monica Humpal is the Director of Grow Ministries at Williamson’s Chapel UMC in Mooresville, NC, and has more than 20 years of experience serving in the ministry.