Practical Help For Group Leaders at Your Church with Heather Zempel

Welcome to this week’s unSeminary podcast – I’m super excited to have Heather Zempel with us. Heather is the Discipleship Pastor and Campus Ministries Director at National Community Church in Washington, DC.

In Heather’s role as Discipleship Pastor, she spends a lot of time working with small groups. We’ve talked a lot about groups in our podcasts over the years, but today’s chat is a little different. There is so much written about the philosophy and theology of small groups and why we should do small groups, but very little written for the average small groups leader. Heather’s book Big Change, Small Groups: Four Ideas to Help You Lead Adult Small Groups is written specifically for the small group leader. She is with us today to talk about coaching group leaders to be the best that they can be in their roles within the church and effective as they lead their groups.

  • Be present. // Regardless of what kind of label you put on it—groups or classes—most churches have some kind of structure in which people are gathering together in smaller groups to try to further their faith and commune together. When Heather coaches group leaders, there are four big things she tries to focus on. The first is to be present. We can create this big portfolio of things a group leader has to do, but the number one thing is to just be there physically and mentally. Be prepared for what the conversation will be about during that group gathering. And show up randomly. Send surprise notes to let people know you’re thinking about them; be present in a big moment in their life. When you show up randomly throughout the week, it makes the showing up predictably on the night of your group so much more meaningful. It increases the level of influence you have and it increases the capacity for community in your group.
  • Create a safe place and get personal. // Small groups are messy and mess can be seen as a hindrance to growth, but Heather believes that mess can be a catalyst for the type of transformation and community we want to see happen. A leader should create a safe space for the mess to be navigated so the members can feel free to get personal. The most important person you’re leading is yourself and you need to be a leader worth following.
  • Moving them out. // Sometimes we think of a group as being just the same people and never changing. But we need to be thinking of how we can move them out to take their next steps by taking the group outside of its four walls. Find something you can do at least once a month in the community to reach other people. Serve other people in a soup kitchen or have a barbecue and invite the community.
  • Multiply and divide. // Groups can become a bit of “us four and no more” and that’s hard to break up. National Community Church has a constant turnover in membership due to their transient community in the DC area, but Heather teaches that it can also be beneficial to divide and multiply groups in the church as well. Instead of looking at it as breaking up a group that’s been together for years, think of it as branching off of the original group to pilot the start of a new group. The leader branches out from the original group and start another one while staying connecting to the parent group. The original groups can arrange barbecues or dinners once a month so that they all spend time together again, like a family reunion. It’s not dividing the group, but multiplying into more.

You can buy Big Change, Small Groups: Four Ideas to Help You Lead Adult Small Groups at Amazon or buy bulk copies at thinkorange.com. You can learn more about National Community Church at www.theaterchurch.com.

Lightning Round

Helpful Tech Tools // Evernote, Wunderlist, ESPN app

Ministries Following // Lionshare Leadership, Carey Nieuwhof, Bridges Church in Nashville

Influential Book // Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street

Leader to meet // Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury

What you do for fun // Finding new adventures around DC, Traveling, Watching football on TV and baseball live

Contact // theaterchurch.com or @heatherzempel on social media

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.