5 Shifts for Building a Leadership Pipeline for Discipleship 

This post was written by Peter Englert, Adult Ministries Director at Browncroft Community Church in Rochester, NY.


Small group ministry leaders will tell you one of their most consistent struggles is recruiting new leaders. Even leaders who use Rooted will tell you that each cohort requires recruiting new leaders to lead these groups. No matter what your discipleship strategy is, thisneed manifests itself in different ways


Sometimes we make the mistake of over-simplifying or over-complicating the building of a leadership pipeline for small groups. We over-simplify with the dry erase board approach. You list out names only to find those individuals who have been asked to serve multiple times just in the last few weeks. We over-complicate by trying to build yet another “strategy” to add small group leaders.  


In my experience, there are some simple shifts that allow for the growth of a small group leadership pipeline. I want to share five shifts with you. 


1. Shift from adding people to existing groups to placing people in new groups. 


Often in our small group ministries, we try to place new people into existing groups. Building new small groups often creates a better shared experience for newer people, and new groups are also better for your leadership pipeline, because it’s easier to cast vision. Instead of, “We need more leaders,” you can say, “We have ten individuals looking for a group leader.” New groups create a concrete “ask” with a visible need for a new person to lead. 


2. Shift from random group experiences to established small group rhythms. 


Rooted has become essential to building rhythms in our church. The core of our church knows we offer Rooted twice a year. In the past, I would offer small group experiences for a sermon series or to launch new groups sporadically. By offering Rooted twice a year for five years, people have been able to get on board the discipleship vision and see how God might invite them to lead in this capacity.


3. Shift from small groups being separate from Rooted to embedding Rooted in the small group process. 


Our small group training coincides with Rooted. Each of our new leader candidates goes through training, fills out an application, and gets interviewed. Following those steps, if our team feels they are ready, we have them lead in Rooted. In our last cohort of Rooted, 100% of our new groups became part of our small group system. An experience like Rooted builds a foundation for new leaders to stick. It provides clarity when you recruit new leaders, and they know that the ten weeks becomes a way of deciphering if this group will work.  


4. Shift individuals from consumers to disciple-makers. 


Discipleship is simple, but not easy. The good news of the Gospel changes our hearts, motivations, and thoughts. That transformation leads us to a set of practices to connect with God including prayer, Bible reading, fellowship, etc. Churches can make discipleship complicated through programs and events. Shifting from consumers to disciple-makers means talking more about how individuals will disciple others rather than offering big events or new programs that merely encourage attendance. In my experience, the power of Rooted has painted this vision. Tell the stories of the leaders who chose discipling over consuming. I believe the vast majority of our churches are filled with individuals who think they need to know more about the Bible, but who really need to disciple others.  


5. Shift from communicating later to earlier. 


My daughter starts kindergarten this fall. I had the dates for the school year in May. When does the church you serve communicate the important dates for the year? When do you as a small group ministry communicate those dates? When you want to build a leadership pipeline, you begin to shift to earlier communication to give leaders the chance to prepare. People need time to discern whether God has called them to lead. Consider a three to six-month timeline. Communicating the plan also empowers the other leaders in the church to communicate with you.  


Which shift stands out the most to you? What shift would you add? Feel free to share it with us