There are three actions that will get a small group to grow, according to a specialist on church growth: leading with the heart, loving with the hands, and listening with the head.
"You've heard it time and again. People need to know that you care before they care what you know. They need to see your heart for them," said Brett Eastman, one of the most effective growers of small groups in the country.
Eastman, who formerly served at Bill Hybels' Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, has been a part of Rick Warren's Saddleback Church and Purpose Driven Ministries since 1997. Both churches boasts membership in the tens of thousands.
Eastman is now heading a new small-group coaching program for the Purpose Driven ministry that starts Aug. 30. Eastman hopes the program will help build churches in communities across the nation.
The ten-week coaching programs are divided into three easy parts.
"When it comes to equipping your small group leaders, the best thing you can do is to follow the example of Jesus, who called his disciples to be with him," Eastman said.
This not only means ministering together but "doing life together." He said, "Invite them to dinner. Find out about their lives."
First, he said, small-group growth comes from loving with the hands.
"Those who are involved in leading small groups need a lot of encouragement. A hand shake from you, a high five, or a note of affirmation can work wonders in a weary heart," he said.
This follow up potentially provides fuel to keep them focused and motivated.
"Remind them of the big picture, how small groups are a means to grow believers and build up the church," he said.
Also, church leaders must "listen with your head."
"When you meet with small group leaders, you should be prepared with thoughtful questions and challenges," he said. "Then as you listen to their responses, you can encourage them to launch what they are suggesting, to take ownership of their ideas."
Lastly, he said church leaders should lead with the heart.
"People love following a leader, but people follow those who let them lead," he said.
He also suggests not to focus on making sure everyone is busy, but instead, let them feel that they belong.
"Even though everyone is so busy, the desire to belong is greater than their busy feeling. In fact, this need for belonging is the strongest felt need in society."
So one doesn't need to push people, but just to meet them right where they are, he said. And "be encouraged that you are on the right track."
The ten-week small groups coaching program run from Aug 30 - Nov 15, 2005, Sep 13 - Nov 29, 2005, and Oct 18, 2005 - Jan 17, 2006. Registration for the first session ends Sep. 6.