Transformation Through Group Leader Training (feat.adam Erlichman)|podcast

0
132

In today’s podcast, Executive Search Consultant Kristin Fry talks with Adam Erlichman, the founder of Build Groups.

Adam discusses the importance of training small group leaders in the local church. He shares the origin of Build Groups and how it started as a conference for group leaders. This led to the creation of Group Leader Training, a resource that combines best practices, theology, and community building. Adam emphasizes the need for intentional investment in group leaders and the impact it can have on the church. He also shares success stories of churches that have adopted Group Leader Training and seen significant growth in their volunteer base. The main barrier to implementing small groups is trust, but Erlichman encourages churches to take the risk and experience the rewards.

Build your best team through our customized executive search practices, contact us today to get started! 

Transformation Through Group Leader Training Podcast

Listen Here.

Resources:

Learn more about Small Groups Network: https://smallgroupnetwork.com/

Follow Small Group Network:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thesmallgroupnetwork/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/small-group-network/about/

Follow Adam on social media:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/adamerlichman

Transcript:

Kristin Fry 

Well, welcome back to the Vanderbloemen in Leadership podcast. I am Kristin Fry. I’m one of our executive consultants on the team. And today I’m having a conversation with Adam Erlichman, who is the founder of an organization called Build Groups. He also recently, or somewhat recently wrote a manual called Group Leader Training. And the subtitle, I think, is really interesting. 

And…paints a lot of, I guess, color to the bigger picture of what that is, but it is a biblical manual for small group leaders and teachers in the local church. So Adam, I look forward to having this conversation with you. I would love before we even just get started for you to say, who are you? Like, who are you? Where do you live? How did you found build groups? Where did that even come from? What does that mean? So I’ll let you introduce yourself.

Adam Erlichman

Yeah, thank you so much, Kristin. And really excited to be on here with y’all and share and a little bit about me. I’m, uh, and I always got to lead with this, especially cause I live in Texas. I was born in Pennsylvania, grew up there. I’m a Yankee living in the promised land of Texas. And so, you know, grew up with my youth there, uh, became a Christian at 19 at Liberty university, Lynchburg, Virginia, met my wife there.

And, you know, it was called the ministry 21. And so my wife, Anna, we’ve got three boys, Judah, Titus and Deacon, 10, eight and six years of age, rough, tough, Tumblin, high energy, wild, just sweet boys and a blessing. I love being their dad. It’s, it’s fun. And so we’re, we’re active and moving and going. And I’ve served in youth, young adult ministry, adult groups and discipleship, executive level.

Ministry as well. And so that’s a little bit about me and my background. I live in Dallas area, kind of East Dallas, Texas. And yeah, so that’s just a little bit about me.

Kristin Fry 

Okay. So where did Build Groups come from?

Adam Erlichman 

Yeah, so that wasn’t something I sought to start or had this inclination or desire within me. I had gone on staff at a church as a group’s pastor and I was like, man, what conference could I take my, you know, my lay group leaders to? And I’m in Dallas, right? This is like the Mecca of conferences for Christian conference. And I was looking like, man, there’s nothing there. There’s nothing on the weekends. It’s always Monday through Friday. The conference ends at 5pm when everyone gets off work.

Kristin Fry 

Yes, yes.

Adam Erlichman 

So I said, well, let’s just do our own thing. And we did our own sort of formatted conference and I trained some of our leaders who were coaches of group leaders to lead breakout sessions. And we did that on a Saturday, it went really well. The next year we did it, like a dozen other churches through word of mouth said, hey, we wanna come be a part of this. And I said, hey, come on, man, the more the merrier. And then the next year we said, all right, well, let’s open this up and see. And then we had more than.

50 other churches from around the country showing up to come to a little, uh, you know, small little rural town for this conference just north of Dallas. And, uh, so when that begins to happen and you have this conference, people go, Oh, maybe this guy knows what he’s talking about, you know, which isn’t always true, but, uh, it has worked out. And so build groups started from there. It’s been around for four years. And.

Kristin Fry 

Yes, wow.

Right.

Adam Erlichman 

Helping consult churches and groups and discipleship ministries and other aspects as well. There’s more that we do. But the bread and butter of what got it going, started, really established and launched was consulting and helping churches and groups and discipleship ministries.

Kristin Fry 

Okay, so then is that I’m assuming how the idea of group leader training then was birthed. Is that like, how did group leader training come to fruition?

Adam Erlichman 

Yeah, that is such a great question. So I was writing it before I ever realized that I was writing it. There are so many great resources out there in the group’s ministry world from, I mean, all different types of people. And so there’s a lot of books that I read out there. I was like, man, this is good. This is good. And some were really good with best practices. Some were really good like theologically. Some were really good like at a heart level and, you know, interpersonal relationships and, you know, community building. And I said, man, I would really like a book that has all of those…

Just jammed together, right? And a training that had all that. And so we started doing our own training with our own leaders. And through doing that, I started writing this, not really as I was writing it. And there was a distinct moment though, Kristen, like I remember, like it was yesterday, I was sitting in my office. I jumped on a Zoom call with a church planter and he was asking about groups. I was just kind of coaching him through some groups of ministry stuff.

Long story short, we get to the end, I’m telling about our training and what we do and you know, our group’s ministry, I mean, it doubled every year for six years. I mean, it was amazing what God did and you know, the sizeable church and so

Kristin Fry 

Wow.

Adam Erlichman 

He’s like, well, can you send me the training in writing? And I said, I don’t have it in writing. It’s in my head and my heart. And I got some bullet points that will make any sense to you. And there was just a whole damper on the call. Like it ended and we hung up and I looked, I like looked at the ceiling, my office. I was like, all right, Lord, you, you want me to write a book? Um, and so, you know, that was more than six years ago now.

Kristin Fry 

Hmm.

Adam Erlichman 

And it took six years to write. It was the first book I began writing, but it was the fifth book I published. If that tells you anything, it was a labor of love, a field study of six years of. Over a thousand group leaders. We took through that and gathered data and responses. And so the whole, you know, resource, it was really written out of a practitioner’s mindset of what are group leaders actually facing, uh, at ground level. And then.

Kristin Fry 

Wow.

So that’s really interesting. Yeah, that’s really interesting because you just said six years, that’s a very long time. And a lot of conversations, over a thousand liters is not a small number. So what were the common denominators that came from all of that?

Adam Erlichman 

Speaking into those.

Yeah, there was a lot of things that I learned through that process. There were, you know, there’s some micro data that I could probably share with you, like specific questions we have in the training that really opened up and, you know, so I’ll give you one as an example, but before I want to give you kind of a macro, one of the macro things that we learned was people were far more willing to lead a group if there was a clear pathway of how to start, be developed, and then a plan to deploy them.

Kristin Fry 

Yeah.

Adam Erlichman 

Right. And that’s a large part of what I help churches do is how do you discover, develop and deploy new leaders and volunteers. Right. And, and so if that was in place and there was a plan and they, and you could communicate that clearly, they, they were much more willing to do it. Even though I had a guy, you know, I sat across the table from, he was like, man, would you go through our leader training? And he goes, uh, I’ll go through it, but I’m never going to be a leader. And you know, today, that guy, six years later,

Kristin Fry 

Mm-hmm.

Adam Erlichman 

Started a group, multiplied his group six times, and now coaches 10 different group leaders, right? And that was one of the macro, but a micro was we would ask the question, what’s one healthy quality of a group? And so we’d go in a circle, everyone answers with one, transparency, biblical, authentic, caring, and plenty of other answers, but.

Kristin Fry 

Mm.

Adam Erlichman 

There were four common responses that we never heard and over like 1500 different responses. And so some of those responses or of those four responses, it was very telling about what people thought groups were supposed to be and what they were supposed to do and what outcomes they could expect from group. And what was very clear was that growth mindset was not at the forefront of most group leader’s mind. 

So some of the yeah, it was more about support and care. And it was less about progress. It was less about transformation is more about transparency. He’ll let’s be open. Let’s be honest. Let’s be genuine. Let’s be authentic. But it stopped there. And so the

Kristin Fry 

Oh, interesting.

Adam Erlichman 

Very uncommon answers that we did not hear were answers like, uh, one quality of a healthy group is repentance. Uh, another healthy, you know, quality of a healthy group is that we correct one another admonish, um, grace that we have grace towards one or, uh, the fourth one, uh, was growth or transformation. Those were responses that we almost never heard maybe one or two times.

And so what that told us was, hey, we have half of it right. Right. Like transparency, acceptance, like you have to have that, but it can’t stop there. Uh, like it’s, it’s not, it’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay there. We need to move forward. We need to progress. And, and so that, that was some of the things that we learned through that, uh, season and the six years of putting that together.

Kristin Fry 

Gosh, that’s so fascinating. So you said something which makes me think of another question. Why is training group leader so important to the future growth of the church and current health of the church?

Adam Erlichman 

Yeah, absolutely. That is, I don’t know if you could have asked a better question, Kristen, that’s like, I love that question, right? So why groups matter, right? Why do they matter? A lot of churches, I think view groups in an improper place and in error, they refer to them as, Hey, groups are going to help us close the back door. Uh, close the back door of the church. So people don’t leave. We need to retain them. And in reality, groups aren’t the back door.

They’re the elevator that takes your church to new heights. You didn’t know where possible. Groups are the tide that raise all ministry ships in your church. So if you want a stronger kids ministry, you want a stronger student ministry, any ministry you can think of. Like groups is that tide that raises all of it up because if you have people who are in there, intentionally being spiritually formed in the image of Christ and they’re done with quality.

Kristin Fry 

Mmm, that’s good.

Adam Erlichman 

And intentional processes and training and development and you start to see that flow out into the other places because the people who are in there are parents, a lot of them, and those parents have kids and kids ministry, those parents have teenagers and student ministry. And so it just overflows in so many different ways and it really affects and increases many other metrics. And that’s what I’ve seen at multiple churches and that’s, you know, there’s fruit that’s come out of that into other.

Administrators you just wouldn’t otherwise see.

Kristin Fry 

Yeah, that’s really good. Okay, so for someone listening right now thinking, yeah, you are speaking to me right now. My church is in a spot where we just, we’re not great with our groups. We’re not in a great spot. We kind of put half of our attention towards them. Some seasons we’re a little bit more focused than other seasons.

We don’t we don’t have the resources. We don’t have the staff devoted to it fill in the blank for whatever reason You know might Fit for their context so you have this resource group leader training So talk to us about how is that even supposed to be used or what does that even look like? First for a church to adopt that and use that practically walk us through group leader training

Adam Erlichman 

Certainly, yeah. So there are churches who have a full adult group staff that use this resource, and it’s very beneficial for them. But what I had in mind a lot of through the process and putting this together was this resource being a tool that was turned key for a staff or a church, even a solo pastor or a church planter that didn’t have the full-time groups guy on staff, right? They didn’t have that person to just…

Kristin Fry 

Right.

Adam Erlichman

lose sleep about it overnight and own that ministry. And so the way that this resource is designed to help and the way that we’ve modeled it and I help other churches do this is, hey guys, let’s not be reactive in groups ministry where we go, oh man, it’s January, it’s peak season. We need to find some leaders and start groups in two weeks and then try to microwave that whole, you know.

Group leader training experience and launch them. And then we wonder why, well, why do we lose 60% of our groups going into the next semester? And so really what the hope is, is through this training, is that we crockpot that process. We slow it down. We’re proactive. We really spread that out over, instead of, hey, let’s jam this into two, three, four weeks. And let’s spread that over five months.

Let’s make this meaningful and let’s justify a process where people, when they go through, they see that we’ve invested time into it. We’ve given them time to consider, to pray about it, to see if, is this something God’s calling me to? Like, I think the primary role of a pastor in a way is, right, equipping the saints to do the work of ministry, Ephesians 4, 11 and 12.

And I think a prime place to allow people to exercise their gifts and play that out. And so when you give someone a three, four, five months, and that might be, Hey, we’re just going to meet once a month for two hours. Like we’re not going to burn you out before you ever start leading. Uh, right. And, and you know, the staff person or the pastor probably enjoys that way more to, you know, spreading that out. Um, you get a front row seat.

Kristin Fry 

Hahaha.

Right, right.

Adam Erlichman 

to see them explore a call to possibly lead. And to step into a space that they may have never believed that they could, and they needed a little bit more, and I like how Robbie Gowdy says, they need a little bit more God-fidence in their life.

To just believe like, hey, God could use me in this way. And the life stories of transformation and people’s lives that are touched through them saying yes, it’s incredible.

Kristin Fry 

Wow, do you have an example or a story or two about actual real life churches that have adopted group leader training, sort of the success story, what, how has this transformed or changed or encouraged a church who has adopted this and started applying some of these principles and this training within their church?

Adam Erlichman 

Yeah, so I can give you probably macro examples of just like metrics, right? That would say to that. And then there’s, you know, micro examples, obviously too, of just stories of, you know, I think the quantity is important to measure, but also the quality of just immeasurable spiritual value that’s being added where you’ve got the single mother who’s moving out of a home because

Kristin Fry 

Yes, yes.

Adam Erlichman 

She got saved a year ago and through a group and a community she’s belonged to, they’ve helped show her that, man, you want to be wedded. You don’t want to be out of wedlock living with a man. And so taking that repentant next step to step out and having no one there on move out day and then man, the group shows up, uh, you know, shows up, helps move helps. I mean, not just advise, you should do this, but walks through that. One of the hardest moments.

Of yeah, single mother’s life, right? And so, I mean, there’s that example, there’s so many examples. I remember I was sitting down at a Fuzzy’s taco and I was talking to a guy and his group leader had told me, hey, I think this guy would be an incredible group leader. I said, I agree, I’m gonna go get you lunch, I’m gonna talk with them. And so I sit down, I said, hey, your group leader thinks that you’d be a great future new group leader because of this, this and this.

Kristin Fry 

Yeah.

Adam Erlichman 

And then he begins to choke on his taco and he’s like, Oh man, uh, you know, that makes me really uncomfortable that you just said that. Right. And, uh, but I know God wants me to get uncomfortable. So like, I’m open to this. And, and so he, I just, I got a front row seat to watch the Holy spirit, like move and convict and make him uncomfortable to say yes to the calling God had put in his life that he wasn’t aware of yet. Right. And so you get to see people become more than what they realize that they could be. And to.

I mean, another instance, like a dad who had just been disengaged, not involved in church and joined a group, took two years to get him into a group. He gets into a group, he’s going and then like a month in, he’s now leading family devotions with his family, you know, at dinnertime. And like total 180 and that’s the power of groups, right?

Kristin Fry 

Wow, wow, right, right.

Adam Erlichman 

So that’s some of the macro level, the metric stuff you would see, right, with the way that we do groups, because groups are not just about fellowship and study. Groups are a prime place to mobilize people into action, into service, into sharing their faith, and that’s what Jesus did, right? A step of discipleship was moving his disciples into service.

And so we train group leaders to do that. So in our resource, that’s one of the five sessions is we train group leaders. How do you mobilize people to activate their gifts and begin using them? How do you as a group begin to share your faith? How do you guys as a team or as a community begin to be evangelistic and not just sit in a seat and learn your Bible for 10, 15, 20 years, but that you go actually live it out, right?

Kristin Fry 

Yeah.

Adam Erlichman 

But yeah, those are some of the examples of what we’ve seen come out of that, yeah.

Kristin Fry 

Wow, I agree with you. There’s just something so powerful that happens when we get into intentional community, the way that God changes us, the way our hearts expand for God, for people, for the people in our context, and then kind of on the periphery. There’s just something very, very powerful about how God has wired us in the context of relationships and relationships matter. And so I love that you are training churches and group leaders to walk toward intentional relationships and connection. Really. And it made me think of a question while you were talking. What in your opinion do you think is the biggest barrier or hesitancy for churches who were a little bit on the fence of going all in with groups and for whatever reason?

But what do you think prevents churches from really taking that step toward building this healthy framework of small groups within their church?

Adam Erlichman 

trust. It comes down to trust. You go back to the process of reformation, even Martin Luther, he had a vision to equip home group leaders and because of the movement and the potential of losing the influence he needed to move the process of reformation forward, he cut that. He said, we’re not going to risk it. That could get us some bad publicity. And so for churches today,

Who have hybrid models on campus groups, off campus groups, midsize groups, small groups. And so whether that’s a Sunday school or that’s life group, whatever you wanna call them, I work with all of those. And so what I see most often, whether it’s on or off campus, but especially for off campus, because there’s a higher level of trust that’s required, it really comes down to trust. Are we willing to release people?

Kristin Fry 

Right.

Adam Erlichman 

to live out their calling and to live out the gift and God has woven into them and put into them to let that, are we willing to take the time one to help cultivate and develop those things to get into a place where they can be trustworthy. And so like with group leader training, in our five month process, we do five sessions over five months, but you know, churches can do whatever timeline they want with the five sessions in the workbook.

What we say is if we invest a lot in the front end, we can have a lot of trust on the back end.

And that also really increased our retention rate of the amount of group leaders that came back the next season. We would, we would only have about 2% loss or, you know, churn, if you will, of our group leaders from semester to semester to semester. And, and, and that’s significant for the longevity and the health of a group’s ministry that builds a culture, which, you know, it’s good to have strategy, but as said many times, culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Kristin Fry 

Yeah.

Adam Erlichman 

If you have people were in this for the long haul, that’s huge. And so for pastors and for staff and, and I’ll be, and I empathize with elders and staff, there have been instances of different churches where it wasn’t totally thought out and a lot of freedom was given to groups and you get some messes, man, I mean, and so that’s, it’s important to have an intentional investment on the front end to prevent a mess on the back end. Um, but I would say this is.

They are dangerous. Groups are very dangerous. They can be to forces of darkness, to Satan, to sin. And at the end of the day, if you’re willing to have an intentional investment process upfront and begin to be proactive, it’s worth the risk. I mean, the reward is so, so high. And I could just sit and tell people for hours why it is worth it. So yeah, that’s what I see as a.

Kristin Fry 

Hmm.

Adam Erlichman 

A roadblock and there’s plenty of ways to get past that and into just, I mean, all that God intended for this to be, just the beauty of it.

Kristin Fry 

Have you seen churches that were maybe sitting in that seat that were hesitant and there was that one thing that sort of tipped them over the edge of, okay, we’ll just take a step toward giving this a shot and then real and then seeing that sort of open up the floodgates to a world that they never even thought possible. I mean, I’m assuming that you’ve experienced that working with churches. Is that sort of a fair assumption?

Adam Erlichman 

A hundred percent. Yeah, that’s fair. And I, and I, I’ll take it as a compliment. Thank you. So, um, yeah, you know, so generally I, you know, when, when we go to work with a church and we consult them, uh, you know, the, the expectation is we’re going to increase your volunteer base or your group leader base by 30 to 50% and we say that because that’s, that’s what, oh, it’s, I mean, it’s life-changing for most churches, it is a game changer.

Kristin Fry 

Yeah

Ooh, that’s a good percentage.

Adam Erlichman 

Whether you’re a kids minister, kids director, or a group’s pastor, director. I mean, you go, man, hey, how would it change your world if you had 30, 50% more volunteers or leaders? And that’s what we do again and again and again through this process where we help them discover, develop and deploy potential new volunteers and leaders. And we help them custom build that for their context in their church. And we’ve got the resources, obviously, that undergird and help a lot of that too.

So, you know, to answer that question, we see that it can make a significant impact. It can make a big difference of moving that needle and then go, well, if you’re telling me this is what my world could be, then yes, let’s take those steps. And you just start to see a total mentality shift. You see a paradigm break in a good way into a new place that…

Kristin Fry 

Wow.

Adam Erlichman 

They get to begin ministering not out of desperation of, hey, come join this, come jump on this ministry ship that is sinking in on fire. Because we don’t have enough, we don’t have enough people. We need more people, say it from the stage again, please pastor, put in the announce. Instead, it’s, we operate from a full bench of so many people who are ready to jump in, right? And,

Kristin Fry 

Yes.

Adam Erlichman 

They enjoy it far more. They love to do the ministry far more, these leaders and volunteers, because they’re not desperate and they’re not in a scarcity mindset. They’re not at a scarcity of slots being filled to service in. And so, yeah, when you paint some of that picture and people start to see that happening, it changes a lot in a good way.

Kristin Fry 

Gosh, I bet. Well, group leader training is such a needed resource. So thank you, number one, for writing it. Thank you for having this conversation. And before we wrap up, how can people connect with you? What if someone is listening and they want to learn more about build groups? What if someone is listening and they think, gosh, yes, group leader training is what we need. How do they get it?

Adam Erlichman 

Yes, so it is available on Amazon. And as of just this month, we now have bulk order options on our website. So buildgroups.net. You can go there, buildgroups.net, email. You can email me, adam at buildgroups.net. And we can get you all hooked up, get you all those resources. We do up to a 50% discount for bulk orders off of the list price that you’ll see there. And…

Yeah, so I mean, and if in a consulting side of things or whatever, if it’s not just the resource, my cell phone number is 434-444-6376. And some people say I’m crazy to do this, but I just did that. So we’re good. But buildgroups.net, get it on Amazon, go to our website, email adam at buildgroups.net, or you can shoot me a text message. So.

Kristin Fry 

Perfect, bold move giving out your phone number. Bold move. Well, thank you, thank you. Yeah, yeah, you can report back later and let us know about that. But thank you for having this conversation. I really appreciate it. I think it’s valuable and helpful. So thank you for taking time.

Adam Erlichman 

We’ll see how that goes. Yeah.

Absolutely, Kristin. And thanks for having me on. I love talking about, we could just, I could go on forever. And so thanks for just giving me a little bit of time to share my heart, my love, and passion. I’m just wanting to see the church do and cultivate more of this. Thanks.