Small Group Leadership Essentials with Carolyn Taketa

Q Do you need some encouragement, fresh strategies and practical advice as a small group point person? If your answer is “Yes,” then you’ve come to the right place!

Carolyn Taketa is the Executive Director of Small Groups at Calvary Community Church in West Lake Village, CA. She is the author for such publishers as “Christianity Today” and Host of the Small Group Network’s “Group Talk” Podcast. In this month’s video interview, I ask Carolyn the following questions in this exciting interview…

  • What is one challenge that you face as a small group point person and how do you go about addressing it?
  • What small group model do you employ at your church, what do you like about it and how does it work?
  • When it comes to coaching small group leaders, what is one piece of practical advice you would offer?
  • When it comes to actually hosting a small group, what is your number one piece of advice for hosts?
  • What is one or more books on leadership or small groups that you would recommend?
  • What is one reason you would give for why people should attend“The Lobby” gathering in SoCal March 2017?

3 Keys To Soaring Summer Small Groups


Last month we launched our summer term of small groups & have seen hundreds of un-connected people get connected into community! We’ve seen new friendships being made, families growing deeper in faith & lots of fun being had! We’ve seen many new leaders rise up to use their God-given gifts in leading & facilitating these groups! Praise God!

Summer doesn’t have to be a time to hit cruise & watch your small group ministry fade! By using the 3 keys below, I believe your summer small groups can soar!

#1 Think “Outside” the Box

In the fall & winter terms, all of our groups gather in homes, but in the summer we do a hybrid of both home groups & interest based groups that gather outside! Yes, many people are traveling during the summer, however I’ve found most are not all out-of-town at the same time! Therefore, think outside the box of ways to gather people into community! Hint: Outdoors, fitness, BBQ’s, etc

“A church must grow larger and smaller at the same time. Larger through worship and smaller through small groups.” – Rick Warren (

#2 Recruit Leaders Who are Hiding in the Shadows

Due to travel, several of our key hosts were unavailable to lead home groups this summer. Yet, because we had already been thinking “Outside” the box, it was easy to start identifying & recruiting leaders who were hiding in the shadows that might have been previously overlooked. Most of these leaders had experience in or a passion for one of our special interest groups or home group curriculums.

“Raising up new leaders is an intentional process, rooted in Biblical discipleship, that deepens peoples’ commitment to Christ and His kingdom.” – Andrew Mason (

#3 Promote Groups With an Appeal to People’s Summer Interests 

Our special interest groups include: a geo-caching expedition group, a couple of softball groups, a mommies group, a bicycling group, a baking group, a motorcycle group, a mountain biking group, a couple of fitness groups & an intro to music group – all of which incorporate a quick time of prayer! Our home groups are video driven & topical based.  If asked, I think most people would be very interested in this type of community! The focus is not so much promoting summer small groups, but promoting community, the outdoors & discipleship!

“When we have fun, we can invite people along who might not be ready to attend a Bible study or go to church, giving them an opportunity to begin building relationships with other people who are followers of Jesus.” – Will Johnston (

What else are you doing to cause your summer small groups to soar?



Are you a new small group leader or host? Has your new group already launched and started rolling? Hopefully by now your group has gathered a few times, experienced genuine community and everyone is excited for the future! However, when it comes to leading a small group, there is something important you must know: Many start fast, few finish strong. In the end, your small group’s success will rise or fall on your leadership! It does not necessarily matter how big your group starts or how great your curriculum may be, what matters most is that you are breathing life into your small group and not suffocating the life out of it by doing the following…


6 Keys to Growing Contagious Small Groups for Students

photo-12While there will always be challenges, hardships & areas that need constant improvement in youth ministry, God is always on the move & doing something great in students lives! It’s soooo important to give God glory by celebrating the victories! One of these victories for our youth ministry has been the exponential growth we have seen in our primary small groups called “Elevate,” which meet on Sunday mornings during our 10am worship service. We have seen these small groups

photodouble in size in the last 6 months! Most important though, is the spiritual growth we are seeing in our students as they hear God’s Word & learn how to pray. Here are the 6 key elements we have implemented…

1 Food – Acts 2:46

You can’t have a Christian gathering without food right? How much more for teenagers who walk in half asleep in the morning?! Therefore, we provide sugary morsels to help kick-start their systems & show them we care by creating a hospitable atmosphere.

2 Fun – Mark 10:16photo-10

I imagine that as Jesus held the little children on his lap, that he also had some fun with them! As students begin to wake up & straggle in late, we help “Break the ice” by playing a crazy game to help them get their blood flowing & get them laughing (MS Specific). After a quick game, one of our leaders will lead the group in a “Get-2-know-ya” activity where everyone shares their name & answers a crazy question like “What would your perfect day look like?” This helps set the tone for “Interaction” & gets students ready to share in small groups later.

3 Illustrative Teaching  – Matthew 13:3

We know that Jesus often used parables (Stories), to convey profound truths in simple ways so that people could understand. This is especially key on Sunday mornings when students are tired and still waking up! To convey the profound truth, we package it in a simple way by sharing a short 10-15 teaching using a creative illustration that captures their attention & prepares them to engage in their small groups later.

4 Empower leaders – Mark 6:7photo-1

Jesus spent most his time during his 3 year ministry equipping a small group of leaders. This paid huge dividends as they turned the world upside down after Jesus’ ascension! Leaders begin to “Own” the youth ministry when we move them from spectators or “Helpers,” to participants as we delegate authority to them. We ask all of our interns to serve Sunday mornings at “Elevate” & have trained them how to effectively lead a small-group discussion. They are emailed the discussion guide in advance & are given the freedom to add their own touches to it. Leaders also grow spiritually when we empower them like this because now they are at home studying the Word & praying for God to move in their small group!

5 Community – Acts 2:44

Many students are in boring class-rooms all week where teachers instruct them on various topics that dis-interest them! God forbid that our small group gatherings – where we are sharing the greatest news in the history of the universe – be boring, dry or un-interesting! Therefore, after students have had a donut, played a game, shared their name & heard a captivating teaching – we divide them into small groups for the remainder of the gathering! These small groups are gender & age specific & are led by our adult youth leaders! In these small-groups, community is built as students connect with each-other & their leaders on a much deeper relational level, which in-turn helps them to feel safe enough to read the Bible together, answer questions & apply it to their own life!

6 Prayer – Luke 11:1-4photo-11

Prayer can be intimidating to some students, but if we desire students to grow in their walk with Christ this is a perfect setting to help teach them to pray. As we emphasize how amazing prayer is and how God really does hear us and respond to our cries, we are seeing students open up, pray & believe God for an answer! Our leaders start prayer by asking everyone to share something awesome that God has done in their life recently & then share a prayer need they have. Then each student prays for the person on their right & for God to work in the situation that person shared. Just in the last few weeks, we have seen students opening up & even confessing sin to one-another! Praise God! – Derek & Julie