Those who decide in the parking lot that this journey sounds like a good idea will move on to the trailhead. We might expect that once people have left the parking lot and decided to hike the path, they would just get on the trail and start going. Not so. It seems we invariably feel the need to stop at that trailhead sign to get all the information we can before we start moving ahead. Committing to forward movement is, for whatever reason, a two step process. We need two rounds of asking our questions. The first (the parking lot) is more general: “Where would we be going? Would that be a worthwhile place to go?”  Then we leave the parking lot, saying, “Yeah, I think I want to go. I’ll get more information.”  The second round of questions, at the trailhead just before we begin gets more specific:  “So where exactly are we going again? What is that going to look like? What is going to be involved?”

At the trailhead stage, people need some more information to commit to making the trip. In most churches and ministries, the trailhead stage takes the form of an initial orientation. Note that I said orientation—not training. Training they’ll get along the way. Orientation is more about what to expect—don’t make it too content-heavy.  The potential small group leader may listen attentively while the trainer describes how to handle conflict situations, but she won’t really learn how to do it until she runs into a conflict in her own group and has to address it. Orientation is not training.

Orientations are just what they sound like—a place to get oriented before going where we’re going. We don’t need to know all about the papers and forms… just where to look and who to ask when we get to that point. At the orientation, we look at the map, glean what we can, then start the journey.

Trailhead questions:

  • So where exactly are we going again?
  • Who else is going on this journey?
  • What do we want to accomplish?
  • What’s going to happen once we get started?
  • What support is available along the way?

Note: part of a series from From Followers to Leaders.  See Feb 21 blog entry for backstory.