Ken Long

3 Cross-Training Exercises for Small Group Leaders

March 31, 2015

Biblical Counseling and Small Group Ministry--3 Cross-Training Exercises for Small Group Leaders
Ken Long

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Ken Long

Biblical Counseling and Small Group Ministry--3 Cross-Training Exercises for Small Group Leaders

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading Part Two in a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on biblical counseling and small group ministry. In today’s post, Pastor Ken Long explains how to train small group leaders who are also trained as biblical counselors. You can also read Part One in this series by Garrett Higbee at: 3 Functions of the Small Group Coach.

Cross-Training for Cross-Centered Ministry

A term now commonly used in the world of sports and athletic conditioning is cross-training. Wikipedia (March 4, 2015) states that “cross-training refers to the combining of exercises to work various parts of the body. Often one particular activity works certain muscle groups, but not others; cross-training aims to eliminate this.”

Just as cross-training is valuable for the athlete, it is also valuable for a small group leader. Similar to cross-training for an athlete, cross-training for a small group leader is a combination of exercises designed to fully equip a potential leader to be used by God as an instrument to transform those in their small group.

Typical training for a small group leader involves teaching how to ask inductive Bible study questions, how to recruit people for their group, how to be hospitable, etc. These are valuable, but the training of a small group leader who leads a transformational small group needs to be more extensive. Presented here for your consideration are three additional training exercises for small group leaders so they are cross-trained for transformational ministry.

1. Leaders participate in theological training.

“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16, NIV).

Some type of leadership training for small group leaders is nothing out of the ordinary. But training that provides a robust, deep understanding of theology is cross-training since it is not usually part of the training for small group leaders. For two years, participants meet once a month for three hours to discuss the reading assignment by sharing their written responses to provided questions.

Throughout the first year, potential small group leaders study most of Grudem’s Systematic Theology (the full version). During the second year, they work through eight books also dealing with theology such as Knowing God by Packer and Trusting God by Bridges. Along with these readings, verses are memorized that correspond to truths being emphasized in their reading. This component of the cross-training is rigorous and demanding, but over the years more than 400 of our people have completed this cross-training.

2. Leaders complete Fundamentals of Biblical Counseling training.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, NIV).

This step of training falls into the category of “cross-training” since it is also outside the box of typical training for small group leaders. Most people would initially think that this kind of training would only be for biblical counselors. This cross-training is the initial 30 hours of biblical counseling training based on the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) model. Having this biblical counseling background has been invaluable for our small group leaders to be able to be effective and fruitful. When a soul care issue comes up in small group, the leader has confidence that the Scriptures have the hope and help needed. By the Spirit’s power, the leader gives hope and initial help from God’s Word.

3. Leaders demonstrate being used by God to restore others in a spirit of gentleness in the transformational process.

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2, NIV).

Practicing being used by our God to restore others caught in sin is a key element of the cross-training for small group leaders. There is more to serving a small group than just having a warm heart toward Jesus and His people. There is more to being a leader than studying theology or attending Fundamentals of Biblical Counseling. Small group leaders must be able to help their people live lives that are pleasing to God.

Periodically, this will mean that a leader will need to come alongside another sinning believer to scripturally instruct for the purpose of God-glorifying change. So that a potential leader has been trained to do this, they begin serving as an apprentice leader in a small group under the care of a spiritual small group leader. This leader will give the apprentice leader opportunities to be gently used as an instrument of righteous in other people’s lives. The leader and apprentice leader will serve in tandem helping others grow in Christlikeness and helping the apprentice leader grow in effective, gentle transformational teaching.


Just as it is important for an athlete to be cross-trained so that they are fully equipped to compete well in the contest, it is important for small group leaders to be cross-trained so they are fully equipped to serve well in the care of their people. A cross-trained small group leader in the fundamentals of biblical theology and biblical counseling will be able to give triage hope and help from the Scriptures to one of their people struggling under the circumstances and temptations of life.

A “cross-trained” small group leader in theology and biblical counseling will be “admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that (they) may present everyone fully mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28b, NIV). Yes, and we all know that “Cross-training” is really about just more about Him and His Cross for us!

Join the Conversation

For your church’s small group ministry, do your leaders need to be cross-trained beyond what is typically provided for a small group leader for them to have a long and fruitful ministry for our Lord?

2 thoughts on “3 Cross-Training Exercises for Small Group Leaders

  1. Love the wisdom and insight of this! What a blessing to be part of the body that pours into their leaders in this way. I would like to get a list of the books that are discussed in the second year of training.

  2. Deb, Ken asked me to share these with you:

    For Men:
    Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders, 179
    Knowing God, J.I. Packer, 279
    Trusting God, Jerry Bridges, 232
    The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges, 242
    Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible, Erwin Lutzer, 212
    Why Small Groups, C.J. Mahaney, 113
    The Heart of Anger, Lou Priolo, 200
    Disciplines of a Godly Man, R. Kent Hughes, 230
    The Complete Husband, Lou Priolo, 292

    For Women:
    Knowing God, J.I. Packer, 279
    Trusting God, Jerry Bridges, 232
    The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges, 242
    Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible, Erwin Lutzer, 212
    Why Small Groups, C.J. Mahaney, 113
    The Enemy Within, Kris Lundgaard, 150
    Helper By Design, Elyse Fitzpatrick, 208
    Peacemaking For Families, Ken Sande, 200
    The Dangerous Duty of Delight, John Piper, 84

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