1) Discipleship. Where did it go?
The last time I read my Bible, the Great Commandment was still in force. If the church was busy making disciples, we'd have more small group leaders than we could handle.
Oddly enough, when I ask pastors of leader-starved small group ministries to tell me about their discipleship path to spiritual maturity—you know, the one that every single member of the small groups is moving through—I hear, "We decided to go ahead and train leaders and launch groups. We haven't crossed that bridge yet."
The naked truth is rather obvious, isn't it? If a church doesn't maintain a dogged determination to disciple people into spiritual maturity and enter into small group ministry with discipleship at the center of it, they'll always be starved for leaders.
2) Relational coaching is weak or non-existent.
Traditionally, the existing small group leader has the task of finding and training someone to take over his or her group so a new one can start out of the original group. I don't care what the books by experts say. This doesn't happen consistently in any of my groups. It takes an additional friendship with the coach for it to happen.
Sadly, most coaching structures in churches are new and frail. When I encourage coaches to befriend future leaders, either the pastor over groups or the coaches themselves tell me they do not have the time to do this. In fact, the coaches complain that they have been asked to do too much already, and can't visit groups now and then or meet with leaders consistently.
The naked truth here is that appointing coaches and assuming they are investing in the lives of their existing leaders as well as future leaders is foolish.
So who's to blame?
You decide. Is it the senior pastor who uses small groups solely for a retention strategy for his rapidly congregation? Or does the blame go to the short-sighted leadership team who wants a small group program to increase member fellowship and community?
I do not believe I corner the market on the truth. So, you tell me. Who's to blame?