If you’re a listener of this podcast, you likely understand the great importance of small groups and how they’re a big part of growing the faith of kids and adults alike. However, the commonly used phrase, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” can also apply to small groups: If small group leaders and the people who oversee them don’t communicate the strategies and wins that make a small group thrive, nobody wins.

In today’s episode of the Think Orange Podcast, you’ll hear from Tom Shefchunas, Director of Strategy at Orange, Afton Phillips Director of Lead Small at Orange, and Ashley Bohinc, Director of Middle School Strategy at Orange. Together, they’ll discuss how you can set your small group leaders up for success.

Where To Listen:  iTunes  |  Google Play  |  Stitcher  |  SoundCloud

Topic Timeline

Dave introduces podcast guests Tom Shefchunas, director of strategy at Orange, Afton Phillips, director of lead small at Orange, and Ashley Bohinc, director of middle school strategy at Orange (:38)

Ashley says ministry isn’t possible without your volunteers. What is their win? How can you set them up for success? (2:54)

How a lot of ministries miss the clear win of training small group leaders to lead students (3:32)

Ashley talks about Lead Small and Creating A Lead Small Culture books and how they shaped her work experience (5:13)

Tom shares a story about a recent failure they had as a team due to a lack of clarity (12:20)

When there is confusion on what’s most important, people do everything, which leads to feelings of frustration (14:22)

Tom talks about improving the structure and empowering the leaders of small groups (15:19)

Tom shares how you unintentionally short-circuit the power of what happens in small group (20:16)

Afton and Ashley introduce themselves and their roles at Orange (23:34)

What clarifying the win of small group leaders is from the perspective of Afton and Ashley (24:20)

What are the benefits of a church setting small group leaders for success? (25:16)

Afton shares her experience of leading her small group of third graders (25:45)

Ashley shares how church leaders should inform small group leaders about what to anticipate this week from the kids (27:33)

Afton says retaining a small group leader is even better than recruiting one (28:40)

It’s OK for a small group leader to not always have all the answers (29:14)

Small group leaders quit because they don’t have access to their leaders (30:16)

Afton and Ashley answer how they’d answer a kid who asks if dinosaurs are in the Bible (31:45)

Ashley shares an experience she had with a sixth grader in a small group setting (33:00)

You can teach kids and students to play with the Bible and have an open dialogue (33:45)

What does it look like for a church to incorporate a training throughout the year for small group leaders? (35:27)

Afton talks about Weekly and how it benefits small group leaders (36:41)

When you have focus group time, you find out what you’re doing well and what needs to change (37:23)

How to structure your ministry for growth through strategic organization and introducing a coaching system (39:33)

How to help your small group leaders grow (41:08)

Afton and Ashley share their advice on how small group leaders can talk to their leaders about their ideas (42:44)

What ministry leaders can do to change their culture to include the coaching system (44:23)

How to incorporate necessary changes in your small group model (45:32)

Ashley and Dave give closing remarks (47:36)

People, Places & Helpful Resources

Featured Guests

Tom Shefchunas


Tom is the Director of Strategy at Orange. Tom’s passion involves working with campus directors and their teams. He is the co-founder of Uthmin.net, a place for middle school ministers to gather. Tom also co-wrote Lead Small with Reggie Joiner, a resource for children and student small group leaders. Tom and his wife Julie live in Cumming, Georgia, with their three children, Mac, Joey and Cooper.

Afton Phillips


Afton Phillips is the Lead Small Director at Orange and the author of The Art of Group Talk: How to Lead Better Conversations with Kidswhich basically means she has been thinking about small groups, small group leaders, and small group strategies every single day since 2012.

Before that, she spent three years working in children’s ministry at Browns Bridge Church and graduated from Johnson University with a degree in children’s ministry. But most importantly, Afton leads a small group of second graders every Sunday. If you want to be Afton’s best friend, all you need to do is buy her a black coffee and let her wear a tiara all day.

Ashley Bohinc, The Think Orange Podcast Host


Ashley serves as the Director of Middle School Strategy at Orange and the USA Director of Carry 117. She has worked with students in public education, athletic and ministry settings for the last 12 years. She is most passionate about resourcing the local church, communicating on stage, developing leaders, working with students and world missions. In her downtime, you’ll find her watching Friends, cheering on the Cleveland Cavaliers, traveling, reading, or on one of her Fairytale Friday Adventures.

Quotes from This Episode

Ideas to Influence the Next Generation

1. Train your small group leaders continually.

Training should happen often, not just once a year. As the kids grow, the small group leaders’ roles evolve and they’ll need help navigating what’s ahead.

2. Keep the channels of communication open.

Open dialogue helps you learn from each other, celebrate wins, and improve in the necessary areas.

3. Introduce a coaching system.

Small group leaders need constant support. Implement an organizational chart that gives them someone to talk to directly.

Conversation Starters For Your Church

As a church, what can we do to make our small groups better?

When was the last time we sat down with our small group leaders for an update and to celebrate our successes?

How can we make sure our small group leaders are also growing spiritually?

Your Hosts

Dave Adamson, The Think Orange Podcast Host


When he’s not working as a pastor at North Point Ministries in Atlanta, Dave is usually making his family cross their arms, roll their eyes, and tap their feet while he takes “just one more quick photo” on family outings. You’ll also often find him up to his neck in “Jewish stuff” as he researches the cultural context of Jesus for his daily Instagram devotions. Learn more about Dave at daveadamson.tv.

Join Us Next Week

Thank you for listening to the Think Orange Podcast.

We hope you’ll join us for next week’s episode. More importantly, we hope that when you think next generation, you think Orange.