Not All Small-Group Leaders Are Shepherds…and That’s OK!

We need to break the leadership mold that has been cast around the spiritual gift of a shepherd.

Over the years, dialogue about small group leadership has revolved around the gifting of a "shepherd." This thinking has been so pervasive that it is often assumed the best small group leaders are people with the spiritual gift of shepherd. The role, or gifting, of a shepherd will always be a major factor in how we view and discuss small group leadership, but it is time for the mold that has been cast around the spiritual gift of a shepherd to be broken. One of the problems that comes with defining small group leaders as "shepherds" (or "shepherd-leaders") is that somebody who does not have shepherding tendencies may think he or she is not called to be a small group leader. That is generally not true.

Not all small group leaders are meant to be shepherds. In fact, the most effective leader for a small group may NOT be a shepherd.

For example, a group that has an evangelistic focus will probably be better served by someone whose dominant spiritual gift is that of evangelism rather than that of a shepherd. Do not get me wrong, it is great when a small group leader has the spiritual gift of shepherd, but not all do. Arguably, most small group leaders do not have a strong gifting in shepherding, and the answer is not to train them to be shepherds. We need to utilize people's strengths without compromising the role a small group leader plays in a group.

Regardless of a person's spiritual gifting, to unleash the full potential of small group leadership you first have to dispel common assumptions about a leader's role that can be either implied or self-assigned. For example, popular explanations of small group leaders today make them out to be the caretakers of their group members or even responsible for the spiritual success of ...

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