Note: This article has been excerpted with permission from Renewing Your Church Through Healthy Small Groups, by Diana C. Bennett.
Since healthy small-group leadership is so strategic in the life of a church, no one wants to end up in a laissez-faire style group led by an unprepared leader. It's such a wasted opportunity! If you are directing a small-group ministry, you want to create an atmosphere where people recognize that it is a privilege to be asked to lead. Unfortunately, many potential small-group leaders don't believe they're qualified.
In anticipation of this response, it is helpful to look at basic requirements for being a small-group leader. No seminary degrees necessary here!
1. Involved church member
Church membership (or something equivalent) is many times the first requirement. In some cases, agreement with the statement of faith is sufficient. In my experience at our church where fifty percent of the congregation transitions at least every two years, many experienced and gifted small-group leaders don't become members for their short period of time in the area. Through interviews, testimonies, and getting to know an individual, we decide whether we feel confident in inviting the person into leadership.
Secondly, any potential small-group leader should have experience as a participant in a small group. When a person expresses an interest in small-group leadership, I want to hear about their small-group experiences in the past. If a potential leader has not experienced a small group, it is always wise to suggest joining a group as a participant before pursuing the leadership role.
2. Understands biblical principles and desires to grow and learn
Each leader must have a good grasp of the Gospel message. Finding time on a daily basis to read and reflect on God's Word is essential. As leaders, we look to grow spiritually along with our group. Seeking God's will through personal prayer and study is critical for the journey to spiritual maturity. Being a humble, caring, relational person, with the desire to grow spiritually and in service to others, is a mark of biblical leadership.
Part of the growing and learning process is recognizing and accepting our strengths and weaknesses. Remember Moses' situation as he tried to hear and solve everyone's problems. God uses each of us in our diversity. Through various God-given gifts or acquired skills, we can minister in different ways. Knowing where we are strong allows us to excel in particular areas. It doesn't mean we do everything ourselves; instead, delegation, modeling, and encouragement are essential for leader development.
Knowing our weaknesses prevents us from trying to do everything ourselves. It is far wiser to delegate responsibilities to others who seem to be more efficient in particular areas. We cannot do all and be all as leaders of a small group, and it isn't healthy to try. The excitement of diversity reinforces the fact that we are part of the body of Christ, each one contributing to the small-group experience. Strive to be a servant leader and to know your strengths and weakness.
3. Understands the commitment
If a potential leader is participating in several ministries and leading a small group is just one more thing to do, he or she will need to stop and carefully evaluate whether the time is right to take on small-group leadership. You may suggest a potential leader seek spiritual discernment by praying through his or her schedule. When people do enter into small-group leadership, they must clear space in their schedules to be the caring shepherds their small-group members need.