Besides helping the information "stick," this type of teaching affirms that the leaders are capable and spiritually gifted, and that their experiences matter.
Imagination Enables Envisioning
In my experience, information lies dormant until it is fused with imagination and inspiration. Without imagination, small-group leaders will not be able to envision how the information should impact their life, role, and group. The goal of imagination is to enable leaders to envision the way things could be.
I've often found that people don't often feel the freedom to use their imaginations. So the first step in encouraging imagination is often giving them "license" to imagine. When I train leaders, I want them to know they have license to imagine how the training, resources, and vision apply to their specific contexts. I want them to take the principles and use their imagination to decide how they best apply to their groups.
My experience has also taught me that I need to do more than simply encourage leaders to be imaginative—I need to develop their imagination. To help develop imagination I will often tell stories of how others have been imaginative. I also love to ask people to draw pictures of what the future could look like if they put their training into action. I then ask them to explain their picture to me and to any others who are present.
Drawing pictures has proven to be a powerful way to teach people how to use their imagination, but it is just one of many options. You might also use Play-Doh, sticky notes, or paper and scissors. What other methods can you use? What might it look like for you to encourage your leaders to use their imagination to envision the way things could be? You'll need to answer these questions if you want to help your leaders imagine what their groups could look like.
Inspiration Enables Transformation
Inspiration is the element that enables leaders to transform the way things are. Training that does not inspire will never lead to any meaningful development in the leader or change in the group. Inspiration provides the energy necessary for the conversion of information and imagination into action. Those responsible for training future leaders need to develop ways to spark and sustain inspiration in their leaders.
At the 2007 Willow Creek Leadership Summit, Bill Hybels said, "The single most powerful way to motivate the people around you is to live a motivated life in front of them." I think he is right. Nothing is more inspirational than an inspired person; nothing is more contagious than the life of an inspired leader. Good leaders can only effectively train other leaders if they maintain their own inspiration for the mission at hand. If you want to train small-group leaders, be passionate for the vision behind your ministry and inspired in the way you live your life.