Talking with an ineffective leader is challenging. Whether it's a small-group leader who refuses to attend leadership meetings, a small-group leader who is dominating the group, or a small-group coach who doesn't have enough time to care for his or her leaders, we need to act quickly and resolve the issue in a positive way.
There are countless scenarios that we encounter in small-group ministry where leaders need to be addressed. It can be awkward, complicated, and result in hurt feelings. But it doesn't have to be that way. You can work with your leaders and restore them to fruitfulness with these tips.
Love Your Leaders
Don't miss this. It's easy to grind your teeth when you think about your ineffective leaders. However, there are a variety of reasons why leaders find themselves not being able to fulfill their roles. Our job is to equip people so they can fulfill their roles. Seek to understand what's at the root of the problem. Find out what is going on the leader's life. Is it guilt over some hidden sin, an awkward relational conflict, or a leader who is serving outside of his or her gifts? Whatever you do, avoid the temptation to demonize leaders. Communicate that you care more about who they are than what they do.
Don't Put It Off
Many small-group directors are in their role because they are pastoral and know how to care for people. They can see the best in people and are understanding of people's life situations. A temptation can exist for those of us with a shepherd's heart to sweep the issues under the rug and hope the situation will just get better. However, having an ineffective leader in any role is just like Proverbs 25:19 says: "chewing with a broken tooth" (NLT). Don't expect to get much done with ineffective leaders continuing in their current state! It will be painful for everyone they lead and will only become increasingly more painful the longer they're allowed to lead with their blind spot. Ignoring the problem doesn't honor the leader or anybody else.
What do you expect of your leaders in your context? Do you have a clarified set of leadership expectations?
For instance, do your leaders need to attend your church? Though that may sound like a no-brainer, I once discovered that one of my small-group leaders had stopped attending our church. She started developing a house church, and fell out of the communication loop of our church. As time went on, she became less effective in her role, and she began to lose credibility as a leader. It was easy for me to challenge her because we are very clear in our leadership expectations about leaders regularly attending our weekend services. If we hadn't been clear up front, it may have been a trickier conversation.
Be careful, though, not to set the bar so high that Jesus wouldn't meet the requirements. We explain our expectations in terms of "spiritual velocity." We recognize that people aren't perfect on all things, but we do hope that they are moving in the direction of all of our leadership expectations. Do your leaders value your expectations? Are they growing into the expectations? Make sure you have clear expectations, and then communicate them. Make the expectations available, too, so that leaders can share them with their apprentices.
Describe a Win
How do your leaders know when they're winning? Andy Stanley and North Point Community Church do a great job of clarifying the win for their ministry leaders. Stanley says that it's not enough to clarify a win for the entire small-group ministry. Your leaders need to know what a win looks like for their specific role. When it comes to apprenticing a leader, what does a win look like? What does a win look like when it comes to serving together as a group? How about in terms of following up on small-group member prospects?