Promoting Partnership and Teamwork in Small-Group Ministry

Promoting Partnership and Teamwork in Small-Group Ministry

The importance of sharing as a leadership trait.

Sharing is a fundamental concept. Most of us learned how to do it in kindergarten. So why do so many people still struggle with it?

Sharing is also an elementary aspect of small-group life. The fact is, if you have surrendered your leadership to God, you will find it natural to share leadership with others. If you are shepherding group members toward spiritual growth, you will realize that as you guide them toward Christ-likeness, you are moving them onward to servant-leadership. If you are truly serving the group, you will let them do some of the leading. Learning to share happens in stages: promoting partnership and building teamwork.

Promote Partnership

On a group mountain bike ride, we were rolling alongside a creek when my front tire hit a deep rut, throwing me off. My bike fell about eight feet toward the creek. I went down after it, of course, but then I could get neither myself nor my bike up the creek’s steep, muddy embankment. Fortunately, my friend David was right there to pull me up. It reminded me of a favorite Bible verse: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecc. 4:9–10).

I’ve learned a lot about Christian life on my bicycle. I used to ride alone most of the time, but I’ve learned that group rides are best! I like having others there to pick me up. I enjoy encouraging one another and pushing each other to go farther, faster, and more dangerously! I love the return for our work when several of us on our road bikes take turns at the front of a pace line as the others draft and get a break. Drafting is a cycling technique that utilizes the law of aerodynamics to create a wake behind the lead rider, but, even more so, it utilizes the laws of partnership.

Two are better than one on the road, on the trail, and all along the journey. I see the same principles at work in healthy small groups:

  • When groups ride through life together―not just attend meetings together―life is better. God created us to live life in partnership with others.
  • We need others to “pick us up.” In group life, we need to become less independent, yet not unhealthily dependent on each other. The aim is a healthy interdependence, a partnership.
  • When individuals take turns at the front and everyone plays a part in the group’s work, a tremendous, synergistic return for the work results.
  • We should have pity―compassion―for the person who does not have this kind of community.

Build Teamwork

I was selected as the biggest Michael Jordan fan in Anderson, Indiana, in 1993, the year of MJ’s first retirement. I was selected mostly because I had named my first son after him―well, kind of. My son’s name is Jordan Michael; he was born during the 1992 NBA Playoffs, and watched his first game with me that same night at the hospital. I like Michael Jordan for a reason: I like basketball and he is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. Yet, his first NBA team, the Chicago Bulls, did not win the NBA championship until his seventh season. That’s when they assembled a great team around the world’s greatest player. To become a winning team, they had to learn everyone―not just the leader―brings something to the group, how to practice teamwork drills, and how to remove the obstacles to teamwork.

Everyone Brings Something to the Group

Small groups are much like sport teams. One player, or one leader, does not make a winning team. It takes participation by everyone―teamwork. That’s the essence of the apostle Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 12 of the church as a body: “[T]he body is not made up of one part but of many” (v. 14). What goes for the church as a whole also goes for your small group. Although one person may lead as the group’s shepherd, each person has a gift to share with the rest of the group. Some may lead in hospitality, others may lead in administration, serving, encouraging, contributing to others’ needs, or showing mercy.

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