Perhaps the most exciting and intimidating role a small group leader may play in the lifestyles of small group participants is that of "spiritual guide." The excitement lies in being midwife to another's insight and mentor to another's mission. The intimidation lies in the sheer terror that someone might actually listen to you, follow your advice, and stake their future on your perceptions. There is a fine line between authenticity and ego. Any sensible Christian will fear to cross it. Any faithful Christian must take the risk.
In my experience, there are three ways small group leaders can be trained to be spiritual guides:
First, small group leaders embed the core values, bedrock beliefs, Biblical vision, and key mission that together form the DNA of the spiritual organism of which the small group is one cellular unit (see my book Moving Off the Map for more detail). "Embedding" means that the spiritual guide uses this DNA as the primary vehicle of accountability for small group behavior. Whenever the group meets, the leader asks, "In the time since we last gathered, has any person done anything, intentionally or unintentionally, in the midst of their lifestyle, to contradict our shared values, beliefs, vision, or mission?" Given the sinful nature of human beings (including the spiritual guide), every person from time to time must confess this breach in predictable positive behavior. The leader gathers the group to heal, accept, and then covenant with each person to never do it again.
This act of accountability is like holding a compass before a group of explorers. It shows true north. More importantly, it cements the trust each explorer has in the other for mutual support amid the struggles of the journey. And most importantly, ...