At Clearpoint, the cell church where I serve as senior pastor, we say that we pastor people 5 to 15 at a time. That means that a small group leader must see his or her duty as far more than merely leading a meeting that occurs in someone's living room during the week! Rather, it is up to the small group leader to take "spiritual responsibility" for the individuals in his, her, or their group. (This is true whether you're talking about adult, student, or children's cells).
Taking spiritual responsibility for someone is NOT taking spiritual "choice" for someone. Each of us makes our own choices and if you've worked with people very long you've learned that sometimes you do all the right things and people still go astray, sin, make foolish choices, etc. The role of the small group leader is to take responsibility to "pastor" the people in their cell, not control them.
The word pastor can scare some people—but truthfully it is simply a word that means "shepherd." In fact, many churches, ours included, even call their cell/small group leaders "Shepherds". What a literal shepherd does is simply take care of his sheep. He makes it his responsibility to look after them, lead them in right directions, and see that all the things that will lead them toward health and well-being are in place. The same is true with a small group leader who is shepherding or pastoring people. They assume the responsibility to care for them. They assume the task of knowing their people and being in touch with what is or isn't going on in their lives. A small group shepherd, much like a good parent towards their children, is always thinking, "What is it that will help this person continue to develop and grow?"
The beauty of a church model where small group leaders are pastors, in the fashion of Jethro's advice to Moses in Exodus 18, is that it makes sure everyone is cared and shepherded toward spiritual health. In our church, I assume the responsibility to pastor our 5 district pastors. Each of these district pastors has several cell coaches under them who they not only manage, but to whom they assume the responsibility to pastor. Each coach has 2 to 5 cells under them. The coach assumes the task of pastoring the cell leaders. and the cell leader assumes the responsibility to pastor the people in their cell.
I regularly tell our people that if they are depending upon me to pastor them, they will be sorely disappointed—because there simply aren't enough "pieces" of me to go around! I can preach to them and care about them and the like—but where people are really pastored and receive spiritual direction in our church is through cells—where a godly man, woman, or couple have understood their call to assume spiritual responsibility for the individuals in their small group. Exodus 18:21-23 says, "But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied."