Healthy leaders come in all shapes and sizes and successful small group leadership is not reserved for a mysterious few. Some would have us believe that healthy leaders are specially gifted, more educated and own more vibrant personalities than other leaders. Not so! The educated the uneducated, married and single, shy and outgoing, those gifted as teachers and those gifted as evangelists equally grow and multiply their groups. However, several characteristics do distinguish successful small group leaders. These differentiating factors relate to what a person does as part of his or her typical weekly lifestyle. It has nothing to do with personality, background or how long you have been a Christian. Rather healthy small group leaders have incorporated certain habits into their life. You can join them.
Here's what they do:
- Consistent time with God; Bible reading and prayer: Why? Time spent with God is the single most important principle behind successful small group leadership. Without this you have nothing real to offer your group members. You need to be growing spiritually if you expect your group members to. You are the model. This is where you get your wisdom from and your connection to the Good Shepherd who knows the way.
- Keep learning: Constantly be doing whatever it takes to improve as a leader, read, listen to tapes, find a mentor, talk to your coach, attend conferences and leaders training events. Personal growth must be deliberate, planned and consistent. The single most distinguishing factor between good leaders and great leaders is self-leadership (this involves discipline,
overcoming discouragement, etc.). You should be giving 50% of your time to self leadership.
- Build team: Develop new leaders and find an apprentice as soon as possible. Take leadership development seriously—you don't know who has what potential. What will your group look like when you leave it in the hands of your apprentice? Successful leaders look beyond the urgency of the present to the importance of the future and because of that spend priority time training new leaders. Encourage relationship building within the group. Don't do all the work yourself, give away responsibility and your leadership. Delegate whatever you can to members of the group to avoid burnout. If you do your group will become an exciting place of life change and development. Raising up future leaders is a Biblical way of life. Moses tutored Joshua, and Elijah trained Elisha. The Apostles were recruited and trained by Jesus. Barnabas discipled Paul, who in turn developed Timothy. God has brought future leaders to your group, are you developing them?
- Listen: Why? To connect and learn. Change your habit of listening only to the facts and not the person who expresses them. Change your focus to the person. Listen for words but also feelings, meanings and undercurrents. To improve your listening a) make time for people b) find common ground, get to know the other person (ask questions).
- Share your faith: The small group atmosphere is the most effective way to expose non-Christians to the truth of the gospel. There are people who will attend your group but not your church. This is an opportunity to live out your faith and set non-Christians at ease. Are you including and inviting non Christians to your group and including them? Do you have relationships with non-Christians? It can be very easy for a group to become comfortable with themselves and turn their focus inward instead of outward. As the leader you must always be challenging, reminding and modeling out relational evangelism.
- Serve others: The best leaders serve others, not themselves. Small group provides the forum for you to put others first. Once group members see your example they will as a group begin to think about how to reach out into the church and community to serve in a variety of ways.
No doubt about it, these habits require time and effort—but are well worth it.
6 Habits of a Healthy Small Group Leader—discussion questions
Consistent time with God
How are you currently spending time with God?
How is your prayer life on a scale of 1-10? (1=lousy, 10=praying without ceasing)
Take time to share and if need be confess- then pray for each other.
What are you currently doing to grow yourself as a leader?
How disciplined are you on a scale of 1-10? (1=what's discipline?, 10=army sergeant)
Build Team—Train Others
What are some of the components of group life that can be delegated?
What will you look for in an apprentice?
On a scale of 1-10 what kind of listener are you? (1=did you say something?, 10=I'm all ears)
What changes can you make to make more time for people and thereby increase your listening skills?
Share your faith
Do you have relationships with non-Christians?
How can you include non-Christians in your small group?
Share some ideas of small acts of kindnesses you could perform for a group member.
What can you do within your group to promote serving one another?