Small-Group Leader Coaching: Team-based vs. Pyramid-based Models

The Jethro Principle does not seem to work for most churches.

Small Group Pastor, Division or Zone / Sectional Leaders, Coaches, Small Group Leaders, Apprentices, and Hosts—does this hierarchy of servant leadership sound familiar to you? The application of corporate-like pyramidal organizational models to developing small group ministries in the Church is pervasive. In theory, this is done to create a skeletal structure that will support a growing body of small groups that will help the church grow exponentially. Scriptural support for this approach is tied to Exodus 18.

In Exodus 18:17-23, we see Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, intervening and offering wisdom to help Moses administrate his judiciary responsibilities by setting up a leadership infrastructure that grouped people into manageable units so everyone's needs would be cared for. Some small group experts refer to this as the 'Jethro principle'. One of the goals of applying the 'Jethro principle' to the church today is to raise up other 'pastors' within the body so the senior pastor can concentrate on the most important affairs of the church.

This all sounds good and makes sense. The only problem is it does not seem to work for most churches. First of all, it is important to understand that when we employ the 'Jethro principle' in developing a small group ministry, it is an application of scripture. One among many that can be made to help us organize and lead people. In the case of launching a church-wide small group ministry, I think Jethro's advice is too corporate, too much, or too soon for most churches.

For example, looking at Moses' situation, you will see that he was attempting to mediate disputes for a population totaling well over 2 million people (Ex. 12:37b; Num. 1:44-46). Clearly, this is not the kind of situation ...

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