"Hey…have you ever considered leading a small group?"That is usually what people think is the beginning of their journey into small group leadership.However, the journey begins much earlier in the unofficial, perhaps unnoticed steps.This leadership journey is a continuum that I call the 5 H's of a leader's journey:
- Hard work
Heart—Influence without the title.
Every leader's journey starts within their heart.Something inside them starts to stir and they simply begin to influence people everywhere they go.They do not have a specific leadership role.They just begin to naturally care for people, pray for them, lead discussions with the group, take over when the regular leader is absent, and are generally very encouraging to people around them.
Humility—A recognition of their gifting
When people are asked to serve as small group leaders, many ask, "who, me?"They feel deeply honored and humbled that they could be used like that.Some people just do not see themselves as "leaders" in the traditional sense.They need someone to believe in them and remind them that they have been "leaders" for the past several months/years!Others feel grateful that what they have been doing has been noticed, and they are honored to serve in formal way now.
Honeymoon—when it is all new and exciting
Once the group begins, the leader usually goes through a honeymoon phase.Life is good.There is formal training at this point.There is public recognition of their group as a new group.New people begin to attend, and there is just an air of excitement!Attendance is good (there seems to be new people every week!), and there are few problems.This phase can last one month to about a year.That is typically when there is a transition to another phase!
Hard Work—a crash course in reality
Reality sets in during this phase.The leaders realize that they have "got to" be there, but nobody else does—and sometimes, nobody is!Fickle attendance, people moving into other groups (that creates a feeling of rejection at times to new leaders), losing some "favorite people", and gaining some who are simply "pains," create a fast track to B & B (burnout and bailing)!!!
This is a crucial time for coaches and small group pastors to encourage them, love them, and keep pointing them to the overall purpose (whatever the purpose is for your church's small groups).It is also a time to schedule formal training for all leaders—for refreshment, skills training, and vision renewal.This is also the key time to remind all your leaders that we are totally dependent upon Jesus and not ourselves.
Even though this phase is hard, it does not have to be debilitating.If your support system is healthy, your leaders will survive this phase.
The last phase is the Hallelujah phase, a.k.a—"Praise God, we didn't give up!"Usually it is a point of major breakthrough:
- A solid committed core is finally formed.
- An incredible ministry time happens as group members minister to each other in a prayer time.
- The group serves somewhere together.
- Someone becomes a Christian within the group.
- Someone overcomes a sin issue that many in the group had been praying about.
- A leader is born out the group, and it multiplies that leader's influence.
It could be any number of things, but it is a confirmation that God is using them as leaders—even though it has been tough at times.
Joy in the Journey
The journey does not stop there.It keeps going, and they keep growing.As their faith and maturity grows, their leadership keeps multiplying and influencing others throughout their lifetime.The seasons of the journey come and go, and often are repeated, but as educator Guy Dowd says, "There is Joy in the journey!"