I know this may sound redundant, but here goes: "Leading a small group requires leadership."We have all suspected for a long time that small group leadership may involve leadership, and if you have led a group for any length of time you know that it definitely requires some leadership skills. With this revelation in mind, let me ask you a question: When you think of leadership, what definition or word picture comes to your mind? You may have a military mindset of a platoon charging a hill, or you may have a business background and think of a captain of industry leading a company to new heights. Whatever your background or experience, you need to develop your own core beliefs and values related to leadership. I have over 50 definitions of leadership in my files. Some are short and some are very long. Some are memorable, and some are uhh … not so very memorable. The core values and definition that I have developed for Christian leadership is this:
"Christian leadership starts with vision from God. A leader sees it first, farther, and clearer. He or she takes that vision and influences and develops others to pursue God's priorities for their lives."
Let's take a few minutes and tease through this definition and highlight some important concepts:
Vision. First, true Christian leadership begins with vision. Proverbs 29 reminds us, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Habakkuk 2 instructs us to "write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run that reads it." The starting point for ALL leadership is vision. A leader has the ability to look ahead and chart a course of action. Without vision you cannot lead a group toward a preferred future. Christian vision primarily comes from spending time with God in His Word and in prayer, contemplating, reflecting, and listening for His voice. As you hear and discern God's leading, then you are able to communicate His will to His followers. Again, God's will is derived from God's Word. God will not lead us to do something contrary to the Scriptures.
Influence. Next, once the leader has received the vision and it is clear in his or her mind, then you must communicate the vision to the people. John Maxwell has boiled leadership down to one concept when he says that "leadership is influence." We influence people in a variety of ways. Words, knowledge, skills, and example are each important elements in influence, but one of the most important ways to influence people in the spiritual realm is by applying the spiritual tools or weapons that God has given to us.Prayer, prayer and fasting, walking in the Spirit, the Word of God, faith, and sacrifice - this is a short list of a few of the spiritual missiles that God has entrusted to us. It is very important to understand that if we want to lead and influence people in the spiritual arena, we must use spiritual armaments.
Development. Beyond influence is development. It is the next step in leadership. True leaders are not content to just influence followers toward a certain goal. They have a heart and a passion to turn followers into leaders. Ralph Nader puts it this way, "I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers." True leadership is not content with just influencing followers. True leadership is about developing followers to the point where they develop followers. The Apostle Paul has this in mind when he says, "the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" (2 Tim. 2:2). The world is growing at an exponential rate.We need to make sure that we are developing exponential strategies (leaders developing leaders) to reach the world with the good news of Jesus Christ. Small group growth and development requires us to stay focused on developing leaders.
God's Priorities: The Great Commission, the Great Commandment, and the New Commandment are the prime directives from the Lord. We must be about the business of winning people to Christ, connecting them to the body of Christ, encouraging them to grow in Christ to the point where they develop into worshipers and servants of Christ. Remember the promise contained in the Great Commission, "I (Jesus) will be with you." This promise, the presence and power of Jesus, is available to any individual or any church that prioritizes making disciples. Obedience brings God's blessing. We can have the blessing of God in our lives and in our churches IF we are serious about making His priorities our priorities. Church growth at this point is really just a matter of obedience. The key to grow the body is to grow the individual. Small groups allow us to focus on the individual person.
Leadership in a small group is not complicated. It can be tough to implement, but if we remain true to God's Word and if we focus on obeying the Lord, He will guide us toward a preferred future!