Supporting Potential Small-Group Members

How to deepen relationships with group members by filling their emotional tanks

When my boys were little, they had a toy lawn mower. When my oldest son was about three, he was in the phase of doing everything Dad did. One extremely hot Saturday afternoon, I got out my big mower. He got out his little mower. I pulled the string to start my mower. He pulled the imaginary string to start his. I began to cut the grass, and he followed behind me, pushing his mower.

When my mower stopped, he stopped. When I pulled the string and nothing happened, he pulled the imaginary string on his mower and nothing happened. When I kicked my mower, he kicked his mower. When I finally figured out I was out of gas and poured some gas into my mower, he poured imaginary gas into his mower.

I was reminded of two lessons that day. First, be careful what you say when you kick the lawn mower, because little ears are going to hear it and little boys may say it, too. Second, engines won't work without fuel.

Since then I've been reminded that, in some ways, relationships are like engines. They don't go far without emotional fuel. However, when the tanks are full, relationships go well, and advice and instruction are easily received. When the tanks are low, relationships and development efforts sputter.

Wise multipliers work hard to keep the emotional tanks of their potential leaders on "full." Fortunately, there are many ways to do this. Think of them as "emotional tank fillers."

  1. Acceptance. Acceptance is like a magnet. It attracts people to you. One of the awesome things about small groups is everyone can feel accepted there. I help lead a group of ninth and tenth graders. One of the things I love about our group is that we have a wonderful mix of kids. Some are very popular at school and some are completely unknown. We have clean-cut athletes, young men with long scraggly hair, and "straight A" marching band kids. We have one girl who dyes her hair a different neon color every few weeks and one young man who failed every class his first time through ninth grade. And they all feel acceptance from one another. As a result, they keep coming back and bringing their friends.

    Every potential leader is different. Each of us has different strengths and weaknesses. We all have different personalities. Be certain to communicate acceptance to potential leaders, and they'll be attracted to you. If you don't have this attitude naturally, ask God for it. He is an accepting God (he accepted me and you, after all). He can give you his heart of acceptance for people.

article Preview

This article is currently available to subscribers only. To continue reading:

free newsletter

Sign up for our free Small Groups Newsletter newsletter: Regular access to innovative training resources, Bible-based curriculum, and practical articles.


How to Respond to Mental Illness
Practical, healthy ways to help people in your small group who are affected by mental illness
Pastoring While Single
The challenge and beauty of navigating small-group ministry alone.
Four Things Small Groups Can Learn from House Churches
What exactly is the difference between a house church and a small group?
The Benefits of House Churches
The distinction between house churches and small groups may not be all that important.
How to Pray for Your Small-Group Ministry
Head to battle with the appropriate spiritual weapons.
Eliminate Barriers to Community
Structure your groups for maximum participation.