Leading a successful small group is a lot like sailing a ship at sea. Your job as the captain is to navigate your fellowship through a variety of obstacles and hazards, staying on course to reach your destination. An effective captain knows the right questions to ask.
One of the questions often heard in small groups is, "What are we going to study next?" That question shows a lack of direction and a lack of real leadership. Rather than sailing toward a destination, many small groups are like a sailboat at sea being "tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching" (Ephesians 4:14).
As you lead your group, you need to know the answers to at least five important questions. These questions provide you with five principles for selecting the next study for your group.
Question: Why does the group exist?
Principle: The main purpose of every group should flow out of the mission of the church.
The mission of the church where I lead is this: "To team with God in turning unchurched people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ." Your church's mission statement is probably similar in that it relates to carrying out the commission Jesus gave his church (Matthew 28:19–20).
Once you have clarified your group's mission, be sure to write it down. Then answer the question, "What can we study next that will help us carry out that mission? What should we study that will help us make disciples or make fully devoted followers of Jesus?"
Question: Who is in my group?
Principle: The small-group leader's main function is that of a shepherd who knows his or her sheep.
Here are a few questions a good shepherd will ask:
- Where are my people spiritually? As a shepherd, you must know where people are individually and where the group is as a whole. Are participants newborns in the faith, like spiritual teenagers, or are they mature adults? (See passages such as 1 John 1:12–14; 1 Peter 2:2; 1 Corinthians 3:1–3; and Hebrews 5:11–6:1 for discussions on how to shepherd people at different spiritual levels.)