There is no such thing as the "prototypical small-group leader." Anyone who has spent any amount of time in community ministry understands that effective small-group leaders can be men or women, young people or old people, singles or couples. Group leaders can be shy, or they can be bold. They can be Type A or Type B. They can be just about anything.
This is a good thing, of course—there should be no room for discrimination in the church in any fashion. However, it also presents a challenge for churches trying to identify and train new small-group leaders. After all, if anyone has the potential to become a leader, how do you identify the people who are ready to take the next step? And if there is no ideal small-group leader, no standard, what can you point to as a goal when it comes to training new leaders?
As I see it, there are two things that churches can focus on in order to find and train new group leaders. The first is the duties of a typical small-group leader. Even though group leaders come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities, the role they fill stays pretty constant. Fortunately, basic training and orientation in the duties of a small-group leader is the focus of the most popular resource on SmallGroups.com: the Small-Group Leader Orientation Guide. This has been an invaluable resource for many churches, helping them identify and train group leaders based on the tasks they will need to complete.
"Foundations of a Group Leader" focuses on the second element: the characteristics and habits of an effective small-group leader. This resource highlights the different elements that make up the foundation of a group leader's life and ministry—things like character, doctrine, decisions, growth, and more.
This resource has been designed primarily for current and potential small-group leaders. The principles and practical ideas found here can help group leaders lay and maintain a solid foundation for their ministry. They can help group leaders identify areas of strength, as well as areas where growth is needed.
If you are a pastor or director of the small-groups ministry at your church, this resource can be a great tool for you, as well. As mentioned above, the foundations discussed in this download can provide you with some landmarks for identifying potential group leaders. For example, if you come across a woman with humility who manages her time well, you should flag her as a possible group leader.
The articles in this download are also a great way to train your current group leaders. A word of caution here: you will get the least benefit from this download if you simply e-mail it to your group leaders and say, "Read this." As valuable as I believe this content to be, it does not take the place of a working relationship between the group leader and the church. So, the best way to use this material to help train your group leaders is to e-mail it to them and say, "Read this, then let's get together and talk about what you learn."
What Group Leaders Are Made Of
The first section of this training download focuses on the inside of an effective small-group leader. It helps paint a picture of the inner foundation that a solid ministry is built on. Some elements of this foundation include Character (p. 45), Doctrine (p. 89), Humility (p. 1011), and more.
The best way to make use of the information in these articles is to read them in light of your own strengths and weaknesses. You may read through the article on Endurance (p. 1213) and say, "I didn't really learn anything here." And that's okay. You can make a mental not that endurance in running the race of life is a strength for you—and that's a pretty good thing to know!
But you may also read the article on Anointing and say, "Wow, I had no idea that the Holy Spirit could infuse my ministry that way. I'm falling short." And that's okay, too. In fact, it's more than okay, because it gives you the chance to seek help and support from God, from other group leaders around you, and from the leaders in your church. It's a chance to grow.
What Group Leaders Do
The second part of this resource highlights different habits or patterns that are important in the life a small-group leader. These include Prayer Life (p. 1314), Decisions (p. 1718), Friends (p. 1920), and more.
I recommend that you make your way through this material slowly, and that you always keep the following question in mind: Where do I fit in comparison to this standard? Again, the idea is not to make you feel guilty or unworthy because of all the things you don't have time to do. The idea is to read about the foundational elements of a small-group leader and allow the Holy Spirit to nudge you about pieces of your life and ministry that might need to be improved.
For what it's worth, here are some thoughts that have stuck in my mind as I've read through and edited "Foundations of a Group Leader":
- Pay special attention to the Anointing article. I think a lot of Christians, myself included, have a lot of confusion about how the Holy Spirit affects our life and ministries. We know the Holy Spirit is important, but we're not sure how to "plug in" to the power he offers us. Heather Zempel has some great advice on this subject in the Anointing article—especially the section labeled "Plugging Into God's Power."
- Don't read alone. I'm repeating myself here, but the least effective way to use the material in this resource is to read it by yourself and try to apply it by yourself. That's not a knock on the articles—if you read through this download, you will learn new and interesting things about yourself and the intricacies of being a small-group leader. But if you keep them to yourself, there is a much smaller chance that anything will change for you.
So find another group leader and talk about what you're learning. Or find your spouse, or your coach, or a member of your group.