Leading Solo No More (part 2)

How to develop a core team of leaders from your existing small group

Note: This article is part two of a two-part series; click here to read Part One. Both sections have been excerpted from Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership, by Michael Mack.

What to do if too many of your members think they should be on the core team

I've also had leaders inform me that if they asked select group members to be part of their core team, other members would wonder why they were not asked and hold a grudge. How do you handle this problem?

First, diagnose the issue behind it. The root of the problem is most likely one of two issues:

  • The group has lots of mature Christ-followers who are potential leaders (which is a great "problem" to have).
  • The group contains immature people—leader "wannabes"—who need to move past their petty jealousies and grow up.

If your issue is that you have mature Christians in your group who could be leading a small group themselves, perhaps it's time to talk about sending them out to start new groups. Remind them that this is a main reason for developing a core team, and, since the group has an abundance of potential core-team members, you will now begin the planning process to send some of them out together to team lead new groups.

If you discern that the members of your group are mature and are called to serve as leaders, go ahead and invite everyone to be a part of the core team. Consider the group a leadership-training group and turbo-charge their leadership development as preparation to send them out to launch new groups. Bathe the whole process in prayer, of course, listening very closely for the Spirit's voice in how you develop and then deploy these emerging leaders.

More likely, however, group members who complain about not being "picked" to be on the core team are immature in their faith, emotionally immature, or both. Their response to your asking others—not them—to be on the core team uncovers a host of possible spiritual and emotional issues too numerous to discuss here.

Some people with a low self-esteem try too hard to be noticed or to be seen as important or successful. They may see the core team as an opportunity to climb the church ladder of success, which is a poor motive for leadership. Other group members do not have a biblical understanding of spiritual leadership. Like several of Jesus' apostles, they seek to have more authority and to be in charge. "Instead," said Jesus, "whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:43-45).

As you discern God's plans, keep your eyes open for group members who seek to serve others. Look for those who see participating in leadership as the best way they can serve the group. Immature group members need discipleship. As they grow in Christ and take responsibility for their emotions and actions, they are being developed into future leaders. When the time is right, invite them to be part of a core team when God calls them to this role.

What to do if a person wants to be on the core team against your judgment?

How do you respond to a person (let's call her Julie) who wants to be on the core team but is not ready or called? Tell her that you'd like to see her grow into this role in time and as God leads. Encourage her to keep pursuing God and be faithful to the group. Challenge her to serve without a title or position. If she wants to be called a leader but will not serve, she is not ready to lead. Put the focus on God, serving, and the good of the group—and off of the wannabe leader.

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