Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part article. In Part 1, Randall Neighbour explores the first five mistakes that commonly affect small-group leaders.
"My sole focus was the weekly small group meetings."
If you fail to create a seven-day-a-week relationship with your group members, your group will not grow because people aren't interested in another meeting. They want deep friendships where there's impromptu meals, baseball games, prayer, ministry time and relaxing. Watching TV, surfing the net, or sitting at the kitchen table and watching a pot of coffee disappear will dynamically change group life. Your members will tell their friends how much fun group life is — as opposed to a good small group meeting—and your group will flourish.
If your group only sees each other at the weekly meeting and at the Sunday services, you're not doing it right and it's not a genuine "small group."
If you're making this mistake, don't worry; it's easy to fix. For example, invite a single person from your group over for dinner and tell them to bring over a load of laundry. When you fold laundry together, they'll know you are interested in true Christian intimacy, not an attendance roster.
What you must do is to reserve time to be with your group members between meetings. If you don't have the time to do this, make the time. Let go of things that are non-essential. Your golf game can suffer, your kids may not be in as many after school activities, and your new "open-door policy" at home will make for less private time, but this is your ministry and it deserves more than leftovers! Remember: group life must be a high priority in your life for it to work. God has called you to it and He wants to use your group to win souls and raise up leaders. It takes a sizeable time investment, but it's worth it.
"I appointed myself as the Holy Man (or Holy Woman)."
Answering all the Bible questions and maintaining dominant spiritual authority will make you a very lonely person! No one will join you in leadership because they don't measure up. People won't get close to you because you can't just be that special friend in a time of need … you have to fix the problem. It's also stepping on God's toes.
If you're making this mistake, ask your group members for forgiveness in your next meeting. Tell them you love them and you need help with a pride issue. That's the root of this problem. The way to avoid this mistake is to prayerfully ask yourself "How can God be glorified through someone else right now?" He will be faithful to show you how the whole body builds itself up by every supporting ligament. Even baby Christians can minister to others very effectively. The Holy Spirit operates at full strength in all who believe and give it away freely.
"I took shortcuts with equipping, discipleship and accountability"
Pairing up members for accountability or sponsorship is a pain. The members don't really understand it and resist the self-discipline it demands. You may have even said to yourself, "Our church's equipping pathway is comprehensive, but my members seem to be doing O.K. without it." Has this kind of thinking entered your mind? This mistake will come back to bite you, and it has huge gnarly teeth. One day you'll think "why is my ministry as a small group leader so strained and going nowhere all at the same time?"
Please, learn from the failure of others here! If you don't pair up your people for accountability, guess who gets to meet each member to encourage them to grow spiritually before work each work morning? YOU. If your members don't get discipled through the use of your equipping track and a mentor or accountability partner, guess who will baby sit a bunch of immature believers through the never-ending small group cycle? You guessed it—you!
But the results are really more impactual than your personal state of exhaustion. Jesus modeled discipleship for us as He developed and released his twelve. They left and did all kinds of cool miracles because of His work with them. No equipping books way back then, you say? Yes, you're right. It was much harder without printed materials. You have it easy in the age of information in which we live!
Get busy pairing people up to work through your church's discipleship process or set your alarm for 5:00 a.m. There are no short cuts in discipleship and if you take them, your alarm clock and a death-warmed-over look in the mirror will remind you every morning.
"I operated out of a vocational paradigm."
If you see small group leadership as a job at the church, you'll hate the position. Your role is one of a calling. A hired hand quits when the going gets tough. A called man or woman just sees the obstacles as new ways God will reveal His power. See the difference?
The way to avoid or recover from this mistake is to simply read the last mistake below. Drink at the well often, and you will never be thirsty. Prayer is the key here, and this will birth a calling in you, empowering you to do great things for God.
"I had no prayer life."
The biggest mistake small group leaders make is to cut off the lifeline to God's power and wisdom. It comes from above and it solves all the problems a leader faces. Jesus modeled a life of prayer for us. As I reflect on His integral part of the Trinity, I see why Jesus prayed so much while on earth. He was recently separated from His Father and the Holy Spirit and missed His family!
God created us in His image, and our spiritual nature thirsts for community with Him through prayer. If you don't pray much, don't expect much power in your ministry! Pray alone, with group members, family, friends, children, neighbors, co-workers, your boss, and total strangers when you feel led by the Spirit to do so. Prayer is powerful and the more you pray, the better your ministry will be!
There Are Only Two Kinds of Mistakes
Good mistakes are the ones you learn from; bad mistakes are the ones that you repeat or ignore. God has given you a unique opportunity to shake up Satan's kingdom with the power of community. Your group was designed by God to storm the gates of Hell and set captives free.
Don't be afraid to make changes today in your ministry to see revival in your small group!