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?"