Nine years ago God tapped me on the shoulder and called me to something bigger, something that will outlast me. He called me to lead a small group. Ever since then I've been wildly passionate about small groups and how God works through them. I'm definitely not the best leader. In fact, I have messed up so many times I'm surprised God doesn't ask me to take a seat! Fortunately, God brought some uncomfortable yet teachable experiences in my path over the past nine years. These experiences stretched me, at times further than I was willing to go. But, I can now look back on them and see how God has been (and continues) maturing my leadership style to reflect His heart. Here are five keys that I've experienced and embraced since saying yes to God's invitation to lead.
In All Things … Be Humble
There have been times when I was in the right and let people know I was right. These times always led to decreased influence. I mean, who wants to hang around someone who has to tell you they're right? Instead, I've learned to remain humble. If people notice I'm in the right, great. If not, no worries.
Take the Initiative to Build Community
It's difficult to develop deep, lasting relationships when you only see each other for one hour per week. So, it's important to make sure that your group engages in social activities outside of group time. What I've found, the hard way, is that people want to follow someone. Take the initiative and make some calls to set up a party to watch the game, Christmas shopping, a barbeque, or a pool party. I've found it easier to simply plan something, mark it on the calendar, and then announce it without consulting each person's calendar first.That way, whoever shows up, shows up. I've not had a bad turnout yet! Recently a few couples got together outside the group and I didn't find out about it until the next group meeting. It was exciting to know group members were taking the initiative to get together on their own.
A few years ago I noticed during the Bible study portion of group that people often acted like there was a set standard of behavior. This led to our time feeling somewhat rigid. Everyone sat up like they were in a classroom, and they always looked at me when they responded to questions. I decided to intentionally model the way I'd like them to act. We were doing a video study so after I turned on the video, I lay down on the couch and took my shoes off. The response was awkward, but soon everyone began loosening up. My taking the initiative and modeling what is acceptable inspired my group to relax and get comfortable.
Stay Connected with Church Leadership
This is extremely important. Staff members need to be in the know so that they can provide the best care possible. If they're in the dark, there's no way for them to be able to understand and minister to a leader's or group's needs. Whatever leadership model your church uses, participate and be willing to communicate with those who oversee your church's small-group ministry. Trust me, you'll be much appreciated!
Look Out for Infected Community
A leader came and asked for advice not long ago and began describing all sorts of things she felt were wrong with her group. The men had stopped actively participating in Bible study, there was no identified apprentice, attendance for everyone was sporadic, they rarely served in the community, and they had not grown in two years because they felt that more people would disrupt the "chemistry" of the group. The group had been together for three years. I instantly diagnosed the problem; the group was infected with "koinonitis." While her group members may have felt they were experiencing community, the group was definitely infected. Infected groups can be dangerous. When groups have been together a long time, are comfortable with one another, and close themselves off so nothing can mess up their group dynamic or rhythm, they have become stagnant and infected. The result of infected community is not a pretty sight. They don't emphasize the open chair or service, attendance doesn't matter because they're in it for the long haul, and there's no need for an apprentice because they have no plans of growing or birthing a new group. Beware of this mentality!
By taking these five principles to heart, I have become a better leader. I know the same is possible for you as well.