Note: this article is excerpted from Small Group Vital Signs.
One of the fundamental differences between good and great small groups is the spiritual vitality of the leaders. While imperfect, healthy leaders have a soft heart that God can use to accomplish his will. They are highly committed first to God and then to the group. Jim Collins calls his initial good-to-great principle "Level 5 Leadership: a blend of extreme personal humility with an unwavering resolve for the company." Healthy small-group leaders also have a sense of personal humility and an ambition for God's kingdom. "Level 5" small-group leaders have the following attributes:
Healthy small-group leaders have been transformed.
One of your high calls as a small-group leader is to build an environment where spiritual transformation is experienced. This usually happens when the leader has first experienced transformation. The apostle Peter is a model of a transformed leader. Compare his attitudes and actions—and more importantly, his faith—between the Gospels and Acts. Peter, like the rest of the apostles, was an unschooled, ordinary man whose life had been transformed by being with Jesus (Acts 4:13). Forty-three days before the events in Acts 4, he and his buddies were anything but bold—falling asleep on Jesus when asked to pray, running away from him in his hours of crisis, and denying they even knew him. They were still self-absorbed, worried, and protective of their lives.
Just 42 days after Jesus' death, their faith was bold and courageous enough to stand up to the same religious leaders who were responsible for Jesus' crucifixion. What happened in between to bring about this transformation? It was a process that Jesus began three years earlier, but that came to fruition with the power of the resurrection (John 20), the power of reconciliation (John 21), and finally the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). Then Jesus used these transformed leaders to build a great, world-transforming church. He can do the same through you when you spend time with him and allow him to transform your life!
Healthy small-group leaders live surrendered to God.
One thing the apostles learned from Jesus was how to live and lead in surrender to God's will. Jesus instructed the apostles in Acts 1 to do one simple thing: wait. Their natural inclination would have been to jump into action, attempting to accomplish Jesus' vision under their own power. But they obeyed and waited in Jerusalem by praying and being patient for God to move. Once they received the promised Spirit, they carried out Jesus' mission in complete reliance upon and surrender to God (see 4:19-31 for one example) and in great power, I might add!
Great small-group leaders turn to Christ for everything: who will be invited to join the group, the group's purpose, and the biblical content the group will apply during meetings. To do this, great group leaders pray and then wait before making decisions. This requires humility and self-control over one's emotional urge to act as quickly as possible. Great group leaders know if they surrender their leadership to Christ they will accomplish far more than they can do in their own power.
Healthy small-group leaders are committed to their calling.
God first calls people to lead, then he gifts them to lead, and last, he empowers them to lead. I never twist people's arms to lead a small group at our church. But I do pray regularly for God to send us new leaders (see Matthew 9:36-38), and I often ask people if they sense God nudging them to lead a group. I believe God will send us the leaders he needs to lead groups at our church—and he does!