First Corinthians 12:7 says that God gives every believer spiritual gifts for the common good of the body. But if your small group is like most, it's led by just one person—you. Not that you're probably complaining, but that's a huge burden. And it also keeps everyone else from growing in their gifts.
The load usually falls on one person because many leaders feel like the only way to get things done is to do it themselves. And it doesn't occur to group members to volunteer because they don't know that taking on responsibility is part of being a full member of God's family. This contributes to group members thinking they don't have any spiritual gifts because they've never had a chance to experiment. So how do you motivate people to step up to the plate and discover their gifts?
Talk About the Role of Small Groups
Read through Acts 2 as a group and talk about how that community demonstrated all five purposes of the church (fellowship, discipleship, ministry, evangelism, and worship). Just as that community brought the purposes into their homes—not just into the temple—so should all five purposes be going on in your group. And this requires sharing the load with your group members.
Meet People Where They Are
Deal with shared ownership in a developmental way. Take into account people's spiritual age. If they're seekers—not even sure if they believe in Christ—don't ask them to do anything. Just welcome them into the group. If they're new believers, give them small roles. Don't overwhelm them. If you've got mature believers, you can dump the truck on them. They can certainly handle it.
Also take into account your small-group stage. If your group is brand new, give people baby-step responsibilities. Perhaps you can have a potluck and let everyone bring something. The key here is that you don't want people to be afraid to show up next week because they feel overwhelmed with responsibility. If your group has been together for a while, you can nudge people to take on something bigger. A good first step would be to pass out a sign-up sheet for helping with the group's prayer time, snacks, or icebreaker question.
Learn to Share
Don't expect people to go it alone. Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs. You can ask a couple of people to team up to host a social evening for your group. Or ask two people to share the job of coordinating the prayer list. Teaming up makes it less scary for people.
Make the Ask
The best time to ask people to take on a role is right after a great group meeting. Most will say yes to a responsibility if you ask them then. Ask them to do it for the next three weeks—not forever. Or ask people to coordinate one project. If you ask members for help and the room goes quiet, don't just drop it. Follow up with people after the meeting. If you're nervous to ask for help, remember the Holy Spirit will be right there with you every step of the way.
Brett Eastman is the founder of LifeTogether. Used with permission. All rights reserved.