Check in with your leaders and approach them with the intention of learning.
It's important that you stay in touch with your leaders. They need to know you care about what's happening. It's most natural for you to set the agenda, get the feedback you want, and disseminate information. But what if your primary agenda were to learn from them? A great way to do this is to ask questions. The point of these questions is to spur thought in your leaders and to genuinely learn from their experiences and ideas. You can't fake a desire to learn from them; most leaders will sniff that out. So check your motives and strive to actually approach your leaders as a learner. Here are some good questions that will put you in the place of a learner:
- What is the best thing that happened in your small group in the last month? Why do you think that happened?
- What has been effective for accomplishing the purposes you're pursuing? Do you think those things would be effective in other small groups?
- Are there things that are frustrating you right now? Why? How are you thinking of addressing those issues?
- What new ideas are you thinking about that you haven't tried yet?
- How are you developing new leaders? What's working?
Have clear, easy, and effective means of evaluation.
Part of the job of the person overseeing small groups is to evaluate them and make sure they are healthy and effective. Evaluation and micromanagement are not the same thing. Micromanagement is a means of stripping leaders of power while good evaluation empowers leaders by giving them the ability to see how they're succeeding and where they can grow. Evaluation also gives you a natural opportunity to make sure everyone is still in alignment with your church.
At our church we constantly say we want people to move "up" in relationship with God, "in" in community with other followers of Jesus, and "out" in God's holistic mission of restoration. So to evaluate a small group, we ask the leader to share how the group is doing in each of those areas. And when we ask, we're not looking for a simple response like "good." We're looking for stories, examples, and measurements that illustrate how things are going in each direction. When a leader is unable to point to any type of success in one of the three directions, we seldom even have to challenge them to adjust what they're doing. Good leaders naturally see the deficiencies that exist and begin thinking about how to change to address these deficiencies. Then, the next time we get together we're able to see if there was growth and change in these three directions.
When leaders are aligned with the church, evaluation simply becomes a time to help them see how they're fulfilling that shared mission. Rather than see you as looking over their shoulder, leaders will see you as empowering them to live out the mission they've already bought into. This type of evaluation will allow you to give your leaders freedom because you know they're working in the same direction as the rest of the church.
—Trevor Lee is the Lead Pastor of Trailhead Church in Littleton, Colorado; copyright 2014 by Christianity Today.
1. What is your current process for identifying and training new leaders? Are you happy with it, or does it need adjusting? Why?
2. How often do you approach your leaders as a learner?
3. How clearly are your church's values communicated? How do you use these values as a way to evaluate leaders?