"Pete, what are you goals for spiritual growth?"
Pete and I were having our weekly one-on-one meeting at a local cafe. College students and businessmen hurried in and out. The sound of wooden chair legs screeched against the hardwood floors.
"What do you mean?" he asked. Pete had joined our small group several months prior. He had faithfully attended every group meeting since, and he was present at all our college ministry events.
I tried a classic small-group leader tactic: the rephrase. "I mean, how do you want your Christian faith to shape your life?"
He squinted his eyes and stared absently past me. There was a long pause.
"I don't know if I am a Christian," he said matter-of-factly.
I was floored. I'd known him for months, and I had no idea he was still seeking. I shouldn't have assumed he was a believer simply because he was a faithful attender. How could I, his small-group leader, not know this crucial part of his journey?
The Value of One-on-Ones
That conversation made me realize how essential one-on-one meetings are to spiritual growth and friendship. Without our one-on-one meetings, Pete may have continued on in our group with unanswered questions.
A one-on-one is a consistent time you meet with a member of your small group for the purpose of spiritual growth. It could also be called mentorship or apprenticeship. In one-on-ones, you have the opportunity and privilege to take group members under your wing and encourage them in understanding, growth, and action. It's also a chance to be a listening ear or a source of advice. While you may primarily be investing in your group member, one-on-ones are ideally two-way relationships where both parties are invested in seeing the other person grow.
As a small-group leader, you know the spiritual needs of your group members better than anybody in your church. You've heard their questions, and you've seen them in action. You're in an incredible position to cultivate their untapped potential.
You're already developing group members through thought-provoking group discussions, engaging group prayer, and service opportunities. But you can't tailor the group experience to individual group members. In a one-on-one, you're given the opportunity to focus on the spiritual needs and questions of each individual. You can personalize each meeting so it's most helpful to his or her growth. This leaves group members feeling deeply cared for.
Plus, one-on-ones allow you to go deeper than group meetings alone. Some truths cannot be gleaned simply by listening to a sermon or participating in a group discussion. Some discoveries can only be made in the deep and personal interaction between two individuals. Additionally, some group members are only comfortable sharing the deep and vulnerable aspects of their journey in a more private setting, and one-on-ones can provide that.
So how do you get started with one-on-ones? Work through these six steps:
I first came across one-on-ones in college. In that atmosphere it was easy and ideal to conduct weekly meetings with every person. In a post-college setting, however, this kind of intensity and frequency is impractical. Life is busier now. Many of us have full-time jobs, spouses, kids, and other responsibilities.
Frequency should be determined by what you can handle. Burnout is a serious issue for group leaders, so make sure you're not over-committing yourself. Monthly or bi-monthly meetings might be more realistic. This will still be consistent enough to foster spiritual friendship and growth. Even a few times a year can be a helpful place to start.