Two months after deciding to pursue Christianity, I signed up for a mission trip. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I was ready for the challenge. During the weeks leading to our departure, our team met several times to iron out the details for our trip, including the itinerary.
"Does anyone have any questions about the schedule?" Our team sat in the unkempt living room of our college-aged team leader. Half-eaten donuts littered the coffee table—some from our meeting and some not.
"Can you explain the morning devotionals?" a fellow team member asked.
Our team leader took on a professional looking demeanor and held up the schedule. "The morning devotionals are a chance for us to encourage with each other. Think of it like a mini small-group study."
I scanned over the schedule and noticed names on each day. I raised my hand. "What do the names mean?"
"They let you know which day you'll lead the devotional." He turned over the itinerary and ran his finger down the list. "For instance, you're leading the one on Friday morning." I stared at him with wide, helpless eyes. I was terrified.
The youngest person on the team, I was just starting to read the Bible and understood very little about how to adequately interpret what I was reading. How could I lead a devotional that would be true to Scripture and actually encourage my teammates?
I would have given anything to opt out of that experience. But I didn't. And to my surprise, that Friday came and went with relative success. I'm not sure how much my team learned, but I learned a lot. In fact, it was one of the most impactful parts of the trip for me. It forced me to take ownership. I was expected to know a section of Scripture well enough to lead a stirring discussion. Leading helped me grow, and it was a huge step in my spiritual development.
We Grow as We Lead
In my experience, leaders grow a lot as they lead—and that includes small-group leaders. Think back on all the ways you've grown since becoming a leader. I'm willing to bet there's been an exponential spike in your growth.
But I imagine you didn't become a small-group leader for your own growth—you probably wanted to help others grow. One of the best ways to foster growth in your group members is to give them opportunities to lead. Consider the many ways that handing over the reins can help your group members grow.
Leaders must have a strong grasp on the material.
When you lead a small group, you have to be more familiar with the material than everyone else. If you don't do your homework, you can't come up with helpful questions about the subject matter.
By giving up your role as a leader from time to time, you'll give group members this same expectation. They'll need to read and re-read the subject matter so that they can do justice to their study. Because of this, they'll learn more than is possible to glean in a single hour-long meeting. These nuggets of knowledge will stick with them and contribute to their overall spiritual development.
Leaders must understand the goal.
Every effective group meeting should have a goal—whether it's striving to teach your group a theological concept or inspiring them to make a change. Leaders know what the group needs, and they make a plan to meet that goal.
When you hand over leadership to someone else, you're allowing them to practice this important leadership. In order to come up with a goal for the meeting, they'll need to understand the needs of the group. This kind of others-oriented thinking will put them in a pastoral position and that will help them grow.