During a presentation on group strategy, I noticed the dismay of an older couple named Ned and Nancy. They expressed frustration because they couldn’t catch the vision in the way their pastor had hoped. Even though the pastor had presented the vision for over three years, they couldn’t get their minds around it. At the same time, this couple led a very effective small group. They practiced all the ministry habits of good group leaders. They were happy to lead at that level, but didn’t concern themselves with big-picture questions of theology, vision, training, or strategy, being much more concerned with actually caring for the people and doing the work of ministry.
On the other hand, during that same training, there were four others who couldn’t get enough information about the intricacies of the group strategy. Even after the conference, they bombarded me with questions.
Even though people like Ned and Nancy have served as faithful leaders in the church for years, it doesn’t mean they have the ability―or desire―to strategize and lead the charge into the future. During the seminar with Ned and Nancy, I explained how people who don’t thrive on big-picture questions of vision and strategy need not concern themselves with trying to understand it. They only need to see their role in the strategy, and follow God in it. Immediately, Ned and Nancy breathed sighs of relief.
Ned and Nancy were frustrated because they were being asked to participate in the small-group team as strategists, even though they don’t think like “on” persons. They are leaders in their church, respected ministers who love people, pray for people, and serve as pillars of faith for others to follow. People like Ned and Nancy are “in” people, preferring to focus their energy working inside the vision―not working on the vision.
Church leaders need to determine if they’re an “in” or an “on” person. Here are some things to consider:
- Broad knowledge about, or a desire to learn about, what’s happening in the church.
- Credibility, connections, and stature within the church.
- Understanding of the internal workings of the church.
- Formal authority and managerial skills needed to plan, organize, and oversee the process of implementing groups.
- Leadership skills for developing vision, communicating that vision, and motivating people to enter that vision.
- Commitment to daily prayer and hearing God’s direction.
- Hunger to see biblical community developed in the church through groups.
- Availability to work on the team.
Small-Group Point Person
Let’s get practical by addressing some of the issues regarding the composition of this team. First, consider the role of the small-group point leader, the vision champion for group life. In larger churches, this role will be taken on by a staff pastor. In smaller congregations, this will be fulfilled by either the senior pastor or by a volunteer. Understandably, the larger the church, the larger percentage of time will be invested in this aspect of the work.
The role of the small-group point person calls for three perspectives. The first perspective entails overseeing the development of the group ministry’s vision and strategy. The second perspective is that of a shepherd who does the mundane, repetitive work of caring for the sheep. The third perspective is that of administering the details. Too often, the point person’s job turns into that of a program administrator―tracking growth, running budgets, organizing curriculum, managing the small-group calendar, and reading reports. They may know how to administer the details involved in running the group program, but this doesn’t allow for time to invest in group life―develop new leaders, share life with multiple groups in an area, deal with group conflict, or eat meals with people under their care. They don’t feed the sheep.