A great way to determine if this is happening is to evaluate how much time the point person is doing his or her job from the church office. The work of shepherding groups and leaders happens out in life, not inside the church building.
We tend to hire program administrators to run the small-group ministry, much like we hired Sunday school administrators to run the adult education programs of past decades. Instead, we need to empower pastors who are gifted shepherds to do the routine, repetitive work of effectively caring for sheep. Effective group pastors possess strengths that allow them to focus their energies on caring for people, developing leaders, and gathering people around a vision.
For the administrative tasks that need to be done, enlist help. Don’t get focused on all those details at the expense of vision and shepherding. I’ve seen point people spend hours sitting in the office trying to figure out group management software, ordering curriculum, attending endless meetings, and typesetting brochures. Those are all necessary, but if the passion of the point person is that of vision and shepherding—as it should be—those tasks that are more administrative in nature are not duties he or she likely does well.
In some cases, the senior pastor will play the role of the point person. However, when this is the case, he or she can only take on the vision part of this role. There is just not enough time in the week to do the work of the senior pastor, while at the same time doing the shepherding and administration. He or she will need help from the team to fulfill those roles.
The skills needed to preach, lead the various aspects of church life, and work with the different departments of a church are different than the skills needed to shepherd groups. Many senior pastors don’t have the gift set for recruiting and training leaders to oversee groups and develop group leaders. In fact, the best small-group point people aren’t necessarily great preachers.
In the situations where groups have been most effective, the senior pastor does not assume the role of the groups point person. At the same time, the relationship between the senior pastor and the groups point person is crucial. The senior pastor and the small-group point person work together, and as a result, the senior pastor carries the vision, talks about groups, and teaches about group principles.
Let’s briefly look at a few marks of lead pastors who are compelled by this vision:
- They own the vision for groups―most likely they are not the primary point persons of the small group ministry, but they promote it more than anyone else.
- They participate in group life, and speak from their experience.
- They understand the strategy of the group life team, participating with the team at appropriate times so that they are doing more than just serving as the promoter.
- They lead relationally―they are involved in the lives of the leaders with whom they directly work, know them beyond their jobs, and minister to them as a shepherd.