“I’m so busy with ministry, I don’t want to add another evening obligation to my schedule.”
Yes, life is busy, and we must make wise decisions about what we commit to. Just as we ask people in our congregation to make room for a group, would you take a closer look at your calendar and see if there is something on the schedule that can be moved to make space for a group? Maybe you can meet every other week, or invite the group into something you are already doing. For example, when our kids were young, we would go to a local diner for a simple dinner after Saturday night services. Since we were eating anyway, we invited a couple families to come along and that became our small group. Over time, we added more families and expanded to add Bible study, worship, playdates, and game nights. One key to managing the additional time commitment is to look for people who already overlap into other relational spheres of your life (e.g., work, school, neighborhood, recreation). This increases your points of contact and makes it easier to build friendships.
Healthy for Your Soul
We were created for deep relationships with God and with others. Yet, many of us—even in relational ministries like small groups—lack the close circle of friends who support us, encourage us, serve us, and hold us accountable. We need to let a few trusted people get close enough to see us as we are—to help us know the truth about who we are, who God is, and what he is calling us to become. Every person in vocational ministry needs a safe, relational space where they can step out of the leader/pastor/minister role and just be themselves. As we well know, significant relationships do not develop without intentional investment of time, energy, and vulnerability. We need to be willing to risk letting group members see the “real” person behind the role in humble, appropriate ways.
Sometimes, the people in the group will not let us drop the “role,” and it may become another place where we stay in ministry mode. If that is the case, I encourage you to be clear and set expectations early of what you would like for the group to be for you. I’ve been in groups where people initially kept turning to me to ask for my “expert” opinion, or joke about how we had to be the “perfect group” because I was in it. I’ve had to be open, clear, and honest with those groups and say (often more than once) something like this:
Hey, I may lead in this ministry and may know a lot about groups, but I’m here for the same reason you are. I need a safe place where I can voice my fears, struggles, and joys. Just like you, I want a group where God will work in and through each one of us to help us grow more like Jesus. So, please don’t ask me about church politics, policies, or the “inside scoop.” I may share prayer requests related to the church, but part of how you can bless me and our church is by giving me a safe, supportive space where I can just be myself.
It has been invaluable for me, our marriage, and our family to meet regularly with people who care about me—not as a staff member, but as a sister in Christ, wife, mom, and friend. Being in a small groups has also provided consistent support for my ministry through prayer, and a confidential space to wrestle through challenging work situations in an appropriate manner. One thing that may be helpful in releasing expectations from yourself and others is to choose not to be the leader of your group. As a ministry point leader, you are probably used to being the leader in the room and comfortable in that role. By not being the designated leader, you may be able to relax more—and enjoy learning to submit to another’s authority.