Valuable for Training
There is a huge difference between a travel agent and a travel guide. One makes the reservations and sets you up to take the trip, while the other is alongside you on the trip. Which would you prefer when navigating uncharted paths? When you are personally in a small group, you can adopt the more helpful role of a travel guide who has experienced much of the same issues your leaders are experiencing. For example, when your leaders ask about challenging members (e.g., over-talkers, under-talkers, inconsistent attenders, emotionally draining members), you can empathize because you have experienced them in your group as well. These are not just abstract concepts, but real-time issues to share. You know first-hand the struggles they are facing when they try to get group members to take more ownership, be more evangelistic, do a service project, engage in healthy conflict, or even just show up regularly. Your leaders get to see you “walk the talk,” thereby adding credibility to your coaching, training, and problem solving.
In addition, people in your group can be a thoughtful source of feedback about happenings in your ministry or in the church generally. There is a tendency that the higher up you are in an organization, the more likely you’ll be in an “echo chamber,” disconnected from the perspectives of the typical congregant. It is beneficial to have wise friends share their perceptions and suggestions when needed. For example, when our church was going through a difficult leadership transition, my group shared valid concerns they had about the process. As committed members who wanted God’s best for our church, their feedback was valuable. Wise suggestions and prayer support from trustworthy sources who love you, your ministry, and your church is priceless.
When I first started in vocational ministry, a wise mentor told me, “You can’t give away what you do not possess.” In other words, we minister out of the abundance of our lives with God—our passions, learnings, growth, and experiences. For credibility, health, and effective training, we need to be in a group ourselves, personally experiencing the transforming power of God’s Spirit unleashed in community.
—Carolyn Taketa is the pastor of small groups at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, California. She is a former attorney and the current host of Group Talk, a monthly podcast for the Small Group Network.