“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” John 20.21
We are all sent. It is built into the identity of a Christian. We are sent by God with the gospel as disciples to go make more disciples…who go make more disciples. And the great news is we as ‘sent’ ones of God, are sent with the power of God himself at work within us (Acts 1.8)! Which means God, not you, is going to make things happen when you go about his business of making disciples. This is great news for disciples.
I think where this hits us is in how we in the local church train our leaders to be makers of disciple makers. To say it another way: I think the WIN for a small group leader should not be in how many attend their group, but in how many are SENT to plant new groups. This is a much healthier barometer of success for us as pastors & leaders in the local church.
Identifying and developing a person whose next step is to make more disciples is a joyful work for any disciple maker.
By and large we all agree with this in principle. But we parrot this concept to our group leaders who look at their group and go “sure, that sounds nice, but…nobody in here could be a leader.” I think I’ve heard that statement more than anything else, and when I start to dig, the reason I find is that they are often looking for an “ideal” instead of a few tangible signs that this person is headed in the right direction. Here are some things I help small group leaders look for in our church to figure out who is next to plant a new small group from theirs.
3 Markers for Who is Next
1. Actively Maturing in Christ. Notice, I am not saying they are “mature” in Christ. Let me explain. We often have this mythical spiritual scale that has a red line on it somewhere, and once a person passes that red line in their spirituality, then they are qualified to lead. Can I tell you something…there is no line. Let me hedge that: I am not saying a new convert should be in leadership in the church. Paul warns us against this very thing (1 Timothy 3.6) as it can set them up to swell with pride. That said, who in your group is showing clear signs of walking with Christ? Are they generous? Do they live and breathe the Scriptures? Are they sharing their faith? Is all of this coming out of the gospel? Again, not “who is the perfect christian” but who is showing signs of belief?
2. Commitment to the church and the group. Who in your group has moved from “church shopper” to “committed?” Do they get pumped about the vision of the church? Can you count on them every week to be there at group? I bet you can think of these names really quickly. Who is “in?” These are some of the most likely people to get excited about the idea of leading a small group. While they may not feel they can lead, they do love their church and are committed to its health. This is huge in leadership.
3. Evidence of biblical leadership in their lives. Not the “CEO” leadership skill set, but biblical leadership. This is closely related to #1. In their relationships and responsibilities right now, are they leading out in what God has called them to? Is the husband leading his family in Christ? Is the college senior honoring God in her studies? Is the single 27 year old exalting Christ in how he works? BASICALLY: Do they have the character & courage to follow christ in the circles of influence he has placed them in right now? If they do, then you can be confident they will do so as a group leader.
Use these 3 markers a fresh set of lenses to look at the faces in your groups. Now, very few will embody a “yes” to all three. But that just means you now have some tangible pieces of a discipleship plan for those not yet ready to be sent out!
Are they a YES to any of them? Then start there and work with them on the others.
We are sent by God himself to make more disciples. Which means truthfully the best thing you can do for your leaders is pray. Pray God would press this on them as a joyful expression of the gospel in their life.
As you get ready for your fall Small Group season, start thinking & praying about how you can change your culture from an “attending” one to a “sent” one.
Spence is the Small Groups Pastor at the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. He blogs at http://spenceshelton.wordpress.com/