When we talk “leadership development pathway,” I’ll bet you think about all of the cognitive steps leaders need to take to develop. You start to map out the markers all along the way, from trainings to gatherings to curriculum. But there’s one primary aspect of development you just might have overlooked.
You can’t grow into everything God created you to be without others.
And you know this. You teach this. You preach this. You live this.
Look back across your life, and your story will be strewn with others’ wisdom, influence, affirmation, correction, direction, and tears. And yours theirs. We were wired to be woven together. And the Scriptures affirm this, exhorting us more than 50 times to obedience that necessitates the involvement of others in our lives.
So if it’s true that we can’t be fully devoted to Jesus without others in our lives, the same is true for those we’ve been called to develop. As small group pastors, part of what we do is building infrastructure. (just click that link if you’re not sure what I’m talking about) And a significant part of that infrastructure is the coaching side of the street: that second tier level of leadership that we call people to that helps us walk alongside other small group leaders. At Saddleback, we call them Community Leaders. Call them what you want in your context, but that verbiage works for us.
We’ve noticed that most of the practical learnings and best practices you bring home from a Small Group conference were shared “in the lobby” with other Small Group Ministry Leaders rather than from the main stage. It’s in the Lobby that you can engage in an in-depth conversation about real-life issues in your Small Group Ministry. The Small Group Network One Day Lobby Gathering – Tennessee will intentionally facilitate these types of interactions. REGISTER
While training and equipping are important for your leaders to KNOW the what, why, and how-tos of small group leadership, they need someone that will help them grow as a disciple as well. They need an advocate, and encourager, and a coach. They need a guide, someone who helps them course-correct. They need someone who’s praying for them, and their spiritual growth, specifically by name. They need to be known.
I bet you know this, but I’ll state it to let the records show. It’s possible to KNOW the right thing, but not DO the right thing.
It’s true for you, and it’s true for the small group leaders you’re called to care for. Training can only take leaders so far. It’s only one side of the guardrails that we put in place when we build the pathway for development. When it comes to developing leaders (read: discipleship), we want to engage the head AND the heart. The cognitive AND the relational. So we surround leaders with Community Leaders who journey through their small group life alongside them, speaking truth in love.
If you want to help your small group leaders grow as a disciple of Jesus, and not just grow in the skill of leading a small group, get them connected relationally with someone that will journey through life with them. And not just you, the small group point person. If it’s just you, you become the cap on their growth and the growth of the ministry. Because you don’t have all of the wisdom, insight, experiences, and gifts they need to be all God created them to be. If it’s true that it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes an army to raise a small group leader. Do the hard work of recruiting, training, and building an army of small group Community Leaders that will relationally shepherd groups with you as you pour your heart into their growth.
Years from now, they’ll thank you.