My husband and I recently travelled from Australia to New York, while we were there we visited the 9/11 Memorial Site. It was a very moving experience for us, however amidst the sadness I heard this story;
“A Callery pear tree became known as the “Survivor Tree” after enduring the September 11, 2001 terror attacks at the World Trade Center. In October 2001, the tree was discovered at Ground Zero severely damaged, with snapped roots and burned and broken branches. The tree was removed from the rubble and placed in the care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. After its recovery and rehabilitation, the tree was returned to the Memorial in 2010. New, smooth limbs extended from the gnarled stumps, creating a visible demarcation between the tree’s past and present. Today, the tree stands as a living reminder of resilience, survival and rebirth.”
It took 9 years of tender loving care before the tree could be replanted. And now with ongoing care this tree flourishes year after year after year. It made me think about the level of initial care and on-going care we need to give to our small group leaders if we want them to flourish in their role year after year.
As we all know in small group ministry we can experience lots of positives but also, frustration, disappointment, and discouragement which can often be detrimental and damaging. So the question is how can we care for our small group leaders? These 3 ideas may be of help to you, and/or be a springboard for you to come up with some ideas of your own!
Idea 1 – Develop ‘peer-care’
In my experience I have found grouping leaders in small groups (3-4) to meet quarterly has had real merit in establishing a sense of care. When leaders meet this way they share ideas, listen to each others challenges, feel cared for, recognise they are not alone and pray for each other. Over time relationships develop and care and support happens at other times also. This is an absolutely great addition to the care you give leaders in your role as small group point person.
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Idea 2 – Value ‘leadership time out’
Creating an environment where it is seen to be ‘ok’ to have time out from small group leadership is a great gift of care we can give our leaders. For small groups to thrive and flourish we need leaders;
- who are energised and passionate
- who know that is ok to take a break if they need one (obviously there needs to be a plan and clarity around how this will happen!)
- who don’t feel trapped in their role. If the current leader needs a break but there is no one within the group who will take on the leadership role, then maybe the whole group needs a ‘rethink’! And this is where my third idea may be a help.
Idea 3 – Prioritise shared leadership
I am very enthusiastic believer that a healthy group shares the leadership.
I recognise that it is important to have a designated leader who has oversight and accountability for the group but that does not equal that the leader does everything. In fact, I would say that is not very caring!
If we want to care for our small group leaders then developing a philosophy/structure in our small group ministry, which encourages group members to share leadership is a must. A great way from a group member to grow is to step up and lead a group session (start small if you like -with leading just 1 or 2 questions!), group members can lead the prayer time, organise supper/social gatherings and the list could go on……
I recognise that most small group leaders do not experience the harsh damage that the Callery pear tree underwent in the events of 9/11 and certainly do not need the level of care it needed. However, they do need to be cared for and we have the privilege and honour of making sure this care happens – hoping these ideas may help you do so!
Questions to reflect on
- How could the idea of ‘peer care’ fit into your small group ministry system/structure?
- How well does your philosophy/structure embrace a leader who may need ‘time out’?
- What steps could you take to develop a culture of shared leadership in your groups?
- Is there one idea in this article which you could share with your small group leadership team?