Recently I asked small group ministry leaders in five countries to share the most challenging issue facing their ministry this year. The most common response was the challenge of training leaders to get spiritually healthy small groups. In this five-part series we’ll uncover the secret sauce in highly effective small group leadership training, and some of the answers may surprise you. Hang on, here’s the first ingredient.
- Start with an effective vision
Don’t come up with all the things you want your leaders to know without first considering what you want them to become.
That sounds so obvious, doesn’t it? But though it’s essential to begin with the end in mind, it isn’t always that instinctual.
Start by answering this question: What should a successful group look like and what should an effective group leader look like? Be careful and thoughtful in developing your descriptions because they are the pillars on which your training will stand.
As you define successful groups and successful leaders remember that the best leader isn’t someone at the front, barking orders, making all of the decisions, putting people in their place and directing the spotlight on themselves. Instead, Jesus modeled what great leadership looked like by being the first servant. As fully God and fully man He knew perfectly where his disciples should go. But His most poignant leadership instruction was in the upper room as He washed their feet, modeling the leadership attitude and behavior that He wanted them to follow.
In essence, great group leaders are like great parents. They aren’t necessarily the smartest or the most outgoing, or the most rigid disciplinarian. Some may even seem quiet, not very expressive and somewhat permissive. But every great group leader knows where the group should go and grow, and they take responsibility for gently helping the group get there.
Another caution in your definitions: If you want groups that are hungry to grow and willing to take daring steps of faith straight out of their comfort zones, then your definition of a successful leader may need to broaden. As an example, a great group leader might not need to be a Bible scholar if you provide solid curriculum and create a culture for self-feeding. If Biblical scholar is part of your definition, however, then make Bible training available and be happy with a smaller graduating class and more limited number of leaders than otherwise.
Consistently and persistently keep the vision of a successful group and a successful leader in mind as you define and create training to achieve that vision. Without a clear target in mind, it can be very easy to go off message with some new idea that sounds good but derails your progress toward the goal.
So, what’s your vision?
We’ll talk a little more about that when we reveal the second secret.
If you’re having trouble defining your ministry’s vision for groups or leaders, consider attending an Accelerate! workshop from the Small Group Network. Accelerate! is a strategic planning event to help small group ministries craft a 12-18 month strategic action plan, and one of the first steps in the process is vision. Manie Groenewald from Moreletapark church in Pretoria, South Africa attended last year and felt it was so powerful that next year, 2017, he is planning several Accelerate! workshops around South Africa.