Ever been in a small group that was life changing and stimulated your hunger to know God more? Ever wondered what the leader did to make it that way?
If you’ve led or have been a member of a small group for any length of time then you know that simply getting together at someone’s house weekly doesn’tguarantee personal life change. It also doesn’t guarantee that the people in our groups will actually be real and vulnerable with one another.
But what you might be surprised to discover is that the key to cultivating authenticity and growth in a small group actually begins with the leader. It’s the leader’s responsibility to set the tone for the groups and set it up for success.
This may feel like quite bit of pressure for most of us who don’t feel qualified to lead a group. But here’s the truth: No one is qualified! We all make mistakes with leading people and with facilitating discussions.
That’s why it’s important to seek help, counsel and training from other leaders that we know. We’re all on this journey together.
I’d like to share four leadership principles I’ve learned along the way that explain how to be a great small group leader.
1. Great small group leaders help develop people’s lives.
A small group leader’s real job is not to lead a meeting or get through the curriculum, but to disciple and develop people. There’s a significantdifference in trying to “make it through all the questions” versus trying to “get the truth into the people.”
This means developing an intentional mindset of looking beyond the curriculum and helping connect people with the word of God and with otherpeople in a way that brings about personal growth.
We need to recognize that our group members come to our groups at different stages of spiritual health and maturity. And our goal is to help them move tothe next stage of their growth.
2. Great small group leaders walk with God personally.
The most important item on God’s agenda for any small group leader is the health of their own walk with Jesus. Remember, we can’t lead anyone beyond wherewe’ve gone ourselves and we can’t impart what we don’t possess.
Does this mean we’re perfect? No. But it does mean that we’re consistent and authentic in our walk with God.
3. Great small group leaders create an environment of authenticity for transformation.
In order for real change, the environment must be real. And in order to have an authentic environment there needs to be safety. Thispositions group members to allow the Holy Spirit to move in a way that helps them be vulnerable and open to the truth.
Creating a safe environment begins with the leader doing a few simple things: intentionally greeting people, perhaps setting out food and drinks, andthinking carefully about seating arrangements. It’s all about creating an intimate and casual atmosphere.
People are looking for an authentic heart connection and a conversation that pushes past surface talk. But in order for this to happen in our groups, weneed to model this first.
This means sharing something from the heart that makes us personally vulnerable. As leaders, we have to be willing to take enough risk that our groupmembers will feel comfortable sharing something vulnerable too.
4. Great group leaders develop great listening skills.
Never underestimate the power of great listening. When we listening well we validate people by letting them know they’re important. Being a great listeneralso helps us to learn our group member’s unique stories and understand their worldview.
If we’re going to disciple someone on their journey, we need to know where they’re coming from. To do this, we have to resist the urge to “fix” theirproblems. There’s a time and a place to guide and teach, but there’s also a time when we just need to seek to understand.
My hope is that as more small group leaders will become great small group leaders, more lives will change and more Christians will really begin tolive like Christians.
To get a closer look at the scriptural profile of a small group leader, view the archived webinar, The Real Job Description of a Group Leader.In it, I’ve joined Small Groups Pastor Jim Blazin to provide proven strategies and tips to help small group leaders more effectively engage group membersand challenge them to grow.
Whether you’re new or want to sharpen your group leading skills, you can also sign up for our Small Group Leader Online Course. For this course, I’ll join Lance Wittto provide tools and resources you can put into practice in your small group.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the senior pastor of Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, California, and teaching pastor and president of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including "The Real God," "Culture Shock" and "The Real Heaven." Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and eleven grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip