We all want healthy small groups. We want them thrive and see people’s lives being transformed into the image of Christ. But without a strategy to help our leaders be all God has called them to be, our leaders can become spiritually unhealthy. In many churches, small groups are the primary path of discipleship so considering the health of our leaders is essential. Healthy leaders yield healthy groups. Here are some things to remember as you define a strategy to develop the leaders in your ministry.
Praying for your leaders is a vital part of your ministry. In the early church, believers devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 2:42). Small group leaders are on the front lines of ministry. Make prayer a primary part of your ministry and theirs. Pray for them and pray with them, often.
How well do you know your leaders? Take time to know what is going on in their personal lives. Know their families, their spouse and ask about them by name. What does their relationship with Christ look like and are they living it out? Are they physically, spiritually, and emotionally healthy enough to lead their group? Perhaps they need a break. Leaders can be good at hiding their own pain because they don’t want to disappoint you or anyone else. They are often doers and might be stretched too thin. Take time to know them personally.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he writes, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ. (v. 11-12 ESV) Leaders must be given the tools (and freedom) to lead. Small group ministry is not one where where we lord over or dictate but we feed, challenge, and equip our leaders to lead. Boundaries are important but be sure to also give to your leaders the freedom to lead within their gifting and personality type. Give them as many tools as you can such as books, conferences, huddles, training, networking, and brainstorming sessions. Invest time and yes, money in your leaders. Equip them to lead.
A coach is one of the most important people in small group ministry. This is a layer of equipping, encouraging and caring that many churches do not utilize. We all need someone who will challenge us to be more than we can be, to keep their thumb in our back to do more than we can do and in the end, the whole team is better for it. In addition, a coach is able to take corrective action when needed because they are right there on the sidelines.
We all need encouragement. Paul had Barnabas, David had Nathan, and Paul himself told us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV to “…encourage one another and build one another up…” Whether you are a pastor, a point person, or a coach, leaders need your encouragement. They can easily become discouraged with the stress of leading, juggling schedules, trying to care for too many people, etc. Life is messy and shepherding is hard work. Let your leaders know their perseverance matters to you and matters to God. Take time to appreciate them and be sure to say “thank-you.” You would be surprised how often a simple thank-you is overlooked but it goes a long way. Be there to comfort them when they are discouraged and to celebrate their wins.
Since our small group leaders are the most direct shepherds of the flock, it is essential that they are healthy physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It is our job as point people to keep our finger on the pulse of our leaders. Know them, care for them and give them the tools they need to succeed.
How well are you caring for the leaders in your care?