We’ve been exploring the number one ministry challenge posed by leaders of small group ministries around the world, “How do I train our small group leaders so we get spiritually healthy small groups?” In this second in a five-part series we’ll look at another secret ingredient.
2. Leaders are not born, they’re raised
Highly effective leader training raises leaders out of everybody!
God’s leaders don’t always look like what we imagine. Remember the story of Samuel searching for King Saul’s replacement. Samuel was looking for the strongest, most likely son of Jesse to be the next King. Like Samuel, many people share the common belief that all leaders must be naturally gifted. As a result, we tend to design and direct leader training toward people who are outgoing and social. But in 1 Samuel 16:7 God reminds Samuel that He looks at the heart, not the outward appearance that man does.
Don’t overlook who God has called to lead because they don’t fit your definition of a leader.
All Christ followers are called to be leaders, they’re just at different levels of development. Highly effective leader training supports each stage of development and each personality type. By employing the Crawl-Walk-Run principle of leadership development you can train everyone for leadership and exponentially multiply the number of effective leaders.
Several years ago a first-time visitor showed up at our small group. He was very shy but we welcomed him warmly and explained that we rotate meeting leadership every week among all the group members.
He visibly gulped at that last part but he kept coming back, watching each person lead in the following weeks. When it was his turn, he stumbled a bit but got through the brief agenda that I had given him. We all gave him accolades for a job well done.
His second turn leading was a little better but still rough. Again, we all encouraged him.
Turn after turn, in the safe environment of the group, his leadership kept improving. Then one week he announced that he was being transferred to another city. This was our cue. We made him the leader for every week until he left, just for more practice. By the time he left, he was a great leader. He knew what to do and he did it well. We were impressed.
Two months after he moved, he called to say that he found a church home in his new city and, even better, he had started a small group. I got a lump in my throat over that. God had taken a guy that seemed socially uncomfortable and made him into a guy that confidently starts a small group. He became that guy.
Potential leaders are waiting in your small groups; waiting for the training that will transform them into effective leaders.
Here are a few quick tips for highly effective leader training that includes new leaders at the crawl step, especially introverts.
- Be sensitive and don’t call them out and have them come up front if they’re reluctant.
- Exercise grace and find other ways to involve them.
- Let them watch and learn.
- If you’re asking questions of everyone, ask some really easy ones and then look for them to raise their hand so you can call on them.
- When they do share, repeat and expand on what they said to acknowledge the value of their comments.
- On the flipside, be very careful in correcting anything they say. When possible, do that privately.
- As you develop leader training, look at every small group leader through the eyes of Jesus. Jesus called ordinary, unassuming men to be his disciples because he knew their hidden potential. Highly effective leader training raises leaders out of everybody.
Remember how Jesus defines a leader. Meet everyone where they’re at and help them grow to where God created them to be. Your leadership team will expand exponentially and the most satisfying outcome will be the “most improved” leaders that grew dramatically and are now leading effectively.