I have been coaching small group leaders for a while and having been a group leader myself, I would like to address the question: What do small group leaders really need?
Small group leaders are on the front lines of ministry. They are the ones who are up close and personal with the people of your church. Honestly, many are frustrated, burned out and just plain tired. Small group ministry can be one of the most rewarding ministries around but it can also be very draining. Doing life together can be messy. Our leaders need to know they are loved and cared for. Simply training leaders and then turning them lose to lead is one of the most unhealthy things we can do for our small group ministry.
So what do small group leaders really need?
Leaders need prayer.
Most of all, leaders need to know that you have their back in prayer. None of us can do ministry without God. Leaders need to know they are being lifted in prayer not only in their personal lives but as they lead their groups. Don’t just pray for them, pray with them, often.
Leaders need encouragement.
Leaders can easily become discouraged when members don’t show up or when they are having difficult seasons in ministry. They need to know that you are there to support them, spur them on, and to celebrate their wins.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” -Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 ESV
Leaders need equipping.
Leaders need tools and practical how-tos to get the job done. Feed them with ideas for curriculum, fresh insight, books, articles, and blog posts. Encourage (and financially provide for) them to attend training, retreats and/or conferences to sharpen their skills. In his blog article, “A Successful Schedule For A Small Group Leaders Training Retreat… Guaranteed,” Rick Howerton suggests having an annual retreat for small group leaders and shares some useful details of how to host one.
Ephesians 4:12 ESV, Paul told the Ephesian church as an example to us, “To equip the Saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.” This verse should be a foundational verse and guiding light in our small group ministries.
Leaders need one another.
One of my favorite things to do in a huddle is to give leaders time to learn from and share experiences with one another. If someone is having a problem with a particularly difficult group member, maybe another leader can offer advice on how to address the situation. Allow leaders to encourage and challenge one another. “As iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” -Proverbs 27:17 ESV
Leaders need a friend.
Sometimes leaders need a listening ear. They need to vent or to bounce ideas off of someone or to share a personal struggle. They just need to know someone cares. Something as simple as remembering their birthday can mean so much. Don’t just know about your leaders, take the time to get to know them, their family and their daily walk with Christ.
Leaders need accountability.
It happens. Leaders get off track from time to time. It is easy to lose sight of the vision of the ministry or to get a little sidetracked. While these conversations can be awkward and difficult, they are necessary to uphold the purity of doctrine, values, and the culture of your church. I call those truth in love conversations.
If there is a sin to be addressed, address it boldly, lovingly, and always within the boundaries of Matthew 18.
Leaders need to be discipled.
Most of all, we are commanded by Jesus in Matthew 28:19 ESV to “Go and make disciples…” Discipleship is simply teaching and leading and making followers. Ultimately, we all follow Christ but our leaders need an earthly example to follow. They need someone to help them discover their next step in their walk to become more like Christ. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” Be the example. Are you someone your leaders should follow? Are the leaders someone the group member should follow?
In his blog Mark Howell Live, Mark consistently writes: “Whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your small groups must happen in the lives of your leaders first.”
Small group ministry is rewarding, fun, messy, and hard work! Keeping our finger on the pulse of our leaders and looking out for their spiritual health essential to the health of our small group ministry as a whole.