One of the key factors for a growing church is strong leadership in small groups ministry. Over the past eighteen months, we have placed a massive emphasis on small groups in our church and we have seen the blessings result. Dr. Lee Roberson once stated "Everything rises and falls on leadership." I completely concur with the EVERYTHING, including small groups in the church. There are small groups that thrive because they have a leader that is thriving. Many small groups die because they have a small group leader that is dying. Others seem to maintain the status quo, you guessed it, because the leaders is maintaining the status quo. Here are a few ways a small group leader can effectively lead in the local church context:
1. Capture your pastor's vision and create a microcosm of that vision in the small group.
Small groups are not a church, they are a ministry of the church. Every successful small group leader makes it his or her business to find out exactly what the pastor's heart and vision for the entire church really is, then creates a microcosm of that vision in their class. If the small group leader has an agenda that is different than the vision that the Lord has given the pastor and the church, they are on an island that will eventually break away from the church. There cannot be competing visions for the church and your small group. The vision for our church is simple, Make Disciples. We do this by "connecting people to God in a growing relationship that is serving other people and sharing the gospel with the world."
2. Remember your leadership extends beyond the small group meeting.
Effective leaders remember that they are leading all the time. Leadership is not an event, it is a way of life. If you are leading a small group you must remember that people watch, mimic, and evaluate your life constantly. In the context of the local church, you cannot separate your attendance, punctuality, appearance, participation, and overall demeanor and spirit from the leadership role in a small group. If you are a casual church member but a dynamic speaker, you are destroying with your life what you are saying with your lips. If you are "all in" in small groups, but late to services, disheveled when you get to church, bored with preaching, not participating in singing, leave as soon as church is over, camp out in the back of the auditorium, never engage with people, never fellowship with the people (especially the ones in your small group), or have a bad attitude, you are leading but leading very poorly. Our church life and habits are leadership as well as our small group ministry and believe me, people in your small group are watching!
3. Small group leaders effectively involve themselves in the lives of others.
Effective leaders immerse themselves into the lives of the people in their group. Birthday cards, anniversary congratulations, milestone achievements, hospital visits, meals and fellowship are just a few ways that leaders lead and impact people in their small group. Phone calls, texts, and emails can go a long way when someone has missed the group meeting. All of this boils down to a leader that is genuinely concerned over the people they are leading in a small group setting. You can impress people with teaching well but you can only impact people by reaching out.
4. Maintain a spiritual environment in the small group.
So many times small groups become their own animal. They can become known as the activity class, the social club, the gossip group, the yoga meet, the fantasy football league, the marathon training ground, the Plexus promoter, the island of misfit toys, or whatever else. A wise small group leader recognizes that God has placed him or her in the role of leadership in order to help people grow spiritually. Teach the Bible passionately, spend time in serious prayer, promote the work of God in the local church, do things to serve others in the church, encourage the leadership of the church, take any assignment given to your small group by the pastor very seriously, and always be positive!
5. Walk with God.
Serving God cannot replace daily worshipping God. Our service for God should flow out of our love and devotion to our Lord. Do not be guilty of outwardly demonstrating servanthood but inwardly dying spiritually. Sometimes we have to slow the "Martha" down inside of us and focus on the "Mary" in our worship of Christ. Live your Christian life from the overflow of your walk with God. Teach the Bible as an overflow of your time in Scripture. Pray with others as an overflow of your time in the secret place of prayer with God. Do not focus on presenting well, focus on walking with God, you'll present just fine.
These are just a few ways you can begin immediately to effectively lead your small group.