Some questions come up almost every time I’m at a conference. ”Does the Senior Pastor need to lead a small group in order for a church to set group life as a high value?” ”Is it enough for my pastor to be in a small group?”
These are just two of the questions I get about the role of the Senior Pastor in the effort to become a church of groups or as I like to say, a church with a pervasive small group ministry. Here’s the short answer these questions lead to and the longer answer that must be given:
Q: Does the Senior Pastor need to lead a group?
A: No. Leading a group is not required.
Q: Does the Senior Pastor need to be in a group?
A: Absolutely! There is no way around it. In order to become a church with a pervasive small group ministry, in order to effectively persuade members of the value of group life…being in a group is essential. Being in a group gives the pastor more than just street cred though. Being in a group gives the pastor the experiences that will help them authentically lead others to try it themselves.
Why is this so important? Because in order to become a church of groups the Senior Pastor will need to be the small groups champion. That’s right. One of the most important aspects of the role of a senior pastor is to champion the most important values. And small if it’s important for everyone in your congregation to be connected in a small group…the senior pastor is going to need to champion that value.
Hearing that answer, I’m often asked, “Isn’t the job of the Small Group Pastor to be the champion? Or the Discipleship Pastor? Or the Pastor of Maturity or Membership?”
No. They do need to do what they can, but they don’t have the needed influence and they’re rarely visible enough to truly champion the value in a way that gets the attention of the entire congregation.
Why does the Senior Pastor need to be small groups champion? Easy. When they speak, people listen! When they say, “You need to be in a group because I’m in a group,” people respond. When they weave small group stories into their messages, short comments about their own group, people hear that and respond.
Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion
Let’s get really practical. Here are two ways that your Senior Pastor needs to be the small group champion:
- Champion community among the staff and leadership. This is an ongoing conversation in churches with pervasive small group ministries. It ought to come up in staff meetings. It ought to come up in casual conversation among staff. In the churches having the most impact it even comes up on the annual review.
- Champion community in the congregation. Whether in sermons, casual conversations in the lobby or in the neighborhood, it needs to be a constant. To be a value it can’t be occasional. To be a value the drumbeat must come from the top and be continual.