Another way I say it is that "whatever you want to happen at the member level you have to do TO and FOR (and WITH) the leaders of your groups."
In other words, leaders can't lead at a level they have not already experienced.
The example I often use is, if you want the members of your groups to have confidence they are being prayed for, the leader of the group will have to have experienced the impact of being prayed for.
I was in a meeting recently and the topic of discussion was, "How can we hear more of the success stories of the people who are acting on and living out what we are teaching them to do in the weekend services?"
There were many suggestions offered in the meeting, from across the various teams represented.
"We could send a church-wide email with a survey."
"We could send a survey to our group leaders."
"We could take a survey in the service."
Each suggestion was met with a statement like: "We tried that before and even after a lot of effort didn't get much of a response."
Since the problem was not my monkey or my circus I talked privately with the leader whose problem it was after the meeting ended.
My suggestion? Acquiring that level of feedback is almost entirely about training group leaders to personally follow up on commitments made in the previous group meeting(s).
Many small group ministries have integrated the practice of using "I will" statements during the application segment of the Bible study (i.e., "I will share this Bible story with my friend in the next 47 hours." or "I will take a meal to my neighbor (who just had a baby) by Friday.").
The genius of the "I will" statement is found in the opening moments of the very next group meeting when the leader "follows up" on the commitments of the previous week.
The gracious and relentless checkin activity is essential if you want your leaders to help their group members do what they are committing to do.
Smelling what I'm cooking?
Many of us use the expression that small groups are the optimum environment for life-change.
But when we assess the real-world experiences of the members of small groups, we usually discover that only some small groups are the optimum environment for life-change.
What is often identified as the critical difference between groups that are and are not experiencing life-change?
The difference is only rarely what they are studying, how often they are meeting or whether they are same sex or mixed.
Almost always the finding is that when a group has a life-changing leader, their group becomes the optimum environment for life-change.
How does a small group leader become a life-changing leader? Primarily by being developed and discipled by a life-giving leader (a small group pastor/director, a coach, etc.).
How does the small group pastor/director or coach become a life-giving leader/mentor/disciple-maker?
Rarely by reading the right books (or blogs) or attending the right conferences or workshops (in-person or online, live or recorded).
Almost always the finding is that life-giving leaders are essential in the development and discipling of other life-giving leaders.
Conclusion and Assignment:
What we want to happen in the lives of the members of our groups must be already happening in the lives of their leaders and that predetermines what we must be doing with our time and energy.
- Is that what is happening in your ministry?
- If yes, how can you extend your impact even further? (Hint: It's mostly about building a more effective coaching structure).
- If no, what do you need to do in the next 47 hours to get started? (Hint: It's mostly about building a more effective coaching structure).
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