Whether you are a small group pastor or director or the small group ministry role is one of several hats you wear, you face a set of challenges.
Can the challenges you face be overcome? Probably.
Can they be overcome easily? Some can, but honestly, some will take some work to accomplish.
My hope for this series of posts is to state the challenge and share my own experience, hopefully pointing you in a good direction.
Challenge #1: Aligning Your Personal Vision with the Corporate Vision
A challenge faced by many (if not most) small group pastors is aligning our personal vision and philosophy of ministry with the corporate vision and philosophy of ministry. Here's what I mean:
Your church has a corporate vision and philosophy of ministry, usually informed by your senior pastor and the leadership of the church. Inside the corporate vision are some implications that are often unstated. For example, "the way we will make more and better disciples is by teaching expositorially through books of the Bible."
You arrive on the scene as small group pastor or director with a personal vision and philosophy of ministry. Inside your personal vision and philosophy of ministry are some implications that are often unstated. For example, "We will make more and better disciples by connecting more of our congregation into groups where they can grow in Christ, love one another and further the work of the kingdom."
Can you see the challenge? Can you relate?
Full disclosure: at some level, there may be the unstated implication occurring at the intersection of "life-change happens in circles" vs "life change happens in rows."
Further set-up and explanation:
While there is nuance in every situation (i.e., Were you recruited into the role from the inside or outside of your congregation?, Has there been a change in corporate vision since you arrived?, etc.), discovering the variance between the corporate vision and philosophy of ministry our own personal vision and philosophy of ministry can happen during the hiring process, shortly after hiring or sometimes long after we are in place.
Your level of experience (and particularly your level of hiring experience) plays a leading role in how early or late the variance is discovered. Your interest in the position at the time of hiring plays at least a supporting role.
Personal example: When I moved from Fellowship of the Woodlands to Lake Avenue Church I had very limited candidating experience. I was also quite motivated to seek a return to California and a more influential role. Consequently, I asked some questions and not others. The questions I missed turned out to be directly related to corporate vision and philosophy of ministry vs personal vision and philosophy of ministry.
Aligning Personal Vision with Corporate Vision
When any variance is discovered (or suspected) between personal vision and philosophy of ministry and corporate vision and philosophy of ministry (whether prior to hiring or afterwards), having a clarifying conversation is important. The agenda of the conversation should be purely about understanding. Seeking to understand can feel awkward but is an essential step.
True understanding may take several conversations. Again, the agenda of the conversation should be purely about understanding.
Only after arriving at a true understanding can you determine whether your personal vision and philosophy of ministry can fit within the corporate vision and philosophy of ministry. It is essential that it does.
If your personal vision doesn't fit within the corporate, your options are limited (i.e., determine to set aside your personal vision to support the corporate or seek a better fit elsewhere).