Teacher, Leader, Shepherd, Host: What’s in a Name?

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What do you call your small group leaders?  Better yet, what do they do?  Are they teachers…in any sense of the word?  Leaders…where are they leading?  Shepherds…in what way?  Hosts…and nothing more?

Seems that no matter where you turn there is discussion of some kind.  Here’s Thom Rainer’s 8 Commitments for Bible Study Leaders (clearly takes the teacher position).  This Thursday The Village Church’s Trevor Joy takes the shepherd angle on the Small Group Network GroupTalk call.  There’s no shortage of debate between leader and host.

Teacher, leader, shepherd, host.  What’s in a name?  In my world (and I hope yours), it’s less about the name and more about who they need to be and what they need to do.  And honestly, it’s more about who they need to be becoming and what they need to be experiencing.

Here’s what I mean:

First, a small group leader is not primarily a teacher unless you consider a person a step or two ahead to be more than one beggar showing another beggar where to get food.  I’m thinking they are really more of a guide.  And not even a tour guide who has been there many times.  Certainly not a travel agent (who has never been there, but knows a lot about it).

The provision in James 3:1?  What about the challenge in Hebrews 5:12?  Trust me, I am a lot more influenced by what Paul has to say in Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Second, a small group leader is more than a host…although they may begin that way.  This is the genius of the host strategy.  HOST makes it easy to take a first step and nearly automatic to continue developing into a shepherd.  They don’t need to be Jesus Jr. already.  Who knows how many of the right people, the men and women that God has been sending in response to the Matthew 9 prayer, have been overlooked or excluded because they weren’t known or didn’t measure up to what insiders viewed as essential?  See also, HOST: What Does It Mean?

Third, being a small group leader doesn’t require the spiritual gift of leadership.  Any of several spiritual gifts can hold a group together.  You’ve seen it.  I have too.  It could be the gift of mercy, or hospitality, or teaching, or leadership…or any of several other spiritual gifts.  The group will have a different feel, but it can still function and have quite an impact.

Fourth, an effective small group leader is ultimately most like a shepherd.  If it is true that whatever you want to happen in the lives of your small group members must be experienced first by their small group leader…then you better tailor your coaching strategy to deliver the experience you want to propagate.  Further, you better tailor your small group leader expectations to develop the kind of small group leaders that can follow Paul’s lead and simply say, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV  See also, Five GroupLife Dots You May Not Be Connecting and Small Group Leader Expectations: What Should They Be?

What do you think?  Have a question? Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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