Maybe you've been asked a version of this question. Probably you've heard a version of it asked of a guest on a talk show or a podcast.
Usually it's something like, "What would you say to the 25 year-old you?" Or, "What advice would you give the 21 year-old you?"
I can tell you this, there are some things I'd want to say to my first year in small group ministry self!
5 Things I'd Want to Say to My Early Ministry Self:
Focus on your own spiritual growth first
Make sure you're being discipled and mentored by some fully authentic Christ followers who are the kind of people and leaders you want to be when you grow up.
When you're starting out...make sure you're being discipled and mentored by some fully authentic Christ followers who are the kind of people and leaders you want to be when you grow up. Click To Tweet
I've always thought of this as, "In case of emergency, put on your own oxygen mask first."
I didn't know to do this when I began in ministry. As it turned out, my senior pastor introduced me to Eric Swanson, a Campus Crusade Campus Director in town for a couple months of that summer. It's a massive understatement to say I'm thankful that happened. It set me on a path that 35 years later is still the right one. See also, Investing in Your Own Personal Growth.
Build a team as you find the players
One of the things I learned from Eric was the life-giving importance of team ministry. I can remember looking forward to the day I would work on a team like his. And I look back with gratitude that I began building my own team in the very beginning. We were all volunteers, but we enjoyed the essence of what Eric's team had.
The chance to pray together and dream together with a team almost pales in comparison to the moments you'll laugh together or celebrate a victory together or even cry together when ministry or life is hard.
When you're beginning in ministry...the chance to pray together and dream together with a team almost pales in comparison to the moments you'll laugh together or celebrate a victory together or even cry together when ministry or life is hard Click To Tweet
Prioritize launching new groups
I had to learn to do this. And it didn't come naturally. What came naturally was prioritizing the group leaders and groups I already had. Doing anything other than taking care of what I already had was counterintuitive.
Prioritizing anything other than the needs of the group leaders and groups I already had seemed like the opposite of the old maxim, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."
But the truth is, launching (and sustaining) new groups is a key to building a thriving small group ministry.
I didn't know it when I began, but I'm glad I learned it early. See also, Are You Prioritizing the Launch of New Groups?
Always be identifying and recruiting leaders of leaders
I didn't learn this in the beginning. And I didn't learn it all at once. It sort've came to me in stages over time. I learned the concept from Jim Dethmer and he learned it from Carl George. But I'm glad I learned it early on in my ministry. Alongside prioritizing new groups, this practice is a game-changer.
When you have eyes to see, there are always men and women who, when compared to everyone else, are simply higher capacity leaders. They are the hundred-fold or sixty-fold seeds in Jesus' parables. It's not about maturity. It is about capacity and it's largely built-in. In many ways they were born that way.
Learn to spot high capacity leaders of leaders. And learn to recruit them to a seat on the bus where they can have the greatest impact.
Do TO and FOR your leaders what you want them to do to their members
I didn't learn this in the beginning. I wish I had. This simple practice makes so much possible. Whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of groups, must happen in the lives of the leaders first. If you will do the right things TO and FOR the leaders of your groups, you will be able to extend care, development and discipleship to the members of an unlimited number of groups.
And, as you employ the practice of identifying and recruiting leaders of leaders it allows you to scale caring for leaders (and members) in a way that nothing else does.
Learn to do this as early as you can. Don't put it off. This practice is at the very heart of building a thriving small group ministry. See also, The Best Training for Small Group Leaders.
Image by KNLPhotos2010