How to Develop Leaders in Your Small Group
Overcoming our own barriers as leaders
In order to fulfill God’s calling, we need to be serious about developing believers and preparing them to disciple, teach, and lead others. This series focuses on two key areas in developing others in a small group setting: 1. Overcoming an unhealthy reliance on ourselves and 2. Seeing and calling out potential in others.
Healthy things grow. This is true in the physical world and true in the spiritual world. It is true of individuals and true of organizations, ministries, and churches. In fact, we know from Scripture that God designed the church to grow (Acts 2:46-47 and I Corinthians 3:5-7).
Growth in ministry is good. It can be exciting and energizing, but if we are honest, growth can also be extremely challenging. What happens when you are not ready for the growth? What if you cannot keep up with all the opportunities to teach, lead, and disciple?
Entrusted to Equip Others
In the past few years of leading the adult small group ministry at my local church, I have found that growth catches most leaders off guard. I have seen this scenario play out over and over: a group is healthy and full of life. The leader does an amazing job and the people in the group are growing spiritually. Suddenly they have 20-25 people in their home every week, and even more people want to come. The signs are clear it is time to expand and create more groups. There is only one problem. They cannot identify a new leader. There is no one who feels comfortable, confident, or is willing to lead a new group.
As spiritual leaders, there is a tendency to be so focused on taking care of and teaching people that we neglect a vital part of our leadership responsibility. The Bible teaches us that those who are entrusted with leadership in the church have the assignment to equip believers to be a part of building up and serving other believers.
“It was he who ‘gave gifts to people’; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. He did this to prepare all God's people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Overcoming Common Misconceptions
Equipping leaders begins with overcoming an unhealthy reliance on ourselves. One of the biggest barriers to investing in potential leaders comes from the way we think about our own leadership. If we have an improper perspective about our own role, it will not only limit our ministry, but it will also limit the people we are leading. Here are a few common misconceptions that leaders need to overcome to be successful in developing others.
1. If I can’t do it all, I am failing.
There is a big difference between being a responsible leader and being personally responsible for everything. Too often we view asking for help as a sign of weakness, but the reality is that involving others is a mark of great leadership. When you are feeling overwhelmed or unable to keep up with all the responsibilities of leading your small group, instead of seeing it as a sign you are doing something wrong, see it as an opportunity to include others. Look for areas that you can allow others to begin to lead such as organizing activities, leading the prayer time, caring for group members, or leading the small group discussion. Remember, God often puts us in a place that stretches us in order to remind us that we cannot do it on our own. We are designed to depend on God and depend on others.
2. If I don’t do it myself, it won’t get done right.
It is easy to think we would be happy to let others lead, if only we could trust them to do things correctly, when what we feel is that the only way to ensure something is done right is to do it on our own. This kind of thinking is not only prideful, it is very limiting. If you do not involve others, you will hold your group back from growing. I have heard it said that if someone can do something even 50% as well as you can do it, you should let them do it. Look at Jesus’s example. Even though no one could match Jesus’s ability to teach and care for people, over and over he assigned his disciples these tasks. Even though it can be scary to entrust ministry to someone else, remember our goal is not perfection, it is discipling people and that always involves letting go of personal control.
3. It’s not fair to expect someone else to take on more responsibility.
One of the most dangerous things you can do as a leader is to say someone else’s “no” for them. Because we know firsthand the work and sacrifice that goes into leading a small group, sometimes we are hesitant to ask other people to commit to leading alongside us. While we may think we are being considerate, we have to remember that in our effort to protect them we may be robbing them of an amazing opportunity. God has designed each person to serve and live out a specific calling. As leaders, we should be looking for ways to help others embrace that calling. Instead of assuming someone is too busy or won’t be interested, we need to present them with an opportunity and allow them to seek God and decide.
As you grow in leadership and as your small group grows in maturity, don’t miss out on your calling to develop leaders. God has not only called you to disciple and teach, but you are called to develop others to disciple and teach.
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