Like to know one of the biggest secrets to leading a healthy, vibrant, life-changing small group? Last year, our survey of Life Group Leaders showed that groups who shared leadership as a Core Team were much stronger in all the other areas of group health. Having a Core Team is one of the “Seven Signs of a Healthy Small Group”: The group is team-led by 2-4 members who share leadership. No one leads alone.
Over the last two days I’ve had two separate discussions with other small group ministers about using Core Teams. The discussion focused on the difference between sharing ownership and sharing leadership of the group. I did not make this differentiation very clear in The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership, so I’ll try to clarify here.
A Core Team shares leadership of the group. Practically, this means meeting together to discuss the mission and purpose of the group and make decisions together. An individual group leader should never make decisions alone for the whole group. The Core Team also takes the lead in shepherding and discipling other members of the group. They may serve as “mentors” for newer Christians in the group.
Core Team Members are not better than or higher up than other group members. Their role is to serve the group through their shared leadership. At least two (and quite possibly all three) of Jesus’ Core Team Members (Peter, James, and John) had a hard time understanding this. They thought their leadership roles in the group entitled them to higher positions, power, and privileges. Their leader had to remind them that to lead is to serve (See Mark 10:35-45).
Another key to a healthy group is sharing ownership with everyone in the group. A goal of the Core Team is for every group participant to have a role in the group.
People who have a role and participate show up at meetings, get more involved, and grow in their faith. They help the group grow and build itself up, as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:16). I’ll write more about group roles in a separate post.
And, here’s the really really cool thing: Over time, participants who share ownership grow to share leadership and become part of the Core Team. As the group grows numerically and spiritually, Core Team Members begin to form their own Core Teams and naturally step out together to launch a new group. This isn’t just theory. In the few churches I know who are using Core Team Leadership (including Northeast), groups are healthy, growing, and multiplyong without being askd!
4 Thoughts to “Share Ownership, Share Leadership”
Thanks so much for this blog and clarifying leadership vs. ownership. Thanks to your "Burnout Handbook" we're working toward having our groups all be Core Team led. The new groups recently starting here have almost all started with a Core Leadership Team. They are now working toward creating ownership roles. For the existing groups which can be more hesistant to change or see the need for shared leadership, I'm finding that having them start the process of building their core team by creating ownership roles which will hopefully lead to leadership roles has been somewhat easier. It's certainly a work in progress, but I believe it's worth the effort. Thanks for all your awesome insights!
Thanks, Alyssa! Transitioning current solo-leader groups to "Core Teams" does have its challenges, and it does take time for the new values to be caught, but it is defintely worth it in the long run! It's great to hear success stories from other churches!
You know, the way I see core teams working is this way: the team gathers regularly to plan meetings and events between meetings and keep the group missional and growing. They also pray hard for every member of the group.
However, the core team's goal is not to "cover all the bases" with hard work by the core team. The team members should be strategically mobilizing every member of the group to do something for the group and in the meetings whenever possible. The core team is a mobilization team for all the members.
Your distinction of leadership vs. ownership is HUGE and unlocks a huge "aha!" moment for leaders moving into core-team led groups.
Be sure to include this theme in any training you might design on this, ok? 🙂
Thanks, Randall. For anyone else reading this, it's amazing … Randall wrote about this in chapter 5 of The Naked Truth About Small Group Leadership at the same time I was writing about it in The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership … without consulting one another about it. Then we edited each other's books and that's the first I knew we were actually writing about the same thing. To me, that verifies we were both hearing from God.
Good thoughts, Randall, on the implementation of it. I really like the mobilization role of the Core Team!