For several decades, small group leaders have been taught that leading is a solo act. I’ve seen (and even used) a model that pictures a small group leader sitting alone in the middle of a circle, surrounded by all the members of the group. That picture illustrates that the leader has been given the sole responsibility for finding, inviting, shepherding, calling, praying for, discipling, and ministering to the rest of the group—a group usually consisting of 8-12 people.

In 1991, Carl George introduced what he called the “Meta-Church” in his book Prepare Your Church for the Future. He said that a healthy group consists of people at various spiritual levels and is led by a “leadership nucleus.” This nucleus is comprised of the leader, apprentice, and a host.

For years, church leaders have understood the need for the leadership nucleus, but it didn’t solve many of the problems in small group leadership. Leaders still burned out. Many groups did not grow or multiply. For all the great structures, designs, and birthing protocols, a couple vital ingredients were still missing.

I’ve seen little evidence that these leadership nuclei were ever taught how to operate effectively as a team. That’s a major reason I wrote The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership, and in that book I show specifically how these leadership nuclei (or what I call Core Teams) work together. But there’s something even bigger missing from George’s picture of a healthy group. Something vital and essential to spiritual leadership.

I think I’ll leave you hanging there for a day or two. I’ll blog on what’s missing here next time!

This post is adapted from Chapter 1 of The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership (Touch Publications.)

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Michael Mack has been involved in small group ministry as a pastor, writer, trainer, and speaker for more than 25 years. He founded in 1995 and started Small Group Leadership in 2012. He became the 12th editor of Christian Standard magazine in 2017 and continues to speak in churches about small groups, discipleship, and leadership. He lives in Pewee Valley, Kentucky (just outside Louisville), with his wife Heidi. They have four young adult children. Michael enjoys mountain and road biking with a group of friends. See the "About Michael Mack" page under About Us for more about him.

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