Where is the bar set for our small group leaders?

At Northeast, I’m always looking for unschooled, ordinary people who have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). The expectations bar is very low in regards to their current knowledge and skills, but it is higher in regards to their heart for Jesus. I’m praying and looking for leaders after God’s own heart.

As someone steps into leadership, however, God expects them to grow.

As leaders, we all have a responsibility to:
  • “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18; see also Eph. 1:17 and 2 Peter 1:8)
  • “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1)

It is my main responsibility as a small groups minister to equip our leaders (see Ephesians 4:12) for their service. I like that word equip.  It means I provide the resources for them to grow. One of the ways I’ve done that recently was to ask David Holdcraft (right) to be a part of our team. David team-leads both a couples and men’s small group at our church.  He is an ordained pastor and professor who has a depth of knowledge in doctrine and apologetics.

We’ve asked David to do two main things:

  1. Be a “Bible Answer Guy” for our group leaders. When someone asks a tough question in a group, they can ask David, and he’ll provide them with Bible verses, theological background, and whatever else they need to discuss the issue further with their group.
  2. Help equip leaders in the areas of doctrine and apologetics. We are preparing a short Zoomerang questionnaire that we’ll use to get a baseline on our leaders’ current understanding. From there, David will prepare workshops, video snippets, and articles that our leaders can utilize to grow in their knowledge and understanding.

David leads a ministry called Reasons Ministries with a growing web site that is a big part of the toolbox. There, leaders can ask questions that David will respond to, and he posts his responses on the site. He also has a great bimonthly newsletter, a blog, and other practical apologetics ministry opportunities. See the Reasons Ministries website here: http://reasonsministries.com/.

We want our small groups to be healthy and growing. This is one way of helping assure that is happening.

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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 SmallGroups.com 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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  1. Randall Neighbour

    March 3, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Someone on the Lifeway Small Group Summit panel said "if the have a pulse, they're qualified to lead a group at our church" or something along those lines.

    Why not just pay the consumers to lead groups for heaven's sake?

    Jesus poured his life into his disciples for three years and gave them multiple experiences to learn what he was teaching them before he released them.

    While I don't think we need a three year internship program, we do need to have a bar for leadership and it should be greater than having a pulse, a DVD player, or the working knowledge of a vacuum cleaner.

    If group life is as relational and life-on-life transformational as it should be, future leaders are being developed from the very first time they help the group do a service project, serve a member in need, throw a BBQ for unchurched people, and so forth. Effective group leadership is not just teaching someone how to facilitate a small group meeting in a home… it's how to be a real friend, become a good listener, be the prayer warrior that friend requires in time of need, and be an encourager!

    I also know from personal experience that churches who help every small group member move through a discipleship pathway to spiritual maturity have an abundance of willing future leaders. Chew on that one for a while and let it sink in.


  2. Michael C. Mack

    March 3, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Thanks, Randall. Good insights. I think there are two issues here: (1) a new leader's spiritual maturity and (2) his or her skills and experience. The spiritual maturity bar is a bit higher. I want them to be in a growing relationship with Christ as Savior and Lord, in His Word on a consistent basis, and in agreement with our statements of belief, etc. I want them to be HEALTHY (not perfect) spiritually. I can teach them skills and give them on-the-job training and experience. All of this is worked into our pathway for spiritual growth.

    You mentioned how Jesus poured his life into the apostles for three years, and that's absolutely true. At the same time, he allowed them to be involved in ministry even very early during that time, sending them out in pairs, for instance, to do ministry. When they'd come back, he'd meet with them and ask questions and use the time as a teaching opportunity. So I see a "both-and" process at work in how he discipled and developed them.

    And don't forget that even at the end of the three years they still did not seem to get it … until he went away and the Holy Spirit filled them and used them mightily to carry out his commission. We can't forget that the real work is dome by the Holy Spirit through weak, unschooled, very ordinary men and women. I am often shocked whom he uses to carry out his mission.

    IMHO, Our vision for small group leadership must be that leaders are undershepherds, not just hosts, DVD-jockeys, or meeting facilitators.


  3. Randall Neighbour

    March 8, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Mike, your last sentence is really where the rubber meets the road for me as well. If the person is a passionate under-shepherd of people, he or she can be easily trained to do the meeting stuff and think strategically about developing transformational relationships with people inside and outside the group.

    This blog entry spurred me to write my own blog entry about the leadership bar, setting it aside with a mandate to raise the membership bar for ongoing group members… making the leadership bar far easier to walk across instead of climb up to find in the heavens somewhere.


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