To understand what a great small group leader is, perhaps it will help to start by looking at some potential small group leaders to show what a small group leader is not.
Hannah Hostess: A true small group leader is (or is becoming) more than a host or hostess who opens up his or her home to the group. While this is a very worthy role in the group, the leader has a different assignment.
Ferdinand Facilitator: Hannah and Ferdinand are related. A small group leader is more than just a discussion facilitator. This may be part of the role of a leader, but only a small part.
NOTE: It’s possible you have started as a host or facilitator, and those are great places to begin! Our definition of a true leader moves beyond these initial roles.
Billy Bible Scholar: Billy might be a good small group leader, but his leadership is not based on his superior knowledge of the Bible or ability to quote large portions of Scripture. Remember, “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). (This verse provides an indication of at least one attribute you do need as a small group leader!)
Lisa Leader: Believe it or not, leadership may not be the most essential spiritual gift you need as a small group leader. You can use different spiritual gifts to lead a life-changing group, depending on the type, personality, and purpose of your group. God provides each person in the group with spiritual gifts to help the group function. Your job is to facilitate the use of the various spiritual gifts of group members.
Teasley Teacher: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16, emphasis added). In a great small group, everyone is involved in teaching one another! As a small group leader, Teasley needs to be more of a shepherd than a teacher. You do not have to be the group’s “Bible answer man.”
Eddie Educated: While a good education does not preclude Eddie from small group leadership, it also is not a prerequisite. Eddie’s heart is much more vital than Eddie’s education.
Chris “Super-Stud” Christian: In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were the super studs of the religious world. Jesus’ followers, on the other hand, were simple, run-of-the-mill, average Joes. Jesus spent time with some everyday people and made them extraordinary. Chris does not have to be the perfect Christian (whatever that means) to lead well.
What Is a Great Small Group Leader’s Role?
Perhaps the best job description for a small group leader comes straight off the pages of the Bible, from 1 Peter 5:2-4. The writer, the apostle Peter, knew what he was talking about, too. Peter followed the World’s Greatest Small Group Leader for several years. Look closely at this passage, and underline the words or phrases that you think describe a small group leader.
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:2-4).
This passage was written to elders in the first-century church. These church leaders were called to shepherd the churches in a particular city (i.e., the church in Ephesus) or churches that met in specific homes (i.e., the church that meets in her house). This passage also applies to what a small group leader is called to do in today’s church.
The passage reveals the roles and responsibilities God gives to small group leaders. I refer back to it throughout World’s Greatest Small Group Leader. In each of the chapters of the book I discuss one of the 7 powerful traits of a life-changing leader. The World’s Greatest Small Group Leader, Jesus, modeled these traits, and we can develop them as well. When we do, Jesus has promised that we can do the same kinds of works he did, and even greater works (John 14:12)! Yes, it may sound crazy, but even ordinary people like you and me can lead extraordinary groups—the World’s Greatest Small Groups!
Do You Have What It Takes?
Do you have what it takes to be a small group leader? Depending on your perspective, you can answer this question two different ways:
- NO: You do not have what it takes … on your own, under your own power, with your own intellect. That’s why it’s so vital to remember that Jesus is the real leader of “your” group. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).
- YES: Never forget that Jesus calls unschooled, ordinary men and women to follow him and then turns them into world changers. If you follow Christ, the World’s Greatest Small Group Leader, he will use you to do extraordinary things. Don’t sell yourself short. Say, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, New Living Translation).
Excerpted from Michael C. Mack’s newest book, World’s Greatest Small Group.