I was preparing to teach my first seminar on discipleship and I asked my mom, (who had been in ministry for 50 years) what she would say. She pulled out her well worn Bible and turned to 2 Timothy 2:2 – and read these words, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” This, she said, is what discipleship is all about.
A small group leader, therefore, is:
- A Learner
- She/he Invests or Entrusts
- He/she Enables
A Small Group Leader Is A Learner
Often as a leader, there’s either the fear or the temptation to take on the role of the expert.
Lesson #1: You are not the expert! As I look at 2 Timothy 2:2, the role of the leader is that of a learner.
- Learn by listening to what God is teaching you. Be curious about the material you are studying. Ask the why/what/where/when/ how questions of it. Apply it to your life.
- Listen well to what your group is learning from the material, because as you do, you will learn, as will your group. Ask good questions and listen well to the ways in which God is speaking to and through those in your group. The life of faith is a life lived in community and as we listen to each other we begin to learn how much bigger God is than our own individual knowledge and understanding of Him.
- Be curious about the people in your group. One of the very first things I’ve learned to do is to ask the group to share their faith stories. We try to get this scheduled within the first few weeks of starting the group. Listen to their stories; get to learn their needs and the ways in which they learn.
A Small Group Leader Is An Entrust-er
The Collins Dictionary defines ‘entrust’ as ‘to charge or invest with a trust or a duty’ and then goes on to describe it as: ‘If you entrust something important to someone or entrust them with it, you make them responsible for looking after it or dealing with it.’
As your group begins to form, you invest them with two things:
- learning to grow into a community that is responsible to care for each other and learning to apply what they’re studying to their lives
- the responsibility of being accountable to each other in doing that
Most of the groups that I’ve been in, have spent a significant amount of time developing a group covenant. The covenant includes things like preparing the lesson, accountability, confidentiality, and commitment to regular attendance. Your small group is the community (for this season of your lives) that God is going to use to shape you, grow you and bless you. You are the Body of Christ and it takes commitment and an investment in each other for that to happen.
Besides commitment to the group time, encourage your group to put feet to their prayers for each other. If someone in your group asks for prayer, because they have a child in the hospital, see if the group would be willing to make a couple of meals for the family. This helps us to grow in serving one another, but it also brings the group closer to each other, more sensitive to each other’s needs. The Bible says it this way: Hebrews 10: 24-25 (ESV) “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
We also spend time talking about accountability. God uses accountability to grow us into spiritual maturity. Accountability is not nit-picking or legalism, but is couched in love, asking the questions that help us to be intentional in growing into mature believers. Each week as we come together, we commit to care for each other and to ask those questions that foster growth in each other’s lives. We ask questions that help us apply what we have learned into our lives. This means that we are then committed to pray for each other and long for God’s Kingdom to come in each of our lives.
A Small Group Leader Is An Enabler
Often as a leader, the tendency is to do everything — to fly solo. It is much easier that way. I remember when my kids were younger and they would want to help me with my tasks, it would be quicker and neater to do those tasks myself. However, in order for my kids to grow into responsible adults, I had to step back and encourage them to help! The same thing is true of a small group. Your responsibility as a leader is to help them to grow into maturity, to become leaders themselves. Encourage your group members to take on roles within the group – someone to coordinate prayer, social events, outreach etc. Step back and ask a group member to co-lead for a week with you and then, possibly on their own. Build leadership both by example and by allowing them to step into leadership within the safety of the group.
A few years ago, I was leading a small group and I had an accident, and had to go through surgery. I was worried about my group and complained to my mom, “Here I am, responsible for this group, I’m their leader and I can’t be there for them!” My Mom gave me ‘the look’ and said, “Honey, you are not a leader, you are a servant, and a servant does whatever her Master wants her to do.” If you look at all the great leaders of the Bible, Abraham, Moses, Joshua or David, God does not call them His leaders, He calls them His servants. You are a servant of the Most High God. He is the one who will enable you to care for and to lead these people whom He has entrusted to you. You will be blessed beyond measure for your faithfulness in serving them!
For more great leadership tips, check out our newly published Companion Resource, Grace, Truth & Time: Facilitating Small Groups that Thrive.
Bible Teacher, Counselor and Speaker
Shanthini grew up with a deep love for God and world missions. She is a clinical psychologist by training, but a homeschool mom in practice. She is part of the Adult Discipleship Teaching Team at her home church, and loves discipling small groups of women, both at church and in prison, and through teaching opportunities at home and around the world.
She is happiest sitting out in her garden on a warm day with a good book, hosting dozens of people for dinner on Sunday evenings, and in God conversations over a cup of coffee. Shanthini and her husband, Vinod, have been married for 27 years, and they have two grown sons and a teenage daughter.