Category Archives: Small Groups


Eight Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders

  1. Dream of leading a healthy, growing, multiplying group
  • You will live your dreams
  • “…For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34)
  • “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart” (Matthew 15:18)
  • Let your heart be full of dreams for your Small Group and for your community.
  1. Pray for your group members daily
  • Consistent action produces greater results than periodic efforts.
  • Prayer is a powerful weapon that goes deep into the heart.
  • Remember that the Holy Spirit convicts the world regarding sin, righteousness and the coming judgement.
  • Pray for the conviction of the Holy Spirit on your friends and neighbors.
  1. Invite new people to visit your group weekly
  • Some are afraid that if they invite, the people won’t come.
  • But if you invite, they might come. Those who do come as a result of your invitation are the ones who will come.
  • So, if you invite, these people will come.
  • Don’t lose the opportunity.
  • See the invitation as an offer to them that will help them tremendously.

How to invite

  • Saturate in prayer
  • Keep them saying “Yes”
  • Persevere
  • Team invite
  • Seasons if the soul
    • Death
    • Marriage
    • Illness
    • Moving
    • Divorce
    • Family problems
    • Birth of a child

Who to invite

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Coworkers
  • Classmates
  • Neighbors
  • Church contacts
  1. Contact your group members regularly
  • Remember the term “Out of sight out of mind”
  • Keep people in sight and in mind.
  • Call to care
  • And to give
  • Never to get – keep it genuine
  • Keep them coming
  • Ask “How can I pray for you?”
  1. Prepare for your group meeting
  • Prepare yourself
  • Prepare the atmosphere
  • Prepare your agenda
  • “Fail to plan, Plan to fail”
  1. Mentor an apprentice leader
  • Multiply the group
  • Reach thousands
  • Mentoring is letting go
  • Keeps leader and group multiplication a priority
  1. Plan group fellowship activities
  • Picnic
  • Dinner
  • Game Day
  • Orphanage Visit
  1. Be committed to your own personal growth
  • Otherwise you shrink and die
  • Story of the young Lumberjack who cut down 9 trees in the first day… Then 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 – But an older, skinnier man was consistent with 9 per day (Every morning he took time to sharpen his Axe.
  • Your personal relationship with God
  • Your family commitment and relationship
  • Study the Bible
  • Study leadership

***Idea taken from Leading A Small Group by Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey , material added from personal study and experience.

 

Everyone Gets to Play, But . . .

We consider it an important value that everyone gets to play, but leadership is limited. They need to be tested first. Active involvement is open to all of God’s children. We are not to limit anyone because of their situation in life.

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Once people are involved, they need to prove themselves faithful. When tasks are assigned, we observe their commitment to the task. Are they faithful? Are they committed?

Paul clearly expressed this important principle to Timothy. “And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless” (1 Tim 3:10).

Salvation is open to all people as God wants a personal relationship with everyone. Ministry involvement is open to all of God’s children without putting any limitations on people. But Leadership in the church is limited only to those who have proven themselves faithful to the tasks assigned to them. Likewise, they need to be people of character in their personal lives, family, and in society.

People’s reputation in the society is vital as the community sees the church through the people of the church, especially its leaders. So everyone gets to play, but church leadership is limited to the faithful.

Your Turn

Join the discussion and add your thoughts. What have you learned?

Please share briefly in the comments section on the website.

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* Book recommendations on various topics I write on are available at my Resources Page.

** For a list of books that I’ve recently read, here is my Reading List.

My Books:

 

Small Group Leader as Leader

We have come to the final post of our series Four Roles of a Small Group Leader. Now we’ll look at the fourth role, Small Group Leader as Leader. For the rest of the articles in this series, you can search “Small Groups” in the categories on the right hand column of the blog (or below for mobile browsers).

Leader

Four Roles of a Small Group Leader (Click to open each article)
1. Facilitator – Meetings
2. Shepherd – Care
3. Mentor – Training
4. Leader – Vision

In the leadership role, one has the great opportunity to pass on vision and give direction to the group. The vision for the small group may be provided by the church which the group is part of. But it is the role of the group leader to take the church’s vision and adapt it to the small group.

There are many things a small group can do. Numerous opportunities will present itself as the group progresses. But your responsibility is to make sure the group stays set on accomplishing its vision through every activity.

Focus
A group whose purpose is clearly expressed will have better focus. Without proper focus the people will quickly lose interest. The purpose and direction of the group needs to be clear and should be articulated clearly on a regular basis. As the leader, people look to you for direction.

Care
For so many people, life is full of struggles. They desperately need a helping hand. Lead the people in caring for each other. Your care for them is important. But when the members of the group care for each other, the benefits are tremendous.

Outreach
Some groups are very good with care. They wholeheartedly care for their members. But they neglect reaching out to others. Groups that become ingrown never last.

For many people, outreach doesn’t come naturally. You need to lead them in doing outreach. Give them the reasons for doing outreach, provide opportunities, and join them in the process.

Being the leader of a small group goes much beyond just leading the weekly meetings. As a leader, you take on the more comprehensive role of providing direction for the group according to the vision you have.

As we conclude this series, here is brief snippet of what we covered:

Four Roles of a Small Group Leader
1. Facilitator – Meetings
As the Facilitator, the leader takes responsibility of the weekly meetings. You lead the group “seamlessly” through the various aspects of the meeting. Ultimately, you hope to see lives changed and friends of each group member come to a relationship with Christ.

2. Shepherd – Care
As a Shepherd, you lead the group to care for each other. This care may include aspects of emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. You are developing a caring community.

3. Mentor – Training
As a Mentor, you come alongside each member as they navigate life. You help them with their spiritual life and be a leader to them in the areas where they need help.

4. Leader – Vision
As a Leader, you have the role of providing direction to the group through proper application of the Vision of the group. Make sure everything the group does will work to accomplish the vision.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts on leading a Small Group. If this has been beneficial, Please share it with others by using these links below:
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  • Need book recommendations on Small Groups, Coaching, Leadership, and other topics? Get a list of books I recommend at Barnabas.in/resources

Small Group Leader as Mentor

As we continue our series Four Roles of a Small Group Leader, we’ll look at the third role, Small Group Leader as Mentor. For the rest of the articles in this series, you can search “Small Groups” in the categories on the right hand column of the blog (or below for mobile browsers).

leader.jpg

Four Roles of a Small Group Leader

1. Facilitator – Meetings

2. Shepherd – Care

3. Mentor – Training

4. Leader – Vision

As a mentor, the leader focuses on training the members of the group in Life, Spirituality, and Leadership. These are the areas of mentoring that the leader is privileged to impact.

The Leader also goes through a process of mentoring by acting as a coach, encourager, and resource person.

Areas of Mentoring

LIFE

Living life can be a complex challenge for all of us. But if we have someone who can come alongside us, that makes a great difference.

Leaders do not need to be experts on living life. They just need to be an encouraging person who can give perspective and focus. When times get tough (as it often does), leaders can help people to have a better perspective.

You might say that you are not a “life coach” in any sense of the word, but eventually you grow into that role. At least for the people you lead, you have impacted their life tremendously.

SPIRITUALITY

Every area of the person’s life is connected to spirituality. Every decision is in some way impacted by the person’s spiritual dimension.

Small Group leaders may not see themselves as spiritual leaders, but in the long run, the people’s lives are touched and they see you as such. Learn to accept the roles you grow into and begin to purposefully move in that direction.

LEADERSHIP

Knowing the next step and taking people along in that direction is basic to leadership. As you lead a small group, you grow in your leadership skills much beyond anything you’ve imagined.

Process of Mentoring

COACH 

Leaders take the initiative to come alongside each member as their coach. They do not have all the answers, and they are not perfect, but they can walk along with them.

As a coach, help the person to look objectively at their lives. Guide them along to discern things for themselves. Ask “guiding questions” that will help them to have clarity regarding their choices in life.

ENCOURAGER

In the midst of all the discouragement one faces, look for ways to encourage and build up. Be a voice that propels them forward and a flame that ignites them to action.

So many people have desires and dreams that have been dormant for many years. Whenever they shared these with others, they faced discouraging words. You can turn that around with your encouraging words.

RESOURCE PERSON

According to the needs of people, you can be a resource person for those in your group. Don’t respond too quickly or too soon. Listen carefully and hold your response.

Once you have clearly understood their words, their needs, and their goals, you can be a resource person to them. Recommend resources that will help them to accomplish their goals and live out their purpose in life.

* Need book recommendations on Small Groups, Coaching, and Leadership? Get a list of books I recommend at Barnabas.in/resources

Small Group Leader as Shepherd

Last week we began a series entitled Four Roles of a Small Group Leader. This is the second post in this series, Small Group Leader as Shepherd. For the rest of the articles, you can search “Small Groups” in the categories on the right hand column of the blog.

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Four Roles of a Small Group Leader

1. Facilitator – Meetings

2. Shepherd – Care

3. Mentor – Training

4. Leader – Vision

As a shepherd, the leader ensures that all the members of the group are cared for. In a world where virtual connections are more common than personal connection, the leader needs to take a personal approach.

As we take the necessary steps to care for people, here are three important things to keep in mind.

1. Aspects of care

Without fail, we need to provide care in three important aspects of the person’s life. These areas are vital to the person’s overall health, which affects how one relates to the rest of the group. The person’s emotional, spiritual, and physical needs can be cared for so as to bring balance to the person’s life. Keep in mind that the care that you and the small group gives is not the primary care. There are others in their lives who are to give the primary care, and yours is a supplementary role.

Emotional

Weekly meetings and some contact outside the group meetings will provide some support for the emotions of people. Many are lonely and looking for meaningful connections. The members of the small group can be a means for healthy and meaningful connections.

Spiritual

The spiritual life of each person is both personal and corporate. The motivation to connect with God and His people contribute greatly to the spiritual health of the individual. Outreach done through the Group and individually will be vital to the spiritual development of each member.

Physical

When people go through crisis or when there are some common needs, the Group can reach out in care to provide for the person or members of the group who are in need. Certainly the Small Group cannot provide all the person’s needs, but in special cases where there are urgent needs, people can reach out and help others.

2. Levels of Care

As the Small Group functions as a relational “body,” care can be provided at two levels.

Leader to Member

The leader can take the responsibility to reach out to each member on a weekly basis. This point of contact will be a motivation for the person to reach out to the other members as well. The leader can also interact with the people at a more personal level much beyond the meetings.

Among Members (Mutual care)

When the members relate with each other outside of the weekly meetings, that is a clear indicator of a group that is growing healthy. When needs are shared and mutual care is given, meaningful relationships are enhanced.

3. Medium of care

In order of importance, here are some ways to care for people. Try to do at least one of these each week.

Personal Visit

This may be the most difficult one to pull off, and the most meaningful one too. The personal visit could be at their workplace during their break times (if that is appropriate) or to their home.

Phone Call

I see this as a great approach. If I can’t get through, I make sure to leave a brief voicemail if possible.

Email, text message, and other means of communication can also work, but I prefer the phone call whenever possible.

The leader as the Shepherd provides care, but more importantly ensures that care is given. In other words, make sure to develop a culture of mutual care among the members. Of Course, this begins with the leader.

Small Group Leader as Facilitator

Small Group Leader as Facilitator

I am convinced that anyone can lead a small group. At least anyone can begin the process, and then, they can “grow into” the role they have taken up. It’s not advisable to get someone “fully” trained before starting a group. Many get discouraged and may not continue with the process. Rather, as they catch the vision, they just need to make a commitment and begin.

John Wimber once said that we have commonly used the analogy “Ready, Aim, Shoot.” But he said that we need to modify that and say “Ready, Shoot, Aim.” Get the person ready at a basic level, and begin. Then work on fine-tuning the process.

So as you get ready to lead a small group, here are four areas where you can develop your skills. You “grow into” these four roles as you lead your group. We’ll look at each one of these roles in the next few weeks, beginning with the first one this week.

Four Roles of a Small Group Leader

1. Facilitator – Meetings

2. Shepherd – Care

3. Mentor – Training

4. Leader – Vision

FACILITATE SMALL GROUP MEETINGS

The weekly meetings are only one aspect of the entire Small Group experience. We will look at the other aspects in the following weeks. Yet these meetings are vital since this is the regular time when the members gather together.

Here are some things to remember as you facilitate the meetings

1. Venue

Make personal connection with the host family. Since their home is being used as the venue for the Small Group meetings, it is important that they have completely bought in to the vision of the group and your church. If this is not the case, and they are unsure about the church, the group, or their faith, then that is a recipe for disaster.

They don’t need to be perfect people. They will have problems like everyone else. They must be accepted as they are. They just need to have a heart that is hospitable to have people in their home. Otherwise, they will always be unhappy and that will show. Ultimately, people will stop coming to a group meeting if the host family is not hospitable.

The home doesn’t have to be perfect. You need a home sn’t need to be perfect. It needs to be “functional” enough for you to gather every week. Accessibility of the home as people travel, space in the living room, and other logistical things are important, but above all, the welcoming attitude of the host family is most important.

2. Agenda

You may have a suggested agenda given to you by your local church, and that is fine. Generally,

here is a good suggested pattern:

  • Welcome (Icebreaker, small talk, coffee, snacks)
  • Worship (Get intimate with God as you reflect on his goodness)
  • Word (Start with real life issues, and move to the Word, and apply it to life)
  • Wind (Take time to allow the Holy Spirit to minister to the group members)*

As the Facilitator, it is your responsibility to guide the meeting seamlessly through these four agendas. There is no need to announce that you are going to the next item on the agenda. Make smooth transitions. Let the people experience each one.

3. Discussion

In the agenda above, I’ve given the term “Word” for the discussion time. You may wish to do a “Bible Study” based on a book of the Bible. But make sure to begin each discussion with a “life issue” that the people can connect with.

The better option is to do a series of discussions based on various aspects of life that people in your group may face. Let those life situations be the beginning point for your discussions. Then, you move them on to the Word of God, and finish the discussion by applying it to life.

4. Ministry

In the “Wind” part of the meeting, make sure you allow the Holy Spirit to take the lead as you pray for people. Learn to listen to the voice of the Spirit. You will be surprised what God will do when you listen and allow Him to “lead” your prayer time.

As the Facilitator, find out what the needs of the members are. Allow the members to minister to each other. Lay hands on the sick and pray for their healing. For training on praying for healing, click here.

5. Communication

As the group gathers together in the meetings, their relationships begin to develop. But it is vital to take these connections beyond the group meetings.

Here are two ways to accomplish this.

  • Make sure that you connect with each member weekly. The best option is to pick up the phone and make a call directly to each member. If that call doesn’t go through, then leave a voice message, email, or some type of message that the person uses.
  • Encourage each person in the group to connect with each other. The relationships between the members outside of the meetings can be a meaningful way of caring for each other.

In this digital age, we simply message each other as if that is sufficient. Yes, that certainly communicates information, but falls short of personal connection. Make it personal.

As the Facilitator, I encourage you to “grow” in each of these five areas. Let it be gradual. Work on  these aspects each week. For more resources on small groups, click here.

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*Thanks to Jim Egli for the label “Wind” for the ministry time (www.jimegli.com). Jim has great resources for Small Groups on his site.

How YOU Benefit by Leading a Small Group

I know. You’ve always wondered about those groups with Bibles open, and people staring at the ceiling, bored to death. But it doesn’t have to be like that. You can have fruitful times of discussion and interaction with people and with God. In that process, I believe that you will benefit as you lead a small group.

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Here are a few reasons why I believe you will benefit from leading a small group:

1. Relationships are Enhanced

As you relate with people of all ages and backgrounds, your relationships will certainly be enhanced. Although we gravitate towards people who are similar to us, we are more enhanced as we connect with people who are different. As “Iron sharpens iron,” we sharpen each other. Differences cause difficulties, and those difficulties develop us too.

Your entire family will benefit, especially the children. Regular, close and personal interaction with people who are different will help children to develop their personal skills as well. They learn to understand and accept people who are different from themselves as well.

The relationships you develop through these groups will prove to be long lasting and meaningful. Years down the road, you will benefit from having a growing number of people around you that you have been able to impact and bless.

2. Sense of Purpose is Fulfilled

As we gradually begin to impact the lives of people, our sense of purpose will be fulfilled. Otherwise, we get trapped in the mundane everyday tasks of taking care of our own stuff for the sake of ourselves. As important as this is, many get disillusioned just performing the daily routine of survival.

When you lead a small group, you get the opportunity to get involved in the lives of many people. You are going beyond just your personal survival – you are making a difference in the lives of others.

The Great Commission is not only for the church as an “organization.” Rather, it is for each of us. Each one of us are expected to do our part in the mandate to make disciples of Jesus. Small groups are an excellent way to reach out to friends of friends and impact our communities.

3. Leadership Skills are Improved

There are numerous reasons why people back off from leading small groups. Here are just a few genuine reasons:

“What’s the point? Its just a group of people getting together to waste time.”

“People are a headache. It’s not worth getting tangled up in that mess.”

“There are no long term benefits. Most of what happens in groups is short lived.”

“My home is not suitable”

“I don’t have the time. I’m too busy with more important things.”

“I tried one before and it didn’t work.”

“I can’t stand screaming kids.”

“There are too many abuses with small groups.”

While these reasons are genuine, I believe those are the very reasons why you should take the risk and begin a group. You will be amazed at the benefits you get out of this as well as blessing the lives of the people in your group.

I see a leadership shift for you as you venture out and take this important risk. Those objections may point to a need for a leadership shift for you. Facing that need head on will help you fulfill that need.

Starting, maintaining, and leading a small group will dramatically increase your leadership skills. People are waiting for you to take the challenge and lead them. Don’t wait till you are a good leader. That proper timing you were waiting for is now, not tomorrow.

Will you take the challenge? Talk to your pastor, and begin to gather your neighbors, friends, co-workers, and anyone else who would join you for a weekly gathering.

On my blog, barnabas.in, I have written several posts that will help you in the process of starting and leading small groups. Please click on the category “Small Groups” on the right hand column (on the bottom for mobile devices), and all my articles on small groups will open up.

Roles of a Leader in Small Group Discussions

Under the guidance of a skillful leader, small group discussions can be effective. Carefully guided discussions can change hearts, minds, habits, and attitudes. Here some of the things you need to “Be” to lead a small group discussion:

lively group

Be The Leader

Whatever your topic of discussion, make sure you have a goal in mind for the discussion. Have a clear idea of what you expect to accomplish. As the leader, it is your job to set the goal. Without a stated goal, the discussion becomes aimless and ultimately boring.

Make sure that goal is clear, practical, and measurable. When it is clear, people will be able to visualize the outcome. When it is practical, it is something useful and desirable for the members of your group. They will want to move in the direction of that goal. A measurable goal provides a clear way of knowing that you have attained it. For a small Group meeting, you’ll have to make the goal simple and small enough to be attainable in a short 15 minute discussion. For example, you can’t make your goal something broad like “Spiritual Growth” as it is just too vast and not measurable for a short discussion.

Be The Guide

With the goal in mind, constantly be in a guiding mode. You don’t need to control every aspect of the discussion. Be careful not to dominate and overpower the group members to force them toward the goal. Gradually guide the conversations in a meaningful way that will lead to the goal.

In other words, just make sure the discussion is moving in the right direction. As long as the direction is right, you will get there. Whenever the interactions seem to move away in a different direction, patiently redirect them back toward your goal.

Be The Facilitator

Along with being the leader and the guide, you are to facilitate every aspect of the discussion. Take all the preliminary and ongoing steps to make sure you will have a meaningful discussion.

Minimize distractions by paying attention to the various aspects of the room and group dynamics. Be sure to have something for small children to keep them occupied and comfortable. Ensure sufficient lighting for the group members to connect with each other. Try to arrange the seats in a circle so everyone is at least “visually” part of the discussion.

During the discussion, encourage the silent and timid ones to participate. Then, skillfully handle the talkers who seem to dominate every discussion. You don’t want to silence them, but skillfully leverage their boldness to keep the discussion moving, while including the quiet ones.

Facilitate the balance between the theoretical and practical. Bring in a sufficient amount of Biblical and other theoretical material, but make sure to keep it focused on the practical benefits of knowing the theory. Make sure it does not become a Bible study for the sake of a Bible study. Make the practical aspect the main aim of your discussion.

Be The Learner

Never present yourself as the expert. We are all on the same path as learners. By not presenting yourself as an expert, you allow for more participation from the group. But in the presence of an “expert,” the people simply become spectators.

Of course, you may be more knowledgeable and experienced than many of the people in your group, but that must be secondary. Your primary task is to be a co-learner who wants to benefit from the discussions as much as anyone else. This allows for the most productivity from your discussions.

If you currently lead a small group, I commend you for the awesome responsibility you take in God’s Kingdom. Be on a quest to do your task better every time. May the fruits of your work show up as changed lives.

For more on this topic, read one of my previous posts, Seven Things I’ve Learned About Leading Discussions.

How to Nurture New Believers in Small Groups

Becoming a child of God is the greatest privilege one can experience. Accepting the invitation through faith in Jesus is not a religious decision but a relationship. It is that relationship that needs to be nurtured.

watering sappling

Mentoring

Because a new believer has begun a new relationship with God, they are best nurtured through relationships. This person’s relationship to the small group and to a local church is vital for their growth. Effective nurture can be pursued through one person who can be a mentor to this person. Clearly identify a mature person who can relate and faithfully guide this new believer.

Guiding

This mentor can be the key person to guide the new believer through three important aspects of this new relationship. This person needs a healthy relationship with God, other believers, and the community. Without a proper relationship in these three areas, the new believer’s faith becomes shallow. Their most vital relationship is with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Their relationship with God is evidenced through a proper relationship with other believers. When these two relationships are genuine, the love and concern for the community will be natural

Modeling

In the small group, make sure to model these three relationships. Let people see what it is to develop an ongoing personal relationship with God. Give opportunities for them to relate with other believers in a casual, friendly atmosphere. Bring in actual stories of how the community is impacted through relationships from this small group.

Let the caring relationships within the group be the launching pad for this new believer. As they navigate through the painful and difficult circumstances of life, the mentor along with the group will help his person to keep their eyes on Jesus.

4 Steps to Training Small Group Leaders

Those who have been part of a vibrant, active, small group can share how that group has helped in numerous ways. For some, their lives were completely transformed as a result of being part of a small group. For others, the small group sustained them through some of the fiercest storms in their lives.

cut out

For a group to sustain itself and stay vibrant for the long haul, it is vital to continually develop new leaders. For every new leader you develop, you’ll gain ten new people. Its not a numbers game, but an opportunity to impact more people with your life changing message.

Here are four things you need to develop as you train new leaders.

  1. Heart – Vision

Develop within their hearts a vision that will become their passion. They need to develop a vision about themselves and others.

  • Themselves as enablers.
  • Others as prospects for a better life.
  1. Feet – Experience

As soon as people catch the vision within their hearts, give them opportunities for them to get involved in leadership tasks. While they are involved and gaining experience, teach them so they will have the knowledge and the necessary skills.

If you try to teach them all the necessary knowledge and skills before they begin taking responsibility,  you may lose them before they begin. Let them start, then teach them incrementally.

  1. Mind – Knowledge

Gradually work on developing their knowledge. A new leader needs some basic knowledge about worldviews, life, the Bible, and about things that are important to people in your group.

Get them on the track of being a reader. Develop an interest in them to be a lifelong learner. Resources are freely available now, and can be accessed from almost anywhere in the world. Get them on the learning track.

  1. Hands – Skills

Some basic skills of leadership must be taught to them in the beginning. As you invite them to share the burden of leadership along with you, they will be full of questions they never had. This is an opportunity for ongoing training in leadership skills.

A Lifelong Privilege

I believe leadership is a privilege that God has given his people. We are a “Kingdom of Priests” called by God. All of God’s children are given this opportunity. Some are willing to take the bold step into leadership.

See it as a lifelong privilege. As a leader, make it a priority to continuously develop leaders.

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