As we continue to learn about small groups (SG) and discipleship we continue to make new discoveries. Here is a recent learning about the progression of SG Leaders:
HOSTs: This model worked great for us when we were trying to start as many community groups as possible via a church-wide campaigns. We realized we needed to help hundreds of adults get connected as soon as possible. The Grouplink connect event was well attended with 87% of new groups continuing after the campaign. However, we quickly realized that it would take a lot of training and development to get HOSTs to the leadership level our church expected. This model launched us into several groups as we began a SG Ministry. Today many of those groups which started from a HOST led group are still doing life together .
Facilitator: Once the HOSTs had some experience under their belt (6 months plus) they began to operate in the Facilitator model. They knew enough to allow others to talk and guide the discussions. They listen to the group voice its’ needs and look for curriculum or projects to help fill that void. The Facilitator model is not where our leaders hang out long though. They either resort back to the DVD driven small group and serve as a HOST or they quickly move to the Teacher Model.
Teacher: The Teacher Model has impacted almost all of us in some way. We can quickly name our greatest teacher…they cared, enjoyed the material as well as the student, and were always prepared for class. Small Group leaders move to this model as they gain knowledge and receive more training.
But the teacher model can also be a dangerous leader model in which to camp. Left to itself, as David Francis states in “3 Roles to Guiding Groups” states: “the teacher gets in the rut of doing the same thing each time the group gathers, get to know the Word but fail to know group members, and prefer standing before a large group rather than sitting among the group.” One reason Small Groups were added at LifePoint was to build community. As God continued to bless LifePoint with new people, we needed people to serve, space for kids to meet…but most importantly Community.
Leader: We try to train the leaders to move beyond just getting through the material as the Teacher model might lean (Connecting in Communities, pg 49) and move into a Leader model. Leaders share the load, visit hospitals, guide service and sometimes are moved to have the hard conversations of accountability and encouragement. They see their group as a family or team which they guide as a group toward spiritual maturity.
Shepherd: Our new paradigm for small group ministry is moving us to seeing SG leaders as Shepherds. Unlike the Leader, the shepherd takes on the role of an individual coach, helping each member take their next step on the Christ Centered Journey. They use individual surveys, Christ Centered Journey map, suggested resources, books, websites and ‘coffee’ to disciple each person in their group. As the disciple grows, they become more missional in their world view and some feel the need to be sent out to start groups or lead ministries.
Each of these models of leadership are found throughout our SG Ministry. Each of them has a purpose and a time to be used. Study your groups, discover which model is working best and train others toward that model. But continue to learn as the need for a certain model will arise or a combination may be needed.