A small group leader without followers is wasting his time.
Someone once wisely stated that, “If you look behind you and no one is there, you’re not a leader.” That is, in order to lead a group of people to join you in accomplishing a given goal or join you as a passionate, participating group member, you have to attain willing followers. And in order for that to happen, you need to relate to people in such a way that they are drawn to you.
Many leaders believe that because they’ve been given an important title, people will follow them. This just isn’t true. In a business setting they will have to work for the person leading them, but they will not be forced to “follow them.” Followers choose to get behind someone and move forward with them. Followers follow a leader because they respect the leader, and respect often comes from doing little things on an ongoing basis.
Small group leader, if you want followers…
- Anytime you see a group member—at the grocery, at the ballpark, at church, etc.—immediately walk toward them with a smile on your face. This tells them you’re excited to see them and that they’re important to you.
- Each time you see the people in your group, greet them with touch (a handshake, hug, or pat on the back), eye contact, and a word of greeting (hi, hello, how ya’ doin’, etc.).
- When having a conversation with them, listen to their stories and converse about what they want to converse about, instead of taking over the conversation.
- Send a text or email periodically asking how their day is going.
- Invite them to go to a movie or dinner with you. Doing this spontaneously with one or two group members will be more relational and effective in gaining a following than an organized, planned group experience. Institutionalizing relationship is impossible.
- If you hear a group member needs help moving something, working on a home project, etc., volunteer to help. Those who serve others are most apt to gain followers.
Small group leader, if you want to gain followers, show them that you care. In most instances, people don’t know you care because you miss the little moments when you can prove that you do.
Rick Howerton is the Small Groups and Discipleship Specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources. He has authored many small group studies, is a highly sought-after trainer and speaker, and is the author of Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual as well as A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic. He is also the co-author of Disciples Path: A Practical Guide to Disciple Making and Countdown: Launching and Leading Transformational Groups. But Rick’s deepest passion and his goal in life is to see “a biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet making disciples that make disciples.”