Have you ever been in a high-pressure situation where you needed to know the facts on how to do something…and fast? Imagine a friend at church has been thrust into a situation where they need to lead a group. They see you after the service and come rushing over to you for advice, but they only have five minutes before “go time.” They ask you, “What do I need to know?” What would you tell them? Here are a few starting points:
Be a people engager – Use the social time with your group to find out how people are really doing and what you can pray for later in the group. If somebody is new, build connections. Also, don’t underestimate the power of “breaking bread together” and how much food helps people let their hair down and build relationships with others.
Be an Immanuel acknowledger – Open your group in prayer and recognize how our God is Immanuel, “God with us.” Remind them that Jesus is in your midst, and where God’s presence is, there is power to transform lives, so every group meeting should be life-changing (Matt. 18:20). This has a way of building faith and anticipation for how the Holy Spirit is going to work in your group. Call out the things you believe God is going to do in people’s lives—believe for each group member and pray for them by name!
Be a tone-setter – Group leaders create environments where the Acts 2:42-47 kind of community can grow. One of the keys to helping a group go deeper in relationship with one another is authenticity. The more real you are, the more vulnerable others will be, so set the pace and be courageous by being completely yourself! This will help people feel more “at home,” open up with others, and participate more in the group.
Be a Scripture sower – The #1 catalyst for spiritual growth is reading and reflecting on God’s Word. It transforms us from the inside out because it is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16-17). So use every opportunity to refer people back to the Bible, pray Scripture aloud, and weave biblical references into your conversations.
Be Jesus-focused – Use the conversation around your study to point people back to who Jesus is and what He has done for us. Think of Paul, who said, “For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Turning people’s attention toward Jesus creates an atmosphere of praise and thanksgiving. Make your group Christ-centered, not curriculum-centered, and invite the Holy Spirit to have His way with your group.
Be generous in love – To follow Jesus’ example is to love others. Leaders who are rich in love earn the privilege of influencing people spiritually. Take time to learn people’s unique stories, listen to their needs, and pray for their dreams. Generous love does not limit its reach only to those within the group’s circle, but it goes to those who have yet to be transformed by God’s love (Matt. 25:40). A group will never grow to its full potential if it does not reach beyond the needs of its own members.
We will be like Christ and inspire real growth in people when these essentials characterize our group leadership. There is no quick reference guide to being a community-builder, but this counsel offers a great start for new leaders and an encouraging reminder for those with years of leadership under their belt.
Reid Smith has been helping churches equip leaders for effective disciple-making since 1996 as a pastor, consultant, trainer, and contributing author for such publishers as Lifeway’s MinistryGrid.com and Christianity Today’s SmallGroups.com. He is currently serving as a Discipleship Pastor at goChristFellowship.com and lives in Wellington, Florida with his wife of 20-years, Lisa, and two children. Follow him on Twitter at @reid_smith.