If you are reading this article, two things are probably true:
1. You are leading, or part of, a small group.
2. You are feeling not as qualified to lead or help a small group as you’d like.
And before you get mad at me, let me tell you a secret: I don’t feel qualified to lead a small group either. But that’s okay. We don’t have to be qualified; we just have to have God on our side. If he has called you to lead a small group, then he will give you the ability to do so. The key is staying connected to him, continuing to seek his will, and then surrendering to it. God will always show you the way. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5–6). Of course it is always your choice whether to follow him.
If a group is centered on a purpose and led by a focused leader, there is no greater tool for spiritual growth than the small group. From the beginning, God has used small groups of men and women to change the world. That has not changed. Your small group, under intentional leadership and the direction of God, is a force to be reckoned with. The potential of a small group of God-focused people is simply astounding. Matter of fact, it carried the church for the first three hundred years of its existence!
Understand that developing a healthy group takes time. Just concentrate on one step at a time. One of the most important things I have learned about leadership is that people love you more for your faults and weaknesses than for your strengths. The world tells us a leader is strong, confident, and bold. But the Bible tells us that some of the greatest leaders of all time (Moses, David, Joseph) were weak, reluctant, and afraid. As a leader, the most significant thing you can share with the members of your group is your weakness. If you are afraid to pray out loud, tell them. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t try to bluff your way through it—admit that you don’t know. Then look it up and come back with the answer the following week.
“If there is any great secret to success in life,” industrialist Henry Ford said, “it lies in the ability to put yourself in theother person’s place and to see things from his point of view.” Ford could have been talking about leading a healthy smallgroup. After all, if a leader doesn’t develop the capacity to step inside the skin of each group member and see through theireyes, the group will surely suffer. Guaranteed. Why? Because empathy is essential to creating a safe place. Empathy opens a person’s spirit. Empathy cultivates grace.
The challenge for a group leader, of course, is that empathy doesn’t come easy. More often than not, we assume people think and feel the way we do. But they don’t. God designed each of us with differences. Each person in your group is unique. But in time, with shared experiences and by asking good questions, the astute group leader begins to recognize and appreciate those differences. Indeed, these differences become the delight of the group.
This is an excerpt from Steve Gladen’s book “Leading Small Groups with Purpose“