This post was written by Eric Geiger. Eric is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary.
On the surface, the recipe for successful small groups in the church seems pretty easy. You take a group of people with common interests or a similar life stage, put them in a living room or room at the church, mix in a Bible study, and presto: disciples are made. But the reality is so much of the group experience rests on the leader of the group. Leaders reproduce who they are. An unhealthy group leader will lead an unhealthy group. And if a small group leader is poorly equipped and given little spiritual direction, the group will fail. Here are three things that every group leader needs from the beginning to succeed.
Just like we expect the staff of a church to be well-trained for their jobs, small group leaders need to be equipped for their role. There are basic leadership skills they need to understand from the beginning, but most of their development needs will surface as they begin to face issues within the group. This is where as-needed, ongoing training is so valuable. Your new small group leaders need somewhere to turn to when the inevitable questions start coming up during the semester.
Discipling a group of people is not a trivial assignment. When we ask people in our church to take on the leadership of a biblical small group, we are asking them to shepherd a segment of our congregation. These new leaders need to know that the church leadership will walk alongside them as they take this significant spiritual step. Too often we focus on launching small groups but leave leaders to fend for themselves after the launch. A soul-care system of coaches is essential for the future health of your small group leaders. A coach is simply a seasoned leader who is available for new leaders to lean on.
Small groups with little to no direction will move in circles and make little to no spiritual progress. Most volunteer group leaders are not trained, nor do they have the time to design a spiritual pathway for their group members. That is why it is critical for church leadership to provide a curriculum pathway for groups to follow. A pathway outlines what groups should study over a period of time. With resources from the Rooted Network a church or group leader can lay out a pathway of discipleship for their groups, knowing that each resource incorporates the 7 Rhythms of discipleship essential to a healthy relationship with Jesus, along with intentional learning experiences that help groups live out these rhythms together.
Give your group leaders the gifts of training, coaching, a direction as you equip disciples who make disciples.
The Rooted Network Discipleship Bundle is a new way for leaders to explore core discipleship resources as they plan the discipleship pathway for their groups. Click here for more information on our latest resource.
An earlier version of this article was published at ericgeiger.com.