For as long as I’ve participated in the mega-church experience, small groups have been a way to create a greater sense of belonging to a church community.
In my experience, however, the small group model has a few serious flaws.
First, (in my experience) the church claims that if you can “read (sic: the facilitator’s guide and put in a DVD) you can lead.”
I’ve never found that laissez-faire attitude to be the case in business and so I’m a bit puzzled as to why leaders of our Christian communities would even attempt to strike this deal with its members.
You know, the deal that says, sign up to be in a small group and all your personal and spiritual needs for connection, discipleship, and community will be fulfilled.
Yeah, that deal.
I’ll admit, sometimes the small group experience actually works that way.
But I believe more often than not, members and facilitators alike leave the group experience feeling less connected to a community.
Where is it all breaking down?
Well, for starters leaders should in fact lead. Real leadership isn’t found in a facilitated Q and A session based on a 20-minute video.
Let me just stop and acknowledge (again) that many small groups are very effective, however, I think the reason that some are effective is that the leader is already a leader.
Meaning, they’ve developed their leadership over the course of years rather than a Saturday morning small group training session with their campus pastor.
So what makes a good leader?
If I had to sum up what I know about good leaders it would be:
A leader has these four qualities.
1. A “Me Too” person
This is someone everyone in the group can relate to.
When the leader shares their story, all or part of that story can be reflected in the lives of the group members.
If I can nod my head and say, “me too”, then I’ve formed an authentic connection.
The next time you sign up for a small group, ask yourself if you can actually relate to the leader and the other members.
If enough people in the group can say “me too”, that group will be able to experience a strong community experience.
2. Selfless service
If I learned anything from my time in the Army, it was how to lead with selfless service.
As a Sergeant, a leader of Soldiers, you make sure your Soldiers eat first, you make sure they have what they need first, and you make sure they are given opportunities first.
When a leader emerges from the rank and file of volunteerism, ask yourself what they would give up for you.
Sure it’s a tough question and one that will, more times than not, produce an unfavorable answer. But what’s more important to you; being in a small group or living life with a deep level of authenticity and community?
3. Commitment to Authenticity
So this one’s a biggie. A higher level of authenticity from your leader should be expected.
It’s not important that they share every detail of their past but they should feel comfortable enough with themselves to share inside the group with authenticity.
If being real, open, and honest isn’t your thing, you might want to avoid leading a group and just work on the art of authenticity with yourself.
4. Commitment to others
Life can be messy.
But when you’re dealing with 8-10 different lives, it gets real messy.
Commitment to your small group is key. You don’t have to always be the best at leading but you should always remain committed to being present, consistent, and yes, authentic (are you seeing a trend here?).
It’s that commitment that really shows your group that even their messiest life won’t deter you from “being there” for the community.
Creating community takes hard work and a ton of selfless service.
For many years, I believed IRL (in real life) communities were the only true community and I often dismissed the value and opportunity of the online community experience.
That is until recently when I started to look at the way my husband’s ministry creates small group experiences online.
For the last 4-5 years, Michael (my husband) has been leveraging online technologies to shrink the geographic divide among the men he is mentoring.
He’s been using an online video based conferencing solution called Zoom. I use it too!
It’s a fantastic way to open up your virtual living room and talk through tough topics, like pornography, that men deal with.
With his online community, he’s been able to reach through his computer and affect the lives of men is Switzerland, Germany, South America, Canada, and throughout the United States.
These community groups are full of “me toos”.
They are leading with true authenticity and commitment (especially during those late night accountability calls).
They are brave men. They are leaders.
These are the same men that wouldn’t be considered for the position of a small group leader in most churches and yet the community they’ve built is saving lives.
And that’s pretty awesome.
If you haven’t found your community via your churches small group, be sure to check for a group online. Your “me too” leader is out there.