Church Small Groups Reimagined: How to Find Your First Leaders

I initially planned to post this Friday but that was Good Friday, so you’re getting it today.

Ok, let’s recap.

The last couple of posts have focused on evangelistic Bible storying as a way to start new small groups at your church through conversion. As opposed to the way many of us do small groups, making them up of existing members of the church, outreach-oriented Bible storying groups will use a different teaching approach to create groups made up primarily of unchurched people who are interested in learning more about the Scriptures. Of course, these people will be gathered through sharing the gospel with friends, neighbors, and others in the social networks of group facilitators. The leaders will be responsible for building their own groups.

These groups will rely on Bible storying as a means of teaching and discussion. Week after week, a program of Bible stories will work through major themes of the Biblical narrative and pieces together the overarching storyline. This lays the foundation for a Biblical worldview upon which the gospel begins to make sense.

After discussing the concept, I covered the crucial nature of leadership development for Bible storying groups. Since the only believers in this kind of group will most likely be the facilitators, Bible storying small groups would rise and fall on their leadership. This means a church that wants to use small groups for outreach must find and equip leaders well for the task. Today, we will talk about that last piece, finding these leaders in your church.

Where have all the leaders gone?

Is it just me, or does it seem harder to find good leaders nowadays in many churches? There are probably a dozen different factors that contribute to that, but we need to make sure our churches are doing everything they can to find and equip people inside their congregation for the work of ministry. Let me emphasize that last point: churches should find leaders inside their congregation.

Now, I am not saying that hiring someone to serve at your church from the outside is wrong. However, is one of the main functions of the church not equipping its members for ministry? If so, why is the knee-jerk reaction so often finding someone from the outside to come in and take over a ministry? Instead, churches should think of ministry leaders as the normal output of their mission. In other words, if a church is not making members into ministers, then it should probably be looking for the problem. This is, of course, true of these outreach small groups.

If your church is interested in this kind of outreach, you probably fall into one of two camps. You are a church that currently utilizes a small group ministry, or your church is open to the idea but does not have small groups in place already. The following is a quick attempt to suggest ways to find leaders for these groups in either context.

A church with an existing small group ministry

Churches with an existing small group ministry have a couple of built-in advantages, but they have some extra hurdles as well. First, the fact that there are small groups in place allows for the identification of leaders. Have your small group leaders survey their groups for people who are gifted and passionate about this kind of work. Notice I said both passionate and gifted. Your current small group leaders should make it a constant responsibility to always be seeking out those who match these twin characteristics of gifting and desire. By giving the task of identification to your existing small group leaders, they will serve as your first means of pulling in new leaders. They can (and should) also be the first line of equipping for these new leaders. In this way, small groups become multiplicative.

However, churches with existing small groups will face challenges as well. If you have a current small group structure set in stone, then training leaders for outreach-oriented study may be hard. Since this is a new small group paradigm, it will look different than the comfortable pattern. The temptation will be for leaders to simply attempt to do a Bible study in the same way they would with a room full of believers. Instead, leaders will need to be trained in facilitating a discussion among those with little-to-no Biblical background and the significance of storying as a means of Bible study.

A church without an existing small group ministry

The reverse is true for the church that does not have an existing small group ministry. This church will find it harder to identify leaders early on, but they may not have to “un-teach” an existing small group paradigm. Since you cannot rely on small group leaders to examine their groups, the responsibility of identifying these leaders will fall on the ministers.

Start small. Find 3-5 key people or couples who have the potential to take on this kind of ministry. Begin to meet with them regularly to discuss the vision for outreach through Bible storying groups. As people catch this vision, develop a strategy, choose Bible stories, and help them discover the people in their social networks.

 

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