Re-Blog- Five Tips for Leading Your Small Group | TGC

Five Tips for Leading Your Small Group | TGC.

By KEVIN DEYOUNG

As school starts back up, so will plenty of church-sponsored and church-related small groups. Some will study the Bible. Others will read a Christian book together. Almost all will have a designated leader or leaders. While knowing your Bible and having Christlike character are the more important factors, there are also a number of skills which go a long way in leading an effective small group.

1. Communicate early and often, and then follow through.

A good leader is always leading. If you wait until the meeting to lead, it may be too late. In this era of easy communication, there is no reason leaders can’t remind the group of upcoming dates and assignments. Make sure everyone knows what is expected. Conclude every meeting by highlighting what’s next–what should be read? when is the group meeting? where are they meeting? who will be leading the discussion? Then before the next meeting send out a reminder email (or call or text or tweet or Facebook post). People forget. People are lazy. People get busy. People need lots of friendly reminders to stay on task–especially students.

As for the meeting itself, respect people’s time. Get things started promptly and end at the agreed upon time. Sure, emergencies come up. There are exceptions to almost every rule. But people need to know that they can count on you to get the meeting started and ended on time.

Whenever possible, keep things consistent. Changing dates and times almost always leads to dwindling numbers.

Ask people for specific commitments. Don’t do everything yourself. Get someone to bring a snack, another person to organize the upcoming barbecue, and someone else to open in prayer next week. This not only builds up others, it will encourage greater participation. Asking for commitments is better than making a general invitation.

2. Think through your questions ahead of time.

If your group consists of nothing but very mature Christians who have known each other for years you may be able to get away with little preparation. But that’s not the make up of most groups (and if so, it’s probably time to mix things up a little for the sake of newcomers and those just starting out as followers of Christ). Make sure your questions are crisp and clear. If you aren’t sure what you are asking, you can be sure no one else will either.

If the selection you are studying (in the Bible or in a book) is hard to understand, you may need a number of knowledge questions. Don’t make them so obscure that only seminary trained Christians would know the answer. But don’t make them so painfully obvious (e.g., fill in the blank questions) that everyone is embarrassed to venture forth an answer.

Don’t stay at the level of knowledge only. Ask questions which call for analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Prepare final questions which get at the heart.

Be creative in how you phrase your questions. Don’t just say “What do you think?” or “How do you feel about this?” or even “How can we apply this to our lives?” Ask questions like:

  • What is one thing you want to see change in your life as a result of this study?
  • What new promise can you take with you into the week?
  • What did you learn about God?
  • Where have you seen these things lived out well?
  • How does this relate to the cross?
  • How does this resemble our church for good or for bad?
  • Where is this a struggle for you in your marriage?
  • What do you have a hard time believing in God’s word?

You get the picture. There are hundreds of good questions you can ask on any given week. Few of them will come to you on the spot without any preparation.

3. Be mindful of group dynamics.

Being a leader is much more than opening and closing in prayer. You should do whatever you can to foster a warm, welcoming environment in your group. This means being especially mindful of new people. The 30 minutes of hang out time before the study may be a sheer delight for the old-timers, but for new people it’s bound to feel anxious and awkward. As a leader, you should do whatever you can to make them feel at ease. Ask them questions. Get the group to introduce itself. Have an exercise ready to encourage group sharing. The less people know each other the more structure is needed.

Keep in mind that newcomers may not know your history, your humor, or your theology. I made the mistake once of teasing one of our longtime small group members about not yet being convinced of paedobaptism. It was playful banter between me and these friends, but for the new folks visiting it sent them the (wrong) signal that credobaptists weren’t welcome here. I later apologized and explained that I was only joking with my friends and that we’d love to have them (the new couple) in our group. My bad.

One of the hardest and most important things a leader must do is try to include as many people as possible in group discussion. Obviously, the aim is not to make quiet members feel embarrassed, but often the quiet members simply need to be asked. A good leader won’t allow every discussion to be dominated by the same two or three people. He will specifically call on those who haven’t said much. He may need to gently add from time to time,  “Let me see if anyone else has something to add before I come back to you.”

A good leader will be sensitive to the mood of the group, discerning whether there is hurt, confusion, sadness, or frustration that needs to be addressed. Don’t just play traffic cop. Be a shepherd.

4. Know how to handle conflict.

The worst fear of most small group leaders is that they will be called upon to quell some raging inferno of disagreement. Thankfully, most Christian groups (in my experience) play pretty nice (almost to a fault). Angry conflict is rare, but it does happen. Depending on the circumstances, here are some of the things you may want to say in the midst of disagreement:

  • Sam, it sounds like you are trying to say XYZ. Am I hearing you correctly?
  • Amanda has offered a different interpretation. What do the rest of you think? How should we interpret this verse?
  • I know it’s hard to talk about such a controversial or painful topic, but I don’t think we should we run away from constructive conflict. I’d love to hear what everyone else is thinking.
  • This is an important discussion, but it’s not really involving the whole group. It would be great if the two of you could get together and continue the conversation at a different time.
  • It sounds like I may have done something to upset you. Why don’t we talk about it after the meeting is done?
  • Guys, I’m happy for us have disagreement in this group. But that sounded personal. Let’s try to be gentle even when we are passionate.

There may be times where the leader needs to be even more direct. You may have to shut down the conversation, explicitly correct a wrong interpretation, or reprove someone for speaking in a harsh and unedifying way. While we don’t want hot-headed leaders who make conflict worse, neither can we afford passive “leaders” who put their own people-pleasing and fear of man above the good of the whole group.

5. Plan for prayer.

If you expect prayer to just happen it will only barely happen. There is nothing wrong with 60 seconds of prayer to begin and end a meeting, if that’s your plan. Just to know that without preparation, that’s what will almost always happen. Effective times of prayer–whether short or long–take intentional planning. Are you going to ask for prayer requests? If so, how will ensure your “prayer” time is not all sharing with almost no praying? What are prayer requests from previous weeks that need follow up? How long do you want the prayer to be? How many people are you hoping will pray?

Leading in prayer requires clear direction. Don’t be afraid to call on certain individuals to pray (usually not newcomers). Remind people that their prayers can be short (in fact, you may want to encourage them to be short). Guide people through different topics (family, church, nation, world, etc.). If your prayer time is generally brief, consider setting aside a meeting every few months for nothing but prayer. We’ve often done this in our group, usually separating men and women for these most extended times of sharing and prayer.

The biggest difference between a small group that is spiritually, relationally, and biblically edifying and one that feels like an awkward waste of time is leadership. Good leaders do not always get good followers. But it almost never happens that you get good small groups without faithful, wise, skilled men and women to lead them.

Please allow me direct your attention to the center of the ring! 4A state wrestling title

Lake Stevens' Brandon Johnson celebrates his title at 285 pounds    Lake Stevens wins 4A state wrestling title | HeraldNet.com – High school sports.

Ladies and Gentlemen! Please allow me direct your attention to the center of the ring!  Let me introduce you to a remarkable young man. Remarkable in many ways, but not in the ways you maybe accustom to seeing….

You see, this young man is different.  The attention he has drawn to himself was not from wearing is pants too low.  Nor was it from creating a conflict between himself and an oppressive world.  His story is one of humbleness, respect, and hard work.

My goal is not to retell the story, but just for a moment direct your attention to him, so we can applaud the success. The newspaper article is correct in telling the narrative tale, but I believe perhaps the most important part of the story is what the newspaper story cannot express.

  • This young man is intelligent enough to listen to those around him that knew more, and learn from them.
  • This young man is clever enough to know that no matter what happens around him; his hard work will put him in the position to win, no matter what the situational outcome maybe.
  • This young man is wise beyond his years to humble himself before God, and to take his place at the foot of the cross and to complete his work using the gift he was given.

This is not the end of a journey, but the beginning of one.  The journey of this young man needs to the applauded, respected, and hailed as a story of success.

The younger generation can complete great undertakings, and honor God.  They can fulfill the mission of Christ and in the process lose themselves while, at the same time, finding their true self.

Great job, Brandon!  It has been a pleasure watching you work so hard and win the title, but your work is not complete.  There is much more to do.  Keep working, keep praying, and keep working towards the greatest reward of all.

1 Corinthians 3 13 But each person’s work will be shown for what it is. On judgment day it will be brought to light. It will be put through fire. The fire will test how good everyone’s work is. 14 If the building doesn’t burn up, God will give the builder a reward for his work.

How do you define, “Made a Difference?”

Any opportunity offered to create a “difference” is a gift to be grasped.  The longer I play in the arena of customer service and field engineering those opportunities become less and less on the business side.  Many businesses appear to have a great affection for attempting to measure the “difference” or “impact” of an event.  Some these measurements are laughable at best with the rise of social media and the speed that customer perceptions can change.

On the personal side, those occasions can be self-created and hence more rewarding.  My “difference” is creating a situation where a person can achieve growth.  Whether this growth is in their thinking or in how they consider a situation, or how a small change can influence other aspects of their lives.  Accomplishing this has the two-fold benefit of positively affecting both parties doubling the effect.

The Never Ending Push to Improve the Metrics

“Push to improve metrics and the metrics will improve for a while. Teach the philosophy of a job well done and the metrics will improve forever.” (Simon Sinek, 2012)

Define the words “Strategic” and “Tactical” within the context of business situations, and then consider the quote above. Management develops a change to the “Strategic” framework of the business. The reasons for these changes have been provided. The changes can be proven sound, as the cost structure must change in order to maintain profitability. Fair enough. However, where the service engineers dwell is in the world of “Tactics”. The business framework is delineated from above, but there may be “Tactical” problems with the “Strategic” plan. Service or local customer contacts find the “Tactical” solutions to achieve management’s “Strategic” goals. This is the service engineers’ wheelhouse. They get it done. Do you see the tension? Changes to the “Strategic” framework are disseminated down to the service engineers’ level and their minds immediately start to think how to “Tactically” make the changes. Frustration starts to set in from that point forward.

Transfer these thoughts over to our spiritual lives. The magnificent part of this, the bible provides us the strategic and the tactical directives. God provided the “Strategic” framework for everything. He created all of it, so who would know better as to how it should work. When reading the bible, and a “Strategic” directive is provided as in Matthew 4:19 (NIV) “And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” When Jesus spoke to Peter and Andrew, they did not stop consider the directive, they just did it. They followed Jesus probably not fully knowing how “Tactically” they would accomplish “fishing for Men”. Stated another way, they would not have known how to “Tactically” undertake being one of the first disciples for Jesus. Looking further in the gospel of Matthew, an argument can be constructed that all the “Tactical” solutions as to “how” Peter and Andrew should complete the daunting task of true discipleship is outlined in all of chapters five, six and seven. There should be no tension with this as any frustration with how to achieve true discipleship to Jesus is eliminated. We just have to read it and carry it out.

Improve your business philosophy of the way you engage the customer with service and sales opportunities and the metrics will improve forever.

Improve your personal philosophy of the way you engage our Lord, your relationships, family, discipleship, prayer, forgiveness to others, bible reading, and your general sense of well-being knowing your true reason for hope, and your life as a whole WILL improve for eternity.

That is a metric I want to be measured on!

It is all a gift, be sure to be thankful for it!

Living in isolation from faith

Many great thoughts were brought out in a discussion I recently had. I hope that this post will get my mind passed this.

Satan’s tool of isolation of us from our faith, is what happens when faith doesn’t provide the same “pop” or feeling it once did, and how the holy spirit always is walking with us, but what if we look at this a different way. Viewing this from “aligning our priorities” perspective.

I heard this from somewhere, so I cannot take credit for coming up with this. Our priority alignment should always be Jesus, Spouse, Children, and Work. Top down, left to right, nothing more, nothing less. When the one of the priorities start to falter, you press deeper into all priorities above it. When trouble comes at work, press into your family, (the reason why we work) and Jesus (the reason for everything). Trouble with the marriage, press into Jesus. Kids got you down? Press into your Wife and Jesus! Now, when trouble and/or doubt come into your faith, press in to Jesus as hard as you can. All too many times, we have the tendency to “fix” the wrong things, making a situation worse. Were Men, we have to fix something, but with Jesus always at the top of the priorities list everything else has is rightful place.

What do we do when faith is hard, don’t really have time to read the bible, and the last thing we want to do is lead the family in prayer? Remember the priorities structure. I would submit pressing into the top three, with the most pressure being applied to Jesus. With this pressure (continued search for), answers will come. When you submit yourself to the word of God, we allow Him to speak to us in ways our finite minds never thought possible.

Psalms 119:10- “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.” I see this as Gods command for a self-disciplined life. 2 Timothy 1:7 points to this: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” As does Proverbs 10:17: “The road to life is a disciplined life; ignore correction and you’re lost for good.”

The 2 Timothy is passage is my favorite, as it calls us to power, love and self-discipline. No matter the problem, we have the POWER and SELF-DISCIPLINE to push through. Let is not forgot the LOVE in the process, as we cannot drive everyone in our lives crazy in the process…..