Leaders That Buzz
Leadership identification and deployment are typically the limiting factors in small group ministries. There never seem to be enough groups because leaders cannot be multiplied quickly enough.
When I first started doing discipleship ministry, I worked hard to streamline, organize, and standardize our small group program. Basically, I created a small group ministry and asked leaders to come serve that vision. Add to that the fact that I lost 20% of my leaders every year because of the transient nature of DC. I felt like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland; I was running my tail off just to keep up. No matter how simple I made the process or the curriculum, it was difficult deploying new leaders.
A couple of years later, we reversed that. We encouraged our leaders to get their own vision for discipling others and then equipped them to do that. We had only two requirements for a gathering of people to be considered a "small group:" It had to be relational. And it had to be missional. In other words, the two primary purposes for the group should be community building and discipleship. We realized that simply meeting for a Bible Study may or may not be discipleship while a group of people learning sign language together could create opportunities for spiritual growth (that's a real life NCC example).
Our leadership base exploded.
We believe discipleship happens best within the context of shared interests, and it flows naturally out of leaders who are driven by a passionate vision from God.
The NCC vision for small groups- relational and missional- is specific enough to give direction and focus, but broad enough to give latitude for leaders to get their own vision from God and run with it. Leaders are motivated when they see where their passion meets a need.When leaders are driven by a passion and vision from God, they burn white hot and they buzz. I'm convinced that we would have a thriving small group ministry without throwing one cent into any sort of internal marketing because the word-of-mouth from leaders would compel people to come into their groups.
It would be light years easier for me to standardize our groups, give them the same curriculum, organize them according to age group or address, and structure them in nice tight coaching models. But then they wouldn't be serving out of a God-given vision or passion. I would rather manage the complexity and messiness that comes with our system and have the privilege of watching God do amazing things in and through the hearts of his people. I love watching our leaders get a vision from God, catch on fire, and start helping people grow closer to Christ in their spheres of influence.