Friday, June 23, 2006

Communication from Leader to Member

Here is another re-print from the Communication series we are doing over on In this week's article, we talk about the importance of communication from small group leader to small group member.

Two weeks ago we focused on the importance of communicating up to those in leadership or authority in your life, ministry, and workplace. Last week, we talked about the importance of communicating across to the other leaders around you. Today, we will take a look at the importance of and skills necessary for effectively communicating down to members of your groups. We will look at communication dynamics within the group environment and then narrow the focus to one-on-one communication with individual group members.

Communication Within the Group Setting
One of the primary jobs of the small group leader is to facilitate discussion within the small group meeting. Different people will facilitate in different ways. Some of us are shepherds or facilitators while others of us are more like teachers. But regardless of how we carry out our role, it's important that we communicate God's truth with clarity and conviction to those who follow us. Most of Paul's epistles were examples of communicating in this type of corporate gathering. He wrote letters to the churches in Corinth, Rome, Thessalonica, Galatia, Ephesus, Colosse, and Philippi to answer questions and to give encouragement, correction, and teaching.

Within the context of the group setting, we should communicate vision, communicate the lesson, communicate through listening, and communicate wins.

Communicate Vision
I've said it before, and I will say it again: we cannot communicate vision enough. We need to communicate the vision of discipleship and the vision of our individual groups until people are absolutely sick of hearing it. In fact, we need to communicate it until we are sick of hearing ourselves say it. In his book Leadership Jazz, Max DePree said, "I learned that if you are a leader, and you are not tired of communicating, you probably aren't doing a good enough job. You may want to take the first five minutes of every group meeting to remind people of why you are meeting and what you hope to accomplish.

The overall vision of NCC small groups is Be One (a disciple), Make One (a disciple), For One (for Christ and his glory). When you meet as a group, review that vision and how the specific vision of your individual group accomplishes the goals of discipleship. Remind individual members of their responsibility within and to the group by clearly communicating expectations of those who are in the group.

When you speak about your vision, share it with enthusiasm (no one is going to be more excited about the vision than you), confidence (no one wants to follow someone who isn't sure about where they are going), and relevance (no one wants to go somewhere that will not benefit them).

Communicating the Lesson
The most obvious form of communication within the group context revolves around the "study" component of the group meeting. As I mentioned earlier, some of our groups are more discussion oriented while other groups are more teaching oriented, so there are varying degrees of styles and methods used to facilitate discussion in groups. Regardless of how you approach your study time, there are four types of questions that increase the level of transparency in the group.
  • Facts- What does the text say? These questions focus on information, and they are aimed at the lowest level of personal transparency. They draw people into thinking and sharing about the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the topic or passage under discussion.
  • Opinions- What do I think about the topic or what the text says? These questions move a little bit deeper from the realm of general information to the realm of the mind.
  • Feelings- How do I feel about the topic or what the text says? These types of questions move even deeper to heart issues. This is the level where transparency and authenticity occur.
  • Application-What does this mean to me and how must I apply this to my life? This is the final level of questioning and discussion. What practical ways can we apply the teaching to our lives and corporately hold one another accountable to practice what we have learned?

Communicating By Listening
How you listen is just as important as what you say. In Leading Life Changing Small Groups, Bill Donahue gives four suggestions for effective listening within the group context:
  • Invite comments from other group members. This ensures that no one person monopolizes the conversation or establishes themselves as the authority on any given topic. Encourage everyone to participate.
  • Validate and empathize with people's emotions. That does not necessarily mean agreeing with what someone has said. We can connect with someone on an emotional level without sacrificing doctrinal soundness.
  • Explore their statements and seek more information. Ask leading questions to encourage deeper conversation about what has been said.
  • Clarify what has been said. It is sometimes good to repeat back to the person and the group what has been said.

Communicating Wins
Finally, we should be intentional about communicating and celebrating wins as a group. Sharing the vision is important, but recognizing and celebrating moments that hit the vision bulls-eye are even more important. Here are some things to consider:
  • Encouragement. Recognize and encourage group members who are growing, learning, sharing, and contributing to the group experience.
  • Gratitude. Recognize and thank group members publicly who make wins happen.

Communication Outside the Group Context
Vince Lombardi said, “Coaches who can outline plays on a blackboard are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their players and motivate.” What happens between group meetings is often more important than what heppens during the meeting itself.

Communicate with each person in the group once a week through email, personal conversation, note, or phone call.

Communicate with potential leaders regularly outside of group time for individual discipleship and leadership development. Ask them about their spiritual life, and tell them about yours. Teach them what you have learned about following God, spiritual growth, and leadership. Be honest about both struggles, failures, joys, and successes that you have experience as a leader. Clearly communicate to them the role that you see them playing in the group and potential leadership roles that they could assume in the future. As they begin to lead on their own, give lots of feedback on what they did well and areas that they can improve. Help them see where their gifts are being used.

Passing It On
What are some things that you have learned about communication in small groups that you can pass along to other leaders?


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