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Online Course

Session 3: Help! I’m a Small Group Leader!

Getting Started as a Small Group Leader

Success is built on practicing and perfecting the fundamentals. In this session, Matt discusses two vital habits for every small group leader.

Welcome to session three. My name is Matt McGill, and I’m on the team at Living on the Edge. I just want to let you know that I believe in the power of small groups. I’m so excited for our time together. I’ve been in a small group since I was 14 years old and I’ve been leading small groups for the last 20 years.

So before we get started, I just wanted to say, “Way to go.” Your church needs you and so does your group. I think it’s awesome that you have stepped up to the challenge. Maybe you’re thinking right now, what have I gotten myself into? And if you are, I’d like to say, “Welcome to the club.” Leadership can be such a challenge. Serving others is not easy. All of us are plagued with feelings of insecurity and questions, and if you’ve ever wondered, am I enough, I just want to reassure you that you aren’t alone.

So let’s push forward. It’s my prayer that this short course would add some tools to your toolbox and it would help you be a more effective leader for your small group. Does this sound good? Great. By the way, I can’t hear you if you answered. Just, we’re kind of on video and are not actually together. Just want to get that clear up front.

But here’s the next thing we need to talk about. Success is built on fundamentals. Whether it’s sports or raising a family or in business. Fundamentals aren’t just the first thing you learn and then move on. These are the habits that you keep practicing and perfecting. So in this session we’re going to tackle two leadership fundamentals.

The first is this, is that you would view your prep time as a quiet time. It’s hard to make time every week to prepare for your time together, and I get it. Everyone is busy. However, taking the time to prep can make all the difference in the world.

So let’s back up just a little bit. Maybe you’re thinking, wait a minute. As a facilitator, am I supposed to be spending time on my own before we meet? And here’s just a word of encouragement for you. Please don’t settle for winging it. Can God work without a leader taking the time to prepare? Of course. God is not limited to our actions, but here’s a couple of reasons why you should take the time to prep.

The first is this, the Bible teaches that our best ministry comes from what God is doing in our hearts. The Greatest Commandment is that we would love God first. The second is that we would love others, and of course this is the correct order. When we love God first, it will lead to loving others. So here’s what I’m suggesting, that you would consider your prep time a quiet time, your time alone with God. Let God work in your heart before you facilitate your group time. Time together as a small group is more about transformation than it is information. Therefore, let the Holy Spirit work in you before he works through you.

So here’s a practical tip. Pick a time and a place to prepare that you’ll be free from distraction. Shut down the computer, put your phone on silent, do whatever it takes you won’t be distracted. In our over connected world, this advice has never been more important. And here’s what your prep time might look like. You know, one, begin with prayer to get your heart ready. Two, review the materials. And three, ask God, what do you want me to learn through this?

So here’s the second fundamental I want to talk about, is that you would build unity by clarifying expectations. You see, everyone in your group, they bring different assumptions to the table or more accurately, the couches that your group meets on. See, everyone has different needs to be met and it can be frustrating when everyone isn’t on the same page. Let’s just look at a couple examples.

Let’s say Sally joined the group because she’s looking for an in depth Bible study, but Joe on the other hand, he joined the group because he’s looking for a safe place to share and to receive prayer. Now, these desires aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive of course, but when they’re uncommunicated, there could be tension and there could even be conflict. You see, if you spend half your group time in prayer, Sally might get really frustrated. If you spend most of your time together digging into a passage. Joe Might get frustrated. And why? Why would they get frustrated? It’s because they are expecting different things from the group.

So how do you get on the same page? Well, there’s two questions that you might ask and the first is this, what do you want to get out of this group? And the second one is, in your opinion, what do you think a healthy group looks like? You see, here’s a discussion leading tip that might be good for you in this situation. When I want to get feedback from everyone, I like to have everyone write down their ideas first, maybe with a little note card or something and then share and talk about them. See, this will allow everyone to reflect and come up with their own unique perspective.

You see, when it’s only a discussion after one or two people share, the rest of the group might be tempted to pile on and say, “Yeah, I agree with that, I agree with that,” but you want to get everyone’s point of view. So what happens when the expectations are different? Well, this is okay. Healthy groups, they don’t need just unity. They also need diversity. And we need diversity because different perspectives help us grow. It’s important to get everything out there in the open.

Have someone write down all the expectations that are shared and then take some time on your own to summarize everything into a shorter list of values for your small group. And of course, you don’t have to be the one to do this. Ask you a group if someone else would like to help. And if you haven’t done an activity like this before, I strongly urge you to walk through this exercise. It doesn’t have to be something that’s complex or long. All you need is a short list of values that reflects what your group is about. And to help you with this process, we’ve included a sample small group covenant that can help inform what you guys are doing.
So here’s one last thing I want to talk about. Once you have a list, what do you do with it? Well, here’s what you do. Periodically, you review it and to see how your doing as a group. You could review it on your own as the leader, as the facilitator, to see if there’s any changes you need to make, but you can also review it as a group. You could ask, “Hey, how are we doing? Are we reaching these values? Do we need to make any changes in how we do things?”

So in this session, we looked at two fundamentals and the first was this, view your prep time as a quiet time. Love God first before you love others. Let him work in you before he works through you. The second principle is this, build unity in your group by clarifying expectations. Have everyone share what they’re looking for from the group. Refine these ideas into a short list and make sure everyone has a copy. When the timing is right for your group, pull it out and evaluate how you’re doing. I’m very excited about the next session. You’re not going to want to miss it. We’re going to talk about the single most important skill that every small group leader needs to develop.


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