If you just started a new group, it may feel like it’s too early to begin asking your group members to do some of the tasks that make group happen. It’s not.
If your group isn't living jaw-dropping stories of amazing life-change, that's okay. In fact, it's normal.
Asking a group member to be your apprentice can be awkward—too formal and serious in what is otherwise a comfortable friendship. But it doesn't have to be that way.
As you lead, make sure you stay connected with your heavenly Father. Don't let the busyness that comes with leadership push him to the periphery.
Serving together as a group never feels urgent. In fact, if you don't make a plan, it probably won't happen at all.
Ending your group well is one of the most difficult parts of leadership. That's because it's one of the most important Leader Essential, but it doesn't feel urgent until the eleventh hour.
Life change is all about obedience to the two greatest commandments—to love God and to love our neighbors (Matthew 22:36–40). God is in the business of changing lives. If we are to follow Jesus, then we have be about the business of changing lives too. But how do you make sure life change is the central goal of your group? How can you be intentional about creating an environment that helps your group members grow?
There are four key ways you can think life change. While this isn't an exhaustive list, it does provide some concrete steps you can take to help set the stage for God to change lives in and through your group.
1. Cast Vision Casting vision is about painting a picture for your group members of what God can do in your lives through your group. Here are two simple ways to do this.
- Use the Group Agreement. Talk about the Group Agreement during the group’s infancy. It can help you explain the purpose of small groups.Revisit the Agreement every six months or so throughout the life of the group. This evaluation can help you diagnose when your group is getting off track so you can redirect the group’s momentum.
- Ask good questions. Good questions can trigger meaningful conversations that serve as a catalyst for spiritual growth. The questions you ask reveal what you value.
2. Create the Environment. You can't grow people spiritually, but you can create an environment conducive to God growing people. Here are two practical ways to do this:
- Strike a balance between seeking truth and developing relationships. Both elements play a valuable role in the growth that happens in a small group. Focusing primarily on one to the exclusion of the other will stunt your group’s development.
- Choose curriculum strategically. Paying attention to the issues that surface in your discussions can guide you to what your group might want to study next. Make sure that your group gives attention to each of the Three Vital Relationships (don’t get stuck on Intimacy with God). Groupresources.org is a great resource for finding curricula. You can even filter your search results by Vital Relationship.
3. Identify life change. It can be easy to miss life change when it’s happening. Here are some ways to identify life change:
- Be intentional about watching for life change. Don't just watch for changes in behavior. Watch for the changes in attitudes and priorities that may signal people are viewing things more and more through the grid of God’s truth.
- Pay attention to prayer requests and answers to prayer. People’s prayer requests often point to areas where God is working in their hearts.
4. Celebrate life change. We celebrate the things we value. When you recognize life change, take time to celebrate it.
- Don’t let opportunities to celebrate pass you by. When you see that someone is starting to view his or her circumstances, attitudes, and actions through the lens of Scripture, take time out to affirm the change.
- Celebrate one-on-one. Sometimes it’s best not to call attention to life change in front of the entire group. But you can still celebrate in a more private setting. Write a personal note. Or take the group member to lunch and offer encouragement about what you’ve seen God do in his or her lives.
By putting these ideas into practice, you can set the stage for God to do some incredible work in the lives of your group members. And you can help them recognize it when God is changing their lives. But it bears repeating: it's not you or the group that does the changing. You may play a part in God’s work in people’s lives, but only the Holy Spirit changes people’s hearts. The good news is that Scripture is clear that God is committed to doing his part.
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
[We recently had a series of posts about apprenticing, but I thought it might be interesting to hear from a Community Group leader on the subject. Kelli Spivey leads a women's group out of Buckhead Church. Here's what she has to say about the importance of developing future leaders.]
There are a million good things we do with our time. We lead our weekly group meetings, meet with group members outside of group, and are involved in the personal communities where we find support and encouragement. All of these things are essential, but we also need to make time for apprenticing. It's worth the investment.
As Community Group leaders, we have the opportunity to invest in people and lead them deeper in their walks with Jesus. For some members of our groups, that kind of investment means inviting them into apprenticeship. The goal is for your apprentice to lead a Community Group once your current group ends. This allows for group multiplication rather than just addition. Without an apprentice, you add to your influence as a leader year after year. With an apprentice you multiply your influence as your investment continues not only through your Community Group members, but the people your apprentice invests in.
It's tempting to neglect the opportunity to apprentice because we’re not sure where to begin and we lack the time. The process begins when we model what a small group leader is and does and when we give group members opportunities to lead. This small step allows your apprentice to practice some of the skills that he or she has seen you model for many weeks. With your support and feedback, your apprentice will continue to grow as a leader.
Many people just need someone to believe they have what it takes to be a leader and someone to invest time in them. So, look within your small group and ask God if there is someone with leadership potential. Communicate that you believe in that person. Let your apprentice lead. Have conversations about leadership. Begin the journey of apprenticing.
Take the challenge! If you invest in an apprentice, you will multiply your impact and legacy in leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.