None of us will ever match Jesus' humility, but it's something to aspire to in our leadership.
Teachable leaders are aware of their own room for growth. That awareness makes them better equipped to help others grow.
Practicing curiosity is simple, but it takes practice. All you have to do is spend more time asking questions than you do offering your opinion or perspective.
Being intentional just means making sure the group is more than a series of random interactions between its members. No one is happy in a random group because no one grows or feels challenged.
Every leader should be humble, teachable, curious, and intentional because if you lead from that posture, it creates an environment that encourages transformation in the lives of those you lead.
Helping a group member connect with a source of deeper care requires empathy, understanding, and patience.
The ability to ask good questions is key for any leader. Unfortunately, it doesn't come naturally for most of us. It's a skill we have to develop over time.
When something is wrong, is your first instinct to say, "Well, at least . . ."? Check out this short video featuring author and research professor Brené Brown.
A leader's goal is to create a helpful, engaging, and relevant environment where people have the opportunity to experience healthy relationships and spiritual growth. After that, a leader let's God do what only he can do: change lives. But that first step of creating an environment is important. That's why the success of a group really does hinge on the quality of its leader. Here are three traits that really distinguish great group leaders:
1. Humility Humility comes from a strong, growing relationship with Jesus. Humble leaders acknowledge that we're all sinners, completely helpless without the love of God. Because they've been so dramatically transformed by this love, these kinds of leaders make every effort to move out of God's way so that he can connect with seekers in his timing.
- Humble leaders approach conversations as fellow journeyers, not as one who are handing off truth.
- Humble leaders "sit" on the same side of the table as their group members. They acknowledge they're also in need of a Savior.
2. Teachability Teachability isn't just about responding to direction and correction. It's an attitude. It's a spirit that says, "I will constantly learn about myself, others, and culture so God can use me in new and different ways."
- Teachable leaders always invite feedback because they know their job isn't to lead perfectly. Their job is to strive to respond effectively to the people God places in their groups.
- Teachable leaders actively pursue what it means to create open and conversational environments for people to explore topics and experience community.
3. Curiosity Curiosity is about engagement. Curious leaders are proactive in reaching out to group members in order to better understand where they are personally, emotionally, and spiritually, and encourage them to take meaningful steps towards their heavenly Father.
- Curious leaders are hungry to know more about their group members. They go out of their way to understand group members' perspective—not so they can change minds, but so they can connect and lead people toward deeper relationships with Jesus.
- Curious leaders don't teach. They ask questions.
These are simple ideas, but pursuing them often requires a shift in mindset. Most leadership books and blogs don't emphasize humility, teachability, and curiosity as key ingredients of great leadership. But they really will improve the quality of your group experience like nothing else. That's because they have the power to break down the barriers of shame and guilt that exist between people. They express a transparency and vulnerability that gives group members permission to be more transparent and vulnerable. And that's huge when you're trying to help others pursue spiritual growth.
Asking great questions is as much an art as it is a skill. But developing that question-asking muscle is essential for great leadership. Asking great questions is the most effective thing a leader can do to create conversational environments where people can experience healthy relationships and spiritual growth. Jesus did this better than anyone in history. In the Gospels, he's asked a ton of questions — everything from "Are you the Son of God?" to "Which is the greatest commandment in the law?" He rarely responds with an answer. Instead, he tends to ask questions that lead people to consider the truth, think about their own experiences, and reflect. Jesus understood that asking great questions helps people to process what they're thinking and feeling and to really own the answers they discover. Providing quick, simple answers doesn't usually do that.
When it comes to asking great questions, Jesus sets the bar high. You probably won't be as quick or insightful as he was (I'm not, that's for sure). But it's still a great idea to work on your question-asking skills, and to look to Christ for inspiration. You won't change overnight, but in time you'll find that your ability to ask better questions will create a better environment for your group members to grow.
Here are five simple, self-explanatory tips for asking great questions in group:
- Ask open-ended questions, not those that can be answered with a yes or no.
- Ask questions that evoke feelings, make people think, and lead to insights.
- Ask questions that have more than one right answer.
- Ask questions that encourage group members to share personal examples.
- Ask questions that stimulate group members to apply what they're learning.
Responding to questions by asking good follow-up questions engages everyone in the group. As you guide the conversation, make sure responses connect your questions to the topic you're discussing, pave the way for you and your group members to talk about your personal struggles, and encourage self-discovery by allowing people to arrive at their own conclusions with the help of the group discussion.
Are you comfortable with the phrase, “I don’t know?”
I’m not … but I’m learning to familiarize myself quickly. Luckily, leading a growing organization provides many opportunities to practice!
I used to avoid this statement like I avoided waking up for my 8am Art History class in college (I never went!). I’m becoming more comfortable today, though. It’s not that I know less today than a few years ago. At some point my age may cause that to be true. Rather, I’m just becoming more comfortable accepting and acknowledging what “I don’t know.”
Here is the problem. When I was a younger leader, I assumed admitting my lack of insight would undermine my leadership influence. I wanted to be seen as a thought leader. I wanted the promotion. I wanted the next opportunity. And I believed the path to the leadership promise land was paved by answers, expertise, and confidence.
Unfortunately, pretending to know all the answers led me to over-promise and under-deliver. In case you don’t know, that’s NOT the best method to promotions and opportunities.
Gavin goes on to explore five positive things saying "I don't know" actually communicates to the people we lead. It's well worth hopping over to his site to check it out.
Leading a group of 10 to 12 individuals can be tough because each person has different needs. Although everyone in the group shares the same goal—to grow in their relationship with Jesus—each person's best next step in pursuing that goal is often different. So, how do you lead individuals while also making sure the whole group is headed in the right direction? Here are three things to keep an eye on:
1. Lead toward the big goal. Take comfort in the fact that even though people have different wiring, personalities, experiences, talents, and temperaments, the purpose of the group of the group is the same for each of them: to create an environment where they can grow in their relationship with God. Within the context of that goal, the individuals in your group will be at different places in their journeys and will be ready to take different next steps. Your job is to keep an eye on the overarching goal while helping individuals take personal steps toward Jesus.
2. Determine where each person is. Each person in your group comes into group at a different place in their journey with God and with community. It's important to figure out where each person is so you can lead them effectively. Some group members may be exploring the idea of a relationship with God. Others may be beginning their relationship with him. Still others may be pursuing a deeper relationship with God through community. People in different places in their spiritual journeys face different challenges and struggles. Determining where your group members are spiritually will help you decide which topics to study as well as how to tee up helpful conversations.
3. Point to next steps. Once you know where everyone is starting, you can begin to see their best next steps. A next step might opening up more to the rest of the group, serving on Sundays in a ministry area, signing up for a mission trip, or just beginning to read the Bible and pray on a regular basis. You may be able to see what a person's best next step is better than he or she can. And the entire group can offer encouragement and accountability. Just remember: your job is to help your group members as they take a next step. They're responsible for actually taking the step. And God is responsible for growing them.
As you help each individual take steps toward Christ, you strengthen the group as a whole because each person learns and grows in doing his or her part in the body of Christ. As Paul says in Ephesians 4:16, “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
Despite its benefits, social media can be addictive, and it can breed all kinds of negative emotions and behavior. I've seen too many people fall head first into a sea of insecurities due to the influence of social media. If this is you, it may be time to take a break.
I hope you had an enjoyable Labor Day holiday. To help you ease back into the work week, here's some wisdom from Coach John Wooden. He has a lot to say about living and leading well.
Jesus' parable of the bags of gold in Matthew 25 can be perplexing, but I think Wooden's observations offer insight. Maybe God is less interested in us winning than he is in us succeeding. Maybe he wants us to focus less on outcomes (which we mostly can't control, anyway) and more on making the most of the gifts and talents he's given us.
Focusing on success can be liberating in a world so obsessed with winning.
In 1995, psychologist, educator, and author Daniel Goleman published Emotional Intelligence. He followed that with an influential Havard Business Review article titled "What Makes a Leader?" Goleman's work made the case that great leadership depends more on EQ than it does on IQ or technical skills.
Check out this brief video. It features Daniel Goleman explaining a little bit about what emotional intelligence is and why it matters.
We place a lot of value on emotional intelligence in our leaders. That's because leaders that are self-aware, self-controlled, and have empathy and social skills are able to connect with others authentically, serve them well, and motivate them effectively. They see the value of personal growth through community and are able to meet the people they lead wherever they are.
The good news is we can pursue greater emotional intelligence—and the pursuit looks an awful lot like the New Testament's description of life among a community of believers. It looks like the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that the apostle Paul describes as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.
If you want to up your EQ, one of the best ways to do it is to better understand how you're wired. Here are some tools to help you do just that:
- Myers-Briggs This is a free, simplified version of the assessment, but it will give you a sense of your personality type. That, in turn, may give you insight into your strengths and weaknesses as a leader (we all have both).
- RightPath This is another personality test. It digs deep. It has offered me a lot of great insight into my own wiring. It's not free, though, and is most valuable when you have someone who really knows how to read it help you interpret and contextualize what it says.
- "Cast of Characters" breakout from re:group 2011 This talk was delivered by Justin Elam at North Point, Sue Bates and Mark Shull at Buckhead, and Bob Hempen at Browns Bridge. Audio for all three talks, as well as notes and handouts, is available at the linked site, so pick whichever version you prefer.
- Emotional Intelligenceand The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights by Daniel Goleman.
What tools have you used to help you better understand yourself and your style of leadership?
[Today's post is by Bryson Davis. Bryson is a Groups Director at Gwinnett Church, a role he's recently transitioned into after serving for over a decade in the same role at North Point Community Church.—Ed.]
It’s tempting to snap into group leadership mode on the night of your group meeting and then disengage the moment everyone heads out the door for home. My wife, Amy, and I do it—we’re busy people in a busy season of life. But checking out as soon as the group meeting is over puts us behind the curve in our leadership. It’s almost impossible to provide what our group members need while playing catch-up the next week.
One way to stay ahead of the curve as leaders is to open ourselves up to new perspectives. So, immediately after a group meeting, Amy and I ask each other this question:
What are our group members talking about on the drive home?
While the group meeting that just ended is still fresh in our minds, we try to take the opportunity to dissect the night a bit. We want to understand what our group members’ perspectives on our time together might be.
That simple question does a few things to help us grow and stay ahead of the leadership curve:
- It keeps us humble and teachable by opening us to others’ perspectives. This helps us maintain an open-handed, Spirit-led posture in our leadership.
- It fosters intuitive leadership and helps us prepare for the next week’s meeting. If there’s something we need to address at the next meeting or someone we want to encourage, asking this question usually brings that out.
- It unites and strengthens Amy and me in our leadership. She may have picked up on some non-verbal communication during the meeting that I missed. I may have recognized something in the conversation that she didn’t. Talking about these things helps us to learn from each other and to grow.
So, if you’re a group leader, take some time after your meetings to ask your spouse, co-leader, or apprentice, What are our group members talking about on the drive home?
We all agree that setting boundaries for group members is necessary for maintaining group health. But how do we approach a group member that refuses to live within those boundaries? How do we manage the tension between extending needy members grace and delivering truth? Here are some ideas to help you manage this tension:
Be compassionate. Start with compassion. At first, it may be difficult to discern real need from "real needy." If you enter into the fray with compassion, your heart will be ready to respond appropriately.
Be aware. Watch how the other members of the group respond to a potentially needy member. Look for signs that your other group members are growing tired or detached from the group. Look for rolling eyes, sidebar conversations, or even reduced attendance.
Be prepared. Needy group members tend to dominate group discussion. Look for an opening to draw the conversation from the needy member and back to the group. You can do this by simply saying to another group member, "What do you think about that?" Always keep your ears open for a pause where you have the opportunity to bring the group back on task.
Be assertive. You'll probably have to address the needy member. Because of low self-awareness, needy members rarely resolves issues on their own. Be willing and prepared to address the issue when the time is right.
Be quick. Address the issue as quickly as possible. The longer it continues, the harder it is to rein in and the more potential for damaging relationships inside the group increases. Waiting also increases the likelihood that someone else in the group will address the needy member in a less than ideal way.
Be discreet. Addressing needy people in a public forum isn't best. It drives them away and potentially causes more damage. It's best to address the issue outside of the regular group meeting. If it's helpful, you can bring your apprentice along for the confrontation. This lets the needy member know that it's not just one person's opinion.
Be humble. You want to balance speaking truth with a humble spirit. People tend to discount what they hear from someone they consider self-righteous or arrogant.
Be accepting. Communicate acceptance. It's easier to accept a difficult truth when you're confident that they accept you as a person. If you're not, then what they say comes across as rejection.
Be sound. Focus on adding truth rather than pointing out errors. People don't abandon what they think or believe just because someone presents a good argument.
Be thorough. One conversation probably won't resolve all issues. Be ready to have follow-up conversations. Encourage needy members to go down a road of self-discovery. Let them know you're on their side and want to help them grow.
Be a leader. Lead needy members to self-discovery. Preaching to them puts them in a position to defend their beliefs or behaviors. Asking good questions positions them to discover truth on their own.
Not every situation will be resolved in a desirable way. But if you use some of these ideas, they'll give your group a greater chance of success. In the end, God is responsible for the outcome. We're responsible for our attitude and actions when helping lead our groups.
A predictable environment provides strength and confidence for you and your group. It starts with coffee. Your group members walk in and smell that freshly brewed coffee aroma and know you're expecting them (even if they don't drink coffee). Start and end on time. Keep the conversation moving during the group study.
Other things you can do to create a predictable Community Group environment include keeping pets out of the room, making sure young children are asleep or being supervised by a babysitter, and turning off phones.
So, what we are going for as leaders is doing our very best with what God has entrusted to us. In leading a group, we are the stewards of it.
Community with other believers is a miracle. You can't totally explain or quantify it, but our conversations with spouses and friends are somehow deeper and richer because of it. We see our Creator at work in and through the lives of our group members. And every group is unique.
Let's do the things we know to do and leave the results to God. Ephesians 3:20 says "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
Our job begins with...making the coffee.
What are some of the things you do to create a predictable environment for your groups?