How do you help maturing disciples to keep growing? Both the Bible and developmental psychology show that a natural next step for many of them is to step out and lead others.
1. The Bible, especially in Hebrews 5:11—6:1, assumes that a maturing follower of Jesus will eventually step out to lead others. How do you help group members to embrace this?
- When people say, “We love our group; we don’t ever want to leave,” challenge them with Jesus’ mission to “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). Study that and other passages and discuss its application for group members.
- If group members say they don’t know enough or have the ability to lead, look together at the lives of the early church leaders, Peter and John, who were known as “unschooled, ordinary men.”
- Focus more on developing a few emerging leaders, sharing leadership roles with them, and increasingly less on discipling the entire group yourself. Team-lead the group with a core team of 2-3 others.
2. The best way for individuals to continue growing is to step out of their comfort zones. Abraham Maslow said, “You will either step forward into growth or step back into safety.” How can you help the group step forward?
- A new Christian usually grows rapidly. After awhile, however, that growth slows and eventually becomes incremental at best. Individuals can remain in this plateaued state for years – attending church and small group faithfully every week and still not growing. To help them begin growing spiritually again, think of creative ways to encourage them with challenges that spur on their growth and force them to rely more on God’s power.
- Those who teach others claim they learn far more than those they are teaching. The best thing you can do for plateaued group members may be to allow them to team-lead and teach others.
- Communicate in terms of spiritual steps. What is the next logical step for each member of the group? Discuss this openly and challenge them personally. Shepherd them towards where they need to go to grow. For some, the next step is team-leading.
Small groups have accurately been descried as “leader breeders.” As you disciple people, sharing ownership and leadership, new leaders will emerge.