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There's No Recipe for Leading Small

by Tom Shefchunas

When I started working at North Point seven years ago, I was given a project right off the bat. I was asked to create a new orientation process for Small Group Leaders. I had been a Small Group Leader in our middle school ministry for four years so it seemed fitting to give the job to me.

I was faced with the question that many of you have faced: How do you equip a new Small Group Leader to do the job they signed up for?

It seemed like a simple idea at first. I’ll just start making some bulleted lists of the things you need to do, right?

WRONG! Those of us who have tried to do this realize that these list gets very long very quickly. And those of us who actually finished those lists and tried to present it to some wide-eyed hopeful leaders realized how ineffective it was after the first 30 minutes of droning on about different possible scenarios.

It seemed a bit hopeless. There was so much to tell a new Small Group Leader that it was impossible to find where to start. So, I did what I was always taught never to do. I quit trying.

I realized that this is a relational ministry and you just can’t teach people how to do relationships—they just happen. And, to be honest, that worked out very well with about 30-40 percent of our Small Group Leaders. They just got it.

But, that didn’t settle with me either. At the end of the day, the effectiveness of our ministries will not be defined by what happens in the best groups, but by what happens in our worst groups.

So, we got back to work trying to figure out how to answer the question I started with. How do you equip a new Small Group Leader to do the job they signed up for? And I think we’ve finally figured out an answer. Here’s what we discovered:

1. You can’t give a new Small Group Leader a recipe or a list.

2. You can’t give them nothing and hope for the best.

3. You CAN give them a list of THEMES in their initial training that they can put their own relational twist on as they lead.

So, we went to work uncovering what those themes were by talking to some of the best Small Group Leaders we knew. And we found something! We took those themes and called them our BIG IDEAS in a book called Lead Small.

To me, these big ideas finally give me something I can offer to new Small Group Leaders to help guide and encourage them without weighing them down with unnecessary information. Also, it provides a vocabulary to use with my Small Group Leaders to continually encourage and equip them. These five big ideas are broad enough to encompass everything our Small Group Leaders will face but small enough to give them a handle to hold onto when they find themselves in uncertain waters.