It used to be that only a few people at the top had all the power. Those living in the rarified air near or at the top of an organization chart, the greater the weight of their opinions and influence. Only leaders at the top, the people in front, had both authority and power to impact. I’m sure that we’ve all experienced this with varying degrees of effectiveness. Our church was in the midst of raising money for a large construction project. We were still considering our part and hadn’t put in our commitment card yet. In the middle of talking with friends after worship one Sunday, the Senior Pastor came up and told us to, in his words, “Get on board.” (I’ll let you imagine how we felt about this.) But two significant small group trends are changing the leadership landscape.
But the days when high-ranking leaders had all the influence are rapidly going away. Those days are not only setting sail, but they’re headed over the horizon.
Two Small Group Trends That Are Changing Church Leadership
- “Trust in many old, centralized institutions is declining rapidly, eroding their authority and gatekeeping roles (1).”
Structured, formal power is being replaced by informal power. Instead of influence coming from people at the top, it’s coming from peers, people who can reach out to neighbors and friends. It’s moving from pyramid hierarchies down to flat networks. Where people connect. Where the rubber meets the road.
- “Networked, decentralized, autonomous, and collaborative models of power” will become the norm. “Power is already shifting dramatically—but so much more lies ahead”(2).
This is one of the reasons that Small Groups are the most effective and influential forces for God. And as more and more people move away from traditional power structures, the greater the role that Small Groups will play in the church of Jesus Christ.
And with this seismic shift, many things are changing. Here are four practical tips for increasing your influence within your small group ministry.
4 Tips for Leadership Facing Small Group Trends
- Tools – most of the traditional, foundational tools of leadership are changing. What used to work no longer gets results. It’s less about force & more about being friendly, gentle, persuading. In the words of Billy Welu, “It’s not always the heavy hand, but the tender touch.”
- Communication – conventional wisdom and tools for connecting with people are in a state of flux. What used to work now just falls on deaf ears or winds up in a Spam folder. Use short, and memorable instead of wordy tomes. Include images that will generate an emotional response.
- Relationships – It’s always been about people. But now, the additional dimension of depth has been added. Building deep, lasting, trustworthy relationships is job number one. You have to earn the right to be heard, and this comes through transparency.
- Speed – it used to be all about getting things done quickly, at the speed of authority. Now, it’s all about getting things done at the speed of community. Sharing authority and responsibility. Giving people information and time to come to their own conclusions
I think Esther Chapter 2 is a great illustration of these principles at work. Mordecai certainly could have pulled out the old, authoritarian model of leadership. He could have tried to guilt her into doing something. After all, he had adopted and raised her. He could have tried to force her to something “NOW.”
But instead, Mordecai gives Esther more than just information. He gives her time. Time to receive the news. It didn’t come in one, long email. She had time to process it. Time to react to it. Time to have her questions and concerns answered. It’s only after she commits herself to it that she those memorable words, “And if I perish, I perish.”
The easy thing to do is just follow the well-worn path of the past. But it will cost us and the church dearly. We’ll continue to lose younger generations who’ve grown up with strong collaborative, power-sharing models.
Given these small group trends we have to do the moving. We have to shift our weight. We have to start, sharing power, information, and authority. That’s how we truly increase power. And the best place to do all of that is in Small Groups.
(2) CEO Daily by Alan Murray, April 4, 2022
This article on small group trends originally appeared here, and is used by permission.