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Finding The "Right" Small Group Leaders

This morning, I received an email from a potential leader who stated she does not know if she’s the “right person” to lead a small group. This is a common response to being called to lead. I find the issue basically comes down to one or both of two factors. A person’s confidence level will depend on their personal sense of competence and commitment.

Sometimes the issue is the person’s sense of competency to lead a group. While some skills are needed to lead a healthy group, it really has more to do with heart than skills. I can teach skills. I always remind people that even after three years with Jesus, the first leaders of the church, Peter and John were still considered “unschooled, ordinary men,” but they “had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). They may have lacked some competencies, but they had the right hearts, and God used them to change the world!

I’ve been reading a great series of articles on mountain biking skills in which the writer discusses five levels of competency. I won’t go into too much detail here about each, but I think they’re worth mentioning in relation to leading a small group:

1. Unconscious Incompetence: They do not realize they are lacking leadership skills, but they go at it anyway. Like in mountain biking, someone is going to get hurt.
2. Conscious Incompetence: They realize they lack skills. These are the potential and emerging people I want. They are ready and hungry to learn.
3. Conscious Competence: They have now learned the skills to lead competently, but they are still thinking through those skills: “OK, I asked the question. Now I need to really listen.” “Make sure to make eye contact.” “I need to call Rich this week to see how he’s doing.”
4. Unconscious Competence: As leaders grow, leadership becomes more natural. You don’t have to think so much about it anymore. You just do it. You begin to “lead from the heart.”
5. Reflective Competence: This is where leaders deliberately think about what they’ve been doing instinctively. This is necessary in order to teach others. Often, when you become unconsciously competent, you have a hard time telling or showing someone else how to do it. In this fifth stage, you figure it out so that you can show others how to accomplish the skill.
The second reason people don’t think they’re the “right person” is because of commitment issues. It may be they simply don’t feel like they have enough time to put into it, or they have other commitments that are currently higher priorities, or perhaps they don’t feel like they have the emotional energy to put into it right now.

Commitment is closely tied to calling. When a potential or emerging leader senses he or she has been called by God to lead a group, commitment should closely follow. Satan, of course, cannot disrupt God’s calling, but he can and will keep us from hearing that calling or making the commitment. This is spiritual warfare.

Commitment is also related to control. The main question is, “Who is in control? Who is the real Leader? Who is Lord?” As we surrender the control of our life over to God, we can be committed to what he calls us to do. Again, spiritual warfare enters the picture here.

The final element requires one more “C” word: Core Team. Leading with a Core Team of 3-4 others helps with both of these issues. When you team up and utilize one another’s various gifts, abilities, passions, experiences, and personalities, you then can share competencies, and you can encourage one another to be fully committed to God’s calling.

I’d love to hear your responses to this!

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Michael C. Mack founded SmallGroups.com in 1995 and served as a small-groups minister for more than 20 years in several churches. He is a writer, editor, trainer, and consultant in the areas of small groups, leadership, and discipleship. He is the author of more than 25 books and small group studies, including his latest, World's Greatest Small Group (pub. January, 2017). He regularly blogs on his ministry website at SmallGroupLeadership.com. His family is a small group that includes his wife Heidi, their four children, and their dog, Lainey. Mike is also an avid mountain biker.