I was contacted by a small group pastor who was considering what terminology to use to describe the person spearheading a small group. They had heard that both the term “small group leader” and “host” were common but wanted to know which one would be the best term to use.
This is a very important question every small group ministry must answer correctly. This is not just the small group world splitting hairs. Determining which term should be used is based on a few criterion, 1) what term is most palatable in the culture where your church exists, 2) which term best describes what you expect the person spearheading each small group to do and accomplish.
You may want to use the term host if…
1. the culture your church exists in or the church you serve would be termed “blue-collar.”
For those who work in factories or have made their living “on the line” the term leader may subconsciously turn them off. For some in blue-collar world the term leader conjures up images of the “manager” at the factory, the person who is often perceived as demanding and overbearing, the guy who hires, fires, and views themselves as a class above the average joe.
2. you are having a difficult time recruiting people to spearhead a small group.
It is easier to recruit individuals to spearhead a small group if you use the term host. The term host infers that the role is simply to welcome people into your home, serve a few snacks, and lead a bible study. And most churches that use the term host utilize bible studies are DVD driven. I once watched a small group guru lead a seminar on hosting a small group. He said, “If those you want to spearhead a small group can clean their house, stop by Kroger, and push a button they can do this.” By pushing a button he meant, if they could push the button on the DVD player they could lead a small group meeting because the teaching would be done by the talking head and the conversation would be motivated by and driven by the questions that flowed out of that talk. It is much easier to recruit someone to be a host than to be a leader. The term leader infers a role that takes much more time and effort than being a host.
3. your expectations of the person spearheading a small group is primarily to host a small group meeting.
The term used to describe the person spearheading a small group should correlate with the expectations of that person. To tell someone they will be a “host” then give them a job description that demands they spend an inordinate amount of time preparing to teach a bible study, meet weekly between meetings to disciple an apprentice, plan and carry out a missional group experience monthly, organize and oversee social experiences on an ongoing basis, etc… is misleading and will, in time hurt the recruitment of those who spearhead a small group. Word will get out that the expectations far exceed the title. People will feel as though there’s been a bait-and-switch which always causes hard feelings and hurts the reputation of the small group ministry and the small group minister who recruited them.
If you want to get some very specific guidance on the role and function of small group “hosts” get Steve Gladen’s book, Small Groups with Purpose. Pages 159 – 164 tells everything you need to know about small group hosts.