When you look out at your current cell group and wonder, “Which of these people could lead the next group?” the correct answer is, “All of them!” Sure, some people are more ready now. Some people need to get equipped or trained. But there is no key characteristic you should look for. Quiet people can lead just as effectively as exuberant outgoing people. People with the gift of service can lead a growing group just like people with the gift of teaching or evangelism.
Jim Egli and I have been studying this question for many years. We have both discovered in separate statistical studies that particular characteristics don’t matter. In fact, every time we create a new research questionnaire we ask the small group leaders to answer basic questions about themselves. How old are they? How long have they been following Jesus? Are they married or single? Do they have a quiet or an outgoing personality? What is their primary spiritual gift? We compared leaders of different ages, varying educational levels, men and women, marrieds and singles.
We found that none of those things make a significant difference. We discovered that effective small group leaders don’t have a certain personality type, a specific gift or a specific position in life. Anyone has the potential to become a great small group leader. To be honest, we should probably quit asking these questions because every time we look at people’s answers and compare them to the growth of their groups, we get the same results from our statistical studies.
There is no perfect leader. The perfect leader is the person who depends on Jesus and others to do the work. What matters are several key behaviors that relate to loving God and loving others. Which people in your current group can obey the two greatest commandments, to love God with all they are and to love others like they love themselves (Mark 12:28-31)? All of them can! And this means that all of them have the potential to lead a thriving small group.
Participation is the key to growth. As members participate they become ministers of Jesus Christ. They learn how to love one another, use their gifts and evangelize. They realize that it’s OK to fail—as long as they learn from their mistakes and keep trying. Jesus molds them as they minister, and they become disciple-makers in the process.
This article originally appeared here.