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How Do You Best Utilize Gifted Teachers?

How do you best utilize gifted teachers in a church of small groups?  That was the question recently over in the Small Group Ministry Practitioners Facebook group. See also, A Church WITH Groups vs a Church OF Groups: What’s the Difference?

That’s my paraphrase. The actual question was:

How do you best utilize people with teaching gifts in a church of small groups? My small group director and I were just talking about this, in light of the fact that we recently lost a gifted teacher because there was no place (i.e. Sunday School) for her to use her teaching gifts on a regular basis. Thoughts?

Before I even get into it, let me say that there was a great discussion about it in the Small Group Ministry Practitioners group. Quite a few very insightful comments. I chimed in a little, but need to give a more organized response.

Here’s my take:

First of all, we’d need to have a shared understanding of the terms “teaching gifts” and “gifted teacher.” Since teaching is included in everyone’s list of spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4) we probably all are using the term in a similar fashion. Whether one has a teaching gift or is a gifted teacher has less to do with self-assessment and more to do with the observations of others and fruit. I’ve known many who think of themselves as gifted teachers who aren’t and a number who would never think of themselves as a teacher (gifted or otherwise) and clearly communicate God’s word whenever they open their mouths.

Second, the optimum environment for life-change is in a small group. In the words of Andy Stanley, “At the end of the day, circles are better than rows.” Does that mean there’s no place for teaching? Absolutely not. It might mean there are fewer opportunities for people who like to invite listeners to pull up a chair and enjoy a smaller version of the weekend service. But it doesn’t mean there’s no place for gifted teachers. See also, Quotebook: Life-Change, Circles and Rows and Andy Stanley on Creating a Culture That’s All About Circles.

Third, there are many ways people with teaching gifts can be used in a church of small groups.

  • As small group leaders who introduce the topic each week, setting up group members with a good understanding of the background and key concept of the study (much like the teaching portion on a DVD).
  • As part of a team that provides video teaching to introduce the small group topic each week.
  • Master teachers for the large group segment of an on-campus women’s or men’s study (followed by small group segment led by table leaders).
  • As master teachers for small group leader training.
  • As up-front communicators for the large-group component of the short-term on campus options that North Point is using as a first step out of the auditorium.

Can you utilize gifted teachers in a church of small groups? Absolutely. How do you best utilize them? Wisely. Gifted is in the eye of the beholder. The proof is in teaching that transforms (as opposed to informs). And if there was ever a time to insist on faithful, available and teachable as pre-qualifiers…it might be on this issue.

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Mark Howell serves as Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV. He founded SmallGroupResources.net, offering consulting and coaching services to help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries. He spent four years on the consulting staff at Lifetogether and often contributes to ministry periodicals such as the Pastor's Ministry Toolbox and ChurchCentral.com.