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Qualities, Not Qualifications: Small Group Leadership

If you plan to expand your team of small group leaders or need to replace those who step down, it may seem like searching for a needle in a haystack. Actually, the searching part is correct, but the real issue becomes who you are searching for.

The eenie-meenie-minie-mo selection technique discounts the gifts God gives to people. However, the invitation process does begin by identifying those who are suitable candidates to consider for involvement. Members of the Body of Christ are the best source to recognize the gifts they confirm within the Body. So the question becomes: who are the people you need to be asking?

We often search for the qualifications of a person instead of their qualities. If the church I attended 20 years ago asked me to lead a small group based on my qualifications, I never would have been selected for the position. The pastor saw my inner qualities, which opened the door to a ministry opportunity that has taken me on a journey I never would have imagined. (I met my wife in the first small group I started!)

In his book Transforming Your Church with Ministry Teams, E. Stanley Ott tells us to consider these five qualities when selecting people to serve. Look for:

Faith-Do they have a heart for God? Spiritual maturity is not always a quantitative aspect, as much as, it’s a growth issue. They may be new believers or lifelong disciples, but the key issue is their love for the Lord. Do they demonstrate a spirit that is open to God’s leading in their life? People of faith are open to God’s calling and will seriously consider a ministry invitation.

Love-Do they have a heart for people? When we have the same compassion for others as God does for us, we are open to opportunities to serve. We’re not talking “people persons” here-but rather a genuine love and concern for others that motivates us to serve. And since small group leaders serve the people in their group, this quality can be a real reflection of biblical community.

Willingness to Learn-Do they have a teachable spirit? My son hated to practice piano when he was taking lessons. We discovered his true interest was guitar. His interest in guitar made practice sessions more enjoyable due to his willingness to learn. Find people who are open to learning new skills and approaches in ministry because it matches their passion or felt need.

Availability-Do they have the time? We all know that if you want something done, you ask someone who’s already busy. They’ve proven their track record and are usually willing to take on one more project. But that’s also the fastest way to burn out a good servant. Look for people who are not currently serving or even being asked to serve so no one is left out or ignored.

Humility-Do they have a humble spirit? It has been said there is no “I” in team. People with humility understand that the Body of Christ works together in harmony with each person doing their part. No one part is better than the others-they’re all important and necessary to achieve success. Find someone with a humble spirit, and you’ll find a great team player.

It’s important to remember that we can teach small group leadership skills, but we can’t always teach the qualities necessary for someone to become a great leader. If you’re developing a new small group or adding leadership to an existing one, the people you recruit may lack specific qualifications but can learn the skills needed through training and experience. Look for these qualities as the basic ingredients of a person molded for service. God often uses the unqualified to do the unimaginable.

Bob D’Ambrosio has 25 years experience with volunteer leadership in small group ministry, discipleship, and education. He now serves as a consultant and trainer with Church Volunteer Central, and is a frequent contributor to Children’s Ministry Magazine. Learn more from Bob and other small group leaders at www.smallgroupministry.com.