It must be Murphy’s Law: The person most eager and willing to serve as a small group leader is usually not the best candidate for the job. Perhaps it was desperation to find a live body to fill a slot, or the inability to say no to a willing volunteer, but the fact remains—a small group will die if it doesn’t have the right leader.
The reality of leading volunteers is that there are times when you’ll need to step in and redirect someone to another position that’s a better match.
Take these steps when redirecting a small group leader:
1. Don’t Ignore the Situation – Realize that ignoring the issue will not make it go away. Groups with dysfunctional leadership will hinder the growth of the entire small group ministry and possibly close the group the leader is serving.
2. Put People First – People will respect your leadership if you have proven to them in your relationship that you want the best place for THEM—a place in service that is uniquely suited for their gifts, passion, and experiences. You are not simply filling slots! Take time to meet with anyone needing redirection to discover their skills and gifting, and then determine steps to create a win-win for the person and the program.
3. Pray – Seek prayer support from other leaders. Pray for the person, the process, and the ministry—that all would grow from the experience. Prayer keeps us focused on the big picture of our mission rather than the tension of the situation. Louis Evely once said, “Prayer is opening ourselves to God so that he can open us to others.”
4. Provide Alternatives – Provide the person with several options of other places to serve and share why you believe they are uniquely suited for another position. It may be to consider another role in the group, or to step out of small groups completely and try something new! Arrange a time to talk (and listen) to potential ministry options that might better serve the volunteer and the church.
5. Follow-Up – Follow up with the person’s new placement to insure that they’re being equipped to serve in their new role. Do not redirect and abandon! It’s often tempting to pass on your “problem” to another staff member and step out entirely. Contact the volunteer after a few weeks to see if they are experiencing joy and feeling compatible with their new role. If a new ministry has not been assigned, meet with the person to explore additional options for service.
Don’t ever feel guilty about redirecting someone to a ministry that’s a better fit. In her book, The Equipping Church, Sue Mallory states, “Connection happens when we place the right people in the right places for the right reasons at the right time.” That’s the key to an equipping church that cares about people.
Redirection is a win-win for everyone—volunteers find positions that bring them joy and satisfaction and ministries thrive when staffed by individuals gifted for the job.