Over the last number of years, there is an unofficial debate among leaders in church. The opposing sides normally center on small group leadership. Some say that to rapidly multiply the number of small groups, we need to lower the required skill for leaders. Others argue that we need to maintain a high threshold for anyone leading a group.
From the title of this article, you can see where I land on the discussion. I think that lowering our standards is bad for any leadership position. But specifically, I just don’t want a “put in the DVD and mindlessly read off the follow-up questions” style of leadership for one of the church’s core ministries. Here are five dangers I believe we’ll face by lowering the bar on small group leaders.
- Little preparation = poor group interaction. We should make it simple for people to lead groups but that does not make it is without spiritual effort. The low-bar leadership model says, “Don’t worry about prep. Just show up and people will engage.” It is simply untrue. If you want deep interaction, you must study the Word’s implications on life and plan the conversation to engage it.
- Late preparation = lack of urgency. Low-bar leadership subtly tells the group leader to not think about the lives of the group. Rather, it focuses on the ease of the leader’s responsibility. There is no urgency to think, “The people in our group are in need of transformation. NOW!” We need leaders who work consistently for gospel-focused transformation in the lives of their group members.
- Everyone’s opinion counts = pooled ignorance. When leaders do not substantially prepare to lead the conversation, then everyone will get an equal say. If the leader is not sure of the truth, then no one else will be. Thus, group members will just pool their ignorance and use language akin to: “This is my truth and that is your truth.” Leaders need to primarily lead people toward the absolute truth of God’s Word.
- Meeting-centric leadership = less multiplication. Low-bar leadership unnoticeably communicates that only the meeting matters. Thus, there is no need for someone else to learn to lead or anyone leave to start a new group. The leader only takes time to think about the next hour the group is together. Our groups need to be challenged to raise up new leaders for new groups that dig into the Word and care for one another.
- Short-sighted strategy = preference-based study choices. The final weakness I’ll point out (for now) is that there is no long-range plan for growth and mission. Low-bar leaders miss the responsibility of communicating the whole counsel of God. Rather than having a long-term plan, they move from one preference-based study to another. They will forever do relationship studies because they are young couples. Or, they will always study The Book of the Revelation because they love end times theology. We need leaders who will work in a long-term strategy of disciple making.