Steve Gladen, pastor of small groups at Saddleback Church for more than a decade, gives brilliant advice to take your small group to the next level. What makes a group system thrive? Definitely, strong leadership, welcoming groups, small group guidelines. Saddleback’s success from small groups comes from its focus on health. He balances the biblical purposes of fellowship, discipleship, ministry, worship and evangelism.
- Don’t Do All the Talking
The best leaders facilitate conversations rather than dispensing information. The best leaders strive to facilitate the conversation and keep it moving from member to member rather than talking to the members.
- Be Comfortable With Silence
Embrace the 15 seconds of silence which seem to be like an eternity. Realize that through silence, the Holy Spirit is working on people. Learn to be comfortable with ambiguity.
- Be a Good Listener
So simple yet so hard to do. Don’t just listen – actively listen. James 1:19 tells us to be slow to speak and quick to listen. The best leaders listen with their eyes and ears.
- Don’t Answer Your Own Questions
The whole purpose of asking the question is to create an environment where group members feel safe to share. It’s not about getting the right answer. When people are silent with some of these questions, embrace the silence. If no one really speaks you could say something like, “Paul, you look like you were going to say something….”
- Ask Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions help group members to say more than a simple yes or no. Questions like, “What did you like about the verse or chapter of the book?” will result in more than yes/no answers. Use “what” or “how” questions to get people to open up.
- Make Sure Everyone Understands the Purpose Of the Group from Day One
Your job as a leader is to cast a compelling vision. Keep that purpose at the forefront of every small group meeting and look for ways to promote vision casting.
- Try to Involve Everyone
Your group might be too big if everyone isn’t able to speak their thoughts. Groups of over eight members will have difficulty doing this. In those cases, it’s best to divide the group in half.
- Remember, the Focus Is Not On Getting Through the Material
Know that if you are very task oriented, you may tend to concentrate more on getting through study than allowing group members the time they need to discuss, process, and grow with the information.
Pray before your group meeting, after your group meeting, and during group meetings. Pray in between group meetings. Ask God for His help and leading. It is helpful to make a list of prayer requests and keep them on a bedside table so you can be very specific in your prayer requests.
- Remember That God Is In Charge
You were not selected to lead this group on your own. God chose you. He will be with you. Trust in His power and lean on Him for support.
Do you have any habits you would add to the list? If so, please leave your thoughts in the comments.
Good, helpful insights! Thanks.
I could not help but draw a contrast with last week-ends “worship service,” in which one guy did all the talking, violating most of these guidelines.
Would it be safe to suggest that a congregation that does not provide for such small groups probably is not a church at all in any biblical sense?