Small Groups have a life of their own. They're conceived, they're born, they go through childhood and adolescence and into adulthood and then into retirement. Some may live 6 weeks. Some may live 6 years. But they are alive.
Small Group Leaders need to know that their Small Group is alive.
This impacts how we lead.
Push a car. At first, you build momentum ... push and push and push and the car moves slowly. Then the car starts rolling and needs guidance, so you run around to the front, reach through the window and steer. If you run to the front too soon, the car stops rolling again and you have to start over. If you time it right, you just go and go and go. And then you need to stop. You can jump in front of the car but I wouldn't recommend it. You can drag the back bumper. You can jump into the seat and hit the brake. Push a car.
Coach a team. Pre-season is always rough. Passes get dropped. Coverage lapses. Coach teaches. Players are getting to know each other. And over time tempers flare. Jealousy and competitiveness and desire to win combine in a storm and Coach pulls the team through until everyone knows there's no "I" in "team" and we play together. And the team clicks. And games get won. And then the season ends. Coach a team.
Have a child. Screaming. Sleeping. Diapers. Toys. Teething rings. Baby gates. Dada. Shoes. Slightly bigger shoes. Haircuts and Kindergarten and Daddy and t-ball and lost teeth and bedtime pushed back to 9pm and Jr. High lockers and Dad and prom and college and home for the summer, work, Thanksgiving, adultfriendchildequal. Every stage calls for something different, something new from us as parents. Have a child.
Small Groups have a life of their own. They have stages, a life-cycle. And every stage calls for a little different leadership from us Leaders.
In InterVarsity training we talk about four-stages:
When we recruit Small Group Leaders, we cast a vision for a Small Group in the Live-it-up stage. Friends gathered together. Deep conversation. Spiritual growth. And we tell our Leaders that we want them to be the "Guide alongside" rather than the "Sage on the stage."
But Small Groups don't start out in the Live-it-up stage. And some never get to that stage. They fizzle out and collapse. And one of the reasons this happens is because our Leaders don't know that the Small Group needs a different kind of leadership in the first two stages.
If you can learn to adapt your leadership to the life-stage of your group, you'll be on your way to a healthy Small Group, the sort of group we dream of leading. [This principle of adaptive leadership applies to car pushing and coaching and parenting as well]
How have you seen leaders adapt their leadership to match the life-stage of a Small Group?
The next four posts in this series will focus on the four different life-stages of a Small Group and the leadership paradigm that required by each stage. The first stage is The Start-up and it requires the Leader to Model. (I'll post a link to it here as soon as it is published).