August 11, 2011

The Day the Small Group Died

Let's face it; for some reason that goes against everything we hope and desire and know to be right in this world, some small groups die. And sometimes we don't even see it coming. But if we're being honest and realistic and shooting straight with ourselves and each other, most of the time you can see it coming a mile away. In light of this, we need to start a conversation - we need to get down to the bottom of why this happens - so that we no longer have to dread the arrival of The Day the Small Group Died!

In this first post I hope to shed light on some motives of leadership that can play a significant role in the success or failure of a group. This week in our Leader Huddle we talked about 3 Motives of Leading & Serving: Guilt-driven, Needs-based, and Passionate Conviction. Many people step up (and out) to lead or to give of themselves with the greatest of intentions - their motives (as far as they know) are completely pure. And other times, while people come forward to serve, there isn't a clear understanding as to WHAT they're volunteering to do. This may be their fault for not reading between the lines. Or it may be someone else's fault, for making the fine print so small that a microscope can't find it or even detect it. Regardless, when it comes to leading a small group - leading, loving, enduring, and fostering true biblical missional community - it is essential that we know WHAT it's going to demand of us and WHY we're even signing up to begin with. With that, let's talk about these 3 Motives.

Guilt-driven leadership is fairly simple to understand: someone put you in a position or made you feel like you had to do it. We've all been driven to do something by guilt. And it's not always bad. If I do the laundry for my wife because I'll feel guilty if I don't, well, that's OK. I should have done it anyway! When you say "Yes" to that kid in your neighborhood who rings your doorbell and pleads, "Do you want to buy some flower bulbs to help me raise money for a new tetherball pole for our playground?", it's not because you actually WANT flower bulbs! (Or maybe you do. If so, no offense.) But when it comes to stepping forward to lead a small group, if you took that responsibility out of guilt, a few things are ultimately going to happen: 1) You're eventually going to burn out, get frustrated, probably wind up bitter with the person who guilted you into it, and walk away from your group. There will be more damage and wounds than there is growth and life-change. 2) And the people you've supposedly been leading will wind up hurt, feeling betrayed, and probably a whole lot less likely to open themselves up to being part of true community again. If you're currently leading out of guilt, get out NOW!

Leading or serving from a Needs-based perspective is all too common. So many of us are rescuers that we see a need and we respond. And in many cases, this can be a good thing. A GREAT thing! Maybe your church desperately needs preschool workers for the summer - a 10 week commitment - and you know that you can see this through. Awesome! Sign up today. I have a friend who is about to embark on his first coaching experience - 5 year old boys soccer. There's no one who will coach the team. So he's going to do it, if for no other reason than for his boys to be able to play. The unique aspect of these situations is that there's an end in sight. They know that this is going to be over in 10 weeks. 8 weeks. 6 months. But if you step in to leading a small group simply because you "saw a need" and thought you'd be the one to rescue everyone, fasten your seatbelt. It's eventually going to wear you out! Because leading a small community of believers in life together (as I see it in Acts) doesn't have a 9-month contract. Don't get me wrong; there's an END. It's called the return of the King! The only way for the leader and the group to survive or sustain (or much less GROW) through a temporary leader is if that leader pours their heart and soul into raising up a NEW leader who steps forward to go the distance. REMEMBER: If you really want to meet people's need, what they really need is someone who shows patient endurance and faithfulness. They need to know you're not going to bail!

Finally, the leaders that wind up being used by the Lord to significantly impact others for the Kingdom are those leading out of Passionate & Compelling Conviction & Vision - those individuals who know and believe, "Even though I'm scared to death...and don't feel equipped to do this...I know that God is calling me to step out in faith and see this happen!" Leaders who determine that "I'm in this for the long haul!" are the ones we're looking for. This doesn't mean your group won't disappoint you. It doesn't mean that you won't have to confront inconsistency and lack of commitment. It doesn't even mean that everyone in your group will show evidence of growth. In fact, you can rest assured that those things WILL happen! And that's when and where your passion and conviction and vision will keep you on your face and wholly dependent on Jesus to sustain you and strengthen you. 

I'm pretty sure that NONE of us want to wake up and face The Day the Small Group Died. So in order to avoid this happening, we all need to ask ourselves, "WHY am I doing this?" 

WHY are you currently leading or serving where you are?
WHAT will be the ultimate or eventual outcome of that decision?
Is it time for you to step up? Step out?

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