One of the things I am going to love about pastoring is the opportunity to experiment with ideas. I have a few ideas I have had for years and have never had the opportunity to experiment with them.

I am an idea guy. I never met an idea I didn’t like. Ideas can change the world. I love a good idea.

I have had an idea about a leaderless group for years. Sunday night, I got to experiment with it. It went well.

Before I tell you about the specifics, think of the possibilities. The need of the hour in big churches and small, in country churches and city churches is always for more teachers and workers. What if we could do group life without teachers?

The number of groups we could start would be unlimited. People often ask me as I cast a vision for creating new groups: where do you get all the teachers? Good question. But, what if you didn’t need teachers?

One other caveat. A group with a good teacher is better than a group with no teacher. But, I think you can have a good group with no teacher at all. Here is how it works.

I am leading a small group Bible study at our church on Sunday nights. (When worship attendance is below 30, pretty much everything is a small group!) Last night we tried something I have always wanted to try.

I passed around one of my lessons to everyone in the group. The old school way is to have the teacher alone read the questions and field the discussion. That is, the traditional way was for me to have a lesson and ask all the questions. This week, everyone had a lesson.

I started by reading the first question. Then, I asked the person to my right to ask question #2. They could answer it or not. The person next to them asked question #3 and so on around the room. Another good thing: I am confident being back in a small group every week is going to make my lessons even better. for details on that.

I asked my wife how she thought it went. “Not as well as when you are leading.” That is good to hear. I have had a lot of experience leading groups. Hopefully, I could do it better than letting people who have never led to lead. I probed further.

“Don’t compare it to me teaching. Compare it to every other class you have ever heard. How did that session compare with every other small group you have ever attended?” “It was better than average,” she said. That was my evaluation as well. A teacher-less group was not as good as group with a skilled leader. But it was better–far better than a group with a bad leader.

My research indicates 40% of teachers self-describe themselves as being something less than a 4 or 5 star teacher (on a scale of 1 to 5). Notice I said this is self-described. There is a good deal or research that indicates that the people tend to describe themselves as above average. 90% of pastors, for example describe themselves as above average. For many of the teachers, the classroom experience would be just as good if the group led themselves by asking good questions.

But, the real potential, of course, has nothing to existing groups. It has everything to do with creating new groups. It is a whole lot easier to recruit new leaders of groups if they do not anticipate having to spend 4 or 5 hours on the lesson.

When I was on church staff before I started writing the lessons that I now publish online. I found that groups that used these lessons had far less resistance to starting new groups and finding leaders for those groups. Group members watch as the leaders went through a list of good questions. Something in their soul said, “I could do that.” Thus, it was far easier to get new leaders when they new the question and answer leadership style.

Note one thing: I have been careful to call these teacher-less groups, not leaderless groups. You still need a leader. You need someone who is in charge. You need someone who feels responsible. You need someone who sees that the group gets organized and invites every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month.

It is something what multisite churches are learning. They don’t have to have a preacher at every site–most of them don’t, they are video venues. But, you do have to have a face with the place–a leader that is in charge.

This idea is still in the rough, but it seems promising enough that I wanted to pass it along to you. I will post this article on Facebook. I’d love to see your comments there. What? You are not my friend on Facebook? Please be my friend!