I have become convinced that the long-term success of leaders is determined by the support and resources they receive. Right now we have eighteen-, nineteen-, and twenty-year-old men and women who are serving in harm’s way around the world. Military commanders would never send these young men and women to the front lines without training, without equipping, without a command and control process, or without supply lines. The commanders try to do everything within their power to set up the soldiers to succeed in the mission they have been given.
Obviously, leading a small group is not the same thing as flying to the Middle East in a military jet. But we are sending our small group leaders out to the front lines of ministry. Ephesians 6:10–20 makes it quite clear that our battle is both spiritual and aggressive. If you are going to ask people in your church to step up and take the risk of leading, shepherding, and giving pastoral care, it is vital to provide resources and support for them.
No matter how good your small group strategy is, though, your growth will be limited unless you have an infrastructure to support it. At Saddleback we look for small group leaders who are natural in caring for people to begin training for broader leadership roles. We then develop and support them through our Small Group Leadership Development Pathway (this is discussed in detail in chapter 13). This pathway helps them understand the ministry, teaches them how to recognize God’s call in their lives, and then trains them in head and heart fundamentals so they can be even more effective in the ministry. The Small Group Leadership Development Pathway provides the support our leaders need by building an infrastructure of volunteer community leaders (leaders of leaders) to develop, guide, and encourage our small group leaders.
Some people believe every small group should receive equal care. At Saddleback, however, we have found that not all groups are equal, so we believe in strategic care, not equal care. Some groups have very mature leadership. Some groups are brand-new. Some are full of baby Christians. Others have been liberally sprinkled with challenging types of people. Of course we love them all, but we shouldn’t put the same effort and attention into them all because some will need more and others will need less. We have found that equal care can actually hinder leadership development and health. In subsequent chapters I will explain how we prioritize our groups based on four categories and how this simplified care management will allow your leadership infrastructure to be more effective.
Gladen, S. M. (2011). Small groups with purpose: how to create healthy communities. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.