Pastor Steve Gladen

What has made the greatest impact on your spiritual growth? If you’re like me, the answer isn’t a sermon, a lesson, or even a book; the answer is a person who was willing to invest time in you. Ron Swiger was one of the first guys who intentionally poured into my life. As I mentioned in the introduction, he put me through leadership development training without my knowing it. He never asked me if I wanted to do something, he just brought me along. He never said he was teaching me this or that but instead modeled ministry. No matter what the situation, I received a life lesson through it. Looking back I can see how Ron’s example shaped the way I do ministry almost a decade later.

Who has made a significant impact on your spiritual growth? Specifically, what did that person do that stimulated growth in your life? What could you do to have that kind of impact on someone else’s life? What could you do to have that kind of impact on the members of your small group?

Discipleship in Small Groups

One of my favorite verses about discipleship is found in Mark 3:14. It says that Jesus “appointed twelve . . . that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.”

The first part of the disciples’ training was just being in relationship with Christ. Before he sent them out to preach, he first invited them to just be with him—walk with him, eat with him, and watch how he handled conflicts. Discipleship—growing to be more like Christ—is developed in relationships with people.

Help Group Members Understand Their Role

Every person in your group is an important part of the process—not just the leader. The sooner your group members realize this, the healthier your group will be, and the easier your job will become. Ideally, as time goes by and relationships become stronger and deeper, group members will earn the right to speak into each other’s lives and help each other live the truths found in the Bible. Everyone plays a role in each other’s lives, whether you realize it or not.

Impress from a Distance; Impact Up Close and Personal

Our traditional idea of a leader is someone who is slightly above those he or she leads, someone who keeps a slight distance from the followers. A Christian leader, however, should follow the example of Christ, who came to serve. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). God entrusted to you that group of people you meet with every week. As a leader, your role is to serve them by determining where they are in their spiritual journey and encouraging them to take their next spiritual step. While small group studies are an important part of your small group meetings, do not make the mistake of thinking those studies are the reason for meeting. Your focus should be on developing people, not discussing a passage.

The Goal Is Transformation, Not Information

The goal is not to get through the study every week, although good small group studies are wonderful tools for generating discussion and learning Scripture. While you may get through the study, the goal is not to finish the curriculum. The goal is to get the Word of God and the truth of God into the lives of the people who sit in that room with you. You want to see it become more than just another learning experience. You want to see the truth of the Scripture reflected in the lives of group members. — Steve Gladen and John Ortberg, Leading Small Groups with Purpose: Everything You Need to Lead a Healthy Group (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012).