An Open Letter to Our Small Group Leaders (Part 3)

Hi Small Group Leaders,

In a series of open letters over the summer I’m focusing on several small steps we’ll be taking this fall to mature and deepen how we do small groups, so that we can more effectively make disciples who make more disciples.

We are God’s family, loved and accepted by him, called to live life on mission for him in our world. Our mission is to make disciples who make disciples (i.e., make disciple-makers). 

We can’t be so wedded and comfortable with the ways we’ve always done things that we miss what God wants to do in us and through us as leaders and as a small group—as his family, loved by him and on mission for him. 

I am convinced we need to take steps toward changing how we do small groups. And the change begins with us as a leaders. 

Here it is in a nutshell: We need to move from being facilitators of meetings to being makers of disciple-makers. 

It’s not that we do not now make disciple-makers. It’s that we could be so much more intentional and so much more effective. 

I think it starts with discarding the idea that if the leader can just get people together (i.e., get to show up), exposes them to the Word, and can get them praying together and caring for each other, what needs to happen will happen. That’s what I am calling seeing leadership primarily as facilitating. It’s not bad, but it’s not enough.

The REVEAL study demonstrated beyond doubt that participating in Christian activities small groups has no statistically discernible effect on spiritual maturity. No effect whatsoever! It was a sobering finding. 

The difference maker is not in gathering; it’s in actively disciple-making. The difference is in seeing far beyond the meeting—in training and equipping that is accountable. 

It’s like the difference between someone who has read books and attended classes on how to do surgery and someone who has read the books and attended classes, but has also been tested on their knowledge, apprenticed, required to practice, received feedback, etc. 

Growing in discipleship requires more than reading and talking about the Bible and our faith. Making disciples requires more than getting people together to read, discuss, and pray. Making disciple-makers requires more than a meeting. It requires practices, training, and equipping that happens beyond a meeting. 

I think this means we need to change some of our fundamental assumptions about how to lead a small group and how we make disciple-makers. Frankly, I don’t know what all those changes are yet, and I believe it will take a few years to make some of these changes. But we need to start and to take small steps toward becoming small group leaders who see far beyond the meeting and more intentionally make disciple-makers. 

In my next letter I’ll share one simple yet profound step that will move us all together in that direction. It’s a step we will be asking all of our small groups to take, starting this fall. 

Pastor Henry