We’ve discussed the importance of defining group expectations in order to spur people on to commitment both to growing in the Lord and to the group, but perhaps more important is knowing who you are as a leader. In the past I’ve been very uncomfortable with who God created and called me to be. I’ve allowed myself to be walked on. I’ve allowed the opinions of others to dictate how I would lead and teach. Really, I wasn’t much of a leader at all. When depression walloped me with the force of a tornado (read more about that here), I took several years off. I didn’t think I’d ever teach again. I didn’t want to be in charge.
God had other ideas.
As He does.
That time of rest was key, for when my pastor asked early last year if I’d be willing to “beta test” a small group in our church, I was ready to begin again – and this time I was far more sure of myself because I was far more sure of God.
I’ve made a million little mistakes. My mind works faster than my mouth and I stumble or stutter. I forget to tell people what page number we’re on in the workbook. I go off on tangents. I try to teach the entire Bible in a single session every time we get together. Sometimes I’m crabby and I don’t really want to open my home to anyone. Once in awhile I even think, “I guess I have to teach these people about Jesus but I’d really like to just sleep.”
Jonah, man. I get him.
Over and over again, through all the mistakes and the missteps, God works. He uses this flawed woman to communicate His love and holiness. (What is that? I mean really, what is that? Incredible). Somehow He gets the message across. More often than not, I find that I learn far more than I teach – and that’s a good thing.
The best small group leaders want to learn everything they can and simply can’t avoid telling others about it. Couple that with a desire to see others know and love the Lord and you’re well on your way to success. It’s not about having a polished presentation or the nicest house. Love God and love others. That’s it.
Again, it’s important to know who you are. What “style” of Bible study are you attracted to? Workbooks, commentaries, footnotes, original word searches? How many hours a week can you devote to preparation? Are you willing to try new things, read new authors? (Spoiler alert: You’d better be). Are you able to embrace the fact that you’re a really flawed and often stupid human being but that’s okay because it’s all about God anyway?
Every leader is different. Every group is going to have it’s own unique flavor. There isn’t necessarily a “right” or “wrong” way to go about teaching, but here are some of the things that I’ve learned through a whole lot of failure:
Leading and teaching are tough jobs. There are going to be problems. Billy Jean isn’t going to like Bobby Joe. Jimmy is going to hate one of the studies. Maggie won’t want to pray. Dave will get divorced. Sarah will get sick. You’re going to have as many eye-rolling and tearful moments as you are delightful ones. Go with it.
More painful than any of the above, there’s going to come a time when the Lord sees fit to bring a particular group to an end. It won’t come with a bang or an explosion. You’ll just know, as will the others, that He’s accomplished whatever He set out to accomplish and it’s time to move on. That final meeting will tear your heart to pieces. Remember that you’ve done a good job, the best that you can, and the Lord is pleased with your obedience.
In the next and final installment of this miniseries, we will turn to what usually winds up being the last thought on anyone’s mind: content. You need to actually study the Bible.
For all posts in the Small Groups miniseries, go here.