This is part 8 of a blog series called Leading a Small Group.
I’ll never forget how refreshing it was the first time I heard a small group leader say that this group wasn’t going to discuss politics. It was the fall of 2008 and like most of the recent national elections things were polarized and there were plenty of strong opinions in the group.
In fact as I had contributed to the creation of the questions I was afraid the conversation could easily turn political. Had I not been on staff and in the first group the conversation had turned to discussing elections and candidates I don’t think I would have been back.
You can come up with other less abrasive names for it like influence or guiding but to effectively lead a small group you have to have control.
Stating some clear ground rules up front and revisiting them as needed will help you establish control.
Your first thoughts might concern the aforementioned politics or money, but don’t be afraid to get specific on some things.
- Confidentiality. What is said here stays here.
- Respect. Everyone has a chance to contribute, no one dominates even the leader.
- Active Participation. If there is a book or workbook the expectation to know the material could be stated.
- Gossip. Just because you pray about it doesn’t give you an exemption. Include other churches or pastors in this one too.
- Time. Be clear about time commitments and lead well enough to honor them.
- Growth. Do you have an empty chair for someone to invite? Are you going to multiply as you grow? Be clear early and often.
In my experience I’ve never had to personally revisit one of these ground rules with someone who pushed it to far, but as a pastor of groups I’ve had to coach leaders on these conversations.
Small group leadership starts to fall apart when the leader becomes passive. I’ve said this before, but you are the leader and everyone is expecting you to deal with the problem. If you don’t they will disengage.
Set some simple, clear ground rules at the start. This will be an important first step in putting people at ease and developing some community in which healthy relationships are fostered.
And when you do lay out these rules or revisit them don’t apologize for leading. Be gentle, but be clear.
Leading is a lot easier when everyone understands how things should and shouldn’t look.