I had the opportunity a few years ago to hear Mark Miller from Chick-fil-A speak at a leadership event in Dallas, Texas. Mark was sharing about how they have built a strong leadership culture at Chick-fil-A. He said one of the keys to sustained leadership development is the capacity of the leader. Humans have finite capacity, but well-built structures have the ability to have infinite capacity.
I wonder how many of our small group systems take that fact into account? When your structure is built solely on the perseverance of the leaders, it will eventually stop growing. There is only so much that a leader, especially a volunteer leader, can produce before something has to give.
Here are five things that you can build into your structure that will allow your leaders to continue to grow without burning out:
1.Build breaks into the schedule
We cannot expect our leaders to continue to thrive if they are not stepping back from the whirlwind occasionally. In football, it doesn’t matter how dominating the team’s defense is. If they are playing every down of the game without breaks, they will start giving up ground. There are natural breaks every year where leaders should be encouraged to take a breath and not worry about pulling off a normal meeting. They will be refreshed and fired up to get back in the game afterwards.
2. Provide solid curriculum choices
If you are expecting your leaders to build and teach their own Bible studies every week, there will be eventual burnout. There are now tools available that can take a lot of the prep-work out of it. Smallgroup.com is an online library of discussion-driven and video-enhanced studies that you can customize for any small group to have a consistent and transformational discipleship experience. You can quickly build series of studies for your sermon-based groups, or you can allow group leaders to pick from over 400 video-enhanced studies from teachers like Beth Moore, Matt Chandler and Tony Evans.
3. Train leaders to share the work
Leaders are missing opportunities to disciple if they are doing everything for the group. The workload should be shared, not only to help the leader, but also to help group members discover their gifts. Each element of a group meeting should be carried by a different person, including facilitating the discussion.
4. Allow leaders to step away
While we would love every leader to continue leading their group forever, the reality is that leaders need to occasionally completely step away from it for a season to be healthy. Build in the value of having an apprentice leader so they can be ready to step in and continue the group. This season may be a great opportunity for the leader to move into a coaching role for other leaders.
5. Model a healthy balance
If the point leader is not taking regular Sabbaths, she is not modeling a healthy ministry life for her leaders. The structure is only as strong as its leader. You have to remember that ministry is a marathon not a sprint. We are all in this for the long-game – to see healthy people make disciples who make disciples.