Leaders of missional small groups lead differently than leaders of groups that are not on mission. Before I proceed to identify the nine key practices for leading missional community, we need to clarify the commonly accepted practices of group leaders. This will help us better understand how the practices of missional group leaders are distinct and therefore produce distinct results.
(For the other posts in the 9 Practices series click here)
In this post, I want to identify the practices of those who lead groups that connect people who attend the church. In my book Missional Small Groups, I call these "normal" small groups. Here I am calling them connecting groups. These groups play an important role.
Please don't hear that I'm denigrating connecting. I'm not. They play an important role in the church. But they are different than a missional group. In addition, in what follows I am stating things is overly simplistic language for the sake of clarity. Of course good group leaders do more than this and every pastor desires for group leader to do more than this (I'll deal with that in the next post). But the system for connecting groups is set up so that groups can connect people with the leaders only putting a minimal set of practices into action.
Here are some of the minimal practices of connecting group leaders.
1. Follow Instructions: Connecting groups work because they follow a pattern that is established by leadership. Whether a church sets up a six-week campaign, a semester group system or weekly sermon study guides, the expectation of leaders is that they follow a clear pattern. This also means that the leader agrees with the theology and vision of the church.
2. Depend on Curriculum: In almost every situation, connecting groups are based on curriculum. In most cases this curriculum is uniform in all the groups. In other situations, the curriculum varies from group to group. In either case, the practice is that the curriculum shapes the group.
3. Ride the Momentum of the Church as a Whole: Connecting groups feed off of the energy of the large groups gatherings and the organization provided by the staff. Again, let me say that this is not necessarily bad, but if you take away these factors, connecting groups loose their momentum. Leaders of these groups depend upon them, and this allows less mature leaders to serve as group leaders when they might not effectively lead other kinds of groups.
4. Create a Welcoming Environment: One of the most important practices for connecting groups is to serve as a welcoming host. In my introductory training for connecting group hosts, I'd spend a significant amount of time reminding people about the importance of being a welcoming host to the group members. We emphasized the importance of clear and timely communication via phone and email. We'd talk about how to welcome people as they arrived. And we'd spend time clarifying how to set up the room so that everyone was one equal footing.
Let me say that I have never written training for connecting groups that listed these a minimal practices. That's because I hoped for more from them. So I would train for a little higher standard. However, more times that not, I've found that a high percentage of leaders lead out of these basic practices. Some start here and move on. Many just remain here.
For the next post in this series, click here.