I’ve been in full-time ministry for 35 years. During that time I’ve served in a number of different roles such as a missionary, senior pastor, associate pastor and missions pastor. No matter what role I have been in, I am almost always leading a small group—sometimes more than one group.
There are four reasons why every pastor should lead a small group:
- Small groups are at the heart of church health. The guys from Natural Church Development have done the most extensive research ever on church health involving over 50,000 churches. The results show that “holistic small groups” impact the numerical growth and the qualitative health of churches more than any other factor (Natural Church Development, p. 33). This is true of churches of all sizes, but the analysis reveals that groups become even more pivotal to health and growth as churches get larger.
- Pastors’ involvement in small groups greatly multiplies the leadership base of the church. As John Maxwell so powerfully communicates in his best-selling book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, leaders attract leaders, and the higher level of leader you are, the higher level of leaders you attract. When pastors lead small groups it pulls high level leaders into the relational life of the church, igniting much needed leadership multiplication.
- Jesus led a small group. I know this sounds trite but it’s very true. If you are a pastor, you should do what Jesus did and lead a group. Jesus’ small group was at the center of his ministry, enabling him to make disciples who make disciples, laying the foundation of the growing movement he was establishing. When I was doing my master’s research on Jesus’ leadership development methods, I was curious just how much of Jesus’ time he devoted to leadership training. Unable to follow Jesus with a stopwatch, I looked at the verses recounting Jesus’ ministry in the Gospel of Mark and tallied how many of these he is with just his small group—the twelve disciples. It’s a whopping 49%. Clearly, pouring into others through modeling, instruction, prayer and interaction was at the heart of his earthly ministry. It should be at the heart of our ministries too.
- Finally, for your spiritual health you need to be in a small group. The New Testament is filled with dozens of different “one another” commands like “love each other,” “be devoted to one another,” “encourage each other,” “carry one another’s burdens,” and “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other.” This kind of body life doesn’t happen in a Sunday morning service; it happens in the context of caring small groups. Every Christ-follower needs this kind of community. You need this kind of community if you are going to thrive in leadership.