SGL: A Coach’s commitment to Small Group Leaders
Coaching leaders is a fulfilling mission. It’s fulfilling, because they already have proven themselves and they want to lead others. Now it’s a matter of how to sharpen each other so that ministry can be more effective. Both the coach and the small group leaders will learn from each other. They both learn, because of the experience of the coach, but also the new experiences that small group leaders obtain, which may bring new ideas to coaches.
A coach must be committed to the small group leaders. He is not there as a know-it-all or I’m-the-coach-so-listen-to-me type person. He’s there to hold leaders to 1) the standard of God’s Word, 2) the vision set forth by the Elders and 3) the passion to intentional discipling of Christ-followers. There are five contrasts that should be kept in mind when coaching small group leaders.
First, maintain encouragement over teaching. Small group leaders have already proven themselves steady in spiritual disciplines and grasping hold of the vision, so now they need encouragement to keep pressing forward. Now that they are leaders, they are leading others who may be complacent (Is. 32:9-11), may bite and devour (Gal. 5:15) and may get distracted by the things of the world (1 Jn. 2:15-17). That can be very discouraging when you prepare to lead a group and people don’t respond. The leader may face “controlling talkers,” or “rebellious nit-pickers,” or those who just don’t want to get out of their comfort zones.
Small group leaders may need to be taught some principles of leading, but they need encouragement far more. They need to be nurtured along the way far more than understanding every list of what small group leaders should do. Yes, seasoned Christians need to be encouraged, because the battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the unseen spiritual forces (Eph. 6:12) and discouragement is likely Satan’s greatest tool.
Secondly, lead by shepherding rather than directing. A shepherd takes the sheep (in this case, the small group leader) to lush green grass of nourishment, the still waters of refreshment and the calming fields of resting in the Lord. They are in a battle every day from spiritual forces trying to convince them their effort is not worth it. The demonic realm deceives and manipulates to get leaders to think that they will never be able to influence people well enough to make a difference.
Small group leaders don’t need to be told what to do as much as they need someone to care for them and listen to them. They already care themselves to lead others. They already have been in the trenches. They may need some focus, or at times a jolt, but normally they need someone to bandage up their wounds of leading people. They need someone to lead them.
Thirdly, emphasize connecting over influence. There is no question that we are all about influencing people and making an impact, but when coaching small group leaders, you want to make sure they feel connected and not feel like a long ranger serving all by themselves, wondering when the next resupply will come in. Small group leaders are already working on connecting people, but in the process of leading, he becomes a target from the front and from behind and he wonders if he is alone. Make sure you connect with him rather than driving him all the time just to make sure he’s on the top of his influence. Let him rest in your presence and shepherd him by your encouragement.
Fourthly, listen for understanding rather than talking by managing. He spends most of his time listening to other people; listening to understand. He listens to understand, so that when he speaks, others will listen and he will have pithy comments full of Scripture and wisdom. That takes an incredible amount of energy and he needs someone to listen to understand him, rather than someone telling him how he can be a better manager of resources (people).
And fifthly, ensure you are leading rather than pressing him forward. He should feel like he is in the presence of Jesus. He should feel like you are leading him, rather than driving him. The small group leader should feel like you are a shepherd, rather than a butcher. You make sure he knows you enjoyed the time with him, because the ones he is leading may not realize all the mental and emotional energy he is expending for them. So you lead him to the still waters and green pastures of rest in God’s Word. What has God been doing for you to calm your soul? Affirm him in all that he is doing. Make sure he knows you are there for him, not the other way around.
Coaching is a blessed privilege. You’re not teaching volumes of material; you’re tweaking what he knows so he can be more effective. God used Priscilla and Aquila to come alongside Apollos to be a better spokesman for Christ (Acts 18: 24-28). Your coaching will enable him to rest more on the empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit to lead others in grace.