Making the Little Much
The emphasis for the next ten chapters is to show how to successfully respond to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ through the small group ministry. Jesus said that we must go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20). For the context of this study, the small group ministry will focus on the individual group as shown in the organizational chart (Table 2, above). The interpretation of “all nations” will include the group plus the group’s inreach ministries for its members and participants, and its outreach ministries into the neighboring communities. Further, while there are certainly possible applications where Jesus’ command to baptize them would make sense in the small group context; e.g., when the small group is used as a new church plant, that ministry is considered outside the scope of this text. So, the focus here is “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
The key leaders shown in Table 2 are the Leader/Teacher, the Administrative Leader, the Social Leader, the Outreach Leader, and the Care Group Leaders, and define the small group Leadership Team. Chapters 2 through 6 introduce each of these positions and describe that leader’s roles; personal preparation; interaction with the group leadership; study of material in the group context; presentation of material in the group context; management of the interpersonal relationships; discovery, analysis, and meeting the needs of the members and prospective members; and meeting the objectives for the leadership role in making the little become much.
Generally, the leader for implementing the Table 2 organization will be the Leader/Teacher as authorized by his or her higher accountability structure or sponsoring organization. The hard work of organizing the small group is accomplished by the leader sensing what operational functions are needed at what time in the group’s existence to effectively minister to the small group’s participants and to grow its ministry. It is certainly true that Christ set the standard for achieving numerical growth by asserting that we should go into the hedges and highways and compel them to come in that His house should be filled (Luke 14:23). The purpose of small group organization, then, is not for the sake of organization, but rather for the sake of carrying out God’s commandments to reach out, compel them to come in and to teach all nations (Luke 14:23 & Matthew 28:19). Given those objectives, let us look into the qualifications, roles, and objectives for each member of the small group Leadership Team.
At the beginning, the Leadership Team has to acknowledge the fact that the small group ministry will require more time and effort than just those needed to conduct the regular teaching sessions. The meeting times must be dedicated to teaching, discussing, and understanding the applications for God’s Word. The more the group members feel this objective is being met, the more they will feel fulfilled in giving their time and talents. The small group is the cornerstone of personal ministry for itself and for the sponsoring organization. It is difficult (if not impossible) to minister to all the personal needs of the group members during the regular group meetings. At the risk of stating the obvious, personal ministries tend to be personal. Many of the areas in which a group member may need ministry are areas the member would prefer to be private rather than public. Whether the issue is dealing with finding a church home, marriage or singleness, raising children, unemployment, or aging parents, the member would usually not want to discuss the issue openly and certainly not during the group meetings. Of course, there are exceptions when the topic of Bible study deals with a person’s specific ministry need, but otherwise, personal ministry generally requires time and attention outside the meeting times in a more private atmosphere. Further, personal ministry might relate to a myriad of topics, including welcoming new people to the group; learning about their needs and preferences for study; family structure; spiritual condition and conflicts; medical, emotional, and spiritual health; just to mention a few. Ministry to all of these topics comes under the leadership of the small group Leader/Teacher.
The Roles of the Leader/Teacher
The Leader/Teacher is responsible for interpreting and executing the combined and private ministries to the members of and prospects for the small group. This is the person with the total responsibility for teaching the Word and ministering to God’s people in this group. (A summarized list of responsibilities for all members of the small group Leadership Team is included in the appendices to this text.)
Because the Leader/Teacher is usually elected or appointed by the sponsoring organization, he is generally considered the leader of the group and primary liaison between the sponsor and the small group. As such, he or she is responsible and accountable to the sponsoring organization for the small group’s total work and success. The well-defined accountability relationship between the small group Leader/Teacher and the sponsoring organization is paramount to the small group’s success. In a church context, that would place the Leader/Teacher accountable to an Educational Department Head, the Sunday School Minister, or the Director of Discipleship. In a para-church or discipleship organization, the Leader/Teacher would be accountable to the appropriate organizational ministry leader. In many ways, the Leader/Teacher is in the most important and challenging position in either organization. In addition to the significant task of leading Bible study, the Leader/Teacher is the face the group members see as the representative of the sponsoring organization. He is responsible to maintain the sponsoring organization’s image while he attends to other important duties; e.g., enlisting, ministering, and maintaining the small group organization and its staff.
In the initial or smaller group, the Leader/Teacher may only have one additional leader in the small group Bible study organization. That first additional leader is usually the Administrative Leader.