One of the hardest things we are called to do as small group leaders is to give ministry away. We find it easier to do things ourselves rather than to train someone else to do them – after all people may not do things as well as we would, they may not do things exactly like we would, and then there is always the issue of control. All too often I run into leaders who pretty much do everything in their group, they host, they teach, they lead worship time, prayer time etc. It’s a one woman or one man show. Jesus however was always building His ministry for the time when His disciples would have to take over his mission. It all started with Him calling a few men to follow Him – His goal was to pass on, by example, the words and the works of the Kingdom to people who would eventually pass them onto others. We see Him throughout the gospels showing his disciples what to do and then commissioning them to go and do the same things (Matt. 8, 9 and 10).
As a women’s small group leader for several decades now that has also been my goal – to take the things that Jesus has taught me through his Word and through others and to pass them on to other women in my group, and then to release them to do the same. As Paul instructed his disciple Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2, “The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”
So where do we start, how do we give ministry away? There are three steps I have learned over the years that I follow:
The first step is to identify a few women who want more of Jesus, who want to grow in their relationship with Him and in knowledge of His Word. They have a hungry heart. I look for women who are “doers”, women who are reaching out and trying to serve others. Jesus selected twelve very ordinary men who were willing to learn and in three years turned over the mission of the Church to them.
The next step is to invest in them. I spend time getting to know them, becoming friends, discerning their areas of gifting as well as the areas where they still need to grow in their maturity in Christ. During this step we will spend time learning how to study the Bible, praying together, and developing vision for what it means be a disciple of Jesus. I encourage them to take advantage of the classes we offer here at the church, and begin sharing with them the areas of gifting I believe they have, and the vision I feel like God has shown me for them.
The third step in giving ministry away is to delegate some ministry opportunities to them. I may ask them to lead ministry time one night, or to teach the next chapter of the book in the Bible we are studying, or lead the discussion if our group is going through a book together. It is important to always give them plenty of notice ahead of time and offer to help them prepare if they need it. It is also important to always follow up with them afterwards and let them know what went well and any areas that might still need some work. Giving people opportunities to do ministry is how they learn. My goal at the end of this time is to see the women step into the good works that God has prepared in advance for them to do (Eph. 2:10).
Paul tells us in Romans 12:6-7- We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach. When we as leaders do everything we are robbing others of the blessing that comes from using the gifts God has given them.
One of the most exciting things about being a small group leader for me has been to watch women come into group completely unaware of their gifts and calling on their lives and see them grow and eventually step out into the ministry that God has called them to.