by Daniel Nathan
I’m not in the habit of dialing up 90’s rock anthems, but some of you maybe familiar with the famous chorus line by the Red Hot Chili Peppers “Give it away give it away give it away give it away now”. The significance and meaning of the song are hardly worth mentioning beyond the reality behind this lyric. Its author, Anthony Kiedis, said the inspiration for the song arose from an unflinchingly kind act by his girlfriend who offered to let him keep her favorite jacket. This act, combined with later treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, led him to arrive at the enlightened philosophy that giving things away, even important and precious things, is better than hoarding them. Life will be richer for both parties.
While the song has some other unwholesome innuendos, the main concept is perfectly crafted for us small group leaders. You’ve got to give it away! By “it”, I mean all the variety of opportunities to influence the small group through one’s gifts and acts of service. By “you”, I mean that you, the small group leader, have as one of your primary responsibilities, the responsibility to make space in your group for others to use their gifts to serve and love those God has gathered under your care. This means you can’t hoard all the roles for yourself. You’ve got to “give it away”.
Jesus was regularly doing this with his disciples, inviting them to practice ministry – even before they were “fully” ready. Jesus modeled ministry and then gave it away to his disciples. During Paul’s missionary journeys he would sometimes spend very brief periods – just 3 weeks in Thessalonica – before leaving behind a small group of believers. John Wimber, founder of Vineyard, used to say in the Kingdom of God everyone gets to play.
Develop contributors, not mere consumers
Here is the principle – giving away leadership responsibilities by allowing people to use their gifts will cause your small group and its members to flourish. The opposite is true as well – hoarding all the leadership responsibilities will stunt the growth of your small group, its members, and more than likely result in leader burnout.
To do this well, you need to give up desire to control every aspect of the group and release others to serve. This requires prayer, equipping, and giving away authority (empowering others to serve). Ephesians 4:12-13 reminds us that the Spirit equips each of us to build up the Body to reach full maturity in Christ. In order to facilitate this kind of group development, you need to intentionally empower people to have authority in your group.
A list of open roles for every small group (not –exhaustive)
Primary Leader / Leadership Team – these are the identified leaders of the small group. Trained by VC and released to lead by a pastor at VC. One primary responsibility of small group leaders is to disciple their group by giving away leadership – just as Christ did with the Twelve – and detailed in Coleman’s Master Plan of Evangelism.
Core Team / Apprentice Leaders – these are other group members, beyond the primary leader/ Leadership Team, who significantly serve the group in areas of discipleship, teaching, hospitality, community, and mission. The core team can really assist the Primary Leader(s) on direction for the group, planning teaching series or finding resources, and discipling and meeting with new members. Additionally, the next generation of small group leaders most likely will come from the group’s core team.
The following responsibilities don’t necessitate a “title”, but rather are critical areas in the small group where members with willing hearts and apparent gifting in a particular area can serve the entire group to better model the Body of Christ. It is completely inadvisable that the Primary Leader(s) fill all these roles. When they do so, they may unavoidably stifle spiritual growth in the group and rob people of the joy and satisfaction gained from using their God given gifts to serve.
- Worship leader(s) –primarily responsible for preparing and leading the group in worship. This can be instrumental, a cappella, meditational, reading scripture, leading prayers of thanksgiving, planning mp3 music, etc. Allow worship to be a robust component of your group. Ideally they are in touch with what the Holy Spirit is doing in the group (both short and long term) and are leading the group into an-ever deepening invitation to meet and praise God.
- Host(s) – coordinates the hosting of the small group. They have a gift for creating warm environments and a keen eye toward making the stranger feel welcome. Should be someone who is consistent and reliable.
- Snack / food coordination – Offering some type of snack or meal at small group is invaluable. It can not be overstated how important it is for a group to share a meal together. Meals give you a natural reason to congregate together. Sharing food and drink is a common experience that relaxes all and forces us to be people-oriented above everything. This coordinator can organize a list for regular group members to bring something – soda and snacks, coffee and dessert, chips and dip, popcorn, etc. They should be reliable, comfortable requesting service from others, and organized enough to ensure that all meetings are covered and confirmed.
- Ministry time point person– someone leads the prayer portion of the evening. Often this is an individual who is sensitive to the Holy Spirit and is gifted in discernment. This can be done by one regularly assigned person, or based on a rotation, or by whomever has just led the group study. Healing 1 is a great resource for this leadership, but at very least this should be a person who has seen the Vineyard Prayer model practiced previously.
- Outreach Coordinator – plans and rallies the small group to reach beyond itself. Often, the individual(s) is/are in contact with the Urban Ministry staff at VC, who help facilitate service opportunities for small groups. But groups are also free to create their own Missional or evangelistic opportunities. Consider reading “The Art of Neighboring”. As often as possible, listen to the hearts and desires of those in your group, paying attention when someone expresses an idea or desire to serve a particular group of people or meet a specific need.
- Community Builder – plans and organizes “fun” activities for the group. This person is usually outgoing and sensitive to the relational dynamics of the small group. Ideas include celebrating holidays and birthdays together, planning game or movie nights, attending church-related events together (conferences, training, etc), or planning a bbq to welcome friends and neighbors. Give this person a platform and/or provide them with a tool (such as a Facebook page for your small group or email list) to invite the whole group.
- Communications Overseer – someone who communicates and helps organize all the planned activities for the small group in a given month or quarter. Usually communication is done via email but Facebook or other social media tools can also be very useful. This person should been warm, invitational, and able to communicate clearly enough to give directions, answer questions, and diligently follow up with (potential) visitors.