encourage the exploration of scripture
When, in 2008, I began leading the adult discipleship and small groups ministry department at a very large multi-site church, I inherited a leader training rhythm that included two yearly leadership events (October and January). Attendance at these events was a stated requirement for all active small group leaders. A couple of years in, I celebrated with my team after a particularly well-promoted and well-executed training event. We had accomplished everything we had set out to do. And with 62% of our leaders participating, we had even hit our 60+% attendance goal, which meant that hundreds of leaders experienced the energy-filled room, the encouraging leadership community, and our inspiring and practical content.
Only those who have mastered 5th grade arithmetic will see what we were missing. Question: was our event a success or a failure?
Based on event execution it was an unqualified success. But based on our stated leadership development goals it was an abject failure, with 38% of our leaders eschewing the requirement and missing out the benefits of this gathering. And possibly (likely), this 38% was more in actual need of the event than the core who typically showed up to our offerings. At the event debrief meeting three days later, we stood behind our leadership requirements and made the decision to remove those absent 38% - over 200 people - from group leadership responsibilities.
Of course we didn’t. And you know why. Despite what we told our leaders, the training event wasn’t REALLY required.
What actually took place at our event debrief meeting was an honest discussion about the wide gap between what we said we expected of our leaders, and what we actually expected of our leaders. This began a journey which transformed our thinking and caused us to hit reboot on… well pretty much everything related to leadership development. But it started with an honest look in the mirror and the self-awareness to realize that we only made training events “required” to boost attendance, not because the experience or the content was actually essential to their leadership. This hypocritical expectation caused either unnecessary guilt or further inoculation to our leadership, and it resulted in the obscuring of the actual standards of group leadership in our church. Yes we were lying to our leaders, but first we had to lie to ourselves.
Post a comment if you have any requirements for your small group leaders - or other leaders - that are not, in practice, actually required.