When my daughter, Michelle, was diagnosed with a form of cerebral palsy, we thought she’d never walk. But one day she started getting up on her haunches and crawling. The next minute, she started climbing up the edge of things and trying to walk, but she didn’t look like she would ever get her legs underneath her. So we got a little walker that allowed her to cruise around the house — slow to fast, fast to faster, and faster to really fast. Finally, after four and half years, she took her first step and jumped into my arms.
When we bought a two-story house, she wanted to climb. She didn’t want to use the railing for support; she wanted to go straight up the center of the stairs, just like everybody else. One day, my wife called and said, “You’ve gotta come home.”
When I came home, Michelle, now 5, said, “Dad, I’m ready to do it.” She went up a couple of steps and wobbled a bit, but she refused to use the rail. She kept going up. Two thirds of the way up the stairs, she fell back on her heels, reached over for the railing, missed the railing, and caught herself. She kept going, one step at a time, all the way to the top. Surrounded by the hoots and hollers by the entire family, she raised her arms victoriously.
This didn’t happen overnight for Michelle; it happened over time. Similarly, we take our spiritual journeys one step at a time. Small groups help people take these baby steps. What is it going to take for you to help your small group leaders take these steps of spiritual growth?
Here are six simple ways you can MENTOR your hosts to help them spiritually mature.
1. MOTIVATE them to find a spiritual coach who will encourage them, exhort them, love them — do whatever it takes to help them go the next step. But you need to help them find a relationship with someone they’ll want to meet with at least once a month.
We asked a woman on staff whom she’d like to have spiritually invest in her, and she gave us a name. I asked for her number, called her up and said, “Hi, this is Pastor Brett, and I asked my friend if she could pick one person to invest in her spiritually, who would it be, and she said you!”
The woman said, “You’ve got to be kidding. Are you serious?”
I said, “Yeah. What do you think?”
She said, “Well, I’d be honored. I’d love to.”
Nine out of 10 times, the other person says, “You’ve got to be kidding! When can we meet?” And when they meet, they immediately hit it off. I promise you, every one of your hosts has a name. Be the catalyst to get the two together.
2. ENCOURAGE them to review their goals and dreams before God, especially in the area of what it’s going to take to help them grow in their walks with Christ. If you ask them this question, they’ll say something about reading God’s Word or understanding God more deeply. If you don’t ask the question, nobody else will.
The best way to help them become self-motivated is to have them go through a spiritual health assessment. Then set goals based on their own personal assessment of the health plan. They’ll look back at you one day and say, “Thank you. I just needed that spark.” We all long for a nudge.
3. NEVER forsake your own gathering together. Just think if the disciples didn’t gather in the upper room. Where would the church be? While God chose to scatter that circle, remember that his disciples retreated from the crowds and met together. In the same way, we need to pull away with our leaders — our church’s disciples. When you meet, make sure you always pull out God’s Word, because faith comes by hearing the Word of God.
It’s important for us to realize that there are different types of gatherings. But it’s the communal worship that is so important for growing your leaders spiritually. Through these gatherings, you have an opportunity to coach several leaders at once and spend time in prayer. Look for any opportunity to affirm your leaders and pray for them.
4. TELL them what you sense God wants for their life. If you aren’t the voice of God in their lives, who will be? They need to hear God’s best words and what you sense he wants them to know. Do it through letters and emails as well as through spoken words when you have casual encounters. Listen for what God wants them to know.
I get a letter from a buddy of mine once every three weeks that I save, because he basically writes out a prayer: “Lord, I just sense that what you want Brett to know is this, this, and this.” It’s a wonderful gift, and I can’t wait to open those cards. Practice giving your leaders cards like these, and remember that timing is everything.
5. ONE-ON-ONES are vital for both you and them. Over the course of the year, get together at least four times. It’s a great excuse to say, “Hey, how are you? How can I help?” And you’ll be able to gauge group and individual growth. If you’re a community leader developing a few coaches or if you’re a coach who has ten or more groups, pray for and identify other people to bear the load. It won’t always work out, but when you have others on board, one-on-ones will increase. And this will help leaders grow and go to the next level.
6. RELEASE them to multiply their lives. When you cast this vision intentionally and systematically, you’ll see your congregation connect, and you’ll see your congregation reach into your community for the sake of the community. When you step up and dream — a dream that is exponentially beyond what you think is possible — you’ll see God at work. God is able to do exceedingly beyond whatever we would ever even think or ask for his glory. To that end, may your relationship with your hosts and your leaders continue to become exponentially deeper and wider than you could ever imagine.