It is a pleasant fiction to think that a small group ministry can soar in a church by delegating all of the responsibility to an associate pastor. A similar line of reasoning would contend that the lead pastor doesn’t need to worship because they have hired a worship leader to do that. Of course, nobody would make a statement like that about worship, but often we send a similar message about discipleship when lead pastors don’t position themselves as the small group champions.
If a culture of disciple-making groups is going to take root in a church, it’s critical for the lead pastor to champion the cause.
There are many factors to support this paradigm, but I’d briefly like to share three realities for lead pastors and discipleship . . .
1. Jesus was the Groups Champion of the New Testament Church
Jesus was the greatest small group leader ever. He took 12 people and launched the fastest-growing, most expansive organization in human history. Jesus kept his small group in a Kingdom mindset by sending them out two-by-two to develop more groups (Luke 9:1-2; Luke 10:1). Jesus’ last words to his followers were to replicate his model by going and making disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19). The fruit of his leadership was an unstoppable, multiplying church of groups (Acts 2:42-47).
It’s obvious that small group discipleship was not a chore to Jesus. Rather, it was a central part of his mission. Lead pastors make themselves more like Jesus when they become the groups champion for their church.
2. The Lead Pastor Has the Greatest Clout in the Church
The lead pastor garners the most attention and examination from everyone in the church. To neglect leveraging the lead pastor’s influence for growing disciples would be a waste of Kingdom currency.
One of the ways the lead pastor can focus their clout is by rallying core influencers in the church for the cause of making disciples. All of the key leaders must have their shoulder to the plow of groups ministry in order for it to have teeth in the congregation. The lead pastor is the vital connection to making this happen.
3. The Weekend Message is the Most Valuable Real Estate in the Church for Communication
When it comes to vision and strategy, there is no greater vehicle to steer the corporate body than the lead pastor’s weekly sermon. If the lead pastor isn’t positioned as the small group champion, the church will miss out on a critical discipleship opportunity in the weekly worship gathering.
The lead pastor’s messages should be peppered with promotion for upcoming events and dates related to the groups ministry, testimonies of changed lives through groups ministry, and stories of personal experiences in groups ministry.
There are more factors than can be listed. As you can see, though, these three realities alone make a strong case for the lead pastor as the groups champion.