4 More Attributes of Healthy Group Leaders

The health of any group rises or falls based on the health of its leader. That’s why it’s critical for group leaders to to assess their own health as Christ-followers and leaders. We previously covered 4 attributes of healthy group leaders as a way to help self-assess. Here are four more attributes of healthy group leaders.

1. Healthy group leaders are shepherds

To really care for the people in your group well, you have to take some kind of ownership over them. You have to look at them like they’re under your charge and take care of them accordingly. The Bible calls this being a shepherd.

Healthy group leaders are shepherds. They know their groups are made up of people who need guiding, steering, encouragement, and leadership. A good shepherd cares for the needs of their flock, whether or not it’s something they feel like doing at the moment.

Many people think only pastors are called to be shepherds in the church, but that’s not true. Yes, pastors are called to shepherd people, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones called to be shepherds.

If we care about people and we find ourselves in a leadership role, it means we’re being called to protect our groups from false teaching, care for their physical and emotional needs, and encourage them to be more and more like the Good Shepherd – Jesus.

But before you think of that as a burden, we should remind ourselves that while at times it can be difficult, it is first and foremost a great privilege from God. Hebrews 13:17 tells us that leaders need to understand that they will give an account for the souls of those they lead. It also tells us that we are to shepherd people with joy. Otherwise, we’re wasting our time and it won’t be worth everyone’s investment.

The people in our groups are ultimately God’s sheep that He’s entrusting to our care. That doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers; it simply means you need to care about them.

It means you need to care about them enough to check in after they’ve had a rough week. To put them in touch with a pastor if they need counseling. To bring them a meal or drop in and see how they’re doing.

Any particular task of a shepherd isn’t grandiose and it’s certainly not flashy. A shepherd’s job is one simple act of care after another. It’s tracking down a wandering sheep, or making sure they get water and shade and rest. These are things any caring person can do.

So the challenge here may be to think about whether you’re really loving your group well.

Ask yourself: Does my heart stir when I think my group members’ spiritual life, or does it ever even cross my mind? Do I get concerned when I think about their lack of growth, or does it not really bother me?

2. Healthy group leaders are servant-minded

The next attribute of a healthy leader goes hand in hand with being a shepherd. It’s that healthy group leaders are servant-minded.

Being servant-minded means that we want to always have the default setting of serving someone else with our time, gifts, and resources. It’s a mindset based off the example of Jesus. Jesus came to serve and to give his life away to those around him. If he’s the example, that’s what we should be doing as well.

In Jesus’ economy, those who want to be greatest must become the servants of all. In our culture of radical individualism, this is a call many of us don’t want to hear. Or at the very least we don’t want to abide by. It just doesn’t seem to make sense in our world where power and fame are what everyone’s after.

We have to remind ourselves that just before Jesus went to the cross he got down on his knees, took a towel and a wash basin, and cleaned the feet of his disciples. Think about that. The God of the Universe stooped down to serve those whom he had every right to demand to serve him. This is the servant-mindedness of Christ.

And it should be what we’re after.

Ask yourself: Would my group members think of me as servant-minded? Would they say that I lead the way in serving others or my family or our group?

3. Healthy group leaders share leadership

Leading a group for a long time can be tiring. Healthy group leaders know that, and they share the leadership accordingly.

One of the most important qualities of a good leader is that they’re always working on replacing themselves. They’re always working on developing other people to the point where they could do what they’re doing.

And that’s the basic call of every disciple of Jesus. To make other disciples who know how to obey everything Jesus commanded us and multiply themselves.

To develop someone means that at some point you’ll have to share responsibility with them and give them feedback on how they did. This is what Jesus did. He let people follow him for a year or so, then he sent them out to do some things on their own, but after that he had them come back and debrief how it went with him. Based on what they said and how it went he provided feedback to steer them in the right direction.

This is why group leaders should always be focused on developing an apprentice or future leader in their groups, because it encourages you to invite someone else into leading and makes you think about developing them.

Leading a group is far more than leading a discussion. There are administrative tasks like sending out emails or prayer requests. There are hospitality elements of getting food and drinks. There are service elements like planning serve days.

Healthy leaders spread the leadership tasks around wherever it makes sense and when someone is ready for it. It decreases the leader’s burden while increasing the group members’ responsibility and commitment.

So maybe there’s someone who can send out your weekly emails, or would love to host. Maybe there’s someone ready to start leading some of the discussions. Whatever those things are, start empowering people in your group to help with as many of those things as you can.

Ask yourself: Am I sharing leadership with anyone in my group? If not, what could I start sharing?

4. Healthy group leaders are always growing

Well that brings us to the final attribute of a healthy group leader – that they’re always growing.

A disciple of Jesus is a continual learner of the way of Jesus. That’s what the word disciple means, “learner.” Which means a disciple is never done learning.

The work of leadership is similar. None of us will ever be perfect leaders, so there is always some aspect of our leadership to work on.

The same can be said of our spiritual lives. Our spiritual lives are never stagnant. We’re either growing or we’re shrinking. We’re either progressing or we’re regressing. We’re either focused on spiritual growth or we’re not.

To get better means we need to know where to improve, which means we need to spend time assessing and reflecting on our leadership and spiritual walk. With everything else going on in our lives it’s easy to take our eyes off the ball in this area, but we have to have a goal or a destination in mind. There’s a saying that if you don’t have a destination, you’ll get there every time.

That’s so true of our walk with Christ. If we don’t have a plan or a destination in mind, we’ll get somewhere, but it won’t be where we wanted to end up.

Ask yourself: Am I focused on my spiritual growth and my growth as a leader? Do I have a plan for growing?

4 Attributes of Healthy Group Leaders

Group health is directly related to leader health. The health of a groups ministry rises or falls based on the health of the leadership. That includes staff and pastoral leaders, but even more important is the health of the group leaders.

However, many group leaders don’t have a good sense of whether or not they’re healthy, and that’s largely the fault of pastors and leaders to equip them. How do you know if a group leader is healthy or not? If you’re a group leader, how do you know if you’re hitting the mark?

Here are 4 attributes of healthy group leaders.

1. Healthy group leaders have been transformed

The first and most important attribute of a healthy group leader is that they have been transformed. It’s really hard to lead someone where you haven’t been yourself. If we’re going to lead other people to transformation then we need to be people that have been transformed.

We need to be people that are marked by transformation. Being marked by transformation simply means that your life looks a lot different now than before you knew Jesus.

The Bible tells us that when we come to Jesus as our Lord and Savior, then He puts the Holy Spirit inside of us. Don’t gloss over that detail. If you are a Christ-follower then you have the Spirit of the Living God inside of you. You have the same power that raised Christ from the dead (Rom. 8:11).

The book of Ezekiel looks forward to the time where God was going to put His Spirit in His people. It talks about the transformation being like heart surgery where God removes a heart of stone from our body and replaces it with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Ask yourself: Does that sound like me? Am I living with the knowledge and power that the Spirit of the Living God is inside of me, or do I need to focus on being transformed into the image of Jesus these next few months? Does my life look markedly different now than before I knew Jesus?

People that are transformed have lives that look different than the lives of those around them, which leads us to our next attribute.

2. Healthy group leaders are actively following Jesus

Imagine you asked your teenager to go and clean their room. Let’s say they come back in half an hour and you say, “Well, did you clean it?”

They say, “Um, no. But I memorized exactly how you said to clean it. Then, I read it in a few different translations. I even went to a midweek study just to make sure I understand exactly how you wanted me to clean it.”

Did they listen to you?

Far too often we treat following Jesus like a teenager cleaning their room. Many of us have been transformed by Jesus in the past, but we’re not being transformed by him in the present. It’s easy to make empty promises to Jesus, or to read the Bible as if it’s just another book of helpful tips instead of commands to be obeyed.

If we’re not actively following Jesus today, then not only are we not being obedient to what He’s told us to do, but our lives will undercut all our invitations to church and our best intentions to share our faith with our friends and neighbors. And if our lives give no evidence that our faith actually changes anything then why would anyone want what we have?

This becomes even more stark when thinking about leading other people to follow Jesus. You can’t lead a group of people into following Jesus if you aren’t following Him yourself.

Healthy group leaders are characterized by regular obedience to the commands of Jesus. Their lives give evidence of the faith they claim. Their invitations to church don’t ring hollow because their lives resemble something different. Their encouragement to follow Jesus more closely doesn’t come through like an empty product endorsement because it’s rooted in a life that’s marked by love, peace, gentleness, self-control, and on and on.

Ask yourself: Am I actively following Jesus?

If we’re really following Jesus, one of the things we’ll be doing is cultivating community centered around him, which is our next attribute.

3. Healthy group leaders cultivate Christ-centered community

Healthy group leaders cultivate Christ-centered community. It’s just who they are. It flows out of their love for Jesus and His church.

That doesn’t mean it always comes naturally or it’s easy. But it’s something healthy group leaders are committed to, and something they’re always working towards.

Jesus first calls us to Himself, then He calls into relationship with others He’s called to Himself.

Healthy group leaders get that. They also get that we are a church that has been given one Great Commission and two Great Commandments. That we are to go across the street and around the world making disciples that follow Jesus (Great Commission), and we are to be a community of people that loves God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loves our neighbors as ourselves (Great Commandments).

Jesus is at the center of all of that activity, so healthy group leaders put him at the center of their groups.

Practically, this means your time as a group is focused on and centered around Jesus. It means your gatherings are filled with the  life-giving joy of being one of His sons or daughters. It means you do studies and have discussions based around the truths found in the Bible.

Healthy group leaders know that it’s only those groups which have Jesus at the center will lead people to follow Him more closely.

Ask yourself: So what’s the center of my group? Is it me? Is it our social time? Is it having to get through a certain amount of material? Or is it Jesus Himself?

4. Healthy group leaders are friends with spiritual explorers

The next marker of a healthy group leader has to do with their relationships outside the church, specifically with those who are explorers or non-Christians.

Healthy group leaders are first and foremost followers of Christ. If you are following Christ’s commands then you will be someone that builds relationships with those far from God in order to tell them about Him.

Jesus gave us the Great Commission to go and make disciples, and he gave us the Holy Spirit to help us do it. That means every Christian is both commanded and empowered to share their faith in Jesus. It can be difficult and awkward, but it’s just something we have to find a way to do.

As a group leader, this is something you have the chance to model to the rest of your group who may struggle in this area. Whether you like it or not, your group members look to you as an example of what to do and not to do.

Ask yourself: When my group members look at my life, do they see someone whose faith is pervasive throughout their life, or is it something I keep to myself? 

7 Foundations for Forming a Group

Starting a community group of any kind never follows a playbook. It’s always different, and usually doesn’t go how you thought it would. But there are some things you want to keep in mind as you go through the process of forming one. Below are 7 of those foundations for forming a community group.

1. Prayer

The first thing a group should be built on is prayer. That includes a couple specific things.

First, pray for God to send workers into your community (Matt. 9:38; Luke 10:2). It can be overwhelming to step back and think about all the lostness around you. Even if you live in a small town, the thought of it just being you or your family in the beginning is enough to take your breath away. This is why we’ve been told to pray for workers. Pray for God to send believers into your path that He wants you to lock arms with and start to build a community around. His Spirit will lead you as you go, so don’t worry if you have no idea who that will be. In fact, if things happen as He intends, there will be people that join your group that you never would have pursued aside from His leading.

Second, pray for God to send unbelievers into your group’s path. Many of us have not spent our time in church praying for opportunities to share our faith because we’re scared to death to do it. That’s okay. The first Christians, even the Apostles, gathered continually to pray for boldness in sharing Jesus to those around them. Your group should do the same. God will put people in your path for you to share your faith with, but unless we’ve prayed often about those times then there’s a tendency for us to miss them because we’re not paying attention.

2. Shared leadership

The New Testament gives us a model of what’s referred to as a “plurality of leadership.” This means no one person is charged with every facet of leadership in a local church, and the same should be true of any group. That may not be the case in the beginning since there may not always be enough mature believers to be in leadership roles, but plurality should always be the goal. That means no one person should be charged with teaching, evangelism, coordinating serving opportunities, and so on. As many people that are ready to lead, at least in some capacity, should be leading. This increases ownership of everyone in the group, and adheres to the New Testament model.

A good way to start is for leaders to identify their gifts and then look for the greatest areas of weakness. Odds are someone in the group will have complementary gifts that can strengthen the group and contribute to building up the group toward maturity in love (Eph. 4:16).

3. Get the Gospel

The temptation in any group is want to jump forward into belonging or mission, but to do so without forming a Gospel foundation will lead to a group with misguided efforts. If you don’t get the Gospel, you don’t get why you’re even forming a community. The Gospel tells us how and why to be in community. It shows us our need for Jesus and helps us understand what he’s done for us personally and corporately.

Before a group goes anywhere, it’s needs to get the Gospel. Without a Gospel foundation, a community group is no different from a club or volunteer organization. The Gospel changes everything, and it’s not worth being on mission in community without understanding that first.

4. Tell your story

The Gospel is a story about what God has done through Jesus and is doing through His Spirit. It’s a grand narrative that extends way back into history and way forward into the future. But it’s also a story that we’re invited into.

Each of us has a Gospel story to tell. If you’ve been saved by Jesus then you have a story arc that mirrors the one found in the Bible: creation, fall, redemption, restoration. We’ve all been created to be unique people with particular backgrounds (creation). Along the way though, life happens and we start to realize that everything isn’t as it should be; that might even happen through major issues or crises in our lives (fall). But then we met Jesus and he saved us from all that mess (redemption). Now we’re doing our best to figure out our place in this greater story and see how we can push back the darkness in our sphere of influence (restoration).

It’s important to take time at the formative stages of a group to hear each person’s story, with all its messiness and gloriousness. But have each person tell their story along that biblical arc of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration, so that the group is focused on who the Hero of the story really is — Jesus.

5. Define the mission

This is a chicken or the egg situation, but as early as you can see if you can identify where God is sending your group on mission. He is sending you somewhere, but it might not (and probably won’t be) where you think. No group should be without a mission field though.

Think through things like who is God already placing in our paths? Where is there a need and a great opportunity to share the love of Christ in a way that opens up doors for sharing Christ? Are you called to young families who don’t know Jesus? The elementary school down the street? The women’s shelter? An orphanage?

6. Rearrange your lives

Once you’ve identified your mission field, your group needs to think through how you’ll rearrange your lives in order to serve the people you’re on mission to. That means thinking through your everyday life to identify opportunities for different people in the group to serve families or people. And don’t think in terms of a particular day or event; think broader than that. You’re wanting to think through how you can weave your lives around this mission field in order to share the love of Christ that knows no bounds with them.

It might mean you give up some nights during the week, are more open with your home, or start spending time and money in different places. Be creative. This is the work of a missionary in the context of your everyday life. And its exactly the kind of work God is calling you to.

7. Plan for multiplication

From the beginning, you should explain that your group won’t be together forever, at least not in the form it is now. That’s because Jesus saves us, then sends us. Each and every Christ follower is called out of darkness and into the light, then sent right back into the darkness so they can do the same for others. When God saved you, He had other people in mind. He loves you and wanted to save you, of course, but His plans are much bigger than simply getting you into heaven.

In order to live out those plans in your community group, it means that at some point your group needs to multiply. That simply means you need to send out a person or couple from your group to lead another community group. And that’s hard. For the next leaders, it involves dying to themselves and stepping out of their comfort zone. And for those in the group it means they experience grief and loss when their brothers and sisters go off on their own.

That language of death is appropriate. Jesus tells us in John 12:24 that, “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” If we want to see the fruit of the Gospel multiplying across our town, city, and world, we have to let the seeds die. We have to die to our own interests, plans, and desires. But out of that death God brings forth a beautiful and glorious community.