Saturday, June 27, 2015

How Not To Lead a Small Group

Have you dropped the ball while dealing with changes in life's seasons?

Even if most of us are in agreement that change is inevitable and/or good, sometimes the execution doesn't go well.  Here's a change gone awry.  I nearly botched a church small group transition.  (In this context meaning a meeting of 4 or 5 couples from church for mutual discipleship).  Here's how I did it and the lessons I learned.

The back story is that our family's family/work/school/church involvement is being re-calibrated based on these changes:
  • A year and a half ago we moved from just north of our city to just south of our city, about a 45 minute difference
  • Son #1 then transitioned from homeschool to our new community high school
  • Daughter and Son #2 are transitioning from homeschool to online charter school
  • I'm four weeks into a new job (which is a great thing)
  • Our church's junior and senior high ministry considering changes that affect us directly
So Darling Bride and I wrestled how the new pieces fit with the old pieces.  So what about our small group leadership?  Could we sustain the commitment, energy, and investment required to do that well?

The irony in all this is that while time marches forward, Darling Bride and I struggled with the same questions we've dealt with for years:
  • In what areas should we serve in our local church / where should we say "yes", where do we say "no"?
  • How do we know we are making the right decisions in leading our kids and educating them well?
We even reviewed some blog posts from prior entries for insight.  Conclusion:  same issues, different year.  Fortunately, with our experience, wisdom, and maturity, the question and arrangements about leading a small group was answered quickly, effectively, and decisively.

No, it wasn't.
Our family's family/work/school/church involvement is being re-calibrated...
The drama started simply enough.  Our church's small group cycle begins in August every year with a theme (this year it is about the beautiful reality of the ordinary Christian life).  New groups need only commit for one month (as a try out?) then decide whether or not to continue.  So we reached out via email to some south side church friends about if they would like to be in a small group.  We sent a follow up email.  No response.  Our church even sent out a deadline for us to work with.  Obviously we are not supposed to lead a small group this coming year.  Even when we spend a Saturday training for it, which I wrote about here.

We already know that we should have followed up again with phone calls and/or talking in person at church.  But we didn't.  Oops.

With a firm grasp of God's will, we communicated to our pastors and leaders that they could count us out for small group for 2015 - 2016.  All done.  Good job.  Time to watch some Netflix.
Not so fast...
I've got mail.  Family #1 says they'd like to be in a group.  No problem, I'll respond that we won't be leading this year.  Sorry!

I've got mail.  Family #2 says they'd like to be in a group.  Problem.  Maybe we're supposed to lead a group after all.  I'll send a response asking if Monday nights will work.

Then e-mails to Family #1 and to other church leaders who somehow got the idea that we aren't going to lead a group.

Family #3 is a definite maybe, and they referred me to another family who would like to come.
Lesson learned:
We don't always know the answers, even when we think we do.  This isn't even over yet.  Our first group is scheduled to meet August 10th.

So, why all the hassle?  Is this comedy of errors worth anything?

Having time to think about it, I'm not too concerned because we did the best we could consistent with our priorities, which I call our Four Checkpoints and the information we had at the time.  The Checkpoints are:
  • Authentic Worship
  • Loving Relationships
  • Worthwhile Learning
  • Excellent Life Experiences
Stephen Covey, of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, emphasizes that effective people make choices based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feelings.

Over the next five weeks we will be taking a closer look at each of these checkpoints, and our family mission statement that undergirds them, and how they can empower anyone to put old and new life puzzle pieces together during changes in seasons, decision making, and the beautiful reality of the ordinary life.
Call to Action:
How do you deal with changes in life's seasons?  What are your moving parts and what are your core priorities?

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