If Jesus led your small group

If Jesus led your small group

What would it be like to be a part of a small-group meeting led by Jesus? Until recently, I never presumed that it would be possible to answer that question with any kind of authority. Then I realized the Upper Room Discourse in John 13-17 might provide a clue. Consider what we learn in the Upper Room from Jesus, the quintessential small-group leader.

Preparation. Jesus intentionally prepared for uninterrupted time with His small group. Leaders must be intentional about focusing on their small group, sometimes saying no to other people and other needs.

Modeling. Jesus modeled what He taught. Small-group leaders who wish to pass on life-changing truth to group members would do well to heed this principle. One authentic act of righteousness displayed before the group is worth a thousand lectures.

Time for Questions. Most of what Jesus taught in the Upper Room was in response to questions that the disciples asked. Successful small groups are ones in which many questions are asked by the group as well as the leader. The leader's job is simply to create an atmosphere in which questions are taken seriously and responded to with patience and care.

A Safe Atmosphere. Jesus created an atmosphere in which His group was free to fail. Effective small-group leaders will prepare their groups to confront the reality of their own sin. They will provide a context within which people in their groups can fail in their spiritual journey and still survive emotionally because they know they are loved.

Mutual Friendship. Jesus led from a position of mutual friendship rather than authority. Of course, most small-group leaders wouldn't admit they have a dictatorial style, but it's possible to violate this principle without even trying.

Flexibility. Jesus could change His agenda in order to meet the needs of His group. Effective small-group leaders are aware of their group's emotional pulse and are willing to change their agenda in order to deal with the pressing needs and feelings of just one individual.

Absence. Jesus ministered to His group by His absence as well as His presence. Effective small-group leaders recognize that withdrawal from the group doesn't always mean unfaithfulness, but trust that, at the right time, withdrawal can set the stage for a new and better way of being present in their group's life.

One qualification: The Upper Room Discourse was indeed the kind of small-group meeting that every leader longs for, but it didn't happen by accident. It happened under the skillful and prayerful leadership of the quintessential small-group leader-Jesus Christ. As leaders, we should follow Jesus' example, with just one qualification: We must remember that we are not Jesus. There are certain things He did for His group that we can't do for ours. While striving to follow His example in every other respect, in this we would do well to simply point our group to Him.

Adapted from "If Jesus Led Your Small Group" by Mark Mitchell (Discipleship Journal, Nov.-Dec. 1994)