I’ve recently been teaching a course to train leaders—not simply to prepare and lead Bible studies, but to exercise pastoral ministry in the context of their groups. After one session a leader approached me concerned that I had lifted the bar too high. She explained how it was all she could manage to put in the time to understand the Bible passage and lead the group in a helpful study and discussion. How could I reasonably expect leaders to focus on equipping others, encouraging prayer, caring for people in times of crisis or chronic struggles, supporting people as they share their faith with others, and more?
I sympathise with her concerns and I don’t want to lay burdens on people who are already serving as best they are able. By the same token, these groups are the natural context in our churches for encouraging genuine Christian relationships, spurring each other on, helping one another develop our gifts for service, and for exercising loving concern for one another. So what is the way forward? Am I expecting too much? Is this simply idealism?
These concerns support a strong case for groups having more than one leader. Two is usually better than one, and it’s certainly the case when it comes to our growth group ministry. Two leaders can share the load between them, and ideally utilise each other’s strengths.
When leading a study, one leader might be focused on the content being taught, discussed, or applied. The other might pay closer attention to the group dynamics, working out who is engaged or who is off with the fairies. A co-leader might be able to address the problem where someone is dominating discussion while others are prevented from contributing. Co-leaders can co-operate to assist everyone getting maximum benefit from the studies. But the teamwork can go further.
One leader might focus on preparing the material, while the other manages the communication with the group, arranging supper rosters, or planning times of prayer.
One leader might be the point of contact for pastoral concerns, while the other is spending time training new leaders and building the leadership base.
The leaders might tag-team, leading a week about, a month about, or a term about. This would allow greater preparation time, provide variety in the approach, and help keep the leaders fresh.
In a mixed group with male and female co-leaders, they might decide to focus on building and strengthening relationships along gender lines.
If we feel like every aspect of leadership depends on us, then we will likely be overwhelmed very quickly. Burnout will become all too common. But if we get people to team up, then leadership will not become as much of a burden.