Life group leaders have the greatest influence over the atmosphere and dynamics within their groups. They set the tone, whether positively or negatively, for all aspects of group life. Fortunately, new group leaders don’t have to figure out what to do (and not do) completely on their own. This post will unpack eight traits of effective group leaders that will help you to define healthy leadership and provide a lens through which you identify and select future leaders.
Eight traits should be evident in people serving as life group facilitators.
A First-Class Life Group Facilitator Is Somebody Who Is…
Loving. The most important requirement for somebody who wants to serve as a life group facilitator is that they hold in their heart The Greatest Commandment: Love for God and people (Mark 12:29-31). When leadership is sourced from this love and it is shared, others will sense it and respond to make the group strong and successful. There is no better bonding agent than love. When group participants feel loved by the facilitator, they would not want any other facilitator in the world even if he were more confident in his leadership ability or more competent in his understanding of God’s Word. Just as love covers a multitude of sins, so love covers over a multitude of misgivings facilitators might have about their own skills.
Prayerful. Prayer is essential to our communion with God and others. It overflows from the life group facilitator’s love for God and people. Prayer expresses our dependence on the Lord, mediates the flow of His grace into the life group, strengthens our receptivity to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and teaching, and it shields the group from the enemy’s attacks (Eph 6:18; 1 Thes. 5:17). Make no mistake: A person who is serving as a life group facilitator is at war with the devil who wants to tear apart what God has set apart (made holy) in order to bring together (1 Pet 2:9, 5:8). God will powerfully reveal His faithfulness to the group when life group facilitators demonstrate their faithfulness in their role through prayer.
Humble. This is a key attribute to a person who imitates Christ’s example (Php 2:3-5). It allows the life group facilitator to hear from the Lord, receive His wisdom, serve others, and model spiritual intimacy with the Lord. Humble leaders prioritize the needs of others above their own desires and agenda. Most people can only be themselves in a group when they feel safe, and a safe environment is born out of humble leadership. Humble people have a way of disarming others and helping them to be truthful about who they are and where they need spiritual encouragement. This trait also communicates that all of us are equally in need of God’s grace, i.e. that one person is not better than the other, nor is he loved any less by God. Finally, humility is a reflection that one is teachable, which allows people to hear from the Lord and truly partner with others in building biblical community.
Authentic. Authenticity is essential to the success of a life group facilitator. People will not put up long with a life group where people are not real with each other. Arguably, the greatest influence on the dynamic of a life group is how real the life group facilitator is with the group participants. The health of a life group can be directly linked to how free people can be with one another. People want to go someplace where they are loved for who they are rather than who they feel they have to be. Demonstrated vulnerability from the facilitator has tremendous “imprinting power” that enhances the life of the group. Authenticity creates life-giving community that is essential for the development of evangelism and discipleship.
Inclusive. Effective life group facilitators care for people. They intentionally draw in participants to the Bible study discussion and include them in prayer because they know this enhances their spiritual growth. They find ways to play to people’s strengths and involve them in service and outreach initiatives because they know this expands the richness of the group to those in need of God’s life-changing grace. They look for ways to give everybody a voice and a purpose to fulfill within the group because they know that building biblical community takes all the parts working together (Rom 12:4-5; 1 Cor 12:12, 25-27). Life group facilitators who are inclusive resist the temptation to be guarded about the dynamic of their group and instead trust the Lord with those He wants to gather to Himself.
Encouraging. Everyone needs encouragement in life (1 Thess 5:11, 14). The life group facilitator will most likely be the primary catalyst for gathering people in Jesus’ Name and inspiring the group participants to use their gifts to build up one another (1 Cor 12:7). Encouragement is a crucial trait in calling out people’s gifts and calling them into service, which is why the Apostle Paul was a consummate encourager. This trait enables people to hear God’s Word for their lives and helps them to see themselves the way that God sees them (Eph 4:29). People respond positively to people with positive attitudes. Hope and faith exude from somebody who is encouraging while a discouraging person dampens these qualities in others. A splash of humor does not hurt either; it does not require wit as much as an ability to look optimistically at life and its challenges. Like humility, encouragement has convening power that uplifts people and builds up the group.
Consistent. It is vital for life group facilitators to follow-through on what they say they will do. Showing integrity in word and action creates structural integrity for group-life (Titus 2:6-8). For example, if the facilitator promises somebody prayed for that he will check-in a couple days later…he must do it. Otherwise, it disheartens the participant and demolishes one of the pillars that biblical community is built upon: Trust. The old adage of “do what you say and say what you mean” is a maxim for life and group facilitation too. Your consistency reveals your commitment and ensures group participants that they can rely on you as you do life together.
A Good Listener. Communication is key, but listening is the key to good communication (Jms 1:19). One of the best ways life group facilitators can love on the people in their group is to really listen to them. Listening to others shows respect and increase their sense self-worth within the group (Eph 4:25-32). This builds a greater sense of cohesion (or bonding) among group participants. Cohesion brings encouragement and motivation for true discipleship. As a group’s cohesion increases so does its level of communication, positive interactivity and spontaneous touch-points among all members.