We want to create helpful, engaging, and relevant environments. After that, we let God do what only he can do—change lives. But we know that in addition to God’s handiwork, the success of each group hinges on the quality of its leaders. We use three traits to describe the qualities we look for: humility, teachability, and curiosity.
HUMILITY comes from a strong, growing relationship with Jesus. It is the acknowledgment that we are all sinners and totally helpless without the love of God. Because we have been so dramatically changed by this love, we want to move out of the way to help people who are searching connect with God in his timing.
- Humble leaders approach conversations as fellow journeyers, not as ones who are handing off truth.
- Humble leaders “sit” on the same side of the table as their group members, acknowledging they are also in need of a Savior.
TEACHABILITY is not just about responding to direction or correction. It’s an attitude, a spirit that says, “I will constantly be learning about myself, others, and culture so that I can be used in new and different ways.”
- Teachable leaders are always inviting feedback because they know it isn’t about leading perfectly; it’s about continuing to respond effectively to the people God has placed in their groups.
- Teachable leaders actively pursue what it means to create open and conversational environments for people to explore the topics and experience community.
CURIOSITY is about engagement. Curious leaders are proactive in reaching out to group members in order to better understand where they are personally, emotionally, and spiritually, and encourage them to take meaningful steps towards their heavenly Father.
- Curious leaders are hungry to know more about their group members. They go out of their way to understand group members’ perspective—not so they can change minds, but so they can connect and lead people toward deeper relationships with Jesus.
- Curious leaders don’t teach. They ask questions.
These are simple ideas, but pursuing them often requires a shift in mindset. Most leadership books and blogs don’t emphasize humility, teachability, and curiosity as key ingredients of great leadership. But they really will improve the quality of your group experience like nothing else. That’s because they have the power to break down the barriers of shame and guilt that exist between people. They express a transparency and vulnerability that gives group members permission to be more transparent and vulnerable. And that’s huge when you’re trying to help others pursue spiritual growth.
Traits of a leader certainly influence a group’s conversation. Facilitating rather than teaching allows the leader to encourage all members to discuss what they are learning.
Leaders who facilitate well:
- Are not afraid or offended by a group member’s input that is troubling or “out of left field.”
- Are prepared for difficult questions and discussions but limit their own opinions and input.
- Understand that they should be talking only 20 percent of the time at most.
- Encourage others to share, listen attentively when others speak, and are affirming.
Asking great questions is the best way for leaders to create conversational environments. This was Christ’s example. Throughout his ministry, he was asked many questions and responded with few answers. Instead of answering, he questioned. Jesus knew that a great question forces people to consider the truth, think about their own experiences, and reflect.
- Ask open-ended questions, not those that can be answered with a simple yes or no.
- Ask questions that evoke feelings, make people think, and lead to insights.
- Ask questions that have more than one right answer.
- Ask questions that encourage personal examples.
- Ask questions that stimulate others to apply what they are learning.
Responding to questions by promoting participation from the whole group and asking good follow-up questions engages everyone. Responses should connect questions to the topics; allow the leaders and others to admit their own personal struggles; and encourage self-discovery by allowing group members to arrive at conclusions for themselves.
In our small Mental Health group we don’t tell others what to do or what the “right” answer is. We listen to each other and if we feel one of our experiences may be helpful, when the person is done speaking we ask if they would be interested in hearing our experience. And saying no is completely acceptable. I learned from my wife that sometimes people just want to be heard and don’t want any “answers.” And also beneficial, by saying yes, I have learned immeasurably from others.
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