I rarely post entire articles that other people have written for you to read. But Heather Zempel has written a great article about The Excitement Variable in small groups, and I wanted to share it with you. I think that you will find it very meaningful. Each of us who have accepted responsibility to shepherd a group should always be the most excited person in the room about where the group is headed. I feel that way about the church and the Sunday School. I bet you feel that way about your group. But that is a bold and occasionally lonely place to be. Read this article and be encouraged.
In general, no one will be as excited about your group as you are. It’s just a simple leadership principle. You carry the weight of the burden, the thrill of the vision, the task of implementation. No one was as excited about Goliath as David. No one was as excited about the wall around Jerusalem as Nehemiah. No one was as excited about the church in Philippi as Paul. A leader will be more excited than anyone else on the team. They must be more excited. But that carries a burden of its own.
I think this ties in with the idea that sometimes leadership is lonely. I love to lead in teams, but sometimes there are places that only I can go. Think about Jesus going into the garden to pray. Or Elijah hiding out in the cave. Or Moses going before Pharaoh. There are some seasons and situations where leadership is lonely.When I become aware of my loneliness…and when I realize that I’m way more excited than anyone else…these are some things I try to keep in mind.
- Embrace the Territory. This is what leadership is all about. Having the guts and the insanity to jump out ahead and take people where they haven’t been before. Leaders have to be a little crazier than everyone else. It comes with the territory.
- Gut Check. I check my vision, my heart, and my methods. Sometimes, when I get leadership loneliness or start thinking that I’m the only one who really cares, I run the risk of getting martyr syndrome. Each of us is wired differently, so we all respond to that in different ways. For me, I tend to get more domineering, self-assured, and unilaterally decisive. Sometimes, those are attitudes a leader must employ. But I’ve got to check whether I’m leading from humility or leading out of self-defense.
- Remember Your Motivation. It’s not ultimately about what people think. And it’s not about you. It’s about God and bringing him glory and honor.
- Remove the Plank. When we sense that those we lead aren’t as excited as they could or should be about wherever we are taking them, it’s easy to be quick to judge. That’s when I have to stop and remove that rather large log poking out of my eye.
- Serve Another Vision. I think one of the best ways to train to be a great leader is to faithfully serve the vision of another. We can’t expect people to get excited about our vision until we have gotten excited about the vision of another. Sometimes, I have to step out of my narrow world and find someone who I can support, serve, and be excited about.
On that final point I would only add that it is so important to realize that all of our groups serve a vision that is greater than any single Sunday School group, and one that unites us all. Worshiping God, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives. When we realize that the unifying vision of our church is rooted in The Great Commission and The Great Commandments, it gives us security and courage to move forward boldly. Jesus’ vision for the whole church is the vision for each small group. Interestingly, the whole church can’t accomplish it unless each small group embraces it.
No one will be as excited about your group as you are. And if they are, it’s time for them to start leading. In the meantime, use your excitement to lead well, encourage often, and stir your group to love and good works.