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Chris Surratt: Five Ways To Keep Your Small Group Leaders From Burning Out

I had the opportunity a few years ago to hear Mark Miller from Chick-fil-A speak at a leadership event in Dallas, Texas. Mark was sharing about how they have built a strong leadership culture at Chick-fil-A. He said one of the keys to sustained leadership development is the capacity of the leader. Humans have finite capacity, but well-built structures have the ability to have infinite capacity.

I wonder how many of our small group systems take that fact into account? When your structure is built solely on the perseverance of the leaders, it will eventually stop growing. There is only so much that a leader, especially a volunteer leader, can produce before something has to give.

Here are five things that you can build into your structure that will allow your leaders to continue to grow without burning out:

  1. Build breaks into the schedule

We cannot expect our leaders to continue to thrive if they are not stepping back from the whirlwind occasionally. In football, it doesn’t matter how dominating the team’s defense is.

If they are playing every down of the game without breaks, they will start giving up ground. There are natural breaks every year where leaders should be encouraged to take a breath and not worry about pulling off a normal meeting. They will be refreshed and fired up to get back in the game afterwards.

  1. Provide solid curriculum choices

If you are expecting your leaders to build and teach their own Bible studies every week, there will be eventual burnout. There are now tools available that can take a lot of the prep work out of it. Smallgroup.com is an online library of discussion-driven and video-enhanced studies that you can customize for any small group to have a consistent and transformational discipleship experience. You can quickly build a series of studies for your sermon-based groups, or you can allow group leaders to pick from over 400 video-enhanced studies from teachers including: Beth Moore, Matt Chandler and Tony Evans.

  1. Train leaders to share the work

Leaders are missing opportunities to disciple if they are doing everything for the group. The workload should be shared, not only to help the leader, but also to help group members discover their gifts. Each element of a group meeting should be carried by a different person – including facilitating the discussion.

  1. Allow leaders to step away

While we would love every leader to continue leading their group forever, the reality is that leaders need to occasionally completely step away from it for a season to be healthy. Build in the value of having an apprentice leader so they can be ready to step in and continue the group. This season may be a great opportunity for the leader to move into a coaching role for other leaders.

  1. Model a healthy balance

If the point leader is not taking regular Sabbaths, they are not modeling a healthy ministry life for there leaders. The structure is only as strong as its leader. You have to remember that ministry is a marathon not a sprint. We are all in this for the long game – to see healthy people make disciples who make disciples.

Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with over 22 years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Team at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, and was on staff at Seacoast Church in Charleston, SC, for 15 years. He also manages SmallGroup.com for LifeWay Christian Resources. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, was recently released by Thomas Nelson. You can follow his blog or follow him on Twitter.

Want to hear more from Chris and SmallGroup.com? Join us for Sticky Teams in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on April 18-19 or Charlotte, North Carolina, May 2-3. You will be able to chose from several Pre-Conference and Breakout Sessions that deal specifically with small group ministry.  Click here for more information about Sticky Teams.

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