Fall means small group kick-off for most churches. To prepare for this, I have been meeting with small group leaders. One leader opened up and said, “I want my group to be life-giving, but it has been the opposite experience for me.” Unfortunately, this confession is all-too-common. Small groups are meant the modern-day picture of the original church and should be a source of community and growth for 21st century Christians. Leaders should experience the life-giving joy just as much as their group. However, many small group leaders experience burnout.
SGLBO (small group leader burnout) is real and should not be ignored. It can happen for many reasons such as poor training and leadership development. However, SGLBO might not have glaring, easily diagnosable causes. So how do we treat this? Is there a Dr. House of small groups who can brilliantly figure out what is happening seconds before the credits roll? I wish. Instead, here are 4 treatments for SGLBO
1. Take care of yourself first. Leading a small group can be draining. That is the honest truth, but it is not the problem. When you take the time to fill your own cup first, you can pour into others by overflowing, not emptying. Don’t believe the lie that the most expendable investment to alleviate busyness is you.
2. Give things away. Since when did leading a small group also put you in charge of everything else? Give away everything it takes to make your group function, except leading. In fact, find an apprentice with whom you can build into and share leadership. Now you have invested in multiple people, including a leader who can eventually break off and lead their own group. Not only will you benefit from delegating, but you will also achieve rockstar status in your church’s eyes for organically multiplying your group.
3. Simplify. Have you ever prepared all week only to sit in a quiet circle of those who did not prepare? If your group is not in a place where they can or want to do any weekly work, don’t (even if they are asking for it). Endless studies exist where the group simply has to show up, watch, and discuss. Hooray! Discussion! Besides, the sign of a healthy group is not one who sits around and waxes theology. They are the hands and feet of Jesus, so simplify by actually doing more.
4. Stop assuming. The next time you are frustrated with a certain aspect of your group, ask yourself if you set expectations out loud. Or, did you assume since you thought it, everyone else knew? Spoken expectations for groups are good. Expectations that only exist in your head are not fair.
The remedy for SGLBO is not a pill to swallow. Think of it as physical therapy. Everyone hates the work, but no one is ever upset they finished. Work on you. Sit your group down and have an honest, open discussion to reset the rudder. Don’t sell yourself and your group short of biblical life-giving community because you are not willing to put in the work. It is worth it! If there was a prime-time drama based on a savvy, yet salty physical therapist, the credits would roll as the patient commits to the necessary work to make progress. So, roll credits!