Elders and Groups Pastors… There’s a cataclysmic difference between accomplishing biblical expectations as opposed to working toward having a positive elder evaluation. That is, if the elders are mostly about numbers.
The role a groups point person serves is a disciple making role, discipling people so they can disciple more people. When we look at Scripture we find this model in the life of Jesus and beyond. Jesus discipled a small group of people, His closest disciples, who would then disciple others who would disciple others. Jesus modeled this so powerfully and purposefully that Paul establishes this paradigm concretely for generations to come. He does this when he tells Timothy that he is to disciple some who disciple some who disciple some (2 Timothy 2:2). The primary role of a groups point person is to make disciples who make disciples.
On the other hand, many elders believe the role of a groups point person is to make sure people stick. The model some elder boards have embraced is a model that took root with the church growth movement and has been firmly established over the last 25 or so years. In this scenario the primary thing a church is to do is to get more and more people to become part of the ecclesiastical machine. In this situation a groups pastor sees their role as helping people make friends and connect with others so that they’ll continue to attend worship services, serve in ministry areas, and give financially to the church. In this paradigm we may well assimilate people into church life without making mature disciples of many of them. Why? We want to make the elders happy. Because of this, we lower the expectations of group members to accommodate those who would never attend a small group if the expectations of a disciple of Jesus Christ were the expectations that were being espoused and expected of those who gather weekly.
Bottom line… Many elder boards have as their mantra to the groups pastor, “Get more people into groups!” Elders, might I suggest a new mantra for you?, “Get more people into groups AND disciple some who will disciple some who will disciple some.” That is, create a two track groups ministry for your groups point person to lead. In order for the groups point person to do this they’ll need to, 1) Continue to place as many guests and church attenders as possible into a group. This is important as this will be the first step for many into a spiritual journey of any kind. 2) Create a second track through which the groups point person can gather a few people who they disciple up close and personal who will disciple some who will disciple some who will disciple some.
Elders, if you’re going to head down this pathway, you’re going to need to reconsider the expectations you have of your groups point person. You can’t ask your groups point person to take on these two essential ministries if you aren’t willing to do three things, 1) If necessary, allow them to be discipled by someone. If someone hasn’t been discipled themselves they will be unable to disciple others. 2) Take some things off their plate. Most of the groups point people I’m in contact with are responsible for an immense amount of non-disciple making/group responsibilities. Making disciples using Jesus’ model is time consuming. 3) Be willing to be discipled yourself. If you’re an elder and you’ve never been discipled, you’ll never understand the immensity of discipleship until you’ve been discipled. And, until you realize the importance of it, you’ll find yourself always wanting more people to stick more than you’re longing for your church to make mature disciples who make mature disciples.