I couldn't have been happier when two of our small group leaders asked, "Is it okay if we continue the group through the summer?" I didn't have to think, the answer was a definite yes. Any time I have small group leaders who want to do more than the weekly group, I'm all about helping them make it happen.
Yes, these particular leaders are unique and special; however, it's taken our ministry work to get to this point. For our leaders to feel comfortable to do more than just run through the curriculum, we've had to:
MAKE THEM FEEL LIKE THEY HAVE OWNERSHIP
From the beginning, we tell the leaders to treat their small groups, like it's the ministry God has called them to lead. To cultivate that type of ownership we make the leaders responsible for contacting families if group members need to bring a specific item (e.g., canned goods for a service project), changes in location (e.g., meet us in the school gym instead of our usual room) or a total cancellation.
We also allow leaders to make tweaks to the content that we offer. While there are specific topics we want to cover throughout the year if a leader comes to us and says, "Chris, I'd love to start a novena with our kids." or "We came across this series on Ydisciple, can we use it?" If the content makes sense and follows our values, we empower them to coordinate the change.
If you want leaders to step up, think about different ways they can own the preparation and flow of the small group. Celebrate them when they take the next step and walk with them as they plan and prepare on their own for the first time.
SHOW THEM THAT THEY ARE PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER
Your leaders need to know the purpose behind their small group. It does not matter if it's a group of kids, teens, or families, leaders have to understand that catechizing others is introducing them to a bigger story. Your leaders need to know what's at stake (Check out the TenX10 initiative HERE) and why their presence matter.
In addition to knowing the vision for what they are doing, they need to see that they are part of a bigger community. When your catechist recognizes that they are a part of the Body of Christ, it can strengthen their sense of community. Make sure your leaders know one another, don't assume that they've met even if they serve on the same night. Bring your volunteers to training and conferences provided by your diocese or other churches so that they can see others are striving to do the same thing as them.
DOUBLE DOWN ON THEIR FORMATION
Confident leaders are people who will think outside of the box and step up to do more. Their confidence comes from knowing they are not alone and having clarity on what they need to do. Even if your leaders do not have time to enroll in graduate-level classes, you need to help them grow by providing them with the right resources.
If your parish doesn't offer small groups for adults, see if there is a neighboring one that does. A parish in our diocese has opened its doors to other parish volunteers seeking resources. No matter what it takes, make sure you are training, mentoring, and equipping your small group leaders with the spiritual, intellectual, human, and pastoral formation that they deserve.
If you are a volunteer or have some seeking tools, resources, and training, check out our membership subscription MYM Premium HERE.
REMIND THEM WHAT THEY DO HAS RELATIONAL VALUE
Some of your small group leaders might worry that the kids don't know "enough" about their faith. And those leaders are right, but there is no way that we will ever have enough time to teach young people everything they need to know before receiving their First Communion or Confirmation. While there is the content we want young people to know, they need to know Christ and trust their group first.
Make sure small group leaders know the names of their kids and the names of their parents. Encourage them to spend those first few weeks establishing a rapport and learning about their world. Remind your team that in order for them to have a relationship with their group, they need to build trust and that takes one week at a time.
And as their leader model for them authentic relationships with how you treat them. Don't make your interactions with leaders all about the ministry. Ask them about their lives, get to know the name of their family members, and learn what they do. If a leader sees how you treat them, they'll know how to treat the people they lead.
The secret sauce of helping your leaders take their groups to the next level comes down to what you teach them. Make sure you are constantly checking in with them, listening to their experiences, and guiding them to something more. Your leaders might be volunteers; however, with the right support, they can create a sense of belonging that so many of our young people crave.
WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL HABITS YOU TEACH YOUR LEADERS?
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