Summary: Jesus longs to be present as the center of our gatherings, just as he promised, to be light and to give life.

The Real Small Group Leader

Pastor Jim Luthy

Last week, I mentioned the optimum group size was probably between 2-12 people. That being said, I’m sure any of you who have worked with a group of others would agree there are times when it seems the optimum group size is one. Working with others can often be very taxing.

I worked in an office environment for eight years. I have to admit, in the middle of those eight years, I spent two years running a one-person unit. Those just might have been the best years of my life. I can say that based on some of the experiences I had working with other people.

There was the female supervisor, who finally snapped when I pointed out the fact that she was not being rational about a decision she had made: "I’m having PMS, okay!" The scary thing was that she later received a commission at a local police department and they gave her a gun. The way I figure it, if she mistakes you for a criminal and draws down on you, you have a 1 in 6 chance she’s "having PMS, okay!"

There was also the time when the Office Manager, my supervisor’s boss, called me in to explain why I was telling everyone that women who don’t have babies are sinners. Whoever made that one up was especially creative, considering that the office manager and two of the three supervisors were women who never had children.

Then there was the time when I was given a written reprimand for "failing to use proper chain of communication" when I politely informed one of the clerical staff, as I was walking by her desk, that we had finished quite a number of documents to be processed and the "out" box was quite full. I was instructed that the proper way to handle such a situation would be to tell my supervisor, who would then tell a manager, who would then inform the clerical supervisor, who would then assign the necessary task to the person I approached in the first place. After all, who needs efficiency in government work?

Workplace relationships can be quite complex. In fact, any time you bring a group of people together—whether it be a work group, a family, a sports team, a civic committee, or even a small group in church—you create a complex system of relationships that are difficult to maintain, let alone turn them into productivity. Furthermore, the more people you bring into the group, the complexity of that group increases dramatically. If there are two people in a group, there is only one line of communication—A to B. If there are three people in a group, there are three lines of communication—A to B, A to C, and B to C. If you add a fourth person, there are 6 lines of communication—A to B, A to C, A to D, B to C, B to D, and C to D. So the complexity of the relationships within a group increases as the group grows in size.

It’s my intent to finish our series on "Living in Community" with two messages about relationships in the small group. Next week, I would like to talk with you about what I intended to talk with you about tonight—the relationships we have with one another in the context of a small group. But God surprised me this week, as he often does, and gave me an unexpected word to share about leadership of the group.

The wisdom of generations of group dynamics has brought us to see the value of leadership within a group system. The leader at the center of a group both collects and disseminates much of the information required for the group to function. As the need for members within the group to communicate is minimized, the group becomes more efficient. Of course, even with leadership in place, members of a group still must communicate with one another at some level, which is what we’ll talk about next week. If group members do not interact, information can be logjammed at the leader. When that happens, learning and growth and efficiency are stunted. Obviously, there is a delicate balance for efficiency and for healthy group relationships.

This is how most groups in our culture operate. In a work group, the role of leader is assumed by the boss, manager, or supervisor of the work group. In a family, Biblical or not, this role is most often assumed by the dominant parent. On a baseball team, the coach fills this role. In a civic committee, it would be the chairperson.

Is this model familiar to you? Do you recognize this in the different groups you are a part of?

Because this model is so familiar, it is likely how we view our TLC Groups. We have TLC Groups that meet in homes, and each of those groups has a leader. So when we gather, we tend to view the leader as the relational hub within that group. For example, in my group, everyone has a connection with me. I communicate in some way with everyone in that group outside of the gathering just about every week. While everyone in the group might draw some sense of connection with Tammie and me, they would probably not make the same assertion about their relationship with others in the group. We are the relational hub, and we’re happy to be so. But if any of us are to be great leaders, we must move beyond the group experience we are all familiar with.

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