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7 essentials for shepherding your people to grow spiritually

| by Mike Mack

Whether you serve as a small group leader, Sunday school teacher, or any other shepherding role, you are in the most strategic position in the church to effect real, lasting life change and spiritual growth. The church’s best method for caring, shepherding, loving, and growing people is you!

You may have heard assertions like this before, and while they are true, you may be asking how you are supposed to make it happen.

First, as a shepherd leader, be concerned for where people are in their spiritual journeys.You need to know where people are in order to shepherd them to where they ought to be. Accept group members where they are on their spiritual journeys. Treat each person with grace, not judgment. At the same time, help group members grow. Encourage, spur each other on, teach, and admonish one another in all wisdom.

Second, model a disciple’s lifestyle.Spiritual growth must be happening in your life as the leader. You are a model for what life change looks like to others.

Third, keep providing the context.Continue to draw the group into increasing levels of authentic community. Don’t give up meeting together, and people will grow.

Fourth, assess where group members are on their spiritual journeys.While a number of spiritual assessments are available and beneficial, using these tools is not a substitute for knowing the people in your group and personally guiding them to grow. Like the Good Shepherd, the best way for you to make assessments is to know your sheep.

Fifth, provide a process for growth to happen. Do application-oriented Bible study as a group. Don’t just study the Bible. Do what it says! What do you study? The answer comes from knowing your group and what they need most to grow. Ask a small group coach or minister from your church for more help.

Sixth, be a spiritual parent to the group. Mentor some members one-on-one. Ask group members who are relatively strong in one spiritual area to disciple a person who would like to grow in that same area. This involves everyone in the spiritual growth process—mutual edification and discipleship.

Spiritual parenting means you don’t see all group members the same. You shepherd them individually because they are at different places in their spiritual journeys. Some are infants, some are adolescents or teens, while others are maturing adults.

The apostle John wrote in 1 John 2:12-14:

I write to you, dear children,
     because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I write to you, fathers,
     because you have known him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
     because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, dear children,
     because you have known the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
     because you have known him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
     because you are strong,
     and the word of God lives in you,
     and you have overcome the evil one.

John had learned from hissmall group leader (Jesus) how to shepherd the sheep individually.

Seventh, develop leaders.I discuss this point more in Chapter 5 of World's Greatest Small Group, but it’s important to mention here because it’s a part of every group member’s spiritual growth process. Continually developing and deploying new leaders is essential for guiding your group or class members to where the Chief Shepherd wants them to go.

Excerpted from World's Greatest Small Group: 7 Powerful Traits of a Life-Changing Leader, by Michael C. Mack. 

Mike Mack

Smallgroupologist Michael Mack believes life change happens best in groups because he has experienced it himself. He trains leaders; writes articles, books, and discussion guides; and consults with churches through Small Group Leadership.

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