The past few weeks, I have begun to run again. No, I am not a runner. Yet, I run. My wife and I, in a strange and perhaps foolish moment, decided that we were going to participate in a marathon in early 2020. Yes, we signed up for that. Did I mention that I’m not a runner?
However, since I committed to this event, I started to train. And in just a few short weeks and many out-of-breath occurrences later, I started to see progress. Not the kind of time and distances that I would post publicly about, but it’s still progress. And I am constantly working to get better: I change my stride, my posture, and even my preparation and recovery routines when I run. I’ve stopped doing some habits that hindered me and started trying new methods that have helped me. So far, so good.
There is a good application here for teachers and leaders. If you are a group leader, you probably want to grow in your teaching ministry, and to be more effective, it’s important to look closely at what you are doing. And as I found with my venture into running, sometimes it is helpful to stop doing some things and begin trying ideas that are new. With that concept in mind, here are four activities that might actually hinder your teaching ministry:
- Forgetting the purpose. It might sound a bit strange to start with this point, but purpose in any ministry is critical. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:15 that “you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Groups ministry is about making disciples, and it’s always healthy to reexamine your group and see how your current practice reflects that purpose.
- Failing to fully prepare. I get it—we are all busy people. Yet, the very fact that you can change lives each week in your ministry should excite and encourage you to be ready! There are many great and free ways to prepare for leading a group, such as the weekly training sessions offered through Ministry Grid and the Leader Extras blog for all three ongoing brands (Explore the Bible, Bible Studies for Life, and The Gospel Project). Take advantage of the resources available to you in order to refresh your preparation routine.
- Filling the silence. We’ve all been there: the group is quiet, and because no one is talking, we are tempted to “fill the silence” with our words. In other words, we answer our own question! And though it is okay sometimes to just let the silence sit there, this is also a good reminder to ask yourself what other techniques might be more effective for your group. Since different people learn differently, change your approach from time to time: use surveys, hands-on projects, even short games to get involvement in a class session. One good resource that might help is the free eBook, Teacher: Creating Conversational Community.
- Focusing on believers only. Yes, believers in a group are awesome. Yes, we want believers to grow in the Word. Yes, we love believers in Christ. However, we also want to reach people who have not come to faith in Jesus. Every group member can and should invite friends, relatives, neighbors, even co-workers, and bring them to the group time. Paul encouraged Timothy in this pursuit, to “do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5). Every group can and should start a new group, and if every group member reaches one new person per year, this is wholly possible.
I may never be a runner, but I will run. I will grow and stretch to do my best. In the same way, we as leaders can grow and stretch in our ministry for the Lord. May God honor your work as you serve Him in a new and exciting way!