By Joel Comiskey, 2017
There’s a good chance that the next leaders that emerge from your group are very different than you. It’s so easy to want to find one kind of person to lead the group or be part of the team, but the reality is that there is no one best person.
Some of the best people don’t appear to be the best. They are the weakest, fumble the most, and seem the most unprepared. Sometimes we fail to see emerging leadership because we are looking for the wrong things. We often look for those who mesh with our personality but pass over those who follow a different drummer.
Samuel misjudged the Lord’s choice for the second king of Israel because he focused on height and stature: "Samuel saw Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.’ But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart’" (1 Samuel 16:6-7).
Jesse was just as surprised that his older children were not elected. He had not even considered inviting shepherd boy David to the ceremony. But even though David was a "ruddy" young boy, ". . . the LORD said, ‘Rise and anoint him; he is the one!’" (1 Samuel 16:11-12).
God tends to use the "ruddy, young boys" that are fully committed to him. Our tendency is to hang educational nooses around budding leaders. Yet, the harvest is so plentiful and the laborers are so few that God would have us look at all leadership possibilities around us.
When you look out at your current small group and wonder, "Which of these people could lead a great small group?" the correct answer is, "All of them!" Sure, some people are more ready now. Some people need to get equipped or trained. But there is no key characteristic you should look for. Quiet people are as good at leading groups as outgoing people. People with the gift of service can lead a growing group just like people with the gift of teaching or evangelism.
Jim Egli and I have been studying this question for many years. We have both discovered in separate statistical studies that particular characteristics don’t matter. Our recent research embodied in our upcoming 2017 book Groups that Thrive: Seven Surprising Discoveries about Life-Giving Small Groups once again confirm that the things that matter are not people’s characteristics or age or season in life. What matters are several key behaviors that relate to loving God and loving others. Which people in your current group can obey the two greatest commandments, to love God with all they are and to love others like they love themselves (Mark 12:28-31)? All of them can! And this means that all of them have the potential to lead a thriving small group.
Take a moment to consider Jesus’ own recruits. His twelve closest followers appear to be incredibly unexceptional. They were a motley crew of ordinary people. But Jesus invested in them and through them ignited a movement that would reach millions, even billions of people. God wants to use your small group in a similar way if you’ll see God’s potential in each person to change the world.