Let’s be honest: most of us as small group leaders aren’t serving to become better leaders.
If you were to grab a coffee with any of us, when we finally found the time, and asked us why we’re a small group leader, most of us would say:
“I wanted to help meet the need…“
“I’m here to fill a gap…”
“I want to serve this generation…“
Now don’t get me wrong, we do meet needs and fill gaps in kingdom work. The nickname of a good leader is ‘head servant.’
It’s just that our willingness to serve is often greater than our desire to grow as we serve. But if that’s the case, are we really leading our groups to the best of our abilities?
Now, I know what you’re thinking.
“I don’t have time to read a book, attend training, or use a new tool to become a better leader…”
The truth is, I don’t either.
The best, hidden secret to becoming a more effective leader starts with prayer and getting into God’s Word, asking Him to help you discover and optimize what He’s already given you: your style.
Why does my small group leadership style matter?
There are endless benefits to understanding your unique leadership style (Psalm 139:14-18). Knowing your style as a leader empowers you to see how you uniquely contribute to the group dynamic and express your faith naturally.
We call it a leadership ‘style’ because style is a form of expression. It captures the essence of what you value and communicates it with the world. Style also has the capacity for change, but there is typically one we each stick with throughout our lives.
There are eight leadership styles, specifically for small group leaders.
What is a small group?
Here at Voke, a ‘small group’ is a regular digital and/or physical gathering of people that are known individually, journey collectively, and experience safety in expression and exploration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
A small group leader is accountable for
Empowering each individual to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led
Equipping them to pursue an active relationship with Jesus and others
Creating an environment where they feel a sense of belonging
Increasing in their knowledge of God and of His Word
Applying their faith in their everyday lives (2 Peter 1:5-9)
How do you identify the 8 leadership styles?
The eight styles are differentiated by their core motivations, relational strengths, and their habit of listening. When you braid these three factors together, you’ll be able to answer why people lead, who they lead well, and how they lead with a servant’s heart. Take the 2-minute quiz to discover your unique style. Then come back here to see if it’s your best fit.
As you take a look at each style, you’ll see two descriptions. The first is where they are strong. The second description is where they can lean on the body of Christ to continue growing. We’ll also share with you common social signals to look for. They will help you see when you’re headed in a healthy or unhealthy direction as a leader. But, no matter how different they might appear, each style shares a heart to serve. They each work to equip others with clarity, conviction and confidence in their faith and in who God uniquely designed them to be.
The 8 Styles of Small Group Leaders
1. The Mobilizer
Bright-eyed and bold, Mobilizers are motivated by inspiring a group of people toward a common goal. Even in simple things, they lead others by focusing their uplook — toward Jesus Christ — and outlook — serving others.
Mobilizers listen strongest to God’s Word and movement around them. However, they could use a Presence or Advocate by their side to remind them how to listen without interruption to others’ challenges and needs.
Mobilizers can easily feel drained when they’re lacking a connection between their tasks and the change God’s called them to see in the world. To stay healthy, find ways to either write down or speak out loud the ‘why’ behind a task. Whether it’s hosting the discussion or sending a message to the group chat, add a single sentence to remind others of the bigger story each moment is writing.
2. The Challenger
Optimistic and courageous, Challengers are motivated by the future hope that’s promised. In the hardest times and darkest moments, Challengers find the light of Jesus and shine it brightly. Even in simple things, they remind others of God’s faithfulness and equip them to fight the good fight.
Unlike Mobilizers, Challengers focus more on removing obstacles standing in the way of the future goal than the goal itself. To enhance their practicality, they can partner with Coaches to learn how to listen without interruption. They could also work with Presences to practice deeper empathy.
When healthy, Challengers help teams of people strategize and optimize ministry experiences. They’re great at designing ideas to solve specific problems. Depending on their familiarity with the resources available, Challengers can often calculate the consequences of different courses of action. But, watch out, because this could also be their stress point. Challengers: keep your eyes on Christ. Remember He is the Author and Sustainer of your faith — and the faith of your group. You are simply invited to join Him in His work.
3. The Advocate
Advocates have the mind of a lawyer and the heart of a shepherd. They see the potential in people and work diligently to help them realize it. You’ll often find them volun-telling others to take on tasks. Their heart is to give people the chance to flex the strength they saw in them the whole time.
With a legacy mindset behind their visionary eyes, they want to see a generation of people represent Jesus Christ with boldness. But oftentimes, they’ll refrain from listening actively to those they lead. Many Advocates could use a Transformer by their side to ‘back them up’. A Professor could also show them how to pass on relevant, biblical advice to move others forward in faith.
When healthy, the Advocate listens intentionally to the whole conversation taking place. They focus on the person as they are, putting their potential in the peripheral view for the moment. When unhealthy, Advocates demonstrate passive listening. Unintentionally, they’ll take in bits and pieces of the conversation. This is usually because they are already framing their reply before the person speaking has finished.
In 2019, we began praying through and brainstorming what Voke Groups could look like. To make it a reality, we worked with small group leaders in churches across the US going into 2020. Our hope was to find out what makes a safe, trustworthy and inviting group environment. Turns out, they are always filled with more questions than answers. Still, many leaders admit that listening is a common struggle. We all want to maximize the time we have our group’s attention. But, it’s often at the expense of hearing their pressing questions or building trust through a listening ear. That’s why we designed Voke Groups to emphasize follow-up questions as the catalyst for conversation. It allows all styles of leaders to pass on insight in a way that puts trust and listening center stage.
If you’re an Advocate, you’ll find the videos in Voke Group Adventures especially helpful. Through 5-minute videos on “Are Christians Hypocrites?” “Would I Have Liked Jesus?” and more, you’ll be able to watch your group grow as they overcome common struggles and misunderstandings in faith.
4. The Presence
Often called “the quiet leader”, the Presence brings grace and empathy to places of power. Whether in a small group setting or a conference-style environment, when the Presence walks in you immediately feel at ease.
Many of the other leadership styles look to the Presence to learn how to practice empathy and active listening. When the Presence speaks, it’s time to soak in the wisdom or the specific encouragement. As a leader, the Presence could learn from Detailers on how to ask scaffolding questions and would benefit from having a Professor at their side to learn how to give a quick tip with greater frequency.
At their healthiest, the Presence leverages one-on-one moments to build trust, demonstrate empathy and encourage their individual group members. But if a Presence feels uncared for or disrespected because of their quiet leadership, they’ll often become closed off and reserved, leaving their group members without clear direction. To keep your fellow Presence healthy, thank them for their servant’s heart. If you’re lacking encouragement as a Presence, go ahead and encourage others anyways, as well as express your need for affirmation. Your group is more willing than you might think to lift you up.
5. The Professor
Professors thrive when learning. Naturally curious, they ask questions to dig deeper and find relevant ways to share their insights. When someone is facing a challenge, their gut instinct is to pull from their memory a relevant, biblical promise or practice to share.
Professors could use a Presence by their side, reminding them that more is learned through listening than speaking. And because they ask great questions, with a Challenger in their court, together they could learn how to diagnose and implement change to help large movements practically overcome the obstacles in their way.
Healthy Professors feel empowered and respected to pass on their wisdom. But if they’re feeling a lack of trust or opportunity from their group or other leaders to teach, they will demonstrate drainage — a slow decline in engagement, enthusiasm and overall motivation.
To keep healthy, Professors should find an outlet to use their gift of teaching — pray for someone to mentor, turn your Instagram into a shining light of hope (somebody needs to bring the salt and the light), or use your Voke Group to maintain that connection, while answering some of your groups’ most pressing questions, like “Is Jesus Real?” or “Did Jesus Defeat Death?”. Trust the Lord to place you in the best platform of influence. He will not let the gifts He’s given you go unused.
6. The Coach
Like the football coach on the sidelines or the choreographer in the wings, the Coach is most fulfilled when others succeed. Usually strategic thinkers and planners, God-gifted Coaches love to call the shots in one-on-one moments as they pour into people.
Unlike Professors, Coaches usually pass on the practicals more than the principles. Much like Barnabus in the New Testament, most Coaches work side-by-side with those they lead through the challenge or season. Most Coaches find friends in Advocates and Detailers. They could also learn from them, as both know how to ask the right questions and actively listen to embrace the real challenges their people are facing.
If you’re a Coach, you feel the most energized and motivated when there is a clear connection between the practical advice you pass on and the application you see in your groups’ lives. It can feel de-motivating when your group isn’t applying your advice. You might feel like you should stop sharing insights, or in some cases move on to another person to mentor entirely. But I would encourage you to endure, to trust the Lord as He allows or architects different events in their lives to refine them into His likeness, in His timing (Zechariah 13:9). And perhaps ask yourself the question, “Is what I’m coaching relevant to their specific circumstance right now?”
Most group members, especially if you work with students, have pressing questions they hold onto. As leaders, we often don’t ask about them because we
Assume everyone is on the same page in their faith
Don’t know the answers
Find other topics less intimidating to talk about as a group
But if these questions aren’t answered, our groups will struggle to trust us and engage in conversation around other topics because they feel unseen or insignificant. That’s why we designed Voke Groups. It’s a simple way for 5-minute videos to unpack the topic, provide a follow-up question to get the conversation started, so you can build trust and keep it going. Groups are for all leadership styles, but Coaches appreciate it greatly.
7. The Detailer
When? How? Why? When? The Detailers lead with curiosity and empathy. While present-minded, they learn from past patterns and lead from lessons learned. You’ll find the Detailer at their happiest when they grasp the full context of a principle, lesson, event or challenge.
Detailers know how to ask great questions and listen for specific answers. Many other styles like Mobilizers and Challengers depend on them to stay grounded in reality. Still, Detailers could use a Coach or Advocate by their side to help them grow in their implementation skills — moving people from conversation to conviction.
When healthy, Detailers thrive in the administrative and organizational functions of leadership. They have strength for accountability, reminding others of their commitments and their goals. But when unhealthy, they will often appear uncharacteristically scatter-brained, getting ‘off topic’ by focusing on related, but not central, aspects of the conversation. What Detailers need are clear expectations and goals. They provide the lines they need to fill in the blanks, and with the help of their group, will give insightful ways to take steps forward in their faith to trust Christ more dependently and boldly.
8. The Transformer
One of the rarest leadership styles, the Transformer thrives on empowering others to discover and discern conviction for themselves. Gifted in asking guiding, insightful questions, Transformers work to empower others to find humble, confident ownership in their personal relationships with Jesus Christ.
While not as bold as the Mobilizer or Challenger, Transformers still lead with courageous grace, trusting the Holy Spirit to do the real work in someone’s heart. Often, Transformers find comfort in one-on-one environments. However, they could learn from the Advocate how to inspire groups of people to surrender and become more like Jesus.
We believe every leadership style can include aspects of the Transformer in their expression, and they should. At their healthiest, Transformers model biblical discipleship — they share generously, consistently testify to the power of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s grace powerfully at work in them, and use their gifts to serve anyone who has need (Acts 4:32-35), (1 Peter 3:15), (Matthew 28:18-20). But Transformers, like any of us, can be tempted to operate out of their own strength. If you are a Transformer, continue to allow the Holy Spirit to guide you and give you wisdom as you lead. Remind yourself often of the power that is in you, and the grace that is transforming you in every moment.
I’m curious; after you took the quiz, does the description of your style match your expectations? What style do you think your fellow leaders are? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m here to continue to help you grow as we all learn to lead groups toward clarity, conviction and confidence in their faith.