Lead pastors, regardless of the size of your church, the number of groups, or your current workload, you must visit your small groups regularly for people to know that you value biblical community as much as your pulpit.
You know you need to do it. The members of your groups would be thrilled to see you in their homes for a visit. Your small groups point person (if your church is large enough or you're fortunate enough to have one) will definitely be encouraged if you visit groups regularly.
Here's some good info you'll need to get started and keep visiting groups as an integral part of your ministry as the lead pastor of a growing small group-driven church:
• Calendar a weekly visit to a different group each week for the next couple of months. Then contact each leader and ask if the week you've chosen will work for them. Showing up without a leader's foreknowledge may throw them for a loop. Be sure to tell your staff and your spouse about your scheduled visits for encouragement and accountability.
• Ask your spouse or one of your kids or the group's coach to join you as often as possible, or take one of the people you're mentoring/discipling/grooming. If ministering in pairs was considered valuable to Paul, it should be valuable to you too.
• Prepare a BRIEF word of encouragement that is specific to the group. Tell them you're proud of them, love each of them, appreciate their willingness to be a part of a group, and if possible, share some good news about the group you've heard from the leader and how that makes you feel. Sharing positive specifics edify a group! Just remember that this should be no longer than five minutes in length. Seriously. If you talk more than the leader or most of the members, you're breaking a cardinal rule of visiting groups. Use your eyes and ears when you visit... God doubled up on these for a reason.
• Arrive late and leave late if time is a constraint or you are running on fumes. Showing up super-early and leaving halfway through the meeting makes members feel as if they're not important. But if you slip in during the first half hour of the meeting during worship and stay until the meeting ends and visit with people, you've hit a home run with at least one or two people in the room (if not the whole group). Just be sure to tell your leaders you won't be there before the meeting starts and that they should begin on time and end on time when you're visiting to leave time for chatting over snacks after the meeting.
Now I know that a lead pastor's presence in a group drastically changes the dynamics, so here's some tips for making the meeting less uncomfortable for the group leader, yourself, and even the members of the group.
• Tell the leader you're just sitting in on a normal group meeting and you will only want 5 minutes at the end of the meeting to encourage the members. Your desire is to be just another member of the group that night.
• If during the meeting if you notice everyone is looking at and speaking to you instead of the rest of the group (which is often the case when the lead pastor shows up), just tell the group you're feeling a bit odd because the group seems to be focused on you instead of everyone else in the group. Tell them you're going to pinch your nose when it happens again so as not to interrupt anyone. This will be a fun way to curtail this unhealthy problem.
• Ask the group to gather around you and pray over you. If you don't have anything appropriate or current to share for ministry, ask them to pray that God would protect you, your family, and your mind and heart as you serve as their lead pastor. They'll love doing this for you because you do so much for them and they rarely get the chance to bless you the way they feel you've blessed them.
• If asked to share your theological take on the passage, tell the group you'd much rather hear what God is impressing on them as a group and individuals. Whatever you do, don't be the seminary professor they expect you to be. It would be better to act like an village idiot during the meeting compared to the relational distancing caused by spouting the meaning of a word in the Greek or Hebrew. Plus, going theological on the group during the meeting makes the facilitator or group's leader look bad.
• Encourage the group to keep praying for unchurched friends and build friendships between members of the group and the unchurched people attached to the group members. Do this as part of your five minutes at the end.
If you have other tips, feel free to comment! And, look below and find the twitter/facebook link and use it. Every lead pastor needs to visit groups!