If you are a cell group leader, read this.
Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece by Reuelwrites. This post is not directed at any church leader or pastor in particular.
A few days ago, I read this article by thir.st on the topic ‘Things your cell group leader wants you to know‘ and thought about what it would be like if cell group members could also openly air their opinions. Having undertaken & trained for church leadership for a period of time before relegating to the role of ‘regular member’, I could in a sense understand the perspectives from both sides.
Often the onus/emphasis is placed on members to be a ‘better Christian‘. Yet when members fail to meet expectations, leaders are left pondering “Why can’t my members love God more?“, “Why can’t my members come to church on time or sing louder in cell group?” or simply “Why can’t my members respond to my text?”
What if our members can tell us how they feel? Below are my own thoughts.
5 THINGS YOUR MEMBERS WANTS YOU TO KNOW
1. I Am Facing Real World Issues
When your members’ parents are going through a divorce, are facing difficulties at work or have a death in the family, replying to your message on “Are you coming for cell group meeting?” is obviously not ranked high on their list of priorities.
“It’s been a difficult week but I managed to drag myself to church. I don’t feel good being late, but I hope you understand. I could use a pat on the back.”
Sometimes, for your members to even turn up at church is already an accomplishment in itself.
Of course cell group leaders have their own issues as well, but have we considered that perhaps our members have lesser capacity [than you] to handle their problems; that their bandwidth is already maxed out?
There is also the debate from leaders that “My members didn’t tell me their issues“, which brings me to my second point.
2. I Don’t Care How Much You Know, Until I Know How Much You Care
When was the last time you called your members to ask how are they coping with their work, studies, relationship, or with life in general? When was the last time you asked your members out for a meal with no agenda other than to know them better? I’m not talking about asking them out with an agenda to ‘disciple them‘.
I vividly remember an incident during my first few months as a Christian back in 2005. Back then, 15-year-old me was heading home with my cell group after fellowship at Marina Square. During the conversation with my cell group leader Monica, she found out that I was having financial problems because my parents greatly reduced my pocket money due to my newfound faith.
Without any hesitation, she asked if she could help me financially and offered me money. I was embarrassed and just took $2 from her upon her insistence. But this $2 love offering is something I will remember for life and it forever changed how I look at Monica. That to me was God’s love exemplified and I know that my cell group leader actually cares for me and wants to help.
The thing is, your members first came to church to know God and [through God’s intervention] was placed in your cell group. They do not see the need to have a deep relationship with you, unless you give them a reason to.
There is a saying by CHC’s Pastor Kong, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care“. You can memorise the Gifts/Fruits of the Holy Spirits, you can recite the scriptures from Genesis to Revelations, you can preach 10-point sermons with ease – so what?
Were you there for me when my grandma was sick? Were you aware I was struggling with my sales figures? That’s what your members want to know – that you care.
3. Advise Me But Don’t Force Me To Make A Decision You Approve
“I don’t think this person is right for you”, “I think you shouldn’t divorce him”, or “I think you shouldn’t take up this job if it affects your going to church.” Yes the Bible says not to divorce, yes the Bible says we should take charge of our spiritual health.
But lets not forget the story of Ruth the Moabite [who was supposed to be an enemy of the Jews] who became the model female figure in the Bible for all ladies to emulate. Bible heros Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were working for the evil king Nebuchadnezzar and definitely cannot adhere to all the Jewish customs during that period. And if your member’s husband is physically/verbally abusing her, the last advice you should give her is to tell her “the Bible says you cannot divorce“.
One problem that many Christian leaders have is the issue of micromanaging their members’ lives. Our role as leaders is not to tell them ‘what to do‘ or ‘what not to do‘. Because you cannot take ownership of the decision when sh*t happens.
What if [insert member’s decision contrary to leader’s advice] was God’s will? At the end of the day, conviction must come from God.
This is a controversial topic, but the point I’m bringing up is this – Don’t play God over your members’ lives.
Give God the role that rightfully belongs to Him. Our job as leaders is to advise, not dictate. Sometimes your members need to make mistakes, and learn from them. I firmly believe because we are all ordained by God, all roads lead back to God – even if we make a few detours and wrong turns here and there.
4. I Don’t Expect You To Live A Perfect Life
One problem many church leaders have is the issue of vulnerability. In this superficial world where people only post their highlight reels on Facebook and Instagram, it’s easy to fall into the trap of only wanting to ‘show your best side to the world‘. But alas, the world isn’t perfect, and so isn’t our lives.
Your members don’t expect you to be the perfect Christian. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s impossible to be the ‘perfect Christian‘ in this fallen world. Of course that shouldn’t stop all of us from wanting to be a better Christians.
But please don’t put up the ‘High and mighty‘ or the ‘Everything is fine‘ demeanour. it’s okay to be *vulnerable to your members. If you are facing difficulties in your own work or even if you need a spiritual breakthrough from God, it’s okay to share the burden with your members.
On the contrary, by being more open with your members, they could perceive you to be more genuine, thus encouraging them to be more open and accountable to you as their cell group leader.
*Of course if you are contemplating difficult topics such as divorce or stepping down from ministry, I think that topic is ‘too much’ for your members to handle and should be shared with other leaders instead (Laughs).
5. Just Be My Friend
What if some of your members can never fully respect, accord or look up to you as a cell group leader? What if they can never ‘submit under your discipleship?‘ Can you love them nevertheless?
French philosopher famously came up with the saying “Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”
“What if your husband/wife will always have this character flaw/bad habit which he/she will never be able to change? Can you still love him regardless?” One key topic that pastors always preach in marriage preparation classes is that spouses should learn to love and accept their partners for who they are, and not try to change them.
In the same vein, as a leader we must understand and come to terms with the fact that some members just wants a normal friendship, not a leader-member relationship with you – much less a discipleship. If I already have a boss at work who’s breathing down my neck every single day, the last thing I want is a discipler telling me how to conduct my life.
Perhaps due to their past grievance or simply their character, they cannot ‘submit‘ to you – at least not at this moment.
But it is not your duty to make them submit. It is not your duty to make them agree to be your disciple. You are not their paymaster or parent. That honour goes to God. Instead, avail time to press into your members’ lives and pray to God regularly that your members will experience a more closer relationship with God.
I believe that their quest to love God and be more in line with God’s will, will lead them [to submit under your leadership]. RW