Every Leader is a Spiritual First Responder

What would you do in the following scenario?

As you’re saying goodbye to members of your group after your Small Group gathering you notice one couple staying on the couch making no motion to leave. After everyone else is gone they slowly approach you and say those infamous eight words: “We need to talk to you about something.”

As a Small Group Leader, if you haven’t already experienced this scenario, just wait a bit, it’s coming. Small Group Leaders tend to be the “first responders” when it comes to helping people in our church body. Here are four keys to making sure your “first response” offers real help.

Listen Well

This may seem like a no-brainer but bear with me. Numerous studies have shown that the average American listens to what another person says for six seconds before they start to zone out or get distracted.

If you try, I am sure you can think of someone you spoke with today that you felt wasn’t really listening to you. Imagine having that feeling when you’re sharing about some secret sin or suffering with someone that you believe you can trust. That would be very discouraging!

Some tips for disciplined listening include:

  • Make and hold eye contact
  • Don’t close off your posture by crossing your arms or turning away from someone
  • Ask clarifying questions
  • At appropriate times repeat back what they have shared to make sure you’re both on the same page

Ask Good Questions

Ask good questions for data gathering. You need to have enough information about the person’s situation to know how to best help them.

Avoid asking closed questions (a “yes” or “no” question). For example: “Have you and your wife talked about this issue before?” provides almost zero data. However, if you asked, “What has communication between you and wife regarding this issue looked like in the past?,” then you’re going to gain a lot more important information.

Always ask yourself the question “What do I not know about what I just heard?” This question keeps you curious, and curiosity conveys interest and unveils discoveries.

Communicate Hope

The chances are high that you are one of the first people to every hear this person’s story. They may feel desperate and hopeless. As someone who loves and follows a risen Savior you have the best hope in the world to give them: you have Jesus!

Think of this conversation as putting a blanket around the shoulders of a shivering person. Wrap them in truth from God’s Word, use specific verses of encouragement, and pray with them reminding them that God is for his children!

Connect Them with Helpful Resources

Connecting them to resources could involve directing them towards:

Ultimately, we need to offer these group members someone to listen, care, and show them Jesus. We all do this imperfectly because we’re imperfect people, but the Bible is absolutely full of stories of broken, imperfect, unqualified people that God used to communicate his love for people. These are just a few ways in which you can be used to do the same thing.

Ryan Berg

Ryan Berg

Director of Soul Care

Ryan serves as the Director of Soul Care on the Community Team. He joined staff at College Park Church in August of 2019. Ryan gives leadership and direction to the Soul Care Ministry by counseling others, teaching new counselors and creating training material and programming. Ryan enjoys tennis, traveling with his family, and reading to his two young children.