On Leading Small Groups (4): The Empty Chair

One of the key responsibilities of our leaders is to take on a group of students that is much smaller than the whole in an effort to build relationships through which spiritual content can be passed and true growth can be encouraged. Jesus took aside His 12 closest followers out of the thousands who followed Him. And even among those 12, He had 3 who were able to witness things no one else could.

The Empty Chair

One of the growth-killing dynamics of a small group is that of an inward focus. It’s the “us four and no more” approach that is common when you attempt to build deep relationships with a small number of students. In some ways we want to build on conversations, deepen trust, and facilitate deep sharing. Some of that sharing dynamic is interrupted when a new student is brought into the mix. So how do we encourage growth and maintain that high level of sharing and trust?

From the beginning, make sure there is at least one empty chair in your small group setting. Clearly communicate to your students that the goal is to fill that chair with one unengaged student. You might even talk about who they will pray for and specifically ask to join the group. Then, when that person finally does come, they will be better prepared to include him/her in the conversation. If it is someone they already know, the lag time of building trust and sharing can be minimized.

Not only does it prepare your students for growth, but the empty chair empowers them to pray and invite on their own! And you can build the multiply, multiply, multiply idea into your group in this way as well!


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