The leader is not a spiritual teacher, but rather, a facilitator. The leader starts the meeting and moves it through the basic meeting format. The leader sees that the meeting starts on time and ends on time. The leader welcomes and allows for the introduction of new people and gives a brief summary of what The Pittsburgh Experiment is and the nature and purpose of the meeting.
What appears below is a summary of the keys of small group leadership. For more detailed information and additional resources, download the Leadership Toolkit.
Groups function best and more people grow spiritually when the leadership is rotated from meeting to meeting. At some time every person in the group should be given the chance to serve as the leader. The basic Pittsburgh Experiment group meeting format is that simple, so that each person who has attended two meetings should be able to lead the third meeting. Emotionally, however, a person may not be ready to do so, and thus sensitivity in this regard is essential.
The leader should be sensitive to people who can take the meeting off track and in a friendly way utilize the guidelines "Keeping the Meeting on Track."
The leader should try to draw out every person in the group so there is full participation. Of course, no one should be forced to talk, but it should be made clear that each one has a unique contribution to make--a contribution that no one else can make.
The leader at some point during a meeting needs to highlight the importance of spiritual disciplines, such as the morning prayer, the 30-day Prayer Experiment, devotional Bible reading. No one, however, should be pushed to do anything. A way in which "discipline" can get emphasized is, for example, is to ask for reports on 30-day prayer experiments.
There are times when meetings can become slower in starting, less vulnerable, with participants talking about things that could be discussed anywhere, or less involved in the sharing of their spiritual pilgrimage. It is at this time that a leader can say, as a leader did one time, "I don't know how you feel, but I feel cheated and unfed because you aren't sharing your lives with me anymore ... I didn't even want to come here today." It worked! The group members went around the table sharing why they weren't vulnerable. The leader also needs to help the group be sensitive to the importance of one-to-one contact between meetings for support, spiritual growth, and to deal with things not easily shared or appreci- ated in the group process.
Someone has said, "The test of a group's effectiveness will never be 'how good the meetings were,' but rather, what resulted in people's lives. The criteria for judging the group's success or failure should be:
"Are individuals taking new steps in faith?" and "Is society being favorable affected?"
Groups function best and more people grow spiritually when the leadership is rotated from meeting to meeting. Ideally, every person in the group at some time should be given a chance to serve as a leader of a meeting. However, this may not be practical. Some individuals will not and cannot act in this capacity. Therefore only volunteers should be used as leaders. The leader does not assume the role of spiritual teacher. He simply starts the meeting, calls for the transitions from the study period to sharing session to prayer session. He sees that meetings begin and end on time.
The leader does perform the function of silencing the overly talkative in a friendly way and checking members who take the discussion off on a tangent. He should guard against advice-giving by himself or someone else. He should see that arguments do not develop on the interpretation of some portion of scripture. As someone has put it: "There is more in the Bible that we do understand and fail to live out than that which we don't understand."
The leader should try to draw out every person in the group so that there is full participation. No one, of course, should be forced to talk, but it should be made clear that each has something unique to contribute to the discussion, something that no one else can make.
Never let the meeting become an end in itself. The group experience is an instrument which God uses to help persons grow and mature as Christians during the time between meetings.
Impose a time limit on the length of your meeting. Usually one hour is sufficient. It is always better to terminate a meeting while interest is high rather than to let it drift on until people get weary or bored.
Talk over special disciplines which the group may want to accept for itself; daily prayer for one another, Bible reading, regular church worship, tithing, a definite commitment to share your faith with others. Each group should agree upon its own disciplines.
Don't panic if periods of silence arise. These can be occasions when God speaks most clearly to us.
Avoid comment or criticism on one another's experiences or convictions. This tends to place judgment on others and stifles freedom of expression.
The mission of The Pittsburgh Experiment is to meet people where they are, to draw them closer to Jesus through authentic relationships and conversations about life and faith.
It needs to be emphasized periodically that the group's effectiveness is everyone's responsibility. That is, everyone must feel responsible to keep at his own disciplined prayer and devotional life and to report on his progress in making his faith workable in all his relationships and endeavors.
As the meetings progress, you will probably experience certain times when God's guidance and direction are very strong; other times meetings may seem rather dull and uneventful. This is the natural ebb and flow of growth. However, if the meetings tend to bog down habitually, call a special re-evaluation meeting. Review your group disciplines. Have a time of quiet in which each member asks God to pinpoint the particular area where he himself is off base. After one such evaluation, meeting, one newer person admitted he had a resentment against an older, experienced member of the group. Another said he harbored unresolved hostility toward a co-worker in his office. Someone else admitted he had not been seriously trying to apply what he had learned in his relationship with his teenage son. After this time of honest confession and prayer, the group resumed its course with new enthusiasm.
If you sense a special need in another person, arrange to see him some-where outside the group. Sometimes there are blocks in our spiritual growth that are more easily shared and prayed through on a one-to-one basis, rather than in a group.
The test of the group's effectiveness will never be "how good the meetings were," but rather what resulted in people's lives. The criteria for judging the group's success or failure should be: "Are individuals taking new steps in faith?" and "Is society being favorably affected?"