Connections: Steve Gladen
February 10, 2013
Purposeful Small Groups
After graduating from Evangel University (Assemblies of God) in Springfield, Mo., with a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies, Columbus, Ohio, native Steve Gladen has been on staff with churches of five denominations, including the past 15 years at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. He oversees more than 3,500 adult small groups at the megachurch. Gladen, who has a master of divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., spoke to Pentecostal Evangel News Editor John W. Kennedy about his recent book, Leading Small Groups With Purpose.
evangel: Why is a small group a biblical formula for changing culture?
GLADEN: When you look at the New Testament, it’s clear they had two delivery systems, found in Acts 5:42: temple courts and house-to-house. Small groups are modeled in Acts 2:42. Spiritual formation happens best in the form of community. That means however you group your people, in biblical community you can see life-change happen.
evangel: What key traits should small group leaders possess?
GLADEN: When Jesus picked the 12 disciples He didn’t pick the pretty people, the most educated people, the most wealthy people, or the “who’s who” of Jerusalem. He didn’t even choose the biblically literate people of the day, the Pharisees and Sadducees. He picked people willing to go along on a journey and trust God through a relational discipleship process.
evangel: Have you found potential small group leaders often feel unqualified or underqualified?
GLADEN: They usually feel underqualified as leaders. They also tend to feel too busy. A lot of potential leaders don’t realize it’s not as difficult as they think to lead a group.
evangel: What are the most common excuses people employ for not joining a small group?
GLADEN: Child care is one of the big issues we have. Are people using it as an excuse, or is it really an obstacle? I know when people really want to get tickets to a favorite sporting event, they find a way to make it happen.
evangel: Yet it seems churches — big and small — all have the “there’s no one to watch my kids” dilemma.
GLADEN: For those who truly have an obstacle, the church can use centralized groups that provide child care. Or sometimes members of the group pitch in together and hire a sitter. Another solution is to rotate two men or two women from the group out every week to watch the kids. There can be a bonding there that there wouldn’t be otherwise. Another thought is to get teenagers looking to serve groups to babysit the kids.
evangel: Talk about the importance of being flexible. If someone is having a meltdown, that’s not the time for the leader to make sure finishing the lesson is the priority.
GLADEN: A lot of times we forget what God wants in this whole equation. So often what drives a group is a study or a project, and we miss the highest commodity: people. God wants us to focus on the moment, and those divine opportunities that only the Holy Spirit can bring us that can help transform the lives of people.