When a new baby comes into the world, relatives and friends ask, “How’s the baby doing?” A few will ask, “How’s Mom doing?” and even fewer will ask, “How’s Dad?” This does not make sense when we consider the significant and interrelated needs of all three people. The same phenomenon can occur when we talk with the leader of a small community. “How’s the group doing?” we ask. But the more important questions are “How are you doing as a leader?” and “What’s happening in your spiritual life and ministry?”
The support and ongoing formation of small community leaders may be the most important way to ensure that small communities take root and flourish in the parish. Well-formed leaders are one of the primary keys in developing small communities. Such leaders can nurture small community members into a deeper awareness of God’s dynamic presence. The Parish Core Community can imitate Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in the special care he gave to his disciples, both for their own sake and in their role as apprentices of the Good News. Fostering leaders’ personal relationship with Jesus through prayer, Scripture, sacraments, and service is an important responsibility of the Core Community or pastoral team. Offering ongoing support and formation ensures that leaders can, in turn, offer caring pastoral attention to small groups.
A good beginning point for pastoring leaders is to identify their needs and hopes, so steps can be taken to acknowledge and respond to these needs. The process for identifying these needs should also model the kind of service leaders offer in small groups. This means that identifying needs should be rooted in prayer, based on Scripture and listening to others, and built upon a model of companioned service that is enlivened by the Holy Spirit. Such a process can be used often to establish and modify a blueprint for pastoral services to small community leaders.