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Co-Leaders—the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The best and worse thing to happen to me as a small group leader is a co-leader. But you probably knew that already. There’s a part of us that always thinks it’s a good idea to have another adult who can. . .

  • Step in when we’re sick
  • Keep track of our students at a water park
  • Tag-team when two or more 7th grade girls are crying
  • Help drive to events

At the same time, I’ve never met a small group leader who didn’t cringe, even just a little, at the thought of having another leader in their group. After all, we know that for all the benefits another adult can bring, they can also bring complications. We wonder. . .

What if they believe something different than me?

What if they say something different?

And maybe most concerning to me. . .

What if my few like them more?

Anytime you add another human, but especially another adult human to the group, dynamics in your group get more complicated, but your group also gets better. Adding another adult means. . .

  • Another perspective
  • Another set of experiences
  • Another set of hands to help
  • Another voice in your students’ lives saying the same thing.
  • Another person with emotional energy to invest in your few.

Basically, a co-leader can be hard, but it’s totally worth it.

And, there are some things the two of you can decide together that will make leading together a little more fun and a lot less awkward.

1. Decide to hang out. The best relationships are the relationships we invest time in. When our girls were freshmen, my co-leader and I decided that, even though we wanted to hang out with our girls, the fourteen hour ride to and from church camp each summer would be the perfect time for us to reconnect. We talked about life, caught up, and planned the next year together. We also meet 45 minutes before our small group each week for a quick catch-up. It helps keep us on the same page and to focus on our few when they’re around.

2. Decide to disagree. And at some point, we will all disagree with our co-leaders. So why not have a plan for how to handle it? Whatever it is, disagreements rarely feel comfortable, but they don’t always mean something is wrong. It may actually be a good thing for your students to see two adult believers with different opinions who actually get along or two adults who disagree and seek counsel together. A disagreement doesn’t have to be a discouragement, and it doesn’t have to catch you off guard. So decide it’s going to happen and decide how you’ll handle it before your year begins.

3. Decide to play to your strengths.

There’s a good chance your co-leader will be good at something you’re not—and vice versa. The problem is we can’t leverage each others strengths unless we talk about them, and that may mean admitting to some of our own weaknesses. For example, I’m not the most organized person. I could spend time and energy trying to be more organized, but my co-leader Sara is a project manager and business analyst. So we decided from the beginning that she would handle logistics, rides, rosters and systems for our group. At the same time, I have a lot of experience connecting with parents, so that is my arena. The truth is, leading your few is a lot of work. And while it’ll be tempting to think, “I should be better in this area”, you’re both more likely to stay in this role longer if you learn to divide and conquer.

4. Decide to fight for longevity.

One of the best things that can happen to your few is to have two consistent adults who journey with them for their entire time in middle or high school—two people who know their story, know their family, know why they think, ask, dream, and disrupt the way that they do. Anyone can do that for a little while. Anyone can sprint. But if the two of you are in it for the long-haul, you have to decide to fight for longevity. Fighting for longevity means fighting for the other person to get a nap in at church camp. It means fighting for them to not have to host the group sleepover at their house every time. It’s fighting for them to take a week or a month off to rest after a particularly busy season. And, it’s deciding that when someone needs a night off, we cheer for that person because they are protecting their longevity, and that’s what’s best for your few.

I get it. After a long week at camp or a busy season at work, the last text you want to get is “Hey, can you take group this week? I’m worn out.”  But there is so much more at stake than this week’s conversation. Cheering for your co-leader to take a break protects your relationship, protects their longevity and encourages them to show you a little compassion when you need a break, too.

Written By Crystal Chiang
XP3 High School

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