In our Merge premarital class, we rely heavily upon married mentor couples who lead seriously dating and engaged couples. In fact, many times, a participant’s experience is directly correlated to the quality of the leader. Typically, the better the leader, the better the experience. Likewise, the worse, or less invested, the leader, the worse the experience.
A few years back, one of our veteran couples, Doug and Jeannie Lewis, put together a list of five lessons learned in leading in Merge. Their wisdom applies to any couple leading another couple through a small group or an entire ministry. Here are five lessons learned from Merge’s most experienced mentor couple.
1. Build the Relationship
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35
Establish the relationship by caring for your couples. Be willing to invest your time and wisdom into their lives. Accept them where they are without judging them, but also care about them enough to not allow them to remain in that place. Create a safe place for conversations and for them to be honest and open with you. Make yourselves available outside of group time to pray for them or meet with them.
Just like what Jesus said above, people will know that we are disciples of Jesus by the way we love one another. Make sure your couples know you are for them and care for them. May your leadership of others be marked by love.
2. Lead Discussions
Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. Colossians 4:6
When you lead a group of couples or individuals, you have the unique privilege of encouraging, challenging, and shepherding them. When you lead, be authentic; share your own testimony and struggles, and direct but do not dominate the discussions.
Typically, your job is not to teach, but to encourage and foster discussion. Whenever possible, support your counsel with scripture. Your personal opinion does not carry weight when speaking into the lives of others. Listen well and ask good questions.
Sometimes the hardest part of leading others is having the hard conversations. Be prepared to challenge and exhort others: ask the awkward questions, focus on scripture, and watch for red flags in the relationship or in their individual lives/walks with Christ.
3. Lead with Passion and Enthusiasm
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Colossians 3.23-24
A great leader puts themselves in the “shoes” of the ones they are leading. They seek to understand what it feels like to be in the class or the group. A great leader sees things from their point of view, through their eyes, as if this is the first time learning the content, hearing the jokes, seeing the videos, and answering the questions.
Be “all-in.” Communicate that you value the ministry, and that you know the materials while at the same time constantly learning and growing in your own walk and leadership.
4. Guard Your Own Marriage
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
Lead with wisdom, discernment, and courage in your own marriage. Esteem your spouse and model your love and respect for one another while leading others. Be transparent and honest and celebrate your differences. Get permission to share stories from your own marriage, and make sure you apply what you are learning and imparting to others. As they say, “Practice what you preach!”
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ. Colossians 4:2-3
Great leaders lead others out of a heart and life of prayer; consistently praying with and for their spouse and their couples. In addition, great leaders live a life of thanksgiving; thanking God for their salvation and for the opportunity to lead others on a daily basis. As leaders, pray for your couples/participants even before you meet them. Pray for those who lead you, for the other leaders, for your church leadership, and for your participants. We communicate our love and care for others when we pray for them.
There are many characteristics of great leaders, but the basis of great leadership is the ability to build relationships, lead biblically-based discussion, lead with passion and enthusiasm, guard your own marriage/intimacy with Christ, and pray for those they lead.
What else would you add to the list?