n my book collection is The Class Leader. His Work and How to Do It. by John Atkinson. You canread it online or download a PDF. Originally written in 1874, it explains the methodology and importance of Methodist small group leaders. The ministry model it describes sets a challenging benchmark for effective small groups. Here are a few highlights:
The pastor is the bishop or overseer of the entire membership of the charge to which he is appointed. It is his business to watch over their souls; to exercise discipline; to teach, reprove, rebuke, with all authority; to statedly preach the Gospel; to visit from house to house; and administer the sacraments.
The pastor, however, cannot exercise all the requisite personal oversight. The membership in many Churches is numerous, the demands made upon the pulpit are more and more stern, requiring a large amount of time to be given by the preacher to the studies and thinking necessary to the preparation of the Sabbath sermons; and with the numerous calls and interruptions inseparable from his office, it is impossible for him to give that thorough attention to all details of spiritual superintendance which the care of souls demand. The Church has made most wise and adequate provision for enabling the pastor to make his supervision complete by means of the services of Class Leaders.
All the members in full connection, and all on probation, are placed in classes, and each class is put in charge of a Leader. It is his office to see each person under his care once a week, that he may know the state of their souls. His office, therefore, is spiritual supervision.
Class Leaders in John Wesley’s Words
I called together all the Leaders of the classes, and desired that each would make a particular inquiry into the behavior of those whom he saw weekly. They did so. Many disorderly walkers were detected. Some turned from the evil of their ways. Some were put away from us. Many saw it with fear, and rejoiced unto God with reverence.
- John Wesley
Over time, the home-to-home Class Leader visits evolved into big group meetings of accountability.
How to Truly Lead a Small Group
Every Leader is in some degree a Gospel minister… The Leader, then, is to care not simply for his class collectively, but for all members separately.
If he simply hold class-meeting once a week, and look no further after his members, his knowledge of them will be very imperfect. He should know them, not simply in the class room, but in their daily life, their company, diversions, business; in their besetments, perplexities, discouragements; their temptations, falls, and uprisings. He should know their peculiarities of character, temperament, and condition, and so be able to rightly admonish, advise, and encourage them, and communicate to the pastor what it is needful for him to know concerning each.
Training Produces Results
The urgent need of the world is Christian workers who can accomplish results.
To ensure the largest success of Christian workers there must commonly be training.