“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly,” G.K. Chesterton said. I take great comfort in these words, because I’ve been using huddles* to disciple and train leaders for two years now, and have had seasons of doing it very badly. I am sure I made every possible mistake. The flip-side, however, is that learning to lead huddles is very worthwhile, and I’ve learned a lot.
It’s been interesting to think about how I learned, though. While some learning can come from simply making mistakes, real wisdom only comes if you know how to interpret those mistakes and make good course corrections. Most of what I learned came from watching someone else lead huddle well, and having an opportunity to imitate what I observed, receiving critique and affirmation afterward.
Essentially, I learned to lead a huddle by being in a huddle where I had opportunity to practice what I was seeing modeled. This is why it never works to simply grab the information and move straight to implementation. There is something quite unique about the process that needs to be observed and imitated before the implementation can stick. We need to go through imitation first.
Eric Pfeiffer, who oversees coaching for 3DM, brings this up in a list of five signs of huddle leader readiness. The first sign that someone is ready to lead a huddle of their own is that they have “experienced an imitate-able example of huddle long enough to have confidence to imitate what they have received in their own huddle.”
When I read this, I realized that one of the many mistakes I made early on was not giving the people in my huddle enough opportunity to imitate what I was doing for them in huddle. They were observing and participating, but I didn’t give them nearly enough practice within the huddle to equip them to lead their own huddles.
The explicit goal of a huddle is reproduction (disciples who make disciples), so I needed to be equipping them with the skills they needed to lead their own huddles. I realized I had to become much more imitate-able, which meant I needed to explain why I was doing the things I was doing (otherwise it just looks like magic to them), and I needed to give them opportunities to imitate what I was doing.
I had to clarify my expectations to them, and change the way I led huddle to include a lot more imitation, along with critique and affirmation. We have made these changes in the past few weeks and it has been incredible to see the growth in people who have embraced the invitation and challenge of that kind of relationship.
I’ve found that leading this way actually requires a lot more forethought and intentionality on my part, because I can’t just fall back into the easy rhythm of “leading a meeting.” Instead I need to be specifically praying about those I’m discipling, thinking about what their needs are in terms of developing both character and competency in making disciples. The payoff is that we don’t feel “stuck” anymore, and it’s starting to bear some good fruit!
* Huddles are 3DM’s vehicle for discipleship and leadership development. For more information, check out Building a Discipling Culture (Kindle | paperback).
Brian Spahr says
Really helpful Ben. Been in conversation with other leaders lately who have questions about the "imitation" aspect of discipleship. Passed it along to them.
Ben Sternke says
Glad for that, Brian!
Ben – all well and good, but what happens if you don't have a local huddle to imitate? Or even much in the way of missional Christian leader to model yourself after? I suppose – just do it badly, as it is worth doing, right….?
Ben Sternke says
Great question, and it's a really common issue. On the one hand, sometimes you've got to do the best you can with what you've got, but when possible I suggest finding a way to get some kind of investment, even if it's not an ideal (local) situation.One example is the phone coaching that 3DM does – it allows leaders to have a huddle experience modeled and gives some training in their language and tools. I've seen this approach bear really good fruit in leaders' lives.
Ben, what are some ways you are brining imitation into your huddle? I have been challenged recently to have my people teach a shape (including scripture) to the group, and also have them process for another member. Are there any other specifics you can offer?
Ben Sternke says
Zak those are two of the main ways I let others do imitation in the huddle context. One important note is to make sure you give folks who do it instant, public feedback, both critique and affirmation. This helps everyone learn.One of the ways I begin to get people thinking this way is to bring them in specifically on the “Discuss” phase of the Learning Circle. I'll ask “Which tool/lens/matrix/axiom would you apply to this?” or “Is there a Scripture that comes to mind?”One other thing is to talk about what I'm doing as I'm doing it. For example, after I ask a “Why” question, I'll point out that this is part of the Reflect phase… Then I'll ask people what questions they would ask. Things like that help people “have a go” without the pressure of taking someone around the circle all by themselves the first time.