When Mike Priestap learned of the need for small group leaders at McLane Church-Erie, he felt an excitement and motivation to encourage others in Christ. He had been leading a Wednesday night independent small group at his home for about 25 years. Mike felt God now calling him to join and perhaps teach another group where he could get more involved in the church. He signed up one Sunday to lead a new small group, and almost two years later he continues to meet weekly with his group of men. The group meets every Thursday morning at a Tim Horton's for an hour of fellowship, prayer, and teaching. And of course, donuts and coffee. Mike says that he sets aside about forty minutes to teach either the sermon-based curriculum that is provided by our pastors or material that he has developed himself. Then, the group has a time of prayer requests and prays for each other before their meeting is over. This short time together each week has proved to be very meaningful.
When asking Mike how he has seen God work through his group he responded:
"The greatest way I've seen Him work is the longer we meet together, the more everybody trusts each other. Everyone prays for one another, especially when problems arise. I've seen God work in the midst of the group to encourage the members, and also in growing us. When you meet in a group, a lot of accountability takes place. As people get comfortable and begin to open up you begin to find the areas that they need encouragement in. You can begin to gear the teaching toward that, and begin to ask week to week how the person is doing with that thing. God has done a lot, and I know He's doing more than we even know about."
Here are a few of Mike’s comments on the highlights and lessons learned during his journey with his small group:
“I pretty much have led the group, but I try to let the group lead itself. I try to facilitate and make sure there's continuity and consistency with the day and time we meet, and also with making sure discussion keeps moving along during the study. Once the meeting starts, I just try to let the Lord lead it and let the Holy Spirit determine which direction we're going in…I think that the longer you're together, the more you trust one another, and it becomes very worthwhile.”
Consistency and Commitment
“…When you lead a group it is not always going to be perfect. There will always be people that arrive late and people that stop coming; and that's okay. I think that a leader of a group like that will ultimately realize that God is the leader. As long as you're praying about it and asking God to conduct it in the way that He would want to, then you don't have to worry about those things.
One thing specifically that I realized I had to do with the group is to stop letting attendance determine whether the group would even ‘be’ or not. I had to get to the point where I would say 'I'm going to be at Tim Hortons every Thursday morning at 8 o'clock, even if I'm the only one there.’ I think that's a sacrifice that a leader makes. You have to commit to it and you have to be there. I think that so far in about two years, I've been there by myself just one time. Somebody always shows up.”
New Relationships and Opportunities
“One thing that [my small group] has really done is that it has introduced me to new people. The people I would meet with have friends, and so I meet them…and we pray for some of their friends and talk about things with them. It has also given me confidence and reassured me as the group has grown that I can encourage people outside of my group…God has stretched me also in that I'm being given more opportunities to lead in the church, and that has really stemmed from being a group leader.”
God's Work in Mike's Leading
“I believe that I learn the most when I am teaching. When you're developing a lesson or being held responsible for something like that you really learn a lot. The Lord is really growing me because I have had to be accountable for the things I am teaching, and I have had to prepare every week. It's a great tool to motivate you to be in the Word and study it.”
Editor's Note: Special thanks to our summer intern, Caroline Priestap, for interviewing her dad and writing this article. She may be calling you next! If you'd like to share your group's story, please let us know. Get in touch by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (734-1907 ext. 40).
We’re excited to see how God continues to work in Mike’s group. Leaders, feel free to share your thoughts on Mike’s reflections as a leader in the reply box below.