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Frontline Ministry

How much effort should we put in helping small group leaders be equipped in biblical counseling? That’s an excellent question. 

Here at Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC) we think it is a no brainer. In fact, churches that equip their small group leaders as front line biblical counselors are leading the way in transformational ministry.  I just finished training some amazing Small Group Leaders (SGLs) and Flock Leaders (FLs) at HBC in Chicago (FLs  have 6-10 Small Group Leaders and groups under their care). We see the Small Group Ministry as the front lines for Biblical Soul Care (BSC) which is what we call our full-orbed counseling ministry. SGLs are the first responders to the hurting in our church.

Levels of Training

We have four levels of training at Harvest. The first level is for anyone who wants to be more intentional as a disciple and advocate for others by living out the “one anothers” of Scripture.

Level 2 training is for SGLs and we equip them with four critical skills and over twenty tools to assess, target, and counsel at the heart level. As the leaders went through the training they were deeply moved and encouraged as the paradigm of an expert versus an advocate model of care, and privacy versus community in counseling were challenged. Often more applied and impacting counseling happens in real-life scenarios like in small groups.

The idea of a church counseling ministry without equipping the small group leaders is just plain thinking hard—not smart. Small groups are the preventive arm of biblical soul care. They are the ground troops in a full assault on sin and suffering.

Components of Blended Training

As we went through the skills training, we provided what we call “what-if scenarios.” The 70-some participants came alive as they identified and traced fruit issues to the root level. Their confidence in God’s Word increased and their skill in applying the Word with truth and grace grew.

We also taught them about how to assess group maturity and how to move from superficial, authentic, transparent, to vulnerable. We set the bar at “uncommon community.” They were pumped because God sets that bar for us and they were learning what it looks like to attain it as Christ and the Gospel gains a central place in all we do.


SGLs were hungry to be taught the fundamentals of biblical soul care. They wanted to be better care-givers. We defined their role as facilitator, discipler, and counselor rolled into one. The high-impact SGL goes deep. He or she listens, observes, calls out, and encourages the group.

The intimidation factor of “who am I to tell them” started to melt as we went through the “one anothers” of Scripture together. We discussed humility, bearing each others’ burdens, and the tension and blend of truth and grace.

The SGLs had to take an inventory of their own integrity and walk as well as that of their group. We created a safe place to soberly consider closing the gap between our spoken theology and our lived theology. It was, in a word, beautiful.


Here are a few testimonies we received:

“Now I know what a healthy SG looks like.”

“This should be a requirement for all SGLs.”

“I am applying heart revealing questions and our group is already more transparent.”

“I am overwhelmed, in a good way. I will spend the rest of my life learning and applying these teachings.”

I cannot overstate the importance of equipping small group leaders in biblical soul care and counseling. We are not a church with a counseling staff, or a counseling center. We are becoming a church of biblical soul care counselors.

We hope that this series on equipping has flamed into flame a greater desire to work hard and strive for excellence in training the people entrusted to you and your ministry. We are so excited about what God is doing in our church and believe he desires to do the same and more in other places around our country and this world.

Posted on May 8, 2011