John Maxwell’s axiom that “everything rises and falls on leadership” is definitely true of small-group facilitators — and it’s particularly true of recovery-group facilitators. If the goal of recovery is to provide a healthy, safe environment where some of the heavy lifting of discipleship can happen, then your recovery ministry team must be built with healthy, safe disciples. Let’s break that down a little further.

Recovery-group facilitators must be spiritually and emotionally healthy. Group facilitators don’t have to be perfect, but should be “fellow strugglers” who are further along in having victory over their areas of struggle. For this reason, it is necessary to have participated in a recovery group prior to assuming a leadership role. Remember, recovery isn’t just for addicts and the abused — it’s for anyone who’s dealing with grief, unhealthy relationships, depression, anxiety, sinful patterns or other distressing life situations.

Participating in a recovery group not only helps future group leaders become healthier disciplers, but also gives those in leadership the chance to walk with people they’ll entrust this ministry to. When looking at potential leaders, consider these questions: Is God’s power evident through their weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)? Are they working on their own personal issues and struggles in a healthy way? On the other hand, are there any voyeuristic or codependent needs they’re seeking to meet through the group?

Recovery-group facilitators should be safe people. The group needs to be a safe place for members to be transparent and to be “not OK.” Safe environments are facilitated by safe people. Potential leaders need to facilitate with both grace and truth (Colossians 1:6). Do they model “bearing one another’s burdens” well for the group (Galatians 6:2), while maintaining healthy boundaries? Can they tactfully redirect a discussion headed in an unhelpful direction yet speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)?  Additionally, in order to keep the group safe, leaders must be able to be trusted with confidential information while being relating to others in a transparent, genuine way.

Recovery-group facilitators need to be maturing disciples. This might seem obvious, but assuming can be dangerous. Often when someone experiences freedom through a recovery ministry, he or she wants to get involved and help lead others through the process. This is natural, and even desired. However, it’s crucial to make sure that the person is actively pursuing Christian maturity, so carefully examine the spiritual lives of your potential facilitators. Is the word of Christ dwelling in them richly (Colossians 3:16)? Are they actively putting sin to death in their lives (Colossians 3:5-11) and practicing confession and prayer (James 5:16)? Is life transformation evident in their lives (Romans 12:1-2)? Are they reproducing Christ-followers (2 Timothy 2:2)? Are they living in spiritual community (1 Thessalonians 2:8)? Since recovery is an integral part of the church’s discipleship ministry, recovery leaders need to exhibit these qualities of growing disciples.

One more piece of advice: Take your time. Our churches are increasingly filled with broken, needy people, and a growing recovery ministry will always require more group leaders than you have. But it’s imperative to take the time to walk with and carefully choose each leader. With time, relationship and the Holy Spirit’s help, you can choose healthy, safe disciples for a recovery ministry.

This article was originally published in

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