How NOT to lead a huddle

As the movement of mission and discipleship has grown over the last few years, we have seen time and time again how vital huddle has been as a vehicle for investing in leaders who will multiply out vision, culture, lifestyle and strategy to bring the change that God has called us to.

If we truly desire to see more than just transfer of information from one person to another then the vehicle of huddle is essential. Huddles are a structured tool which create an environment for DNA to be effectively multiplied into others.

As with many things, there are effective and ineffective ways to lead huddles! I am privileged to have seen many leaders growing thriving, fruitful huddles and multiplying themselves effectively into others to raise up missional leaders. However, my experience tells me that just naming a group “huddle” doesn’t automatically mean it functions like one!

As leaders, we always need both the principles & practices Jesus gave us to follow  as well as people around us that He’s  given us to reflect with & learn from. Who are those people for you? If you don’t have them, where could you start looking for or initiating that kind of relationship?

As you begin to have those principles, practices and people in place, there needs to be some mechanism of reflecting on what you are doing, discussing with others and asking questions like “Are we doing this well?” “How did Jesus do this?” “Is this becoming fruitful?” “What changes do we need to make?”

We love coaching leaders in huddles because we see the long-term fruit of discipling others in this way.We don’t just want to tell (INFORMATION) people what we’ve learnt and hope they work it out too; we want to show (IMITATION) them and get them to experience it, so that they can go and lead others (INNOVATION) in the same process.

In the next couple of weeks, we are going to write a little bit more on huddles (we are also starting to produce a few more resources to help leaders who are trying to pioneer huddles – watch this space).

We’ll start with some examples of what not to do and next time I’ll share some of my thoughts on what makes a good huddle.

So for today (slightly tongue-in-cheek) here’s a guide for how NOT to lead a huddle – and some examples of what we may or may not be thinking as we do this!

Change the time/date without telling anyone

“Hopefully they will remember when to turn up and feel it’s important to come, even without me telling them”

Poor communication about arrangements for huddle can really de-value the whole process for everyone in it. Don’t set yourself up to fail before people have even turned up.

Don’t bother to prepare

I don’t need to take this too seriously, I can probably get away without praying beforehand or seeking any direction for the huddle.

They will all remember what they were processing last time anyway, so they can remind me – I don’t need to remember to check back and reflect or plan.

Hmmm… practicalities – I can sort out any important materials or resources during the huddle while people are talking.

People will respond to the culture you set.  Don’t present huddle as unimportant by not preparing beforehand, either spiritually or practically. You want your time together to be as fruitful as possible, not spent catching up on things you could have done beforehand.  They have sacrificed time to be there, so make it worth the sacrifice.

Don’t set any direction

Perhaps I’ll just let people talk about whatever they want. If they speak for long enough they’ll share something important – it’s easier just to go with whatever they say.

Whilst this often feels easier, you are not helping anybody – neither yourself as the leader nor those you are meant to be leading. Setting direction is vital to the fruitfulness of the huddle. Just think – a ship without a rudder isn’t much of a blessing to anyone!

Freely change the agenda or content

I said we’d do something else, but this seems like a more interesting topic for now, so let’s see where it goes

If you’ve just told people what the agenda/purpose is for the huddle, don’t then disregard it and change to something else. Be clear about what the agenda is and stick to it.

Just let a few people dominate

The loudest people probably have the most insightful and important reflections, so I’ll just go with the flow and let the quieter ones keep themselves to themselves. They can pipe up if they want to.

Everyone in the huddle has equal value – its important to demonstrate this in the way that people are given attention and the opportunity to share. Don’t assume that just because people aren’t talking that they don’t have anything to say.

If in doubt, just keep talking

As long as I’m talking, I’m leading. If a thought pops into my head or I’ve had an important personal realisation, it must be for now, even if it’s unrelated and it means I need to interrupt someone.

Remember, this is about leading and serving others, not about us as huddle leaders. With any thought, encouragement or challenge that you share, it needs to be something that will help those in the huddle process what’s being shared, not start them off on a tangent.

Don’t worry about processing properly

Most of the time people already know what the problem is, so I’ll just make sure they talk for a little bit and then leave them to work out what to do about it.

Again, this can be the easy option, but it’s not the right one! One of the most important things about huddle is people learning to take personal responsibility and go all the way round the Learning Circle for themselves – and seeing the change that results.

Tell them what the challenge is

They haven’t figured it out for themselves, and we are running out of time – it’s quicker just to tell them what their challenge is and send them away with instructions.

This may seem helpful but in reality can confuse or discourage people if they haven’t had the chance to process in huddle properly. Either they won’t appreciate what you see and so won’t fully embrace the challenge, or you may be wrong, in which case you are sending them off in the wrong direction! Neither of these will result in the change that God wants to bring. In both cases, you have also disempowered them to be able to hear God for themselves and respond – this is one of the key objectives of a huddle.

Use it as an opportunity to have a team meeting at the same time

If it comes up, I’ll just let people start discussing any practical issues that need resolving. There’s always another time to come back to somebody’s karios.

Don’t get side-lined by issues that are not part of why you have gathered as a huddle. If God is bringing something up in someone, He is doing it for a reason.

Don’t push anyone to make a plan

If they need to respond to something, they’ll realise and let me know. I don’t want to push them too hard and upset them.

People are in your huddle for a reason – you are leading them! It’s important to recognise this role and push them to make plans where necessary. Being a leader and serving people involves honouring your commitment to challenge them.

Leave accountability up to them

I won’t worry about writing down or following up what anyone is processing or planning to do. If it really was that important, they can come back to me on it and let me know how it’s going.

Accountability is one of the most important values you can bring to a huddle. Without it, those in your huddle will never really have the full experience of being on a discipleship journey together. They will also never see the fullness of God bringing change – it’s that important, so make sure you model it.


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