Moses was finally in his sweet spot. He was confident in God and in his leadership of the people. He had stories to tell his father in law of what the Lord had done through him. But like all good leaders (and athletes!) he needed coaching to stay in the sweet spot of maximum effectiveness, life balance and enjoying the journey.
Jethro is a great and honoured coach, a seasoned wise leader, which we observe from Moses deference to him as he arrives (v7) with much honour shown.
The coaching session is very natural – it starts as a teaching moment is about to show itself. Jethro begins his coaching session by being a great listener. In v8 Moses tells the story of what the Lord has been doing since they last met. Next he celebrates with Moses – “And Jethro rejoiced for all he good…” Moses is able to teach Jethro a thing or two as they talk (v11) because great coaches are also still great learners! The next day Jethro observes Moses in action , rather than taking over. Then he asks some great questions. The best questions are open ones “What?”, “Why?” He then listens to the answer Moses has v15-16 before offering the constructive criticism – the huge tweak that will save Moses from burnout and keep him in the sweet spot.
Great leaders don’t just have followers – they create more leaders! Moses needs to look for people who are able and trustworthy (v21). As New Testament Christians we can add full of the Spirit (Acts 6:3-5). They will have different measures of leadership capacity – so Jethro suggests dividing the leaders into differing levels of leadership for thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. The benefit will be better leadership, endurance (rather than burnout) and the people will enjoy peace. Then Jethro the coach leaves to let them get on with it.
I loved reading this passage this morning – it was confirming what I have been learning about upping my game with leadership coaching in Tony Comacho’s Mining for Gold – Developing Kingdom leaders through coaching. I will be looking to coach leaders into their sweet spot more and more.
With our small groups, good leaders attract followers and then become less good because they have more people than they can look after well! Some of our small groups have got large. And the groups love their leaders and naturally want to stick together. What this passage helps to show us, is that once a group gets past 10 it is no longer a small group and the benefits of being a small group begin to diminish. It becomes a victim of its own success. The lounge is too crowded, not everyone can share during the evening, there’s physically no room for anyone else and the leaders can’t give as much attention to everyone as they could before. It need to be broken back down to 10s again.
Jethro’s wisdom is that the smallest unit of the people of God is 10. As groups grow past 10, hitting 14 they need to multiply or subdivide so that they can stick around a maximum of 10. The pain is that the new leaders aren’t yet as good as the established ones and often many will want to stay in the group. Jethro’s answer (v17) is “What you are doing is not good!” It may feel like you will loose the sweet spot of the group dynamic. The reality is that by around 14 in the group, the sweetness is already going. The challenge is to multiply the wonderful DNA you have had and have two great groups! It’ll not take as much time as you think for both groups to hit the sweet spot. That way the established leaders are back in that sweet spot of manageable numbers to care for and crucially be on mission with and new leaders are beginning to find their sweet spot too.
If groups multiply as they grow past 14, we will find more people getting into their sweet spot of leadership, there will be better and manageable care of people in the group and we will better fulfil the great commission of making disciples from the nations in our area. If you are in a large small group, then you may need to repent (as in change your thinking) about multiplying it into two to keep the sweet spot!