Leaders change the world by inspiring the people around them.  As Bill Hybels, founding pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, says, “Everyone wins when a leader gets better.”

Learning about leadership is a huge passion of mine. I became fascinated with leadership after starting my first business in 2006. At just 22 years old, I hired my first employee. Two years later, I had 10 people working for me and I deeply desired to become a great mentor and leader following in the footsteps of a few influential people that had mentored me.

I’ve always wanted to share what I’ve learned about leadership, but I didn’t think I had anything to add to the global conversation. Now that I’ve been a business and franchise owner for almost 12 years (with four separate businesses), I still don’t claim to know anything profound (insert crazy emoji face here), but I’m more passionate than ever about helping individuals grow into the people God created them to be. My focus is health and wellness—and leaders must be healthy in order to be as effective as possible.  When we are physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy, we can change the world!

In the spirit of changing the world, I’ve committed to writing a blog series for leaders. This first post was written for small group leaders, but its application can be used for business owners and managers, moms and dads, and anyone who “leads” people. Everyone is a leader—we excel when we embrace that fact and realize our sphere of influence.

Blessings on your leadership journey.

Creating Healthy Small Groups

People join small groups, Bible studies, and book clubs for friendship, personal growth, and for a place to belong. If you have ever been in a small group, you know the transformative power they have.

Below are some tips to create a healthy small group environment. These tips can also be used in workplace meetings!

  1. If you choose to have food, nourish your participants. Rather than busting out the Cheetos and soda during a meeting, have everyone bring their favorite fruit or veggie and homemade dip. And, have a selection of organic teas available. Try out a new beverage such as kombucha (healthy fermented tea). It’s less scary to try something new in a group and if you don’t like it—whatever “it” is—you can give it away rather than wasting it.
  2. Another fun activity in a group is to cook something together or have everyone cook something healthy and then bring dishes and recipes to swap. I have done nut exchanges instead of cookie exchanges in past Living Wellness Growth Groups. Everyone brings their favorite nut or dried fruit and we make homemade trail mix to share. Think about what habits you are currently doing with your group and then think of ways to make those habits healthier.
  3. Add in some movement! If you’re in a morning group, choose some active movement or exercise to kick off the group: 10 push-ups, 10 squats, and 10 leg lifts get the blood pumping and the brain active! If you’re in an evening group, try some stretching exercises. The exercise doesn’t have to be extensive. You don’t need the right clothes or equipment; the magic happens when you just start. Check out these pages from Living Wellness for Growth Groups for stretching ideas.

If you’re not sure where to start with your group, just start by sharing your intention: “Hey, group, I’d like to be healthier, will you all join me on my journey?” Accountability is a major key to success! And traveling on a positive new journey is more enjoyable with company.

I’d love to hear how you make your groups or meetings healthy. Join the conversation on social media by tagging us @4LivingWellness on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and use #LWfacilitators

*A version of this article was first published on the Living Wellness Blog*

Ashley Darkenwald

Author Ashley Darkenwald

Ashley Darkenwald is an inspirational speaker and the author of Living Wellness, the book encompassing her 10+ years as a fitness professional, club owner, and nutrition fanatic. Ashley enjoys homeschooling her two children, leading worship at the WHY church in Elk River, and playing sand volleyball in the summer. Ashley’s favorite speaking topic is FREEDOM through the practice of exceptional health.

More posts by Ashley Darkenwald

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