7 Steps to Small Group Success

As a leader of small group leaders, you need to understand … group leaders want to win. If they have signed to spend time with your students, gone through the process to become a leader, and have committed to be consistent, then they are not looking to fail. If you have established groups in your ministry, or are looking to start a great small groups plan soon, here are some ways you can ensure that your small group leaders are set-up for success.

1. Clarify Their Role

Clarity around what a successful group looks like is imperative for helping them win with students. If you have recruited without being crystal clear on what the ideal is, then you can never expect a group leader to rise to it. One of the best things you can do as a leader of small group leaders is sit down and clearly lay out what the perfect leader would look like. From there, craft some memorable handles (statements) that your group leaders can have to help guide their decision making as a group leader.

At North Point Transit, we have what we call The Five Essentials. These are five guiding “essentials” that help our leaders know and understand what a great group leader looks like. These work for us, but take the time to figure out what works best in your environment.

Action Step: Ask yourself, “Where do I feel like our small group leaders aren’t meeting my expectation?s” From there, you have a solid launching pad to discover where their role needs to be clarified because often times when expectations aren’t met, there is a lack of clarity.    

2. Make Them The Priority, Really

Often times, I hear student pastors talk about how much they value small groups, but they can’t figure out why their’s are not taking off. Most of the time, as I dig a little deeper, it becomes obvious that the reason their groups aren’t where they should be is because they have not been prioritized. Competing systems and programming, a lack of funding, and a lack of consistency in their vision, create an environment where group leaders cannot flourish. As a leader of small group leaders, ensure that your small groups are the priority. Give groups the proper funding they need, a clear vision, and eliminate or reposition any system or program that hinders the quality of your small groups.

Action Step: Run all your programming through the filter of this question, ”Does this system/program enhance or erode the quality of our small groups.”

3. Give Them Great Questions

Small Group Leaders want to have great conversations, but they don’t always have time to think of great questions on their own. On top of that, during a small group, it can be very intimating to a lot of group leaders to try and come up with questions on the spot. As a leader of small group leaders, take the time to craft and distribute great questions. This will take away a lot of the anxiety that comes along with leading a group.

Action Step: One of my friends, Britt Kitchen, recently gave me some good insight on creating great group questions. As you develop your questions for this Sunday, here are a few pointers …

– Students like to complain and are united in common frustrations.  Allow students adequate time to talk about situations that frustrate them regarding the topic you’re discussing.

– Don’t miss the low-hanging fruit. When you get to the Bible passage, it’s often helpful to define words, ask the seemingly “simple” questions, and clarify characters in the story. Don’t let your seminary degree push you to ask questions they aren’t ready for.

– Challenge them to take one simple step for the up-coming week. If you are expecting students to apply three or five things, you’re going to set students up for failure. For example, if you’re talking about spending time with God and ask students to read their Bible five times, pray everyday, and journal about everything they are learning, it is likely a student will be overwhelmed and not do any of it. Give them one step to take.

4. Don’t Let The Communicator Steal Their Thunder

Communicators love to create moments of commitment. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you are also asking group leaders to create moments of commitment, then you have unintentionally created a competing system. If the goal is to set up group leaders as best as you can, then allow them to be the hero. Don’t be afraid to move “creating commitments” outside of the communicator’s sphere of responsibility. This will allow the communicator to play a big role in setting up the small group leader. They toss it up to the group leader, but the group leader is the one who dunks in.

Action Step: Have a conversation with your communicator to let him/her know that you aren’t looking for a homerun; you are looking for a double. This week, have the communicator only cover one broad application and then have him/her continually drive down the bottom line. Let the communicator know that you want small groups to cover the specific applications in small group. 

5. Invest In Great Spaces

The more comfortable students are, the more likely they are to open up in conversation. Investing in great small group spaces will communicate to the students that you want them to feel comfortable, but more importantly it communicates to the leader that you value their group.

Action Step: Make one or two small adjustments to your small group spaces that will help leaders and students feel more comfortable.

6. Systematize What Pulls Them Away From Relationship

Small Group Leaders only have a certain amount of time to commit to being a group leader, which makes the time they do have very precious. As a leader of small group leaders, work to systematize the tasks that pull them away from focusing on the relationship. This will strengthen the bond between the group leader and the student, as well as relieve the unnecessary stress of keeping up with administration.

Action Step: If your small group leaders are responsible for securing new student information and/or taking attendance, begin working on taking that off their plate.  

7. Invest In Them As People, Not Just As Group Leaders

Small group leaders win when they are spiritually healthy themselves. As a leader of small group leaders, taking time to invest in them as people first will help keep your group leaders healthy as they pour into your students. Intentionally taking time to get involved in their lives will require a significant investment, but it will be well worth it. Many leaders shy away from this because they don’t have the time, but an easy way to ensure this is happening is to create a second tier of leadership for your small group leaders. This second tier’s sole job is to care for, develop and invest in group leaders as individuals, not just group leaders.

Action Step: Plan out a specific time this week when you (or a second leadership tier member) can take one of your group leaders out to coffee … not to discuss your ministry, but to discuss their life.  

Question: These are just a few of the ways that you can set up your small groups for success. What other ideas have you found that help set up group leaders for a win? Start a discussion by leaving a comment below.