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Improving Your Small Group Leadership Culture

Building a rich developmental culture for your Small Group leaders is essential for moving the church Jesus is building in the world forward.  Jesus said, “Go and make COMMUNITY of all nations.”   No, he said, “Go and make GROUPS of all nations.”  No, he said, “Go and make MISSION of all nations.”  No, Jesus actually said, “Go and make Disciples of all nations.”

Small Group leaders that are leading in your church are living in what Jesus asked every Christ follower to do, make disciples, but they can’t do it alone.  They need to be a part of a leadership culture in your church where they are reminded of the vision and mission of Jesus in the world.  With all of the ‘noise’ and ‘voices’ blaring at each of us every day from culture, advertising, the kids, etc. we need others to help us in this discipleship calling of Jesus.

Here is a way we have created a culture of leadership at Gateway.  We create environments for leaders where they are: Encouraged, Equipped, and Empowered.

Encouraged, Equipped, and Empowered


Small Group leaders need to know you love them.  They need to know they are a ‘person’ not a ‘pencil.’  This just means that you love them for who they are and not just what they ‘do’ for you as a church.  They need to experience your care about their job struggles, family concerns, and relational world.  Leaders need to know you are available when a crises hits their group and that you can sympathize with the emotional result in their life.  You need to be able to speak to them with words of encouragement and praise for all the good they are doing.  A healthy Small Group leadership culture is intentional about encouraging their leaders.


Small Group leaders have a lot of fears about group leadership.  I constantly hear them say, “I don’t know enough of the Bible.” or “I am not a counselor, I can’t really help people with their problems.”  Most new group leaders have questions like these.  The truth is none of us is perfectly ready for every situation in a Small Group, not even veteran leaders and pastoral staff.  But we can commit to developing ongoing skills training.  By giving group leaders exposure to ‘best practices’ skills training they can build confidence in their leadership.  Having a training path or ‘just in time’ resources on the web allows them to get better in their role.  It grows the investment of their talents and God can use them for great things.  Eph. 4 demands that church staff help equip the saints for works of service.  Skills training is essential for a healthy leadership culture


Leaders need to be given some flexibility in their role to follow the Spirit or to respond to the needs of their particular group.  We can’t micro-manage group leaders with too much ‘programming’ or resource heavy discipleship plans that follow a 101, 201, 301 linear path.  Small Group leaders need structured flexibility.  They need to know the address location (group goal), or the outcome, for their group’s journey.  They also need some flexibility for how they are going to get there.  Build some structure around values and end results but let leaders fill in some of the resources or experiences along the way.  This allows the Spirit to be involved and the results are God driven not church goal driven.  Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.  Small Group leaders need that space for some direction setting by Paul and Apollos but leaving some room for God’s work in people in their group.  Healthy Small Group culture empowers group leaders with being trusted to lead.

Using these three words in our leadership development conversations has helped our groups staff engage and assess individual Small Group leaders and our whole leadership culture.  We can always ask ourselves the question, “How are our leaders doing?” and we have some helpful language to frame our answers. we can ask ourselves, “What is the next season of leadership development that we need to engage: Encouragement, Equipping, or Empowering?”

How is your leadership development for Small Group leaders similar or different than these three values?  What am I possibly missing with this focus of leadership development?