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How to Motivate Your Small Group Members

motivate your small group

How to Motivate Your Small Group Members

Do you find it difficult to motivate your small group members?

You can’t motivate them!

Getting to a High Motivation

According to Susan Fowler, in Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing and Engaging,your members are always motivated. But the quality of their motivation is what matters. Their quality of motivation can range from being disinterested to having a high level of engagement.

Since your group members are already motivated, can you still have some influence on them reaching a high state of motivation?

Absolutely yes!

The question to ask yourself isn’t whether your members are motivated. The question to ask is WHY their motivation is at the current level.

What Is Needed to Thrive?

Your group members want to thrive. This is the part of motivation we are discussing in this post. In order to thrive, your members need three things:

  • Autonomy
  • Relatedness
  • Competence

This is great news, because small groups typically encourage these things. Your part as a leader is to ensure the group operates in a way that the small group experience fills your members’ needs in each of these areas.


“Autonomy can be defined as the ability to make choices according to one’s own free will. (Whether or not that will is free isn’t relevant here—only that it feels free.) If we feel coerced by even an internal pressure like guilt or shame—to say nothing of external pressures like other people—our feeling of autonomy vanishes.”
Alex Lickerman, M.D., The Desire for Autonomy

Small groups are a terrific venue to support autonomy. Members are encouraged to have authentic conversations. This can only happen when the rest of the group doesn’t try to “fix” them or judge them when they are open and honest.

Discussions that include different perspectives are great. But each individual member must be allowed to make their own choices without others trying to force or threaten to get a different result.

Does your small group operate in a way that supports autonomy?


Your group members need to feel loved and cared for, while at the same time they can do the same for others. This isn’t just a good idea. Experiencing love as both a giver and receiver is needed for your group members to flourish.

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Hi, my name is Roger Carr. I am a husband, father, Christian, business person, writer, and volunteer. I have participated in and led several small groups over the past 30+ years. These small groups included those in churches, work settings, professional organizations, and nonprofit organizations. I am currently coaching small group leaders and serving on the writing team at my local church, supporting small groups weekly.