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Handling Seasons of Discouragement in Small Group Leadership

After the group exited our home one particular night, I welcomed some discouraging questions and deliberated on a few statements, “Should I really be a small group leader?” I couldn’t have really heard from God when He asked me to take this group on. If I had, I would be a more effective leader. “Why am I not more sensitive to the needs of my group members? Do I really care about them? Am I incapable of getting the group to be authentic and open in conversation? Do I really know enough about the Bible to lead a small group?”

It had been a tough night. During the Bible discussion time, no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get the group to converse. When an individual did talk, they simply regurgitated what someone else had told them before, another teacher’s thoughts, what they’d heard in a sermon, or what “my dad used to tell me.”

When prayer time came, it was even more discouraging. I asked for prayer requests prefacing these essential minutes by stating that we should focus on our own personal needs. But the only thing I heard was to pray for a sick co-worker, our pastor, or a concern for a family member’s health.

I did find out, however, during prayer time that a group member voiced that they’d been going through a really difficult life situation. They looked my direction as if to say, “Where were you? I needed you.”

It felt like I had come up to bat with the bases loaded. The team needed just one more run to win the game. They had their eye on me—depending on me to hit the ball. My moment had arrived. Strike 1! Strike 2! Strike 3! I hadn’t even fouled the ball off, and it was as if I hadn’t even taken a swing at it. 

So my confidence was shot and bailing seemed like the only realistic thing to do. Surely there was someone who could lead the group better than me. And there certainly had to be someone waiting in the wings who could come to the plate and at least get on base. For sure, God had been mistaken when He asked me to join the team of small group leaders.

Well, the truth is that every small group leader has times when they lose confidence in their leadership. But the greatest leaders are those who stay in the game, and figure out how to deal with a lack of confidence, and feelings of discouragement.

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Rick has one passion… To see “a biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet making disciples that make disciples.” He is presently pursuing this passion as the Small Group and Discipleship Specialist at LifeWay Church Resources. Rick has authored or co-authored multiple books, studies, and leader training resources including A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic, Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual, The Gospel and the Truth: Living the Message of Jesus, Small Group Life Ministry Manual: A New Approach to Small Groups, Redeeming the Tears: a Journey Through Grief and Loss, Small Group Life: Kingdom, Small Group Kickoff Retreat: Experiential Training for Small Group Leaders, and Great Beginnings: Your First Small Group Study, Disciples Path: A Practical Guide to Disciple Making. Rick’s varied ministry experiences as an collegiate minister, small group pastor, teaching pastor, elder, full-time trainer and church consultant, as well as having been a successful church planter gives him a perspective of church life that is all-encompassing and multi-dimensional. Rick is a highly sought after communicator and trainer.