I’ve had the privilege of being a part of some great small groups. But I’ve also been a part of some really bad ones (some of which I’ve been the leader).
Small groups hinge on the leadership that they receive. Small group leaders make the difference between a bad, good, or great small group.
I’ve found that there are three questions that every small group leader must answer if you’re going to lead a great group.
1. What is the group’s purpose?
Every group and team needs to know their purpose. Small group leaders are no different. Most churches provide a basic guide to what the purpose of small groups is. But you, as the leader, need to make that more specific.Every small group needs to know their purpose or else it becomes a social club. Click To Tweet
When my family moved to Texas, the first group we visited could quickly tell us that their purpose was to build deep relationships so that our families could spur each other on toward godliness. My family resonated with that vision. We joined, and we love our group!
Your purpose must be clear.
Do you exist to help the group dig deeper into the Bible?
To build multi-generational relationships in the community?
To support parents of young children to have thriving marriages and godly homes?
To mobilize leaders to be the presence and voice of Christ in the marketplace?
Defining your purpose is hard work. But it provides clarity for you, for your group, and for every person who is interested in joining.
Two warnings as you discover your purpose:
1. If you lead the small group, don’t make your purpose a group decision. Lead the group out of your calling, passions, and season of life. You determine the purpose and invite others to join it.
2. Don’t confuse the curriculum and the purpose. If your purpose is to dig deeper into the Bible, the curriculum may be to study Romans. The curriculum you use is the means to accomplish your purpose.
2. What are the group’s intentional rhythms?
Every group needs to have pre-determined rhythms. These are rhythms for how often you will meet.
It also includes rhythms for outside-the-norm meetings. Do you have a yearly retreat? Or monthly hangouts?
Your rhythms need to line up with the purpose. My small group’s purpose is to spur families on.
Our small group leaders wisely discerned that meeting weekly would be too much for most families with young kids. So we meet every other week. We also have a “guys” hang out and a “girls” hang out every 4-6 weeks.
Small groups should engage often enough to fulfill its purpose but not so often that busyness and chaos are intensified.
3. What is the group’s timeline?
Along with not defining the group’s purpose, the second biggest mistake that I see small group leaders make is not defining the timeline of their group. They don’t express up front how long the group is going to meet before they take a break to reevaluate every individual’s commitment.
When group leaders don’t define the timeline for their group, they create a “till death do us part” mentality. There’s only a handful of relationships that meet that status. Most people can’t handle the pressure of lifelong commitment to a small group. Their needs change. Their schedules change. Their interests change.Small groups don't have to be 'till-death-do-us-part' relationships. Click To Tweet
Having a clear timeline has two benefits to your group:
1. It helps you know when others can join your group.
Open groups where people can join at any time rarely lead to strong relationships. It’s hard to build strong relationships when everyone new members join at random times.
Having a clear timeline lets you tell others when your group will be opened again for new members.
2. It helps people walk away from the group gracefully.
If small groups don’t have a pre-determined time to end, members are either stuck with a group longer than they need to be or they leave the group without explanation. This puts everyone in situations in which you run into the former group member and no one knows what to say. That’s awkward!
Small group leaders should set the timeline up front. For example, “We’ll meet until the end of the school year, at which point everyone can use the summer to re-evaluate whether this is the right group for them or whether we’re ready to birth a new group.
Or, ”Let’s commit to this 8-week Bible study series together, and at the end of that time, everyone can decide whether or not they would like to continue.”
Don’t have these re-commitment conversations as a group. Do them individually so that no one makes a commitment based on peer pressure.
Let your group members know that, at the end of this time, it’s perfectly okay to join another group. Or even better–to start another group.
This gives everyone the peace of mind knowing that they can walk away from their group with the whole group’s blessing.
Small groups are a huge strategy for building discipleship, community, and leadership in the church today. Small group leaders can help their groups thrive when they answer these three questions and stick to them.
Question: What are your answers to the three questions for your small group?