Ten Practices of Effective Small-Group Leaders

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Ten Practices of Effective Small-Group Leaders
Follow these practical steps to get your group started in the right direction.
1 Timothy 4:12
Without a doubt, small-group leaders have the greatest influence over the atmosphere and dynamics within their groups. They set the tone, whether positively or negatively, for all aspects of group life.
Fortunately, new group leaders don’t have to figure out what to do (and not do) completely on their own. By upholding the following ten principles, you will be well on your way toward setting a positive example in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity (1 Timothy 4:12). What is more, your skills as a leader will improve each week through the positive experiences provided by following these principles.
Pray for Your Members
As with most things in life, small-group leaders should begin with prayer. Consider making it a personal goal to pray for each group member by name on a regular basis—and don’t be afraid to let them know you’re doing it. If you ask them how you can be praying for them, be sure to follow-up.
It’s helpful to jot down notes during the group’s prayer time in order to keep their needs fresh in your mind through the week. This also allows you to recall specific requests in future meetings, which reinforces your group’s bond.
Be Authentic
It’s important that a leader model authenticity and vulnerability during the group’s spiritual discussions. In fact, this can be the greatest contributing factor to your group’s discussion dynamic. Realness is contagious; it has a magnetic force that raises the level of honesty and cohesion in your group. In other words, you help others to be themselves when you are able to be yourself.
In the beginning of a group’s life together, the leader is usually the one who initiates conversations, presents questions, and takes the risk of sharing personal responses. But rest assured—full participation will soon follow from the rest of the group.
Encourage your Members
Don’t be content with saying nice things every once and a while—lavish encouragement on your group participants. You can do this by building them up with kind and compassionate SmallGroups.com © 2019 Christianity Today page 7
words; serving them through your gifts; reminding them of who they are in Christ; affirming their gifts and positive contributions to the group; and sharing how they are needed, gifted, and called to ministry.
Here’s a principle you can take to the bank: people don’t grow tired of being encouraged. Your consistent effort to lift up group members shows care, validates them, and encourages more involvement in the group.
Empower Your Members
This aspect of small-group leadership is often overlooked. Make sure to help people find a way to contribute to the group and fulfill God’s purposes for it. Your members want to make a difference and add value to the group, and there are multiple benefits to helping them do so:
➢ Believers’ gifts are developed as they deploy them.
➢ Your load is eased.
➢ Your group becomes well-rounded, builds ministry synergy, and makes more of an impact.
➢ Participants experience more of Christ as people express the gifts he has imparted.
In short, small-group leaders should think of themselves as administrators of gift deployment.
Look Outward
As a leader, cultivate an outward orientation to your group’s thinking and practice. Most groups naturally slide toward introversion and isolation unless the leader intentionally develops an external focus. But God’s grace will flow more freely in and through your group when people are not focused on themselves. What is more, your members will experience greater fulfillment when they pour themselves out for others and use their gifts and resources to serve.
To accomplish an outward focus, start with the group’s prayer time. This is a strategic moment where you can influence members to think of their friends and neighbors who have yet to experience Christ. Also, encourage participants to invite their friends, and brainstorm ways your group can reach out together through acts of servant evangelism.
Be Flexible with Your Curriculum
When using a pre-packed study, read ahead one session or chapter and see if you can reduce the amount of material covered by half. This will help the group feel more focused and less rushed, which actually boosts the overall participation. SmallGroups.com © 2019 Christianity Today page 8
Remember that some questions and exercises will work for one group of people, but not for another. You will learn what your group connects with best over time. By tailoring the study plan, discussions will feel more lively, natural, and relevant for everyone.
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