Small Group Tips from Small Group Leaders


15 Small group tips from small group leaders

This year at Jubilee, we’ve been blessed with an Awesome group of passionate, relational, and faithful small group leaders.  We asked our current college small group leaders what advice or tips they would give for our new small group leaders as they learn and pray about what it means for them to lead their own small group in the fall.

Here’s what Sarah Sparks-Franklin and our small group leaders had to say:

  1. TO LEAD IS TO LISTEN TO OTHERS. Sometimes, you need to be the leader, and sometimes, you need to just sit back and listen to your small group members.
  2. BE FLEXIBLE. You’ll have prompts and questions in your guide, but be open to heading in a different direction. Sometimes, the best discussions happen when you go off topic. BUT, when you sense that you’ve gone too far down the rabbit hole, don’t be afraid to redirect the conversation either.
  3. VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE. Small group life is an important food that you have in your overall spiritual diet, just like worship, personal devotions, and prayer. Within small groups, this idea of having a varied, balanced diet is true as well. Small groups should be a mixture of asking deep questions, laughing together, praying for each other, and just hanging out and doing fun stuff together.
  4. WE’RE ALL DIFFERENT! Not everyone is going to think the same way as you do, and that’s okay! Explore everyone’s beliefs, lean into the tension that might arise from differences in viewpoints, and be open to learning from each other.
  5. IT’S TOTALLY OKAY TO SAY, “I DON’T KNOW.” Leaders don’t have to know everything. Don’t be afraid to admit if you don’t know something.
  6. BECOME A STUDENT OF YOUR SMALL GROUP MEMBERS. Ask them questions about their faith, their past, their family, their friends, and their dreams. Try on their belief hat. Ask them why they believe what they believe about God. A big part of being a leader is learning how to step outside of yourself and envision what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes.
  7. SET GOALS AT THE BEGINNING, AND FOLLOW UP. Sometimes, things can get off track, which is why it’s good to have an initial conversation with your small group about what your goals are as a group. Ask members what they desire to get out of their small group experience and then periodically check in with them about where they are at. Every so often, remind them what your goals for small group were at the beginning.
  8. EVERYONE HAS A LIFE. Everyone has a story and a life outside of small group. This might sound pretty basic, but the little things make a huge difference! Check in with your small group members about what’s going on with them in their life…are they a musician? Go to one of their concerts some time! Are they preparing for a big project or presentation? Text them and let them know you are praying for them and thinking about them that week, and check in after the fact to find out how things went.
  9. MEET ONE-ON-ONE AT LEAST ONCE A SEMESTER. If at all possible, schedule one-on-one coffee meetings with your small group leaders at least once a semester. If you co-lead a group with 6 members in it, assign three members for each leader to meet with one-on-one once a semester.
  10. REMEMBER THE 4 KEYS. Sometimes, facilitation group conversation is challenging. But with practice, it gets easier, especially as you begin to foster community within your small group. Here are 4 keys to generating a healthy space for group discussion:
    1. Ask your members what they think.
    2. Go around the circle. To help introverts feel more comfortable and to keep extroverts from monopolizing the conversation, go around the circle. This gives your members the chance to pass if they don’t have anything to say, but it also gives introverts and people with different processing styles the chance to speak if they want to.
    3. Don’t be afraid to sit in silence for awhile. Some of the best conversations come from being able to wait in the silence until someone speaks up.
    4. No cell phones. Depending on the personality and ages of your group members, sometimes it might be appropriate to ask your members to refrain from using their cell phones during group time. Don’t be afraid to ask your members to rid themselves of distractions.
  11. SMALL GROUP LEADERSHIP IS A VALUABLE EXERCISE IN LEARNING HOW TO LIVE OUT FAITH. Why do you care about your small group members? Because God calls us to love one another. God has called you to lead. You are a leader that is called to love others well. Remember that small group leadership is a tangible opportunity to exercise compassion…because like anything else in life, compassion takes practice. It might feel awkward or uncomfortable at first, but the more you exercise your compassion muscle, the stronger it will become.
  12. WE ARE ALL CLERGY. YOU ARE A PASTOR OF YOUR SMALL GROUP. This one is pretty self explanatory. As a small group leader in Jubilee, you are an extension of the culture that we create at Wednesday Gathering and at FUMC/the Open Door. With this responsibility comes some challenges, but it also opens you up to experiencing the blessing of being a TANGIBLE conduit of God’s grace, peace, and love to others.
  13. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There is NOTHING that Travis or Sarah haven’t heard before. You might run into some challenging stuff when doing community with others, and never forget that you have a community of leaders that are here to support you and provide you with the resources and help you need to lead and love people well. If you’re stumped by something a small group member is going through, come to Travis or Sarah! Ask us anything. Ask for help. WE ARE HERE FOR YOU! Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know the answer to something or how exactly you ought to move forward in a situation.
  14. LEADERS NEED BOUNDARIES. “No” is a complete sentence. You are not a superhuman that can be all things to all people. You have to be able to care for yourself before you can effectively pour into other people and love them well.
  15. PRAY, PRAY, PRAY. Start praying for your small group members now, before you even know who they are going to be. Ask God to prepare you now for the relationships you will be building with others later. Then sit back and watch the miracles happen. Small groups are transformative and always transforming.


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