10 things a small group leader has to stop doing

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There’s a lot of talk about what small groups need to look like. How they need to be structured, what they need to study, and where they need to go.

Through all of this, group leaders can become overwhelmed. Group leaders want to have a healthy group, and instead of adding more to their plate, it’s time to start taking things away. There are tasks that are killing your group. And killing you, too.

Let’s quit those together.

10 things a group leader should stop doing

1. Stop talking so much.

Group leaders need to listen way more than they talk. Listen to stories. Listen for pain. Listen for God’s voice in the midst of their group. Instead, most group leaders want to try to impress their group by how much they know and how close to God they are.

But that’s not what group members are looking for. And they’re not impressed.

2. Stop thinking so much.

Just love people and lead them to Jesus. Don’t make it so difficult. When you’re consumed by “planning,” the heart of the group gets lost. If you want to stop your group from sliding off of the hill, stop thinking so much. Let the Spirit prompt you in the moment. Maybe you’ve been relying on your plans and your agenda more than you have on God leading you. Instead of your leadership flowing out of your relationship with God, it’s flowing out of your to-do list.

3. Stop canceling group meeting.

This has got to quit. Let your group know that the weekly meeting is happening, even if it’s just you and your spouse. Don’t cancel because half of the group is out sick. Let this be an opportunity to get to know the other half of your group in a way you can’t when everyone’s there.

Oh, wait…you, the leader aren’t going to be there? Then it’s a perfect time to give someone else the reigns and help them develop as a leader.

4. Stop meeting every week.

(Hey, it’s my blog. I can contradict myself if I want. :-) ) It might be time to give people a breather. Take a week, or two, off. Recharge for what’s coming. Let people invest in their family. Let people relax. Then come back ready to dive back into small group.

5. Stop sticking with a curriculum even though it’s terrible.

If a curriculum isn’t working for your group, throw that junk away. It’s not worth driving your group into the ground over. You might even put the curriculum down for the night and just study the Scriptures together. Try asking these 3 questions of a text:

a. What does this passage say? (just repeat it in your own words)

b. What does this passage tell me about God?

c. Based on what this passage says, what are you going to do?

6. Stop simply studying together as a group.

Small group life is so much more than just a Bible study. It encompasses doing life together, not just studying together. Serve, pray, go, do, and laugh.

7. Stop viewing group as a 1.5 hour program.

If you want to stop doing something today that will have a huge impact quickly, then stop thinking that your group is relegated to a 1.5 hour meeting once/week. Work it in your schedule to meet with at least one person/week in your group outside of your normal meeting time. At this meeting, just get to know them a little better. Buy them a cup of coffee, and listen.

8. Stop being scared of “obedience.”

Sometimes you’ve just got to push people. It’s awkward and uncomfortable and you’ll probably get pushed back. But small groups help people obey, not just know, the Scriptures.

9. Stop telling people what they have to believe.

Give people space to explore. Push towards obedience, but give people the freedom to explore their relationship with Jesus without feeling like they need to have all of the answers and have all of their life figured out. Let them know it’s really okay to be “in process.”

10. Stop making group boring.

Shake up your routine. Change locations, studies, discussion facilitators, or prayer time. Plan a retreat, or give some practical homework. Or just throw all of that out of the window and play a game with your small group. Routines are good, but they can work against you if you stick closer to those than you do to the mission of your small group: helping people take steps of faith together.

Anything else you’d add, that a group leader should stop doing?


Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.brighthopebigcity.com Christon Dyer

    very practical and helpful post for small group leaders!!

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Thanks! Glad it was helpful, Christy.

  • Charles Crutcher

    Good stuff, Ben. I’d like to chime in here and say that fun and flexible is also key. We had a night when we started the video to the lesson and someone walked in and started to share what was on their heart. I won’t go into what happened there, but will say bad things could have happened if we didn’t stop the video and help the person work through what they were going through. That night was essential in changing the person’s life and put them in a different direction for their life. Great things happen when we remember why we are there for each other in the first place!

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Great add, Charles!!

  • Art Martinez

    Ben good practical advice! I found this blog piece to be helpful since I am a new small group leader for the community group that I have been asked to lead. I am one month into and want to be effective for the Lord. It is awesome to be able to find people like yourselves that are seasoned and have some wisdom to share in this area. Thanks for giving back to the body! I also started reading your book so I am looking forward to growing and learning. PS I noticed you went to Southern–I just visited the campus this last April while I was there for T4G14–awesome campus!

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Thanks Art! Glad you enjoyed it. How’s the new group going?!?

      • Art Martinez

        Ben good to hear from you. The best way to describe how it is going-being humbled. Did I say humbled? growing. learning a lot. I liked how you pointed out, in your book, that people will more likely remember people that have helped them then a sermon they have heard. This stays on my mind consistently as I try and minister to my group (by the way just realized with my wife that my group are all single). They know I am new at this but yet I see them overlooking my flaws since they see I care (I’m striving to be genuine). It is definitely different then the way I imagined it to be. It is a challenge. I look forward to seeing the Lord work in their lives. Want to be faithful.

  • Sherry Gareis

    As a former small groups leader, and someone who has a HUGE heart for small groups, you sure hit this one on the head! IMHO of course. :) Always appreciate your no-nonsense and practical approach. Thanks Ben. Will definitely be sharing!

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  • Kelley Taylor

    Ben these are fantastic! I’d love to share these with our small group leaders over the next week. With your permission, I’ll be tweeting them & sharing them on an event page for an upcoming ‘Boot Camp’, leadership training at our church. Gateway Atoka . com or @GatewayAtoka on social media.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Go for it, Kelley!