What’s A Small Group Leader?

Discover the five essential qualities that make a great small group leader of kids and teenagers in family ministry.

I want you to go back to a time when you were a kid or a teenager. Did you have an adult that wasn’t your parent that impacted you in some sort of profound way?

Now if we were together, I’d actually kind of go around the room and let you all say their name out loud because they’re so important.

So I like to ask people, what was it that made them different? Usually, I hear the same stuff. They were purposeful. They pursued a relationship with me. They were a safe place. They believed in me. They told me something I didn’t know about myself. It’s always so much fun to talk about.

Who Is A Small Group Leader?

What if we could recruit an army of these type of people who would become this type of adult to these kids and students on purpose?

And that’s what we’re talking about when we talk about small group ministry in family ministry.

It’s about community, sure. It’s about the small group, yep. But mostly it’s about giving leaders a small enough group that they can invest in the lives of those few in the way that we’re talking about here.

We want to give them the ability to lead small.

The hard part has always been describing what we want them (the small group leaders) to do.

I never had a job description for this type of leader or person, who is really a major character in the story of a kid or student’s faith.

I used to recruit people, and I used the word like all the time.

 You’re like a parent, but not quite.

You’re like a teacher, but not quite.

You’re like a friend, but not quite.

You’re like a coach, but . . . you get it.

And I hated it because I think this is the most important job in the world.

I think this sort of person has the potential to change the world, at least for this group of kids or students. And I think that this type of person deserves more than to be told what they’re like. And I think they need to be told exactly what they are.

So with that began the long journey of creating the book Lead Small. Lead Small is a job description for this type of person. This is what we call a small group leader here at Orange.

The Five Essential Values of a Small Group Leader

So here’s what I did. I looked around our ministries and found the people who were doing the job best. These were our best small group leaders, and I asked them to come to one of several group dinners.

And once I got them there, I simply asked one question, and they would discuss it. I asked, what would you tell a new small group leader who was just starting? And then they would talk for a couple of hours. Well, after about four or five of these dinners, I started to notice a pattern in my notes.

I started to see five clear themes emerging. And this became the outline for Lead Small and the job description for a small group leader.

Be Present

So here’s what we found. The first thing we found was this idea of being present.

It’s the most important aspect of being a small group leader. You’ve got to show up. It’s the number one spiritual gift, the spiritual gift of showing up.

And you don’t just show up.

You show up predictably, you show up mentally, and you show up randomly.

You show up predictably in that you show up regularly and they know you’re going to be there.

You show up mentally when you’re prepared to talk when you get there

And you show up randomly, meaning you jump into the lives of kids or students in some way unexpected.

But when you’re present and when you show up, you connect their faith to a community.

The second big idea we found was this idea of creating a safe place.

Create A Safe Place

Now, this had three parts that are really important.

They were leaders, and they led the group. They were in charge. Though it was fun, there were lots of hugs and all kinds of stuff, they were in charge and they led the group forward.

The other part was they respected the process. They understood that a kid’s faith is a complicated thing, and as they grow through their phases, it’s a process.

And the last thing they did was they guarded the heart. They made sure kids weren’t picked on. They listened carefully to what was going on in their life, and they guarded the heart.

So when you create a safe place, you give them a place to clarify their faith as they grow. Now, the next idea we found was this idea of partnering with parents.

Partner With Parents

Every great small group leader partners with parents. There were three big ideas on that.

One is they cue the parent. They let the parent know what they’re talking about so the parents can connect to what was going on in small group that day.

Nex, they honor the parent. For instance, I don’t know if you know this, but teenagers often have trouble with their parents, and small group leaders were always great about listening, but at the end of the day, they would honor the parent and point their kids back to those parents.

Finally, they would always reinforce the family. The family is going to be the number one spiritual impact in a kid’s life, and so they would reinforce the family.

The best part is when you partner with parents, you help nurture kids and students with an everyday faith. The next thing we found was the idea of making it personal.

Make It Personal

This was great because the best small group leaders made it personal.

First of all, they had their own community. They lived in community! They had their own small groups, and they were taking care of their own faith. They would never skip a wedding to do small group, but they’d come back and talk about it sort of stuff with the kids, and they’d set those priorities right.

The last thing is they were real. They were authentic. They were themselves. When you try to be something else in order to impact a kid, they’re going to find out pretty quickly that you’re not who you said you were, and that’s the wrong thing. These people were just who they were, and as they showed up, they gained influence with the kids, and it was super amazing.

When you make it personal, you get to inspire their faith by your example.

Move Them Out

Finally, the last big idea we found, and this is a big one, was the idea of moving them out. In fact, we found that many of these small group leaders weren’t the only adults in these kids’ life.

They had invited other adults in, so they moved them to someone else.

They also moved them to be the church. They didn’t just come to church. Eventually, they would become the church. They would start to do things as a church and as a small group together.

The last thing they would really do is think about what’s coming next. They knew that maybe at the end of fifth grade, as they headed to middle school, or maybe at the end of eighth grade, as they headed to high school, that they had to introduce them to someone who would be next, and they prioritized that.

When you move them out, you engage their faith in a much bigger story.

Building Your Common Vocabulary

That’s it. That’s a quick flyby of the job description of a small group leader, and I can tell you it works.

After handing this out to every small group leader during their orientation, something amazing started to happen. We became more than a ministry. We became a community of small group leaders. We had a common goal.

We had a common vocabulary for what we were trying to do, and we began to share best practices. We began to encourage each other. We began to support each other in ways I never could have imagined.

Lead Small not only helped me do my job, it helped my ministry for the better, from the inside out, and I hope it does the same for you.

5 Things to Consider When Bringing In An Outside Communicator For Your Event

4 Budget-Friendly Ways to Invest in Your Small Group Outside of Programming


Kickstart & Simplify Volunteer Onboarding

Get Orange in Your Inbox 📨

Get free resources for today, and the latest thinking for tomorrow.