Have you ever wondered how to lead a small group well? Or maybe you’ve been asked to be a small group leader, but you didn’t feel equipped to do so. So many of our listeners wonder how to lead small groups well, so we have dedicated an entire episode on tips and tricks for leading a small group with intention and purpose.

Group of women at table

Many churches have what they call small groups. They could also be called Bible studies, or sometimes just “groups” or life groups.

These are usually a group of people who are gathering together around a particular topic or study. Often this is where deeper relationships can be formed than what happens in the normal weekly services at a church. Many churches consider small groups to be a part of their overall discipleship process because people are doing life together in the context of small groups.

Principles for starting a small group or Bible study:

  • Why do you want to do this? What is the purpose?
    • To build connections and relationships
    • To go deeper in faith
    • To introduce people to faith
  • Who do you want to reach?
    • Women already established in faith?
    • Women who are new to faith?
    • Women who aren’t yet Christians but may be open to learning or seeking answers and guidance?
    • Knowing your ideal audience will be helpful as you make further decisions about the specifics of your Bible Study.
  • Choosing a study and/or curriculum
    • All of the above will help you with selecting what kind of study to do
    • The purpose of the group and the makeup of the members will impact your decision.
    • Your group could do something that is more introductory, intermediate, or more serious depending on the type of members you have coming.
    • Consider how much homework there is based on what you know about your member makeup. More or less might be ideal based on your group’s makeup.
    • You can ask for input from members, but sometimes this can be challenging. I typically have had more success when I’ve just selected a study to do and then invited people to join. Use discernment, prayer, and wisdom when choosing a study.
    • You could prayerfully select 2-3 options and have the group choose from them.
    • You can simply choose a book of the Bible to study and go through it together, or:
    • You can choose a book or devotional
    • If you don’t feel confident in your teaching abilities right from the start, you could even choose a Bible study with video lessons to accompany the teaching time.
  • Choosing the context
    • Does your church already have a small groups program? If so, consider signing up to lead a group in that context.
    • If not, inquire about leading a women’s group at your church.
    • Or, you can start a group on your own.
    • Choose where to host: your home, a neutral location, or at your church.
    • Choose whether or not you will offer childcare during your meeting time.
  • Choosing the day and time
    • This is really dependent on what will work best for you as the leader. You need to be consistent!
    • You will never find a time that works for everyone, unfortunately. 
    • People will be upset that there’s not a time that works for them, and that’s okay. Encourage them to start one at a time that works for them!
    • Set a start date and end date. It’s tempting to make your group ongoing forever, but this often ends poorly. I have found groups that have a start and end work best, and this also makes it easier for a new person to join at the start of a new session. It avoids ongoing groups developing a clique-like feeling.
  • Getting people to join
    • Personal invitation is one of the best ways to get people to join you!
    • Put out the information in a way that creates interest and curiosity.
    • Having a preview for people who are considering joining before the Bible Study starts is a great way to promote interest and help people choose the best fit for them.
    • Focus on how the group will help the members move forward in a particular area by giving some specifics on the study and what it has to offer.
    • Create a Facebook event.
    • Promote on other social media platforms.
    • Texting and phone calls are great ways to invite and remind people.
    • If you are part of your church’s small group system, make sure you submit the information to them to promote on the church’s bulletin, website, etc.

Now you’ve chosen the purpose of your group, you’ve picked out the curriculum, and you’ve chosen your time and location.

Principles for Leading Small Groups:

  • Make your group inviting
    • Pray for your members regularly!
    • Create a welcoming atmosphere. This can include decor and/or food, but it might just be smiling faces or practical things like signage to get to the room where you are meeting.
    • Don’t make hospitality complicated.
    • Have a smiling face, a welcoming heart, and be sensitive to people’s needs. That will create the atmosphere.
    • Think outside of the box, and don’t get caught up in the food and decor aspect.
  • Set up group guidelines
    • Start these from week one to make sure they are implemented right off the bat, and continue to be implemented faithfully throughout the duration of the study.
    • Setting the foundation for what to expect is of the utmost importance.
    1. Confidentiality. You want people to feel assured that what they share in the group stays in the group. The caveat for this is unless someone is harming themselves, being harmed, or harming others. This will be moved to the appropriate people for help.
    2. No stupid questions. Make a rule that there are “no stupid questions”, meaning that people can ask a question about anything that is unclear to them. People are at different steps on their faith journey and need to be able to ask in a safe place without feeling stupid or silly.
    3. Be respectful. There may be varying denominations or viewpoints represented in the group. Make sure that what we say and share is done so in a respectful and honorable way, even if we disagree.
    4. Stay away from controversial issues. This doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t talk about hard things. But we don’t want anything to be a barrier for people coming to know and love Jesus more. Stay on the topic of what is helping your group grow in their faith. Don’t push your personal conviction in lieu of helping someone grow in their faith.
    5. No counseling. This idea comes from Jennie Allen. During the study and prayer time, stay away from trying to offer counsel to people. Instead, point them back to God’s word and/or offer to pray for them. If additional support is needed, you as the group leader can offer to meet with people 1:1 or refer them to another trusted mentor or professional. We are not trying to be God for other people.
    6. Give space for all to talk. Some people will naturally share more than others. You may need to draw some people out as you get to know them. Try to give opportunities for everyone to share  by saying something like, “Would someone who hasn’t answered yet like to share?”
    7. Be okay with silence. As the leader, get comfortable with a few seconds of no one saying anything without jumping in and answering the question yourself. Sometimes it takes people time to process and respond.
  • Be consistent
    • It’s normal for attendance to drop off after the first week or 2. Do your best to keep your day and time consistent and don’t cancel unless necessary. You might think you want to cancel if only 2 people are going to be there, but those 2 people might be needing that meeting at that exact time.
  • Provide easy ways to communicate
    • Often it’s nice to have a way to communicate throughout the week. This could be a private Facebook group or an email or text list. Having some way for people to share needs and concerns during the week is a great way to connect between meetings.
  • Monitor the health of the group
    • Ask: Who is hurting, Who is missing, Who is thriving? (These questions come from Holly’s pastor at Radiant Church.)
    • Reach out to those people from the questions above.
    • Pray for group members regularly.
    • Help group members take their next step. This could be baptism, church membership, getting a mentor, leading their own group, etc.
  • Develop leaders
    • Be watching and paying attention for anyone in your group who has leadership potential. Invite them to help with certain tasks and/or have them take over on a week you can’t be there. (Make sure they are established in their faith and have the ability to do this before you hand it over.)
    • Be prepared to subdivide or grow as you develop leaders. As you develop leaders, be ready to have them branch off into a new group during the next study session. You might consider offering 2 groups doing the same study but on different nights of the week. This gives more women the opportunity to participate.
  • Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit
    • Prayer should always be a part of your group. Open in prayer, and pray at the end.
    • Ask Him for guidance as you lead.
  • Dealing with Problems
    • Address problems 1:1, not in the whole group setting.
    • Have a mentor or coach to go to when you have challenges.
    • Redirect conversation in the group when needed.
    • Address the issue after the group is over.

Next Steps:

If you are feeling led to begin leading a group, we hope this helps you take your next steps! If you are already leading or do choose to lead, join our Purposeful Leading Group on Facebook. Post with questions, wins, and more so we can help and celebrate with you!

Quotes to Note:

“When you pray for people, there is something that happens. When you see them you have a different spirit with them, you’re more excited to see them, and you’re ready to hear how God is working in their lives.” [27:30]

“Hospitality is about how you make people feel when they walk through the door and how you interact with them.” [30:00]

“The goal of our groups is to be life-giving. No one wants to leave the group feeling like they’ve been beaten up from a debate.” [35:45]

“It’s not us changing people’s lives. We are a catalyst for the Holy Spirit in their lives, and that’s really what this is about.” [51:20]

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