Groups are the secret sauce of a healthy, successful church. They’re where any church, no matter the size, gets smaller and more personal. It’s where we build community, work through the discipleship process, and live out what the Bible tells us. When you look at the book of Acts, the early church met in groups—often in homes. While the location doesn’t matter, your intention and purpose behind groups are what will throw fuel on the fire.
What does your church define as a group? It could be a Sunday School class, a life group that meets in a home, or a Bible study group of women. If God is calling you to lead, are you ready? One great way to learn is to come alongside someone who has been leading for a while and serve as a co-leader. Many of you are already leading in this way, but maybe you’ve been on the fence about stepping up to lead. If God is prompting you to lead, I hope you’ll take the opportunity and run with it!
Here are five tips for leading a small group:
- Don’t go at it alone. Use this opportunity to lead with someone with different gifts, or to train up someone else in leadership. I would encourage you to have a multiplication mindset when it comes to groups so that there’s always someone being prepared to launch out and start a new group at the right time. It might feel easier to lead alone, but in the long run, it’s going to be to everyone’s benefit (especially yours!) to have someone leading alongside you.
- Be hospitable. So many groups meet in homes or apartments these days, and being welcoming and hospitable is crucial. Those first few moments a new woman has at your door make all the difference in the world. Not everyone has been in a church small group before; for some women, it’s really out of their comfort zone. Give her the opportunity to jump in and let her see what healthy community can look like. Follow up with her but give her the room to visit other groups and find the best fit. Even if your group meets at church, if no one welcomes her at the door and helps her find a place to sit, it could be the last time she shows up.
- Keep the focus in the right place. Small groups are a place for spiritual growth, not just for socializing. While a supper club is great, it’s not the same as a group that’s intentionally opening the Bible every week with the purpose of spiritual growth. I love the community I’ve seen built through groups that gather, but it’s when they’re centered on God’s Word that transformational life change takes place and deeper community is built.
- Be attentive to the Holy Spirit. Don’t miss the opportunities that might be right in front of you because you already have a plan. There will be moments when you sense that the Holy Spirit may be redirecting how your group goes, but you have to be ready and willing to listen. Is He prompting you to stop and pray for an urgent need that was just mentioned, even though that’s not how you usually do things? Don’t miss it. Consistency and predictability are great, but always be open to however the Holy Spirit may lead. Pray that He gives you the discernment to know what to do.
- Show up. As the leader, it’s crucial you show up. Maybe it felt like your group was dropping like flies in your group text an hour or two before it was time to meet, but there were still a couple of women who said they would be there. Show up for them. Don’t miss the opportunity God has for you as a smaller group, and show them that everyone is a priority to you. Some of my favorite small group moments have been when the group is smaller than normal.
If you’re the person leading groups at your church, here are a few quick reminders for you:
- Train your leaders;
- Set clear expectations;
- Resource your groups well;
- Pray that God would continue to raise up new leaders at your church.
However God has called you to serve, be a part of the solution! Take advantage of the opportunity God has placed in front of you to point other women to Jesus. Whether you’re a veteran group leader or praying about the opportunity to jump in and lead, don’t miss out on what God may have for you as a small group leader. Be creative and use your gifts for the glory of God!
Mary Margaret West has been leading in women’s and girls’ ministry for the last seventeen years. Her passion is to equip girls and women to dive deeply into God’s Word and live out their calling, and she does this by training, consulting, and speaking at events and conferences. Mary Margaret is the author of Show Her the Way: Your Guide to Discipling Teen Girls, is a former girls minister, and holds a master’s degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She currently serves as Director of Women’s Ministry and Off Campus Groups at First Baptist Orlando, Florida. Mary Margaret and her husband Jonathan live in Winter Garden, Florida, with their newborn son, Sam.