How to Be an Effective Small Group Leader

Posted by Aaron Buer on May 27, 2021

One of the joys in my life right now is my wife Katie’s role in our church.

She is a small group leader in our student ministry.

And, if I could brag a little, she’s excellent at it!  

This is fun for me because for 15 years, I was the student ministry person in our household.

Katie would care for our kids while I was out Wednesday and Sunday nights.

Now, the roles have flipped.

I’m home with our kids for dinner and bedtime while she is pouring into teenagers. I love it.  

Being an effective small group leader is different in this season.

I think this is true whether you are leading a small group of kids, teens, adults, or couples.

To be effective, it takes a different approach because young and old are behaving and thinking differently.  

So, whether you are a small group leader, lead small group leaders, or want to build a small group ministry in your church, here are a few strategies to help you be an effective small group leader in this COVID season.

Go To Them

If you want to be a great small group leader, you can’t expect your people to come to you, especially in this season.

With COVID, many of our people are not showing up to our services, events, and ministries.

Some people have sports or other engagements.

To be effective, you have to go to their world instead of waiting for them to show up at church world.  

Also, more often than not, the most critical ministry and discipleship conversations don’t happen within the physical circle of a small group meeting.

Those life-changing conversations happen because that person is part of the circle community, but the critical conversations usually happen outside the physical circle, in a one-on-one setting at a coffee shop or a kitchen table.


Your people may not be coming to you. That’s fine.

Go to them. Get into their world. Take them out to lunch. Meet them for coffee. Go for a walk in the park.

If you’re a small group leader of students, go to their track meet or softball game. Go see their musical.  

When you go to their world, that’s where the magic happens.

Be Consistent

One of the frustrating parts of this pandemic is the inconsistency.

The ups and downs of COVID numbers.

The constant shifting of recommended guidelines.

The change in how our churches are gathering: We’re meeting in person...Now we’re online only...Now we’re back in person.

Virtual school...In-person school...Hybrid school.

Everything feels so inconsistent.

As a small group leader, perhaps the best gift you can give people under your care is consistency.

Show up week after week. Send an update email every week. Fire off that encouraging text every Monday. Pray for your people every week.

This consistent presence and care is a powerful gift in a season like this.

The experience of this pandemic has felt like a boat tossed about on a stormy sea.

Out of control. Dangerously reckless.  

Being a consistent and faithful presence is like providing people an anchor.

One of the greatest gifts you can give a child, a student, or a couple is consistency.

Just keep showing up. This investment will have a payoff.

Maybe not today or this week, but I’m telling you, it will pay off in the months to come.

Encourage a Next Step 

A lot of people are stuck right now.

Many of us feel paralyzed by all the uncertainty.

Some of us have developed unhealthy or destructive habits in this season.

Others have gotten comfortable watching church in their pajamas and aren’t feeling all that motivated to get back to community.  

What I’m saying is, effective spiritual leadership always encourages a next step, and, in this season, some of our people need a healthy kick in the pants.

next-stepsAs a small group leader, this requires wisdom because you can’t effectively engage in challenging conversations if you don’t have relational equity.

And yet, as I think back on my life, most of the accelerated seasons of growth I have experienced followed on the heels of being challenged by a mentor, pastor, or parent.

Wrap Up

Here’s the deal: When you go to the world of the people you are leading and engage them, and when you show up consistently, over time, you earn the right to speak truth into their lives. 

We need this kind of spiritual leadership right now. Your church needs you. Your church needs effective small group leaders.  

  • Go to them (isolation is fertile soil for sin)
  • Be consistent  
  • Be flexible 
  • Be a listener—listen to their doubts, fears, struggles 
  • Encourage a next step

Topics: Advice

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