In line with the last post about five characteristics of a good teacher, here are five characteristics of a good small group leader.
They know the purposes of the group and continually model and teach the group to carry out those purposes. Small group leaders are volunteers and they, like the rest of us, often have a time crunch that keeps them from doing a whole lot more than showing up and teaching the lesson. It is important for them to know the main purposes of the group (often incapsulated in acronyms like LIFE). If they cannot rattle off those purposes at a moment’s notice then chances are that group is doing little more than Bible study and fellowship. This is actually as much the responsibility of the small group ministry leader that their leaders know the purposes of the group. If this is not clearly communicated from the top down, given to the leaders in a memorable way, and followed through to make sure leaders are on the same page as the overall ministry.
They keep things in the group. Confidentiality is key to group intimacy. If people feel like others will go and blab to others everything they share in the group then the conversation and discussion will be on the surface and the relationships in the group will suffer/spiritual formation will be disconnected. A good leader will remind the group from time to time that what is said in the group stays there unless permission is given otherwise. The leader has to model this themselves.
They make the lesson their own. It is easy to read through a lesson and hit all the points and ask all the questions. It is quite another to study it at least a few days in advance, adapt it, tweak it, make it fit your group and make it the leader’s own. Small group curriculum are guides and will not fit all groups equally. A good leader will know how to take a lesson and make it fit their group by removing parts of the content and replacing it with something more relevant. This is hard to do if you don’t look at the lesson until Sunday afternoon.
They delegate responsibility. Often it is easier to just do everything yourself. In doing so you shortcircuit the spiritual growth of your group members. Growth comes with responsibility. If people think their only responsibility is to show up, they may not even do that. If the leader gives them responsibility in the group members will be more likely to show up. A good group leader will have high expectations of their group members, communicate those expectations on a regular basis, and follow up with accountability to make sure things are on track. This even includes letting others teach from time to time.
They are facilitators. It is easy and safe to lecture. It takes a real skill to facilitate a discussion. A good small group leader knows how to harness the knowledge of the class and allow it to carry the majority of the load of the lesson. The finished product looks like it took little time to prepare for because it flows so naturally yet it can actually take longer and more skill to teach a class like this. Good curriculum certainly gives you a jump start but is not enough (as seen in #3 above).