Seven Mistakes of New Small-Group Leaders

Seven Mistakes of New Small-Group Leaders

And how to avoid them when you're on the hot seat

Note: This article has been excerpted from the training tool called Effective Turbo Groups.

I'll never forget the first time I was asked to lead a small group, which also happened to be a turbo group. My one concern that trumped all others was the fear that my group members would not like the way I facilitated. Consequently, I felt uptight, which of course made me more reserved and less real as I led the discussion.

But at the end of that nerve-wracking turbo-group meeting, the other participants showered me with positive feedback—even though I'm sure I didn't do that great of a job. The comments that encouraged me the most were when people shared how scared they were of being in the hot seat and doing what I just did. They didn't think they would be able to facilitate like I did, which turned the tables and resulted in me encouraging them!

In short, the collective group experience was brought to another level that night because of the authenticity of other leaders-in-the-making—and I learned my first and greatest lesson as a new small-group leader: the importance of authenticity.

Below you will find seven common pitfalls that new group leaders often encounter along the life-changing path of small-group leadership. Just know that mistakes are bound to happen—and that's okay. God is not looking for "perfect performance," but rather hearts that want to love him and others.

1. Not Being Yourself

Authenticity is the key to success as a small-group leader. In general, people won't put up for long with a small group where members aren't genuine with each other—we all have better ways to spend our time each week. And the greatest influence on the authenticity within a small group is arguably how real the small-group leader behaves within the group. Does he confess sins and admit faults, or does he try to project an image of perfection? Does she ask for help when times are tough, or does she try to soldier on?

The health of a small group is directly linked to the degree of freedom that members have to be themselves, and that starts with the leader. Does he confess sins and admit faults, or does he try to project an image of perfection? Does she ask for help when times are tough, or does she try to soldier on?

John Ortberg states it well: "You cannot be fully loved if you are not fully known. You can only be completely loved if you are completely known." People want to go someplace where they are loved for who they are rather than who they feel they have to be. Group participants follow the lead of the small-group leader in this way more than they realize, so demonstrated vulnerability from leadership has tremendous "imprinting power" that can ensure the health of the group for the life of the group.

2. Carrying Too Much

The greatest preventable mistake made by small-group leaders comes when they try to carry too much—the "I'll just do it myself" syndrome. There are three main ways this happens:

  • Not identifying a co-leader. We must follow the examples of Jesus and the apostle Paul by developing co-leaders to help us minister (Luke 6:12–13; 2 Timothy 2:2). Simply put, the impact of your leadership is increased exponentially with the support of co-leaders. They lighten your load and provide backup and perspective in facilitation. Additionally, other leaders are needed if a group plans to manage their growth by sub-grouping or multiplying so that more people can be reached and included.

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