The "Right" Person to Lead a Small Group

People resist a call to leadership because of questions about competency and commitment.

This morning I received an email from a potential leader who stated she does not know if she's the "right" person to lead a small group. I hear that phrase a lot—the "right person." It's a common response when people feel they are being called to lead.

In my role as a small-group pastor I have found that the issue usually comes down to a person's confidence level, which is influenced by two factors: competence and commitment.

A Matter of Competence

Sometimes people are hesitant to accept a call as a small-group leader because they don't feel a sense of competency to lead a group. They don't think they are adequately prepared with the proper skills or talents.

In reality, that doesn't have to be a big issue. While some skills are needed to lead a healthy group, it really has more to do with heart than skills. I can teach skills.

I always remind people that even after three years with Jesus, the first leaders of the church, Peter and John, were still considered "unschooled, ordinary men." But they "had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). They may have lacked some competencies, but they had the right hearts, and God used them to change the world.

I've been reading a great series of articles on mountain-biking skills in which the writer discusses five levels of competency. I won't go into too much detail here about each level, but I think they are worth mentioning in relation to leading a small group:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence: People do not realize they are lacking the necessary skills, but they go at it anyway. Whether in small groups or mountain biking, someone is going to get hurt.
  2. Conscious Incompetence: People realize they lack skills, but want to learn them. These are the potential and emerging people I want as group leaders. They are ready and hungry to learn.
  3. Conscious Competence: People have now learned the skills to lead competently, but they are still thinking through those skills: "OK, I asked the question. Now I need to really listen." "Make sure to make eye contact." "I need to call Rich this week to see how he's doing."
  4. Unconscious Competence: As leaders grow, leadership becomes more natural. You don't have to think so much about it anymore. You just do it. You begin to "lead from the heart."
  5. Reflective Competence: This is where leaders deliberately think about what they've been doing instinctively. This is necessary in order to teach others. Often, when you become unconsciously competent, you have a hard time telling or showing someone else how to do it. In this fifth stage, you figure it out so that you can show others how to accomplish the skill.

A Matter of Commitment

The second reason people don't think they're the "right person" to lead a small group is because of commitment issues. It may be they simply don't feel like they have enough time to put into it, or they have other commitments that are currently higher priorities. Or perhaps they don't feel like they have any emotional energy to spare right now.

Commitment is closely tied to calling. When a potential or emerging leader senses he or she has been called by God to lead a group, commitment should closely follow. Satan cannot disrupt God's calling, of course, but he can and will keep us from hearing that call or making the commitment. This is spiritual warfare.

Commitment is also related to control. The main question is: Who is in control? Who is the real Leader? Who is Lord? As we surrender the control of our life over to God, we can be committed to what he calls us to do. Again, spiritual warfare enters the picture here.

free newsletter

Sign up for our free Small Groups Newsletter newsletter: Regular access to innovative training resources, Bible-based curriculum, and practical articles.


Recruiting Leaders Without a Church-Wide Campaign
Strategies for identifying and inviting people to lead a small group
What to Look for in New Leaders
Understanding biblical character traits—and standards—to identify new leaders for small groups.
Hosts or Leaders: What Should We Call Our Volunteers?
Take a look at what a simple word can communicate.
Recruit Great Coaches
The essential qualities to look for in potential coaches
Four Qualities All Small-Group Coaches Need
What to look for in potential coaches for your ministry
Guía de Orientación: Líder de Grupo Pequeño
Un resumen general de los básico de liderazgo de grupos pequeños.