Why Most People Don’t Want to Lead Small Groups

  • 13 February 2017
  • Keith Reed

Small GroupsI’ve never heard of a church that has too many small group leaders. Too many ushers? Maybe. Too many musicians? Possibly. Too many small group leaders? Highly unlikely.

And yet, I know many churches that have grand visions for their small group ministry. Statements like, “we want to be a church of small groups” or “we want everyone to be in a small group.” All of them? Wouldn’t this require a massive influx of group leaders?

Herein lies the problem—you can’t multiply small groups if you don’t have small group leaders. For as motivated as some people may be to join a small group, their ambition will come to a screeching halt when they discover that the bus they’re about to board is missing its driver. 

Small group leaders don’t just appear—they must be developed.

But developing small group leaders comes with a set of challenges. Beyond the obvious task of equipping individuals for this position is another hurdle you might have to clear—most people don’t want to lead small groups. And the reason they don’t want to lead is directly tied to the expectations they believe a small group leader needs to fulfill. Many people feel that leading a small group:

    • Is categorially different than participating in a small group
    • Requires significant biblical knowledge and theological training 
    • Requires a lot of preparation time 
    • Is an unending commitment
    • Is a solo act 

Expectations of small group leaders may extend beyond this list, but these five make a sufficient point—there are many valid reasons why people don’t want to lead small groups. And these objections don’t necessarily mean that a person is less committed to discipleship. They’re simply considering if the role is a good fit (to which they should be commended).

Depending on how your small group ministry is structured, you might be able to lessen the objections that potential leaders might have. Maybe group leaders are provided with teaching curriculum to follow or maybe there’s a designated time for groups to break or disband.

It’s possible that you can convince people to lead small groups and that you can develop creative ways to limit the obstacles. But this approach will leave you wondering if these groups will be led with the appropriate amount of passion that comes when the right people are leading from the right positions. 

The only way you can be confident that someone will lead with this type of passion is if they believe that small groups make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.

This is the key. A person can have every character trait and leadership skill that your ministry profile requires, but if they aren’t convinced that their involvement will make a lasting impact on the people they’ll lead, you’re looking at the wrong person.

This is the unspoken objection that I believe many potential leaders have. Will their time and effort really make a difference?

When you answer this question truthfully, you’ll discover the actual foundation that your small group ministry is built upon. You’ll learn if small groups are really about life change or if they’re about something else. And you’ll also know what’s needed to develop people into small group leaders who will truly make a difference.

Keith Reed is the Associate Director of MinistryLift at MB Seminary

Visit the small groups ministry page for more ministry resources and training options.