8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders

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Why do some small groups grow and multiply while some do not? Is there some activity or set of activities a small group leader can do to increase the probability of the group growing and multiplying? If so, are these activities beyond the reach of the average small group leader? Will it take years of training to master them? Or is there a set of activities that are attainable and realistic that any small group leader who wants to grow and multiply can put into his or her weekly schedule?

I believe I have an answer to these questions. I have had the privilege of leading small groups and coaching small group leaders for twenty-five years. It began when, as a 16-year old, several friends and I started lunchtime Bible studies at our high school. They "accidentally" grew and multiplied. In college, I started a discipleship group that spread over the campus. During my summers, I started groups in little towns in England and in high rises in New York City. After I graduated, I started groups in rural Virginia. Then, I was hired to train, write curriculum for, and oversee 300 small group leaders at a large Christian university. Later, I started a group in my basement that grew into a church with over one hundred groups.

Some of these various groups grew and multiplied; others did not. Through the years, I have noticed the long-range effectiveness of leaders revolves around simple habits that those leaders practice outside of the group meeting.

Many leaders sincerely want to grow and multiply their groups, but they are not sure how. They work on finding better icebreakers or asking better discussion questions. While these are valuable things, the real key to growing and multiplying a cell group lies in the practice of eight personal habits.

Several years ago, I wanted to show the leaders I was coaching exactly what it would take for them to be highly effective. By studying cell ministry and thinking through my own experience, I came up with eight regular practices that seemed to make the difference between effectiveness and ineffectiveness. I put them into a concise list of eight habits that would enhance the effectiveness of a small group leader.

I began asking the leaders I coached to adopt these habits and build them into their weekly schedules. Without exception, those who used these habits became highly effective leaders who grew and multiplied their groups. Those who did not, did not. What was especially interesting was that gifts, personality, and experience were not as important as commitment to the eight habits. Leaders who did not have the gift of teaching or had not been Christians for a long time but who followed the eight habits became effective. Leaders who tended to be quiet or had never led before but who practiced the habits were growing and multiplying their group. The eight habits made the difference.

After teaching these habits for several years, I have come to several conclusions:

  1. The eight habits work. Following the eight habits of an effective small group leader makes all the difference between mediocrity and greatness, between stagnation and multiplication. Following them will produce growth, develop future leaders, and add to what God wants to do.
  2. The eight habits are universal. They apply to all cultures and all types of groups. They are foundational principles that work for any type of group and any type of leader. They are usable with any group of people whatever their age, race, gender, or socioeconomic status. They can be lived in the inner city or on the farm. They work for those on a college campus, those in a foreign nation, and those in the suburbs of the U.S.
    Although some see a distinction between "small groups" and "cell groups," in this book the terms are treated interchangeably. This is because the eight habits are universal and apply to both.
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