Avoiding Small Group Leadership Mistakes, Part 2

Friday 18th July, 2008

In Part 1, I mentioned that I have heard often that the best way to learn something is by making a mistake. While I agree that making a mistake is a memorable way to learn, many mistakes should be avoided if at all possible. I mentioned that not being the leader of either of my first two small groups allowed me to learn by observing before I became the leader of my third group. I believe I avoided many mistakes because of my previous involvement.

In Part 1, I shared a list by Reid Smith written in an article entitled Seven Mistakes of New Small-Group Leaders. Even through Smith uses the word, "new," I believe that experienced leaders need this list as well. In Part 1, I shared the first three of Reid's list of seven "common pitfalls that new group leaders encounter." In Part 2, I will share his final four pitfalls in all capitals followed by my commentary:

  • THE NEED TO FINISH BAD CURRICULUM. So many of us are "savers." We don't like to waste anything. While the Bible is never bad, sometimes curriculum can be. I like what Smith said, "If something's not working, can it. Move on to something else." While every group is a little different, most prefer "curriculum that engages people's minds, stimulates interaction, and builds relationships." I tend to prefer one that has a strong biblical base no matter what the topic. I agree with Smith, if "you're not getting feedback on a specific study, people probably don't like it." Seek feedback privately and/or as a group, and if the curriculum is bad move on to something else before they stop attending.
  • LOSING THE CREATIVE EDGE. Group meetings do not have to start and end the same way. Consider the passage and the group as you plan methods to facilitate examination and application of God's truth. Break the group into half for discussion or debate. Meet at another location. But creativity also applies to doing life together, to fellowship times, to ministry projects, etc. Seek input. Involve everyone. As Smith said, "Find ways to mix things up with each new season."
  • BEING INFLEXIBLE. There is a healthy balance between being flexible and being inflexible. You can also be too flexible. As group leader, plan to lead the group where you sense God leading you. Keep that vision in front of the group. But as you work with your group, be flexible in your timeline, goals, and methodology. Adjust as needed. The same is true in group sessions. Adjust according to participation level, emotion, and interest. If a group member is dealing with grief, take time for it. Pray for him/her. Organize to serve and support.
  • FAILURE TO RECOGNIZE YOUR GROUP'S UNIQUENESS. You are different from other leaders and from other members of the group. Take time to get to know each participant and to help them get to know each other and you. Share background. Share affinities. Take time in sessions, in homes, and at fellowship times. As you learn unique differences, needs, and preferences, you will be better able to facilitate group sessions and to lead the group as you share life together. These uniquenesses make groups fun. Celebrate what God has added to the mix of the group.
I closed Part 1 with this admonition from Smith:

Your small group will be healthy when people feel loved. This isn't all up to you as the leader, but you are a primary catalyst for it. And don't forget about God. A small -group leader is the person who takes the lead in creating and maintaining an environment where biblical community can thrive, but it's God who does the actual growing (1 Corinthians 3:6–7).

Think about your leadership. Is one of these pitfalls a greater tendency for you? Press the comments button below to share ideas of how you can overcome this mistake. Remember, the first three mistakes mentioned in Part 1: not being yourself, carrying too much, and failure to cultivate an outward-orientation to group thinking. As you lead your group, avoid these seven mistakes and help others to do the same. Be revolutionary!

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