I really wish I could travel back in time to apologize to those nine 9th grade guys who were a part
of the first small group I ever led. Every week they put up with my not-so-talented small-group-
leading skills. In fact, during one of our small group meetings a student affectionately referred to as “tell-it-like-it-is-Tim” politely asked me:
“Have you ever led a small group before? Because, if you haven’t—that really explains why
these spiritual times together in small group are so painful and, honestly, I would rather be doing
my Trigonometry homework than sitting in this small group with you leading it.”
Throughout the course of the year it was confirmed: Tim’s spiritual gift was encouragement.
But you know what? I am glad Tim told me that my small group leading was horrible. It
motivated me to get better. Over the years, I have made some mental notes on what to do and
what not to do in small group. So review my notes please, feel free to add to this basic list of Do’s
Don’t fall asleep.
I’m not just talking about in the middle of prayer requests. (Although you really shouldn’t do
that either.) I am specifically talking about falling asleep on the couch at 9:30 on the last night of
one of those weekend retreats. You will wake up with Sharpie on your face.
Don’t be a know-it-all.
It is completely okay to say, “I don’t know”. We are human, and it’s good for your students to
see that you have a limited knowledge of God. Sometimes discovering God’s word together is
more powerful than teaching them the “right” answer.
Do let them talk.
At times, this may mean you have to be okay with a little silence. Let them sit for a moment
and think. Then, do whatever you can to affirm the comments of student input. Be gentle with
answers that are clearly wrong. Keep discussions going by asking deeper questions.
Do require confidentiality.
This allows students to open up because they feel their environment is safe. However, don’t keep
potentially dangerous information to yourself (e.g. the three hurts: hurting myself, hurting others
or someone is hurting me)
Don’t read off the leader’s guide.
If you haven’t read the guide by the time your few students are staring at you, waiting to start
group, trash it. Nothing discourages authentic conversation quite like an SGL reading in a
monotone voice from a thin piece of paper.
Do bring snacks.
Students will stay engaged if there is food. Trust me, it’s worth the $3 a week to pick up a bag of
Doritos before group. I mean, let’s be honest—we all look forward to something a lot more if we
know there will be food involved.
There are many more, I’m sure. I don’t begin to pretend this is the master list of all good ideas.
So, what are some of the Dos and Don’ts of leading a small group you have discovered?