The Single Most Important Thing in Leading a Small Group

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Jonathan McClintock, adult editor at Pentecostal Publishing House, makes a case for leading a small group.

In his book The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, John Maxwell writes, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Without understanding the context of this statement, a leader who reads these words can quickly become either energized or overwhelmed. For someone who is looking to take charge, prove their value and worth, and make their mark, they could become energized at the thought of the power they hold as the leader: It all depends on me.

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However, the hesitant leader still a little unsure of where they are headed with their group and how they might reach all their goals may become overwhelmed when thinking the exact same thing: It all depends on me!

Leading a Small Group and Building Community

Maybe you know of leaders who run themselves ragged trying to keep up with their leadership responsibilities and are continually running on fumes as they pour themselves into their small group each week. There is a reason for this: Many people have been taught that a leader is to be the do-it-all and know-it-all single source. However, this is not what John Maxwell is saying. Everything rises and falls on leadership, but everything does not and should not rise and fall on the leader.

And when it comes to small group leadership, this understanding is crucial. Of course, your goal is to build community, grow disciples, and multiply your group again and again. But achieving that goal is going to take more than just you.

Over 1,800 small group leaders from around the world recently responded to a survey on They were asked what makes small groups grow. Among all the respondents, one consistent response surfaced: “Quit doing everything yourself and involve others.”

Anyone who has worked with people long enough has come to the same conclusion. In order to grow people and grow groups (e.g., small groups, churches), leaders must learn to empower followers and show how to lead. Those who become faithful small group participants must eventually become faithful leaders.

Group leaders must recognize the gifts and abilities of group members.

We must lead as encouragers and disciple-makers, teaching and training those we lead to become leaders themselves.

Find ways to plug in these members and allow them to share in the responsibilities of the group. Allow them to take ownership of a certain part of the meeting each week and lead that particular segment.

As the group leader, this involvement may mean taking time outside of the planned weekly meetings to mentor some of your group members, pouring your heart and passions into them. Encourage the group to explore their leadership potential, to take risks, and to step out of their comfort zones.

For small group success, we cannot allow everything to rise and fall on one single leader. Instead, we must lead as encouragers and disciple-makers, teaching and training those we lead to become leaders themselves.

Jonathan McClintock is an author and the adult editor for Word Aflame Curriculum and The Discipleship Project. He also serves as campus pastor at Urshan College and Urshan Graduate School of Theology. Jonathan and his family live in St. Charles, Missouri.

Resources and Links

For digital small group resources and online streaming, check out Discipleship Now. For small group kits by David K. Bernard, Stan Gleason, Lori Wagner, Travis Miller, Ken Gurley, Jeremy Painter and more, click here. You don’t want to miss these.


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