Help, I’ve Been Asked to Lead the Small Group Ministry

By Phil Sommerville

I received a phone call this week from a friend who had just been asked by his Pastor if he would volunteer to lead the small group ministry at his church.  “I’ve been a small group leader,” he told me, “but this is different.  What should I do?”  I’m glad you asked.  Here are some tips to get you started.

1.  Find out who your current small group leaders are.  Hopefully there’s an up-to-date list in the church office, but I know from experience this is often wishful thinking. 

2.  If there is a list, ask your pastor to send out a note by mail to all the leaders, introducing you as the new Director of Small Groups.  If there isn’t a list, ask the pastor to send out an all-church email, and/or make an announcement asking people who plan to lead small groups to contact the church.

3.  It’s important that you understand that the #1 reason why leaders don’t tell the church they’re leading a group is that they fear too much interference and extra demands – like wanting weekly reports.  You need to relieve that fear in order to be successful.  Let your leaders know you’re there to support them and help them thrive, not to be controlling and making things more difficult.  Don’t ask for numerous reports – you really only need three.  One report now, in the late summer, to find out who will be leading groups in the fall.  One in mid-October, after the fall launch, to find out how many people are in each group and possibly get a group roster.  Then one in mid-spring, again to find out how many people are in groups.  A count of participants in the fall and another in the spring will be enough information to track your progress.

4.  Contact your current leaders by email and/or phone to introduce yourself. Let them know you want to support them in their success.  You will need to ask them the following information: 

  • Will they be continuing their group in the fall?  If yes:
  • What day and time will the group meet
  • What will they study (if they know)?
  • Are they open for new participants?  (There is some debate over whether or not groups should always remain open.  I’ll share my views on this topic in my next post.)

5.  Don’t expect everyone to eagerly respond with their information.  In my experience about 50% will get back to you after the first contact.  If you have a better success rate, you are blessed with a very cooperative group of leaders.  Don’t get upset at those who don’t respond right away, it won’t help your leadership.  Be politely and pleasantly persistent, and gather as much information as you can.

6.  Prepare for a September small groups launch.  In my next post I’ll give more detailed tips about how to do this.  If your church is planning to do a 40-day campaign of some kind (an excellent way to create momentum in your church), the campaign kit usually provides helpful instructions on how to develop small groups for the campaign.  Follow their instructions and you probably won’t go wrong.

7.  Help encourage your small group leaders by pointing them to the studies and training tips they can find at  To really show your leaders how much they’re appreciated, consider having the church purchase our affordable church-wide subscription so that all of your leaders can have free access to our studies.

NEXT POST: Preparing a September Launch and “Should groups always stay open?”

Phil Sommerville is co-founder of Faith Alive 365 and a former Small Groups Pastor who has trained hundreds of small group leaders from churches of all sizes.

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to “Help, I’ve Been Asked to Lead the Small Group Ministry”

  1. Teddi on August 20th, 2009 10:14 am

    Good advice, Phil. We have some small groups in our church, but not an organized approach. If we decide to try and promote them a bit more, some of these tips will really help.

    It’s nice to have tips both for the “director” of all small group ministry AND for actual small group leaders. Sometimes you don’t see both on a small group site, and the director-type person can easily be overlooked.

    Thanks for getting me thinking on this topic!

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