Do you have what it takes to be a good Group Leader?

Do you want to be a group leader someday? Who wouldn’t? After all, it’s a great way to disciple and encourage others. Plus, you get first dibs on leftover snacks.

But how can you tell if you have what it takes to be an effective group leader?

group leader

Though personalities and strengths differ, here are four common traits of an effective group leader:

1) Personally pursuing a relationship with God

This doesn’t mean long-time Christian, perfect person, or biblical scholar. Are you currently pursuing a relationship God?

2) Consistent in attendance and preparation

If you aren’t reliable or prepared, the group will suffer. Consistency trumps knowledge and charisma. Do you prioritize your group in your schedule?

3) Positive and encouraging attitude

There is a shortage of encouragement in our world. Effective leaders fuel others with encouragement. Do you regularly look for ways to encourage others?

Paul said, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Rom. 1:11-12

4) Humble and transparent

“At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.” –John Stott

Are you transparent enough to allow others to see your weaknesses and humble enough to allow others to be the subject of conversation?

Here’s the GREAT news: Each of these traits can be developed. So, you CAN be an effective group leader.

Starting Small: The Ultimate Small Group Blueprint by Ben Reed

Ben Reed (small group guru) just released his first book in which he shares his own wisdom on leading small groups. It’s relevant for group leaders and group pastors. Here’s a quick overview:

ben reed book graphic

Chapter 1: Introduction

Ben starts off sharing why he’s passionate about small groups.

“My story was forever changed through healthy community. I was different because God used intentional relationships in a small group to bring change in my heart in a way that was much faster than other ways.”

“If you don’t know where your story intersects with small groups, it’ll be hard for you to lead others to get excited.”

Chapter 2: The Why before the What

“Without relational connection, the church isn’t the church. The church isn’t a building to be occupied by people once a week. You don’t believe that, and neither do I. The church is us, the people. We are the ones for whom Christ died. Not our buildings. Not our hymnals. Not our pews. It’s the people who are the church. And without relational connection, you don’t have a church.”

Chapter 3: No Failure to Launch

“Warning: This strategy is dangerous. You may get someone who’s absolutely unqualified and unequipped to be the leader. But Rick Warren once told me, ‘You can structure for control, or you can structure for growth, but you can’t structure for both.’ And he’s right. Do you believe that God is in control? Do you believe that God is the giver of gifts? Then He’s the one who’s given them that leadership ability.”

My favorite insight from Ben for Group Pastor’s is found on pg. 25. When someone approaches you and says, “There’s just not a group that works for me.” Ben’s response is wise and super helpful. Gotta buy the book to read Ben’s response.

Chapter 4: Planning Connection

Ben shares his early challenges in small group ministry then provides some practical insights on the key for a successful group launch, pro’s/con’s of common group launch options, alternatives to group launch, and how to build momentum leading up to the launch.

Chapter 5: Keeping a Good Thing Going

In this final chapter Ben shares the “#1 marker of success in a small group”. You’ll have to get the book.

Finally, Ben shares how you (the group leader) can help create an atmosphere for a healthy group.

Overall, this book uniquely targets group pastors and group leaders. An easy read that I’ll personally reference again many times. Click HERE to pickup your copy.

Ben’s bio:

ben reed picBen is the small groups pastor at Long Hollow, a multi-site church in the Nashville, TN area. In addition to pastoring, preaching, and writing, Ben has a great passion for coffee. Good coffee, that is. And CrossFit. But not at the same time.

You can journey along with Ben at

5 reasons to avoid a small group

5 reasons to avoid a small group

1. You don’t have time

2. You don’t like small talk

3. Relationships are messy

4. You don’t want new friends

5. You’re afraid

5 reasons you should join anyway

1. You might be the encouragement someone else needs

2. You may face an unforeseen challenge soon & need encouragement

3. God said we need each other (Heb. 10:24)

4. You’re less likely to fall

 5. You’re more likely to grow spiritually


Summary: Forming community can be hard but it’s worth it!

My small group at a recent dinner

My small group having dinner together recently

Conform, Inform, or Transform?

I spent a week in Honduras last October. I’ll never forget visiting Tegucigalpa’s (capital city) largest trash dump where 1,000 people (men, women, and children) live.

I discovered that each day trash trucks drive from all over the city to dump their garbage. As the truck approaches the dump site, young boys race to be the first to jump onto the truck, climb into the garbage and begin to search for hidden treasures.

We were told that if you asked one of these kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” most of them would say, “A trash truck driver.” From their perspective, that’s the key to a better life.

I was so encouraged to learn about an incredible local ministry that is now educating, housing, and ministering to these kids. One long-term result is that some of the kids are discovering that there’s so much more to life than living near the trash dump.

You can see one of the boys who lives at the dump and jumps into the back of the trucks searching for garbage.

Some of the people who live at the trash dump

When it comes to my faith, I sometimes settle for being a trash truck driver. Maybe you can relate. Let me explain.

Ginger and I have a group of friends we hang out with every Wednesday night. (You can meet them on THIS video.)

We are discussing John Ortberg’s book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted.

According to Ortberg, we are trying to grow our faith by being: conformed, informed or transformed. Here’s the cliff notes version:

Conformed (premier value = rules) – Despite Duet. 6:4, first century rabbis focused on circumcision, dietary laws, and Sabbath keeping. Why? Because when we can’t experience transformation we want to separate ourselves from “outsiders” so there’s a noticeable difference. John Ortberg calls this “boundary markers”. These are highly visible, superficial practices (vocabulary, dress, style) intended to distinguish insiders from outsiders.

Informed (premier value = information) – Some people constantly desire “deeper” teaching. For most of us, it’s easier to be intellectually stimulated than be internally transformed. Since learning can disguise a heart that’s not being transformed, sometimes we pursue “deeper”.

Transformed (premier value = heart change) – Jesus focused on the internal vs. the external. He asked, “Do you love God and do you love people?” Not, “What are you doing?” Or, “What do you know?” Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 13:1.

Sheldon Vanauken wrote, “The strongest argument for Christianity is Christians, when they are drawing life from God. The strongest argument against Christianity? Also Christians, when they become exclusive, self-righteous, and complacent.”

Which of these 3 are you pursuing?

John Ortberg offers these 5 questions to help us discover if we are being transformed:

1. Am I spiritually “inauthentic”? Inauthenticity involves a preoccupation with appearing to be spiritual.
2. Am I becoming judgmental or exclusive or proud? Pride is a potential problem for anyone who takes spiritual growth seriously. As soon as we start to pursue virtue, we begin to wonder why others aren’t as virtuous as we are. As Homer Simpson’s fundamentalist neighbors said: “We went away to a Christian camp. We were learning how to be more judgmental.”
3. Am I becoming more approachable, or less? Jesus was the most approachable person people had ever seen. The religious leaders had a kind of differentness that pushed people away. Jesus had a kind of differentness that drew people to him.
4. Am I growing weary of pursuing spiritual growth? Observing boundary markers, conforming to a religious subculture, is simply not a compelling enough vision to captivate the human spirit. It was never intended to be.
5. Am I measuring my spiritual life in superficial ways? “How is your spiritual life going these days?” Quick—what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If you’re like me, I  immediately think about how consistent my quiet time is going. As if that is the single measurement of my spiritual growth. A better set of internal questions is, “Am I loving God more? Am I loving others more?”

When I focus on conform or inform above transform, I’m settling for driving the spiritual trash truck when God has so much more.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Small Group Leaders

I’m sitting here at Simone’s Coffee Shop in Ventura, California sipping my Butterscotch Toffee Coffee (stop judging me).

As both a long-time fan of Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and a long-time small group advocate, I thought I’d combine both worlds.

smallgroup pic

7 Habits of Highly Effective Small Group Leaders:

1. Commit to personal growth – authentically share what God is teaching you

2. Pray for group members regularly – rally around people during tough times

3. Celebrate together – regular, fun, social activities

4. Contact group members weekly – let people know they were missed

5. Be prepared – success or failure is often determined before the group meets

6. Share leadership – since life change requires sustainability, effective leaders invite someone to co-lead

7. Mentor a new leader – formal or not, find someone in your group you can help take a step toward increased leadership

What group leader habit would you add?

Top 8 Small Group Models

Church leaders, based on my observations here are the eight most common small group models currently being used by churches along with one of the predominant books describing each model:

small group options

1) Semester-based Group Models (2 or 3 semesters per year)

– Curriculum selected by Individual Groups . . . Activate by Nelson Searcy

– Sermon-based Groups . . . Sticky Church by Larry Osborne

– Free Market Small Group Model . . . Dog Training, Fly Fishing, and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century by Haggard

2) On-going Open Group Model … Small Groups Big Impact by Jim Egli & Dwight Marable

3) On-going “Closed” Group Model*Creating Community by Andy Stanley and Bill Willits

4) Missional Small Group Model . . . Community: Taking Your Small Group off Life Support by Brad House & Launching Missional Groups: a field guide by Michael Breen and Alex Absalom

5) 40-day Campaign Model . . . Small Groups on Purpose by Steve Gladden

6) Combination or meta-modelsLeading Life Changing Small Groups & Building a Church of Small Groups both by Bill Donahue

7) Cell-based Group Model . . . Biblical Foundations for the Cell-based Church by Joel Comiskey

8) Disciple’s Making Disciple’s Group Model . . . Real-Life Discipleship Training Manual by Putnam, Willis, Guindon, & Krause

*North Point’s groups meet for 18 to 24-months and then multiply. To encourage increased transparency group members request “permission” from group members before bringing a guest. Though labeled a “closed” model it operates more like a “gated” model.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Maybe you’d recommend an additional group model or book for the list.

Want More?

Ever wanted more from your relationship with God? At times, I have.

Over the past few years, I have personally experienced this Biblical principle: My relationships with other people directly impacts my relationship with God.

Here are others experiencing the same thing:

We’re better together. Are you pursuing consistent relationships with others?

3 things I don’t like about my current small group

I believe small group participation is hard but worth it. It’s easy to focus on the worth it part while ignoring the hard part.

Personally, I love my small group. In fact, you can watch THIS 7 minute video of our group chatting last week.

groups logo pp

But I gotta be honest and tell you something. There are 3 things I don’t like about my current small group (and every group I’ve been a part of):

1) Giving up an evening every week

2) Trying to figure out who’s gonna watch my kids

3) The day of group I often dread it instead of anticipating it

Can you believe that I actually lead the small group ministry at our church?

But I still think you should absolutely join a small group. Why? Over my lifetime, I can not think of any single factor that has grown my faith more than the friendships I’ve formed in small groups. Watching others’ faith grow inspires me. Giving others access to my life motivates me. Being encouraged through tough times sustains me.

So, how about you? What are some of the things that make the small group experience hard but worth it? You can be honest. 🙂

Short video of our small group chatting last night

Has God used others to encourage you? If so, how?


Last night Ginger (my wife) shot some video of our our small group as part of a larger video project in the works. We were answering the question “Has God used this group to encourage you? If so, how?”

We had fun with it so I thought I’d share the 7 minute “raw footage” video (BTW, we missed you last night Matt & Leslie!):

So how about you? Has God used others to encourage you recently? If so, how? I’d love to hear from you today.

What do you do when life’s good but a trial is coming?

We were both sitting in a Chick-fil-A booth enjoying our chicken salad sandwiches when my pastor asked me, “So how are things really going Mark?”

I said, “Things are going so well that sometimes I worry. I know life will include trials so sometimes I worry about the next trial. It’s almost like waiting for the other shoe to drop and suddenly life won’t be this good anymore.”

Daniel, my pastor, said, “You know what I do to help when ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’? By the way, I worry about stuff like that too. I depend on community. I’ve developed a deep relationship with a few people for that very reason. Because if someday it turns out that I’m a jerk to you those deep relationships in your life will help you navigate through it. If someday you begin to become a jerk those people will help get you back on track.”


I know more trials are coming my way. We don’t like to think about that do we?

Do you have a few deep relationships? Have you experienced the benefit of deep relationships helping you through a trial?

Here’s to deep relationships and chicken salad sandwiches with Daniel.