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4 Characteristics of a Potential Small Group Leader

Heather Zempel
Heather Zempel Monday January 14, 2019
<? echo $type; ?> 4 Characteristics of a Potential Small Group Leader

Identifying and recruiting potential small group leaders is one of the most important things we do as pastors and leaders. We are wired to look for people who are immediately ready to lead—people who are mature relationally, developed spiritually, sound theologically, and smart biblically. The problem with that approach is looking for disciples instead of doing what Jesus told us to do: making disciples. That means we are not looking for ready-made leaders but for people who are postured and open to be developed and shaped.

Here are four things to look for in potential leaders of adult small groups:

F for “faithful.”

Look for people who are committed to the group, relatable to people, and growing toward Jesus. They show up. They don’t look for the credit. They don’t have to be the center of attention. They do little things like they are the big things and don’t make a big deal about it. They are willing to take responsibility and they follow through. They are reliable and consistent. Their actions match their words.

A for “available.”

Look for people who are consistently on time, willing to take ownership, and ready to serve. Some people have the potential to be great small group leaders, but they just aren’t in a season of life where they have the margin in their calendar or the relational Velcro to do it. So, look for people who are available and willing to be available to others. People who aren’t just looking to spend time but to invest time meaningfully.

S for “servant-hearted.”

Leadership isn’t about being the smartest person in the room, the spiritual giant whose prayer life dwarfs all others, or the person who makes all the decisions. Leaders follow the way of Jesus . . . to serve others. Look for someone who cares about others and is willing to make someone else’s good their highest priority.

T for “teachable.”

Look for people who have humble hearts and hungry minds. Being a small group leader doesn’t mean you have all the spiritual answers. The best small group leaders are the ones who relentlessly pursue the right spiritual questions. They aren’t know-it-alls but people who want to learn and grow. They are more learners than teachers.

Once you find your FAST people, communicate to them your desire to see them lead. Acknowledge and validate their gifts and abilities, demonstrate how they are adding value currently and how that value can be maximized as a small group leader, and give them a clear, accessible path forward (depending on your context, that could mean serving as an apprentice leader, completing a training program, and/or taking administrative steps toward approval or registration of a group in the database).

Being a good small group leader does not mean you have arrived spiritually, emotionally, or relationally. It simply means you hold FAST to loving people and pointing them toward Jesus together.


Whether you’re a small group leader or a leader of leaders, check out Big Change, Small Groups, a practical and inspiring how-to guide for leaders of adult small groups. Get 25 Icebreakers for Small Groups, FREE, when you visit BigChangeSmallGroupsBook.com.

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Heather Zempel is the Discipleship Pastor and Campus Ministries Director at National Community Church in Washington, DC. She is the author of several books, including Big Change, Small Groups, a how-to book for small group leaders of adult small groups. She lives on Capitol Hill with her husband, Ryan, and energetic daughter, Sawyer. She loves growing as a leader, discipling the next generation, and watching SEC football. Follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram at: @heatherzempel