Thinking Out Loud

November 4, 2016

Small Group Leadership is Like Playing Mini-Me to Your Pastor

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 am

small group

Different churches have different takes on the nature and title given to people who lead home church meetings or what are more widely called small groups. There’s no denying that this is an awesome responsibility, as these cells are a microcosm of the larger congregation, and some churches confer a lay-pastoral authority1 on those who take the helm.

If you’re the one getting the discussion started, or asking someone to get things going by reading a key scripture passage, or even leading off with an open question like the one in my wife’s study on Melchizedek, “Do you have a friend with an unusual or very long name?”2 then you have to be open to surprises.

So how would you deal with these situations? 


█ Derek finds it difficult to open up at the weekly group Bible study. He is naturally shy and insecure, so over the last few months has found it easier to have a couple of shots from the liquor cabinet before leaving home. Fortunately, Derek lives two blocks away and walks to Phil and Karen’s house. Lately, it’s been obvious that Derek’s on a bit of an artificial high when he arrives. He pets the cat now and says, “How’s my little furry lurry friend?” Formerly he made it clear he hates cats. And sometimes his breath is a giveaway. Should Phil and Karen

  • offer Derek a breath mint as soon as he arrives?
  • have a word with Derek about his shyness and insecurity?
  • lock up the cat before group members arrive?

█ Belinda is the stereotypical one-issue candidate. All of the issues of life — including things facing the Corinthians and Ephesians in recent Bible studies — could be resolved if Evangelicals would band together to impeach President Obama. She makes this point at least once a week in the discussion time, and should the opportunity not arise, she works it in as a prayer request. Everyone in the group is torn between tearing Belinda’s head off, or simply giving up trying to restrain their laughter. Should the group leaders,

  • remind Belinda that Bible studies should be apolitical and keep on topic?
  • give Belinda 10 minutes to let it all out, on the condition she never mentions it again?
  • remind Belinda that as a Canadian in Kentucky on a special work visa, she can’t vote anyway?

█ Thomas has serious ADD and ADHD issues. His mind wanders off at the worst times, which is unfortunate because Jim, the group leader, often will throw out a question and then ask a specific person what they think about the topic; as in, “How do you think the people felt when they heard this, Thomas?” Should Thomas, when he has no clue what the question was, simply respond

  • “Jesus”?
  • “love”?
  • “squirrel”?

█ Marita has the gift of evangelism. Realistically, she does have a good impact in the community and her workplace and has often invited friends and co-workers to church services with life-changing results. The problem is that she brings her gift to the Bible study group where, most clearly, everyone is already among the saved and committed. When she asks you “if you know for sure where you’re going when all this is over” should you say

  • “We have some pictures that are ready at Wal-Mart, and they’re open tonight until 10:00.”?
  • “That sounds like something I need to do;” and allow Marita to lead you in the sinner’s prayer?
  • “You know Marita, you need to share this with Derek. He has a drinking problem, you know.”?

█ Brandon never remembers to bring his Bible. Before group starts he downs three cups of coffee and about half of all the snacks on the kitchen table. Part way through each study, he excuses himself to use the restroom which is located just off the room where the group meets. Ten minutes later he returns, and about ten seconds later, it is apparent that he has sprayed copious amounts of air freshener which is now wafting in and choking those who have asthma and those that don’t. Should the leaders

  • refer all bathroom breaks to a location further away in the house?
  • find a way to ration the snacks before each group meeting?
  • lock up the cat before Brandon arrives?

Small group leadership is never easy, but through helpful quizzes like this one, we believe we can provide you with the decision-making tools you need to further your ministry.


1I just made up that term. But some assemblies call them “home church pastors” so the job carries some responsibility and authority. In other churches, the small group pastors are the elders.

2This was an actual open question in the Serendipity Bible study she was leading.

The graphic used to accompany today’s article was hijacked from this source, where you’ll find a humorous 2-minute video.

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