If you do a quick Google search on “How to be a Great Small Group Leader,” you will find a treasure trove of articles—several of them written by me. But what about being a great small group member? After all, it’s hard to feel like a successful leader without faithful followers.
Leading a group is not easy. I have personally led a group for over 20 years, and there are countless Tuesday nights when I have felt like a complete failure.
Several people were late to the group or just didn’t show up. The discussion felt like it didn’t go anywhere. Prayer time turned into gossip hour, and the list goes on.
I can always work to be a better leader, but there are also many ways a group member can help the leader and the rest of the group have a better experience. Here are 10 of them.
1. BE ON TIME (BUT NOT TOO EARLY).
It can be really frustrating when group members are consistently late to the meetings. Especially if they are responsible for bringing food, or if the discussion flow is interrupted by their late arrival.
On the other hand, it’s also hard on the leaders and group hosts if members arrive too early. There are always last-minute preparations taking place for the meeting or a needed few moments of rest before everyone shows up.
Being on time, but not too early, helps start the meeting in the right direction.
2. LOOK ENGAGED IN THE DISCUSSION.
Speaking in front of a group is one of the most intimidating things in life for a lot of people. It’s especially difficult if the people in the room seem disengaged in the discussion. When I am leading a group, I always look for the people looking back for encouragement.
One of the best ways you can help your group leader out is to be fully present in the moment. Don’t constantly check your phone for the latest scores or stare out a window the whole time. Occasionally give visual cues, like a nod of the head, that you are fully engaged in the conversation.
3. BE THE FIRST TO ANSWER A QUESTION (BUT NOT EVERY TIME).
A big part of being engaged in the meeting is answering questions during the Bible study. When the leader tosses out a question, the silence that follows can be super uncomfortable. It’s always a relief when someone steps in to answer the question or offer an opinion. That answer may also be the catalyst that gets more people talking.
However, it’s important to not be the first person to answer every question so that more people have the opportunity to jump in with their thoughts. An over-talker will dissuade a lot of people from answering.
4. BE THE FIRST TO OFFER TO READ SCRIPTURE.
Just like it’s awkward when no one answers a question right away, it’s the same when no one volunteers to read the Scripture passage. Most of us have the Bible on our phones now, so be that person who volunteers quickly. Treat it like a “sword drill” in Sunday School—fastest one to the passage wins a prize!
5. HELP HEAD OFF RABBIT TRAILS AND GOSSIP.
Some rabbit trails are inevitable in a discussion. The trick is getting it back on topic before the whole meeting is off the rails. Instead of waiting for the group leader to have to step in and bring everyone back, offer a helpful comment that gets the discussion back in the right direction.
The prayer time can also easily slip into gossip if we’re not careful. Help the group leader out by not going there yourself, and also help others see when it’s starting to take place. The leader hates always having to be the “bad guy” in those situations.
6. OFFER TO ORGANIZE THE NEXT GROUP OUTING.
Planning and preparing for normal group meetings is a big job in and of itself. There’s prepping for the Bible study, making sure everyone has the details for the meeting, cleaning the house, preparing food options, and many other varied details that help make it a great experience for group members.
One way to take some of the load off of the leader is by offering to organize a fun outing or a mission opportunity for the group to participate in. This can be a monthly or quarterly event. The leader will appreciate the initiative, and the group will be better for it.
7. OCCASIONALLY HOST THE GROUP MEETING.
Now that we understand how much work it is to host a group every week, it would be a big relief for someone to offer to take that responsibility occasionally. It’s also nice for the group to meet in a different environment. A new location can lead to a different perspective.
8. GO HOME ON TIME.
As a group leader, it’s always great to see the group engaged in discussions before and after the official meeting time. A lot of the time, the life-changing conversations happen outside of the group meeting. However, there has to be respect for the host’s personal time. The conversation may need to continue at a local coffee shop so the host family can go to bed.
9. PRAY FOR YOUR GROUP LEADER(S).
Stepping up to lead a group is no small task. Group leaders are asked to spiritually shepherd the people in their care. This responsibility comes with a lot of weight. Satan loves to attack those who are helping pull people out of darkness and into the light.
Group leaders also have the same struggles and stress that we all do. Consistent prayer is not only appreciated, but much needed. Remember that they are also praying for you.
10. OFFER TO START A NEW GROUP.
The only way we are going to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission of making disciples is by starting new groups for new people. I know how hard it can be to step out of a successful group for something new, but the time is short, and the harvest is plentiful. We need new disciple makers to carry on the work that Jesus started.
Every small group needs great leaders and great members. Together, we can change the world with the message of the gospel through biblical community!
This article first appeared at lifewayvoices.com.
CHRIS SURRATT (@ChrisSurratt) is the discipleship and small groups specialist for Lifeway Christian Resources, a ministry consultant and coach with more than 20 years of experience, and the author of Leading Small Groups: How to Gather, Launch, Lead, and Multiply Your Small Group.