Small Group Leaders play a vital role in accomplishing the mission and vision of your church. They help create and develop environments in which members can connect with God and each other for the purpose of discipleship. They present an example and model of what being a disciple of Jesus looks like in action. Because of the influence they have, there are a few crucial qualities that they need to be walking out in their life. Small Group leaders do not have to perfect – God uses imperfect people because that is all he has to work with!

When we first started Real Life Ministries our need for small groups grew at a faster rate than we were able to raise up leaders.  Because of this, we had to place people in leadership positions before they were completely confident in leading. God blessed us and brought growth even in our deficiencies, as he always does. Going through this forced us to quickly put some criteria together for identifying and raising up small group leaders. We found that as we looked at the members that had been able to go on to lead and facilitate groups effectively, there were a few qualities that they had all started with.

Jesus is the ultimate model of spiritual maturity we are all aiming for, so who better to look to as an example for the qualities we hope to see in our leaders? Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

With that in mind, here are 4 qualities we look for at Real Life Ministries when setting a Small Group leader in place.

(I should add that this is by no means an exhaustive list, and it is assumed there are other criteria your church would have in place before a member is considered to serve in this manner.)

Servant Heart

The person with the heart of a servant will be humble and teachable. They will genuinely care about others, and be willing to give of themselves to serve them.

1 Peter 5:2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve;

John 13:14-15 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

Maturing Spiritually

The person who is selected to lead a Small Group should be actively and consistentlymaturing spiritually. This means they will have a daily relationship with the Lord and be learning His Word.  They are being obedient to God and yielding to His will. They should be serving Jesus by serving others, and actively showing the fruit of the Spirit in all of their relationships. This is an outward sign of inward maturity.

Ephesians 4:2-3 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Jim Putman, author of this blog, is one of the speakers at this year’s National Disciple Making Forum. Learn more and register here.

Facilitation Skill Sets

There are some skills that are very helpful in leading a group. Good facilitation skills don’t generally come naturally, but they can certainly be learned. This is why at Real Life we ask that every Small Group leader raise up an apprentice. The apprentice has the opportunity to watch the leader and learn some of these skills from the example they set.

It is important that a leader paves the way to openness by being transparent with their own struggles. He must create an atmosphere that feels safe and encourages members to share honestly. He must be able to draw out the quiet members, and pull back the ones that over-talk. He should be willing to listen more than he speaks, and be more concerned with asking questions than with giving answers. All of these things help create an environment where relationships can grow deeper.

Proverbs 20:5 The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.

James 1:19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,


The person you choose to lead a Small Group should be committed, not only to God, but to your church body. Two of the things we look at to measure the commitment of our members are their attendance and their giving. These are certainly not the only signs of a committed heart, but they are necessary signs all the same. The person who is committed to tithing is not only obeying God’s command, they are also personally investing in the body they are a part of. This indicates submission to the leadership of their church, and also brings about a personal ownership in the work being done there. In the same way, the person who is committed to attend the services, events, and trainings of the church body is aligning himself under the leadership. He is setting an example by his actions of the priorities he holds.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

1 John 1:3 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 

I will end with this quote from A.W. Tozer:

I believe it might be accepted as a fairly reliable rule of thumb that the man who is ambitious to lead is disqualified as a leader. The true leader will have no desire to lord it over God’s heritage, but will be humble, gentle, self-sacrificing and altogether as ready to follow as to lead, when the Spirit makes it clear that a wiser and more gifted man than himself has appeared.”

Written by Jim Putman

This was originally posted on Jim Putman’s blog here. Used with permission.

Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

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