What is the Most Important Job of a Small Group Leader?

If you were asked to name the most important activity for small group leaders, I wonder what you might say.

When I started thinking about that question, my mind went to the five activities listed by the team at Orange:

• Be present
• Create a safe place
• Partner with parents
• Make it personal
• Move them out

Of those five, I would say that making it personal is the most important. Why? It’s simple: “In order to inspire authentic faith in your few, you must first practice and prioritize authentic faith in your own life” (Lead Small, p. 125). You can’t give them what you don’t have.

Something’s missing…

The more I thought about it, however, it seemed like something was missing from the list. Making it personal is about tending to one’s own spiritual condition. That’s important, but I wondered: Is there an aspect of a leader’s personal expression of faith that could be highlighted as being the most important thing for making a difference with others?

I needed to look deeper.

Dave Early, a pastor and ministry professor, identified what I was looking for: praying for the people in the group. He explains, “After 25 years of leading small groups and coaching small group leaders, I have come to one clear conviction: prayer is the most important activity of the small group leader” (The 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders, p. 27).

That’s it!

As soon as I read those words, I knew he was right. In my experience, small group leaders who consistently pray for the students in their group by name are dramatically more effective than those who don’t. I’d be surprised if your experience reveals something different.

And yet, there are small group leaders at your church who don’t pray for their students. You ask them to pray for their students, but they’re no doing it. Why don’t they pray?

There are usually two reasons why people don’t pray:
1) They don’t think prayer matters very much (hence, they don’t prioritize it or make time to do it).
2) They don’t know how to do it.

I’m hoping your leaders believe that prayer matters, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the best. That means the ones who aren’t praying for students are struggling with how to do it well. They want to pray, but they can’t quite find the right words to feel like they’re making a dent with their prayers.

Honestly, everything I just wrote about small group leaders can also be said about students’ parents.

A free resource for you…

That’s why I put together a little resource called, “Prayers for Your Students: Short Scripts for Parents and Small Group Leaders.” You can download it for free by clicking the image…
Prayers for Your Students

I didn’t want to just tell small group leaders and parents who struggle to pray that they should pray more. That’s seldom helpful. Instead, I wanted to give them a tool they could use to strengthen their prayer muscles. So, this tool gives them a Scripture verse and a scripted prayer for each day of the week (Monday through Friday) to help them get started.

Of course, the goal isn’t that they would endlessly rely on scripted prayers…but everyone starts somewhere. They can keep using the scripted prayers on the assigned days week after week. Eventually, they’ll become more like prayer prompts than prayer scripts.

I would encourage you to download a copy and include it in your next emails to parents and small group leaders. Those who don’t need it will delete it. Those who do need it might not admit it, but they’ll be thankful for it.

Give it a try. I’d love to hear how it goes!

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Trevor Hamaker (DMin, McAfee School of Theology) is an author, adjunct professor, and youth ministry coach. He helps youth pastors see their potential, develop their skills, and reach their goals.

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