12 Characteristics Of A Great Small Group Leader

Do you have what is takes to be a great small group leader? Taking on a leadership role is a big responsibility, but even more important in a small group at a church.

A small group leader should have leadership qualities that allow them to lead others in good times and through challenging periods.

Small groups are a place where members share deeply personal thoughts and experiences. As a result, trust is required between small group leaders and the group’s members.

A small group leader should be a person to talk to when times are tough and they should be able to give honest and constructive feedback, even when the truth is hard to accept.

One of the many keys to being an effective small group leader is the ability to develop relationships and bring people closer together through the study of the Bible.

This is a helpful article to read if you’re looking to be a small group leader, or if you’ve been approached to lead a small group. Use the following examples to help you assess your own characteristics and skills as a leader.

This list may illuminate areas where you could improve, thereby helping you become a more effective small group leader in the future.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves.
Philippians 2:3
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:7

12 Must-Have Qualities Of A Small Group Leader

#1 Is Punctual

A small group leader should be punctual. If you’re a fan of football you may have heard the term “Lombardi time” (which means being on time is 15 minutes early).

Coach Lombardi is known as one of the best coaches in football but he was also known for superb leadership.

If you’re a small group leader it’s important to arrive early to meetings and activities. Members of your group will often want to speak to you personally and their only opportunity may be before or after a meeting.

Being punctual isn’t only about arriving on time. It’s also about starting on time (also read: Qualities of a Great Pastor).

Chatting is great, but make sure your small group activities begin and end on time. In doing so, you’ll reduce the amount of distractions with people leaving due to other obligations.

#2 Is Organized

Organization is key to any leadership position. Have you ever arrived to a meeting only to have the leader (or boss) unorganized?

It can be irritating and if it’s habitual a leader can lose respect of a group quickly.

Maybe the leader can’t find the correct paperwork or they start the meeting late because of other mishaps. Things happen, but it’s important to anticipate problems and be well organized to overcome them quickly.

#3 Is Thoughtful

A small group leader should be thoughtful. It’s important to ask questions and get to know members of the small group on a personal level. A hand written letter to a group member goes a long way and reminds that individual that you care.

If a group member mentioned a hardship several weeks ago, let that person know you’ve been praying for them. Ask how things are going and if there’s anything you can do.

A poor leader will avoid asking what they can do to help in fear that they have to do something above and beyond their duties (also read: How To Be A Prayer Warrior).

#4 Follows Up

As touched on above, it’s important to follow-up with small group members. A great small group leader will continually ask group members how things are going, but more importantly, they will ask follow-up questions based on prayer requests or other specific blessings or challenges someone is facing.

Follow-up opportunities can come during small group meetings or at other times in the week via a phone call or email. This is a great habit to get into and it also keeps your memory sharp.

#5 Holds Themselves and Others Accountable

A small group leader’s job isn’t always smiles and hugs. Sometimes you’ll need to have a serious conversation with your group (or with individuals in your group).

As we all know, small group meetings don’t always go as expected. If you fail to meet your objectives or if group members are not meeting expectations, you may need to have a “sit down” to share your thoughts (and there is a chance that others won’t share your thoughts).

Holding people accountable is tough but it can be done in a supportive way. Your tone, posture, and word choice will have a big influence on how your small group member reacts (also read: Best Ways To Invite A Friend To Church.

Talk to people with respect and understanding, but make sure to get your point across.

#6 Knows When It’s Time For A Break

We’ve all sat through a small group meeting and wondered why it was taking so long. Whether you have a brief meeting or an extended meeting, it’s important to take short breaks so people can stretch their legs and use the bathroom.

It’s important to accomplish a lot during a small group meeting, but remember that breaks are necessary. Knowing when to take one is a great small group leader characteristic.

#7 Is Observant

Are you perceptive? Can you look beyond a smile and see how someone really feels?

A great leader should take the time to look around and observe group members. If someone is fidgety, it might be from habit, however, if it’s out of character it could mean something is wrong.

The same is true for a small group member that appears preoccupied with something else, or has trouble focusing during a small group meeting.

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It’s important to know your small group members and understand if they are acting out of character. If so, ask them questions and give them assurance that you care.

#7 Sets The Tone

How a small group begins a meeting will have an influence over the productivity of the meeting. A good small group leader will set the stage for the meeting. This could come in the form of a story, a lesson learned during the week, or a joke to loosen up the group.

As a leader, there are plenty of ways to get the your group focused. Mix it up. Try various approaches to start a meeting and see how the group reacts. If you find an approach that works, repeat it!

#8 Delegates

Great leaders delegate! Have you ever been part of a group where the leader insisted on doing everything? It can be irritating, especially if there are talented people in the group.

A small group leader should delegate and do it often.

  • Do you have a teacher in your small group?
  • What about an accountant?

Ask the teacher to organize a hands-on group activity. Ask the accountant to be responsible for collecting funds for a missions trip. Use the knowledge and skills of those in your group to make meetings more participatory.

#9 Gets To Know People Outside Of Study

A good small group leader will engage with members outside of regular meetings.

  • Drop by a member’s house to say hello to their family.
  • Give them a call at their office and check in with them.
  • Ask if they are enjoying the small group meetings and what could be done to improve them.

Long lasting friendships can be created through small groups. Take the opportunity to get to know everyone in your group and you may discover you have much more in common!

#10 Strives to Improve (Accepts Feedback)

At times, feedback can be scary, however, strong small group leaders should embrace the opportunity to improve their leadership.

There are various ways to get feedback from a small group. They include:

  • Worksheet asking how leadership can improve
  • Prayer (ask members to pray about your leadership)
  • Face-to-face

Good leaders are eager to improve. They accept positive feedback along with the negative and create goals and action plans to improve.

>> Also read: Steps To Become A Missionary

A poor leader overlooks areas where they should improve. They use terms like “good enough” and “it will be fine” to justify weaknesses in leadership.

#11 Is A Prayer

A good small group leader is someone who prays for their group regularly. Prayer is one of the main components of a small group.

Most people tend to pray for themselves and their family.  A small group leader should also prayer for group members.

Leaders take notes during meetings so they can remember to pray for specific challenges or blessings. They write prayers and send to group members. The call group members and pray over the phone.

#12 Earns Trust

As the saying goes, trust is built in drips and lost in buckets. Trust takes time and great leaders don’t expect others to trust them merely because of their position.

Instead, leaders live a life that gains trust with others. They have a reputation in the church but they don’t rely on that reputation to gain others trust.

They speak to people in a kind and honest way. The show that they are genuine with Godly intentions.

Characteristics A Great Small Group Leader Should Not Have


Small group leaders should not be impatient.  An impatient leader will create an environment where others become impatient, irritable, or anxious.

An impatient leader is often someone who is overwhelmed or unprepared. A small group is comprised with people from various backgrounds. Meetings will rarely go as planned and leaders should be quick on their feet to adapt and keep the group focused without being impatient.


A condescending leader is tough to work with. They always know what’s right and they make you feel bad for not knowing.

Someone who is condescending will make others feel insignificant while building themselves up. A good leader recognizes that it’s better to build each other up in the name of God.


Someone who is distant may not be a great choice as a small group leader. They may isolate themselves and lack the desire to interact with their group.

They may come off as cold and uncaring, even if they really care. For some people, being distant is cultural. It’s hard for them to meet people quickly.  It takes them a longer amount of time to know and trust others.

In Summary

Being a good small group leader isn’t something we are born with. The skills and characteristics are built over time.

Ideally, a small group leader has experience with small group activities in church and in leadership. Church leadership can be developed over time with church participation, study of the Bible, and a sincere interest to be more Christ-like.

Leadership can also be honed outside the church. Leaders are developed on sports teams, in business, and in the classroom and can be a boon to the church, providing the skills and lessons that can be applied to faith.

In this article we covered the essential characteristics of a small group leader.  It’s important to know that having these characteristics does not guarantee success. However, it provides a general overview of the skills and characteristics needed to successfully guide others in studying the Word of God.#