Four years ago, we set out to start a campus ministry to share the gospel, foster community, and connect students with healthy, local churches. For the past few years, we have used small groups to provide spaces for hundreds of college students to gather for accountability, Bible study, and leadership development.
We wholeheartedly believe that campus ministries ought to submit to the local church and encourage the students in our ministry to join small groups in their churches. In our conversations with college ministers, we encourage them to focus on identifying leaders based on character and godliness over competency and giftedness.
Identifying New Small Group Leaders
Often, the most naturally gifted and competent members of a small group are chosen to lead small groups, while the quieter, more introverted members are never selected as leaders. When you’re looking for new small group leaders, you should follow the example of Paul and prioritize godly character.
When you’re looking for new small group leaders, you should follow the example of Paul and prioritize godly character.
Leaders in the church ought to be above reproach. In the pastoral epistles, Paul is instructing Timothy and Titus on how to identify elders who will shepherd the congregation, but the principle remains true for any leader in the church.
Leaders who are “above reproach” are those among whom you would be hard-pressed to find evidence of unrepentant sin. If you announce that Jake is going to serve as a small group leader at your church, the congregation should not be surprised. Small group leaders should be those who demonstrate godly character in their lives.
We believe that it is important for leaders to experience growth through a small group before they begin leading a group. For this reason, we encourage you to wait until someone has been in a group for at least 6-12 months before nominating them to be a leader. We have found that leaders who first experience transformation by belonging to a group are more likely to lead their group faithfully and consistently. As they grow within their home group, they build trust with those around them.
Small group leaders should demonstrate a high level of trust, as they are an example to the rest of the group. Your small group leaders do not need to be master theologians but should be trusted to agree with the core convictions of your ministry. These should be trustworthy individuals who you know will care for the believers in your congregation. Their godly character and consistency over time build truth that allows you to confidently empower them as leaders in the church.
Small group leaders must demonstrate an evident love of the Word of God. They should display a kind of wisdom that only stems from Scripture. The Bible should clearly influence how they conduct themselves and care for others. We have seen that leaders who lack a deep dependence on God’s Word struggle to lead their group, fail to grow, and are less trustworthy. A small group leader’s life must be one with a visible submission to biblical principles and the Lord’s will that is written in Scripture.
When you’re identifying new small group leaders within your congregation, it’s easy to overlook the time commitment that it takes to effectively lead a home group. Leader candidates should have adequate time to invest not only in leading their group but in fostering relationships with the group members.
We have found that the healthiest groups are the ones whose leaders invest in building deep friendships with the members. Yes, the leader must have enough time to prepare and lead the group during their scheduled meetings, but they should also have the time and desire to forge deeper connections with the members of their group. This effort of time and sacrifice form a better community within the small group.
When you are looking for a new small group leader, look for someone who is committed to relational ministry. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul writes on behalf of Silas, Timothy, and himself saying, “So we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” Relational ministry takes place when our love for others leads us to share both the gospel and our lives with them.
Relational ministry takes place when our love for others leads us to share both the gospel and our lives with them.
Small group leaders are not simply administering programs, they are caring for people. People from various walks of life are walking through difficult situations. Small group leaders are to navigate these situations with love, care, and wisdom. Relational ministry leads small group leaders to seek reconciliation in times of conflict and gentleness in times of tension.
Belong to the Church
Church membership provides a foundation for community. Whether you are leading a local church or a campus ministry, we encourage you to require your small group leaders to join a local church. No matter where you may be, gathering with other Christians in a small group is an opportunity to create space for discipleship, friendship, and accountability. Our hope for you is that your small groups would be led by those who love Jesus, belong to a healthy church, and are marked by godly character.