The 6 Habits of Highly Effective Small Group Leaders

Emeott Web2I’ve been around a lot of kids Bible study leaders over the years and have noticed that the really good ones seem to have similar habits and practices.

As a Sunday School teacher myself, I’ve found when I practice these six principles, things go a lot better for me and the kids.

1. Be Prepared

Good teachers understand that it doesn’t “just happen” but they must take time to adequately prepare both spiritually and physically. Prayer and personal Bible study lead to what I call “overflow teaching.” God wants to speak to the kids in your class from the overflow of what He’s shared in your heart. Failure to plan is planning to fail. Review and prepare the curriculum and be ready to teach. (Additionally: I’ve found that half the discipline problems in small groups would be alleviated if teachers were better prepared.)

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2. Be Smart

Be smart about teaching. I often challenge teachers to be the teacher, not the facilitator. Anyone can facilitate, good learning happens when leaders know and understand the kids they’re leading and choose to teach, not just “get through the day.” Take the time to learn the general and specific characteristics of the kids you’re teaching and then prepare your sessions accordingly.

3. Be On Time

Small group Bible study begins when the first child enters the room. You need to be there early and be ready for that first child. What happens in your classroom 15 minutes before the first child gets there sets the tone for the entire day. Be first, be early, and be ready!

4. Be Intentional

Small group Bible study leaders only get around an hour each week to help boys and girls hear, understand, and connect biblical content. Be intentional in your teaching. While it’s important to make it fun and engaging, be careful to intentionally make that fun foundational and evangelical. If you’re leading an art activity, be intentional to reinforce the biblical content either directly or through guided conversation that helps kids connect. Again, be a teacher, not a facilitator.

5. Be Flexible

If it’s not working, do something different! Be okay with changing things up in mid-stream if that’s what’s best. You can dig in your heels, refuse to budge, and push through an ineffective activity, or you can just admit it’s not working and try something that might. My experiences have taught me that “hot potato” memory verse works every time. So, that’s my “back-up plan” should the prepared activity start to tank. Be the teacher!

6. Be Relational

It’s true; kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Build relationships with kids and their families. They’ll remember that you loved them. Long after your students have promoted they’ll continue to connect your love with His Love. Don’t be a “clanging cymbal!” Show love, care, and compassion. Live out what you teach.

I’d love to hear what you think. Share your thoughts and other habits you’ve found helpful as you lead kids in your church!

Since 2003 Bill Emeott has served as the Lead Childhood Ministry Specialist for LifeWay. His passions include childhood ministry leadership training and development, leading children’s Bible Study, and being an Uncle! Bill has been teaching children at First Baptist Nashville for seven years.

  • Tammy

    Right on target, Bill. These steps will work every time.

  • Peter Johnston

    I just e-mailed this post to all of my leaders in my weekly update. Thanks Bill.