Book Summary: 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders

Image result for 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders Dave Earley8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders (Dave Earley, 2001)

1. DREAM: Dream of leading a healthy, growing, multiplying group

The value of having a dream

  • Increases potential
  • Aids accomplishment
  • Focuses direction and channels energy
  • Increases the value of the group
  • Positively predicts the future
  • Motivates leaders to keep going


Three dreams of a highly effective group

  • Group health: God is present. Health barriers are pride, sin and unresolved conflict.
  • Group growth in numbers: Healthy cells grow. Growth barriers are 1) limited physical space, 2) lack of spiritual life, 3) lack of intentional outreach, 4) failure to maintain contact with the members, 5) no social activities to bond and invite new people, 6) failure of leader to share responsibilities with apprentices.
  • Group multiplication: Develop new leaders and groups. Multiplication barriers are 1) failure to have and mentor apprentices, 2) failure to plan to multiply.


2. PRAY: Pray for group members daily

Reasons effective cell leaders pray for their members daily

  • Most important task of a leader
  • Saves time
  • Pray is omnipresent and omnipotent
  • Makes everything better
  • Gives needed insight
  • Our greatest spiritual weapon
  • God blesses us when we pray for others


Tips for highly effective prayer

  • Have a set time and amount of time for prayer
  • Have a usual place for prayer
  • Have a plan for prayer (e.g. ACTS)
  • Have a place for recording requests and answers
  • Ask God to direct you to appropriate Scriptures
  • Season your intercession with thanksgiving for each member
  • Mix fasting with prayer for greater effectiveness
  • Pray through all possible elements of the small group meeting prior to the meeting time
  • Pray for your apprentices (s) and the future groups to grow out of your current group
  • Pray for God’s grace to help you live all 8 habits, especially this one


3. INVITE: Invite new people to visit the group weekly

Reasons why inviting is essential

  • People must connect with you before they can connect with God
  • If your group has no guests, it will experience no growth
  • If you invite, they will come (family, friends, coworkers or students, neighbours, church contacts who are unconnected or new)
  • Inviting stops declining numbers. People leave when drop out, move out of church or country or group, start a new group.
  • Numerical growth builds excitement and morale
  • Inviting builds spiritual ownership of the group


Mistakes to avoid in inviting

  • Failing to saturate the situation in prayer
  • Failure to keep them saying “yes”. Build a bridge of small “yes” to build up to invite to your group.
  • Giving up too soon. Keep building relationship and inviting.
  • Failing to understand the principle of “Six to stick”. It takes about 6 contacts (times) by leader to fix the group in person’s mind.
  • Failing to pray for and capitalise on opportunities
  • Failing to win the three victories. 1) Win them to you, 2) win them to your group/church, 3) win them to Christ.
  • Trying to be a solo inviter
  • Failing to capitalise on the seasons of the soul. People more open during 1) death, 2) move to new place, 3) divorce, 4) marriage, 5) family problem, 6) major illness, 7) birth of a child.
  • Using inappropriate levels of pressure. The better the car, the less pressure from salesperson!


Suggestions for what to say and when to say it

  • Comments that will whet their appetite
    • We have a wonderful group
    • God is answering our prayers
    • People in our group really love each other
    • Almost everyone in our group is (single) like you
    • We could use a (sharp thinker) in the group like you
    • We would love to have you join us
  • Statements that plant the seed
    • You will like it
    • You will fit right in
    • We will love to see you walk in the door
  • Questions that drop the bait
    • Do you have a group you meet with weekly to study the Bible?
    • Our group meets at such and such a place at such and such a time. Why don’t you come?
    • Let me personally invite you to ome. We would love to have you join us. Do you think you can come?
  • Declarations that show the power of the group
    • We have been praying for your (job, mother)
    • When people visit once they almost always like it and come back
  • Answers to their concerns
    • You don’t have to know anything about the Bible to come
  • You don’t have to read/pray/sing aloud unless you want to
  • You don’t need to dress up
  • All the kids meet in another room and have their own story. They love it
  • If you come and really don’t like it, we won’t make you come back every week
  • It’s a singles group, but people are there to meet God, not just find dates
  • It’s ok if you come in a little late.


4. CONTACT: Contact group members regularly

Reasons for contacting cell members regularly

  • Contacting helps your group grow
  • Contacting increases your average weekly attendance
  • Contacting helps a shepherd know the state of his or her flock
  • Contacting communicates care


Suggestions that make contacting powerful

  • Ask them, “How may I pray for you?”
  • Ask them, “What do you want God to do about that?”
  • Say, “Let’s pray right now.” Then pray for them right then, aloud
  • Ask, “Do you want to pray?”


Suggestions for what to talk about as part of a regular contact

  • What are you up to this week?
  • How are your kids doing?
  • Do you like your job?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how stressful was your week?
  • Where did you grow up?
  • How were you saved?
  • When were you baptised?
  • What do you like most about out church?
  • What do you like best about our small group?
  • What in your life would you like to be different 5 or 10 years from now?
  • What area do you think God wants you to grow in this month?
  • What are the things everyone says you are really good at?
  • Have you ever thought of leading a group?


The most important time to make a contact

  • Soon after a first visit to your cell group
  • Weekly for the first few weeks
  • After they have shared in the group that they are going through a trial
  • After a tense moment in the group


Secrets used by effective contactors

  • View the time you spend contacting as ministry time
  • Pray for Spirit-led direction as to what to say
  • Pray about who God wants you to contact that week
  • Be positive about God, your church and your cell group
  • Be considerate of their time and schedule. If they are busy, be brief.
  • Be sensitive to their mood
  • Have a place to record your contacts
  • Keep things that are shared in confidence, confidential
  • Be consistent, see that everyone is contacted
  • If they have shared a need with you, close the contact by praying for them
  • Use your apprentices and small group members to share the contacting load
  • Have a regular time scheduled each week for contacting


5. PREPARE: Prepare for the group meeting

Why prepare?

  • Gives God room to work
  • Increases confidence and faith
  • Builds credibility
  • Increases quality
  • Reinforces the value of group life
  • Secret of success tomorrow


What to prepare

  • Prepare yourself
    • Do I have any sin to confess?
    • Am I allowing the Spirit to be dominant in my life?
    • Do I have a heart grateful for the opportunity to lead a group?
    • Am I willing to apply the Word in my daily life?
    • Are there any relationships I need to make right?
  • Prepare the atmosphere
    • The place, clean, comfortable and spacious
    • The music, quiet as people come in and for worship
    • The snack, help people feel comfortable


Prepare the agenda for the meeting

Welcome (10-15 mins)

  • Snack
  • Greeting: Handshake or hug 
  • Icebreaker: Getting acquainted, Spiritually acquainted, Affirmation, Going deeper

Worship (10-15 mins)

  • Singing 
  • Thanksgiving
  • Praise prayers

Word (30-45 mins)

  • Introduction questions
  • Interaction discussion questions
  • Application questions


  • Pray for each other
  • Pray for people we are inviting to group or church, list names
  • Plan to contact absentees, can assign
  • Plan next social activity
  • Promotion of church activities
  • Prayer for the church and church leaders


Secrets to shorten prep time

  • Train and use your apprentices to lead meeting elements, esp. Icebreaker and prayer
  • Follow a plan
  • Shorten word discussion prep time by following a prewritten plan
  • Use resources provided by church or lesson guides


6. MENTOR: Mentor apprentice leaders

Mentoring is:

  • Cooperating with God in raising up an apprentice to become a highly effective small group leader
  • Following the example of Jesus and Paul (2 Tim 2:2)
  • A great way to love others
  • The means for multiplying yourself
  • The way one ordinary person can reach thousands
  • The heart of disciple making
  • A way to maintain godly accountability
  • Letting go of ministry in order to let others minister
  • Saying “No” to the urgent in order to say “Yes” to the potential of the important
  • The most lasting part of small group leadership


7 steps for raising up multiplying leaders and reproducing reproducers

  1. Demonstrate what you hope to reproduce (display 8 habits)
  2. Discover potential leaders
    1. See who has a heart for work
    2. Pray for God to provide
    3. Look for Compatibility, Character, Competency
    4. Look for people of FAITH – Faithful, Available, Initiative, Teachable, Honest
  3. Deepen your relationship with potential leaders
    1. Pray and play together
  4. Describe the vision
  5. Determine the commitment to be made
    1. Explain your commitment to them:
      1. Set the PACE (Pray, Available, Contact, Example)
      2. Train them to lead a meeting
      3. Train them to live 8 habits
    2. Explain their commitment as apprentice leader
      1. Be equipped by meeting with you and the small group coach
      2. Fulfill role by practicing 8 habits for 6 months
      3. To mentor others, they raise up apprentices also
  6. Develop them
    1. Model, mentor, motivate, multiply
  7. Deploy them


3 ways to birth a new group

  • Multiply: Two groups of equal size multiply from a parent group
  • Launch: A core group from a parent group launches a new group
  • Plant: One person from a parent group plants a new group while others remain
  • Use one Sunday every 4 months to enlist all church attendees into groups


Mentoring suggestions

  • Never do ministry alone
  • Take full advantage of all the training opportunities your church offers
  • Be constantly on the lookout for new leaders
  • Talk of leadership as a privilege not a burden
  • Don’t put yourself on a pedestal
  • Give responsibilities before you ask someone to consider being a leader
  • Always consult with those above you before you give any titles
  • Realise that failing to mentor will always mean  failing to multiply
  • Do not release leaders until they have a good chance of success
  • As you move through the group cycle, have your ministry role decrease and your apprentice’s role increase
  • Give lavish affirmation and encouragement to apprentices each step of the way


Multiplying suggestions

  • Talk about multiplying early and often
  • Talk about multiplying in positive terms (not breaking/splitting/dividing)
  • Talk about multiplying in terms of the big picture (reach out to more people)
  • Pray about the best method and the best timing for multiplying
  • Set a date for multiplying
  • Celebrate the new birth


7. FELLOWSHIP: Plan group fellowship activities

Power of social gatherings for fellowship

  • Social gatherings increase excitement, interest and involvement
  • Social gatherings attract new people
  • Social gatherings allow more opportunities to practice real fellowship
  • Social gatherings can create opportunities to obey the ‘one another’ commands
  • Create opportunities for further discipleship
  • Help knit new people to the group and the church (need 7 friends in 7 wks to stay)


Suggestions for effectively using social gatherings and fellowship activities

  • Think ‘togetherness’
  • Use variety
  • Use the power of food
  • Do not do all the work yourself, delegate
  • Plan ahead and inform early (have average of one activity/month)
  • Combine activities with group meetings
  • Relax, have fun, and enjoy each other


8. GROW: Be committed to personal growth

Insights into personal growth

  • Expected of us by God (2 Pet 3:18)
  • Fountainhead of group change and growth
  • Prevents decline
  • Something you must do yourself
  • Key to staying sharp and effective
  • Life-long process, not a short-term commitment (Phil 3:12-14)
  • Occuring in 4 key areas of life (Mind, physical, spiritual, social)
  • Product of daily habits


10 commandments of personal growth

  • Make the choice to be an ever-growing person
  • Focus your activities and set some goals (SMART)
  • Gather any needed tools (read good books etc)
  • Develop a plan that fits you
  • Schedule the needed time 
  • Sow before you hope to reap
  • Make yourself accountable
  • Share what you learn with others (Research and teach)
  • Associate with growing people
  • Put what you learn into practice


9. The 8 habits for leaders of leaders

Small group ministry structure


Level of leadership

Title of leader Span of oversight


Small group leader

10 group members



Up to 6 small group leaders



Up to 6 coaches

4 Small group pastor

Up to 6 directors


Applying the 8 habits to leaders of leaders

  • Dream: Of healthy group and to multiply
  • Pray: Pray for people under them
  • Invite: look out for new leaders to coach
  • Contact: Contact people assigned to you or in church
  • Prepare
    • Coach attend SGL meeting and give feedback, focus on positive
    • See each leader’s weekly goals
    • Ask about progress on personal growth
    • Give leader training
    • Keeps them informed on church activities
    • Discuss about apprentice and multiplication dates
    • Gives advice on practical things
    • Prays with leader
  • Mentor: Creates multiplication and prepares church for greater harvest
  • Grow: Help them set up a growth plan
  • Fellowship


10. Becoming an 8 habits church


  • Prepare for change: Need to meet people to share vision. The bigger the change, the more prep time and persuasion needed
  • Have the senior pastor lead the charge: Lead a small group, coach them, study it, use pulpit to promote
  • Build on what is already there
  • Start where you are and use the 8 habits to develop highly effective leaders, coaches etc.
  • Cast the vision: Nehemiah principle vision cast every 30 days
  • Recognise, reward (give them books, spend time, buy lunch, brag publicly, send them cards)  and Require (sign a covenant to 8 habits each year)
  • Promote group life: Small group leaders rally, small group Sunday (sermon, drama, testimonies, commissioning prayer, give group leaders shirts, recognise multiplying groups and new leaders, tables for people to sign up, catalogue of new groups offered), place info in bulletin, discuss importance of small groups with every new member, have a connection center to sign people up, having banners, giving t-shirts to 8 habits leaders, highlight an 8 habits leader and group each week
  • Model (always try to lead at least one group)
  • Pray

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