One of my biggest challenges in ministry has been keeping a high standard for the spiritual direction and focus of our student ministry small groups. When you have different leaders with various opinions and personalities, getting them all on the same page can be a trying adventure.

Having to confront a small group leader about the quality of his or her ministry to students is an incredibly hard task. Sharing of life, discipleship, healthy—these are words you want to use to describe what small groups are like. You don’t want to have to use words like lethargic, lazy, unproductive, and unhealthy.

To have healthy and effective small groups, I believe you have to set the standard high at the beginning. Small group leaders need to see, hear, and know what the small groups are for and where to lead their students. There are a lot of details and boundaries to think through in regards to small groups, and leaders need to know you will be guiding them as they guide the students.

So what do you do when you have a leader who doesn’t follow the standard you set? And more importantly, how do you even prevent that from happening?

  • Create a routine follow-up system with your leaders. Meet with them regularly to discuss specific benchmarks about how the small group is working. When you see them falling short, help raise them up to where things need to be—but be sure to support them before you correct them. They need to know you care for them as a person, as well as a member of your team.
  • Be honest. So often people say the nice thing over the right thing. If you have a small group leader who is never following up with his or her students, doesn’t encourage students in their spiritual walk, and doesn’t show up—you have a problem. The small group leader needs these things brought to his or her attention. You need to be very honest and upfront that his or her standard is not where it needs to be. It is easy to have these conversations if you have done a good job of communicating the standard and expectations at the onset of your small group leader’s role.
  • Make sure they realize the students are the priority. So often many issues are avoided with a simple question, “Is this the best for the students?” Serving is a tough gig—everyone else matters more than you. When you have a leader serving students, he or she needs to realize the students come first.
  • This is definitely a last resort, but be willing to have them step down. If the leader cannot lead with the standard you have set in mind and follow your guidance, the students deserve better. Be willing to ask them to consider stepping down for a season to reevaluate if this is the best area for them to serve.

I need to be willing to go over the top to make sure my leaders keep the bigger picture in mind. My support, care, love, and guidance to them will translate to the students.

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