1. Busy Schedule
What It Looks Like: If you’re in college, you have a busy schedule. You’re juggling school, work, friendships, relationships, and a host of other things. Most nights you don’t get to bed until after midnight, and your calendar is always overbooked. It’s nearly impossible to survive without some things sliding through the cracks.
What It Inhibits: Preparation. One of the keys to success in small groups is to come prepared. You need to know your curriculum and you need to have a ready heart to engage with your students. But, if you’re not careful, your busy schedule can push small group preparation clean out the door, leaving you high and dry when it’s time to engage.
How to Overcome It: Plan, plan, plan, plan, plan, plan. The best way to combat a busy schedule is to plan ahead of time specific dates and times that you will commit to preparing for your small group. You have to be intentional about making preparation a priority. It’s easy to be lax about it, but you’ll regret that decision the moment you’re surrounded by a swarm of confused middle schoolers dead set on asking you the craziest questions possible.
What It Looks Like: Leading a small group is scary. When you don’t know the students in it, it’s downright terrifying. A million things could go wrong: you could freeze up, your students might not listen to you, even worse they might not like you, or all of the above could happen.
What It Inhibits: Vulnerability and Connection. You won’t be able to be vulnerable with your students if you’re terrified of them judging you at every moment. Also, students can smell fear, and they won’t connect with you as well if you seem shy and unconfident.
How to Overcome It: Fear is a common theme for humanity. That means the Bible has a ton to say about it. If you’re scared about leading a small group, turn to Scripture and to your Father. You can place Scripture verses in places you constantly look, such as on your mirror or at your desk. Memorizing Scripture verses will provide you with even more confidence, because you’re never without their encouragement. (We recommend Ps. 94:19, Josh. 1:9, Ps. 27:1, Isa. 41:10.) Never hesitate to turn to God with your fears. He encourages us to ask him for confidence and boldness. Ultimately, you have to understand your calling. God has put you here with these students for a reason. You’ve been given the responsibility of leading young hearts for a purpose. It’s not an easy task, but it’s a task God has clearly called you to and He’s promised to be by your side no matter how scary it may seem.
What It Looks Like: These days, everyone is exhausted. Thanks to those crazy busy schedules, no one has time to stop and rest.
What It Inhibits: Clear Thinking and Engagement. If you’re exhausted, you won’t be able to think clearly when a student throws you a crazy question or when the group begins to derail from the topic at hand. You also won’t be able to engage with your students because you’ll be yawning the entire time. Your students will only be as engaged and excited about the material as you are. If you’re completely worn out, then you won’t be excited, and they won’t either.
How to Overcome It: Sleeping, as much as people bash it, is crucial. There are a million reasons why you should be getting eight hours of sleep a night and being a bomb small group leader is one of them. But, more importantly, the best way you can combat exhaustion is by keeping your goal in mind. Jesus commands his followers to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” in Matthew 6:33. Your goal is to disciple these students. If you need a visual reminder to energize you, then write that goal on your wrist or make it your phone screen saver. Do what you have to to get energized for the students.
4. Poor Perspective
What It Looks Like: There are a number of poor perspectives you can have when it comes to your small group. Maybe you’re expecting every student to get saved after the first night. Maybe you’re expecting students to always have insightful comments or deep questions. You can almost undoubtedly think of expectations you’ve had for your students that haven’t happened, leaving you frustrated and disappointed.
What It Inhibits: Enjoyment, Connection, and Initiative. If your small group doesn’t go the exact way you imagined it would (100% guaranteed to happen), you can be mad and frustrated, when in reality your small group was actually great. You also won’t connect well with your students if you have unrealistic expectations for them. Ultimately, your initiative to be flexible and mold your teaching to your students will be shot if you’re stuck in poor expectations you brought in with you.
How to Overcome It: Define the win. The win isn’t for every student to be saved. The win isn’t for students to start falling over in sheer amazement at your teaching abilities. The win is for you to engage with your students and communicate truth to them. At the end of the day, everything is about the student. When you let your expectations and perspectives factor into the equation, you’re making the small group about you, and it’s not.
What It Looks Like: We all have priorities. Some prioritize relationships, some prioritize school, some work, and others friendships. When you’re approaching your small group, you can have your priorities in the wrong place. If you’re focused on yourself, that’s the wrong priority. Ultimately, the other 4 inhibitors all find their roots in priorities. A busy schedule prioritizes you over preparation. Fear prioritizes you over the promises of God. Exhaustion prioritizes you over your mission. Poor perspectives prioritize you over the student.
What It Inhibits: Everything. If your priorities aren’t in the right place, everything you do in your small group will be inhibited.
How to Overcome It: If you’re reading this, it means you probably care about where your priorities are. You want to be a bomb small group leader because you care about your students and you care about the kingdom of God. So before you approach each small group, check your priorities. It’s easy for us to get our priorities completely messed up, but Jesus commands us to seek His Kingdom first. He promises that everything else will be taken care of. So remember this, when you’re a small group leader, your priority is always the student. Everything else comes second.
Small Group Interns - Sophie & Nic