8 Rules for Avoiding Small Group Leader Burnout


Small group leader burnout is a devastating thing. When small group leaders exit the ministry, amazing small groups lose their shepherd and apprentices lose the opportunity to be taught by a long-time, knowledgeable, seasoned leader.

Small group leaders, if you will consider the 8 rules below, I think you’ll be able to dodge the burnout ball and stay in the game.

  1. Give away responsibilities. Anyone with too much to do feels overwhelmed and seldom does anything very well. If you will give away responsibilities to group members you will be more apt to continue to lead the group, experience leadership growth, and the work will get done better.
  2. Pray daily for group members. You burn out when you believe you’re responsible for the spiritual transformation of your group members. God is the One who grows His children. Praying for each group member by name daily is a constant reminder that God is the One who challenges and changes people.
  3. Use your apprentice. Too many group leaders have an apprentice but seldom give them responsibility. Give your apprentice the opportunity to lead often, especially when your world is at a NASCAR pace. They will grow because of it and you’ll have a chance to breathe.
  4. Don't host the meeting at your house. One of the greatest mistakes a small group leader can make is hosting the small group meeting at his/her own home every week. This means the leader must shepherd group members throughout the week, prepare for the meeting, clean house, clean up after the meeting, and in some instances cook the snack or meal. This would burn anyone out. Don’t do it.
  5. Don't try to be the group’s resident theologian. Allowing others to seek out the answers to hard-to-answer questions is good for them. Let them know where the resources are and let them do the work. They’ll grow in their knowledge of Scripture because of it and you’ll have one more thing off your plate.
  6. Take turns leading the Bible study conversation. In a healthy group, leading a conversational Bible study is not rocket science. Let them know they’ll have their opportunity to lead; choose easy to use curriculum, model good leadership for them, give them plenty of time to prepare, and let other group members lead.
  7. Plan ahead. Living in crisis mode is a sure fire way to burn out. It creates tension that will cause you to question whether or not you have the time or talent to lead a group. By planning ahead you will alleviate the inner tension that can lead you to doubt being in the role of small group leader.
  8. Ask your coach or small group pastor for help, understanding, or to step into difficult relational situations when necessary. No one ever intended for you to go it alone. When you have a difficult decision to make or a situation that is really hard, gain wisdom from your small group pastor or coach. It will relieve your tension, give you a view of the situation untainted by relationship, and may unearth a new path to follow.

by Rick Howerton