22 Jan, 2016 OUTREACH BOOK REVIEW-8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders

8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders

By Dave Earley


I’ve had the book for about 3 years – and didn’t read it because a skim read led me to believe it was ‘just another good book about church small groups – but one that, yet again, does not recognise the mission of the Church in its practice’. I was wrong!

  • I give this book a 10/10 rating as a church leadership book that will help the mission of the Church (and small group) be the mission of your church and its small groups. There are lots of books on small group, but few from the West like this!!!

At ATC we value the small group dynamic in outreach through a church very highly. I call the small group the ‘home base’ for evangelism. I do not believe you can create a sustainable culture of outreach in which the members are going out as witnesses without it (though you can create a culture of invitation without it, supporting the event or service-based outreach piston). This book values the same.

  • While the rhetoric of this book is different to my own explanations on ‘small group leadership and outreach’ (for those familiar with them), the principles are the same – and it is the principles that  are important!
  • This book recognises the mission of the Church as the mission of the small group – and not just theologically (as is in many books) but as reflected in their everyday values and practices that are promoted.
  • Dave Early believes in the essentiality of small groups in outreach enough to have restructure a church he led to release greater effectiveness. After seeing success through small groups he later led his church through a significant restructuring/change process to be released to greater effectiveness.

Other things that I applaud are:

  • The simplicity of what he presents
  • The fact that he reduces it to habits (rather than programs) – creating something that is simple and empowering
  • …and transferable.

This book, with its great content and applaudable simplicity, is a gift to the Church!


To summarise some key things he says – as they relate to our mission:

  • The 8 habits are to dream, pray, invite, contact, prepare, mentor, fellowship, grow.
  • (He’s also practiced what he teaches enough to have meaningful insights on how to lead leaders of groups, and to lead the leaders who lead/mentor the leaders of the groups, and leaders at the next level up also. This is written by a genuine practitioner!)
  • The 3 key Dream areas for small group leaders are (1) Group health, (2) Group growth in numbers and (3) Group multiplication. This left me convinced that he really does get it!
  • The third habit for the small group leader is to Invite new people to visit the group weekly. He says
    • ‘People must connect with you before they can connect with God’
    • ‘…surveys consistently show that 80-90 percent o those who visit a church and those who come to Christ both do so at the invitation of a family member or friend’
    • But he then breaks it down very practically, to show how this can be achieved (because extending a relational invitation per week would sound unrealistic otherwise).
  • The fourth principles is to Contact group members regularly. As an example within the chapter, after applying the principle of ‘Contact’ their church plant of 11 grew to 100 in 6 months and 200 in 18 months. During this time he personally called almost every family every week. ‘Some important times for group leaders to contact members are (1) weekly for the first few weeks, (2) after an absence, (3) after the person has shared that they are going through a trial, (4) after a tense moment in the group.’ This is strategic wisdom!
  • Regarding ‘Preparation’ – I was refreshed to see that he had moved away from the classic ‘small group agenda-outline of ‘Welcome – Worship – Word – Works’, to ‘Welcome – Worship – Word – Witness’ (I used ‘Welcome – Worship – Word – Works – Witness’. He combines general announcements into the ‘Witness’ part of the agenda).
  • Regarding habit 7: Fellowship – plan group fellowship activities, all I can do is applaud what is written. It is brilliant! ‘Highly effective small group leaders take full advantage of the power of social gatherings.’ He explains the dynamics. He explains the processes, and gives ideas (activities can be service projects, team building or purely for fun).  He discusses the power of food, team building, planning, the combining of activities with regular group meetings… His expertise is reflected! I believe that, if a churches small groups could get this principle/habit alone, they would grow. While the other habits might be needed for quality control (which is important!), it remains that a fun group has a much better chance of being a growing group than one that is not fun! (And who wouldn’t want their church to be known as a fun place?)
  • Regarding habit 6: Mentor apprentice leaders, he explains well how success or failure in this impinges upon the possibility of multiplication – and later in the book (when discussing how to care for leaders and leaders of leaders) gives a powerful example of a church that hit a season of small group growth, but then lost that growth due to their under -appreciation of this habit at that time. However, it takes and effective leader to raise up an effective leader – and this is direction of my concluding thought.


Concluding thought

The singular challenge will be the commitment level required of leaders, if they are to apply the 8 habits. I have applied many (not all) of these habits when leading small groups – but that was no small task. Only a person with a heart for the lost, and God’s Spirit in their lives, will have enough love and power within them to be motivated to do what is outlined in this book. Without this love and help, the 8 habits would look like too much work.

However, even if only some of these principles were applied (being modelled from the top down), small groups would surely become more effective – so there is nothing to lose from a study of this book!



DAVE MANN. Dave is an Author and gifted communicator with a passion for the Gospel. This passion started when he came to faith at age 11. After Secondary School he went straight to Bible College, followed by 7 years in outreach ministry in New Zealand, then nearly 9 as a pastor in Singapore, before returning to New Zealand at the end of 2011. Dave is a visionary and fearless about pioneering initiatives aimed at helping the Church in New Zealand in the area of its mission. Author of various books and Tracts including “Because we care”, “That Leaders might last”, “The Elephant in the Room” and available free on this site: “The what and how of Youth and Young Adult ministry”.
Previous Article
Next Article