[NOTE: From time to time we'll run a previously-posted article that still has something meaningful to say. Here's one of them.]
Being an effective small group leader means doing a lot of things well.
It also means NOT doing a lot of things.
This is a list of what I believe to be some of the most common "don'ts" of being a small group leader. (I'd love to see what you would add.)
1. Don't play favorites.
This is tough. I think sometimes we do it subconsciously. We will be naturally drawn to some students based on personalities, both ours and theirs. But, we have to be aware of this tendency and work to give each student his or her fair amount of attention.
2. Don't join with other students in making fun of a student.
Even if it's good-natured. It's easy to fall in to this, especially with guys. It starts out with a few guys messing with each other. Seemingly harmless. But the moment your voice is added to the chorus, it changes. You're an adult. And your words have a lot more weight. Stay away from making fun of a student, even if it's a joke.
3. Don't let details fall through the cracks.
This one owns me. I struggle more with this than anything on this list. Just this week I put a mother in an not so great position with her son because I had not communicated as clearly as I should have. Details will kill you. Do not let them slip through the cracks.
4. Don't make students' parents look bad.
No matter who strict or overbearing they may be, never do anything to undermine your students' parents. Even in cases where a parent or parents might actually be pretty crummy, it's better to talk up the biblical ideal of parents and parenting (especially the perfect Father we have in God) than to talk down a students' parents.
5. Don't laugh at the wrong jokes.
I have been guilty of laughing at jokes I shouldn't laugh at. I've learned that oftentimes silence is the best answer. When you're the only one not laughing, the point has been made.
6. Don't make a promise you can't keep.
I have learned the hard way on this one. When you say you're going to a game, you better be there.
7. Don't expect more than you're willing to put in yourself.
Over the years I've found myself expecting students to be more diligent in their spiritual disciplines than I myself was being at the time. Or to have a higher level of commitment to our group that even I had. This is done out of the best intentions. But we need to be understanding. Students are busy, too. Sometimes empathy goes a long way.
8. Don't forget about mom and/or dad.
You simply must make an effort to get to know the parents of your small group guys or girls. Some will be easier to track down than others. And some will be easier to get along with than others. No matter. Make the effort.
9. Don't talk negatively about someone else.
This can be easy when a student is sharing how another person unfairly treated him or her, or even when students are talking about a celebrity or someone they don't know. Before you know it, you've joined in with a comment here or there. The best thing we can do is take it back to Scripture and how Christ taught us to love even our enemies. Easy? Not always. But, it's the right thing to do.
10. Don't break a student's trust.
This may be the biggest "Don't" on the list. Trust is hard to earn, and once lost, hard to earn back.
I'd love to see what you would add.
Have another "Don't"? Add it in the comment section below.