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How to Cultivate Small Groups That Are Deep and Wide

There are two opposite temptations small group leaders face: forcing depth and avoiding depth. In an effort to create an atmosphere of grace and truth, however, it is imperative that small group leaders learn how to cultivate small groups that are deep and wide.

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Inevitably some small group leaders are more inclined to “go deep” or “get real.” They want to be open about their deepest struggles, and they expect others to be just as open. For these believers, a failure to open up in these deeper ways is a failure to be an authentic Christian.

As a result, these leaders tend to take every comment as an opportunity to plumb the depths of somebody’s heart. The atmosphere in these groups feels heavy, and group members tend to get worn out quickly. Ironically, the leader’s inordinate desire to get the group member to “go deep” actually ends up working against him/her. Because group members feel pressured to always live in the depths, they end up losing trust in their leaders and backing away from being open.

Group leaders who tend toward “depth” must work hard to create a small group environment that balances deep sharing with the fun and enjoyment of simply being together.

Ideas for the Deep Leader:

  • Make one meeting a month purely social. Have a potluck and play games.
  • Identify a group member who is outgoing and excels at the fun/social aspects of relationships, and ask them to plan a light-hearted activity each week.


Other leaders, however, can tend to be afraid of going deep. They are natural jokers and the life of the party. They have charismatic personalities that make their groups warm and fun for members. For these leaders, a successful group is a fun and connected group. Often these kinds of leaders can get nervous when conversations go deep. In order to deal with their nerves, they might crack a joke to lighten the mood or steer the conversation in a different direction.

Over time, however, these fun groups can start to feel shallow. Members enjoy coming to these groups, but they start to wonder if the group is really growing. These types of leaders must work hard to balance fun with depth, realizing that the church isn’t just a social club, but rather a place where Jesus is redeeming his bride. And small groups are an opportunity to take part in that work through offering real gospel care and counsel.

Ideas for the Fun Leader:

  • Each week practice asking follow-up questions when people share.
  • On a regular basis, open up to your group about something significant you are struggling with, or simply something important the Lord is teaching you.

Question: What other ideas would you suggest for the Deep Leader or the Fun Leader?

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