win written on blackboard

It can be really hard to tell if you’re #winning as a small group leader. Showing up week after week to lead sometimes seemingly meaningless discussions only to have kids bounce around in the conversation to whatever happens to be on their mind, or even literally bouncing around on the floor. A small group leader may not see the fruit of their ministry till years later so they need tangible markers along the way with accompanying pats on the back to let them know that “Yes! You are winning!” … even if it doesn’t seem like it. It’s called “Defining the Wins”.

These are the wins we’ve defined for our small group leaders in student ministry (6th-12th). Please keep in mind, these aren’t the end goal. Our students are on a spiritual journey and the goal is to keep them moving along to the next step on their journey. We’ve outlined these steps in a resource we call “The Journey” and we’ve identified “Mile Markers for the Journey” to let us know that a student has successfully taken that next step. These “wins” are simply tangible markers that let our small group leaders know that they’re on the right track and doing the right things.

Feel free to steal, borrow, add, and change them to use in your context. I think I might start a hashtag #SGLWins to get these out one at a time on Twitter as well.

As a SMALL GROUP LEADER, you’re WINNING when ANY of these things happen AT ANY TIME

Students show up
Students show up and come back!
You greet students as they enter the Sanctuary
You recognize that a student is new, greet him/her, and introduce him/her to other students
Students are engaged in worship (singing, expressive, focused)
Cliques dissolve and the group becomes more unified
Students feel comfortable enough to be themselves
Your students interact with the Bible
A student listens to another student who is sharing prayer needs
A student responds with a caring gesture of any kind when another student shares a concern or prayer need
A student prays for another student
A distant or missing student returns after you make a “MISS YOU” contact
You follow the 4R’s for behavior management
Students know whose turn it is to talk
You use some sort of RE-DIRECTION CUE
You talk 20% of the time while your students talk 80% of the time
A quiet student responds/engages in conversation
A new student is welcomed and relationally engaged by other students
A student asks a question(s)
A student demonstrates vulnerability
You and your students laugh together
A student brings a friend
That student’s friend returns

You initiate contact with any student in your small group (card, text, message, call)
You initiate contact with a new or distant student (card, text, message, call)
A new or distant student replies to your text, message, or call
A student seeks you out (via text, messaging, call, or in person)
A student sees you at their sporting or school event
A student interacts with you in community
Students support each other cheer each other on at sporting events, etc.

You meet a new student’s parent
You meet any of your students’ parents
A parent addresses you by name
You address a parent by name
A parent discusses their teen with you
A parent sees you at their teen’s sporting or school event
Parents become engaged with the group (dinners, game nights, giving rides, etc.)

You show up on time
You attend monthly meeting small group leaders’ meeting
You attend Fall and Winter trainings and Spring Debriefing
A student changes disrespectful behavior because you redirected them


Author: Jim Murphy

Associate Pastor | NextGen Ministries Covenant Church, Bemidji, MN

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