What makes a great discipleship group leader?

10 Qualities of Faithful Discipleship Group Leaders


Randy Pope

President of Life on Life Ministries

If you want to have fruitful discipleship groups at your church, then you need to consider what makes a faithful discipleship group leader.

Not only that, but you need a plan and a vision for developing those leaders. Life-on-life missional discipleship can play a key role in creating faithful and humble leaders who have a willing spirit for serving in the church.

Joining a group doesn’t guarantee anything, but, like the exponential growth of bacteria in a meticulously prepared Petri dish, an effective group provides the necessary environment for one leader to multiply into several. Discipleship is not a factory for cranking out healthy Christians; it is a laboratory for reproducing leaders.

Creating a Multiplying Movement Through Discipleship

Journey Groups (aka Life-on-life missional discipleship groups) should always be expanding. Life-on-life discipleship produces, within most groups, healthy leaders who know how to replicate the process. Our leadership base for everything we do as a church is growing because we no longer recruit leaders; we reproduce them.

Recently, we asked some of our discipleship veterans to share what they believe are the top three qualities for any leader of a Discipleship Group. I gathered their answers and came up with the following list of ten characteristics. 

It’s important to note that these traits are descriptive as much as they are prescriptive. Discipleship is not some magic cauldron into which we plop a leader and a group of followers and, after some sizzling and stirring, cook up some mature, equipped leaders. 

Though we have engineered this process to mature and equip people in the faith, we also recognize that not every person who comes through our process will emerge ready to lead. In fact, some may never lead, and there is no such thing as a perfect leader. But the process can produce mature, equipped leaders who have the following characteristics:

10 Qualities of a Faithful Discipleship Group Leader

  1. Walks with the Lord: A mature, equipped discipleship leader leads himself well in his own walk with God, which includes study of the Word, prayer, and a missional life.
  2. Strong Personal Worship Habit: A mature, equipped leader has a strong, consistent personal worship habit. You can’t feed others if you haven’t been fed yourself. One discipler said she was surprised and disheartened by the number of leaders who are trying to fill leadership roles in the church (both discipleship and otherwise) without having a consistent personal worship habit.
  3. Humble, Teachable Spirit: A mature, equipped leader has a humble, teachable spirit. None of us has ever “arrived.” The sanctification process is lifelong, and if someone thinks he is ready to lead because he has nothing else to learn, he is probably the last person you want leading a group.
  4. Leads Family Well: A mature, equipped leader leads his family well, including leading consistent family worship and devotional times, practicing healthy marriage principles, and seeking to lead his children to Christ.
  5. Available: A mature, equipped leader is available: She exhibits commitment to give of her precious resources of time, money, and energy so that others may know the Lord better.
  6. Depth of Wisdom: A mature, equipped leader has depth in the areas of knowledge, skills, character, and vision of the Christian life. This includes adequate training in theology and knowledge of the Scriptures. This doesn’t mean that a leader must have all of the answers. Wisdom is more important than knowledge.
  7. Equipped Leader: A mature, equipped leader has had training and/or experience in group dynamics and leadership. One woman remarked that she had been in groups where the leader was a mature Christian but was not equipped to lead group conversations.
  8. Vulnerable: A mature, equipped leader demonstrates a willingness to be vulnerable, to share honestly and openly about failures and weaknesses.
  9. Accountable: A mature, equipped leader is accountable to others.
  10. Vision: A mature, equipped leader knows where the group is going, is clear on the group’s purpose, and knows where each member is in their walk with God and how to move them forward.

Life-on-life discipleship does, indeed, go beyond one weekly meeting. Often it involves a constant flow of communication between the leader and the members of his or her group. But this interaction should take place naturally, outside the boundaries of the regular group gathering. It happens in the context of friendship. And it requires an investment beyond meeting two hours once every week.

How Can You Reproduce Effective Discipleship Group Leaders?

I encourage you to ask yourself this question: Is there a mechanism in your church that has the capacity to create leaders with these qualities ingrained in their character and practices?

You may be familiar with the math in 2 Timothy 2:2. Paul writes,

“And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (ESV).

Four generations are represented in this one verse. We see Paul passing on what he has learned and experienced to Timothy, who passes it on to the “faithful men,” who are to pass it on to “others also.” When Paul’s admonition to Timothy is translated into a regular practice–like life-on-life missional discipleship–the exponential possibilities for growth and reproduction are breathtaking.

You can help ensure leaders are able to pass on their knowledge and experience by using a consistent format for bible discussions and discipleship (ours is called TEAMS) and by choosing a bible study curriculum that each generation can use and replicate.

If you’re interested in learning more about discipleship that creates mature and equipped leaders, then join one of our upcoming info calls or checkout the book, Insourcing by Randy Pope. (This blog is a modified excerpt from Insourcing, chapter 8 – The Profile of a Leader.