Top 10 Books for Small Group Ministry Leadership


Fourteen years ago I began leading my first small group and quickly realized that I didn’t have a clue.  Over the years I have been mentored by some of the greatest small group ministry leaders and thinkers through their books.  Here are ten small group ministry books that have been most influential to me.

Small Groups with Purpose: How to Create Healthy Communities, by Steve Gladen

What is a Healthy Balanced Small Group?  What Does This Look Like?  Step-by-Step, How Can I Do This?  These are a few questions this book looks to answer.

Building a Life-Changing Small Group Ministry, by Bill Donahue & Russ Robinson

Bill and Russ, along with the entire team at Willow Creek, have shaped how many of us do small groups.  Here’s a practical guide to small group ministry in the local church.

Creating Community: Five Keys to Building a Small Group Culture, Andy Stanley & Bill Willits

Despite my natural bend to open groups, Willits won me over somewhat to closed groups when I heard him speak about North Point’s Stategy.  Creating Community covers five big ideas:  People Need Community, Leaders Need Clarity, Churches Need Strategy, Connection Needs Simplicity, Processes Need Reality.

Starting Small: The Ultimate Small Group Blueprint, Ben Reed

I wish this had been available when I first started a small group ministry from scratch.  It is a short yet pretty thorough guide to starting and running a small groups ministry in a local church.

Sticky Church, Larry Osborne

Not strictly a small group book, Sticky Church tells the story of North Coast Church and how it became a sticky church by choosing to a strategy of sermon-based small groups.  Larry makes a great argument for why sermon-based groups make sense and how to go about implementing them in your church.

Transformational Groups: Creating a New Scorecard for Groups, Ed Stetzer & Eric Geiger

This book is based on the data collected by LifeWay Research to determine the common factors in churches who are seeing large percentages of people grow in their discipleship process.  This book is filled with practical information that will help you lead a vibrant small group ministry and better communicate why small groups are necessary.

A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small-Group Dynamic, Rick Howerton

Howerton looks at how the changing social landscape affects small group ministry.  Some of the areas covered include: leadership traits required for the new group leaders, shifting groups from an assimilation focus to a discipleship focus, why mission is so important for groups, changing mindsets, and how to create transformational groups.

Making Small Groups Work: What Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know, Henry Cloud & John Townsend

This book is a must for group leaders.  It provides a game plan for how leaders can help their groups to grow spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. Cloud and Townsend provide insights into how small groups promote the individual’s growth.

Small Groups for the Rest of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, Chris Surratt

Much has been made of the correlation between small group participation and discipleship.  In this book Chris talks about how to facilitate connecting people currently on the fringes into healthy biblical community.

Walking the Small Group Tightrope: Meeting the Challenges Every Group Faces, Bill Donahue & Russ Robinson

This was the first book I used as a supplement to train small group leaders.  It focuses on the tensions that exists in leading healthy groups.  The six challenges are: Learning, Development, Relational, Reconciliation, Impact, and Connection.  I find that these tensions always play a large part in the struggles or successes small groups and their leaders have.


  1. JW I notice absence of Bill Donahue’s other books. Building a Church of Small Groups; The Seven Deadly Sins . . .; Coaching Life Changing Groups . . .

    I guess I am biased but think these may be at least as good as some of the pthers. Thanks for what you do.

    • Hi Skip,

      Both of those are great books. Building a Church of Small Groups was the first true small group ministry book I ever read and it showed me what could be, what should be. That book was pretty much replaced by “Building a Life-Changing Small Group Ministry”, so that is why I included that one instead. For me, and my work with leading a small group ministry Walking the Small Group Tightrope has probably had a bit more impact even though The Seven Deadly Sins of Small Group Ministry has also been fundamental in my thinking and how I do things. I am a huge Bill Donahue fan and have been greatly impacted by his work. Though I have also grown by reading the work of some other phenomenal small group ministry leaders out there and I believe learning from a range is good for ministry leaders, it helps me not simply replicate the thinking of one person or one ministry, no matter how awesome they are. So to get it in ten books I didn’t get nearly all the great books that have played a part in shaping me. In that line of thinking I didn’t include Carl George books even though he helped shape the thinking of so many on the list. Thanks so much for reading and for your input.

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