Having Difficulty Motivating Your Small Group Members?

Are you having a hard time motivating your small group members?

You can’t motivate them!

Getting to a High Motivation

According to Susan Fowler, in Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work . . . and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engagingir?t=smallgrp 20&l=as2&o=1&a=1626561826, your members are always motivated. But the quality of their motivation is what matters. Their quality of motivation can range from being disinterested to having a high level of engagement.

Since your group members are already motivated, can you still have some influence on them reaching a high state of motivation?

Absolutely yes!

The question to ask yourself isn’t whether your members are motivated. The question to ask is WHY their motivation is at the current level.

What Is Needed to Thrive?

Your group members want to thrive. This is the part of motivation we are discussing in this post. In order to thrive, your members need 3 things:

  • Autonomy
  • Relatedness
  • Competence

This is great news, because small groups typically encourage these things. Your part as a leader is to ensure the group operates in a way that the small group experience fills your members needs in each of these areas.


“Autonomy can be defined as the ability to make choices according to one’s own free will. (Whether or not that will is free isn’t relevant here — only that it feels free.) If we feel coerced by even an internal pressure like guilt or shame — to say nothing of external pressures like other people — our feeling of autonomy vanishes.”
Alex Lickerman, M.D., The Desire for Autonomy

Small groups are a terrific venue to support autonomy. Members are encouraged to have authentic conversations. This can only happen when the rest of the group doesn’t try to “fix” them or judge them when they are open and honest.

Discussions that include different perspectives are great. But each individual member must be allowed to make their own choices without others trying to force or threaten to get a different result.

Does your small group operate in a way that supports autonomy?


Your group members need to feel loved and cared for while at the same time they can do the same for others. This isn’t just a good idea. Experiencing love as both a giver and receiver is needed for your group members to flourish.

Maybe that is one of the reasons the Bible says:

But now faith, hope, and love remain—these three. The greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

As a small group leader, do you have true love for each of your members? Does your small group operate in a way that members demonstrate love for one another?


Your group members need to feel effective. They need to contribute in ways that make a difference.

Because small groups encourage everyone to participate in the discussions, each member can be contributing in a significant way.

Do you know the knowledge, skills, spiritual gifts, interests and experiences each of your group members possess? Is your group organized in a way that each member has a unique role? If not, get creative and create some nontraditional roles.

For example, your small group could include roles for a photographer, researcher, newsletter editor, time keeper, encourager, and marketer.

Does your small group allow members to contribute effectively in a unique way?

I find it interesting that Susan Fowler says additional benefits received from meeting these 3 needs are trust and safety. These are two important components needed for your group members to be authentic with each other and spark transformation.

Examine how well you are allowing and encouraging your members’ needs of autonomy, relatedness, and competence to be filled. Make changes if needed and watch your small group members thrive.

Question: How did this change your thoughts on motivating small group members? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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