Women's Bible Study: Small Group Leader's HandbookRelated Media
This handbook is the latest version of our training manual for the small group Bible study leadership at Northwest Bible Church in Dallas. It has been developed over time under the leadership of three ministers: Vickie Kraft, Dianne Miller, and Kay Daigle.
The principles in this handbook have been proven over time to work well. We recommend that you follow them with your women’s Bible study small groups.
Each semester before we begin our studies, we have a training class. There, we go through the material generally, highlighting specific areas; we ask the leaders to read the entire booklet later. We communicate the vision of what we are trying to do together as we study God’s Word. The leaders take their booklets home and the handbook becomes a resource for them to use when they encounter problems and have questions.
If you want to use it in your church, just insert your own women’s ministry mission statement, etc. in place of ours. Make it personal to your situation and your needs.
Welcome to Women’s Bible Study Leadership
I am delighted that you have agreed to become a small group leader for our women’s Bible study. Your role is vital in the spiritual growth and encouragement of those in your group.
The women in our studies come from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences. We are praying with you that those who have not placed their faith in Christ will come to know Him, that those who know Him will grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, and that all of you will support and encourage one another in the Lord.
When God calls us to ministry, He gives us the power to accomplish the work that He gives us to do. It is not by our intelligence or our skills that we serve but by the power of the Holy Spirit.
If you need my help in any way, please contact me. I am here to serve you in any way that I can.
May the Lord richly bless your ministry with these precious women.
With His Love,
Minister to Women
Women’s Ministry Vision Statement
Northwest Bible Church Women’s Ministry exists to connect women of the church and the community
- To Christ
- To women of other ages and stages
- To ministry service
so that we grow together in the faith, knowledge, and love of Jesus Christ.
Women’s Bible Study Purpose Statement
The purpose of the Women's Ministry Bible study is to grow in intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through daily study and application of the Scriptures, prayer, and building relationships through intergenerational small groups.
Leader’s Commitment and Mission
- With God’s help I will strive to uphold and preserve the truths of the Bible.
- Relying on the strength of the Spirit I will endeavor to be faithful in completing my own studies, attending each session, and preparing for discussion.
- By equally accepting and loving each woman in my group, I will, with God’s help, be sensitive to the varied needs in my group.
What is a small group leader?
The role of the small group leader is one of serving and encouraging women in the group to know Jesus Christ and make Him known. She looks out for the interests of others because she is a servant leader who cares for each one individually. A small group leader is not dominant but encourages and strives for participation from all members. The goal is to enable them to deepen their faith and commitment to passionately pursue Jesus Christ. She is there to help them walk with Christ and grow in their personal study of God’s Word. If she seeks to be an instructor, the women will be forever dependent on her. To see them become independently dependent upon their Lord is the objective!
As you sense God is leading you to step out in a leadership role, know that you can trust Him to equip and enable you to accomplish the task. HE IS ABLE!
Qualities of a Small Group Leader
Full of faith
A good leader trusts in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior and trusts God to accomplish the work that He has called her to do.
Dependent upon God
A good leader knows that her strength and guidance comes through the Holy Spirit and through prayer as she seeks God in daily prayer.
A good leader reaches out in love to the women God has called her to oversee.
A good leader is not afraid to be transparent and allow her life to be an example to others.
A good leader can be trusted to keep confidential information private, not given to gossip but to prayer.
A good leader serves God first and foremost and is intent upon pleasing Him above all others.
A good leader listens to others with sincere interest in what the other person is trying to communicate. She answers thoughtfully, giving advice only when prompted by God.
Small Group Bible Study Leader
Reports to the Small Group Leaders’ Coach or Summer Coordinator
Primary Function: To shepherd the women in the group by leading them through the weekly lesson, praying for them, and supporting them according to their individual needs
Length of commitment: Fall-spring or summer only
1. She shall thoroughly prepare her own lesson and work through the leader helps as she prepares to lead the discussion each week.
2. She shall attend the weekly leader meetings.
3. She shall pray consistently for the women in her group and the Bible study leadership.
4. She shall attend the leadership training that precedes each semester’s study.
5. She shall regularly contact the women in her group and encourage them individually.
6. She shall encourage the group to love one another in specific and tangible ways, seeing the small group as a supportive community for its members.
7. She shall recruit a prayer leader to send out prayer requests by e-mail and a missions leader (only fall/spring) in her group and follow-up to be sure they are doing their jobs.
8. She shall work with the daytime/evening/summer coordinator to organize her group for snacks or meals, etc. according to the schedule she is given.
9. She shall make announcements, etc. as requested.
10. She shall see herself as a shepherd of her group and care for the flock as needed.
Tips for Creating a Group that Grows
- Be prepared. Read and complete the lesson and the leader helps thoroughly. Have a plan for your time with the women.
- Adhere to the time schedule for the study, starting the group on time and excusing them at the designated time. Stay around in case someone wants to talk privately.
- Keep attendance records for your small group so that you remember to check on absentees. Call or follow up with members who are absent. Women like to know they are missed when they are unable to attend.
- Conduct a prayer time during each meeting unless there is a concert of prayer in the large group. Follow the prayer guidelines in this manual.
- Lead the small group discussion, keeping group members focused on the topic in a lively and interesting way.
- Shepherd the women as followers of Jesus Christ. Lead the group to do its best in meeting needs as they arise.
- Pray for each member of your group during the week.
- Report any problems or concerns to the Bible Study Coordinator or the Minister to Women.
- Notify the Small Group Coach if you are unable to attend. If there is a possible replacement within your group, talk with the Coach about it so that she can decide who should lead.
- Let the Holy Spirit lead! Allow God to accomplish His work through you.
- Be enthusiastic! Let the group know that you love them and God.
- Remember that the most effective leader is the close follower of Christ. Nurturing your own relationship with Christ is the most critical practice in leadership.
Shepherding your Women
Principles to follow . . .
Seek solutions from Scripture
Encourage members to look to the Bible rather than to you for answers. Point them to the Lord as the Wonderful Counselor.
Stress the importance of trust among the members of your group. Women need to feel confident that what they share won’t leave the group.
Promote an atmosphere of safety and acceptance
- Provide a warm, supportive atmosphere in the group to set the tone for honest and open sharing.
- Help the women feel safe to share anything without fear of being judged, ridiculed or discounted.
- Be accepting of each member, especially the non-Christian. Accepting participants does not necessarily mean that you agree with their values or choices. You can love a person without agreeing with that person. If a participant shares something that makes her feel vulnerable or ashamed, say something like: “I know your sharing took a lot of courage. I admire you for being willing to share it.”
- Be truly appreciative of each member’s contribution.
- Emphasize that only members who wish to respond should do so. No one is required to share. Let them know that you will never call on them, even to read.
Your goal is that lives are changed. In order to do that, you must balance needs and Scripture. You do want to cover the lesson, focusing on how the Bible relates to their lives; however, when a group member expresses a deep need, be willing to stop and listen. Don’t leave a woman hanging when she has just shared from her heart. Be sensitive! You may need to take a few moments to pray for her. Do it yourself, and pray kingdom prayers!
Staying on time:
- Start at the designated time, regardless of how many women are there. Show honor to those who arrive on time by valuing them enough to begin.
- At the first session, emphasize the need to conclude on time each week. If you are having prayer time in your group, you must finish the discussion on time so that you have time to pray. Ask for a volunteer to help you watch the clock.
- A few minutes before end of the discussion period, help the person speaking reach a point of closure. Then ask if anyone else has anything to add. Take time to respond, but at some point cut off the discussion. Be sure you have tied loose ends.
Leading the Group in Prayer:
The following are guidelines for praying over your members’ prayer requests:
- Do not force anyone to pray by calling on her or praying in order around a circle.
- Have the women write their personal requests on a card which you supply. Encourage them to focus their requests on themselves rather than the other person. For example, if a woman has a neighbor with cancer, pray for the woman in the group to have opportunities to share the love of God in tangible ways with her neighbor, to be sensitive in her speech, and to be an extension of Jesus’ love for her. (See kingdom prayers on p. 14)
- If you exchange cards, ask them to just read what the card says and not add to it. That makes it easy for everyone to be comfortable praying aloud. Let them know that someone else will pray for the card if they prefer.
- Remind the group to pray sentence prayers rather than long prayers. One or two sentences and that’s it.
- When you pray aloud, such as at the start of class time, make your prayer simple and short also. You can either make the women comfortable in prayer or you can become an intimidation factor and make them more uncomfortable.
- Break into small groups to pray often, but ask them to pray with different women each time. Make the groups at least 3 and no more than 4.
Suggested Responses for Discussion
For insightful answers:
- Good thinking!
- I can see that you put a lot of thought into that one!
- Great insight!
When you get only silence
- Did you find that question hard?
- Was that confusing?
- Don’t be shy
For confusing or wrong answers:
- Thank you for sharing that. Does anyone have other thoughts?
- Did anyone understand this question differently?
I’m glad that you brought that up. We need to think about this question a bit more.
- Let’s look in the Bible to see what God has to say about that.
Thank you for your answer. Your answer really helps us think through this. Let’s look at that verse again.
When you get opposite answers:
Obviously we aren’t all in agreement on this one; any other insights?
Isn’t it helpful for us to think through this together? Let’s look at the Scriptures to see what help they give us.
Coping with Problems
- Graciously interrupt while she’s taking a breath and ask someone else a question or make a point yourself.
- Tell her how much you appreciate her sharing. Tell her that although you do not have time to hear the rest of the story now, that you will call her this week. And then be sure that you do. Or give her time to share the rest of the story at a group social time. Be sure she sees your heart for her.
- Don’t answer.
- Don’t ask the group.
- Respond with a promise to talk privately with anyone who is interested. That doesn’t mean you have to have the answer!
- Remind the group at the beginning that your discussion will be most interesting and enjoyable if everyone participates.
- Talk privately with the dominating person and ask her to help you encourage the others to be as willing to participate as she is. Ask if she will wait for others to answer first.
If a person is speaking at length, intervene by saying, “Let’s share briefly so all may have a chance to speak,” or, “I so appreciate your willingness to share that, but we need to continue with our lesson or we won’t finish.”
When asking a question, ask for someone who hasn’t answered to volunteer, not by name but generally. “I’d like to hear from some of you who haven’t said much today.”
- Never say an answer is wrong.
- Look at the Scriptures together.
- Ask for other answers. “Did someone get a different answer on this one?”
- Support the Scriptural answer as biblical once it has been given.
High Needs Group Member
Do not allow her to become the center of attention in your group. Someone with deep emotional problems must be referred to the Minister to Women. Love is our goal, but you need to love such a woman without taking away from the group. The group is not a therapy session or a support group. Perhaps she needs some help in finding a place like that. If she is going through a difficult time and needs a woman to just pray with her as she walks through it, suggest the Stephen Ministry here at NBC. If this is an ongoing situation, she may profit from Celebrate Recovery or other similar programs.
Divisive or argumentative discussion:
Sometimes people would rather discuss doctrinal differences than give attention to what really needs to happen in their own lives. Some debate in a group is productive, but the Scriptures should always be the final source of authority. If debate becomes counter productive, suggest that you and the participants discuss the matter later and redirect the discussion.
Group member who is not a Christian:
If someone is still on the journey to faith in Jesus, follow the Holy Spirit’s leadership. He may lead you to have coffee or lunch with her and just talk about your own journey, sharing the gospel through your own story. Encourage her with the fact that faith is a journey that each one takes at different times. Be sensitive to the truth that God must be at work and is capable of moving in her heart to draw her to Him.
Help focus your prayers and those of the women in your group to the bigger issues of the kingdom, knowing the coming of the kingdom is the will of God for the women in your group and their families--Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Study the prayers of the New Testament and see how they involved kingdom issues: character-building in those who suffered, the glory of God in the midst of persecution, and the knowledge of Jesus in the world.
Examples of kingdom prayers:
Mt. 6:33-34: Pray for ____ to seek first God’s kingdom in her life. (If there are monetary or physical needs involved, this is a condition necessary for God’s promise to supply to kick in.)
Jas. 1:2-4, 12: Pray for God to use this difficulty to produce endurance, completion, and blessing.
Jas. 1:17-18; 4:3: Pray for ___ to trust that God gives good gifts, realizing that His gifts are better than those she wants.
Eph. 1:17-21: Pray for God to give _____ wisdom and the revelation of Him in the midst of this time.
Eph. 4:1-3: Pray for _____ to walk worthy and to show forth these qualities to others with whom she is having difficulty.
Col. 1:9-12: Pray for God to fill _____ with the knowledge of His will that she may walk worthy.
Col. 3:1-4: Pray that God will give _____ the grace to set her mind on the things above rather than the circumstances.
Rom. 8:28-29: Pray that _____ will trust that God is at work in the midst of these difficulties for her good, not for her destruction. Pray that God will use this time to mold her more into the image of Jesus.