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2. The What Of Small Group Leadership

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Small Group Elements and Focus

Like a church service, a small group should have various elements: worship and prayer, fellowship, Bible instruction, and serving. However, a small group typically has one of these as its primary focus. Whatever element the small group spends most of its time on, is its primary focus. For example, a Bible study group spends most of the time studying and discussing the Bible, but still allots time for fellowship, prayer, and maybe an occasional opportunity to serve. A prayer group focuses on prayer but also allots time for fellowship, a reading of Scripture, and an opportunity to serve. An evangelism group follows suit. All of the elements are important; the leadership must discern the proper portion of time allotted for each.

Most small groups will focus on the Word of God, just as most church services do. Paul told Timothy, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Tim 4:13). Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Scripture trains us in righteousness and equips us for it. It prepares us to be good husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, workers, church members, and servants. It teaches us how to be saved (2 Tim 3:15) and live out our salvation (v. 16-17). It helps us know who God is so we can better worship him. Therefore, we should give attention to it both individually and corporately. God has exalted his Word above his name (Ps 138:2, KJV).

What are some ways to emphasize Scripture in small groups? We’ll consider several ways to do this:

1. Small groups emphasize Scripture by simply reading and surveying books of the Bible. Some groups get together and simply read for thirty or forty minutes out loud in a group setting. During a semester, a group could run through much of the New Testament. Often those groups will first read an introduction to a specific book, like Matthew, before reading the book out loud. This is quite beneficial. Many people struggle not only with understanding Scripture but simply reading it. The early church would give hours of time to just reading and listening to Scripture, as very few people owned copies of the Bible, and therefore had to hear it at church. They were devoted to the “public reading of Scripture” as Paul commanded (1 Tim 4:13). In a small group setting, emphasis is given to reading the text slowly and clearly. Portions of the text are usually divided between the members of the group—reading five to ten verses each. At the end of public reading, the members may or may not share thoughts, questions, encouragements, etc. Whether groups make this the primary method of studying Scripture or not, public reading should be included, even if it is just a few verses or a chapter.

2. Small groups emphasize Scripture by memorizing it. Some groups focus on memorizing and quoting verses within the group. Members are given a few verses to memorize throughout the week. They are encouraged to study them—to understand what they mean and how to apply them. This helps with memory. When gathering, five to ten minutes is given to sharpen the Scripture memory, then individuals share the meaning and application of the verses and quote them. The next week, they repeat the process with new verses but also try to requote the previous verses.

Bible memory is an important discipline that adults often fail to excel at. David, an elderly man at the time, said, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:11). When Christ conquered the devil’s temptations in the wilderness, he did so by quoting Scripture (Matt 4). The more Scripture we have memorized, the more we’ll conquer Satan and sin. The less we have memorized, the more we suffer spiritually. Groups benefit greatly from practicing the discipline of memorizing Scripture, as it provides accountability and support. Even if it is not the focus of a group, assigning a weekly memory verse is a healthy discipline.

3. Small groups benefit from studying Scripture expositorily. Exposition really means exposing truths in Scripture. This is done through studying a book of the Bible, like Ephesians, by focusing on bite-sized chunks of perhaps 5-10 verses. There are many popular Bible study guides such as: LifeGuide Bible Studies, MacArthur Bible Studies, etc. Some of them are simply question oriented—leading the group through observation, interpretation, and application questions. Others are teaching oriented, whether in video or written form, with application questions. In addition, small group leaders can develop their own study by creating a road map of questions throughout a passage for discussion and/or using a combination of short bursts of teaching with the questions—an approach that we’ll consider in more detail later. Another strategic way to study expositorily is by working through an online expository series of sermons; many pastors have fully manuscripted sermons that can be read in 15-20 minutes out loud and have application questions with them. For example, consider Steve Cole’s sermons which are available on Bible.org. Or, work through The Bible Teacher’s Guide series, also available on Bible.org or on popular book sites for purchase.

4. Small groups emphasize Scripture by studying it topically. Topical Bible study is essentially trying to understand a major topic in Scripture like the Holy Spirit, Jesus, salvation, prayer, marriage, parenting, or a character study on someone like Abraham. This is done by considering many of the most relevant verses on these topics in a systematic way. Topical Bible study books help groups do this by leading them to Bible verses, asking them the meaning of these verses and what they teach about the specific topic. Other books tackle the topics by fully explaining it in an orderly manner and adding discussion questions at the end of the chapters, or by making a study guide available. Systematic theologies are great for this, like Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology or the smaller versions Bible Doctrine and Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know. Since some chapters are long, small group leader can either assign individual reading outside of the group and then discuss when gathered and/or read portions of the book in the meeting and strategically add questions for discussion throughout (What did you think about this portion? How should we apply this?). By adding their own questions and/or intermixing those of the author, leaders can make a helpful book fit the format of their small groups. What they don’t finish can be given as homework or picked up the next week.

5. Small groups emphasize Scripture by Bible mapping. The concept behind Bible mapping is similar to Bible memory. In Bible memory, one memorizes a verse. In Bible mapping, one memorizes the contents of each chapter in a Bible book. This is done by assigning five to seven chapters a day of reading. For seven days, these same chapters will be completely read each day. While doing this, the member will create an outline of each chapter with the hope of being able to permanently recall the details that happen in each chapter. Then when the members gather for small group, they are given a quiz, where they identify what chapter certain narratives or verses happened in. The leader can make up the quiz or the members will come to each group ready to write out their memorized outline. After they finish, the quiz is self-graded, as members walk through the events of each chapter. They will do this for each chapter of a Bible book (5-7 chapters each week) until it is completely mapped in their mind. By doing this, they train their mind to act like a concordance. Often memory verses within the specific chapters read are assigned weekly with this type of study.

Discussion Question: What will be the focus of your small group and why? Why is emphasizing Scripture so important? How will you emphasize Scripture? How will you incorporate other elements and what amount of time will be given to them?

Copyright © 2017 Gregory Brown

The primary Scriptures used are New International Version 1984 unless otherwise noted. Other versions include English Standard Version, New Living Translation, New American Standard Bible, and King James Version. In the “Sample Small Group Lesson,” the primary version used is the NIV 2011.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.

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