4. The How Of Small Group LeadershipRelated Media
Small Group Leader Skills
Not only must a small group leader possess certain character qualities, but they must also possess specific skills. What are some important skill-sets for small group leaders?
Often, it’s said that in a lecture or sermon, the first five minutes are the most important. In those first five minutes, people typically decide whether they are going to like a lecture or not, and often they spend the rest of the lecture defending their initial assessment.1 This is probably also true about the first five minutes of a small group when newcomers visit. They often don’t know anybody; they don’t know where to sit, or what the social norms are. A good small group leader aims to make visitors feel comfortable and enlists other members to help in that endeavor.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Christ teaches the Parable of the Sheep and Goats. Consider what Christ, our King, says to the sheep about strangers:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
The sheep are invited into the kingdom because of how they treated the least of his brothers and sisters, including strangers of whom are mentioned twice. It is mentioned twice more when Christ rebukes the goats who did not care for the least (v. 41-46). Christ said, what you did to them, you did to me. In the same way, when we serve new people in our small group—the strangers—we are caring for our Lord. Therefore, we should take great pains to make them feel comfortable. But also, as we care for them, we should keep in mind that a large portion of their comfortability happens in the first five minutes. The first five minutes may have more to do with whether they return than the rest of the time in the group. If their first five minutes are bad, they may decide that these people aren’t interested in me or are only interested in one another, and from that point, they spend the rest of the small group defending that position in their mind.
It has often been said that when Ghandi was a young lawyer, he seriously considered becoming a Christian. He decided to visit a Christian church but was barred at the door by a South African elder. When Ghandi told him that he wanted to worship, he was called a racial slur and rejected. From that point, Ghandi decided to adopt the good in Christianity, but never consider being a Christian again if it meant being part of a church.2 How we care for strangers is not only important in encouraging strangers to return to our small group, but it could have drastic effects on their future faith or lack of it.
The importance of greeting and caring for others is amplified by this common NT command seen in many books, “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (cf. Romans 16:16, 1 Cor 16:20, 2 Cor 13:12, 1 Pet 5:14). Why does God make this a command? And, why is it repeated so much? It’s because our love for one another is very important to God, and it is very important to others. Have you ever had friends get mad at you simply because you failed to greet them when walking by or failed to contact them when you were in town?
Greeting people and making them feel comfortable, in part, has to do with asking genuine questions that demonstrate our desire to know them, such as: “Where are you from? What do you do for work? How long have you been coming to our church? Do you have family in town?” When there are similarities in the answers, like coming from the same place, connections are formed which often lead to friendships. These friendships become bridges for further ministry.
Good small group leaders are great hosts. Now, because small group leaders often have to care for and mingle with everybody in the group, they should encourage others to participate in this ministry. Certainly, it is probably understood by the group that a visitor is everybody’s responsibility; however, business principles teach us that something that is “everybody’s responsibility” often becomes “nobody’s responsibility.” Each person says to themselves, “Oh, somebody else will make them feel comfortable” or “I’m not the best person to reach out.” It may be prudent to assign somebody who is very social to greet people or make newcomers feel comfortable, or at times, to even introduce a newcomer to a member and ask that member to make the newcomer feel at home. For example, “Hey Jennifer, this is Sharon. She’s new. Please tell her about the group and the church and make her feel comfortable.” In addition, providing refreshments and possibly food goes a long way with making people feel comfortable. Not too many things make a person feel more at home than food. Providing light snacks can be a job that is shared amongst the group.
Discussion Question: Share a time when you were a visitor to a small group or ministry and how you were made to feel welcome or not. How can small group leaders be strategic about making newcomers feel comfortable when they visit?
Good small group leaders are good researchers. Leading a small group is a lot like cooking. I can go to somebody’s refrigerator and cabinets and tell if I’m going to potentially like their cooking or not. If they don’t have meat and spices, there is a good chance I’m not going to enjoy it. It’s the same with teaching. Good small group leaders are great researchers. They gather good resources and work hard in their study so they can be well prepared for teaching and facilitating a small group.
I think we get a good picture of this with Paul right before he is beheaded during his second imprisonment in Rome. In 2 Timothy 4:13, he says to Timothy, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.” What were the scrolls and the parchments? Commentators are divided on this. The parchments were probably copies of the Old Testament. The scrolls were possibly pieces of the Gospels and resources for studying like rabbinical commentaries and paper to write on. Even at his deathbed, Paul wanted his resources to study and write. He was a researcher. This is also true for great small group leaders. Do you have scrolls and parchments?
What are some good resources? Obviously, many books could be named, but we’ll focus on several free and popular resources.
1. Online commentaries, sermons, and Bible studies. Here are some links:
- http://www.enduringword.com/library_commentaries.html (Free commentaries on most books of the Bible by David Guzik)
- https://bible.org/byauthor/98190/steven_cole (Free sermons with discussion questions on many books of the Bible from Steven Cole, author of the Riches from the Word series)
- https://bible.org/byauthor/156476/gregory_brown (Free resources by Gregory Brown including The Bible Teacher’s Guide series which has free studies on bible books and topics like Nehemiah, Philippians, purity, and marriage).
- http://biblehub.com/ (Various Bible versions, free commentaries, original language resources)
- http://www.preceptaustin.org/ (Free sermons, bible studies, books, and commentaries)
- www.e-sword.net (Free Bible software with different Bible versions and commentaries like Matthew Henry’s commentaries, Barnes’ commentaries, and The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon)
- www.google.com (Find expository and topical sermons by plugging the passage or topic into Google [i.e. “1 John 1:1-4 sermons” or “sermons on marriage”].)
2. Pre-made studies like Alpha, Christianity Explored, Experiencing God, The Purpose Driven Life, and others—both topical and expository. Good ones are hard to find, even among those that are popular. They are often watered down, filled with pop psychology and secular wisdom, and have minimal biblical content. Therefore, small group leaders must vet them well. Ideally, all curriculums should be affirmed by church leadership.
Discussion Question: What are some other good resources for preparing or offering Bible studies? What qualities made them commendable? What were some less helpful ones and why?
A good small group leader is a competent teacher. There are three primary ways to teach adults:
1. Lecture. Often lecture is bashed in pedagogical studies. It is said that people only remember 10% of what they hear. But there are times when teaching is extremely beneficial such as: (1) When dealing with a lot of information or complex information, it might be best to lecture. (2) When there is someone who knows the truth, like an expert, in the room, it is best to lecture.3 Some groups talk, talk, and talk but never develop an understanding of what a text really means or how to apply it, and that’s not very helpful. If John Piper was in the room, it would probably be most beneficial to hear him talk and then ask questions. The best small groups typically have a mix of teaching and questions. This might have been the primary method used in the New Testament church. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul commands for the women (who, in the context, were probably being disruptive) to ask questions at home, which implies that questions were a normal part of worship (v. 13). That was also common in Jewish synagogues; the rabbi would teach and then people would ask questions. The most effective lectures in the small group setting are probably given in short bursts of maybe five to ten minutes with questions intermixed.
With that said, lecture is not always helpful in a small group setting for various reasons. First, we already have lecture in Sunday services, often without time for questions. Second, lecture is not as conducive for community building which is one of the benefits of the small group setting.4 Third, it doesn’t allow for other members to develop their teaching gifts by answering questions and adding insight.
2. Creative Education. Creative education refers to any creative elements used to help teach in a small group such as: playing a game, watching a video, acting out a song, going on a field trip, performing a drama, etc.5 Often with Old Testament prophets, God had them act out their prophecy. For example, Isaiah went barefoot and naked for three years to symbolize how the King of Assyria would lead Egypt and Cush as slaves, barefoot and naked (Isaiah 20:2-4). Similarly, the prophet Ahijah tore Jereboam’s robe into twelve pieces and gave him ten pieces representing the ten tribes of Israel he would rule over, while two tribes stayed with the house of David (1 Kings 11:30-40). Creative education is often used with children and high schoolers. It can be powerful if done wisely. For example, visiting the Dead Sea Scrolls or a Creation museum might really help fortify someone’s faith in the inerrancy of Scripture. With that said, it is not the typical method used with adults, and it certainly can be overused.
3. Question and Answer. The question and answer method is inductive in nature—meaning that instead of giving the small group members the answer through lecture, they investigate by exploring a series of questions.
All these methods can be great for teaching. Combinations are probably the most effective, such as combining lecture, question and answer, and a brief creative element. A good rule of thumb for any small group is that the teacher should probably not talk over 50% of the time.6
The way a small group leader is gifted will greatly affect how he or she leads the group. A right-brained person will often look for creative ways to change things up in order to spur learning. A person with the gift of teaching will tend towards lecture a little more than others. A person who is a listener and gifted facilitator will tip more towards question and answer. These are all useful methods; we should be open to incorporating methods that are a little outside of our wheel house in order to help those in our group.
Discussion Question: Which method have you found to be the most helpful in a small group setting? In what ways have you seen creative elements used in teaching? Were they successful? Why? Which method are you most inclined towards using, as you consider your gifts and personality?
In line with being a competent teacher, small group leaders must be competent inquisitors—skilled at asking questions. Christ was good at asking questions. When approached by the rich man who was seeking eternal life in Mark 10:17-18, Christ asked, “Why do you call me good? Nobody is good but God alone.” Christ asked this probing question to help the rich man realize that Christ was in fact God, and that he could not do anything good to receive eternal life, except follow Christ (cf. Matt 19:17-22). Questions help us critically evaluate the text, ourselves, and the world around us in a deeper manner. Small group leaders must develop the skill of asking good questions.
Before considering good questions, let’s consider what bad questions are. What are some “do nots” of small group questions?
- Do not ask questions with only a yes or no answer. For example, “Do you want to love your neighbor as yourself?” These don’t stimulate discussions. Instead, ask open-ended questions.7 For example, “How can you better love your neighbor as yourself?
- Do not ask wordy questions. Make them short by asking only what is needed.
- Do not ask obvious questions.8 This often makes the small group participants feel stupid, and therefore, nobody wants to answer. However, some obvious questions can be strategically used to show a hidden truth.
When developing an interactive Bible study, one should create a structured conversation—a road map through a text or topic by using various types of strategic questions. These include:
1. Introductory Questions. These are great at the beginning of a small group in order to introduce a text or a topic. They are developed by finding a prominent theme in a passage studied. For example, in John 4:21-24, the main theme of the passage is worship or true worship. Christ says to the woman at the well that God desires worshipers who worship in spirit and truth. A good intro question might be: “What are some controversial aspects of worship in churches today?” This might stimulate some discussion about hymns, contemporary worship music, topical sermons, expository sermons, prayer styles, tongues, etc. Then, you would investigate the elements of true worship, regardless of style or culture, by studying John 4:21-24 and comparing Scripture with Scripture.
2. Life Exposure Questions. In a Bible study, there will often be people who don’t share for various reasons: fear, lack of Bible knowledge, etc. However, life exposure questions are questions that everybody can answer. These can be used in an introduction or after talking about a point in the text. For example: while discussing Paul mentoring Timothy, as he calls him a true son in the faith (1 Tim 1:2), a leader can ask, “Who played a prominent role in mentoring you and helping develop your faith and how? If you lacked a mentor, any thoughts on why?” These types of questions lead to disclosure and intimacy in small groups. They are often the only type of questions that get 100% participation.
3. Observation Questions. Through observation questions, a leader is simply leading the participants to see what the text says. Studying the Bible is kind of like being a CSI agent. CSI agents notice details: “He has a mark on the right side of his face. There is piece of gum, a piece of hair, etc.” People who are good at studying the Bible are the same way. They are good observers. They observe minute details that may lead them to nothing or something great. And they do this by revisiting the text over and over again (Ps 1:2) and asking the text: who, what, why, where, and how type of questions. Small group leaders lead their members in doing the same. For example, Mark 16:7 says, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” This is the text where the women at the grave of Jesus were greeted by an angel who told them Christ had resurrected. He then tells them to go and tell the disciples and Peter. The Observation Question might be: “Who were the women to tell about Jesus’ resurrection?”9 This seemingly obvious question should lead to a follow up question: “Why the disciples, and Peter? Isn’t Peter a disciple? Why is Peter emphasized?” This could lead to a great a discussion and the principle that God really cares about individuals and maybe specifically those who have fallen or are in trials. As you are aware, Peter had just denied Christ, right before his crucifixion (Mk 14:66-72). After Christ appears, he restores Peter privately—one on one (John 21). When my daughter gets hurt or fails at something, she receives my undivided attention and love in a special way. And no doubt, that’s true with God and the way he deals with us as well. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” God is near us in a special way in our failures and discouragements of life, and we must recognize this, even if only by faith. This observation question along with good follow up questions, could lead to learning a lot more about our relationship with God.
4. Interpretation Questions. What does the text mean? There are many applications to a text but only one meaning. In using the CSI illustration, the agent has found the detail—a mark on the right side of the head—and now he interprets it. The interpretation or conclusion from this detail might be that the attacker is left-handed. We must do the same with the text. Let’s consider an example. In Philippians 4:5, Paul says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Several interpretation questions arise from this text: “What does ‘gentleness’ mean?” “What did Paul mean when he said, make their gentleness evident to ‘all’? Who are the ‘all’?” “What does ‘the Lord is near’ mean? Does it mean ‘near’ in that he is coming soon or near in presence?” These are questions that a teacher is asking and investigating to understand and apply a text. They are also questions a small group leader is asking his or her members to help them figure it out. The way these are investigated is by looking at how other versions interpret this verse, studying the historical context of Philippians, studying the literary context of the surrounding verses and the entire book, cross-referencing with similar Scriptures by using a Study Bible, reading what commentators have said, etc. To help understand the meaning of words, it’s good to look up the original Greek or Hebrew (use Biblehub.com or E-Sword), look at an English dictionary, or ask what the opposite of the word is. For instance, asking what the opposite of “gentleness” is will help one understand what it practically means to let your gentleness be evident to all in Philippians 4:5. It is the opposite of being harsh and rude.
To investigate, even within a small group, it’s good to have different translations of the Bible available (use Biblehub.com), Study Bibles, and commentary available (Biblehub.com or E-Sword). This is very easy with the availability of Internet on our phones and laptops these days. For example, after asking what a verse means, a leader might ask, “Could somebody read the verse in a different version?” Or, “Can somebody share the commentary and cross-references in a Study Bible?” In addition, to further understand the meaning of a text, it may be good to ask a theological interpretation question like, “How does the verse ‘let your gentleness be made known to all’ apply to the concept of justice in the Bible, especially when others have hurt us? Is it OK to seek justice? Do we always just forgive and forget and therefore never seek restitution?”
5. Application Questions. How should we apply this text to our lives? James 1:22 says, “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves.” What are people that simply hear God’s Word deceived about? In the context of James, it probably refers to their salvation. In James 2, James says even the demons believe in God and shudder and that faith without works is dead (v. 19, 26). If we don’t apply the Word of God, then we’re not real Christians. We’re like the people who built their house on the sand and it was destroyed by the storm—probably representing both trials and the final judgment (Matt 7:26-27). Only those who hear and do, build on the rock and therefore are truly saved (Matt 7:24-25). For this reason, our ultimate aim in studying Scripture is not just understanding, but to understand in order to apply. Applying Scripture proves that we are true disciples and not just hearers (cf. John 8:31). Small group leaders help their members do this by asking various application questions like: “How are we doing as a church in this specific area? How are you doing in this specific area (prayer, evangelism, showing mercy, etc.)? How will you apply this when you leave small group today?” These types of questions open the door for transparency, public confession, prayer, and healing. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Though Scripture teaches that we are all priests and that we can go straight to God with our sins, it never teaches that we don’t need priests. We do; we need one another. God often brings his healing as we confess to one another and pray for one another. This should happen often in small group, as Scripture reveals our individual and corporate sin. For example, there is not one husband who has ever “loved his wife” perfectly “as Christ loved the church” (Eph 5:25). It’s something every married man in a small group can and should confess whenever studying that text. Similarly, no one has ever perfectly loved God with their whole heart, mind, and soul, or their neighbor as themselves (Matt 22:37-39). But in corporate confession and prayer, there is healing. Therefore, small groups are healing agents, and this often comes as we truthfully and transparently apply the texts to our lives. Josh Hunt said this in his book, Good Questions Have Small Groups Talking:
Small Group is a place where the masks can come off. It is a place where we can come clean. It is a place where we can get real. It is a place where we can confess our sins. It is a place where we can find healing. Not that all this confession will happen in group per se. Much of it will happen outside of group. The group time is only one part of group.10
How do we foster healthy environments with open and safe sharing? It must be modeled by the leadership. One of the things I love about Paul is his transparency. He says, “The things I would do, I don’t do. The things I wouldn’t do, I do. Who can save me from this body of death” (Rom 7, paraphrase). He called himself the least of the apostles (1 Cor 15:9), the least of all God’s people (Eph 3:8), and the chief of sinners (1 Tim 1:15). He’s easy to relate to because we often feel the same about ourselves. Small group leaders say like Paul, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1), and that includes transparency and confession.
What are some other types of useful application questions? There are Testimony Questions like: “Share a time when you showed gentleness to somebody who hurt you. How did they respond? How did doing this effect you spiritually, emotionally, etc.?” We can ask Obstacle Questions like, “What makes it so hard to be gentle with those who hurt or disrespect us?” There are General Application Questions like: “What are five ways that people can show gentleness to all?” Also, we can ask Commitment Questions, like “How will you work on being gentle to everybody when you leave this small group? What small steps will you take to make this part of your character?”
Discussion Question: How have you experienced a small group that felt like a family—safe and transparent? What helped foster this environment? How can it be protected?
Skilled Social Worker
In Jesus’ small group, he dealt with various difficult people: He had prideful Peter, doubting Thomas, deceiving Judas, and the Sons of Thunder, James and John. They all fought, failed, and even denied Christ. Leading small groups can be messy. Small group leaders will deal with both difficult people and messy situations. They need social worker skills like peacemaking and conflict resolution.
What are some common difficult people that leaders may encounter in small groups and how should they minister to them?
1. The Know It All. These people seem to have an answer for everything, and sometimes this can hinder the contributions of others, especially shy people. This person has a lot of positives. They add insight and enthusiasm to the group, but sometimes, it has to be tempered so everyone can flourish. Don’t see them as an irritant to be shut down but a blessing to be guided and nourished. Confirm their enthusiasm and good answers. Use their answers to bounce around the group: “What did everybody else think about what John said? Has anybody considered this angle…?” At times, it may be necessary to reaffirm the need for others to contribute.
2. The Chatter Box. These people may not have answers for every question, but when they share, it seems to never stop. They tend to have a problem staying on topic or making their answers clear and succinct. Be patient with them and give them grace. Sometimes, it is prudent to help them get to where they want to go. This might mean finishing their thought, affirming it, and then inviting others to add. Often, these people are aware that they have a tendency to talk too much (which can be a blessing and a curse), and they’re open to coaching. It’s good for all of us to hear again James’ words, “Be slow to speak and quick to listen” (James 1:19).
3. The Hyper-Spiritual. For this person, everything has some deep esoteric significance. Often, they say that God told them this or the Spirit led them this way. Sometimes, they may even have a tendency to get into conspiracy theories with the Illuminati and Satan behind everything. It is important to recognize that God can speak in many different ways and that Satan is real, but reaffirm Scripture as our primary guide and that everything must be tested by it (1 John 4:1). Scripture trains us for all righteousness and equips us for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). The good thing about these people is that they remind us of our need for an intimate and experiential relationship with God and also the reality of spiritual warfare. James says, “Draw near God, and he will draw near us” (James 4:8), and Paul taught that we are in a real war with the enemy (Eph 6:12). Many in our groups need reminders of these realities. As leaders, we must aim to cultivate a healthy doctrinal balance in our groups, as affirmed through Scripture.
4. The Arguer. These people tend to like to argue and win arguments, even petty ones. They often enjoy playing devil’s advocate in the group. Leaders must affirm the importance of truth, and the need to seek the truth. Often theological conflict is good. It makes us test what we believe to either hold on to it tighter or move to a more sound biblical stance. A healthy “argument” can help lead us there. However, it must be done in a spirit of love. Ephesians 4:15 says that it is by speaking the truth in love that we grow up in maturity. Truth is just as important as love. Otherwise, by using truth (or what we think is truth), we can push people away and hurt them. Part of love is respectfully listening to others and being patient as God slowly changes them and us. Establish the norm of love in the group. Some do this by creating a small group covenant at the beginning of the group: “We will respect one another, listen to one another, not share personal disclosure outside of the group, etc.” Throughout the group, whether these norms have been formalized or not, they need to be reaffirmed constantly. If an argument goes too far in a small group, gently table the discussion and move on. If problems persist with a specific person, meet that person at a later date to affirm and challenge him or her in love.
What are some general principles for ministering to difficult people?
- Develop a spirit of empathy for them. Often difficult people are hurting people. They have been hurt in the past by a parent, a sibling, a friend, or an employer. When wounds are touched, people react to protect themselves. The hard exterior of a difficult person is like a scab of a wound that has not fully healed. We must recognize that. This doesn’t excuse their sin or the decisions they make. However, it should help us understand them more and even forgive them. When Christ looked at the people hurting him on the cross, he was empathetic. He said, “Lord forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing” (Lk 23:34). Empathy leads us to the path of forgiveness and ministry.
- Recognize their potential. God saw a man named Gideon who was hiding from the Midianites and called him a mighty warrior (Judges 6:12). God calls him the opposite of what he was portraying. God called Jacob, which means liar, “Israel”, which means one who wrestles with God and prevails. God called Paul—a persecutor of Christians—an “apostle” while he was on his way to imprison Christians. With the same tenacity Paul persecuted believers, he would eventually preach the gospel to the Gentiles. A rock has the potential to become a diamond in the right environment by undergoing the right process, and small group leaders must recognize this, as they minister to difficult people. Often, they can become the greatest and most bold witnesses for Christ to the glory of God. Do you see their potential?
- Bathe them in prayer. A difficult person in a small group or someone who is just struggling with sin or inconsistency in general is somebody that God is pointing out to us. He says, “Look at him! I want you to lift him up in prayer.” In Matthew 5:44, Christ said that we are to bless our enemies and not curse them. We are called to pray for all people according to 1 Timothy 2:1-2; however, people who hurt us, or who are especially difficult, are supposed to be special objects of our prayer. Give special prayer to these people throughout the week and especially before small group begins. Pray for them to know God, to be transformed by God’s Word, to be healed, delivered from the evil one, and for them to be mightily used by God.
Discussion Question: What are some other principles necessary to minister to difficult people? Share a time you had a difficult person or difficult people in your small group. How did you handle it?
Order of Life Group
What’s a good order for a typical small group? The type of order small group leaders use really depends on their primary focus, as discussed earlier. Is their focus fellowship, worship and prayer, Bible study, or mission? In the below life group order, the primary focus is Bible study. The elements can be switched or enhanced, as the leader decides.
a. Start on time. Many people come late because they know the small group doesn’t start on time. Leaders reward those who come late by starting late and punish those who come early by waiting. Start on time and others will begin to come earlier.
b. Open with prayer.
c. Introduce new comers.
d. Share the agenda of the small group (i.e. worship, praise and prayer requests, prayer, and then a study on 1 Timothy 1:1-7).
a. Sing a worship song. Worship is a means of being filled with the Spirit, and it helps prepare our hearts to share and receive God’s Word (cf. Eph 5:18-19). In 2 Kings 3:15, Elisha asks for a harpist to play and the Spirit of the Lord falls on him so he can prophecy. King Jehoshaphat had a worship team lead his army and God routed his enemy (2 Chr 20). Worship is powerful! It’s a great way to begin a small group.
b. Consider choosing a worship coordinator. This person can look up a worship song with lyrics on YouTube or, if musically inclined, he can lead worship himself.
3. Sharing Time:
a. Have members share how their week has been, how their spiritual life is going, and any praises and prayer requests.
b. Take time to pray for one another and for the Bible Study (cf. Ephesians 6:19).
4. Bible Study:
a. Read entire text 1 to 3 times depending on the length: Ask a member or members to read.
b. If possible, give a catchy intro to the study that grabs people’s attention and guides them through the study. For example, “In this study of John 4:23-24, we will learn a great deal about True Worship. Are you offering God True Worship? What do we learn about True Worship from this text?”
c. Roadmap of the Study:
(i) After reading the entire passage corporately, allow for individual meditation on each verse for 3 to 5 minutes. Ask the members to re-read the passage several times looking for words that jump out, questions they have, connections to other Scriptures, the meaning, and applications. Be prepared with Observation, Interpretation, and Application Questions to make a road map for the study. Using a Bible study book will help with this.
(ii) After looking at one verse meditatively, ask for people to share.
(iii) Facilitate discussion based on what is shared: Be prepared to ask for further clarification, “Why do you think Paul says that?” “Could you explain further?” “Does anybody have an answer for that question?” “What does everybody else think?” Always prompt people to apply: “How should we apply this to work, family, our studies, etc.?” After a specific question and its discussion has slowed down, offer a prepared question and facilitate discussion. Always reveal things that stood out to you, as the small group leader, strategically to enhance discussion; that strategic place may be after everybody else has shared.
(iv) Go through each verse this way giving attention to individual words, main concepts, theological implications, and applications. Be aware of time; it’s OK not to finish. People can continue to meditate after the study is over.
(v) In closing, it is always good to close with a reminder of applications and to pray through those applications (i.e. What applications did we learn from this lesson today? How can we pray from this Scripture?).
5. Mission / Fellowship Update and Closing:
a. Discuss service opportunities and/or opportunities to fellowship (visit an orphanage, take a prayer walk, get a meal, or go to a movie together). Try to have a service opportunity and a play date at least once a semester, if not once a month.
b. Potentially choose a mission/fellowship coordinator to oversee this.
c. Finish with prayer.
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. 1 Hunt, Josh. Good Questions Have Small Groups Talking (p. 12). Pulpit Press. Kindle Edition. 2 Accessed 2/1/17 from https://storiesforpreaching.com/why-ghandi-didnt-become-a-christian/ 3 Hunt, Josh. Good Questions Have Small Groups Talking (p. 7). Pulpit Press. Kindle Edition. 4 Hunt, Josh. Good Questions Have Small Groups Talking (p. 7). Pulpit Press. Kindle Edition. 5 Hunt, Josh. Good Questions Have Small Groups Talking (p. 8). Pulpit Press. Kindle Edition. 6 Hunt, Josh. Good Questions Have Small Groups Talking (p. 5). Pulpit Press. Kindle Edition. 712 Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Making Small Groups Work. (Michigan: Zondervan, 2003), 150. 813 Powell, Now that’s a good Question!, 60. 9 Hunt, Josh. Good Questions Have Small Groups Talking (p. 33). Pulpit Press. Kindle Edition. 10 Hunt, Josh. Good Questions Have Small Groups Talking (p. 78). Pulpit Press. Kindle Edition.
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.
1 Hunt, Josh. Good Questions Have Small Groups Talking (p. 12). Pulpit Press. Kindle Edition.
2 Accessed 2/1/17 from https://storiesforpreaching.com/why-ghandi-didnt-become-a-christian/
3 Hunt, Josh. Good Questions Have Small Groups Talking (p. 7). Pulpit Press. Kindle Edition.
4 Hunt, Josh. Good Questions Have Small Groups Talking (p. 7). Pulpit Press. Kindle Edition.
5 Hunt, Josh. Good Questions Have Small Groups Talking (p. 8). Pulpit Press. Kindle Edition.
6 Hunt, Josh. Good Questions Have Small Groups Talking (p. 5). Pulpit Press. Kindle Edition.
712 Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Making Small Groups Work. (Michigan: Zondervan, 2003), 150.
813 Powell, Now that’s a good Question!, 60.
9 Hunt, Josh. Good Questions Have Small Groups Talking (p. 33). Pulpit Press. Kindle Edition.
10 Hunt, Josh. Good Questions Have Small Groups Talking (p. 78). Pulpit Press. Kindle Edition.
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