Appendix 4: Tips For Leaders
1. Listen To God
It seems simple, but it can be oh, so difficult, to listen to God as you lead a group. Our fears tell us not to sit in silence. Our hearts suggest that we should give solutions or even verses to fix problems or questions. The clock indicates that we should cut others off as quickly as possible. And I have been there and done them all!
If we as leaders come to the group time doing what feels comfortable, we may miss the fullness of what God wants to do. So pray well before you go. Pray as you lead the group time. Don’t speak in response to the comments of others until you are sensitive to the movement of the Spirit as to what to say, if anything.
And what may be even more difficult is to encourage the same kinds of listening skills with the others in the group. Listening to God before answering someone’s comments or intervening in what God may want to say to her about her problems is very difficult. I feel that way and likely you do too:) Many in the group will struggle, but we can all improve if you remind yourself and the group each week to pause and listen to God before speaking.
Watch our BOW videos on listening as a small group leader at https://vimeo.com/album/4065298 for additional help.
2. Keep Discipleship Goals In Mind
Goal #1: Encourage Your Group In Personal Learning
If you want the group to be in the Word for themselves, start the discussion by letting them share what excited them. Stay away from your own thoughts and listen to them. To involve them, ask very general open questions, such as those in the lesson. Choose questions from the lesson; use some from the list given on p. 70 (#3 Ask Open Questions), or write your own questions.
Because the group will journal as they study, see which way the discussion goes before inserting your own direction to the lesson. That said, don’t let it linger on speculation about things the Bible doesn’t reveal. It’s okay for a few minutes, but refocus the conversation to what God has made clear, not what he chose not to tell us.
Goal #2: Set Discipleship Goals For Each Lesson
What do you want to accomplish in your discussion? If you randomly ask questions, you may enjoy a good discussion, but it may not move the group closer to Jesus. Your goal should not be simply getting people to talk but to encourage spiritual growth in the group.
See yourself as the leader, not a teacher or a facilitator. What is your goal? What do you want the group to leave with that will help them grow as believers? It could be a deeper faith through a better understanding of who God is and how he works. It could be a principle that helps them live out genuine faith in a culture that is looking for what is real.
For most lessons, consider these questions as you review the lesson:
- What do those in your group need to know about God from this lesson?
- What does the lesson reveal about real faith?
- How does the story and/or verses fit with the big story gospel of Paradise, Ruin, Reconciliation, and Consummation?
- What principles from the lesson need to be obeyed? What application do you want them to prayerfully consider—a way of believing about God that intersects with real life or types of actions to take?
Wait to discuss these areas by providing opportunity for the group to bring up the topic before you simply move toward your goals. Make sure you listen first. Many of the questions you want to ask will come up more naturally from within the group. If no one brings it up, then do so with a question to the group.
You don’t necessarily have to write your own questions. Use those within the lesson to launch into an area you want to cover. The lesson questions are open-ended and broad. You can have a great discussion using them. If you listen well, you can follow up with a question that clarifies or expands on their comments to move them further toward your goals.
If you want to write a few questions to summarize the material covered rather than going through those in the lesson, write open questions from the material they studied and read. Or use some of the questions in the next section.
You may be used to reading a set of questions to the group and having them read back their answers. I have written many Bible studies that have that type of structure. It’s easy for the leader to follow and makes it simple for the group to provide answers.
Instead, this study is based on journaling, which isn’t comprised of answers to a number of very specific questions but rather uses open questions, meaning not yes/no or narrow answers. (See BOW’s free downloadable resource at http://beyondordinarywomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Asking-Open-Questions.pdf.)
When the lesson is comprised of one long story or section, it will likely work best to let the group know that they can talk about any part of the lesson instead of a specific section of the story. Your questions should allow a response on anything they want to discuss from the lesson. It’s alright if no one brings up a certain section of the story at all.
Allow the Holy Spirit to use the discussion to take the group where he wants it to go, but also keep in mind your goals and move them into those topics if they don’t go there themselves.
Here are examples of open questions that you might use:
- What verses were most significant to you and why?
- How did God surprise you through these verses?
- How did you relate to the prophet and why?
- What feelings did you have about the prophet’s message and why?
- How did God reveal himself to you through your reading?
- How do you see the prophet’s message intersect with God’s big gospel story of Paradise, Ruin, Reconciliation, & Consummation?
- What excites you about this book?
- Was there anything in this book that seemed new to you?
- What confused you about this prophet’s message?
- What did God say to you this week about yourself?
- What is God asking you to do in response to this week’s study?
These questions are all very general and open. As you work toward your goals, your questions may be more specific. What often happens, however, is that some of the questions you have prepared will be answered before you ask them. So be aware enough to skip as needed.
A quiet group or a group that is new to one another may not talk quite as readily. Allow them a time of silence to consider their answers before rewording it or sharing your own answer. The Holy Spirit will lead you.
We love your questions or feedback. Contact me at [email protected].
For additional help go to beyondordinarywomen.org at http://beyondordinarywomen.org/leading-small-groups/ and watch our free short 5 - 10 minute training videos for small group leaders.