Leading a Great Bible Study part 2

This is the fourth article in a series on Leading Irresistable Small Groups

As a small group leader, hopefully your desire is to see your group enjoying and engaged with God’s life-transforming word.  When that happens, you will have a group experience that no one will want to leave.  So, how do you get your group to engage God’s word and enjoy it?  Honestly, from my experience, at least half of your success comes from choosing a good small group study.  Well designed studies will make you look like the world’s greatest small group leader.  My last post covered what to look for in a good small group study.  Once you have a good study, all you need to do is be a good facilitator.  Here are a few tips that will help be an excellent facilitator.

Let the questions do the work. 
If you have a well designed study, the questions will naturally engage people and stimulate good discussion.  So, the skill you need is to simply ask the question and then shut your mouth and wait.

Let other’s answer first
Don’t be in a hurry to show how brilliant you are.  By staying quiet and waiting for others to answer you create an unspoken group expectation that everyone’s participation is wanted.  In response, group members feel valued and become more willing to participate.  The exception to this rule is when a personal example is asked for.  In that case it may be appropriate to share first to set an example of openness and trust that breaks the ice for others.

Follow-up questions make all the difference
Keep the discussion alive by asking follow-up questions that encourage more specific or personal answers and that dig for additional insight and response by encouraging others to add their thoughts.  Examples are: Can you be more specific?  Can you give an example?  What do the rest of you think about that?  Can anyone add to that?  Follow-up questions affirm that everyone’s contributions are valued and important.  This simple skill often leads to the greatest learning and can be the difference between and exciting Bible study or a boring one.

Affirm, Affirm, Affirm
Let people know you appreciate their sharing.  If someone’s answer really speaks to you, let them know that God used them to speak to you.

Don’t let anyone feel stupid.
People are there to learn.  If they have a question, it’s something they need to know.  So, don’t react with surprise that they don’t know something, but with a desire to help them learn. 

Handling an “Off-the-wall” answer.
When a person gives an unbiblical answer, avoid making that person feel stupid or judged but provide an alternative for them to think about.  Say something like:  “That’s really interesting, I’m not sure I’ve heard that before. Does anyone else have a different take on that?” Then after others have answered, summarize by saying, “Well we heard Dan say…and Sue say… This is my own take on what the Bible is saying.”  This way, the person who has given a wrong answer is shown respect but has also heard a biblical viewpoint that they now need to wrestle with.

Biblical learning without personal application is sinful (Not that I have a strong opinion on the subject).  This is so important I will go into more detail in my next post.  For now I just want to emphasize that without application there is no life-changing growth in experiencing God’s life and you’ve missed the whole point for having a small group Bible study.

If you’re looking for great Bible study materials, please check out our Faith Alive 365 small group studies.  All of our studies are carefully designed and tested to facilitate stimulating discussion that help people understand, connect with, and practice God’s Word.  Leaders Guides with tips and suggested answers to every study question are also included with our studies so that you will be equipped to succeed. 

Phil Sommerville is co-founder of Faith Alive 365 and a former Small Groups Pastor who has trained hundreds of small group leaders from churches of all sizes.

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