Take a moment to think about the people that God has placed in your life that either led you to faith in Christ or have helped you grow in your faith. You are where you are today because somebody invested in you personally and that most likely happened in a one-to-one friendship or in a small group setting. Leading a small group Bible study affords you a similar opportunity to invest in other people’s lives in a dynamic way. While we can learn much from speakers at conferences or from our pastor at a large church, true life change takes place in community and small groups.
A Successful Small Group Leader Has a Heart That Seeks God
All types of people can be effective small group leaders. We sometimes think that it takes a dynamic leader or a great Bible scholar to be able to lead a small group. But it is important to remember that God is more concerned with our availability than our ability. So who can lead a small group Bible study? You do not have to be perfect in order to lead a small group. What is important that you are continuing to grow in spiritual maturity and that your heart is continually seeking after God. God’s Word helps us define some of the characteristics that should be present in the life of any spiritual leader. The following heart attitudes should be present in a spiritual leader:
- Is able to give and receive Scriptural correction (Proverbs 19:20-21)
- Desires to serve rather than be served (Philippians 2:3-11)
- Follows spiritual leadership within Scriptural guidelines (Hebrews 13:17)
- Initiates reconciliation when conflict arises (Matthew 5:21-26)
- Honors their word (Matthew 12:33-37)
The Group Should Have Between 3 and 9 People
A small group needs to have at least three people in it. But when does a small group become a large group? In an effective small group everyone in the group is able to participate, the teaching is done through a dialogue and is not a lecture, and people are able to listen to one another and help each other out.
Typically when a group involves ten or more people it becomes difficult to manage the group effectively. It is much more difficult to have everyone actively involved when there are thirty people there versus when there are seven people present.
It is always wise to have one primary leader within the small group along with co-leader. Why? The Apostle Paul had this to say, “And these things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others” (II Timothy 2:2). You should be praying that your small group should grow to the point that you need to “birth” another group. The co-leader would take over the leadership of this group along with a new co-leader as you add a new co-leader to the original group.
Accommodate Your Group Members With The Time and Location of Your Small Group Meeting
Ask yourself an important question: Do you want to be comfortable in the small group or do you want those attending to be comfortable? We often want others to come to us and adapt to our preferences. One way to help others to feel comfortable is by having your small group in a location that is most accessible to the students that will be part of it. If you’re seeking to have a small group that reaches out to freshmen don’t have it at your off-campus apartment! Hold it in a freshmen dorm or a part of campus that is easy to get to. If you want the small group to be focused on non-Christians, hold the study someplace that is on the non-believer’s “turf.”
In general you want to shoot for a small group that meets for at least an hour, but definitely no more than two hours. Honor your time commitments! Don’t tell someone that the small group will start at 8 p.m. when you consistently start at 8:30. People will want to continue to be a part of the group if they know that it will begin and end on time, generally. In addition, have the small group at a time that most students can attend. If your campus has a high commuter population, you probably don’t want to have the group on the weekends or in the late evenings. Have it at the time that will be easiest for the most students to attend.
You want to work hard to ensure that people have a positive response when they enter their group. Did someone greet them and talk with them? Were they included in the discussion? Were their comments respected? All of these things contribute to whether someone wants to continue to be part of the group.
Understand What to Cover
The Impact Movement has developed some great Bible study resources for you to utilize in a small group setting. For new Christians and for those new to Impact, the “The Journey” series is a great place to start. It is designed to help new believers and those who have rededicated their lives to Christ to become assured of their salvation, understand how to deal with sin, learn who the Holy Spirit is, how to walk in the Spirit, how to grow in the Spirit-filled life, and how to grow in Christian maturity over time.
After you have covered “The Journey” series, next is the “Master’s Life” series. The “Master’s Life” series is designed for Christians that want to take the “next step” in their relationship with Christ. It follows Christ’s example of how to have a personal ministry and presents a simple and workable strategy showing how an individual’s personal witness and discipleship ministry can develop into a ministry that reaches the campus, community and world with the truth of Jesus Christ.
For those that have completed the “The Journey” and “Master’s Life” series, Impact has developed the resource CD, “The Grill – Now Serving.” “The Grill” is designed to meet the needs of African American emerging leaders on campus in a relevant and engaging way. It can be used by an individual or in a small group setting and contains over 20 Bible studies, music and video clips, articles relating to the Bible study topics, student handouts and Leader’s Guides.
Format the group time to include more than a Bible Study
In addition to the actual Bible content that will be covered in the small group, you will want to have some other aspects that will be covered as well. Think about starting with an Icebreaker, then spending a few minutes casting the vision for your small group, answering questions about practical spiritual living, having prayer, and then diving into your bible study.
Help the group members learn about each other
Don’t assume that all of the members of your group know one another solely because they have a few mutual friends, or have both been coming consistently to you small group and other events. All for some time to help everyone open up and get more comfortable with speaking aloud and with each other. An Icebreaker question can be as simple as “What ability do you wish you had that you don’t? Why?” or something like, “If money were no object, where would you like to have a vacation home?”
Ask the Right Questions
A goal of your small group is that it be discussion oriented. The focus should not be on you on the leader but on the needs of the group. Give the members opportunities to share their thoughts and feelings and provide feedback on what their learning. A primary way that you can foster a positive environment in a small group is by asking the right types of questions. Here are three types of questions:
- Open-Ended: These are questions that allow group members to share any answer or relevant thoughts on the passage or subject being studied. These types of questions are very valuable for group discussion. Open-ended questions stimulate thought and discussion because there are no right or wrong answers.
Examples: “What truths stand out to you in this passage?” “How does it make you feel when you think about what Jesus is saying here?”
- Closed: These are questions that are obvious or imply the answer is expected by the leader.
Questions like this aren’t valuable for discussion and can actually stifle group interaction.
Example: “Paul says we are to rejoice in everything doesn’t he?”
- Limiting: These are questions that aren’t really valuable for open discussion, but they are useful to summarize a point or get back on track.
Examples: “What three motivations does Paul mention in this passage?”
“In Matthew 28, what was the last thing that Jesus said to His disciples?”
Ask Questions that Help You Apply Scripture
- What personal application or idea has God given you for this study?
- What reasons for praising God does this passage offer?
- What personal need or issue has the Holy Spirit exposed during this study?
- What aspects of this study encourage you most? Why?
- What truth(s) from this lesson can you illustrate from personal experience?
- What part of this study convicts you? Why?
- What “I never thought of that before” insight did you gain?
- What unresolved questions on this subject still bother you?
- Did any aspect of this lesson bring a role model to mind? Who? Why?