Every small group leader has questions. Most have lots of questions. It can be intimidating to take on the leadership of a group, but you can be assured that (almost) every small group leader has the same doubts, concerns, and questions that you do. The second that we as leaders think we have it all figured out is when we should stop being leaders. I have discovered that the best leaders always have questions—and they’re not afraid to ask them.
Here are five questions that I hear small group leaders asking the most.
1. How much Bible knowledge do I need to have?
This is a natural question to ask as you begin to lead a biblical community. It’s also the number one question that keeps many people from taking on leadership of a small group. The simple answer is: just be one step ahead of the members of the group. You obviously want to always grow in your biblical knowledge, but leading a small group should not require a seminary degree. Follow your church’s leader training, and know where the study is taking the group before the meeting. That will help you feel confident as you facilitate the Bible study.
2. How much training do I need before I start?
There is basic group leading knowledge that you will want to know before you start your group, and information that you will obtain as you lead the group. The logistics of starting a group, facilitating a discussion, and your church’s theology and philosophy around groups will need to studied prior to launching. Almost everything else will be learned on the job. Never be afraid to turn to a pastor or church staff leader for help on difficult situations that might come up during the life of the group.
3. How do I choose a study?
Choosing an effective, gospel-centered Bible study is critical. There are thousands of studies to choose from, so it’s easy to achieve decision paralysis when picking one out. Here are a five guidelines to help make the choice a little easier.
A good study is:
- Rooted in Scripture. Make sure the study points to the Scripture and not the author for the answers.
- Focused on Christ. Every study must ultimately point to the gospel message of the cross.
- Flexible for groups. You should be able to make a study work in the unique culture of your small group.
- Empowering for the leader. You should feel confident leading the discussion.
- Crafted with a purpose. Where is the study taking the group? Every study should be designed to help group members live out the principles taught during the study.
4. How do I facilitate a great discussion?
The goal of a small group leader is not to teach a lesson, but to walk the group members through a facilitated discussion of the Bible study. Here are a few rules of thumb when it comes to facilitating a good discussion:
- Only talk 30% of the time. That will help assure that everyone has an opportunity to enter the conversation.
- Know the finish line of the discussion. A good Bible study will end on application.
- Always land on what the Bible says. Be careful of personal opinions or group think when it comes to major issues. Always bring the group back to what the Scriptures say about the topic.
- Be okay with saying “I don’t know.” The group will not expect you to have all of the answers, and it’s healthier for the group and the discussion if some lines of conversation are closed until more information can be gathered.
5. What if they don’t like me?
Although we want to get along with everyone in the group, it will be impossible to be every group member’s best friend. In fact, trying to be would not be healthy for you or the group members. Look for two-to-three same gender members that you can personally disciple, then help other group members connect to each other outside of group time.
Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach with over 23 years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Team at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, and was on staff at Seacoast Church in Charleston, SC, for 15 years. He is also the Small Group Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, was recently released by Thomas Nelson. You can follow his blog at chrissurratt.com or follow him on Twitter @chrissurratt.