A few nights ago, our church small group met in our home, and we had one of the most engaging and encouraging Bible studies in the history of the group. Since I didn’t lead the discussion, I was able to reflect on what made the discussion so effective.
I now offer you the fruit of my musings.
1. Know Your Point
The leader came to the study with a clear grasp of the text’s main point. He knew exactly where he wanted the group to end up.
2. Ask Good Questions
There’s a place for lecture, and there’s a place for interactive instruction. The key to fostering constructive interaction is to ask good questions. When have you experienced such leadership before? What kinds of questions encourage you to engage in the discussion? And you know what sort of questions shut down the discussion, don’t you?
3. Set a Direction
The leader led. He didn’t let the group meander through the conversation. He didn’t just wing it. He set a course, and he began moving along it.
4. Respond to the Group
Though the leader set a direction, he did not drag the group with him. He didn’t leash the discussion or get insecure when it swerved unexpectedly. He kept us moving toward the main point, but he didn’t control the group’s pathway toward that main point. I’m sure we ended up exactly where he wanted us, but we felt all along like we had gotten there ourselves.
5. Stay in the Text
Here’s the silver bullet. The text provides self-corrective measures to a group prone to tangents. A leader who keeps the people in the text doesn’t have to fear unpredictable discussion. As soon as the discussion gets off-topic, the leader can ask, “So how do you see that in the text?” and get things back online.
6. Clarify the Point
The leader took us to the text’s main point, and then he camped out there. He didn’t pursue every possible theological or interpretive quandary. He got us to the main point, and he had us restate the point numerous times. Then he took us to Christ and on into application.
7. Broaden Application
The leader had more than one application in mind. He had prepared a series of questions about our thinking, character, and behaviors. He had considered applications for both individuals and the group. He had considered how the text should impact our engagement with the world around us. In the end, he didn’t ask every question he had prepared, but he had a broad range of ideas in place so he could respond to whichever topics connected best with the group.
8. Specify Application
The leader didn’t let us get away with clichés or vague principles. He asked good follow-up questions that made us get more specific.
These are not the only eight things leaders can do; they just stood out to me after this week’s study. And my intention is not to ignore the impact of character or knowledge on one’s leadership.
But if we had more leaders who practiced these skills to the glory of God, people would be far more interested in going to Bible studies.