Colin Marshall has been training people in small groups ministry for over 25 years, and he’s given the rest of us a superb manual in his Growth Groups: A Training Course in How to Lead Small Groups. Over the last year, I worked through this material with the co-leader of my small group. Few books have influenced me as deeply as this book has.
Marshall covers everything from small group strategy to Bible study preparation to leadership development. He explains how to ask good questions. He demonstrates how to respond to difficult people. His manual is short and to the point. His writing is clear. His use of Scripture is remarkably careful and inspiring.
Here are some of my favorite nuggets:
Christian groups are not primarily about helping people with their problems…The focus of Christian groups is growth, not problems.
As well as communicating the meaning of the Bible, the studies we prepare should teach good habits for interpreting the Bible.
We tend to give commentaries more authority than they deserve.
To apply the Bible to our group we need to be studying and understanding our group members and the context in which they are living as Christians.
These are sure-fire conversation stoppers: saying an answer is wrong, refusing to discuss an issue, or saying ‘It’s different in the Hebrew text.’
Even though he is teaching through discussion, the leader must be able to guide the group to right conclusions.
We don’t want to become spiritual guides for people and make them dependent on us rather than God.
If you’d like a decent resource to help you learn to lead a small group (or train others to lead them), I couldn’t recommend this book any more highly.
A few warnings:
- Forget about buying this one from Amazon. I’m not sure why Amazon has weird editions (perhaps it has something to do with the book’s being published in Australia). Just go with Westminster Bookstore.
- Be careful not to end up with the Trainers Notes (basically, the leader’s manual) unless you get it in addition to the regular/student manual.
- Watch out! Marshall will challenge your assumptions about the purpose of small groups, how to handle needy people, and what to do if your group loses steam.
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