How to Lead a Small Group
So you want to lead a small group Bible study? But you’re wondering, “What do I do? What will I teach? Will the group even listen to me? Can I really do this?” Sure you can! Here are some thoughts that will help begin your small group.
Some Thoughts on Leading Small Groups
1. Teach the basics.
It’s a blast to help new Christians grow in a close-knit setting. Make sure to teach the basics of the Christian life and give training in basic ministry skills. The best part of all is helping the group develop a heart for reaching others for Christ.
2. Realize your impact is far-reaching.
Small group studies are a big part of a growing campus outreach. Your campus will benefit big time from your small group. Know that you will be helping to reach the entire school through the training of your group. Your students’ hearts will also begin to desire to help fulfill the Great Commission. By leading a group, you will offer important accountability and intimacy that the students want. Your study will also provide a non-threatening place to discover truth. They’ll love digging into the Word and seeing how it applies to their lives. The best part is seeing the students begin to lead others because of the impact you make in their lives.
3. Interact and give assignments.
Jesus showed us an example of small groups through his relationship with His 12 disciples. He interacted with them and gave them assignments. Paul even learned from Jesus’ example. Paul explained:
- “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom . . .” (Colossians 3:16).
- “The things that you heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2). (This is an example of discipling group members to multiply spiritually.)
4. Evaluate the needs.
Think through these important things before you begin your small group Bible study. Begin evaluating the needs of each person in the group. Based on their needs, you will decide on the study’s content and begin to plan your lessons. Then make arrangements for your first meeting. As you get to know the people in your group, you’ll find out more needs and topics you can cover. After some time of leading the group, evaluate your progress and how the students are doing.
5. Reach out to new students.
What! You don’t have any students to lead yet? That’s okay. It’s fun to reach out to new students. Consider doing your own outreach to gather students.
6. Identify and respond to specific needs.
These students have needs (boys, girls, school, dating, parents), but you won’t know them automatically. Talk with them individually. Ask questions and make a list. Note things that will accelerate their personal spiritual growth. Maybe you’ve noticed that a certain student struggles with guilt. Bingo! Do a study on forgiveness for this student. Another student in the group is a brand new Christian; she knows nothing except that she loves Jesus. You will need to focus on the basic foundations of the Christian faith for this student.
7. Split into two groups if necessary.
As you spend time with the students, you may find they are at different maturity levels. Because of this, you might want to split into two different groups. However, the relationships within the group may be more important; in this case keep them together.
8. Find appropriate materials for your study.
Once you’ve figured out the students’ needs, find material that relates to their maturity level. It will be helpful to find material that is already written. This will save you time. Another benefit to using pre-written material is that the students can use the same material in the future for leading their own studies.
9. Plan out a location and meeting specifics.
Pick a good time and place to meet. The home of one of the students is often good, especially if that student is a leader. Let students know how long the Bible study will last. People have busy schedules, and this makes their week’s planning go a little smoother. Call them in the middle of the week to remind them of the meeting. Parents will appreciate being informed also.
10. Include key components as you schedule out your study.
A schedule of your typical study should look a little like this: Spend about 15 minutes letting the students share and interact with each other, maybe over some refreshments. After pulling the group together, open the time in prayer, and spend the next 30 minutes in Bible study. You will catch the group’s attention by starting off with a creative activity. Give the students an application at the end of the study and then spend the next 10 minutes in conversational prayer.
11. Be flexible.
Keep in mind that as you discuss the lesson with the students, things don’t always go as planned. Be flexible and help point them back to the central truth of the study.
12. Create an environment of acceptance.
During your meeting, you want to create an environment where the students will know they are accepted and that the lesson applies to specific areas of their lives. Do this by encouraging good questions, being enthusiastic, and making sure you are familiar with the material.
13. Be real.
Allow the students to get to know you as a real person. This is where they will be able to see Christ in you.
14. Build relationships with others in the group.
- Some ideas for building relationships between you and your group are:
- Be an encourager. Think the best of others.
- Show special kindness. Learn to be a giver of your time and your possessions.
- Find out what their interests are and do the things they want to do. Put them before yourself.
- Go places together. If you are planning any kind of activity (shopping, recreation, doing some work for someone) invite one of the group members to go along.
- Call them. Let them know you are thinking about them.
- Exercise or work out together.
- Study together – both schoolwork and Bible study!
- Eat together. Going out to eat is a great time to have fellowship and talk.
- Attend Christian activities together. Select gatherings that will be helpful for their growth.
- Write or e-mail them. Let them know how you are doing and that you are thinking of them.
- Share personally what God is teaching you. Don’t be afraid to share some of your own needs.
15. Take them with you on evangelistic appointments.
You will be an encouragement and teach them more than you could in a Bible study by letting them see you live out your life. They will develop a heart for telling others about Christ too!
16. Get your students involved in a church.
Many of the students you work with may not attend a church, or go to one that is not teaching God’s Word. Depending on their situation, you will want to get students involved in a church that will nurture their faith. Be sensitive to parents. Make sure you communicate with the parents first before taking them to your church. If it is a family tradition to attend church together, encourage the student to be a missionary to those in the church who don’t know Christ.
17. Debrief after each study.
After each Bible study, take time to determine the effectiveness of your time together. Make a few notes on things that could have been done differently. Ask yourself, “What specific needs came up? Which students need to be drawn out at the next meeting? How effective were the learning activities? What did and didn’t work well? Did they retain the main point of the lesson? Did they leave the Bible study wanting to know God and His word?”
18. Pray for and evaluate each student.
Pray specifically for each student. Ask God to help them understand and apply the lesson. As time goes by and the students begin to grow, observe and evaluate their personal progress in three areas:
- Do they have a growing dependence upon, and love for Christ?
- Are they growing in love for one another?
- Do they have an increasing compassion and concern for a lost world?
You’ve got some more questions, don’t you?
Q: What do I do if a student asks a question I can’t answer?
A: Don’t be afraid of students asking questions. Encourage it. Don’t fake an answer. Refer the question to the whole group and see what kind of responses follow. Explain that you don’t know the answer, but would be more than happy to find the answer for the next meeting.
Q: What do I do if the students want to study a topic that isn’t found in basic disciple-ship materials (i.e. Revelation, cults, etc.)?
A: Keep in mind that the overall purpose of discipleship is to “present every man mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). Students need to first know the basic truths of their faith. But don’t discourage their interest in other issues. Sometimes short studies on different topics would be good.
Q: How do I handle a student who tends to dominate the discussion, or a student who never says anything?
A: Talk with the student privately. Tell them how much you appreciate their interest and enthusiasm. Explain how important it is for everyone to have a chance to share. With really quiet students, it helps to understand why they aren’t involved. They may feel uncomfortable about giving their comments. Get them involved by asking them specific simple questions.
Q: Some of the students seem to be losing interest in the group. What can I do?
A: Here are a few questions to ask yourself. First, are you “scratching where they itch?” Take some time to honestly ask students about what’s happening in their lives. As you receive their responses, make appropriate adjustments. Typically, students respond to loving, directive, serving leadership. Second, have you communicated the vision and purpose for the group? Perhaps they need to hear again from you why you’re giving your time to lead the group.