Last Update 1st October, 2016.
If you’ve suddenly been given the responsibility to lead a group Bible study and are not sure what to do, don’t worry – help is at hand!
Let’s take a look at what it takes to run a successful church home group study and give you some lesson resources to help you along the way.
Personal note: Small groups, house groups, cell groups, connect groups, Bible studies, care groups, life groups, home groups – anyone know why so many names for the same thing? Feel free to enlighten us in the comments below :)
Sorry I digress, let’s get straight to it…
First off, just take a moment if you will to think about the potential of your group…
If you look back at your own journey, I am sure you pinpoint specific people God brought into your life who invested in you personally to either bring you to Christ or helped you grow in your Christian walk.
This most likely happened in a small group setting or a one-on-one friendship.
Am I right?
As a small group leader you have the great responsibility and opportunity to invest in other people’s lives and hopefully develop life-long friendships along the way.
Conferences and preachers speaking to massive auditoriums full of 1000’s of people are great, but the true life change happens in the weekly home group Bible studies!
Without further ado here are 6 keys to leading an effective weekly Bible study…
1. Your Attitude, Not Your Ability, Makes You Qualified
Who can lead a small group Bible study? You can!
Don’t worry if you don’t have a degree in Bible Scholarism (?), or if you’ve never led a home group before.
What is important that you are continuing to grow in spiritual maturity and that your heart is continually seeking after God.
God is looking for a spiritual leader that:
a) Is able to give and receive Scriptural correction without offense (Proverbs 19:20-21)
b) Desires to serve rather than be served (Philippians 2:3-11)
c) Follows spiritual leadership within Scriptural guidelines (Hebrews 13:17)
d) Helps reconciliation when conflict arises (Matthew 5:21-26)
e) Is a man or woman of their word (Matthew 12:33-37)
2. Organising a Time and Place
Putting your own preferences aside, the location of your group should be determined by who your group reaching out to. You want your meetings to be accessible.
If you’re looking to reach out to non-Christians then have the group meet somewhere the unchurched would hang out (within reason!)
Generally speaking, an hour or two hours is a good time-frame for your small group meetings.
However long it is and make it clear to the group – honour people’s time. Our lives are getting busier and busier and if you are consistent, people will want to continue to be a part of the group because they know it will start and end on time.
Again, keep your group members in mind when choosing the best time and frequency of your meetings.
Hold the meetings at a time easiest for people to get to. (I’m sorry if I’m stating the obvious!)
3. Bible Study Lesson Plan Ideas
We’ve all been there!
This is mainly why I personally use lessons from ‘Instant Small Group‘ – it’s a book full of no-preparation-required teaching resources and provides a year’s worth of engaging, transforming, and easy-to-lead discussion guides.
All 52 studies are “open and go” for those who, for whatever reason, don’t have the time or energy to prepare.
They can be used by anyone in the group–not just the leader–and are perfect for road trips, retreats, coffeehouse conversations, or even as personal devotionals.
I am constantly searching for a unique twist to help teach well known stories and passages and Instant Small Group is filled with exactly that: creative approaches to well known scriptures.
It’s brief enough to be easily prepared for and random enough to keep study members interested in a new topic each week.
It can be used as a week by week resource for small groups, or a fresh interlude between deeper studies.
4. Make It More Than a Just Bible Study Lesson
How you format the group is entirely up to you and depends on what the focus and purpose your particular small group is.
Think about opening with an icebreaker, maybe spend a few minutes casting your vision for the small group, worshiping together (singing along to YouTube praise and worship videos works well if you have no instruments or lead singers.)
You could also have a time of praying for one another and socialising before and afterwards. This helps build strong friendships and creates a strong sense of community which means you have a solid group.
In his book ‘The Purpose Driven Church‘, Rick Warren proposes 4 elements that should be included in any home group format.
Please don’t be too regimental with this but I’m including it as it might be helpful to use as a guide.
You can ask people to take turns in bringing an icebreaker, picking the songs, making tea.
Not only does this prevent you from going into headless chicken mode, by giving responsibility to other people you are equipping and training leaders.
5. Ask the Right Questions To Generate a Group Discussion
In order to encourage engagement and generate a group discussion, you can give members opportunities to share their thoughts and feelings and provide feedback on what they’re learning.
Knowing how to ask the right questions can be great for getting the ball rolling. Questions are great because they give people a voice it helps you to get feedback and how people are understanding the lessons.
Ask Open-Ended Questions: 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?”
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?
6. When Your Group Gets Too Big (A great problem to have)
An effective small group is one where everybody get’s to contribute in some way. Participation and engagement is the primary aim. When you’re teaching it’s not a sermon, rather it’s to generate a group discussion and people are there to listen to one another and offer advice and support.
Typically when a group reaches 10-12 people (a great problem to have by the way) it starts to become more difficult to manage the group effectively, and this is certainly when you want to start thinking about birthing a secondary group.
It is always wise to have one primary leader within the small group along with co-leader.
One of the key strengths of small groups is the ability to train and raise up other leaders so that when your group does multiply, the co-leader becomes the primary of his group and in turn starts to invest in his new co-leader.
“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”
2 Timothy 2:2
Did someone greet them and talk with them?
Were they included in the discussions?
Were their comments respected?
All of these things contribute to whether someone wants to continue to be part of the group.
Obviously there’s a lot more to running Home Group Bible Studies than I’ve covered here, but I hope this helps as a good primer.
Another great resource you might want to look at is Creating Community by Bill Willits and Andy Stanley.
More than just another book about how to conduct a small group, this is a proven strategy for building a thriving small group culture in your local church.
How do you get ideas for your Bible studies? How do you format your meetings? Share your comments below.