As a small group leader, I love it when a class teaches itself through conversations among those in the group. A few years ago I was leading a senior adults Sunday School class. The topic was stewardship and the conservation quickly turned to tithing. Discussion questions worked flawlessly on this day as group members talked about what they had been taught about tithing and who taught them this discipline. Testimonies of God’s faithfulness to provide for our needs flowed freely that day. If there was anyone in the room that day who did not practice tithing they were challenged by the Word of God and the life experiences of those in the group to consider being obedient in their giving to God.
I learned early in ministry that teaching small group Bible studies wasn’t necessarily in my wheelhouse; it wasn’t my strength as a leader. But I also discovered that I could be an effective leader if I followed the teaching plan of a curriculum who specialized in small group discussion. Over time I came to realize that some teaching plans were better than others, depending on who wrote the leader’s guide. You see, some people just know how to ask questions that create a conversation within the group.
Today, I work as a content editor for Bible Studies for Life. As a team, we strive to create Bible studies that help facilitate discussion within the small group around the biblical text. Our sessions are built on five discussion questions that will stimulate a conversation among group members. Our goal is to create discussion questions that will essentially lead the group through the process of talking about how the Bible applies to their lives. The discussion questions can potentially be the basis for teaching the group. We lead with an icebreaker that creates interest and is an easy on ramp to the Bible study.
We try not to go too deep too fast, but the text determines if this is possible. We keep in mind asking questions in such a way that anyone in the group would feel comfortable contributing to the discussion. Personal application of the truths discovered are the goal for the questions asked toward the end of the session.
We encourage those who facilitate conversations to keep in mind these principles regarding group discussion:
- Be intentional to involve as many people as possible in the discussion.
- Don’t let one person dominate the conversation.
- Be OK with silence after you ask questions. Don’t succumb to the temptation to answer questions because of a brief delay as people think about how to respond.
- You may need to adjust the questions for your specific group.
- It’s always good to have alternative questions in case some questions don’t work for your group.
- There may be unbelievers in your group who need to be given the opportunity to be a part of the discussion.
- Not all believers are at the same level of spiritual development.
- Trust your leader’s guide.