By Sharla Fritz
“I know you’ll do a great job! I have every confidence in you!” the pastor says with a smile as he turns toward his office. As you watch him walk away, you wonder how he was able to talk you into this. Me? Lead a Bible study? I’ve never done anything like that before!
Before you panic, I’d like to share some simple principles that will help you fulfill your role as Bible study leader without stressing out. Guiding a Bible study group can be a very rewarding experience as you delve into God’s Word and develop relationships with your brothers and sisters in Christ. You will be helping others discover life-changing truths in God’s Word.
To enable you to serve God and fellow Christians, let’s look at four basic principles spelled out by the word LEAD: Look to God, Examine the Study, Ask Excellent Study Questions, and Direct the Discussion.
LOOK TO GOD
The most important thing you can do as a Bible study leader is to begin with prayer. Ask God for guidance and wisdom as you prepare. Pray over every detail of the study experience: Pray for:
- wisdom in choosing the right study
- the participants who will be in the group
- guidance for your role as leader
- time to adequately prepare for leading the study
- God’s peace and love to be evident
EXAMINE THE STUDY
When you accepted the role of leader, the Bible study materials may have already been chosen. Of course, we can study the Bible with no other book but the Bible, but you might want to choose some published material to guide you. If you are responsible for choosing the study, consider the following elements:
- Topical study or book of the Bible study. What would best meet the needs of your group—a study that tackles a subject or issue of particular interest to the members? Or a detailed study of a book of the Bible? You might want to alternate between these two types of studies so that members can gain a deeper knowledge of Scripture and understand particular challenges to the Christian life.
- Book only or video driven. Does your group enjoy the added element of a video lesson? Or would they rather have more time for discussion?
- Doctrinal agreement. Examine the study for issues that might not agree with your church’s teaching. Minor disagreements might not disallow a study if it brings an opportunity for discussion on the subject. But you probably would not want to choose a study that contained basic doctrinal differences from your beliefs.
- Length of study. If your study is to be completed in a prescribed amount of time, pay attention to the number of lessons.
- Amount of homework. Some groups love to delve into the Bible between sessions and enjoy having extra questions and readings. Other groups are made up of members who don’t have time for extra homework.
After you have chosen the study, remember that as the leader you need to come to each session prepared. Do each lesson thoroughly and prayerfully. Most of all, study to see what God wants to teach you for your life. God’s Word is most importantly a tool for heart-change. Plus, when the others in the group see the leader applying Scripture to her life, they will be inspired to follow.
Next, study to present the material to your group. Find key lessons. Underline important points. Highlight probing questions.
ASK EXCELLENT QUESTIONS
Studying Scripture with a group of people allows you to gain their insights and life experience. We do this through discussion.
Examples of questions that encourage discussion:
- Questions that ask How? or Why?
- Questions that ask for personal reaction: What do you think about…” What stuck out to you in this passage? Why do you feel that way?
- Questions that ask members to apply Scripture to their lives: What challenges you most in this passage?
- Questions that link the reader’s experiences with the Bible story: When have you experienced this Scriptural principle?
Examples of questions that discourage discussion:
- Questions with a yes or no answer: Is Genesis the first book of the Bible?
- Questions that have only one right answer: What was the name of Adam’s wife?
- Questions with an obvious answer: What was the name of the place where Adam and Eve lived?
DIRECT THE DISCUSSION
Even if you have a supply of excellent questions, you may run into some discussion potholes. One member of the group talks too much, someone else barely says one word. The discussion swings way off topic or you feel unqualified to answer a member’s honest question. Here are some tips for leading a lively discussion:
- Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” if someone asks a question you are unsure about. Promise to research the answer for the next meeting. Ask your pastor or consult some reference books in the meantime.
- Try to get everyone involved in the discussion. Encourage quieter members by sometimes calling on them personally, “Amy, what do you think about question 3?” If someone, seems to be dominating a conversation, gently cut them off by saying something like, “Thanks for sharing Patty. Does anyone else have something to add?”
- Allow time for personal sharing. A Bible study group is not just about improving our knowledge of Scripture. We also want to build relationships. You might include time for small talk and relationship building at the beginning of each meeting.
- On the other hand, if the conversation veers totally away from Scripture gently bring the discussion back on topic. After all, the participants signed up for a Bible study.
- Make allowances for life emergencies. If a member has suffered a tragedy or devastating experience do not feel you have to ignore their needs just to finish a lesson.
Enjoy the privilege of being a Bible study leader. The experience will help you grow in your knowledge of God’s Word as you prepare for each lesson. You will expand your people skills as you lead discussions and help members connect with each other. You will grow in faith as you pray for guidance. You will increase your capacity for love and compassion as you and your groups members share life’s ups and downs.
Learn and love as you lead.
Sharla Fritz is the author of three Bible studies: Soul Spa: 40 Days of Spiritual Renewal, Divine Design: 40 Days of Spiritual Makeover, Bless These Lips: 40 Days of Spiritual Transformation, and a study for teens: Divine Makeover: God Makes You Beautiful.
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