How to Lead a Bible Discussion Group


Men's Bible Study

How to Lead a Bible Discussion Group
by Carl Caton

While there are dozens of topics we could address under the theme of "how to lead a bible discussion group," one factor I want to highlight today is credibility. Credibility is vital to your ability to keep people coming back.

In the book, Basics of Oral Communication, we learn that many experts believe that credibility is a reflection of the following four characteristics you should have: expertise, trustworthiness, composure and, dynamism.

Beginning with the first, to have expertise doesn't mean you have to be an expert in the bible. But you certainly should be a serious student. A good group leader is someone who faithfully prepares and is ready to facilitate the group. That means you really need to study the lesson and answer all the group discussion questions - in advance. Some bible study groups don't allow members to participate if they haven't prepared. I don't follow that rule but it is certainly not out of line in a serious bible study like Bible Study Fellowship.

As a leader, you need to be sincere and unbiased. Don't try to pose as an expert, even if you are. Any student of the bible is someone who is open and has a teachable spirit. In addition, your motive for leading the study should be based on your true desire for people to grow in their understanding of the scriptures. If you're unduly focused on "the numbers" and growing the group, people will begin to suspect why you're really doing all this.

Again quoting from the book mentioned above, "The non-verbal factors such as appearance, posture, mannerisms, and facial expressions combine to create an impression for your [group]." Your composure is vital as a leader. In the early stages of any small group, there is a certain amount of nervousness among your participants. A lot of people don't want to be embarrassed by their lack of knowledge of the bible. People often attend church for years and years before they get serious about studying the scripture. As such, people are nervous about talking in the group. Your composure transmits a clear signal about your own nervousness. The goal is to stay calm! Calm, calm, calm! 

When I lead a group, I immediately define the nature of the group as "pooled ignorance." I make it very clear that there are no experts - we're all there to grow in our understanding. The experts are usually the author of the book or bible commentary that you use. As such, much of the valuable conversation that is found in the group is not "bible interpretation." What everyone in the group can offer is "application." The conversation in the group is based upon the idea of, "OK, how to we make this real in our lives? How do we apply this in our daily walk? Where does the rubber meet the road?" That approach to discussion relieves much of the nervousness that people have.

Second, I try to gently guide the conversation at a moderate, "patient" pace. I give people a lot of time to think about the discussion questions. We're never on a mission to check all the boxes, although type A personalities constantly battle this problem.

Finally, I need to constantly remind myself that my composure, my own nervousness needs to stay under control. I do that by not putting all kinds of performance pressures on myself. I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything. I'm just another knucklehead sitting around the table, studying the bible with the group.

You dynamism is your tendency to be outgoing, friendly, and articulate. Never forget that this is a spiritual activity. We're there representing Christ. Don't run your meetings like you do at work. Never forget that you're job is more than just bible study. You need a genuine interest and care for people. That's what sets us apart as Christians.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I lead a lesson. At the last minute, one of our members called to see if his son could come to our bible study. I told him I would love for him to come. Later, I discovered that his son had just received Christ and wanted to share his testimony. The young man was in his mid thirties and had a wonderful story to tell. He went far longer than I thought. And when he was finished, I felt we needed to take even more time to let the other guys encourage him. I didn't want him to tell his heart-wrenching story and then us launch off in other direction, ten seconds later. And so, we patiently took some time to discuss his experience a little longer and then gently transition to our topic of the day. Our agenda for the day was radically altered but it was the right thing to do. If you can't find loving acceptance in a bible study group, where can you find such a thing? Be patient and remember that part of your mission in the bible study goes beyond learning. It includes fellowship, friendship, and genuine concern.

These four attributes of a good leader go a long way to describe your approach to being a good shepherd for your group. Your credibility as a leader will shape how the group is perceived and keep your members coming back for more!



How to Lead a Bible Discussion Group

(c) 2010 Carl Caton

How to Lead a Bible Discussion Group