Read Part 1, “Characteristics of Discussion-Based Small Groups,” HERE.
How to Lead a Discussion-Based Small Group
I am convinced that everyone can lead a discussion-based study. It all starts with preparation. The first step to prepare your study is to be personally impacted by the material you’re studying. If you can’t answer the question, “How does this impact me?” then keep studying and keep praying. This is essential because as a leader, you need clarity on the importance of the study or the passage. Remember, this is not just an academic exercise. Once you know how it impacts you personally, begin to think about how it impacts the people in your group. As I prepare, I like to think through how different people in the group will respond to the study. I ask myself things like:
- Who will be directly challenged through this study?
- Who is doing good with the things we are talking about? How can they share their success with others?
- Who will disagree with the issue at hand? What conflict may come out of this study?
- How could this study help us grow deeper in our relationships with each other?
- What action steps should I encourage the group to take as a result of the study?
Next, you need to choose the right questions to ask. This will become your conversation road map. Most studies that you buy off the shelf have far too many questions for the normal group to work through. In my experience, guys need five to eight questions to fill 45 minutes to an hour. Women need even fewer questions. Some need as few as two to three really good questions to get the conversation flowing. If you have too many questions, then you force the conversation to flow unnaturally.
Now that you’ve prepared a road map for the conversations, your last task is to create an environment where discussion can flourish. While there are many things that you can do to foster a safe environment—such as food, drinks, turning off technology, removing pets, checking the room temperature, etc.—I want to focus on what could be the most important environmental change you can make in moving from being a lecturer to a discussion-based leader. What’s this critical change? Change the way your room is set up. Room layout communicates the type of group you have, so make it match your plan. If you’re looking for the group to freely communicate, circles work best. This may seem like a no-brainer, but there is some science behind the circle. It communicates equality. It encourages participation. It removes barriers. It forces face-to-face interactions.
Once you’re prepared, your conversation road map is in place, and the environment is ready, enjoy the thrill of leading a group to connect deeply with one another and the truth of God at the same time.