by Joy Skarka
With the start of a new season begins the start of new small groups and Bible studies in your churches and ministries. Maybe you’re a new leader and you feel sick to your stomach when thinking about leading a group. Perhaps you’re scared to commit to leading, yet God keeps calling you to lead. I completely understand. I’ve been there. I felt so inadequate to lead a group.
The second semester of my freshman year of college I co-led a Bible study. I was the youngest leader and had never led a study before. Right before our first study I met with one of the other leaders and said to her, “I can’t do it. I don’t want to do it.” Fear crippled my mind and almost stopped me from walking into the building. I feared what people would think of me. What if I messed up? What if they couldn’t relate to my story? What if I didn’t know the answers to their questions?
The leader grabbed my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “Joy, God has given you a powerful story. He is here with you and He will be there with you while you lead the study. I will be there too. You are going to do amazing, because you’ve prepared for this and because I have faith in you.”
We prayed together, walked into the building, and relief washed over me. I led my first Bible study, I shared my story, and it felt incredible! God gave me the words to say and took away my fears. He can do the same for you.
As a small group leader, there are some things you can do to have success in your group. God is ultimately in control, but we are His vessels and He wants us to put in the work.
Prepare. Spend time working through the study, chapter of the Bible, or whatever content your group is going through. Start working on it at least three days prior to the study. Planning ahead gives you time to allow the material to seep into your life.
Be humble. Your group members will ask questions that you won’t have the answer to. That is okay. Admit that you do not know the answer, and then offer to get back with them in a few days. Reach out to us at Authentic Intimacy, and we will do our best to help you find a resource or Scripture to help answer the question. (Check out our video resource: How to Handle Tough Situations in Small Group)
Engage. Start the study with an icebreaker. For example, ask a fun get-to-know-you question like: If you could have any super power, what would it be? Asking easy to answer questions allows group members who may feel uncomfortable being in a Bible study setting to begin to open up. As the group gets to know one another, you can stop the ice breakers and ask, “How was everyone’s week?” As the conversation continues to flow, the group will begin to feel more comfortable. (Check out our video resource: Tips for Your First Week of Small Group)
Facilitate instead of teach. In small groups, it is important to remember that you are the facilitator and not the teacher. Your goal is to encourage the members of the group to talk and engage more than you are personally talking. Not only does this build connection in the group, but it takes stress off of you as the leader. Instead of trying to be an expert teacher on the subject, we encourage you to focus on facilitating the conversation and encouraging the group members.
Reach out to group members outside of the group. If possible, get together with the members in person. Ask them about their background and life and share stories. Investing in your group members shows them that you want to get to know them personally. If meeting in person or talking on the phone is impossible with your schedule, send a text or group prayer email to show that you care and are thinking of them throughout the week.
Love them. Show them you love them for who they are, not for what they do. If they are unbelievers, show them that you love them just as much now as you would if they accepted Christ. In your group, people may share struggles that you have not encountered or experienced. In that moment, it is important to not act surprised or shocked. Instead, thank them for sharing and trusting the group with their story.
Be open and honest. When you are vulnerable, then they will also be vulnerable. Vulnerability and authenticity takes you off a pedestal and shows them you are imperfect, even as a leader. You are creating a safe place for people to find healing in Jesus. When you share your story, use discernment. It is important to not include graphic details that could trigger someone. We want each group meeting to feel safe for all members, and we often are unaware of what each member has been through.
Pray. Pray for the whole group and the specific requests of each person, in the group and out of the group. At the end of the study each week, provide a time for the group members to share prayer requests.
Get excited! If you’re excited about the group, they will be too. If you get a few people pumped, others will follow. If you love the study, they will be more likely to love the study.
Give out responsibilities. Assign roles to the group members. For example, take turns bringing snacks or have two people be in charge of planning the group social. If your group meets online, encourage one person to be the prayer leader to encourage prayer throughout the week. The more they are involved, the more they will feel like it is their group and will begin to take ownership. Take notice of the people who step up to lead. These people could be future co-leaders or could branch out and lead their own group.
You are going to do an amazing job leading your Bible study or small group. I’m going to say to you what my leader said to me, “God has given you a powerful story. He is here with you and He will be there with you while you lead the study. You are going to do amazing, because you’ve prepared for this and because I have faith in you.”
I hope the tips encouraged you to step out in faith and lead a small group or Bible study. Through Authentic Intimacy, we offer multiple resources for small groups. Most of the studies listed below have additional leader guides, and a few have videos that go with them. If you have any questions about one of our resources or about leading a small group, feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are a few of the studies we offer: